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Liberty

 New Castle, July 4, 1878

or a hundred years the pulse of time
Has throbbed for Liberty;
For a hundred years the grand old clime
Columbia has been free;
For a hundred years our country's love,
The Stars and Stripes, has waved above.
Away far out on the gulf of years-- Misty and faint and white Through the fogs of wrong--a sail appears, And the Mayflower heaves in sight, And drifts again, with its little flock Of a hundred souls, on Plymouth Rock.
Do you see them there--as long, long since-- Through the lens of History; Do you see them there as their chieftain prints In the snow his bended knee, And lifts his voice through the wintry blast In thanks for a peaceful home at last? Though the skies are dark and the coast is bleak, And the storm is wild and fierce, Its frozen flake on the upturned cheek Of the Pilgrim melts in tears, And the dawn that springs from the darkness there Is the morning light of an answered prayer.
The morning light of the day of Peace That gladdens the aching eyes, And gives to the soul that sweet release That the present verifies,-- Nor a snow so deep, nor a wind so chill To quench the flame of a freeman's will! II Days of toil when the bleeding hand Of the pioneer grew numb, When the untilled tracts of the barren land Where the weary ones had come Could offer nought from a fruitful soil To stay the strength of the stranger's toil.
Days of pain, when the heart beat low, And the empty hours went by Pitiless, with the wail of woe And the moan of Hunger's cry-- When the trembling hands upraised in prayer Had only the strength to hold them there.
Days when the voice of hope had fled-- Days when the eyes grown weak Were folded to, and the tears they shed Were frost on a frozen cheek-- When the storm bent down from the skies and gave A shroud of snow for the Pilgrim's grave.
Days at last when the smiling sun Glanced down from a summer sky, And a music rang where the rivers run, And the waves went laughing by; And the rose peeped over the mossy bank While the wild deer stood in the stream and drank.
And the birds sang out so loud and good, In a symphony so clear And pure and sweet that the woodman stood With his ax upraised to hear, And to shape the words of the tongue unknown Into a language all his own-- 1 'Sing! every bird, to-day! Sing for the sky so clear, And the gracious breath of the atmosphere Shall waft our cares away.
Sing! sing! for the sunshine free; Sing through the land from sea to sea; Lift each voice in the highest key And sing for Liberty!' 2 'Sing for the arms that fling Their fetters in the dust And lift their hands in higher trust Unto the one Great King; Sing for the patriot heart and hand; Sing for the country they have planned; Sing that the world may understand This is Freedom's land!' 3 'Sing in the tones of prayer, Sing till the soaring soul Shall float above the world's control In freedom everywhere! Sing for the good that is to be, Sing for the eyes that are to see The land where man at last is free, O sing for liberty!' III A holy quiet reigned, save where the hand Of labor sent a murmur through the land, And happy voices in a harmony Taught every lisping breeze a melody.
A nest of cabins, where the smoke upcurled A breathing incense to the other world.
A land of languor from the sun of noon, That fainted slowly to the pallid moon, Till stars, thick-scattered in the garden-land Of Heaven by the great Jehovah's hand, Had blossomed into light to look upon The dusky warrior with his arrow drawn, As skulking from the covert of the night With serpent cunning and a fiend's delight, With murderous spirit, and a yell of hate The voice of Hell might tremble to translate: When the fond mother's tender lullaby Went quavering in shrieks all suddenly, And baby-lips were dabbled with the stain Of crimson at the bosom of the slain, And peaceful homes and fortunes ruined--lost In smoldering embers of the holocaust.
Yet on and on, through years of gloom and strife, Our country struggled into stronger life; Till colonies, like footprints in the sand, Marked Freedom's pathway winding through the land-- And not the footprints to be swept away Before the storm we hatched in Boston Bay,-- But footprints where the path of war begun That led to Bunker Hill and Lexington,-- For he who "dared to lead where others dared To follow" found the promise there declared Of Liberty, in blood of Freedom's host Baptized to Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! Oh, there were times when every patriot breast Was riotous with sentiments expressed In tones that swelled in volume till the sound Of lusty war itself was well-nigh drowned.
Oh, those were times when happy eyes with tears Brimmed o'er as all the misty doubts and fears Were washed away, and Hope with gracious mien, Reigned from her throne again a sovereign queen.
Until at last, upon a day like this When flowers were blushing at the summer's kiss, And when the sky was cloudless as the face Of some sweet infant in its angel grace,-- There came a sound of music, thrown afloat Upon the balmy air--a clanging note Reiterated from the brazen throat Of Independence Bell: A sound so sweet, The clamoring throngs of people in the streets Were stilled as at the solemn voice of prayer, And heads were bowed, and lips were moving there That made no sound--until the spell had passed, And then, as when all sudden comes the blast Of some tornado, came the cheer on cheer Of every eager voice, while far and near The echoing bells upon the atmosphere Set glorious rumors floating, till the ear Of every listening patriot tingled clear, And thrilled with joy and jubilee to hear.
I 'Stir all your echoes up, O Independence Bell, And pour from your inverted cup The song we love so well.
'Lift high your happy voice, And swing your iron tongue Till syllables of praise rejoice That never yet were sung.
'Ring in the gleaming dawn Of Freedom--Toll the knell Of Tyranny, and then ring on, O Independence Bell.
-- 'Ring on, and drown the moan, Above the patriot slain, Till sorrow's voice shall catch the tone And join the glad refrain.
'Ring out the wounds of wrong And rankle in the breast; Your music like a slumber-song Will lull revenge to rest.
'Ring out from Occident To Orient, and peal From continent to continent The mighty joy you feel.
'Ring! Independence Bell! Ring on till worlds to be Shall listen to the tale you tell Of love and Liberty!' IV O Liberty--the dearest word A bleeding country ever heard,-- We lay our hopes upon thy shrine And offer up our lives for thine.
You gave us many happy years Of peace and plenty ere the tears A mourning country wept were dried Above the graves of those who died Upon thy threshold.
And again When newer wars were bred, and men Went marching in the cannon's breath And died for thee and loved the death, While, high above them, gleaming bright, The dear old flag remained in sight, And lighted up their dying eyes With smiles that brightened paradise.
O Liberty, it is thy power To gladden us in every hour Of gloom, and lead us by thy hand As little children through a land Of bud and blossom; while the days Are filled with sunshine, and thy praise Is warbled in the roundelays Of joyous birds, and in the song Of waters, murmuring along The paths of peace, whose flowery fringe Has roses finding deeper tinge Of crimson, looking on themselves Reflected--leaning from the shelves Of cliff and crag and mossy mound Of emerald splendor shadow-drowned.
-- We hail thy presence, as you come With bugle blast and rolling drum, And booming guns and shouts of glee Commingled in a symphony That thrills the worlds that throng to see The glory of thy pageantry.
0And with thy praise, we breathe a prayer That God who leaves you in our care May favor us from this day on With thy dear presence--till the dawn Of Heaven, breaking on thy face, Lights up thy first abiding place.

Poem by James Whitcomb Riley
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