Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, WHITE DAY OF PEACE, by MIRIAM DEL BANCO

Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

WHITE DAY OF PEACE, by                    
First Line: Heard ye the golden bells of peace that angels softly / sway
Last Line: Tis toleration's jubilee—her white-robed festal day!
Subject(s): Peace; Religion; Theology

Written for and Read at the First Congress of Religion

Heard ye the golden bells of peace that angels softly sway,
When, on the skies of progress dawns the rose of freedom's day?
Heard ye the winds — the sweet, soft winds — that, through the scented
Swept o'er our boundless prairies like a whispered voice in prayer?
O, heard ye not above the waves that swell time's rushing tide,
A voice that to the ages like a silver clarion cried;
"White day of peace! by Toleration crowned and glorified!"

O, day divine! no industry alone thy kiss may claim,
No single art or science bear the impress of thy name,
No order trail its garlands through the splendor of thy hours,
No nation wave its banners 'mid thy sunshine and thy flowers;—
All mankind—all the sons of earth thy countless ranks increase;
Their lips proclaim in ringing tones whose echoes ne'er shall cease,
A congress of religions—God's great festival of peace.

But why, 'mid all this gleam and glow, shines the menorah's fire?
Why throb through every festal strain the notes of David's lyre?
Why from the silken scroll resounds the tinkling silver bell?
Why gather with rejoicings loud the sons of Israel?
The quaint old Hebrew blessings of their father's everywhere
Seem mingled with Joy's dimpled laugh and Gratitude's low prayer,
And blend like murmured music on the flower laden air.

Four centuries look back upon a time when sunny Spain
Tore from her heart the bleeding child of misery and pain;
Rent tie and tendril from the graves and altars of his sires;
His sacred home, his golden fields laid low in smouldering fires;
Then, turning on the hated Jew with torture-racking hand.
She hunted him from hill and vale and silver-gleaming strand,
And—"sorrow's crown of sorrow"—robbed him of his fatherland!

Then floated over earth once more that cry of mortal pain
Whose mem'ry steals not only from the scented vales of Spain;
From Russia's steppes, from Bucharest, from England's daisied sod,
That cry of tortured Israel has swept aloft to God;
And now it trailed its pain upon the ocean's silver crest,
And e'en the dark-blue waters spoke of tumult and unrest,
Yet drifted toward the pearly gates that bar the sunset west.

Ah, gazing from some lonely deck, up through the silent air,
Unconscious of the answer to his supplicating prayer,
The weary exile heeded not as, toward the western sky,
Three white-winged ships — God's messengers — went slowly sailing by;
Sailed toward the line where sunset veils of gold and violet
Concealed an infant world that dreamed in dewy verdure yet,
Ere broke that dawning freedom's day whose sun has never set.

O, bright New World, within thine arms the wanderer found rest;
The scourged and outlawed one revived, clasped to thy throbbing breast,
Clasped to thy heart, where hope's white bloom, picked fresh from freedom's sod,

Bore on its breath the exile's prayer of gratitude to God.
With thee, his manhood's sacred rights he dared once more to claim,
With thee, he dared once more to breathe Jehovah's holy name,
To hold aloft the lamp of truth, and feed its living flame.

And thus, of all who in the light of thy protection dwell,
None clings to thee with deeper love than grateful Israel;
The heart from which the first grand cry for freedom sprang to life
And thrilled the world, beats close to thine, in days of peace and strife;
Its pure devotion to thy cause no stain, no blemish mars;
And though he bears or may not bear the soldier's honored scars,
None than the Jew more loyally defends thy stripes and stars.

For thee he strives each day to prove man's brotherhood to man,
For thee he seeks the scholar's fame. the crown of artisan;
The prophet's wisdom, David's gift, Spinoza's thought sublime,
And Heine's art and Mendelssohn's, through Israel are thine;
Yea, every heart its tribute brings, its love forever-more;—
None can forget the voice whose call once thrilled from shore to shore:
"Ye outcast, scourged and weary ones, lo, enter at my door!"

And therefore in this gleam and glow shines the menorah's fire,
While echo through each festal strain the notes of David's lyre;
Sweet Nature lifts her floral horn the notes of peace to swell
That float from every happy heart in grateful Israel.
The hilltops are aglow with light; and hark, from far away,
Float dreamily the chimes of bells that unseen angels sway;—
'Tis Toleration's jubilee—her white-robed festal day!

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