Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, TOWARD THE GULF; DEDICATED TO THEODORE ROOSEVELT, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS



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TOWARD THE GULF; DEDICATED TO THEODORE ROOSEVELT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: From the cordilleran highlands
Last Line: Till east and west shall be one in the west of heaven and earth!
Subject(s): United States; America


From the Cordilleran Highlands,
From the Height of Land
Far north.
From the Lake of the Woods,
From Rainy Lake,
From Itasca's springs.
From the snow and the ice
Of the mountains,
Breathed on by the sun,
And given life,
Awakened by kisses of fire,
Moving, gliding as brightest hyaline
Down the cliffs,
Down the hills,
Over the stones.
Trickling as rills;
Swiftly running as mountain brooks;
Swirling through runnels of rock;
Curving in sphered silence
Around the long worn walls of granite gorges;
Storming through chasms;
And flowing for miles in quiet over the Titan basin
To the muddled waters of the mighty river,
Himself obeying the call of the gulf,
And the unfathomed urge of the sea!

Waters of mountain peaks,
Spirits of liberty
Leaving your pure retreats
For work in the world.
Soiling your crystal springs
With the waste that is whirled to your breast as you run,
Until you are foul as the crawling leviathan
That devours you,
And uses you to carry waste and earth
For the making of land at the gulf,
For the conquest of land for the feet of men.

De Soto, Marquette and La Salle
Planting your cross in vain,
Gaining neither gold nor ivory,
Nor tribute
For France or Spain.
Making land alone
For liberty!
You could proclaim in the name of the cross
The dominion of kings over a world that was new.
But the river has altered its course:
There are fertile fields
For a thousand miles where the river flowed that you knew.
And there are liberty and democracy
For thousands of miles
Where in the name of kings, and for the cross
You tramped the tangles for treasure.

The Falls of St. Anthony tumble the waters
In laughter and tumult and roaring of voices,
Swirling, dancing, leaping, foaming,
Spirits of caverns, of canyons and gorges:
Waters tinctured by star-lights, sweetened by breezes
Blown over snows, out of the rosy northlands,
Through forests of pine and hemlock,
Whisperings of the Pacific grown symphonic.
Voices of freedom, restless, unconquered,
Mad with divinity, fearless and free: --
Hunters and choppers, warriors, revelers,
Laughers, dancers, fiddlers, freemen,
Climbing the crests of the Alleghenies,
Singing, chopping, hunting, fighting
Erupting into Kentucky and Tennessee,
Into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Sweeping away the waste of the Indians,
As the river carries mud for the making of land.
And taking the land of Illinois from kings
And handing its allegiance to the Republic.
What riflemen with Daniel Boone for leader,
And conquerors with Clark for captain
Plunge down like melted snows
The rocks and chasms of forbidden mountains,
And make more land for freemen!
Clear-eyed, hard-muscled, dauntless hunters,
Choppers of forests and tillers of fields
Meet at last in a field of snow-white clover
To make wise laws for states,
And to teach their sons of the new West
That suffrage is the right of freemen.
Until the lion of Tennessee,
Who crushes king-craft near the gulf,
Where La Salle proclaimed the crown,
And the cross,
Is made the ruler of the republic
By freeman suffragans,
And winners of the West!

Father of Waters! Ever recurring symbol of wider freedom,
Even to the ocean girdled earth,
The out-worn rule of Florida rots your domain.
But the lion of Tennessee asks: Would you take from Spain
The land she has lost but in name?
It shall be done in a month if you loose my sword.
It was done as he said.
And the sick and drunken power of Spain that clung,
And sucked at the life of Chile, Peru, Argentina,
Loosened under the blows of San Martin and Bolivar,
Breathing the lightning thrown by Napoleon the Great
On the thrones of Europe.
Father of Waters! 'twas you who made us say:
No kings this side of the earth forever!
One-half of the earth shall be free
By our word and the might that is back of our word!

The falls of St. Anthony tumble the waters
In laughter and tumult and roaring of voices!
And the river moves in its winding channel toward the gulf,
Over the breast of De Soto,
By the swamp grave of La Salle!
The old days sleep, the lion of Tennessee sleeps
With Daniel Boone and the hunters,
The rifle men, the revelers,
The laughers and dancers and choppers
Who climbed the crests of the Alleghenies,
And poured themselves into Tennessee, Ohio,
Kentucky, Illinois, the bountiful West.
But the river never sleeps, the river flows forever,
Making land forever, reclaiming the wastes of the sea.
And the race never sleeps, the race moves on forever.
And wars must come, as the waters must sweep away
Drift-wood, dead wood, choking the strength of the river --
For Liberty never sleeps!

The lion of Tennessee sleeps!
And over the graves of the hunters and choppers
The tramp of troops is heard!
There is war again,
O, Father of Waters!
There is war, O, symbol of freedom!
They have chained your giant strength for the cause
Of trade in men.
But a man of the West, a denizen of your shore,
Wholly American,
Compact, clear-eyed, nerved like a hunter,
Who knew no faster beat of the heart,
Except in charity, forgiveness, peace;
Generous, plain, democratic,
Scarcely appraising himself at full,
A spiritual rifleman and chopper,
Of the breed of Daniel Boone --
This man, your child, O, Father of Waters,
Waked from the winter sleep of a useless day
By the rising sun of a Freedom bright and strong,
Slipped like the loosened snows of your mountain streams
Into a channel of fate as sure as your own --
A fate which said: till the thing be done
Turn not back nor stop.
Ulysses of the great Atlantis,
Wholly American,
Patient, silent, tireless, watchful, undismayed
Grant at Fort Donelson, Grant at Vicksburg,
Leading the sons of choppers and riflemen,
Pushing on as the hunters and farmers
Poured from the mountains into the West,
Freed you, Father of Waters,
To flow to the Gulf and be one
With the earth-engirdled tides of time.
And gave us states made ready for the hands
Wholly American:
Hunters, choppers, tillers, fighters
For epochs vast and new
In Truth, in Liberty,
Posters from land to land and sea to sea
Till all the earth be free!

Ulysses of the great Atlantis,
Dream not of disaster,
Sleep the sleep of the brave
In your couch afar from the Father of Waters!
A new Ulysses arises,
Who turns not back, nor stops
Till the thing is done.
He cuts with one stroke of the sword
The stubborn neck that keeps the Gulf
And the Caribbean
From the luring Pacific.
Roosevelt the hunter, the pioneer,
Wholly American,
Winner of greater wests
Till all the earth be free!

And forever as long as the river flows toward the Gulf
Ulysses reincarnate shall come
To guard our places of sleep,
Till East and West shall be one in the west of heaven and earth!





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