Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE SPIRIT OF THE TIMES, by ALEXANDER ANDERSON



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THE SPIRIT OF THE TIMES, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Come, fling for a moment, my fellows
Last Line: For one wild moment to see!
Alternate Author Name(s): Surfaceman
Subject(s): Labor & Laborers; Progress; Railroads; Work; Workers; Railways; Trains


COME, fling for a moment, my fellows,
The pick and shovel aside,
And rise from the moil of our ten hours' toil
With a heart beating high with pride.
What though our mission can do without thought,
And the music and cunning of rhymes;
Yet shame on that bosom that will not throb
To the spirit and march of the times.

Then, hurrah! for this rough, firm earth of ours,
Like a lion half-roused from his den
She wakes up, and cries, while we whisper in fear,
"Let us hush her to sleep again."
But a voice from the very footstool of God
Cries, "Break her away from her thrall,
That our fellows may toss her from hand to hand,
As a juggler tosses his ball."

Come, then, let us thunder our watchword still,
"Make way for the tools and the man,"
Let the rough hand work what the thought will shape
To its highest miraculous plan—
Till the gods, who loll at the edge of the stars,
Look down as we labour below,
And swear by their nectar these puppets beneath
Know at least how their planet should go.

Fling the span of the bridge o'er the foam of the sea,
Run shafts to the centre of earth,
Wrench the coal from her grasp to the light of the sun,
That the giant of steam may have birth.
Lay the pliant rail on her full broad breast,
That, swift as a lion springs,
The engine may hurtle and roar—the Danton
Of this wondrous new birth of things!

Build the ship into being from stem to stern,
But not with wood as of yore,
But with iron plates that may laugh at the shock
Of the thunder hammer of Thor.
Let the sea swell up in his white-lipp'd wrath,
As the circling paddles fly,
And Neptune himself groan for want of room
Till the iron hulk goes by

O, fellows, but this is a wondrous age,
When Science with faith in her eyes,
Springs up in her thirst from this planet of ours
To the stars in front of the skies.
And we—we watch her as onward she glides
Leaving wonders behind her track,
Like a huntsman that jerks a hawk from his wrist,
But who will whistle her back?

Ay, who? for at length she has found her strength,
As a tiger's may come at the sup
Of the warm first blood, and his wild fierce mood
Like fire through his frame flashes up;
So she, and we follow as onward she leads
With the flush of pride on her cheek,
And she makes us the greater men, though we work
In the wake of the Roman and Greek.

Shame rest on the bigot that thinks in his heart
She flings a blight on our creeds,
And darkens the light that we keep to guide
As we rush from the fable to deeds.
Out on such croakers! with one white hand
She lifts her miracle rod
And strikes wherever we wish, while the other
Holds on by the garments of God.

The ages behind look like infants in sleep,
But those that look down on our time
Cry out with a hundred voices in one
To nourish them into prime.
And, God! but we build them up to their strength,
As an eagle will rear her young,
But their giant force, springing up like a source,
Has never yet been sung.

Where shall he come from, the poet, whose fire
Shall place on his wild, rough page
The spirit that lurks and forever works
In the breast of this mighty age?
Is he yet in the cycles that loom before,
Preparing his melody?
Let him come, and roll through my heart and soul
His music before I die.

But now, while we wait for the roll of his words,
Let us work in our growing strength;
For the earth in her cradle, since Adam died,
Is up from her slumber at length.
Ay, up! in the cities that roar and fret
With the toil and the tread of men;
And the sun shall be hurl'd from his course ere she sinks
To her second childhood again!

Then, hurrah! for our higher fellows that work
With this thought and its Titan powers,
And cut through the jungle of creeds and fools
A path for this planet of ours.
And hurrah for this nineteenth century time—
What the future may grow and be !
Ah, God! to burst up from the slumber of death
For one wild moment to see!





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