Voice of the Twentieth Century

Original Text: 
Robert Norwood, The Modernists (New York: George H. Doran, 1918): 144-46. Internet Archive
1Voice of our Century, whose heart is broken,
2Weeping for those who will not come again--
3Lord Christ! hast thou been crucified in vain?--
4Challenge the right of every Tyrant's token:
5The fist of mail; the sceptre; ancient, oaken
6Coffers of gold for which thy sons are slain;
8Hath for the empty right of Power spoken!
9Be like a trumpet blown from clouds of doom
10Against whatever seeks to bind on earth;
11Bring from the blood of battle, from the womb
12Of women weeping for their dead, the birth
13Of better days with banishment of wrong,
14Love in all hearts, on every lip--a song.
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15In much I am Agnostic, hold against
16Fine definitions of the ancient creeds,
17Keep back from dogma and forego the Church;
18But this I have through many searchings found:
19A Will at work on Man's deep truest self--
20A Power that is not Nature's central Flame,
21Yet works with it. This Will is in the Law
22Called Evolution, and this Will is God!
23It hides in Matter--is the Principle
24That leads the atom out of the electron
25Up through amœba till it ends in Man.
26Man is a mile-stone on the slow ascent
27Whose summits are encompassed by a mist.
28We may look back a little down the path
29By which we came, and we may look ahead
30Dimly to guess what stations lie beyond;
31But we must not be certain, for we walk
32By Faith and not by Sight.
33I plead emancipation from the Church,
34The tyranny of Priests who blind the eyes
35Of Wisdom, threat and ban all those who seek
36Truth in the moment--not in yesterdays.
37I plead deliverance from Diplomats
38And lying Warders of the State, who draw
39Nations to battle for the gold that buys
40Grafter and Sycophant. I plead the right
41Of Workmen to the wage commensurate
42With the expense of living; plead the right
43Of women to a place with men in all
44That touches life, of children to good food,
45Pure air, laughter and play; I plead the right
46To think and give expression to my thought.
47Man's night is now behind him and the day
48Leaps up in glory burgeoning the hills.
49What lies behind us is the nursery
50With babies' baubles scattered on the floor--
51Toy soldiers, arks and pictured fairy books--
52The Man smiles kindly at them as he goes
53Forth to his labour! There is much to do:
54The winding trails of ancient Ignorance
55Must be made straight--a highway for the King;
56The hills that threatened us must be brought low;
57For there are songs of gladness in the wind,
58There is a chord of music from the trees--
59A noise of distant thunder that proclaims
60The coming of the God whose name is Man!

Notes

7] First murderer and fratricide in the Bible's book of Genesis. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
1918
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2011
Rhyme: