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How Long?

Katharine Lee Bates 1859 (Falmouth) – 1929 (Wellesley)



How long, O Prince of Peace, how long? We sicken of the shame
Of this wild war that wraps the world, a roaring dragon-flame
Fed on earth's glorious youth, high hearts all passionate to cope
—O Chivalry of Hope!—
With the cloudy host of the infidel and the Holy Earth reclaim.
For each dear land is Holy Land to her own fervent sons
Who fling in loyal sacrifice their lives before the guns,
But when they meet their foes above the battlesmoke, they laugh,
And all together quaff
The cup of welcome Honor pouts for her slain champions.
Oh, if a thousandth part of all this treasure, purpose, skill,
Were poured into the crucible transforming wrong and ill,
By the white magic of a wise and generous brotherhood,
To righteousness and good,
The world would be divine again, with eery war-cry still.
Poor world so worn with wickedness, bedimmed with rage and fear,
Sad world that sprang forth singing from God's hand, a golden sphere,
O yet may Love's creative breath renew thee, fashioned twice
A shining Paradise,
Unsullied in the astral choir, with Joy for charioteer.
How long shall bomb and bullet think for human brains? How long
Shall folk of the burned villages in starving, staggering throng
Flee from the armies that, in turn, are mangled, maddened, slain,
Till earth is all one stain
Of horror, and the soaring larks are slaughtered in their song?
Oh, may this war, this blasphemy that blots the globe with blood,
Slay war forever, cleanse the earth in its own mighty flood
Of tears, tears unassuageable, that will not cease to fall
Till Time has covered all
Our guilty century with sleep, and the new eras bud!
How long? The angels of the stars entreat the clouded Throne
In anguish for their brother Earth, who stands, like Cain, alone,
And hides the mark upon his brow, the while their harps implore
The Silence to restore
Peace to this wayward Son of God, whose music is a moan.
Come swiftly, Peace! Oh, swiftly come, with healing in thy feet;
Bring back to tortured battlefields the waving of the wheat;
Bring back to broken hearths, whereby the wistful ghosts will walk,
Blithe hum of household talk,
Till childhood dare to sport again and maiden hood be sweet,
Though thou must come by crimson road, with grief and mercy come,
Not with the insolence of strength, the boast of fife and drum;
Come with adventure in thine eyes for the splendid tasks that wait,
To weld these desolate
Crushed lands into the fellowship of thy millennium.
O Peace, to rear thy temple that no strife may overawe!
O Purity, to fashion thee a palace without flaw! Galilee,
To build the state on thee,
And shape the deeds of nations by thy yet untested law!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:22 min read
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Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Lee Bates is remembered as the author of the words to the anthem America the Beautiful Bates was born in Falmouth Massachusetts and lived as an adult on Centre Street in Newton Massachusetts An historic plaque marks the site of her home The daughter of a Congregational pastor she graduated from Wellesley College in 1880 and for many years was a professor of English literature at Wellesley While teaching there she was elected a member of the newly formed Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences because of her interest in history and politics for which she also studied She lived at Wellesley with Katharine Coman who herself was a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesley College Economics department The pair lived together for twenty-five years until Comans death in 1915 It is debated if this relationship was an intimate lesbian relationship as different sources maintain or a platonic relationship called sometimes Boston marriages as the local historical society of her birthplace maintain more…

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