THE MANY-MANSIONED HOUSE
AND OTHER POEMS


By
EDWARD WILLIAM THOMSON




 

THE MANY-MANSIONED HOUSE



THERE looms, upon the enormous round
     Where nations come and nations go,
A many-mansioned house, whose bound
     Ranges so wide that none may know
Its temperate lands of corn and vine,

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     Its solitudes of Arctic gloom,
Its wealth of forest, plain, and mine,
     Its jungle world of tropic bloom.
Yet so its architects devise
     That still its boundary walls extend,

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And still its guardian forts arise,
     And still its builders see no end
Of plan, or labor, or the call
     By which the Master of their Fate
Urges to lay the advancing wall

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     Of Law beyond the farthest gate.

The mortar oft is red with blood
     Of men within and men without,
For hate’s incessant storm and flood
     Rage round each uttermost redoubt,

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And bullets sing, and shrieks are loud,
     And bordering voices curse the hour
That sees the builders onward crowd,
     True to the Master Mind, whose power
Impels them build by plumb and line

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     To give the blood-stained wall increase
And forward push the huge design
     Within whose mansions dwelleth peace.

The Master Mind is in no place,
     It hath no settled rank nor name, [Page 2]

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Its mood, as moulded by the race,
     Shifts often, yet remains the same
To meditate what millions think,
     And shape the deed to fit their thought,
Now raising high who seemed to sink,

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     Now flinging down their choice as naught.
It lauds what sons obey its calls
     When time has come for hands to smite,
And when the hour to cease befalls
     It chastens them it did requite;

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Yet still so chooses that the change
     From war to peace and peace to war
Confirms the mansions in their range,
     And builds the far-built wall more far.

Within the many mansions dwell

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     Nations diverse of tongue and blood,—
Races whose primal anthems tell
     How Ganges grew a sacred flood,
Tribes long fore-fathered when the birds
     Of Egypt saw Osiris pass,

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They that were ancient when the herds
     Of Abraham cropped Chaldean grass,
People whose shepherd-priesthoods saw
     The might of Nineveh begin,
And folk whose slaves baked mud and straw

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     Mid Babylon’s revelling fume of sin;
Blacks that have served in every age
     Since first the yoke of Ham they wore,
Yellows who set the printed page
     Ere Homer sang from shore to shore,

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Swart Browns whose glittering kreeses held
     In dread the far-isled Asian seas,
Fierce Reds who waged from primal eld
     Their stealthy warfare of the trees;
Men of the jaguar-haunted swamp

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     Whose mountain masters dwelt in pride
Of golden-citied Aztec pomp [Page 3]
     Ages ere Montezuma died;
Builders whose blood was in the hands
     That propped the circled Druid stones,

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And Odin-fathered men, whose bands
     Storming all winds, laid warrior bones
Round all the Roman mid-world sea,
     And held the Cæsars’ might in scorn,
And kept the Viking liberty

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     That fairer freedom might be born.

The wall defendeth all alike,
     The Master Mind on all ordains:—
Within my bound no sword shall strike,
     Nor fetter bind, save law arraigns;

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No prisoner here shall feel the rack,
     No infant be to slavery born,
The wage shall labor’s sweat not lack,
     Nor skill of just reward be shorn.
The king and hind alike shall stand

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     Within the peril of my law,
And though it change at time’s demand
     Shall every change be held in awe.
Here every voice may freely speak
     Wisdom or folly as it choose,

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And though the strong must lead the weak,
     The weak may yet the strong refuse;
Thus shall no change be wrought before
     The wise who seek a better way
Can win, to share their vision, more

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     Than praise the wise who wish delay,—
That so the Master Mind be strong
     Through every drift of time and change,
To fashion either right or wrong
     At will, within the mansions’ range.

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Of what is wrong and what is right
     The Master Mind doth ceaseless hear,
Listens intent to counselling might, [Page 4]
     Pity or fury, hope or fear,
Sways to the evil, yet repents,

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     Sways to the good, yet half denies,
Follows revenge, but quick relents,
     And makes its wondering foes allies;
In memory sees its frenzied hours,
     And holds those fury-fits in scorn;

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In gentlest aspiration towers,
     Or grovels as of faith forlorn,
Yet never, never loses quite
     The thought, the hope, the glory-dream,
That beacon of supernal light,

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     The shining, holy Grail-like beam,
The Ideal—in which alone it dares
     Advance the circuit of the wall—
The faith that yet shall happy shares
     Of circumstance be won for all,—

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This is the vision of its law,
     This is the Asgard of its dream—
That what the world yet never saw
     Of justice shall arise supreme.

The Master Mind proclaims as free

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     Alike, all creeds that men may name,
All worships they devise to be
     Their help in hope, or ease in shame;
In Buddha, Mahmoud, Moses, Christ,
     Outspokenly may any trust,

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Or he whom no belief enticed
     May hold the soul a dream of dust,
Yet all alike be free to teach,
     And all alike be free to shun,
Because the law of freeman’s speech

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     Impartial guardeth every one;
If but all rites of blood be banned,
     Then may each life select its God,
And every congregation stand
     Past dread of persecution’s rod,— [Page 5]

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Lo now!  Is thus not Jesus set
     Transcendent o’er the broad domain—
The gentle Christ whose anguished sweat
     Bled for a world-wide mercy’s reign?

Yet in many Mansions flaunt,

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     As if they deem their place secure,
Legion, whose Christ-defying vaunt
     How long, O Lord, dost Thou endure!
Belshazzar’s Feast is multiplied,
     Mammon holds fabulous parade,

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Thousands of Minotaurs divide
     The procurers’ tribute of the maid,
Circe enchants her votary swine,
     Moloch, though veiled his fire, consumes,
And all the man-made Gods assign

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     Their victims self-elected dooms.

In large, the suffering and the sin
     (Full well the Master Mind doth know),
From luxury and want begin,
     And through unequal portions flow.

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This ancient wrong doth worst defeat
     The immortal yearning of His plea
To save the little, wandering feet,—
     “Suffer the children come to me”;

Wherefore, on streets that Mammon makes

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     The Master Mind bends ruthless eye,
Yet calm withholds the blow that breaks,
     And leaves that stroke to by and by,
Since faithful memory, backward cast,
     Beholds how much hath freedom won,

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And lest a pomp-destroying blast
     Might shrivel many a guiltless one,
And since it knows that freedom’s plan
     To build secure alone is skilled,
And that firm-grounded gain for man [Page 6]

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     Is only by what man hath willed.—
Hence waits the Master Mind, in trust
     That yet the hour shall Mammon rue,
Since, as the mansions grow, so must
     Freedom upraise The Christ anew.

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But whether He prevail at last,
     Or whether all shall pass away,
Even as Rome’s great Empire passed
     When wrought the purpose of its day,
Still must the builders heed the call

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     By which the Master of all Fate
Ordains they lay the advancing wall
     Of peace beyond the farthest gate.

And, oh!  the Master Mind may well
     In pride of gentleness rejoice

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That in the Mansions none may quell
     The lilt of any nation’s voice;
But every race may sing their joy,
     May hymn their pride, their glories boast
To listeners glad without alloy—

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     The primal, wall-extending host,
The founding, freedom-loving race
     Whose generous-visioning mind doth see
No worth in holding foremost place,
     Save in an Empire of the Free. [Page 7]

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