Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A VISION OF THE DEAD, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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A VISION OF THE DEAD, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: A stir recalled me to the west
Last Line: "but fight for beauty, too."


A stir recalled me to the West
When lo! what change I saw!
Not crowned with haloes were the blessed
But helmeted with awe;
The robes were warriors' cloaks; out-pressed
Each sword toward Austria.

Alike had been th' angelic fold
As rose to rose may be,
But now the patriot ranks out-rolled
As far as eye could see --
Souls that had begged from Heaven the mould
Of their mortality.

Among the militant array
I saw the prophet grim
Who showed Earth Hell. (Ah, Earth to-day
A worse Hell shows to him!)
His eyes were Southward turned, as they
Would see Ravenna dim.

Near him, with face that ne'er knew youth,
Savonarola came --
He who dared tell a Prince the truth
And mirrored royal shame;
(Would that one tyrant without ruth
Might see his evil fame!)

I saw within the brooding throng
The makers of the State --
Exiles, and martyrs of old wrong,
And unforgotten great,
Whose names live in Italian song
And votive street and gate.

I knew by one deep-musing head
Mazzini, free of guile,
And marked, among the living dead,
Cavour's defensive smile,
And, still by Garibaldi led,
The Thousand, file on file.

Most loyal of his Court, the King
Pressed forward to the front,
As though against the foe to fling
The courage he was wont,
Like a huge mastiff coveting
The danger of the hunt.

How fair this country must have seemed
To those who were its cost!
How proud of what their blood redeemed,
How grieved for what was lost!
How eagerly would they have streamed
Where clashing banners tossed!

Now in their larger vision stood
Their country's new distress,
Till Earth became the greater good
And Paradise the less.
(Welcome a second death if 'twould
Defend such loveliness!)

And as, at dawning of the night,
The pageantry withdrew,
From Po to farthest Dolomite
Their anthem rose anew:
"Fight ye for Freedom and for Right,
But fight for Beauty, too."





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