An American

The American Spirit speaks:

IF the Led Striker call it a strike,
   Or the papers call it a war,
They know not much what I am like,
   Nor what he is, my Avatar.

Through many roads, by me possessed,
   He shambles forth in cosmic guise;
He is the Jester and the Jest,
   And he the Text himself applies.

The Celt is in his heart and hand,
   The Gaul is in his brain and nerve;
Where, cosmopolitanly planned,
   He guards the Redskin’s dry reserve.

His easy unswept hearth he lends
   From Labrador to Guadeloupe;
Till, elbowed out by sloven friends,
   He camps, at sufferance, on the stoop.

Calm-eyed he scoffs at sword and crown,
   Or panic-blinded stabs and slays:
Blatant he bids the world bow down,
   Or cringing begs a crust of praise;

Or, sombre-drunk, at mine and mart,
   He dubs his dreary brethren Kings.
His hands are black with blood—his heart
   Leaps, as a babe’s, at little things.

But, through the shift of mood and mood,
   Mine ancient humour saves him whole—
The cynic devil in his blood
   That bids him mock his hurrying soul;

That bids him flout the Law he makes,
   That bids him make the Law he flouts,
Till, dazed by many doubts, he wakes
   The drumming guns that—have no doubts;

That checks him foolish—hot and fond,
   That chuckles through his deepest ire,
That gilds the slough of his despond
   But dims the goal of his desire;

Inopportune, shrill-accented,
   The acrid Asiatic mirth
That leaves him, careless ’mid his dead,
   The scandal of the elder earth.

How shall he clear himself, how reach
   Your bar or weighed defence prefer?
A brother hedged with alien speech
   And lacking all interpreter.

Which knowledge vexes him a space;
   But while Reproof around him rings,
He turns a keen untroubled face
   Home, to the instant need of things.

Enslaved, illogical, elate,
   He greets th’ embarrassed Gods, nor fears
To shake the iron hand of Fate
   Or match with Destiny for beers.

Lo, imperturbable he rules,
   Unkempt, disreputable, vast—
And, in the teeth of all the schools,
   I shall save him at the last!

Choose another poem