But you, Thomas Jefferson,
You could not lie so still,
You could not bear the weight of stone
On the quiet hill,
You could not keep your green grown peace
Nor hold your folded hand
If you could see your new world now,
Your new sweet land.
There was a time, Tom Jefferson,
When freedom made free men.
The new found earth and the new freed mind
Were brothers then.
There was a time when tyrants feared
The new world of the free.
Now freedom is afraid and shrieks
Words have not changed their sense so soon
Nor tyranny grown new.
The truths you held, Tom Jefferson,
Will still hold true.
What’s changed is freedom in this age.
What great men dared to choose
Small men now dare neither win
Freedom, when men fear freedom’s use
But love its useful name,
Has cause and cause enough for fear
And cause for shame.
We fought a war in freedom’s name
And won it in our own.
We fought to free a world and raised
A wall of stone.
Your countrymen who could have built
The hill fires of the free
To set the dry world all ablaze
With liberty –
To burn the brutal thorn in Spain
Of bigotry and hate
And the dead lie and the brittle weed
Beyond the Plate:
Who could have heaped the bloody straw,
The dung of time, to light
The Danube in a sudden flame
Of hope by night –
Your countrymen who could have hurled
Their freedom like a brand
Have cupped it to a candle spark
In a frightened hand.
Freedom that was a thing to use
They’ve made a thing to save
And staked it in and fenced it round
Like a dead man’s grave.
copyright: 1948 Archibald MacLeish
author bio: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poets/archibald-macleish
photo: Nancy Crampton