Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, APOSTROPOHE TO GREECE; FROM THE PARTHENON, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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APOSTROPOHE TO GREECE; FROM THE PARTHENON, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: O land of sage and stoic
Last Line: Bright with the light serene of immortality.
Subject(s): Greek War Of Independence (1821-1832)


(INSCRIBED TO THE GREEK PEOPLE ON THE SEVENTY-FIFTH ANNIVERSARY OF THEIR INDEPENDENCE)

I

O LAND of sage and stoic --
Of human deeds heroic,
Of heroes' deeds divine!
What braggart of the nations
Shall scorn thy proud narrations --
Thou who hast named the stars from thy Olympian line!

In spite of Moslem crime
Thou livest! Hungry Time
Can but the dead devour.
Though asphodel hath strewed
This marble solitude,
The silence thrills with life, the ruins rise in power.

Yon sea's imperial vastness
Was once thy friend and fastness;
By many a curving strand,
'Twixt purple capes, on edges
Of seaward-looking ledges,
Rose the white cities sown by thy adventurous hand.

Nor couldst thou think of these
As lonely colonies
Wherewith rich Corinth lined
The West, while Dorian sails
Outrode AEgean gales;
Nay, suburbs were they all, molds of Athenian mind.

Then could thy galleys pass
From Tyre to Acragas,
By Grecian islands gray
That dreamed of Athens' brow,
And gaily to the prow
Harnessed the pawing winds to seek some Attic bay.

Here to Athene's feast,
From West, from North, from East --
Through Jason's fabled strait
Or round Malea's rock --
The homesick sails would flock,
Oft with an Odyssey of peril to relate.

And what exultant stir
When the swart islander,
Bound for the festal week,
First saw Colonna's crest
Give back the glowing West
Far past AEgina's shore and her prophetic peak!

I hear his cheery cries
Though Time between us lies
More wide than sea and land.
The gladness that he brings
Thrills in the song he sings,
Beaching his welcome craft on Phaleron's level strand.

O harbor of delight!
Strike the torn sail -- to-night
On Attic soil again!
When joy is free to slaves
What though the swarming waves
Follow each other down like the generations of men!

Now, for a time, to war
And private hate a bar
Of sacred armistice;
Even in the under-world
Shall the rough winds be furled
That tell of wrangling shades that crowd the courts of Dis.

'T is Peace shall bring the green
For Merit's brow. What scene,
O Athens, shall be thine!
Till from Parnassus' height
Phoebus' reluctant light
Lingers along Hymettus' fair and lofty line.

With dance and song and game
And oratory's flame
Shall Hellas beat and swell,
Till, olive-crowned, in pride
The envied victors ride,
Fellows to those whose fame the prancing marbles tell.

O antique time and style,
Return to us awhile
Bright as thy happy skies!
Silent the sounds that mar:
Like music heard afar
The harmony endures while all the discord dies.

Not yet the cloister-shade
Fell on a world afraid,
Morbid, morose -- the alloy
Found greater than the gold
Of life. Like Nature old
Thou still didst sing and show the sanity of joy.

Thine is that wisdom yet
That Age from Youth must get,
Age pay to Youth in kind.
Oh, teach our anxious days
Through thy serener ways
How by the happy heart to keep the unclouded mind.

II

BUT thou wert Freedom's too
As well as Joy's. She drew
From every mountain breast
An air that could endure
No foreign foe -- so pure
That Lycabettus neighbors the Corinthian crest.

Nor was thy love of life
For thee alone. Thy strife
Was for the race, no less.
Thee, to whom wrong is done
While wrong confronts the sun,
The oppressor cannot crush, nor teach thee to oppress.

By thee for lands benighted
Was Freedom's beacon lighted
That now enstars the earth.
Welcome the people's hour!
Passed is the monarch's power,
Dread waits not on his death that trembled at his birth.

As down a craggy steep
Albanian torrents leap
Impetuous to the sea --
Such was thy ancient spirit,
Still thine. Who that inherit
Hatred of tyranny inherit not from thee?

Look to the West and see
Thy daughter, Italy --
Fathered by Neptune bold
On Cumae's sheltered strand
(Forgot but for the hand
That saved to Art her sibyl many-named and old);

That temple-sated soil,
Whose altar-smoke would coil
To hide the Avernian steep,
Grows the same harvest now --
Best increase of the plow,
Fair Freedom, of thy seed, sown for the world to reap.

Though regal Rome display
The triumphs of her day;
Though Florence, laurel-hung,
Tell how she held the van
In the slow march of man --
Greek was the path they trod, Greek was the song they sung.

Look farther west and there
Behold thy later heir,
Child of thy Jove-like mind --
Fair France. How hath she kept
The watch while others slept?
Hath Wisdom hastened on while Justice lagged behind?

Like thee, full well she knows
Through what maternal throes
New forms from olden come;
Her arts, her temples, speak
A glory that is Greek,
And filially her heart turns to the ancestral home.

For her no backward look
Into the bloody book
Of kings. Thrice-rescued land!
Her furrowed graves bespeak
A nobler fate: to seek
In service of the world again the world's command.

She in whose skies of peace
Arise new auguries
To strengthen, cheer, and guide --
When nations in a horde
Draw the unhallowed sword,
O Memory, walk, a warning specter, at her side!

Among thy debtor lands,
See, grateful England stands;
Who at thy ranging feet
Learned how to carry Law
Into the jungle's maw,
And tempers unto Man or cold or desert heat.

All that thou daredst she dares
Till now thy name she bears --
Mother of Colonies.
What if thy glorious Past
She should restore at last,
And clothe in new renown the dream of Pericles!

If she but lean to thee
Once more thy North shall be
Uplifted from the dust.
Mother of noble men,
Thy friends of sword and pen,
England, though slow to justice, shall again be just.

And now from our new land
Beyond two seas, a hand!
Our world, for ages dumb,
Part of thy fable-lore,
Gathers upon her shore
Each dying race as soil for one chief race to come.

But of our beating heart
Thy pulse how large a part!
Our wider sky but bounds
Another Grecian dawn.
Lament not what is gone;
Pentelicus grieves not, for Fame hath healed his wounds.

III

THEN, Hellas! scorn the sneer
Of kings who will not hear
Their people's moaning voice,
More deaf than shore to sea!
The world hath need of thee --
The world thou still canst teach to reason and rejoice.

Yes, need of thee while Art
Of life is but a part --
Plaything or luxury.
Greek soil perchance may show
Where Art's hid stream doth flow --
To rise, a new Alpheus, near another sea.

Yes, need of thee while Gold
Makes timid traitors bold
To lay republics low;
Not ignorant nor poor
Spread for their feet the lure --
The kind, the loved, the honored, aim the brutal blow.

Yes, need of thee while Earth
Each day shows Heaven a girth
Of want and misery;
Wherein there is not found
Beyond thy happy bound
A people brave, sane, temperate, thrifty, chaste, and free.

Then, though by faction's blunder,
And boasts, of mimic thunder,
Again thou art betrayed,
Vain this, vain every treason;
With thee are Hope and Reason,
Nor Past can be forgot, nor Future long delayed.

Troy was, but Athens is --
The World's and Liberty's,
Nor ever less shall be!
Though fallen are old fanes
The vestal fire remains
Bright with the light serene of immortality.





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