Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE DECISION (APRIL 14, 1861), by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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THE DECISION (APRIL 14, 1861), by             Poet's Biography
First Line: So there are five?
Last Line: Call the troops!
Subject(s): American Civil War; United States - History


Lincoln is sitting absorbed in thought in an office of the
executive mansion, where he has been in
consultation with his cabinet. A telegraph instrument has
ceased to click, but the wires are droning.
Lincoln suddenly falls into a sleep, at once profound and
trancelike. In the vision members of his cabinet
and secretaries move in and out of the room.

LINCOLN

So there are five?

A VOICE

Yes, five to two.

SEWARD'S VOICE

A month
Has gone by and no policy. You should
Take hold yourself, or on a cabinet member
Devolve the task.

LINCOLN

Whatever's to be done
Is mine to do.

SEWARD'S VOICE

Fort Sumpter leave alone!
If we employ armed force we have begun
A civil war -- without armed force we fail.
We cannot take the fort and keep the fort,
Unless we subjugate the States as well.
No, let us not first draw the sword.

LINCOLN

To say --

A VOICE

Yes, five to two.

SEWARD'S VOICE

Your cabinet opposes
The Fort's provisioning.

LINCOLN

The property
And military posts, the forts which were
In our possession when the government
Came to my hands, I shall defend and hold.
I shall collect the duties, but beyond
Such things make no invasion.

A VOICE

And the mails?

ANOTHER VOICE

Fort Sumpter has been shelled!

SEWARD'S VOICE

So I forewarned you.

ANOTHER VOICE

That was an error.

ANOTHER VOICE

May I ask a question?
Will you invade the country to collect
The duties, or relieve a fort alone
Where duties are in question?

LINCOLN

My inaugural --

ANOTHER VOICE

To hell with forts and duties -- free the slaves!

SEWARD'S VOICE

Drop slavery! Before the people raise
The question: Is it Union or Disunion!

ANOTHER VOICE

I say to let the erring Sisters go.

ANOTHER VOICE

I care more for the principles --

ANOTHER VOICE

Be still!
I'm sick of principles --

THE SAME VOICE

The principles
Of local democratic government are worth
Twice over all the niggers.

ANOTHER VOICE

Senator,
You are most eloquent when full of drink.

ANOTHER VOICE

Would you unite the North? Maneuver them
To fire upon the Fort.

ANOTHER VOICE

The time has come
To open up the question with the sword:
Is this a league, is this a nation, which?

ANOTHER VOICE

What do you want, a tariff or a bank?
Take off your nigger mask, you centralist!

ANOTHER VOICE

A contract broken by a signatory
Absolves the other signatory.

ANOTHER VOICE

Yes
The Yankee cotton spinner --

ANOTHER VOICE

Singing psalms!

ANOTHER VOICE

The radicals have brought us to this pass,
This agitation, hatred sectional.

DOUGLAS' VOICE

All seem to overlook this vital matter:
The President can use the military
Where only States request it.

ANOTHER VOICE

You forget
The act of '75.

DOUGLAS' VOICE

I don't forget.
The act of '75 does not apply,
Except to laws resisted, where a marshall
Is overpowered.

ANOTHER VOICE

And there is no marshall,
There is no judge in the seceded States.

ANOTHER VOICE

You will appoint one, so you promised.

LINCOLN

Yes.

DOUGLAS' VOICE

Then, sir, what cause is there for apprehension?
Who dares to say your President will pursue
A policy of war, unless he call
On Congress for the means and for the power?

ANOTHER VOICE

I ask about Fort Sumpter -- are there ships
With cargoes of provisions on their way? --

ANOTHER VOICE

Yes, they have sailed.

OTHER VOICES

No! No!

ANOTHER VOICE

Oh, yes, the seven governors from the North
Have changed his policy. He now intends
To overthrow the federative law.
O great conspiracy -- O seven-headed
Apocalyptic Beast!

The vision grows confused. Lincoln seems to himself to
attempt to arise from the chair but is unable to
do so. The scene whirls about like drifting mist, struck
by a sudden current of air, in which there are lights
and faces. Voices are mingled together indistinguishably
and then fade away. There is a silence Out of the
confusion two figures emerge, one bright, the other
shadowy. Both are images of Lincoln. They become
seated in a boat which is moving with great rapidity. The
only sound is the droning of the telegraph.

FIRST PHANTOM

Twice have I seen this fateful scene before.

SECOND PHANTOM

The depths are moving, but no waters roar.
A mountain silence clasps the air and sea.
Look through the glassy fathoms far below:
Beneath us glides the ocean's dizzy floor
Which we skim over with a swallow's speed.

FIRST PHANTOM

I see a shadowy shore and precipices.
Yes, this portends my spirit's earthly woe.

SECOND PHANTOM

You shall not shrink! What though your heart shall bleed
Its last drop out walking the abysses,
You must go forth -- the hour has struck for you!
The little freedoms of your life are past,
As youth may choose its work or happiness;
Now you must steer the boat through fog and blast.
This rock encircled water is no less
Than your soul captured in the trap of Fate.
Far over stands 'twixt earth and heaven a gate
Where souls depart and enter into Time,
You must set foot upon this shore and climb
And blindly your election make, renew
Your will and spirit.

FIRST PHANTOM

Tell me what to do?

SECOND PHANTOM

Heal, if you can, the nation's growing scars,
Let harmony come out of harsh discord.

FIRST PHANTOM

Suppose the seven States first draw the sword?
Have they not drawn it now?

SECOND PHANTOM

All bloody wars
Furnish great argument to place the blame
For the first blow. But even if it's blood
That blots the bond of human brotherhood,
Behold the pangs that flow from human pride
When slaughter by such blood is justified.

FIRST PHANTOM

What shall I do with giants who rebel?

SECOND PHANTOM

You do but traffic in a word, a name,
A word it is with which you may inflame
To mob-like fury a judicious nation --
So you may enter on an usurpation.

FIRST PHANTOM
What do you say? Am I a tyrant then?

SECOND PHANTOM

Already have you thought of arming men
Without the sovereign sanction of the law.

FIRST PHANTOM

But if I don't mad Treason will have gained
Such progress that it will have quite attained
Its purpose to bind down and overawe
Conciliation or resistance even.

SECOND PHANTOM

You arrogate the very will of heaven,
As tyrants do, and in your purpose find
A small reflection of the eternal mind.
What do you know of this? But if you rest
On human will and thought you must concede
A contradiction in your dream, who break
The law a rebel spirit to arrest.
This is a way of sowing nettle seed.
Once you were faithful to a better creed,
That men may found new nations when the old
No longer have the people's fair consent.
Rights are not hostile. If this be a right
How may you overthrow it with your might?

FIRST PHANTOM

Have you not heard this story of me told:
At New Orleans I saw the children cry
When from the auction block their sire was sold.
I then resolved to strike this curse a blow
If ever Heaven gave
My arm the strength. It is my deepest hate.

SECOND PHANTOM

This is the thought then lying further back
In your fanatic spirit, child of woe,
Reached through a devious and hidden track!
For this you will prepare your country's grave.
You will free some, but only to enslave
A wider realm of being.

FIRST PHANTOM

I would know
What may be best.

SECOND PHANTOM

The country is at peace.
You do not dare to ask your Congress for
Troops on the Southern people to make war.

FIRST PHANTOM

I do not need to ask. I have enrolled
An oath with God the Nation to uphold.

SECOND PHANTOM

But if you call the troops will you not ask
Congress to validate your powers' increase
And sharpening of the sword for such a task?
You do not answer. Well, if this may be
Do you not contemplate a tyranny?

FIRST PHANTOM

What is this rupture but a mere defection,
What might be called rebellion, insurrection
Against the laws, which I must overthrow,
As others did before me from the first?
No word writ in the charter of the nation
Has made provision for its termination.

SECOND PHANTOM

But not to argue this -- you have reversed
Your mind upon the right of revolution.

FIRST PHANTOM

Not for a righteous or a holy cause.

SECOND PHANTOM

You test it in your own soul's resolution.
But tell me when there are no writs or laws
For you to execute in the Southern land
How are you acting?

FIRST PHANTOM

But I still command
The property and forts, and other places
Belonging to the Nation.

SECOND PHANTOM

Understand
Their territory all such forts embraces
And sovereignty thereover is resumed.
You cannot have a war on that account,
When they would pay you for the places lost.

FIRST PHANTOM

First the rebellious spirit must surmount
The barriers that keep them home with us.
They cannot leave us, cannot take and hold
What is not theirs, or what if they had sold
They could not grant.

SECOND PHANTOM

That is but bloody gold.
And what you say if acted on will bring
A million deaths.

FIRST PHANTOM

They are responsible
For all the consequences if they cling
To this rebellious purpose.

SECOND PHANTOM

To compel
This fortress's provisioning
Will be a blow first struck. It is the law:
The first blow of a war is struck by him
Who makes the first blow needful to be struck.

FIRST PHANTOM

You put the woven substance in a ruck.
I leave the issue of a war with them.
They shall not be assailed, nor may they have
Conflict with me unless they first aggress
The government.

SECOND PHANTOM

Oh, then they must withdraw
Resistance to your plan.

FIRST PHANTOM

Well, I confess
No open plan, as yet. But now attend:
I have an oath in heaven registered
The Union to preserve, protect, defend;
They have no oath the Union to destroy.

SECOND PHANTOM

What is the Union but a verbal toy
Like Justice, Beauty, Liberty or Truth?
And as for them they need not take an oath,
They need but act.

FIRST PHANTOM

The Union is unbroken, is a pact
Which cannot be erased or torn apart
By less than half of those who gave it breath.

SECOND PHANTOM

How does a State sink partly into death
By joining other States? Can it accede
And thereby lose its virtue to secede?

FIRST PHANTOM

The Union is much older than accession.

SECOND PHANTOM

Some Union, not the Union which you rule.
The states which formed the old Confederacy
Withdrew to form the Union. Liberty
Is older than all States.
Her handmaiden has always been secession.

FIRST PHANTOM

These arguments are used but to befool
The minds who loathe the wrong they would conceal.
No justice will be lost by him who waits.

SECOND PHANTOM

They ask a council for the general weal
Of all the States these matters to arrange
Without the flow of blood.

FIRST PHANTOM

I shall not change
What I have said: If God who rules above,
Almighty Ruler of all nations, deems
Eternal truth with them, or with our side,
That truth eternal ever must abide.

SECOND PHANTOM

But after all the truth is that which seems
The truth to you. And if mankind you love,
Why draw the sword to justify such truth?
Has any warrior of the world said more?

FIRST PHANTOM

The people may be trusted to restore
All broken rights, to them I leave all things.

SECOND PHANTOM

What do you say? These dubious wanderings
Travel along a pathway scarcely smooth.
You vowed to let no forces intermit
The Nation's laws in no place, save the means
Which should be requisite,
Were by the people from your arms withheld.
You do not let them choose when you've compelled
Their action by your act, which intervenes
Their virgin will and what you do before
You learn its voice. Yes, so arise all wars!
What people ever had a chance to voice
Free and deliberate their honest choice
'Twixt war and peace? Kings leave them to deplore
The initial step while fighting to retrieve
Or mitigate its ills. Your counselors
Have spoken, and your counselors believe
The pending step unwise. So at the last
Out of all dialectics stand two men
Each judging, each appealing to the shrine
Of God, Eternal Justice, all unknown,
Save as they see reflections of them cast
In their refracted speculations -- then
What is it but the clash of sovereignties
Grown firmer from offense and wounded pride?
Yet cunning to manipulate decrees
With forethought in successive acts to hide
Provocative offenses, put in fault
The other sovereign for the first assault.

FIRST PHANTOM

One man may risk his life, or suffer wrong,
He has no other but himself at stake.
A ruler has been chosen to be strong,
And save his people for his people's sake.
The clearest vision, most commanding power,
Interprets and must rule the hour,
Must call its purest sense of duty God.
Must stake its being now, in worlds to come
Before what thrones of judgment chance to be.
One phase alone of life's immensity
May one o'ermaster, though it bring him doom
For things unseen, the path he never trod
Strewn with his errors. Yet he may be free
By acting through that genesis and win
Approval for the warp. No soul has room
For growth in love, but may it also thrive
To needed power in thought. If heaven require
Excess in either, while the other shrinks
In heaven's ends, should heaven then requite
The sacrifice with penitential fire?
It is enough that whosoever drinks
Of such success finds bitterness within,
The cup on earth. Can anyone begrudge
The work before me, sword that I possess?
Nor do I of another's motives judge.
If rights conflict not, yet one master right
Attuned to highest law must still prevail
And lesser laws must fail.
The winds of destiny may bear me far,
Which out of deepest heaven are arising.
I have one compass and one guiding star,
One altar for my spirit's sacrificing:
The Union is my soul's profoundest love.

SECOND PHANTOM

If you knew heaven's wish you might fulfill it,
Seen heaven's law revealed, then you might will it,
What man can say he knows the word thereof?
Oh, not alone you dedicate your life
To this adventure in uncertain strife!
You give the Nation's blood and spirit too.
If you could know the Nation would renew
Its strength in years or cycles from your thought,
And through your godlike daring might be wrought
To finer triumphs in the time to come,
You would have warrant to pronounce the doom
Of blood and tears to fertilize the soil,
Where at the start revenge and hate will grow.
But what unending sorrow may recoil
Upon your purposes, who do not know?

FIRST PHANTOM

What are these cliffs of purple which we near?
Gray wastes of stagnant mists above them lie.
The boat glides downward as if in a sphere
Of liquid crystal mowing, dizzily
The forked rocks point upward to the sky --
Have I then died?

SECOND PHANTOM

There is a place of moss
Whereon the prow must strike lest it be crushed.

FIRST PHANTOM

This is the world's end. How the air is hushed!

SECOND PHANTOM

Come now! You have been ferried well across.
There! We have landed. Hear the whispering keel.

FIRST PHANTOM

I'm growing faint.

SECOND PHANTOM

Much still must I reveal.
We two must stand on yonder highest rock.

FIRST PHANTOM

It cannot be!

SECOND PHANTOM

I will the door unlock.
They may not be away. First let me knock.

(He knocks on the cliff. The vision grows cloudy.)

FIRST PHANTOM

What heights are these where midway to the sea
The gulls like flakes of snow eddy around!

SECOND PHANTOM

The purple wastes lie under a shorn sun.
They do not bleed, no golden ooze is seen,
No arrows pierce them.

FIRST PHANTOM

And how could it be?
A barrier of mud, a sunken realm
With shores where wrecks are rotting are before you.
They sleep upon the tideless water.

SECOND PHANTOM

Yes,
This is a quiet sea of perished dreams!

FIRST PHANTOM

Greater than Asia was this kingdom once,
But in a war it sank.

SECOND PHANTOM

What is the tale?

FIRST PHANTOM

There was a city set upon a hill
Which heaven governed as a pilot guides
The vessel from the stern, by force of thought.
Till spirits here were given air and light
To prove their natures, for it was the wish
Of that first pair which built its earliest hearth.
There since the husband worked with iron and fire,
Where twenty bellows blew, and all the day
The anvil sounded in a shop, which seemed
A palace thick with stars, and giants bore
Great burdens, wielded sledges, and obeyed
The master workman, so the city heaped
Great store of armament and priceless works.
Meanwhile the woman in whose eyes and brow
The final reason, compress of all light
Made of all lights absorbed, resolved, and tamed
Lay like a high serenity of power,
Or balanced wisdom, bore great sons to rule
The state and to preserve it in the wars
When wars should come. In peace to keep the courts,
And laws like to their mother's face, a face
Which awed the dullest slave, out of whose brain
The idea like a statue carved in rock
By hammers broken, rolled, beholding it.
She taught her sons that some are born to rule,
And some to serve, and some to carry torches,
And some to blow the bellows for the fire
Where torches may be lit; and how a state
Where high and low remain as high and low
So long as nature wills, move in a sphere
Of democratic laws, where all may have
The bread they earn, and where no strength may seize
Another's happiness, another's bread.
Hence was it that she fired her sons to drive
A giant troubler from the city's gates,
And shut him up in Sicily.

But the land
Over whose hills and vales the waters lie
There where we look had other life. I speak:
It was a land of many lakes and rivers,
And plains and meadows, mountains full of ore,
Both gold and silver, copper, precious stones.
And valued wood, most fruitful of all things,
Herbage or roots, or corn, whatever gives
Delight or sustenance. And the ruler's strength
Brought riches from all ports. But to relate
Its founder's part, the country was divided
Among ten rulers who had sworn to obey
Injunctions carven on a shaft of gold,
Erected in the middle of the realm.
And here the people of the several States
Gathered for conference on the general weal,
And to inquire if any of the states
Had trespassed on the other, or transgressed
The writing on the shaft of gold, and pass
Appropriate judgment; for upon the shaft
Curses were graven on the recreant.
And it was written none should take up arms
Against the other; and if one should raise
His hand against the central strength (for where
The shaft of gold stood, there a palace stood
Where lived a ruler speaking for them all),
Then should the others rescue it and fling
The rebels back.

Such was this empire lost
And so did it remain so long as men
Obeyed the laws and heaven loved. At first
They practiced wisdom, they despised all things
Save virtue only, lightly thought of gold,
Were sober, hated luxury, knew control
Of passions and of self. And knew that wealth
Grows with such virtues, and by unity
With one another, but by zeal for wealth
All friendship dies. And so they waxed in store
Of gold and spirit. But at last the soul,
Which was divine and moved in them, fell off
And weakened, grew diluted with too much
Of human nature, and became unjust,
Cruel and base, voracious, drunken, lost
To wisdom, discipline; and the seeing eye
Saw all good things forgotten, but to those
Who had no eye to see true happiness
They still appeared most blest and glorious,
Filled as they were with avarice and lust.
So then arose one state, and then another
Against the central ruler, none was free
Of disobedience to the graven words
Upon the shaft of gold, until at last
The city on the hill watching the strife
Embarked with troops.

SECOND PHANTOM

Have you not prophesied
Your country's fate if you assault the South?
It is the zeal for wealth that cries for war.
From such a war our spirit shall be lost,
Our justice fouled, our friendship turned to hate,
Our laughter rendered drunken. We shall be
The city on the hill, the island lost --
Have both not perished?

FIRST PHANTOM

Stay! It is enough
To live amid the misery of today,
Without this contemplation of the past.
What is this sky, this earth to which we come?
This nothingness, this substance, air and rock
Which to our life is hard reality
And to our thought a dream? All nature sings,
Creates, rejoices, man alone has life
In pain as life, unfolding life as pain,
As if a child could live but never be
Delivered from the womb. And for myself
What am I but a creature, heart and head,
Hands reaching up to catch at rock or bough?
Hands, heart and head of flesh, immortal fire,
With feet unshapen, still a part of earth
Where from that undistinguished mass of clay
Hands, heart and head would pluck them? I could faint,
Fly from the task before me but for this:
The will which when confronted bares its face
And says go on, or lie down with the beasts
In silence and corruption. Let me look
No more upon this sea!

SECOND PHANTOM

Where shall we go?

FIRST PHANTOM

To some place less disquieting, more secure.

(They leave the heights and descend, approaching a
mysterious place where heaven and earth are
connected by gates.)

FIRST PHANTOM

I can no further walk or fly.

SECOND PHANTOM

You enter at these gates near by.

FIRST PHANTOM

I fall through space. Your hand, my friend.

SECOND PHANTOM

Quietly like a star descend.

(They pass through the gates into a meadow.)

FIRST PHANTOM

What is this meadow which I see?

SECOND PHANTOM

Here come the souls of men to be.
Can you remember what you said
Among the living and the dead:
I would know heaven's deepest law
And flood the world of men with light,
I would bring justice and be just.

FIRST PHANTOM

Out of each soul's prenatal night
Something of what you say returns.
The soul descending into dust
Loses its memory as it burns
Less brightly when the spirit wanes.

SECOND PHANTOM

Behold that pillar of splendor shining
And bound to earth and heaven by chains!
You see the distaff to it fixed
And in the distaff whorls of iron,
Each rising to a higher rim,
And on each whirling rim a siren
Chants, as you hear, her solemn hymn.

FIRST PHANTOM

I hear it with the singing mixed
Of one upon whose giant knee
The distaff turns to hands that reach
From thrones which stand at equal spaces.

SECOND PHANTOM

The giant is Necessity,
The Fates are reaching from the thrones

FIRST PHANTOM

Such garlands for such darkened faces!
What are these solemn monotones,
Which are not music, are not speech?

SECOND PHANTOM

They labor through Eternity.
The Universe of visible things
Turns with the distaff here again.
The dead come back with questionings
Of earthly failure, loss or pain,
And would choose better than before.
Some say that Agamemnon chose
The loneliness of eagle wings
In hatred of his mortal woes.

FIRST PHANTOM

From dreams like these I must be free! I know,
Dread phantom, you are nothing but myself.
You stand before me lately, mocking elf,
Too much, and follow me where'er I go.
What this portends I know not, death I fear.
But what seems just to do I shall perform.
A nation's destiny is mine to steer,
A people's hope is on me in the storm.
Behind these voices when they sing or laugh
I hear the droning of the telegraph:
Come! I would study now the last dispatches.

SECOND PHANTOM

No meaning it is clear your soul attaches
To thrones, or sirens, or the giant knees.
You have not fixed upon a policy.

FIRST PHANTOM

I shall be guided --

SECOND PHANTOM

By necessity --

FIRST PHANTOM

Well, yes, but by the will of God as well.

SECOND PHANTOM

How can you tell it from the will of hell?

(Voices from the thrones.)

FIRST THRONE

Here I sit spinning
From what beginning
Did I begin?

SECOND THRONE

Give me the thread!
I will assign him
Grief to refine him,
Thorns for his head.
Toil never ending
Up from his birth
This shall be leaven
To lift him from earth
Up into heaven.

(Many souls are crowded into the meadow. A figure
takes from the lap of Lachesis lots and scatters
them.)

SECOND PHANTOM

Who honors heaven, heaven wins.
Not here your fate on earth begins.
I only show you where you stood
Amid the fates and now your work
Of justice and of brotherhood.
You're weary, yet you cannot shrink
The task assumed -- how it increases!
A giant hand thrust in releases
The numbered lots of mortal life,
There from the apron of Lachesis,
And throws them to the multitude
Awaiting mortal strife.

SECOND THRONE

One fluttered to his hand. He ran
Between the thrones, the distaff under
Which swayed and rolled upon her knees.
The chains that bound it clanked and creaked.
The far-off depths the lightening streaked
Uprolled the deep symphonic thunder
Which rumbled like a chariot, till
Its echoes died and all was still,
Save for the tinkling pipe and purl
As faster sped the seventh whorl.
We nodded, laughing at the game,
And said: He's dreaming Pericles
Who gave his soul to ancient Greece.
What will he do with such a name?

SECOND PHANTOM

Do you remember?

FIRST PHANTOM

I remember
A dream I had in early youth:
My birth was humble, still I dreamed
To consecrate my life to Truth
And for the truth to be esteemed.
I love the Republic, I would see
Its soil and all its people free!

(The Furies enter.)

THE THRONES

Heaven and God are under us. Reveal
We never may what end the law achieves.
He shall be free who with increasing zeal
Still labors and believes.

THE FURIES

You may deceive this fellow with such stuff;
We have seen history woven long enough
To know the good men plan at least by half
Results in evil.

THE THRONES

Be the epitaph
Of him who moulds his being by this thought:
"He doubted, failure marked the work he wrought."

THE FURIES

What is the law, then, that he must obey?

THE THRONES

The law that has most universal sway.

THE FURIES

What may that be? Is it to choose the good?

THE THRONES

You know his dream of human brotherhood.

THE FURIES

He must seize power such dreams to realize.
In usurpation great corruption lies.

FIRST PHANTOM

What is this shape I deal with? It is whole,
Inseparable forever, with a soul.
It is a life of undivided breath.
To break its body is to give it death.

THE FURIES

There might be two souls where before was one.

FIRST PHANTOM

From heaven's battlements a clarion
Shivers the mystic chords of memory,
Stretched forth from every grave and battle-field,
My life may pay the forfeit -- let it be.
Destroy me if you will, I shall not yield
To anarch forces.

THE FURIES

Then by tyranny
You'll break the giants if they dare rebel.
Men through the giants only may be free.
Destroy them or enchain them and you quell
The Titan powers by whom there came
Freedom's Promethean flame.

THE THRONES

Whence is the Voice,
Which sings the eternal theme
Of giants whirled
Beneath the thunderbolts of Strength supreme;
Of angels who have made the fateful choice,
From heaven headlong hurled?
Of Odin, in Valhalla, keeping guard
Against the malice of the giant world,
Slaying the mighty Ymir?
And what was their reward
Who warred upon the Thunderer
For sovereignty for pity of mankind? --
Go bear in pain the burden of the earth,
Or under mountains blind
Breathe hateful fire,
Or moan your agony and fallen wrath
Chained to the rocks,
So shall thought rule, not force, or their desire
Which is the law of music not of bread
Or lower ordinance. Do you now tread,
Mortal, the path of service to the race?
Do you bring fire, or quell disharmony,
Destroy the Titans? In all time and space
Freedom is only for the wise and free!

THE THRONES

A hand like lightning from a thunder cloud
Reaches from heaven to the apron's folds,
And takes the inscrutable lots,
And scatters them among the spectral crowd.
On them are written labors, wars and plots.
Thus are they thrown, like snow they fall where'er
They may be driven by the unseen air,
Which moves so thinly here no eye beholds
Its coming and its going. They shall fall
Where chance may govern. Look! These two shall find
Their fate and incarnation, work above
This meadow under earth. Not wholly blind
Shall they select the soul they would be like --
That they may will in part -- the rest shall be
Ruled by the working of a destiny
Of our appointing when the hour shall strike
Commissioned under seal to say "Arise
The hour has struck."

FIRST PHANTOM

My other self, your hand.

SECOND PHANTOM

We must be one, not two.

FIRST PHANTOM

We must not stand
In strength, intentions, visions separate.
(The two phantoms become one.)

THE THRONES

O soul, now one which just before was two,
What is your deepest love?

THE PHANTOM

It is the True.
I love the Right, the Good, confederate
And in this order, ruling, not apart:
If this may be, mind, conscience, heart
In harmony and balanced equipoise,
I would possess, and I would have a voice
To sway with truth.

THE THRONES

Choose then O soul your fate!

THE PHANTOM

Down bending I obey. What have I done?

FIRST THRONE

Come Destiny and overwatch your son.

THE DESTINY

Behold I loved and kept the public good
Forever in my eye At my command
Were many armies, cities, islands, realms
Which I ruled over with a master hand.
And where I could not lead by gentle word
I forced compliance, so my power withstood
Internal quarrels and the foreign sword.
But when I left the life of earth they came
Around my bed, a worthy group, and spoke
My trophies and authority and fame.
Not one took notice of my greatest deeds:
No father's heart for my fault ever broke,
Nor wailing woman tore her widow's weeds.
Law, Freedom, Progress, Virtue, Beauty, Truth,
Humility, Religion, Knowledge lay
Along the pathway of my city's youth.
Ill fortune forced imperial temptation
And these divided even by heaven sundered
Leaving to Empire and to Riches sway
O'er Beauty, Knowledge, Progress, till the day
Of hatred, envy, bitter disputation,
All good was sunk. Its walls and temples thundered,
My city on the hill was crushed and fell
Through lust of riches, from its elevation.
Study my problem and my spirit well.
Yours are not greatly different -- beware
Great riches for your country lest they come
With weakness and debasement for a snare.
And to this end curb studied greed and those
Spirits luxurious, and adventuresome,
And those unjust, their hatred, guile oppose.
Right is a thing 'twixt equals, and the strong
Do what they can, the weak must suffer wrong.
Therefore the balance hold for all, assuage
The fury and revenge which yet may rage
Around your fallen brothers, when you ride
Triumphant.

SECOND THRONE

Now conduct him to our side
Beneath the distaff in my hand.
Thus is his fate forever ratified.

(The Image Passes.)

THIRD THRONE

Now hither bring him, -- thus I breathe my spell.
His doom is now made irreversible.

THE THRONE OF NECESSITY

Pass under me. Now of this cup drink deep.
There, he has drunk it and so falls in sleep.
Now guard him, Destiny!

(A sound of cannon. Lincoln awakes. The Secretary of War enters.)

THE SECRETARY OF WAR

Fort Sumter has been fired on!

LINCOLN

Call the troops!





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