liberty enlightening the world

by Edmund Clarence Stedman

Image: Randy Calderone
Image: Randy Calderone

Warder at ocean’s gate,
        Thy feet on sea and shore,
Like one the skies await
        When time shall be no more!
What splendors crown thy brow?
What bright dread angel Thou,
        Dazzling the waves before
                Thy station great?

“My name is Liberty!
        From out a mighty land
I face the ancient sea,
        I lift to God my hand;
By day in Heaven’s light,
A pillar of fire by night,
        At ocean’s gate I stand
                Nor bend the knee.

“The dark Earth lay in sleep,
        Her children crouched forlorn,
Ere on the western steep
        I sprang to height, reborn:
Then what a joyous shout
The quickened lands gave out,
        And all the choir of morn
                Sang anthems deep.

“Beneath yon firmament,
        The New World to the Old
My sword and summons sent,
        My azure flag unrolled:
The Old World’s hands renew
Their strength; the form ye view
        Came from a living mould
                In glory blent.

“O ye, whose broken spars
        Tell of the storms ye met,
Enter! fear not the bars
        Across your pathway set;
Enter at Freedom’s porch,
For you I lift my torch,
        For you my coronet
                Is rayed with stars.

“But ye that hither draw
        To desecrate my fee,
Nor yet have held in awe
        The justice that makes free,—
Avaunt, ye darkling brood!
By Right my house hath stood:
        My name is Liberty,
                My throne is Law.”

O wonderful and bright,
        Immortal Freedom, hail!
Front, in thy fiery might,
        The midnight and the gale;
Undaunted on this base
Guard well thy dwelling-place:
        Till the last sun grow pale
                Let there be Light!

Aside from his long career in banking and finance, Edmund Clarence Stedman belonged to a Newark literary circle including Mary Mapes Dodge, Richard Watson Gilder and Abraham Coles. It was said that he inherited the poetic talents of his mother, Elizabeth Clementine Kinney.

Stedman’s ode was written for the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on October 28, 1886, and appeared in Harper’s Weekly two days later.

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