POEMS OF HOPE

THE BODY of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN Printer

Like the cover of an old book,
Its contents torn out,
And stripped of its lettering and gilding
Lies here, food for worms;
Yet the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will appear once more,
In a new,
And more beautiful edition,
Corrected and amended
By the AUTHOR


COMMENTARY: After reading such a beautiful poem written by Benjamin Franklin as his epitaph can anyone honestly say they believe Benjamin Franklin was a deist?


CONFEDERATE SOLDIER'S PRAYER

                I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
                I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.

                I asked God for health, that I might do greater things,
                I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

                I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
                I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

                I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
                I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

                I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
                I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

                I got nothing that I asked for
                - but everything I had hoped for.

                Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
                I am among men, most richly blessed.


COMMENTARY: The poem above is reputed to have been found on the body of a dead confederate soldier during the war.


CONFEDERATE'S ECCLESIASTES 9

"The race is not to them that's got
The longest legs to run
Nor the battle to that people
That shoots the biggest gun."


COMMENTARY: As spoken by an unknown soldier from Douglas Southall Freeman's masterpiece Pulitizer Prize winning biography Robert E. Lee. vol 4 Chap 9 pg 118. "Shortly after 1 o'clock, from the road nearby, there came the weary staccato of the march. It was not noisy, for the men were too tired and too depressed to indulge in banter. So nearly silent were the passing troops that it was impossible to tell to what command they belonged. But presently through the darkness came a voice and a scrap of doggerel: "The race is not to them that's got The longest legs to run Nor the battle to that people That shoots the biggest gun." The intonation was unmistakable, and the words were familiar in the army as part of the so called "Texas Bible." The elocutionist who was reciting the lines for his solace must be a member of the famous old "Hood's brigade" of the First Corps. Longstreet's men evidently were going forward unseen, to close the rear in the final attempt to break through. If General Lee heard the soldier, as at least one other at his bivouac did, he may have remembered how he had written Mrs. Lee in kindred, if nobler words, when the last Federal offensive was in the making, "trusting to a merciful God, who does not always give the battle to the strong, I pray we may not be overwhelmed. I shall . . . endeavor to do my duty and fight to the last."


The Man With the Hoe

                Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans
                Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground,
                The emptiness of ages in his face,
                And on his back the burden of the world.
                Who made him dead to rapture and despair,
                A thing that grieves not and that never hopes,
                Stolid and stunned, a brother to the ox?
                Who loosened and let down this brutal jaw?
                Whose was the hand that slanted back this brow?
                Whose breath blew out the light within this brain?

                Is this the Thing the Lord God made and gave
                To have dominion over sea and land;
                To trace the stars and search the heavens for power;
                To feel the passion of Eternity?
                Is this the dream He dreamed who shaped the suns
                And markt their ways upon the ancient deep?
                Down all the caverns of Hell to their last gulf
                There is no shape more terrible than this--
                More tongued with cries against the world's blind greed--
                More filled with signs and portents for the soul--
                More packt with danger to the universe.

                What gulfs between him and the seraphim!
                Slave of the wheel of labor, what to him
                Are Plato and the swing of Pleiades?
                What the long reaches of the peaks of song,
                The rift of dawn, the reddening of the rose?
                Thru this dread shape the suffering ages look;
                Time's tragedy is in that aching stoop;
                Thru this dread shape humanity betrayed,
                Plundered, profaned and disinherited,
                Cries protest to the Powers that made the world,
                A protest that is also prophecy.

                O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
                Is this the handiwork you give to God,
                This monstrous thing distorted and soul-quencht?
                How will you ever straighten up this shape;
                Touch it again with immortality;
                Give back the upward looking and the light;
                Rebuild in it the music and the dream;
                Make right the immemorial infamies,
                Perfidious wrongs, immedicable woes?

                O masters, lords and rulers in all lands,
                How will the future reckon with this Man?
                How answer his brute question in that hour
                When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?
                How will it be with kingdoms and with kings--
                With those who shaped him to the thing he is--
                When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world,
                After the silence of the centuries?
                                                By   Edwin Markham


COMMENTARY: Edwin Markham wrote this poem about the plight of the common man after seeing a famous painting by Millet. In his own words, Markham decscribes the inspiration for this poem: "Millet has Homeric directness in his paintings. He tries to make the common express the sublime. He tries to make the infinite visible. In The Man with the Hoe, I saw that Millet had swept his canvas bare of everything that was merely pretty, and projected this startling figure before us in all its rugged and savage reality.... I saw in it the symbol of betrayed humanity. My purpose [was] to write a poem that should cry the lost rights of the toiling multitude...deprived of the enlarging education of the mind, deprived of the ennobling education of the heart. I hoped to breathe into the lines the spirit of brotherhood, the spirit of social humanity. My poem is a poem of hope. It is a cry for justice and an appeal to the humanity of the "masters, lords and rulers" of the world. The Hoe-man is not every man with a hoe: he is the man under the hoofs of the labor world. He is the slave of drugery because he is the victim of industrial oppression."


GOD SEND US MEN

God send us men whose aim ’twill be,
Not to defend some ancient creed,
But to live out the laws of Christ
In every thought and word and deed.

God send us men alert and quick
His lofty precepts to translate,
Until the laws of Christ become
The laws and habits of the state.

God send us men of steadfast will,
Patient, courageous, strong and true,
With vision clear and mind equipped
His will to learn, his work to do.

God send us men with hearts ablaze,
All truth to love, all wrong to hate;
These are the patriots nations need;
These are the bulwarks of the state.
                                                By   Fredrick J. Gillman


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