by Joseph Fulford Folsom

War of America

An Interpretation of Gutzon Borglum’s “Wars of America”

Fanfare and lights! Make way the master-play
        Of these United States, redeemed and free!
Up patriots! Hurrah the brave array
        And pageant of the soul of history!

Sheer supermen these captains in the van,
        Phalanxed as some steep avalanche at pause,
A moment poised in raptured gaze they scan
        The radiant future of their holy cause.

Afar the fabled peaks delectable they catch,
        Eternity is mirrored in their eyes,
Beyond the rough and mist-bound path they watch
        Entranced the new Democracy arise.

Stern pioneers of liberty they stand,
        Like giant demi-gods who strove of old,
Or mated with the daughters of the land
        To multiply a brood of heroes bold.

Behind them rolls such human tidal wave
        As never since the first moon lit the night
Swept over land or sea, a host that gave
        Its sacred all a sacrifice to right.

O force invincible! O soldiers bluff!
        O men and women of the rank and file,
Grim servitors who tarry by the stuff,
        Your parts we hail with high acclaim the while.

Some San Juan hill they seem to scale again,
        Or Lookout’s terraced slope. And by their side
The horses of the Shenandoah strain,
        With conscious comradeship–pathetic pride.

To hold the blood-wet mount of high resolve
        The toilers sweat, the women bear and rear,
Upon the unarmed grand reserve devolve
        The burdens of the home, the toil, the tear.

O height! eternal as man’s long ascent,
        You call to us like that in Galilee,
Where Jesus, Moses and Elias spent
        One night in brotherhood and prophecy.

Tongue-tied awhile we watch the action flow,
        And then the pent emotion breaks and cries:
“Speak! prologue, from the wings, and let us know
        What this foregathered pantomime implies.

“We want the secret word, the master’s key,
        To make this thrilling drama free for all,
One name to character the mystery,
        Before the cast go off and curtains fall.”

With clay-stained palms upraised the sculptor speaks:
        “The task of visioned hours at last is done;
From out my hands this art to freedom breaks,
        To be interpreted through time alone.”

Yet more he spoke: “The word you ask was seen
        At Trenton, and at Chateau Thierry fight,
As always in the victories between–
        It speaks forever in the bronze–Good night!”

“Wars of America,” the last and grandest of Gutzon Borglum’s four sculptures for Newark, was part of a bequest from furniture store magnate Amos Hoagland Van Horn, a Civil War veteran who died in 1908. The colossal bronze includes figures of officers and foot soldiers, family members, a Red Cross nurse, a conscientious objector and two horses.

“Courage” was read at the monument’s unveiling in Military Park on May 31, 1926.

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