Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, INDIGNATION; AN ODE, by LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE



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INDIGNATION; AN ODE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: There was an anger among men
Last Line: O fire, o indignation of the lord!
Subject(s): Swords


I

THERE was an anger among men
In the old days; and it was as a sword
In the hands of the Spirit then
To hew the ambusht villainy out of his path
And in its thievish lurking kill the fraud.
And all the greeds of hell kept to their den
When the Spirit in his hands took wrath.
But lately, when there smiting should have been,
Who has a weapon seen?
The Spirit stands and looks on infamy,
And unashamed the faces of the pit
Snarl at their enemy,
Finding him wield no insupportable light
And no whirled edge of blaze to hit
Backward their impudence, and hammer them to flight;
Although ready is he,
Wearing the same righteous steel
Upon his limbs, helmed as he was then
When he made olden war;
Yet cannot now with foulness fiercely deal.
There is no indignation among men,
The Spirit has no scimetar.

II.

Wilt thou not come again, thou godly sword
Into the Spirit's hands?
That he may be a captain of the Lord
Again, and mow out of our lands
The crop of wicked men.
O thou forged anger, sword
Made of the holy rage
That went out against the old sick fen
Of being and on disorder warr'd
And fought it into fire and white stars
When God made Heavens out of the unwholesome age
And maladies of existence, into good
Hunting all that liked not to be glad,—
In what armoury art thou now upliad,
And is the rust upon thy blade?
These many years unhelpt has stood
The Spirit, weaponless against bad,
Having no sharpness and no heat
Of indignation wherewith to meet
And battle with the vile banners, his great
Beleaguerment of fiends. But to his hands
Come thou and clear our lands.
Let him exult to feel the weight
Of wrath swinging with his arm abroad,
And the air about him burn'd with a sword.
Let there be fire, and the anger of the Lord.

III.

The Mind of Man has been a sacred place,
And into it the evil race
Would trespass warily, much afraid
Of sorely-felt assaults upon them made
By statures of great wind that came
Terribly using a huge flame
Intolerably white.
But now that wrath comes never out to fight,
The fiendish bands go lording in the day
And openly possess the mind of man.
With meaningless scurries of their insane feet
They have rutted the helpless ground
Like baggage-travell'd clay.
And when the climate of man's thought they found
Blue air, a road for immortal lights,—
Days like the house of God, and hosted nights
Held by the champions of eternity,—
With evil fires the swarms began
To make a weather they could understand
Of yellow dusk and smoky enormous bale
To grieve over the land
And make the sunlight fail.
Till a low roof of dirty storm they brought
To hang upon the mind of man:
Who cannot see that man's huge thought
Is now a dark calamity?

IV.

But how long shall the Spirit see
The Life of Man, wherein with such delight
He walkt his glebe, and in his ways would sing
To do this pleasant gardening,
How long see his own especial ground
Vext in a season of disastrous blight,
Trampled and staled and trodden filthily
By troops of insolence, the beasts of hell?
But the Spirit now is built up narrowly,
And kept within a shameful pound,
Walled in with folly and stupid greed
Lest he should come to plead
Against our ugly wickedness,
Against our wanton dealing of distress,
The forced defilement of humanity,
The foundries and the furnaces
That straddle over the human place.
Nothing comes to rebuke us for
The hearts we wound with laws grievously,
The souls our commerce clutches
Cunningly into inescapable lime,
Embruted in wicked streets, made debase
In villainous alleys and foul hutches,
There trapt in vice and crime,
And for the wrong we did, who made them poor,
Set to pay infamous penalties in gaols;
Not even for this the Spirit breaks his pales.
And shall there be no end to life's expense
In mill and yards and factories,
With no more recompense
Than sleep in warrens and low styes,
And undelighted food?
Shall still our ravenous and unhandsome mood
Make men poor and keep them poor?—
Either to starve or work in deadly shops
Where the damn'd wisdom of the wheels
Fearfully fascinates men's wit and steals,
With privy embezzlement that never stops,
The worker's conscience into their spinning roar,—
Until men are the dead stuff there,
And the engines are aware?
Shall we not think of Beauty any more
In our activities?
Or do no better than to God complain?—
I would that to the world would come again
That indignation, that anger of the Lord,
Which once was known among us men.
For terrible and upright then
The Spirit would stand suddenly out of his ways
Of crouching grief and tears,
As by a hilt handling the wrathful blaze,
Having again a sword.
And he would ruin all the mischievous walls
That had been raised up of materials
Darkly quarried in hell, to hedge
And fence him out of the life of man;
But he with anger's shining edge
Would mightily cut the built iniquities,
Commerce, and all the policies
Of ownership and avarice;
And they would buckle at his stroke
Perishing into flights of smoke.
Then he with a dreadful song, a sound
To put a howling fear in the bad horde,
Would step again on his own ground,
He and his indignant sword,
And the golden havoc would begin.
Those foul ghosts encampt in man
Would run from the stabbing light of his blade.
Caught in the anger's burning wheel,
The huge scything of the tempered zeal,
This clumsy unlit shed we have made,
Money, to house our being in,
Would travel like a wind-blown thing.
In that fanning as motes would be,
The sword-thresht fabric of our trade,
Our happy greed, our healthy wrong,
Our villainous prosperity.
And ript out of its cursèd rind
Of laidly duties, that did wring
And clamp in ignominy man's whole mind,
This iron scurf of labour torn away,
Thought would walk again like a sacred king
The shining space of immorality.
O for that anger in the hands
Of Spirit! To us, O righteous sword,
Come thou and clear our lands,
O fire, O indignation of the Lord!




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