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The Torch


HE God of the Great Endeavour gave me a torch to bear.

lifted it high above me in the dark and murky air

And straightway with loud hosannas the crowd acclaimed its light
And followed me as I carried my torch thro' the starless night;
Till mad with the people's praises and drunken with vanity

I forgot 'twas the torch that drew them and fancied they followed me.

But slowly my arm grew weary upholding the shining load

And my tired feet went stumbling over the hilly road

And I fell with the torch beneath me. In a moment the flame was out!
Then lo, from the throng a stripling sprang forth with a mighty shout,

Caught up the torch as it smouldered and lifted it high again
Till fanned by the winds of heaven it fired the souls of men!
And as I lay in darkness, the feet of the trampling crowd
Passed over and far beyond me, its peans proclaimed aloud,
While I learned, in the deepening shadows, this glorious verity:
'Tis the torch that the people follow whoever the bearer be!

[From the New England Magazine, Volume 34, March-August, 1906, page 347.]

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