Sarah Josepha Hale


"Truth shall spring out of the earth."-Psalms, lxxxv.11.

As, in lonely thought, I pondered
On the marv'lous things of earth,
And, in fancy's dreaming, wondered
At their beauty, power, and worth,
Came, like words of prayer, the feeling-
Oh! that God would make me know,
Through the spirit's clear revealing-
What, of all his works below,
Is to man a boon the greatest,
Brightening on from age to age,
Serving truest, earliest, latest,
Through the world's long pilgrimage.
Soon vast mountains rose before me,
Shaggy, desolate and lone,
Their scarred heads were threat'ning o'er me,
Their dark shadows round me thrown;
Then a voice, from out the mountains,
As an earthquake shook the ground,
And like frightened fawns the fountains,
Leaping, fled before the sound;
And the Anak oaks bowed lowly,
Quivering, aspen-like, with fear-
While the deep response came slowly,
Or it must have crushed mine ear!
"Iron! Iron! Iron!"-crashing,
Like the battle-axe and shield;
Or the sword on helmet clashing,
Through a bloody battle-field:
"Iron! Iron! Iron!"-rolling,
Like the far-off cannon's boom;
Or the death-knell, slowly tolling,
Through a dungeon's charnel gloom!
"Iron! Iron! Iron!"-swinging,
Like the summer winds at play;
Or as bells of Time were ringing
In the blest Millennial Day!
Then the clouds of ancient fable
Cleared away before mine eyes;
Truth could tread a footing stable
O'er the gulf of mysteries!
Words, the prophet bards had uttered,
Signs, the oracle foretold,
Spells, the weird-like Sibyl muttered,
Through the twilight days of old,
Rightly read, beneath the splendor,
Shining now on history's page,
All their faithful witness render-
All portend a better age.
Sisyphus, for ever toiling,
Was the type of toiling men,
While the stone of power, recoiling,
Crushed them back to earth again!
Stern Prometheus, bound and bleeding,
Imaged man in mental chain,
While the vultures, on him feeding,
Were the passions' vengeful reign;
Still a ray of mercy tarried
On the cloud, a white-winged dove,
For this mystic faith had married
Vulcan to the Queen of Love!
Rugged strength and radiant beauty-
These were one in nature's plan;
Humble toil and heavenward duty-
These will form the perfect man!
Darkly was this doctrine taught us
By the gods of heathendom;
But the living light was brought us,
When the gospel morn had come!
How the glorious change, expected,
Could be wrought, was then made free;
Of the earthly, when perfected,
Rugged Iron forms the key!
"Truth from out the earth shall flourish,"
This the Word of God makes known,-
Thence are harvests men to nourish-
There let Iron's power be shown.
Of the swords, from slaughter gory,
Ploughshares forge to break the soil;-
Then will Mind attain its glory,
Then will Labor reap the spoil,-
Error cease the soul to wilder,
Crime be checked by simple good,
As the little coral builder
Forces back the furious flood.
While our faith in good grows stronger,
Means of greater good increase;
Iron, slave of war no longer,
Leads the onward march of peace;
Still new modes of service finding,
Ocean, earth, and air it moves,
And the distant nations binding,
Like the kindred tie it proves;
With its Atlas-shoulder sharing
Loads of human toil and care;
On its wing of lightning bearing
Thought's swift mission through the air!
As the rivers, farthest flowing,
In the highest hills have birth;
As the banyan, broadest growing,
Oftenest bows its head to earth,-
So the noblest minds press onward,
Channels far of good to trace;
So the largest hearts bend downward,
Circling all the human race;
Thus, by Iron's aid, pursuing
Through the earth their plans of love,
Men our Father's will are doing,
Here, as angels do above!


Hale turns the classical sequence of ages on its head, making the Iron Age (industrial revolution?) not an age of decadence but of millennial fulfillment.