John Brown

Interesting film compilation of the trial and execution of John Brown, that problem child of American history.  He impressed many Southerners at his trial by his courage, Southerners appreciating physical courage even in an enemy.  For a man like John Brown, an Old Testament prophet who somehow was marooned in 19th Century America, it takes a poet to get to the heart of such an odd quirk of history:

 

JOHN BROWN’S PRAYER

       Omnipotent and steadfast God,
       Who, in Thy mercy, hath
       Upheaved in me Jehovah’s rod
       And his chastising wrath,

       For fifty-nine unsparing years
       Thy Grace hath worked apart
       To mould a man of iron tears
       With a bullet for a heart.

       Yet, since this body may be weak
       With all it has to bear,
       Once more, before Thy thunders speak,
       Almighty, hear my prayer.

       I saw Thee when Thou did display
       The black man and his lord
       To bid me free the one, and slay
       The other with the sword.

       I heard Thee when Thou bade me spurn
       Destruction from my hand
       And, though all Kansas bleed and burn,
       It was at Thy command.

       I hear the rolling of the wheels,
       The chariots of war!
       I hear the breaking of the seals
       And the opening of the door!

       The glorious beasts with many eyes
       Exult before the Crowned.
       The buried saints arise, arise
       Like incense from the ground!

       Before them march the martyr-kings,
       In bloody sunsets drest,
       _O, Kansas, bleeding Kansas,
       You will not let me rest!_

       _I hear your sighing corn again,
       I smell your prairie-sky,
       And I remember five dead men
       By Pottawattamie._

       Lord God it was a work of Thine,
       And how might I refrain?
       _But Kansas, bleeding Kansas,
       I hear her in her pain._

       _Her corn is rustling in the ground,
       An arrow in my flesh.
       And all night long I staunch a wound
       That ever bleeds afresh._

       Get up, get up, my hardy sons,
       From this time forth we are
       No longer men, but pikes and guns
       In God’s advancing war.

       And if we live, we free the slave,
       And if we die, we die.
       But God has digged His saints a grave
       Beyond the western sky.

       Oh, fairer than the bugle-call
       Its walls of jasper shine!
       And Joshua’s sword is on the wall
       With space beside for mine.

       And should the Philistine defend
       His strength against our blows,
       The God who doth not spare His friend,
       Will not forget His foes.

Stephen Vincent Benet

Published in: on February 21, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Brown  
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