Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE RETURN OF PEACE, by PAUL HAMILTON HAYNE

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE RETURN OF PEACE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I had a vision at that mystic hour
Last Line: The love-commissioned almoner of god.
Subject(s): Peace; Reconstruction (1865-1876)

I HAD a vision at that mystic hour,
When in the ebon garden of the Night,
Blooms the Cimmerian flower
Of doubt and darkness, cowering from the light.
I seemed to stand on a vast lonely height,
Above a city ravished and o'erthrown,
The air about me one long lingering moan
Of lamentation like a dreary sea
Scourged by the storm to murmurous weariness;
Then, from dim levels of mist-folded ground
Borne upward suddenly.
Burst the deep-rolling stress
Of jubilant drums, blent with the silvery sound
Of long-drawn bugle notes -- the clash of swords
(Outflashed by alien lords) --
And warrior-voices wild with victory.

They could not quell the grieved and shuddering air,
That breathed about me its forlorn despair:
It almost seemed as if stern Triumph sped
To one whose hopes were dead,
And flaunting there his fortune's ruddier grace,
Smote -- with a taunt -- wan Misery in the face!

Lo! far away,
(For now my dream grows clear as luminous day,)
The victor's camp-fires gird the city round;
But she, unrobed, discrowned --
A new Andromeda, beside the main
Of her own passionate pain;
Bowed, naked, shivering low --
Veils the soft gleam of melancholy eyes,
Yet lovelier in their woe, --
Alike from hopeless earth and hopeless skies.
No Perseus, for her sake, serenely fleet,
Shall cleave the heavens with winged and shining feet: --
Ah me! the maid is lost --
For sorrow, like keen frost
Shall eat into her being's anguished core --
Atlanta (not Andromeda in this),
What outside helper can bring back her bliss?
Can re-illume, beyond its storm-built bar,
Her youth's auroral star,
Or wake the aspiring heart that sleeps forever more.

O! lying prophet of a sombre mood,
This city of our love
Is no poor, timorous dove,
To crouch and die unstruggling in the mire;
If, for a time, she yields to force and fire,
Blinded by battle-smoke, and drenched with blood,
Still must that dauntless hardihood
Drawn to her veins from out the iron hills,
(Nerving the brain that toils, the soul that wills,)
Shake off the lotus-languishment of grief!
I see her rise and clasp her old belief,
In God and goodness -- with imperial glance,
Face the dark front of frowning Circumstance, --
While trusting only to her strong right arm
To wrench from deadly harm,
All civic blessings and fair fruits of peace!
High-souled to gain (despite her ravished years),
And dragon-forms of monstrous doubts and fears,
The matchless splendor of Toil's "golden fleece!"

I see her rise, and strive with strenuous hands firmly to lay
The fresh foundations of a nobler sway --
War-wasted lands
Laden with ashes, gray and desolate --
Touched by the charm of some regenerate fate --
Flush into golden harvests prodigal;
Set by the steam-god's fiery passion free,
I hear the rise and fall
Of ponderous iron-clamped machinery,
Shake, as with earthquake thrill, the factory halls;
While round the massive walls
Slow vapor, like a sinuous serpent steals --
Through which revolve in circles, great or small,
The deafening thunders of the tireless wheels!

Far down each busy mart
That throbs and heaves as with a human heart
Quick merchants pass, some debonair and gay,
With undimmed, youthful locks --
Some wrinkled, sombre, gray --
But all with one accord
Dreaming of him -- their lord --
The mighty monarch of the realm of stocks!
And year by year her face more frankly bright,
Glows with the ardor of the bloodless fight
For bounteous empire o'er her cherished South.
More sweet the smile upon her maiden mouth,
Just rounding to rare curves of womanhood:
Because all unwithstood
The magic of her power and stately pride
Hath called from many a clime
Of tropic sunshine and of winter rime,
The world's skilled art and science to her side;
Hence from her transient tomb,
Three lustra since, a hideous spot to see --
Grows the majestic tree
Of heightened and green-leaved prosperity.
Hence, her broad gardens bloom
With rose and lily, and all flowers of balm.
And hence above the lines
Of her vast railways, droop the laden vines --
A luscious largess thro' the summer calm!
. . . . .
Feeling her veins so full of lusty blood,
That pulsed within them like a rhythmic flood,
And eager for sweet sisterhood, -- the bond
Blissful and fond,
That yet may hold all nations in its thrall,
Atlanta -- from a night of splendid dreams,
Roused by soft kisses of the morning beams,
Decreed a glorious festival
Of art and commerce in her brave domain;
She sent her summons on the courier breeze;
Or thro' the lightning winged wire
Flashed forth her soul's desire: --
Swiftly it passed.
O'er native hills and streams and prairies vast, --
And o'er waste barriers of dividing seas
'Till from all quarters, like quick tongues of flame,
That warm, but burn not, -- cordial answers came,
And waftage of benignant messages.

Thus, thus it is a mighty concourse meets
O'erflowing squares and streets --
Borne at flood-tide toward the guarded ground,
Where treasures of two hemispheres are found,
To tax the inquiring mind, the curious eye!
Grain of the upland and damp river-bed,
In yellow stalks, or sifted meal for bread;
Unnumbered births of Ceres clustered nigh;
Beholding which -- as touched by tropic heat, --
(The old-world picture never can grow old,
Nor the deep love that thrills it dumb and cold) --
Clear fancy looks on Boaz in the wheat,
And in her simple truth,
The tender eyes of Ruth
Holding the garnered fragments at his feet!

But piled o'er all, thro' many an unbound bale
Peering to show its snow-white softness pale,
-- Snow-white, yet warm, and destined to be furled
In some auspicious day,
For which we yearn and pray,
Round half the naked misery of the world,
A fleece more rich than Jason's, glances down.
Ah! well we know no monarch's jewelled crown,
No marvellous koh-i-noor,
Won, first perchance, from gulfs of human gore,
Or life-toil of swart millions, gaunt and poor,
Hath e'er outshone its peerless sovereignty.
. . . . .
The wings of song unfold
Towards thy noontide-gold;
The eyes of song are clear,
(Turned on thy broadening sphere)
To mark, oh! city of the midland-weald,
And follow thy fair fortunes far afield --
The years unborn,
Doubtless must bring to thee
Trials to test thy spirit's constancy;
(While unthrift aliens wear the mask of scorn),
Financial shocks without thee and within:
Wrought by shrewd moneyed Shylocks hot to win
Their brazen game of monstrous usury;
Ravage of bandit "rings" whose boundless maw
Can swallow all things glibly, save -- the law!
And many a subtler ill
Sudden and subtle as the ambush laid,
By black-browed "stranglers" 'mid an Orient glade;
But thou, with keenest will,
Shalt cut the bonds of stealthy fraud apart,
And if force fronts thee with a murderous blade,
Pierce the rash son of Anak to the heart!

Oh! queen! thy brilliant horoscope
Was cast by Helios in the halls of hope;
And hope becomes fulfilment, as thy tread --
Firm, placed between the living and the dead --
Wins the high grade which owns a heavenward slope;
For force and fraud undone,
And stormless summits won.
In thee I view heaven's purpose perfected:
Thou shalt be empress of all peaceful ties,
All potent industries,
All world-embracing magnanimities;
A warrior-queen no more, but mailed in love,
Thy spear a fulgent shaft of sun-steeped grain;
Thy shield a buckler, the field-fairies wove
Of strong green grasses, in the silvery noon
Of some full harvest-moon,
Thy stainless crown, red roses, blent with white!
Now, throned above the half-forgotten pain
Of dreadful war, and war's remorseless blight,
Thy heart-throbs glad and great,
Sending through all thy Titan-statured state,
Fresh life and gathering tides of grander power
From glorious hour to hour,
Thousands thy deeds shall bless
With strenuous pride, toned down to tenderness:
Shall bless thy deeds, exalt thy name;
Till every breeze that sweeps from hill to lea,
And every wind that furrows the deep sea,
Shall waft the fragrance of thy soul abroad
The sweetness and the splendor of thy fame: --
For thou, midmost a large and opulent store,
Of all things wrought to meet a nation's need,
Thou, nobly pure,
Of any darkening taint to selfish greed, --
Wert pre-ordained to be
Purveyor of divinest charity, --
The love-commissioned almoner of God.

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