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Best Famous Edwin Markham Poems

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by Edwin Markham |


 BOWED by the weight of centuries he leans 
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, 
The emptiness of ages in his face, 
And on his back the burden of the world. 
Who made him dead to rapture and despair, 
A thing that grieves not and that never hopes, 
Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox? 
Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw? 
Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow? 
Whose breath blew out the light within this brain? 
Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave 
To have dominion over sea and land; 
To trace the stars and search the heavens for power. 
To feel the passion of Eternity? 
Is this the Dream He dreamed who shaped the suns 
And marked their ways upon the ancient deep? 
Down all the stretch of Hell to its last gulf 
There is no shape more terrible than this-- 
More tongued with censure of the world’s blind greed-- 
More filled with signs and portents for the soul-- 
More fraught with menace to the universe. 

What gulfs between him and the seraphim! 
Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him 
Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
What the long reaches of the peaks of song, 
The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose? 
Through this dread shape the suffering ages look; 
Time’s tragedy is in that aching stoop; 
Through this dread shape humanity betrayed, 
Plundered, profaned and disinherited, 
Cries protest to the Judges of the World, 
A protest that is also prophecy. 

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands, 
Is this the handiwork you give to God, 
This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quenched? 
How will you ever straighten up this shape; 
Touch it again with immortality; 
Give back the upward looking and the light; 
Rebuild in it the music and the dream; 
Make right the immemorial infamies, 
Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes? 

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands, 
How will the Future reckon with this Man? 
How answer his brute question in that hour 
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake the world? 
How will it be with kingdoms and with kings-- 
With those who shaped him to the thing he is-- 
When this dumb Terror shall reply to God, 
After the silence of the centuries?

by Edwin Markham |


 ONE night we were together, you and I, 
And had unsown Assyria for a lair, 
Before the walls of Babylon rose in air. 
How languid hills were heaped along the sky, 
And white bones marked the wells of alkali, 
When suddenly down the lion-path a sound . . . 
The wild man-odor . . . then a crouch, a bound, 
And the frail Thing fell quivering with a cry! 

Your yellow eyes burned beautiful with light: 
The dead man lying there quieted and white: 
I roared my triumph over the desert wide, 
Then stretched out, glad for the sands and satisfied; 
And through the long, star-stilled Assyrian night, 
I felt your body breathing by my side.

by Edwin Markham |


 WHEN the Norn Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour 
Greatening and darkening as it hurried on, 
She left the Heaven of Heroes and came down 
To make a man to meet the mortal need. 
She took the tried clay of the common road-- 
Clay warm yet with the genial heat of earth, 
Dashed through it all a strain of prophecy; 
Tempered the heap with thrill of human tears; 
Then mixed a laughter with the serious stuff. 
Into the shape she breathed a flame to light 
That tender, tragic, ever-changing face. 
Here was a man to hold against the world, 
A man to match the mountains and the sea. 

The color of the ground was in him, the red earth; 
The smack and tang of elemental things: 
The rectitude and patience of the cliff; 
The good-will of the rain that loves all leaves; 
The friendly welcome of the wayside well; 
The courage of the bird that dares the sea; 
The gladness of the wind that shakes the corn; 
The pity of the snow that hides all scars; 
The secrecy of streams that make their way 
Beneath the mountain to the rifted rock; 
The tolerance and equity of light 
That gives as freely to the shrinking flower 
As to the great oak flaring to the wind-- 
To the grave's low hill as to the Matterhorn 
That shoulders out the sky. 

Sprung from the West, 
The strength of virgin forests braced his mind, 
The hush of spacious prairies stilled his soul. 
Up from log cabin to the Capitol, 
One fire was on his spirit, one resolve:-- 
To send the keen axe to the root of wrong, 
Clearing a free way for the feet of God. 
And evermore he burned to do his deed 
With the fine stroke and gesture of a king: 
He built the rail-pile as he built the State, 
Pouring his splendid strength through every blow; 
The conscience of him testing every stroke, 
To make his deed the measure of a man. 

So came the Captain with the mighty heart; 
And when the judgment thunders split the house, 
Wrenching the rafters from their ancient rest, 
He held the ridgepole up, and spiked again 
The rafters of the Home. He held his place-- 
Held the long purpose like a growing tree-- 
Held on through blame and faltered not at praise. 
And when he fell in whirlwind, he went down 
As when a lordly cedar, green with boughs, 
Goes down with a great shout upon the hills, 
And leaves a lonesome place against the sky.

by Edwin Markham |


 I LOOKED one night, and there the Semiramis, 
With all her mourning doves about her head, 
Sat rocking on an ancient road of Hell, 
Withered and eyeless, chanting to the moon 
Snatches of song they sang to her of old 
Upon the lighted roofs of Nineveh. 
And then her voice rang out with rattling laugh: 
"The bugles! they are crying back again-- 
Bugles that broke the nights of Babylon, 
And then went crying on through Nineveh. 
Stand back, ye trembling messengers of ill! 
Women, let go my hair: I am the Queen, 
A whirlwind and a blaze of swords to quell 
Insurgent cities. Let the iron tread 
Of armies shake the earth. Look, lofty towers: 
Assyria goes by upon the wind!" 
And so she babbles by the ancient road, 
While cities turned to dust upon the Earth 
Rise through her whirling brain to live again-- 
Babbles all night, and when her voice is dead 
Her weary lips beat on without a sound.

by Edwin Markham |


 THE low-voiced girls that go 
In gardens of the Lord, 
Like flowers of the field they grow 
In sisterly accord. 

Their whispering feet are white 
Along the leafy ways; 
They go in whirls of light 
Too beautiful for praise. 

And in their band forsooth 
Is one to set me free-- 
The one that touched my youth-- 
The one God gave to me. 

She kindles the desire 
Whereby the gods survive-- 
The white ideal fire 
That keeps my soul alive. 

Now at the wondrous hour, 
She leaves her star supreme, 
And comes in the night’s still power, 
To touch me with a dream. 

Sibyl of mystery 
On roads unknown to men, 
Softly she comes to me, 
And goes to God again.