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Poem for Alexander Meiklejohn

I read your testimony and I thought
here is the man perfected that I knew
and reverenced next him who gave me life.
Too soon the long black limousine will stand
before your door and all unhearing you
will trundle off on casters while the winds
of elegiac oratory fill
the public prints and how the hearts will ache
of us who were your sons. Too late we’ll carve
your stone. The time is now for rising up
and speaking out our love. Know then, dear man,
that mine has grown beyond the hero worship
of youth when your ideas broke the mould
of prejudice in which my mind was formed.
You let the world in on me, were the yeast
that set me boiling with desire to know
not merely but to do. I thought I loved
my country. You taught why America
deserved my love and all mankind’s because
America was more than just a land;
it was the land of all that men had won
against the ancient darkness. So believing
my life grew meaningful and where before
I felt myself an atom in the void
I now engaged to join with other men
to keep the light alive and specially
to oppose all those who in the name of light
would re-enthrone the darkness and betray
America.

This they have nearly done.
And I myself in prime of life have felt
the anguished bitterness that exiles know
cut off and cast away. How easy now
to curse America, cast in one’s lot
with enemies, back one usurping gang
against the other! But for you I think
I would have made this all-too-human error.
Despised, rejected as I felt the thought
of you restrained me at the brink. “What would
he think? What would he do himself?” So clear
the answer always came. “Believe!” you said,
“Don’t let them drive you to despair! Fight on!”

by JOHN BEECHER

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