A Marching Song

We mix from many lands,
  We march for very far;
  In hearts and lips and hands
  Our staffs and weapons are;
The light we walk in darkens sun and moon and star.

  It doth not flame and wane
  With years and spheres that roll,
  Storm cannot shake nor stain
  The strength that makes it whole,
The fire that moulds and moves it of the sovereign soul.

  We are they that have to cope
  With time till time retire;
  We live on hopeless hope,
  We feed on tears and fire;
Time, foot by foot, gives back before our sheer desire.

  From the edge of harsh derision,
  From discord and defeat,
  From doubt and lame division,
  We pluck the fruit and eat;
And the mouth finds it bitter, and the spirit sweet.

  We strive with time at wrestling
  Till time be on our side
  And hope, our plumeless nestling,
  A full-fledged eaglet ride
Down the loud length of storm its windward wings divide.

  We are girt with our belief,
  Clothed with our will and crowned;
  Hope, fear, delight, and grief,
  Before our will give ground;
Their calls are in our ears as shadows of dead sound.

  All but the heart forsakes us,
  All fails us but the will;
  Keen treason tracks and takes us
  In pits for blood to fill;
Friend falls from friend, and faith for faith lays wait to kill.

  Out under moon and stars
  And shafts of the urgent sun
  Whose face on prison-bars
  And mountain-heads is one,
Our march is everlasting till time's march be done.

  Whither we know, and whence,
  And dare not care wherethrough.
  Desires that urge the sense,
  Fears changing old with new,
Perils and pains beset the ways we press into;

  Earth gives us thorns to tread,
  And all her thorns are trod;
  Through lands burnt black and red
  We pass with feet unshod;
Whence we would be man shall not keep us, nor man's God.

  Through the great desert beasts
  Howl at our backs by night,
  And thunder-forging priests
  Blow their dead bale-fires bright,
And on their broken anvils beat out bolts for fight.

  Inside their sacred smithies
  Though hot the hammer rings,
  Their steel links snap like withies,
  Their chains like twisted strings,
Their surest fetters are as plighted words of kings.

  O nations undivided,
  O single people and free,
  We dreamers, we derided,
  We mad blind men that see,
We bear you witness ere ye come that ye shall be.

  Ye sitting among tombs,
  Ye standing round the gate,
  Whom fire-mouthed war consumes,
  Or cold-lipped peace bids wait,
All tombs and bars shall open, every grave and grate.

  The locks shall burst in sunder,
  The hinges shrieking spin,
  When time, whose hand is thunder,
  Lays hand upon the pin,
And shoots the bolts reluctant, bidding all men in.

  These eyeless times and earless,
  Shall these not see and hear,
  And all their hearts burn fearless
  That were afrost for fear?
Is day not hard upon us, yea, not our day near?

  France! from its grey dejection
  Make manifest the red
  Tempestuous resurrection
  Of thy most sacred head!
Break thou the covering cerecloths; rise up from the dead.

  And thou, whom sea-walls sever
  From lands unwalled with seas,
  Wilt thou endure for ever,
  O Milton's England, these?
Thou that wast his Republic, wilt thou clasp their knees?

  These royalties rust-eaten,
  These worm-corroded lies,
  That keep thine head storm-beaten
  And sunlike strength of eyes
From the open heaven and air of intercepted skies;

  These princelings with gauze winglets
  That buzz in the air unfurled,
  These summer-swarming kinglets,
  These thin worms crowned and curled,
That bask and blink and warm themselves about the world;

  These fanged meridian vermin,
  Shrill gnats that crowd the dusk,
  Night-moths whose nestling ermine
  Smells foul of mould and musk,
Blind flesh-flies hatched by dark and hampered in their husk;

  These honours without honour,
  These ghost-like gods of gold,
  This earth that wears upon her
  To keep her heart from cold
No memory more o
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Algernon Charles Swinburne

Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica. more…

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"A Marching Song" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 28 Feb. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/1246/a-marching-song>.

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