Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LAND OF THE GIANTS, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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THE LAND OF THE GIANTS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: The land of the giants is an old and dark and cold land
Last Line: "in his might he laid about him; and—the giants were no more!"
Subject(s): Giants


The land of the giants is an old and dark and cold land.
Aye, still it frowns around us, as of old we read and knew.
'Tis a cruel Do-your-worst and a gloating All-for-gold land,
Far truer than the fairy-tales. Would God it were not true!

The land of the giants! Like a thunder-cloud it cumbers
The skies of song and dream; and afar its shadow falls;
And still we hear the breathing of the giants in their slumbers
As they loom on high above us. Yet a song my heart recalls

Saith,—"Louder still and shriller whistled Jack the giant-killer.
With his darning-needle sword flashing dauntless as it whirled.
And he strode with defiance through the land of the giants,
His heart a flame with valor for the righting of the world."

'Twas a day gray as this when he balanced on the bean-stalk
And climbed to their kingdom through the mirk that hangs abhorred
Like a shroud above our cities, like a pall of heavy pities.
And he'd just his heart for buckler, and a darning-needle sword.

Though that land than death was stiller, whistled Jack the giant-killer,
"I've a charm for all harm! I am little, but I'm bold!"
So he mustered self-reliance, in the land of the giants,
And he marched on their mountains with a shrug against the cold.

The land of the giants! In their valley lay they sleeping,
Supine colossal shadows; and the bones of men of might,—
Of sages, and reformers, and of champions, were heaping
The ruined waste around them, thickly strewn and ghastly white.

The hills behind were covered with their castles' walls and towers
That crouched like shackled gryphons in the yellow-vapored gloom;
And a bell among the mountains dinged and donged the dragon hours
With a deep sonorous clangor like the tocsin-bell of doom.

The darning-needle sword caught a shaft of light, and glinted
Like love beneath oppression, as our Jack, with catlike tread
Came swiftly round the rocks 'mid the sleepers; and he squinted
With watchful, narrowed eyes at each huge and snoring head.

Then he pricked, now here, now there. Then he leaped. The giants blundered
With bellowing to their feet. Loud they questioned each of each.
Then they grappled each the other, and their fighting roared and thundered
Re-echoing to the mountains; Jack just dancing out of reach!

So—ah, the tale is old!—as they roared and raged and rumbled,
Jack's sword-pricks still beset them; till, with sudden earthquake sound,
At last in mortal agony each monstrous giant tumbled
Disastrous from the heavens, and lay gasping on the ground!

And far away the mountain bell went tolling their disaster,
While Jack just wiped his darning-needle sword, and winked an eye.
"Ha! ha!" he said. "Ho! ho!" he said. "The little man's your master!
You only had to meet with me to know the reason why!"

And louder yet, and shriller, whistled Jack the giant-killer,
And sheathed his sword, and faced about, and marched him back again,
With a strut of proud defiance, through the land of the giants.
And he left their heavy corpses lying prone upon the plain!

When too high seems the sky, and God's justice long withholden;
When too dark seems the night, and the day too gross with pride;
When the hulking giants loom o'er our world as in the olden
Days of fairy-legends,—may Jack Dauntless be our guide!

For, "Louder still and shriller whistled Jack the giant-killer,
With his darning-needle sword waving dauntlessly before.
And he strode with defiance through the land of the giants;
In his might he laid about him; and—the giants were no more!"





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