July 4, 2012

What then the Great Republic's fate?

Albert Pike's poem, one of many simply titled "Ode," is dated July 4, 1853:

When shall the nations all be free,
     And Force no longer reign;
None bend to brutal Power the knee,
     None hug the gilded chain?
No longer rule the ancient Wrong,
The Weak be trampled by the Strong?—
How long, dear God in heaven! how long,
     The people wail in vain?

Do not th' Archangels on their thrones,
     Turn piteous looks to Thee,
When round them thickly swarm the groans
     Of those that would be free?
Of those that know they have the right
To Freedom, though crushed down by Might,
As all the world hath to the light
     And air which Thou mad'st free?

The ancient Empires staggering drift
     Along Time's mighty tide,
Whose waters, running broad and swift,
     Eternity divide:
How many years shall pass, before
Over their bones the sea shall roar,
The salt sand drift, the fresh rains pour,
     The stars mock fallen Pride?

What then the Great Republic's fate?
     To founder far from land,
And sink with all her glorious freight,
     Smitten by God's right hand?
Or shall she still her helm obey
In calm or storm, by night or day,
No sail rent, no spar cut away,
     Exultant, proud and grand?

The issues are with God. To do,
     Of right belongs to us:
May we be ever just and true,
     For nations flourish thus!—
JUSTICE is mightier than ships;
RIGHT, than the cannon's brazen lips;
And TRUTH, averting dark eclipse,
     Makes fortunes prosperous.

At the time that Albert Pike was writing this poem, many in the nation were beginning to rise against the injustice of slavery.  Though born in the North, Pike became an adopted Southerner in Arkansas and fought on behalf of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Exactly who he addressed his "Ode" to on Independence Day in 1853 is unclear, considering his later involvement with oppressing enslaved people.

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