James Madison Bell

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Where e'er the fetter has been broken,
Where e'er the bondsman has been freed,
Where e'er a sentence has been spoken
In behalf of human need --

Whether on towering, snow-capped mountain,
Or in the soft and flowery vale,
Whether beside the gurgling fountain,
Or 'long the streamlet's watery trail --

Whether amid the leafy wildness
Of Bashan's sturdy oaks and pines,
Or 'midst the sheen and plastic mildness
Where art presides and genius shines.

In grand effect they still are living,
Unblurred by age or flight of time;
And unto earth are ever giving
Lessons, wondrous and sublime.

Like trees of fadeless beauty growing,
In all their grand omnific pride,
Whose fruits of life and joy bestowing,
Have blest the land and blest the tide.

Those noble acts, through all the ages
Have lived, all worthy to commend,
And the true historian's pages,
With such, shall glow 'till time shall end.

For there's a link that binds together
All the peoples of this our earth,
A band which nothing can dissever,
The germ of man's primeval birth;

A deathless kinship -- a relation,
A brotherhood that knows no bounds,
Pervading earth in every station
Where e'er the human form is found.

And there, without regard to nation,
Without respect to birth or hue,
Man stands sublime in his creation,
Begirt with freedom as his due.

The ox and yoke have some relation,
As do the horse and curbing rein.
But, in the day of man's formation,
He was not fashioned for the chain.

And nowhere, save through base perversion
Of the grand "wherefore" he was made,
Has dark presumption's foul coercion
E'er dared his freedom to invade.

That freedom which to him was given
Ere Eden's first-born rose had died,
Or sin the human heart had riven,
Or man his Maker had defied.

Given, and with it came dominion
O'er all the fish that throng the sea,
O'er all the birds of downy pinion,
O'er all the prowling beasts of prey;

And o'er the cattle wildly roving,
And over every creeping thing;
And o'er the earth with God's approving
Smile, man was crowned Creation's king.

And yet, in all this vast arrangement,
In all the amplitude of plan,
No grant is found for the estrangement
Whereby man lords it over man.

"I am the Lord!" said the Eternal.
"Worship thou no God but me!
Nor in thy memory hold supernal
Aught of all thy destiny."

And wheresoever an invasion
'Gainst this injunction has been planned,
Heaven has made it the occasion
For rendering bare his chastening hand.

And oh! how dire the retributions
Which have followed evermore,
Intestine wars and revolutions
Have drenched the earth with human gore.

Egypt and Greece and Rome and Carthage,
This heaven injunction set at naught,
And where are they? The merest vestige
Remains of all they proudly wrought.

Their rock-bound cities, whose proud basis
Seemed all impervious to decay,
Time's mighty besum, that erases
The pride of man, has swept away.

Nor has our birth-land been excepted,
Her hundred fields all bathed in blood,
Bear the impress of truth rejected,
And scourgings of an angry God.

The scourgings of a God whose justice
And fearful judgments move apace,
And faithful ever in their office
To vindicate an injured race.

Yes we have sinned and God has scourged us,
And from his chastenings we are sore,
Oh! may the deep affliction urge us
To live in peace and sin no more.

Beware! if God has built this nation,
All its constituents are good
And needful to its preservation,
Whether they be stone or wood.

We may not comprehend the structure
In full minutia and design,
Nor trace its varied architecture
In arris, groove and curve and line.

Be faithful and the great Grand Master
Will on his trestle-board make plain
All that's obtuse, but no whit faster
Than 'twere needful to explain.

But, we'll not pain the ear by telling
Of all the wrongs they have endured,
Of all the brutal, fiend-impelling
Outrage, to which they've been inured.

No, these shall form their own dark story,
The which, like spectres from the dust,
Shall haunt this nation, bruised and gory,
Till all her laws are pure and just.

Till there shall be no class restriction,
Her statutes free from every flaw,
Her native sons without distinction,
Stand equals all -- before the law.

That those, from whom the chains are falling,
May be inspired with a zeal
Commensurate with the lofty calling,
Which every patriot heart should feel.

The chain, thank God! the chain is broken,
Its severed links may do us harm;
But the Grand Fiat has been spoken,
And free forever is the arm.

Though free from chains, yet there are thousands
Poor, homeless, clotheless and unfed,
And these, in praying us to aid them,
They plead the merits of their dead.

They plead their feeless toil and labor,
Conducive to this nation's worth,
Whereby she stands today a neighbor,
Courted by all the realms of earth.

And they plead the noble daring
Of their two hundred thousand brave
Warriors, who with manly bearing
Went forth, a struggling land to save.

And hence, their deathless claim upon us,
Claims such as we can ne'er forego;
Ay, claims that truth doth urge upon us,
The just assuagement of their woe.

Though poor they be, and very many,
Their care and keeping's in our hands,
The rich man's pound, the poor man's penny,
If not withheld when need demands.

But freely tendered and with kindness,
To these, the long and sore oppressed,
Know that our land with heaven's benignness,
In rich abundance shall be blest.

Though poor they be, yet their condition
And of its wherefore, know we all,
We know the base of their petition,
The truth and justness of their call.

Therefore, in view of all the sorrows;
In view of all the grief and pain;
In view of all the nameless horrors,
Foul emanations of the chain.

O let us toil with might unceasing,
Until the land, which gave us birth,
Whose glorious sunlight is increasing,
Becomes the flower of all the earth.

Until beneath her spreading pinions,
And outstretched folds of liberty,
Men of all nations and dominions
Shall dwell in peace and unity.

To this great end, then, let us labor,
Knowing the fruits of our employ,
Shall raise up many a prostrate neighbor,
And fill their grateful hearts with joy.

And then the "Union Aid Commission,"
Whose worthy object is to bless
And change the hapless, sad condition
Of all the sons of wretchedness,

Shall in its mission work a marvel,
In seeking out the passing poor,
Of roofless cabin, hut and hovel,
And blessings leave at every door.

O wondrous mission, high and holy!
Never is labor so sublime
As when it seeks to lift the lowly,
Without regard to class or clime,

And thus forgeteth self for others,
And labors for a common good,
Regarding all mankind as brothers,
And earth as one great neighborhood.

God bless that mission! may it prosper
And spread its wings o'er land and seas,
Till like the gentle dews of vesper,
Its joys are felt in every breeze.

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