Saturday, May 30, 2009

May 30: When the Throb of the War Drum is Stifl'd (Vol. 42. pp. 1280-1290)

For the traditional Memorial Day, we have "The Building of the Ship," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem he wrote after the end of the Civil War. It takes about 10 pages before you get to the payoff — the eloquent and immortal final stanza:

"Sail on, O Ship of State!

Sail on, O UNION, strong and great!

Humanity with all its fears,

With all the hopes of future years,

Is hanging breathless on thy fate!"

Our ship of state survived a bloody civil war, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Cold War and eight years of George W. Bush. Humanity with all its fears is breathlessly waiting to see if we can survive the looming catastrophes of a collapsed global financial system, a disrupted climate and ecosystem, peak oil and a human population whose capacity to destroy has outstripped its capacity to think intelligently.

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