Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WESTWARD MARCH, by WILLIAM STEWARD GORDON

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THE WESTWARD MARCH, by            
First Line: Beside some lost alaskan lake
Last Line: As the waters fill the sea!
Subject(s): Native Americans - History; Pilgrimages & Pilgrims; Sailing & Sailors; Sea Voyages; Trail Of Tears (1838-39); Travel; West (u.s.) - Exploration; Seamen; Sails; Native Americans - Removal; Journeys; Trips


Beside some lost Alaskan lake,
The Plover born in Spring;
Ere rising for his southward flight,
Before the Winter King,
First circles round his native ground
To train his tender wing.

The lake is all the world to him,
The world itself a dream;
But instinct paints within his breast
Some placid southern stream;
And braver grown, he cleaves the zone,
In Autumn's glint and gleam.

With kindling eye and pinion strong,
At league on league laughs he;
The mountain air is wine to him,
And wine the heaving sea;
Until the Southland of his dream
Becomes reality.

So, modestly, O Muse of mine,
Unfold thy wings for me,
And fed by ozone from on high,
Emboldened thou shalt be.
And Comrade true, whoe'er thou art,
Lend us thy company.

The voyage now for you and me
Is still a way unknown,
As westward round the globe we fly,
In pathways all our own;
Then shrink not at the Alpine blast,
Or at the ocean's moan!


As fairy Sleep her gos'mer wove
Across my weary brain,
Methought I saw an angel form,
Come flying o'er the main,
And pause upon my sleeping porch,
And shake the dripping rain.

She gently touched me on the brow,
And whispered earnestly:
"Wouldst read the record of your race?
Arise and fly with me—
The earth is all ablaze with light,
And man too blind to see!"

I know not how I found my wings,
I only know I flew—
'Twas easy as the zephyr's wing,
That sweeps the morning dew.
My strange companion spoke again,
As near my side he drew:

"Progressus is my earthly name—
Impulse I never lack;
But ever onward keep my course,
Across the zodiac."
He touched my eyes and bid me look
Along Earth's backward track.

A flash! A strange mysterious light!
I raised my eyes to look.
As mists were rolled in heaps of gold
While Morn her tresses shook,
I saw the centuries unfold,
As plain as any book.


Behold a Pilgrim, staff in hand,
With God alone his guest;
He walks by faith the desert waste,
The Promised Land his quest;
He turns his back on ancient Ur—
'Tis Abram going West!

The shifting ages onward march
In stately steps sublime;
I see three Wise Men pass in view,
Their camel bells a-chime,
And in their hearts I read the quest
Of the knighthood of all time.

Upon all pioneers of Truth
Their mantles fall anon.
The world's long night has waned at last,
The East is streaked with dawn;
A star hangs over Bethlehem,
And westward beckons on.


Thus westward ever leads the star
Of human destinies,
And sheds its fairest radiance
Around four famous seas;
And each is greater than the last,
Like God's divine decrees.

And first we see fair Galilee
Where Jesus walked and talked,
Dispensing Balm of Gilead
Where sin and sorrow stalked,
And saving sailors blanched with fear
While in the storm they rocked.

But Jordan's hills cannot enchain
The Life divinely great.
Behold! He speaks! Creation moves!
The nations march in state!
Jerusalem rejects her Lord—
"Her house is desolate."

Her treasure stores are moved to Rome,
Like honey moved by bees;
The restless spirit is released,
And seeks for larger seas,
Till Tiber's triremes press beyond
The Gates of Hercules.

The Levant soon is left behind
For a wilder, wider sea;
The human current pours across
Old Gaul to Brittany,
And all the region throbs with life
From Cork to Zuyder Zee.

The nations catch the Wanderlust;
It burns in every vein;
'Tis "Westward ho, with a rumbelo
And hurrah for the Spanish Main";
And the prow of Progress, westward bent,
Shall ne'er turn back again.

I hear the flap of the salty sail,
And the shout of the gallant tars,
As around the great Atlantic's rim
They march like Sons of Mars,
Until upon the western world
They plant a flag of stars.

Then caravans of pioneers
Pushed westward still and on,
Till the path ran into an Indian trail
And the trail itself was gone!
They thought they saw the setting sun—
'Twas only early dawn.

The Star of Empire did not set,
E'en at Pacific's brink;
It blazed a chain of light across,
Each Isle a golden link,
Till drowsy Nippon's startled hosts
At living fountains drink.

The king of oceans leashed at last!
And here shall heaven behold
The grandest drama of all time
Its mighty role unfold;
And here the kingdoms of the earth
Shall pour their filtered gold.


Is time no more, O Pilot mine?
"'Tis but begun," quoth he,
"A thousand centuries with God
Are but as yesterday"—
And cycles rolled like dust of gold
Above a silver sea.

The great processional moved on
Across the gulf of years;
They scaled the walls of Prejudice,
And sailed the sea of Fears;
They left a streak of light and love
Where all was blood and tears.

And in the vision I could see
No clash of race or tongue—
No discord in the marching step,
Or in the song they sung,
But with the stride of victory
Around the earth they swung.


Mine eyes were opened then to see
My messenger so meek.
The angel of the Lord was he—
I bowed to hear him speak:
"God is himself the Holy Grail
The nations blindly seek."

Each renaissance the world has known
Was born at his behest;
Brave Progress wears his symbol true
Upon a valiant crest;
Disguised, God leads the column still
In the spirit of the West.

The world is all ablaze with light,
But man's too blind to see.
"And East is East and West is West,"
But one the twain shall be,
When the peace of God shall fill the earth
As the waters fill the sea!

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