Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, DAYBREAK, by LOUIS UNTERMEYER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

DAYBREAK, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Three years of night and nightmare, years of black
Last Line: And darkness but a wide and welcome bed.
Alternate Author Name(s): Lewis, Michael
Subject(s): Dawn; Sunrise

Three years of night and nightmare, years of black
Hate and its murderous attack,
Three years of midnight terrors till the brain,
Beaten in the intolerable campaign,
Saw nothing but a world of driven men
And skies that never could be clean again;
Hot winds that tore the lungs, great gusts
Of rotting madness and forgotten lusts;
Hills draped with death; the beat of terrible wings;
Flowers that smelt of carrion; monstrous things
That crawled on iron bellies over trees
And swarmed in blood, till even the seas
Were one wet putrefaction, and the earth
A violated grave of trampled mirth.
What light there was, was only there to show
Intolerance delivering blow on blow,
Bigotry rampant, honor overborne,
And faith derided with a blast of scorn.
This was our daily darkness; we had thought
All freedom worthless and all beauty naught.
The eager, morning-hearted days were gone
When we took joy in small things: in the sun,
Tracing a delicate pattern through thick leaves,
With its long, yellow pencils; or blue eaves
Frosted with moonlight, and one ruddy star
Ringing against the night, a chime
Like an insistent, single rhyme;
Or see the full-blown moon stuck on a spar,
A puff-ball flower on a rigid stalk;
Or think of nothing better than to walk
With one small boy and listen to the war
Of waters pulling at a stubborn shore;
Or laugh to see the waves run out of bounds
Like boisterous and shaggy hounds;
Watching the stealthy rollers come alive,
And shake their silver manes and leap and dive;
Or listen with him to the voiceless talk
Of fireflies and daisies, feel the late
Dusk full of unheard music or vibrate
To a more actual magic, hear the notes
Of birds with sunset shaking on their throats;
Or watch the emerald and olive trees
Turn purple ghosts in dusty distances;
The city's kindling energy; the sweet
Pastoral of an empty street;
Foot-ball and friends; lyrics and daffodils;
The sovereign splendor of the marching hills --
These were all ours to choose from and enjoy
Until this foul disease came to destroy
The casual beneficence of life.

But now a thin edge, like a merciful knife,
Pierces the shadows, and a chiseling ray
Cuts the thick folds away.
Murmurs of morning, glad, awakening cries,
Hints of majestic rhythms, rise.
Dawn will not be denied. The blackness shakes,
And here a brand and there a beacon breaks
Into the glory that will soon be hurled
Over a cleared, rejuvenated world --
A world of bright democracies, of fair
Disputes, desires, and tolerance everywhere,
With laughter loose again, and time enough
To feel the warm-lipped and cool-fingered love,
With kindly passion lifted from the dead,
Where daylight shall be bountifully spread,
And darkness but a wide and welcome bed.

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