The Winnower

SOMEWHERE, nowhere, — in some vague realm or clime, —
I saw a mighty-statured Phantom stand ;
His feet were on this threshing-floor of Time,
A fan was in his hand.
He smote with it, and all things streamed and whirled
Before the blast of its tempestuous beat;
The ancient institutions of the world
Became as chaff and wheat.
Fear pierced my soul, but soon a thrilling joy
Flowered from that root, and my numbed lips grew brave.
O dread Conserver that must yet destroy !
Destroyer that will save !
Strong Winnower of the things of death and life,
I know you now, I cried. Smite with your fan !
Winnow the earth of enmity and strife !
Winnow the heart of man!
A thousand sophistries perplex the ray
Of the world’s dawning freedom : Seraph, smite !
Winnow the clouds that dim the newborn day !
Winnow the morning light!
There’s naught so true in science and in creeds,
And naught so good in governments and states,
But something truer evermore succeeds,
And better still awaits.
With bristling hosts and battlemented walls
Kings menace kings, and nations groan therefor:
Winnow the armaments and arsenals,
The iron husks of war !
Toil without end, to fill a few white hands
Of idle lords, gaunt millions still endure:
Winnow the unsunned hoards and unshared lands,
Estranging rich and poor !
Riches bear rule till Labor turns in hate,
And tyrant Wealth confronts the despot, Work:
Winnow the world’s oppressors, small and great!
Winnow the Tsar and Turk!
Pale anarchists conspire, mad to possess,
Or to pull down, what sober thrift has built :
Winnow alike the haunts of Lawlessness,
The gilded halls of Guilt!
Our politics are false and infidel,
Our trusted chiefs bend to the baser cause:
Smite with your fan: O Winnovver, winnow weli
The makers of our laws !
All barriers built by avarice, pride, and wrong,
Dividing men, — unbuild them with the breath
And buffet of your mighty fan, O strong
Angel of change and death !
Winnow this anxious life of pain and care !
But gently, winnow gently! Hear our cries !
To love at least be merciful! Oh, spare
Our tender human ties ! —
But cries are vain ; nor cries nor prayers avail
To hasten or delay the Winnower’s hand ;
Nothing so huge and firm, so fine or frail,
But it at last is fanned, —
Empires, beliefs, the things of art and fame,
The broad-based pyramids, the poet’s page ;
To his eternal patience ’t is the same,
A moment or an age.
Before his fan the mountains form and flee,
Continents pass ; and in its rhythmic beat,
The flying stars and whirling nebulæ
Are but as chaff and wheat.
Does naught, of all that Time and Nature yield,
Does naught, at last, but thought and spirit remain?
Nature and Time the changeful harvest field,
Souls the immortal grain !
J. T. Trowbridge.