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

South America: Colombia (New Granada)

The Sword of Bolivar

By John Townsend Trowbridge (1827–1916)


WITH the steadfast stars above us,

And the molten stars below,

We sailed through the Southern midnight,

By the coast of Mexico.

Alone, on the desolate, dark-ringed,

Rolling and flashing sea,

A grim old Venezuelan

Kept the deck with me,

And talked to me of his country,

And the long Spanish war,

And told how a young Republic

Forged the sword of Bolivar.

Of no base mundane metal

Was the wondrous weapon made,

And in no earth-born fire

Was fashioned the sacred blade.

But that it might shine the symbol

Of law and light in the land,

Dropped down as a star from heaven,

To flame in a hero’s hand,

And be to the world a portent

Of eternal might and right,

They chose for the steel a splinter

From a fallen aerolite.

Then a virgin forge they builded

By the city, and kindled it

With flame from a shattered palm-tree,

Which the lightning’s torch had lit,—

That no fire of earthly passion

Might taint the holy sword,

And no ancient error tarnish

The falchion of the Lord.

For Quito and New Granada

And Venezuela they pour

From three crucibles the dazzling

White meteoric ore.

In three ingots it is moulded,

And welded into one,

For an emblem of Colombia,

Bright daughter of the sun!

It is drawn on a virgin anvil,

It is heated and hammered and rolled,

It is shaped and tempered and burnished,

And set in a hilt of gold;

For thus by the fire and the hammer

Of war a nation is built,

And ever the sword of its power

Is swayed by a golden hilt.

Then with pomp and oratory

The mustachioed señores brought

To the house of the Liberator

The weapon they had wrought;

And they said, in their stately phrases,

“O mighty in peace and war!

No mortal blade we bring you,

But a flaming meteor.

“The sword of the Spaniard is broken,

And to you in its stead is given,

To lead and redeem a nation,

This ray of light from heaven.”

The gaunt-faced Liberator

From their hands the symbol took,

And waved it aloft in the sunlight,

With a high, heroic look;

And he called the saints to witness:

“May these lips turn into dust,

And this right hand fail, if ever

It prove recreant to its trust!

“Never the sigh of a bondman

Shall cloud this gleaming steel,

But only the foe and the traitor

Its vengeful edge shall feel.

“Never a tear of my country

Its purity shall stain,

Till into your hands, who gave it,

I render it again.”