Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CONTINENTS, by BAYARD TAYLOR



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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE CONTINENTS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: I had a vision in that solemn hour
Last Line: "claim empire for the free!"
Alternate Author Name(s): Taylor, James Bayard
Subject(s): Africa; Past; Prophecy & Prophets; Time


I HAD a vision in that solemn hour,
Last of the year sublime,
Whose wave sweeps downward, with its dying power
Rippling the shores of Time.
On the bleak margin of that hoary sea
My spirit stood alone,
Watching the gleams of phantom His tory,
Which through the darkness shone

Then, when the bell of midnight ghostly hands
Tolled for the dead year's doom,
I saw the spirits of Earth's ancient lands
Stand up amid the gloom!
The crowned deities, whose reign began
In the forgotten Past,
When first the fresh world gave to sovereign Man
Her empires green and vast.

First queenly ASIA, from the fallen thrones
Of twice three thousand years,
Came with the woe a grieving goddess owns,
Who longs for mortal tears.
The dust of ruin to her mantle clung
And dimmed her crown of gold,
While the majestic sorrows of her tongue
From Tyre to Indus rolled:

"Mourn with me, sisters, in my realm of woe,
Whose only glory streams
From its lost childhood, like the arctic glow
Which sunless Winter dreams!
In the red desert moulders Babylon,
And the wild serpent's hiss
Echoes in Petra's palaces of stone,
And waste Persepolis.

"Gone are the deities that ruled enshrined
In Elephanta's caves,
And Brahma's wailings fill the fragrant wind
That ripples Ganges' waves:
The ancient gods amid their temples fall,
And shapes of some near doom,
Trembling and waving on the Future's wall,
More fearful make my gloom!"

Then, from her seat, amid the palms embowered
That shade the lion-land,
Swart AFRICA in dusky aspect towered,
The fetters on her hand!
Backward she saw, from out her drear eclipse,
The mighty Theban years,
And the deep anguish of her mournful lips
Interpreted her tears

"Woe for my children, whom your gyves have bound
Through centuries of toil;
The bitter wailings of whose bondage sound
From many an alien soil!
Leave me but free, though the eternal sand
Be all my kingdom now, --
Though the rude splendors of barbaric land
But mock my crownless brow!"

There was a sound, like sudden trumpets blown,
A ringing, as of arms,
When EUROPE rose, a stately amazon,
Stern in her mailed charms.
She brooded long beneath the weary bars
That chafed her soul of flame,
And like a seer, who reads the awful stars,
Her words prophetic came:

"I hear new sounds along the ancient shore,
Whose dull old monotone
Of tides, that broke on many a system hoar,
Moaned through the ages lone:
I see a gleaming, like the crimson morn
Beneath a stormy sky,
And warning throes, which long my breast has borne,
Proclaim the struggle nigh."

O radiant-browed, the latest born of Time!
How waned thy sisters old,
Before the splendors of thine eye sublime, And mien erect and bold!
Free, as the winds of thine own forests are,
Thy brow beamed lofty cheer,
And Day's bright oriflamme, the Morning Star,
Flashed on thy lifted spear.

"I bear no weight" -- rang thine exulting tones --
"Of memories weird and vast;
No crushing heritage of iron thrones,
Bequeathed by some dead Past;
But hopes, that give my children power

Above the old-world fears --
Whose prophecies forerun the latest time,
And lead the crowning years!

"Like spectral lamps, that burn before a tomb,
The ancient lights expire;
I hold a torch, that floods the fading gloom
With everlasting fire:
Crowned with my constellated stars, I stand
Beside the foaming sea,
And from the Future, with a victor's hand,
Claim empire for the Free!"





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