Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968). rn The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.

An Ode in Time of Hesitation

Moody, William Vaughn

William Vaughn Moody

(American poet and dramatist, 1869–1910. In these noble words the poet voices his pain at the Philippine war, and the wave of “imperialism” which then swept over America)

WAS it for this our fathers kept the law?

This crown shall crown their struggle and their ruth?

Are we the eagle nation Milton saw

Mewing its mighty youth,

Soon to possess the mountain winds of truth,

And be a swift familiar of the sun

Where aye before God’s face his trumpets run?

Or have we but the talons and the maw,

And for the abject likeness of our heart

Shall some less lordly bird be set apart?—

Some gross-billed wader where the swamps are fat?

Some gorger in the sun? Some prowler with the bat?

Ah, no!

We have not fallen so.

We are our fathers’ sons: let those who lead us know!…

We charge you, ye who lead us,

Breathe on their chivalry no hint of stain!

Turn not their new-world victories to gain!

One least leaf plucked for chaffer from the bays

Of their dear praise,

One jot of their pure conquest put to hire,

The implacable republic will require;

With clamor, in the glare and gaze of noon,

Or subtly, coming as a thief at night,

But surely, very surely, slow or soon

That insult deep we deeply will requite.

Tempt not our weakness, our cupidity!

For save we let the island men go free,

Those baffled and dislaureled ghosts

Will curse us from the lamentable coasts

Where walk the frustrate dead,

The cup of trembling shall be drained quite,

Eaten the sour bread of astonishment,

With ashes of the heart shall be made white

Our hair, and wailing shall be in the tent;

Then on your guiltier head

Shall our intolerable self-disdain

Wreak suddenly its anger and its pain;

For manifest in that disastrous light

We shall discern the right

And do it, tardily.—O ye who lead,

Take heed!

Blindness we may forgive, but baseness we will smite.