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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889


By John Hay (1838–1905)

[Born in Salem, Ind., 1838. Died in Newbury, N. H., 1905. Lotos Leaves. 1875.]

WHAT man is there so bold that he should say

“Thus and thus only would I have the Sea”?

For whether lying calm and beautiful

Clasping the earth in love, or throwing back

The smile of heaven from waves of amethyst;

Or whether, freshened by the busy winds,

It bears the trade and navies of the world

To ends of use or stern activity;

Or whether, lashed by tempests, it gives way

To elemental fury, howls and roars

At all its rocky barriers, in wild lust

Of ruin drinks the blood of living things

And strews its wrecks o’er leagues of desolate shore;—

Always it is the Sea, and men bow down

Before its vast and varied majesty.

So all in vain will timorous men essay

To set the metes and bounds of Liberty.

For Freedom is its own eternal law.

It makes its own conditions, and in storm

Or calm alike fulfils the unerring Will.

Let us not then despise it, when it lies

Still as a sleeping lion, while a swarm

Of gnat-like evils hover round its head;

Nor doubt it when in mad, disjointed times

It shakes the torch of terror, and its cry

Shrills o’er the quaking earth and in the flame

Of riot and war we see its awful form

Rise by the scaffold where the crimson axe

Rings down its grooves the knell of shuddering kings.

For always in thine eyes, O Liberty!

Shines that high light whereby the world is saved,

And though thou slay us, we will trust in thee.