The Three Queens

IN the far time of Earth's sweet maiden beauty,
When Morning hung with rapture on her breast;
When every sentient life paid love for duty,
And every law was Nature's own behest;
When reason ruled as subtle instinct taught her;
When joys were pure and sin and shame unseen;
Then God sent down His messenger and daughter,
His kiss upon her lips, to reign as Queen!

Her name was Liberty! Earth lay before her,
And throbbed unconscious fealty and truth;
Morning and night men hastened to adore her,
And from her eyes Peace drew perennial youth.
Her hair was golden as the stars of heaven;
Her face was radiant with the kiss of Jove;
Her form was lovelier than the sun at even;
Death paled before her: Life was one with Love.

O time traditioned! ere thy dismal sequel,
Men owned the world, and every man was free;
The lowest life was noble; all were equal
In needs and creeds,—their birthright Liberty.
Possession had no power of caste, nor learning;
He was not great who owned a shining stone;

No seer was needed for the truth's discerning,
Nor king nor code to teach the world its own.
Distinction lived, but gave no power o'er others,
As flowers have no dominion each o'er each;
What men could do they did among their brothers
By skill of hand or gift of song or speech.

Dear Golden Age! that like a deathless spirit
Fills our traditions with a light sublime;
Like wheat from Egypt's tombs our souls inherit
Sweet dreams of freedom from thy vanished time.

O Goddess Liberty! thy sun was cleaving
Its golden path across a perfect sky,
When lo! a cloud, from night below upheaving,
And underneath a shadow and a cry!

In lurid darkness spread the thing of error,
Swift ran the shudder and the fear beneath;
Till o'er the Queen's face passed the voiceless terror,
And Love grew pale to see the joy of Death.

Men stood benumbed to wait unknown disaster;
Full soon its sworded Messenger was seen;
'Behold!' he cried, 'the weak shall have a master!
The Strong shall rule! There reigns another Queen!''
Then rushed the forces of the night-born Power,
And seized white Liberty, and cast her down;
Man's plundered birthright was the new Queen's dower,
The sorrow of the weak ones was her crown.

Her name was Law! She sent her proclamation
Through every land and set her crimson seal
On every strangled right and revocation
Of aim and instinct of the common weal.
She saw the true Queen prisoned by her creatures;
Who dared to speak, was slain by her command.
Her face was lusterless. With smileless features
She took the throne—a weapon in her hand!

Her new code read: 'The earth is for the able'
(And able meant the selfish, strong, and shrewd):
'Equality and freedom are a fable;
To take and keep the largest share is good.'
Her teachers taught the justice of oppression,
That taxed the poor on all but air and sun;
Her preachers preached the gospel of possession,
That hoards had rights while human souls had none.

Then all things changed their object and relation;
Commerce instead of Nature—Progress instead of Men;
The world became a monstrous corporation,
Where ninety serfs ground luxury for ten.
The masters blessed, the toilers cursed the system
That classified and kept mankind apart;
But passing ages rained the dust of custom
Where broken Nature showed the weld of art.

But there were some who scorned to make alliance,
Who owned the true Queen even in the dust;
And these, through generations, flung defiance
From goal and gibbet for their sacred trust.
Then came the Christ, the Saviour and the Brother,
With truth and freedom once again the seed;
'Woe to the rich! Do ye to one another
As each desires for self '—man's primal creed.
But, lo! they took the Saviour and they bound him,
And set him in their midst as he were free;
They made His tied hands seal their deeds around Him,
And His dumb lips condemn fair Liberty!

'Then woe!' cried those faint-hearted; 'woe for dreaming,
For prayers and hopes and sufferings all in vain!'
O Souls despondent at the outward seeming,
Here at the cry, behold the light again!
Here at the cry, the answer and solution:
When strong as Death the cold usurper reigns,
When human right seems doomed to dissolution,
And Hope itself is wrung with mortal pains;
When Christ is harnessed to the landlord's burden;
His truth to make men free a thing of scorn;
God hears the cry, and sends the mystic guerdon,—
Earth thrills and throes—another Queen is born!
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John Boyle O'Reilly

John Boyle O'Reilly was an Irish-born poet, journalist and fiction writer. more…

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"The Three Queens" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2019. Web. 11 Nov. 2019. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/22079/the-three-queens>.

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