Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
1274. Destiny
 
A. D. 1899
 
By Harrison Smith Morris
 
 
OUR many years are made of clay and cloud,
  And quick desire is but as morning dew;
And love and life, that linger and are proud,
  Dissolve and are again the arching blue.
 
For who shall answer what the ages ask?        5
  Or who undo a one-day-earlier bud?
We are but atoms in the larger task
  Of law that seeks not to be understood.
 
Shall we then gather to our meagre mien
  The purple of power, and sit above the seed,        10
While still abroad the acres of the green
  Invisible feet leave imprint of their speed?
 
We are but part; the whole within the part
  Trembles, as heaven steadied in a stream.
Not ours to question whence the leafage start,        15
  Or doubt the prescience of a people’s dream.
 
For these are cradled in the dark of time,
  And move in larger order than we know;
The isolate act interpreted a crime,
  In perfect circle, shows the Mind below.        20
 
Forth from the hush of equatorial heat
  The wiser mother drove her sable kin—
Was it that through our vitiated wheat
  A lustier grain should swell the life, grown thin?
 
Was it that upward through a waste of blood        25
  The brutal tribe should struggle to a soul,—
That white and black, in interchange of good,
  Might grope through ages to a loftier whole?
 
Who knows, who knows? For while we mock with doubt
  The ceaseless loom thrids through its slow design;        30
The waning artifice is woven out,
  And simple manhood rears a nobler line.
 
Then wherefore clamor to your idols thus
  For bands to hold the Nation from its growth,
And wax in terror at the overplus        35
  Won from dishonor and imperial sloth?
 
Wherefore implore the Power that lifts our might
  To punish what His providence ordains;
To fix our star forever in its night;
  To hold us fettered in our ancient chains?        40
 
The Nation in God’s garden swells to fruit,
  And He is glad, and blesses. Shall we then
Shrink inward to the dulness of the root,
  And vanish from the onward march of men?
 
Give up the lands we won in loyal war;        45
  Give up the gain and glory, rule, renown,
The orient commerce of the open door,
  The conquest, and the wide imperial crown?
 
Yea, were these all, ’t were well to let them go;
  For idle gold is but an empty gain:        50
An empire, reared on ashes of its foe,
  Falls, as have fallen the island-walls of Spain.
 
Treasure is dust. They need it not who build
  On better things. Our gain is in the loss:
In love and tears, self victories fulfilled,        55
  In manhood bending to the bitter cross.
 
In burdens that make wise the bearer, wounds
  Taken in hate that sanctify the heart,
In sympathies and sorrows, and in sounds
  That up from all the open waters start;        60
 
In brotherhood that binds the broken ties
  And clasps the whole world closer into peace;
In East and West enwoven loverwise,
  Mated for happy arts and home’s increase.
 
What though the sere leaf circle to the ground,—        65
  Its summer task is done, the bough is clean
For Spring’s ascent; the lost is later found
  In some new recess of the risen green.
 
We are but Nature’s menials. ’T is her might
  Sets our strange feet on Australasian sands,        70
Bids us to pluck the races from their night
  And build a State from out the brawling bands.
 
Serene, she sweeps aside the more or less,
  The man or people, if her end be sure;
Her brooding eyes, that ever bend to bless,        75
  Find guerdon for the dead that shall endure.
 
Truth marches on, though crafty ignorance
  Heed not the footfall of the eternal tread.
The land that shrinks from Nature’s armed advance
  Shall lie dishonored with her wasted dead.        80
 
Yea, it behooves us that the light be free.
  We are but bearers,—it is Nature’s own,—
Runners who speed the way of Destiny,
  Yielding the torch whose flame is forward blown.
 
We are in His wide grasp who holds the law,        85
  Who heaves the tidal sea, and rounds the year;
We may return not, though the weak withdraw;
  We must move onward to the last frontier.
 

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