Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MOVE UPWARD, by ALEXANDER ANDERSON



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MOVE UPWARD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Ay, in heaven's name, let us move upward still
Last Line: "lo! At last we are free from the brute!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): God; Railroads; Railways; Trains


"Move upward, working out the brute,
And let the ape and tiger die."—TENNYSON.

AY, in heaven's name, let us move upward still
In this time-changing planet of ours,
And bring to the task what the gods still ask—
The best of our years and our powers.
Let us make this great century, whirling around,
A footstool to lift up the foot,
Whereon we may cry, looking upward to God—
"We are all this way from the brute."

Is the dream of the poet forever to be
Like the myth of the Greek, or at least
The skeleton dress'd up in costliest gold,
And set in the midst of the feast?
Is the double meaning forever to wind
Like the coil of the snake round our speech?
And the Dead Sea fable still utter its truth
As we mimic and chatter to each?

But questions are weapons an infant can lift,
Let us marry the fruitfuller act,
And widen our being to let in the light,
And the strength of the deed-giving fact.
Is it not enough we have come from God?
But since time took his birthright in years,
We have bred with the brute, and our offspring has been
The sucklings of bloodshed and tears.

It were time, then, to burst from the links we have forged
To fetter the soul in the breast,
Though the wrench should bring with it the best of our blood,
And we faint as a pilgrim for rest.
Heart! but each has some task he must close with his life
When he slips from this world's wide plan,
And the highest a man can shape out for himself
Is to move himself upward to man.

Ay, move himself up to that nature of his
Which, though trampled and trod in the dust,
Still shows, as a jewel may gleam through the sand,
The finger of God through its crust.
Let him, then, so alive with miraculous breath,
Make the best of his energies join,
Till he lift himself up in the light of the Christ
To the clear, true ring of the coin.

There be some who squat down by the world's rough path,
As if life were a burden to shirk,
Heeding not the great watchword it thunders to all—
"Up, shoulder to shoulder, and work!"
But sit in their darkness to wince at the truth,
As an owl at the light sits and blinks,
And for ever propound each his question to solve,
Like a nineteenth-century Sphinx.

"Move upward from what?" they demand, with a croak,
And I break in at once and reply—
"From the sham that has flung our soul under its heel,
And the words that but wrap up a lie—
From the thought that still grovels and hides in the dust,
As a viper may do, until blind
It springs up to find venom to add to its own,
In the plague-spots seen in our kind."

Ay, battle with this as a fighter strikes out,
When he stands with his back to the wall,
With no help but the strength that is in his right arm,
And the eye that has glances for all.
Shame on us, then, who stand with our face to the front,
And modell'd in God's mighty shape,
If we roughen our soul with the dust of the earth,
To give better foothold for the ape.

God! to look on this manifold, wonderful earth,
As Novalis look'd on men,
And feel the old rev'rence grow upward within
To the pitch of the Hebrews again—
To have the rapt soul and the calm, deep eye
That can look upon all without fear,
And the firm, steady beat of the heart that can feel
When the footsteps of God are anear.

It may be that we may, fighting upward to this,
Grow footsore and faint in the heat,
But the moving oneself up to heights in this life
Spreads no carpeted way for the feet.
Let us think of those grand, true souls who have left
Guiding-posts on each side of the way,
And press ever on with our eyes to the light
They have left as the part of their day.

Ay, in Heaven's name, let us move upward, then,
To the grand, true ring of the man,
Giving to this one task all the best of our years,
And the strength to reach up to the plan.
Let the "Ernst ist das Leben" of Schiller speak on,
Till we seize and place under our foot
The head of the ape, crying upward to God,
"Lo! at last we are free from the brute!"





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