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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Russia: Vol. XX. 1876–79.


The Division of Poland

By Sir Edwin Arnold (1832–1904)

UPON Earth’s lap there lay a pleasant land,

With mountain, wood, and river beautified,

And city-dotted. For the pleasant land

The icy North and burning South did battle

Whose it should be; and so it lay between them

Unclaimed, unowned, like the shining spoils

Under crossed lances of contending chiefs;

Or liker April days whose morn is sunshine

And evening storm. Its never-failing fields

Strong men and sturdy robed in vest of green,

And when the year was older took their payment

In grain of gold. Its ever-smiling homes

True wives and comely daughters tenanted,

Round the most holy altar of the hearth

Moving like holy ministers. To them

Sorrow and pain, envy and hate, came never;

Only the mild-eyed, kind consoler, Death,

Called them from happy life to happier,

Where eyes are shining that can have no tears,

And brows are beaming that can never frown,

And lips are breathing love that cannot lie.

There went a whisper of their happiness

Over the blue pines of the eastern woods,

Up to the icy crags where Russia’s eagle

Sat lean and famine-withered. So he turned

With the hot hunger flashing in his eye,

And listened: presently upon the rock

He whet his beak, and plumed his ragged feathers,

And rose with terrible and savage clang

Into the frightened air,—nor rose alone,

But at the sound the golden beak of Prussia

And the two-headed bird of Austria

Came swooping up, and o’er the happy land

Held bloody carnival; for each one tore

A bleeding fragment for his proper beak,

As of a kid caught straying and alone.

So there went up a cry from earth to heaven,

And pale-eyed nations asked, “Is there a God?”

But other blood than Polish blood hath dyed

Green Vistula to red, and there hath come

In these last days a dreader Nemesis,—

One who hath spoiled the spoiler, and for blood

Asked blood,—for shattered throne hath shattered thrones,

So that the nations have forgot their fears,

And cry exulting, “Yea, there is a God!”