Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE BROWN GIANT, by ALEXANDER ANDERSON



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THE BROWN GIANT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Hurrah for this rough brown giant of ours!
Last Line: The bloodless battles of toil.
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): Giants; God; Railroads; Railways; Trains


HURRAH for this rough brown giant of ours!
He stood by the side of God
When the stars were shot from His strong right hand
To the height of their pure abode;
When this grand firm planet we tread upon
Rose upward formless and dim,
And knelt on its knee with its hands in the air
As they sang their morning hymn.

Hurrah for this rough brown giant of ours!
He stood by the side of man
As he rose in the shape of the Master himself,
With a boundless cunning to plan.
Then God said, looking and smiling at each,
And laying His hands on the two,
"Go forth; I have only roughen'd the earth,
I have left the rest for you."

Then the two came forth to this earth of ours,
The giant still led like a child,
And wherever he bent his back the earth
Look'd up in his face and smiled.
And goodly harvests of grain grew up,
And the red swift wine was quaff'd,
Till it warm'd the heart of the giant, who sang
And held his sides, and laugh'd.

Then cities rose up at his magic touch,
Till the earth was like to groan,
For the fair green sod was cut through with a load
Of a million streets of stone.
And a multitudinous tramp of feet
Went surging up and down;
Ho, ho, and the giant leapt up in his glee,
For his muscles had shaped the town!

Then he taught the puppets who stood by his knee
The cunning that slumbers in fire,
Till they bent the iron as willows are bent,
To each shape of their boundless desire;
But his great heart leapt with a bound to his throat,
And his grim brows whiten'd with fear,
When they drew from their gleaming scabbards of fire
The mighty sword and spear.

Then his eyes grew sad with a gloom, and he shrank
Till he scarce could draw his breath,
As he saw, rank'd up in their terrible files,
Men eager for slaughter and death.
But at last when they met like two whirlwinds in hell,
And the spouting blood reek'd red,
With his broad rough hand as a blind on his eyes,
He turn'd in terror, and fled.

Then he sat him down full of black despair,
And he groan'd as he bent his eyes,
For he saw that his very footsteps were red
With the hue that darkens and dyes.
He sat like one from whose veins the tide
Of full strong life had shrunk;
And his long black hair fell down on his face,
While his head on his bosom sunk.

But he sprung to his feet, and he dash'd his hair
At one wild sweep from his brow;
"What a coward," he said, "to sink thus in my dread,
And this planet awaiting me now.
Have I not on my shoulder the finger of God,
As he laid it on that of the man?
If he strikes into pathways that devils have made
I, at least, will stand true to the plan."

So with strong full heart he stood in the mart,
Till up to his very knees
The treasures of earth lay like sunset in heaps,
He was lord of the lordless seas.
"Hurrah, hurrah!" and his breath came quick,
While he shouted aloud in his glee,
"The king with a million men at his beck
Is never a king like me."

But when he struck forth with his strong right hand,
And the temple rose upward on high,
He bared his forehead, and knelt on his knee,
For he knew that his Master was nigh.
He seem'd, as the smile of God fell upon him,
Kneeling and bowing there,
A grand, stern, all miraculous form
Of Labour and Worship at prayer.

But when he stood by the sculptor, and saw
An angel step from the stone,
Or the mighty shape of some god that rose
In its godship calm and alone—
His heart came and went at each deft chisel stroke,
But his brow wore a doubt as he said,
"Here is toil of a higher kind than my own,
Where God steps in in my stead."

He stood by the painter, who, busy with dreams,
And a grand glow lighting his eyes,
Made his canvas a mirror that took in the earth
As a lake takes the stars and the skies.
Or, soaring upward alone with his soul,
Away from the shadow and mist,
Brought down with a brow full of heaven's own light,
The grand pure features of Christ.

He turn'd from the painter and sculptor, who wrought
In the light common men may not see,
And with low voice whisper'd—"The work of the two
Belongs to a higher than me.
There is something divine which is out of my reach,
Yet it may be mine, but, till then,
I know I can stand with no fear of a lord
In the rush of toiling men."

He shaped the bridge till its footstep of stone
Stept over the wave at one stride;
He fashion'd whatever had shadow of use
For man to keep by his side.
The great brown giant look'd at his arms
And his broad brow glisten'd with sweat,
But still, in the depths of his bosom, he felt
There was something to fashion yet.

He stood lost in thought till the light in his eyes
By his broad grim brows was o'ercast,
Then he drew himself up to his height, as he cried,
"I have found my best triumph at last."
Then the smoke of the furnace-fire grew dark,
And the heavens were deaf with the din
Of hammer and anvil, where glowing and swart
The giant was toiling within.

At length, when his task was over, he stood
With his strong arms over his breast,
As if to keep down the wild pride of his heart
That not for one moment could rest.
"Ho, here I have made you a monster of fire!
One whose muscles can shrink not nor fail;"
And, with one wild rush, like a stroke from the gods,
The engine leapt to the rail.

And with three sharp snorts, as a test of his strength,
He bent himself to each load,
Till his black limbs quiver'd, as quiver the veins
When the hot blood leaps in a god;
And wherever he stamp'd with his merciless hoof
The earth, as if terror-struck, said—
"Here is one who will never give heed to the rein
Till he circles my bounds with his tread."

A flush lay like fire on the giant's cheek,
And a deep glow lit up his eye,
As at every heave of the monster's lungs
A column of smoke took the sky.
But when he drew near for a moment to view
The red flame licking his heart,
And coiling and twisting like snakes when they sting
The giant leapt back with a start.

Then a gloom lay like mist on his brow, and he said,
As if doubt had come backward again,—
"I have made them a steed they can harness at will,
What more can I fashion for men?
They may struggle and conquer, the gods of this earth!
Yet whatever their miracles be,
Let them know that the fingers of God are on them,
As I feel them this moment on me."

Then hurrah for this rough brown giant of ours!
He stood with God in His place
When the stars like a million silver drops
Were hung in the azure of space.
And hurrah! when he came with a firm free step
To stand beside man on the soil,
To head like a Titan Napoleon still
The bloodless battles of toil.





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