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George William Russell Poems
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The Iron Age by George William Russell
HOW came this pigmy rabble spun,
After the gods and kings of old,
Upon a tapestry begun
With threads of silver and of gold?
In heaven began the heroic tale
What meaner destinies prevail!

They wove about the antique brow
A circlet of the heavenly air.
To whom is due such reverence now,
The thought “What deity is there”?
We choose the chieftains of our race
From hucksters in the market place.

When in their councils over all
Men set the power that sells and buys,
Be sure the price of life will fall,
Death be more precious in our eyes.
Have all the gods their cycles run?
Has devil worship now begun?

O whether devil planned or no,
Life here is ambushed, this our fate,
That road to anarchy doth go,
This to the grim mechanic state.
The gates of hell are open wide,
But lead to other hells outside.

How has the fire Promethean paled?
Who is there now who wills or dares
Follow the fearless chiefs who sailed,
Celestial adventurers,
Who charted in undreamt of skies
The magic zones of paradise?

Mankind that sought to be god-kind,
To wield the sceptre, wear the crown,
What made it wormlike in its mind?
Who bade it lay the sceptre down?
Was it through any speech of thee,
Misunderstood of Galilee?

The whip was cracked in Babylon
That slaves unto the gods might raise
The golden turrets nigh the sun.
Yet beggars from the dust might gaze
Upon the mighty builders’ art
And be of proud uplifted heart.

We now are servile to the mean
Who once were slaves unto the proud.
No lordlier life on earth has been
Although the heart be lowlier bowed.
Is there an iron age to be
With beauty but a memory?

Send forth, who promised long ago,
“I will not leave thee or forsake,”
Someone to whom our hearts may flow
With adoration, though we make
The crucifixion be the sign,
The meed of all the kingly line.

The morning stars were heard to sing
When man towered golden in the prime.
One equal memory let us bring
Before we face our night in time.
Grant us one only evening star,
The iron age’s avatar.
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