Skip to main content

Poem of the Dead Young Men of Europe, the 72d and 73d Years of These States

16 — Poem of The Dead Young Men of Europe, The 72d and 73d Years of These States

SUDDENLY out of its stale and drowsy lair,  
 the lair of slaves,
Like lightning Europe le'pt forth, half startled at  
Its feet upon the ashes and the rags, its hands  
 tight to the throats of kings.
O hope and faith! O aching close of lives! O  
 many a sickened heart!
Turn back unto this day, and make yourselves  
And you, paid to defile the People! you liars,  
Not for numberless agonies, murders, lusts, For court thieving in its manifold mean forms,  
 worming from his simplicity the poor man's  
For many a promise sworn by royal lips, and  
 broken, and laughed at in the breaking,
  [ begin page 253 ]ppp.00237.261.jpg Then in their power, not for all these did the  
 blows strike of personal revenge, or the heads  
 of the nobles fall,
The People scorned the ferocity of kings.
But the sweetness of mercy brewed bitter destruc- 
 tion, and the frightened rulers come back,
Each comes in state with his train, hangman,  
 priest, tax-gatherer, soldier, lawyer, jailer,  
Behind all, lo, a Shape, Vague as the night, draped interminably, head  
 front and form, in scarlet folds,
Whose face and eyes none may see, Out of its robes only this—the red robes, lifted  
 by the arm,
One finger, pointed high over the top, like the  
 head of a snake appears.
Meanwhile, corpses lie in new-made graves —  
 bloody corpses of young men;
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily, the bullets  
 of princes are flying, the creatures of power  
 laugh aloud,
And all these things bear fruits, and they are  
Those corpses of young men,   [ begin page 254 ]ppp.00237.262.jpg Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets, those  
 hearts pierced by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere  
 with unslaughter'd vitality.
They live in other young men, O kings! They live in brothers, again ready to defy you! They were purified by death—they were taught  
 and exalted.
Not a grave of the murdered for freedom, but  
 grows seed for freedom, in its turn to bear  
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the  
 rains and the snows nourish.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of  
 tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering,  
 counseling, cautioning.
Liberty! let others despair of you! I never despair  
 of you.
Is the house shut? Is the master away? Nevertheless be ready—be not weary of watching, He will soon return—his messengers come anon.
Back to top