THE CANAL BUILDER
by Percy MacKaye


A man went down to Panama,
Where many a man had died,
To slit the sliding mountains
And lift the eternal tide;
A man stood up in Panama,
And the mountains stood aside.

The Power that wrought the tide and peak
Wrought mightier the seer;
And the One who made the Isthmus
He made the engineer.
And the good God He made Goethals
To cleave the hemisphere.

The reek of fevered ages rose,
From poisoned jungle and strand,
Where the crumbling wrecks of failure
Lay sunk in the torrid sand -
Derelicts of old desperate hopes
And venal contraband.

Till a mind glowed white thru the yellow mist
And purged the poison-mold,
And the wrecks rose up in labor,
And the fever's knell was tolled.
And the keen mind cut the world-divide
Untarnished by world-gold.

For a poet wrought in Panama
With a continent for his theme,
And he wrote with flood and fire
To forge a planet's dream,
And the derricks rang his dithyrambs
And his stanzas roared in steam.

But the poet's mind it is not his
Alone, but a million men's:
Far visions of lonely dreamers
Meet there as in a lens,
And lightnings, pent by stormy time,
Leap through, with flame intense.

So through our age three giants loom
To vouch man's venturous soul:
Amundsen on his ice-peak,
And Peary from his Pole.
And midway, where the oceans meet,
Goethals - beside HIS goal.

Where old Balboa bent his gaze
He leads the liners through,
And the Horn that tossed Magellan
Bellows a far halloo,
For where the navies never sailed
Steamed Goethals and his crew.

So nevermore the tropic routes
Need Poleward warp and veer,
But on through the Gates of Goethals
The steady keels shall steer,
Where the tribes of man are led toward peace
By the prophet-engineer.


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Last update: January 17, 1998

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