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?
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
Here once the embattled farmers stood
And fired the shot heard round the world.
The foe long since in silence slept;
Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
And Time the ruined bridge has swept
Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
We set today a votive stone;
That memory may their deed redeem,
When, like our sires, our sons are gone.
Spirit, that made those heroes dare
To die, and leave their children free,
Bid Time and Nature gently spare
The shaft we raise to them and Thee.
By   Ralph Waldo Emerson
COMMENTARY: This poem was written by Emerson for the 1837 ceremony in Concord dedicating an obelisk monument to the brave Americans who fought at the battles of Lexington and Concord. In the footnote section of the book Desperate Sons the author Les Standiford very astutely stated: "The brief poem, which has become the veritable anthem for
the Revolution, while acknowledging the fact that the combatants were long dead at the time of its writing, closes with the prayer to the Spirit that prompted the actions: 'that made those heroes dare / To die, and leave their children free'; the sentiment is one that might live on forever."
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
I fight a battle every day
Against discouragement and fear;
Some foe stands always in my way,
The path ahead is never clear!
I must forever be on guard
Against the doubts that skulk along;
I get ahead by fighting hard,
But fighting keeps my spirit strong.
I hear the croakings of Despair,
The dark predictions of the weak;
I find myself pursued by Care,
No matter what the end I seek;
My victories are small and few,
It matters not how hard I strive;
Each day the fight begins anew,
But fighting keeps my hopes alive.
My dreams are spoiled by circumstance,
My plans are wrecked by Fate or Luck;
Some hour, perhaps, will bring my chance,
But that great hour has never struck;
My progress has been slow and hard,
I’ve had to climb and crawl and swim,
Fighting for every stubborn yard,
But I have kept in fighting trim.
I have to fight my doubts away,
And be on guard against my fears;
The feeble croaking of Dismay
Has been familiar through the years;
My dearest plans keep going wrong,
Events combine to thwart my will,
But fighting keeps my spirit strong,
And I am undefeated still!
By   S.E. Kiser
A LESSON FROM HISTORY
Everything’s easy after it’s done;
Every battle’s a ‘cinch’ that’s won;
Every problem is clear that’s solved -
The earth was round when it ‘revolved!’
But Washington stood amid grave doubt
With enemy forces camped about;
He could not know how he would fare
Till ‘after’ he’d crossed the Delaware.
Though the river was full of ice
He did not think about it twice,
But started across in the dead of night,
The enemy waiting to open the fight.
Likely feeling pretty blue,
Being human, same as you,
But he was brave amid despair,
And Washington crossed the Delaware!
So when you’re with trouble beset,
And your spirits are soaking wet,
When all the sky with clouds is black,
Don’t lie down upon your back
And look at ‘them.’ Just do the thing;
Though you are choked, still try to sing.
If times are dark, believe them fair,
And you will cross the Delaware!
By   Joseph Morris