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

South America: Panama (Darien)

The Ship Canal—From the Atlantic to the Pacific

By Francis Lieber (1800–1872)

REND America asunder

And unite the binding sea

That emboldens man and tempers,—

Make the ocean free.

Break the bolt that bars the passage,

That our river richly pours

Western wealth to western nations;

Let that sea be ours,—

Ours by all the hardy whalers,

By the pointing Oregon,

By the west-impelled and working,

Unthralled Saxon son.

Long indeed they have been wooing,

The Pacific and his bride;

Now ’t is time for holy wedding,—

Join them by the tide.

Have the snowy surfs not struggled

Many centuries in vain

That their lips might seal the union?

Lock them main to main.

When the mighty God of nature

Made this favored continent,

He allowed it yet unsevered,

That a race be sent,

Able, mindful of his purpose,

Prone to people, to subdue,

And to bind the land with iron,

Or to force them through.

What the prophet-navigator,

Seeking straits to his Catais,

But began, now consummate it—

Make the strait and pass.

Blessed the eyes that shall behold it,

When the pointing boom shall veer,

Leading through the parted Andes,

While the nations cheer!

There at Suez, Europe’s mattock

Cuts the briny road with skill,

And must Darien bid defiance

To the pilot still?

Do we breathe this breath of knowledge

Purely to enjoy its zest?

Shall the iron arm of science

Like a sluggard rest?

Up then, at it! earnest people!

Bravely wrought thy scorning blade,

But there ’s fresher fame in store yet,

Glory for the spade.

What we want is naught in envy,

And for all we pioneer;

Let the keels of every nation

Through the isthmus steer.

Must the globe be always girded

Ere we get to Bramah’s priest?

Take the tissues of your Lowells

Westward to the East.

Ye, that vanquish pain and distance,

Ye, enmeshing Time with wire,

Court ye patiently forever

Yon Antarctic ire?

Shall the mariner forever

Double the impending capes,

While his longsome and retracting

Needless course he shapes?

What was daring for our fathers,

To defy those billows fierce,

Is but tame for their descendants;

We are bid to pierce.

Ye that fight with printing armies,

Settle sons on forlorn track,

As the Romans flung their eagles,

But to win them back.

Who, undoubting, worship boldness,

And, if baffled, bolder rise,

Shall we lag when grandeur beckons

To this good enterprise?

Let the vastness not appall us;

Greatness is thy destiny.

Let the doubters not recall us;

Venture suits the free.

Like a seer, I see her throning,

Winland strong in freedom’s health,

Warding peace on both the waters,

Widest Commonwealth.

Crowned with wreaths that still grow greener,

Guerdon for untiring pain,

For the wise, the stout, and steadfast:

Rend the land in twain.

Cleave America asunder,

This is worthy work for thee.

Hark! The seas roll up imploring,

“Make the ocean free.”