A poem by Hanford Lennox Gordon

Man is a creature of a thousand whims;
The slave of hope and fear and circumstance.
Through toil and martyrdom a million years
Struggling and groping upward from the brute,
And ever dragging still the brutish chains,
And ever slipping backward to the brute.
Shall he not break the galling, brazen bonds
That bind him writhing on the wheel of fate?
Long ages groveling with his brother brutes,
He plucked the tree of knowledge and uprose
And walked erect a god; but died the death:
For knowledge brings but sadness and unrest
Forever, insatiate longing and regret.
Behold the brute's unerring instinct guides
True as the pole-star, while man's reason leads
How oft to quicksands and the hidden reefs!
Contented brute, his daily wants how few!
And these by Nature's mother-hand supplied.
Man's wants unnumbered and unsatisfied,
And multiplied at every onward step
Insatiate as the cavernous maw of time.
His real wants how simple and how few!
Behold the kine in yonder pasture-field
Cropping the clover, or in rest reclined,
Chewing meek-eyed the cud of sweet content.
Ambition plagues them not, nor hope, nor fear;
No demons fright them and no cruel creeds;
No pangs of disappointment or remorse.
See man the picture of perpetual want,
The prototype of all disquietude;
Full of trouble, yet ever seeking more;
Between the upper and the nether stone
Ground and forever in the mill of fate.
Nature and art combine to clothe his form,
To feed his fancy and to fill his maw;
And yet the more they give the more he craves.
Give him the gold of Ophir, still he delves;
Give him the land, and he demands the sea;
Give him the earth he reaches for the stars.
Doomed by his fate to scorn the good he has
And grasp at fancied good beyond his reach,
He seeks for silver in the distant hills
While in the sand gold glitters at his feet.

O man, thy wisdom is but folly still;
Wiser the brute and full of sweet content.
The wit and wisdom of five thousand years What
are they but the husks we feed upon,
While beast and bird devour the golden grain?
Lo for the brutes dame Nature sows and tills;
For them the Tuba-tree of Paradise
Bends with its bounties free and manifold;
For them the fabled fountain Salsabil,
Gushes pure wine that sparkles as it runs,
And fair Al Cawthar flows with creamy milk.
But man, forever doomed to toil and sweat,
Digs the hard earth and casts his seeds therein,
And hopes the harvest; how oft he hopes in vain!
Weeds choke, winds blast, and myriad pests devour,
The hot sun withers and the floods destroy.
Unceasing labor, vigilance and care
Reward him here and there with bounteous store.
Had man the blessed wisdom of content,
Happy were he as wise Horatius sung
To whom God gives enough with sparing hand.
Of all the crops by sighing mortals sown,
And watered with man's sweat and woman's tears,
There is but only one that never fails
In drouth or flood, on fat or flinty soil,
On Nilus' banks or Scandia's stony hills
The plenteous, never-stinted crop of fools.
So hath it been since erst aspiring man
Broke from the brute and plucked the fatal tree,
And will be till eternity grows gray.

Princes and parasites comprise mankind:
To one wise prince a million parasites;
The most uncommon thing is common-sense;
A truly wise man is a freak of nature.
The herd are parasites of parasites
That blindly follow priest or demagogue,
Himself blind leader of the blind. The wise
Weigh words, but by the yard fools measure them.
The wise beginneth at the end; the fool
Ends at the beginning, or begins anew:
Aye, every ditch is full of after-wit.
Folly sows broad cast; Wisdom gathers in,
And so the wise man fattens on the fool,
And from the follies of the foolish learns
Wisdom to guide himself and bridle them.
"To-morrow I made my fortune," cries the fool,
"To-day I'll spend it." Thus will Folly eat
His chicken ere the hen hath laid the egg.
So Folly blossoms with promises all the year
Promises that bud and blossom but to blast.
"All men are fools," said Socrates, the wise,
And in the broader sense I grant it true,
For even Socrates had his Xanthipp'.
Whose head is wise oft hath a foolish heart;
The wisest has more follies than he needs;
Wisdom and madness, too, are near akin.
The marrow-maddening canker-worm of love
Feeds on the brains of wise men as on fools'.

The wise man gathers wisdom from all men
As bees their honey hive from plant and weed.
Yea, from the varied history of the world,
From the experience of all times, all men,
The wise man learneth wisdom. Folly learns
From his own bruises if he learns at all.
The fool born wise what need hath he to learn?
He needs but gabble wisdom to the world:
Grill him on a gridiron and he gabbles still.

Wise men there are wise in the eyes of men
Who cram their hollow heads with ancient wit
Cackled in Carthage, babbled in Babylon,
Gabbled in Greece and riddled in old Rome,
And never coin a farthing of their own.
Wise men there are for owls are counted wise
Who love to leave the lamp-lit paths behind,
And chase the shapeless shadow of a doubt.
Too wise to learn, too wise to see the truth,
E'en though it glow and sparkle like a gem
On God's outstretched forefinger for all time.
These have one argument, and only one,
For good or evil, earth or jeweled heaven
The olden, owlish argument of doubt.
Ah, he alone is wise who ever stands
Armed cap-a-pié with God's eternal truth.
Where Grex is Rex God help the hapless land.
The yelping curs that bay the rising moon
Are not more clamorous, and the fitful winds
Not more inconstant. List the croaking frogs
That raise their heads in fen or stagnant pool,
Shouting at eve their wisdom from the mud.
Beside the braying, bleating, bellowing mob,
Their jarring discords are sweet harmony.
The headless herd are but a noise of wind;
Sometimes, alas, the wild tornado's roar.
As full of freaks as curs are full of fleas,
Like gnats they swarm, like flies they buzz and breed.
Thought works in silence: Wisdom stops to think.
No ass so obstinate as ignorance.
Oft as they seize the ship of state, behold
Overboard goes all ballast and they crowd
To blast or breeze or hurricane full sail,
Each dunce a pilot and a captain too.
How often cross-eyed Justice hits amiss!
Doomed by Athenian mobs to banishment,
See Aristides leave the land he saved:
Wisdom his fault and justice his offense.
See Caesar crowned a god and Tully slain;
See Paris red with riot and noble blood,
A king beheaded and a monster throned,
King Drone, flat fool that weather-cocked all winds,
Gulped gall and vinegar and smacked it wine,
Wig-wagged his way from gilded Oeil de Boeuf
Through mob and maelstrom to the guillotine.
Chateaus up-blazing torch the doom of France,
While human wolves howl ruin round their walls.
Contention hisses from a million mouths,
And from ten thousand muttering craters smokes
The smell of sulphur. Gaul becomes a ghoul;
While Parlez-Tous in hot palaver holds
Hubbub ad Bedlam Pandemonium thriced.
There, voices drowning voice with frantic cries,
Discord demented flaps her ruffled wings
And shrieks delirium to her screeching brood.
Sneer-lipped, hawk-eyed, wolf-tongued oraculars
Wise-wigs, Girondins, frothing Jacobins
Reason to madness run, tongues venom-tanged
Howl chaos all with one united throat.
Maelstrom of madness, lazar-howled, hag-shrilled!
Quack quackles quack; all doctors disagree,
While Doctor Guillotine's huge scalpel heads
Hell-dogs beheading helpless innocents.
The very babes bark rabies. Journalism,
Moon-mad, green-eyed, hound-scented, lupus-tongued
On howls the pack and smells her bread in blood.

O Tempus ferax insanorum, Heu!
Physicked with metaphysics, pamphleteered
Into paroxysms, bruited into brutes.
And metamorphosed into murder, lo
Men lapse to savagery and turn to beasts.
Hell-broth hag-boiled: a mad Theroigne is queen
Mounts to the brazen throne of Harlotdom,
Queen of the cursed, and flares her cannon-torch.
Watch-wolves, lean-jawed, fore-smelling feast of blood,
In packs on Paris howl from farthest France.
Discord demented bursts the bounds of Dis;
Mad Murder raves and Horror holds her hell.
Hades up-heaves her whelps. In human forms
Up-flare the Furies, serpent-haired and grin
Horrid with bloody jaws. Scaled reptiles crawl
From slum and sewer, slimy, coil on coil
Danton, dark beast, that builded for himself
A monument of quicksand limed with blood;
Horse-leech Marat, blear-eyed, vile vulture born;
Fair Charlotte's dagger robbed the guillotine!
Black-biled, green-visaged, traitorous Robespierre,
That buzzard-beaked, hawk-taloned octopus
Who played with pale poltroonery of men,
And drank the cup of flattery till he reeled;
Hell's pope uncrowned, immortal for a day.
Tinville, relentless dog of murder-plot
Doom-judge whose trembling victims were foredoomed;
Maillard who sucked his milk from Murder's dugs,
Twin-whelp to Theroigne, captain of the hags;
Jourdan, red-grizzled mule-son blotched with blood,
Headsman forever "famous-infamous;"
Keen, hag-whelped journalist Camille Desmoulins,
Who with a hundred other of his ilk
Hissed on the hounds and smeared his bread with blood;
Lebon, man-fiend, that vampire-ghoul who drank
Hot blood of headless victims, and compelled
Mothers to view the murder of their babes;
At whose red guillotine, in Arras raised,
The pipe and fiddle played at every fall
Of ghastly head the ribald "Ca Ira;"
And fiends unnamed and nameless brutes untaled.

Petticoat-patriots sans bas, and Sans-culottes,
Rampant in rags and hunger-toothed uproar
Paris the proud. With Jacobin clubs they club
The head of France till all her brains are out.
Hired murder hunts in packs. Men murder-mad
Slay for the love of murder. Gloomy night,
Hiding her stars lest they in pity fall,
Beholds a thousand guiltless, trembling souls
Men, women, children forth from prisons flung
In flare of torch and glare of demon eyes,
Among the howling wolves and lazar-hags,
Crying for mercy where no mercy is,
Hewed down in heaps by bloody ax and pike.
From their grim battlements the imps of hell
Indignant hissed and damped their fires with tears;
And Manhood from the watch-towers of the world
Cried in the name of Human Nature "Hold!"
As well the drifting snail might strive to still
The volcan-heaved, storm-struck, moon-maddened sea.
Blood-frenzied beasts demand their feast of blood.
"Liberty Equality Fraternity!" the cry
Of blood-hounds baying on the track of babes.
Queen innocent beheaded mother-queen!
And queenly Roland Nature's queenly queen!
Aye, at the foot of bloody guillotine
She stood a heroine: before her loomed
The Goddess of Liberty in statue-stone.
Queen Roland saw, and spake the words that ring
Along the centuries "O Liberty!
What crimes are committed in thy name!" and died.
And when the headsman raised her severed head
To hell-dogs shouting "Vive la Liberté,"
Godlike disdain still sparkled in her eyes.
Grim Hell herself in pity stood aghast,
Clanged shut her doors and stopped her ears with pitch.

See the wise ruler father of Brazil,
Who struck the shackles from a million slaves,
Whose reign was peace and love and gentleness,
Despoiled and driven from the land he loves.
See jealous Labor strike the hand that feeds,
And burn the mills that grind his daily bread;
Yea, in blind rage denounce the very laws
That shield his home from Europe's pauperdom.
See the grieved farmer raise his horny hand
And splutter garlic. Hear the demagogues
Fist-maul the wind and weather-cock the crowd,
With brazen foreheads full of empty noise
Out-bellowing the bulls of Bashan; and behold
Shrill, wrinkled Amazons in high harangue
Stamp their flat feet and gnash their toothless gums,
And flaunt their petticoat-flag of "Liberty."
Hear the old bandogs of the Daily Press,
Chained to their party posts, or fetter-free
And running amuck against old party creeds,
On-howl their packs and glory in the fight.
See mangy curs, whose editorial ears
Prick to all winds to catch the popular breeze,
Slang-whanging yelp, and froth and snap and snarl,
And sniff the gutters for their daily food.
And these are they our prophets and our priests?
Hurra! Hurra! Hurra! for "Liberty!"
Flaunt the red flag and flutter the petticoat;
Ran-tan the drums and let the bugles bray,
The eagle scream and sixty million throats
Sing Yankee-doodle Yankee-doodle-doo.

The state is sick and every fool a quack
Running with pills and plasters and sure-cures,
And every pill and package labelled Ism.
See Liberty run mad, and Anarchy,
Bearing the torch, the dagger and the bomb
Red-mouthed run riot in her sacred name
Hear mobs of idlers cry "Equality!
Let all men share alike: divide, divide!"
Butting their heads against the granite rocks
Of Nature and the eternal laws of God.
Pull down the toiler, lift the idler up!
Despoil the frugal, crown the negligent!
Offer rewards to idleness and crime!
And pay a premium for improvidence!
Fools, can your wolfish cries repeal the laws
Of God engraven on the granite hills,
Written in every Wrinkle of the earth,
On every plain, on every mountain-top,
Nay, blazened o'er all the boundless Universe
On every jewel that sparkles on God's throne?
And can ye rectify God's mighty plan?
O pygmies, can ye measure God himself?
Aye, would ye measure God's almighty power,
Go crack Earth's bones and heave the granite hills;
Measure the ocean in a drinking-cup;
Measure Eternity by the town-clock;
Nay, with a yard-stick measure the Universe:
Measure for measure. Measure God by man!
"Fools to the midmost marrow of your bones!"
O buzzing flies and gnats! Ye cannot strike
One little atom from God's Universe,
Or warp the laws of Nature by a hair!

His loving eye sees through all evil good.
Man's life is but a breath; but lo with Him
To-day, to-morrow, yesterday, are one
One in the cycle of eternal time
That hath beginning none, nor any end.
The Earth revolving round her sire, the Sun,
Measures the flying year of mortal man,
But who shall measure God's eternal year?
The unbegotten, everlasting God;
Unmade, eternal, all-pervading power;
Center and source of all things, high and low,
Maker and master of the Universe
Ah, nay, the mighty Universe itself!
All things in nature bear God's signature
So plainly writ that he who runs may read.
We know not what life is; how may we know
Death what it is, or what may lie beyond?
Whoso forgets his God forgets himself.

Let me not blindly judge my brother man:
There is but one just judge; there is but one
Who knows the hearts of men. Him let us praise
Not with blind prayer, or idle, sounding psalms
But let us daily in our daily works,
Praise God by righteous deeds and brother-love.
Go forth into the forest and observe
For men believe their eyes and doubt their ears
The creeping vine, the shrub, the lowly bush,
The dwarfed and stunted trees, the bent and bowed,
And here and there a lordly oak or elm,
And o'er them all a tall and princely pine.
All struggle upward, but the many fail;
The low dwarfed by the shadows of the great,
The stronger basking in the genial sun.
Observe the myriad fishes of the seas
The mammoths and the minnows of the deep.
Behold the eagle and the little wren,
The condor on his cliff, the pigeon-hawk,
The teal, the coot, the broad-winged albatross.
Turn to the beasts in forest and in field
The lion, the lynx, the mammoth and the mouse,
The sheep, the goat, the bullock and the horse,
The fierce gorillas and the chattering apes
Progenitors and prototypes of man.
Not only differences in genera find,
But grades in every kind and every class.

I would not doom to serfdom or to toil
One race, one caste, one class, or any man:
Give every honest man an honest chance;
Protect alike the rich man and the poor;
Let not the toiler live upon a crust
While Croesus' bread is buttered on both sides.

O people's king and shepherd, thronèd Law,
Strike down the monsters of Monopoly.
Lift up thy club, O mighty Hercules!
Behold thy "Labors" yet unfinished are:
Tear off thy Nessus shirt and bare thine arms.
The Numean lion fattens on our flocks;
The Lernean Hydra coils around our farms,
Our towns, our mills, our mines, our factories;
The triple monster Geryon lives again,
Grown quadruple, and over all our plains
And thousand hills his fattening oxen feed.
Stymphalean buzzards ravage round our fields;
The Augean stables reeking stench the land;
The hundred-headed monster Cerberus,
That throttled Greece and ravaged hapless France,
Hath broke from hell and howls for human blood.
Lift up thy knotted club, O Hercules!
Strike swift and sure: crush down the Hydra's heads;
Throttle the Numean lion: strike! nor spare
The monster Geryon or the buzzard-beaks.
Clean the Augean stables if thou can'st;
But hurl the hundred-headed monster down
Headlong to Hades: chain him; make thee sure
He shall not burst the bonds of hell again.

To you, O chosen makers of the laws,
The nation looks and shall it look in vain?
Will ye sit idle, or in idle wind
Blow out your zeal, and crack your party whips,
Or drivel dotage, while the crisis cries
While all around the dark horizon loom
Clouds thunder-capped that bode a hurricane?
Sleep ye as slept the "Notables" of France,
While under them an hundred Ætnas hissed
And spluttered sulphur, gathering for the shock?
Be ye our Hercules and Lynceus-eyed:
Still ye the storm or ere the storm begin
Ere "Liberty" take Justice by the throat,
And run moon-mad a Malay murder-muck,
Throttle the "Trusts", and crush the coils combined
That crack our bones and fatten on our fields.
Strike down the hissing heads of Anarchy:
Strike swift and hard, nor parley with the fiend
Mothered of hell and father of all fiends
Fell monster with an hundred bloody mouths,
And every mouth an hundred hissing tongues,
And every tongue drips venom from his fangs.

Protect the toiling millions by just laws;
Let honest labor find its sure reward;
Let willing hands find work and honest bread.
So frame the laws that every honest man
May find his home protected and his craft.
Let Liberty and Order walk hand in hand
With Justice: happy Trio! let them rule.
Put up the bars: bar out the pauper swarms
Alike from Asia's huts and Europe's hives.
Let charity begin at home. In vain
Will we bar out the swarms from Europe's hives
And Asia's countless lepers, if our ports
Are free to all the products of their hands.
Put up the bars: bar out the pauper hordes;
Bar out their products that compete with ours:
Give honest toil at home an honest chance:
Build up our own and keep our coin at home.
In vain our mines pour forth their wealth of gold
And silver, if by every ship it sail
For London, Paris, Birmingham or Berlin.

We have been prodigal. The days are past
When virgin acres wanted willing hands,
When fertile empires lay in wilderness
Waiting the teeming millions of the world.
Lo where the Indian and the bison roamed Lords
of the prairies boundless as the sea But
twenty years ago, behold the change!
Homesteads and hamlets, flocks and lowing herds,
Railways and cities, miles of rustling corn,
And leagues on leagues of waving fields of gold.

Let wise men teach and honest men proclaim
The mutual dependence of the rich and poor;
For if the wealthy profit by the poor,
The poor man profits ever by the rich.
Wealth builds our churches and our colleges;
Wealth builds the mills that grind the million's bread;
Wealth builds the factories that clothe the poor;
Wealth builds the railways and the million ride.
God hath so willed the toiling millions reap
The golden harvest that the rich have sown.
Six feet of earth make all men even; lo
The toilers are the rich man's heirs at last.
But there be men would grumble at their lot,
Even if it were a corner-lot on Broadway.
We stand upon the shoulders of the past.
Who knoweth not the past how may he know
The folly or the wisdom of to-day?
For by comparison we weigh the good,
And by comparison all evil weigh.
"What can we reason, but from what we know?"
Let honest men look back an hundred years
Nay, fifty, and behold the wondrous change.
Where wooden tubs like sluggards sailed the sea,
Steam-ships of steel like greyhounds course the main;
Where lumbering coach and wain and wagon toiled
Through mud and mire and rut and rugged way,
The cushioned train a mile a minute flies.
Then by slow coach the message went and came,
But now by lightning bridled to man's use
We flash our silent thoughts from sea to sea;
Nay, under ocean's depths from shore to shore;
And talk by telephone to distant ears.
The dreams of yesterday are deeds to-day.
Our frugal mothers spun with tedious toil,
And wove the homespun cloth for all their fold;
Their needles plied by weary fingers sewed.
Behold, the humming factory spins and weaves,
The singing "Singer" sews with lightning speed.
Our fathers sowed their little fields by hand,
And reaped with bended sickles and bent backs;
By hand they bound the sheaves of wheat and rye;
With flails they threshed and winnowed in the wind.
Now by machines we sow and reap and bind;
By steam we thresh and sack the bounteous grain.
These are but few of all the million ways
Whereby man's toil is lightened and he hath gained
Tenfold in comfort, luxury and ease.
For these and more the millions that enjoy
May thank the wise and wealthy few who gave.
If the rich are richer the poor are richer too.
A narrow demagogue I count the man
Who cries to-day "Progress and Poverty";
As if a thousand added comforts made
The poor man poorer and his lot the worse.
'Tis but a new toot on the same old horn
That brayed in ancient Greece and Babylon,
And now amid the ruined walls of Rome
Lies buried fathoms deep in dead men's dust.

"Progress and Poverty!" Man, hast thou traced
The blood that throbs commingled in thy veins?
Over thy shoulder hast thou cast a glance
On thine old Celtic-Saxon-Norman sires
Huddled in squalid huts on beds of straw?
Barefooted churls swine-herding in the fens,
Bare-legged cowherds in their cow-skin coats,
Wearing the collars of their Thane or Eorl,
His serfs, his slaves, even as thy dog is thine;
Harried by hunger, pillaged, ravaged, slain,
By Viking robbers and the warring Jarls;
Oft glad like hunted swine to fill their maws
With herbs and acorns. "Progress and Poverty!"
The humblest laborer in our mills or mines
Is royal Thane beside those slavish churls;
The frugal farmer in our land to-day
Lives better than their kings himself a king.

Lo every age refutes old errors still,
And still begets new errors for the next;
But all the creeds of politics or priests
Can't make one error truth, one truth a lie.
There is no religion higher than the truth;
Men make the creeds, but God ordains the law.

Above all cant, all arguments of men,
Above all superstitions, old or new,
Above all creeds of every age and clime,
Stands the eternal truth the creed of creeds.

Sweet is the lute to him who hath not heard
The prattle of his children at his knees:
Ah, he is rich indeed whose humble home
Contains a frugal wife and sweet content.

Reader Comments

Tell us what you think of 'Men' by Hanford Lennox Gordon

comments powered by Disqus

Home | Search | About this website | Contact | Privacy Policy