MARCH 20th DEMONSTRATION (AS THE OPTIMIST SAW IT)
In me, or in the meanest man on earth,
A hurricane holds its breath; rebellious magma
Probes for a vent with million tentacles
Under dull custom's crust;
All Hell's and Heaven's galaxies are blazing
Behind a fluid slush of drizzly cloud;
A maelstrom I was born; though made pacific,
Might I not one day whirl, and call to motion
All manner of other waters?
Too much that is human is alien from me,
But nothing unconditionally so:
Till my last breath, I am one that yet might be
All that all other men have ever been.
Whoever of Adam's race is furthest from me
Is closer to me than any other thing,
And of all other elements and creatures
Whichever most fastened on my sympathy
Is furthest from me than my farthest man,
That farthest man unknown -
A shaggy axeman of Attila's horde?
A Vandal, a very avant-garde aesthete,
Keen connoisseur of buckled gold and silver?
An olden Parsee drunk on Summer Sun?
A timorous-eyed and broken-sandalled Khmer
Reaping his ripe-for-requisition crop?
Or any woman of present time or past?
Or any relative? Or you, good reader?
Whoever could tell the farthest man from him!
In any man's smile, I also smile, unless
The wretchedness of many makes his joy.
What if we turned on one another once?
We are all allies in our tendency;
That frightful misery of instinct's loss
And gain of thought, when thought could only grasp
Scarcity and the many hungry mouths -
All that is past or in its bloody twilight;
We have yet to dawn, except in dreams and music;
Still deep in the East lies love!
How many old villainies collapsed in dust
This five years past! How many men have risen
And pulled the temples, hauled the centuries down!
Where now is Jayavarman's dynasty?
Where is Amhara's haughty King of Kings?
The Khmers, the Ethiopians can tell!
Full well I know, wherever the black past clotted,
Democracy has let no little blood,
At all costs to be cured of history.
But let the father act, the son repent;
Madness makes more than its remorse. I say
All hail, Democracy; all hail to the mob,
These marchers disappoint
In seeming too contented with their lot;
All adequately coated for the Spring,
These brothers of the Khmers and Ethiops,
In crombies, trench-coats, oilskins, duffle-coats,
Black leather jackets, sometimes flapped in fur,
Tweed overcoats, light raincoats, anoraks,
Thick donkey-jackets, army-surplus, denims
And every woman different from the next.
I heard a denim tell an anorak
In querulous voice with little resonance:
"A farmers' and a Shareholders' Republic,
There's what exists; and are the workers mice?
Let all things be reformed immediately."
The anorak replied with certainty:
"In bits and pieces do we better things;
The world is good enough to tolerate;
I would not rock it, for the bad old days
Lie on the underside." A crombie mused:
"Nothing endures but the increase of change;
What will our grandsons be? Something beyond
Our present speculation; Workers' Republic
We'll see, indeed; I wonder of what kind?"
A leather jacket asked with interest:
"For maximum success at lowest cost,
How angrily should we demand reform?"
"Our voice will at this pitch be heard." replied
The anorak, "save blood, save energy!
We are no Khmers, we are no Ethiops;
We are not even the men of Connolly's time.
I tell myself each night, and scarce believe it:
We do not starve, our babies do not die!
Freedom is ours. What other aims have we?
Eat more, live easier; these we may pursue
Without the urgency of life and death."
The crombie spoke, but it was evident
His thought was in its infancy and weak.
Oh brothers, brothers,
You are intoxicated, stupefied
In marvelling that you no longer starve!
Your destiny demands a higher courage;
Yet you will reach it, for I know in my heart
Progress is irreversible; machines
Will give Athenian leisure to you all;
You shall be stripped of nature's heavy harness
Till freedom seem an inborn quality;
Ye shall be gods!