Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
II. Freedom
Liberty
John Hay (1838–1905)
 
WHAT man is there so bold that he should say,
“Thus, and thus only, would I have the Sea”?
For whether lying calm and beautiful,
Clasping the earth in love, and throwing back
The smile of Heaven from waves of amethyst;        5
Or whether, freshened by the busy winds,
It bears the trade and navies of the world
To ends of use or stern activity;
Or whether, lashed by tempests, it gives way
To elemental fury, howls and roars        10
At all its rocky barriers, in wild lust
Of ruin drinks the blood of living things,
And strews its wrecks o’er leagues of desolate shore,—
Always it is the Sea, and men bow down
Before its vast and varied majesty.        15
 
So all in vain will timorous ones essay
To set the metes and bounds of Liberty.
For Freedom is its own eternal law:
It makes its own conditions, and in storm
Or calm alike fulfils the unerring Will.        20
Let us not then despise it when it lies
Still as a sleeping lion, while a swarm
Of gnat-like evils hover round its head;
Nor doubt it when in mad, disjointed times
It shakes the torch of terror, and its cry        25
Shrills o’er the quaking earth, and in the flame
Of riot and war we see its awful form
Rise by the scaffold, where the crimson axe
Rings down its grooves the knell of shuddering kings.
For ever in thine eyes, O Liberty,        30
Shines that high light whereby the world is saved,
And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee!
 
 
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