Horace Greeley, who put the po’ in poetry.
I ran across Horace Greeley’s poem when I found an excerpt in the book I mentioned last week, Keen Rafferty’s “That’s What They Said about the Press.” Shockingly to me, it’s been anthologized many times, to judge by the Google Books results. Shocking because, as a journalist-poet, Greeley was no Carl Sandburg. Heck, he was no Edgar Guest.
LONG SLUMBERED the world in the darkness of error,
And ignorance brooded o’er earth like a pall;
To the sceptre and crown men abased them in terror,
Though galling the bondage, and bitter the thrall;
When a voice, like the earthquake’s, revealed the dishonor–
A flash, like the lightning’s, unsealed every eye,
And o’er hill-top and glen floated liberty’s banner,
While round it men gathered to conquer or die!
‘TWAS THE VOICE of the Press, on the startled ear breaking,
In giant-born prowess, like Pallas of old;
‘Twas the flash of intelligence, gloriously waking
A glow on the cheek of the noble and bold;
And tyranny’s minions, o’erawed and affrighted,
Sought a lasting retreat from its powerful control,
And the chains which bound nations in ages benighted,
Were cast to the haunts of the bat and the mole.
THEN HAIL to the Press! chosen guardian of Freedom!
Strong sword-arm of justice! bright sunbeam of truth!
We pledge to her cause, (and she has but to need them),
The strength of our manhood, the fire of our youth;
Should despots e’er dare to impede her free soaring,
Or bigot to fetter her flight with his chain,
We pledge that the earth shall close o’er our deploring,
Or view her in gladness and freedom again.
BUT NO!–to the day-dawn of knowledge and glory,
A far brighter noontide-refulgence succeeds;
And our art shall embalm, through all ages, in story,
Her champion who triumphs–her martyr who bleeds;
And proudly her sons shall recall their devotion,
While millions shall listen to honor and bless,
Till there bursts a response from the heart’s strong emotion,
And the earth echoes deep with “Long Life to the Press!”