10 May 2010

Poem from The Iron Heel

While reading Jack London's The Iron Heel, I happened upon this. According to the narrator of the novel, it was a favorite of her heroic husband, who led the fight against the rise of an oligarchy in the United States. To me it speaks of humanist pride and the celebration of life. From the 1907 edition, pages 184-186. 

He was fond of quoting a fragment from a certain poem. He had never seen the whole poem, and he had tried vainly to learn its authorship. I give here the fragment, not alone because he loved it, but because it epitomized the paradox that he was in the spirit of him, and his conception of his spirit. For how can a man, with thrilling, and burning, and exaltation, recite the following and still be mere moral earth, a bit of fugitive force, an evanescent form? Here it is: 


`Joy upon joy and gain upon gain
Are the destined rights of my birth,
And I shout the praise of my endless days
To the echoing edge of the earth.
Though I suffer all deaths that a man can die
To the uttermost end of time,
I have deep-drained this, my cup of bliss,
In every age and clime—
The froth of Pride, the tang of Power,
The sweet of Womanhood!
I drain the lees upon my knees,
For oh, the draught is good;
I drink to Life, I drink to Death,
And smack my lips with song,
For when I die, another `I’ shall pass the cup along.


`The man you drove from Eden’s grove
Was I, my Lord, was I,
And I shall be there when the earth and the air
Are rent from sea to sky;
For it is my world, my gorgeous world,
The world of my dearest woes,

From the first faint cry of the newborn
To the rack of the woman’s throes.


`Packed with the pulse of an unborn race,
Torn with a world’s desire,
The surging flood of my wild young blood
Would quench the judgment fire.
I am Man, Man, Man, from the tingling flesh
To the dust of my earthly goal,
From the nestling gloom of the pregnant womb
To the sheen of my naked soul.
Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh
The whole world leaps to my will,
And the unslaked thirst of an Eden cursed
Shall harrow the earth for its fill.
Almighty God, when I drain life’s glass
Of all its rainbow gleams,
The hapless plight of eternal night
Shall be none too long for my dreams.


`The man you drove from Eden’s grove
Was I, my Lord, was I,
And I shall be there when the earth and the air
Are rent from sea to sky;
For it is my world, my gorgeous world,
The world of my dear delight,
From the brightest gleam of the Arctic stre
am
To the dusk of my own love-night.’ 

5 comments:

Baley Petersen said...

I've read this before. Where have I read this?

smellincoffee said...

I don't know if London made it up or is only including an excerpt from a larger poem. It strikes me as a poem to be recited as a chant, or even sung loudly.

blp23 said...

Hi. I would like to recite this poem for an assignment in class, and I wanted to clarify its authorship. It is unknown whether it was written my London or just used by him? Does anyone know the original author?

blp23 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
smellincoffee said...

Alas, I don't know if London wrote the poem for the purposes of the novel, or if it existed prior and he's merely repeating it. Google references to it are few, and none mention authorship beyond it appearing in The Iron Heel. Do you have access to a physical copy of the book? I assume copyright law would force London to mention the original author in the acknowledgments or on the copyright page, if it wasn't him.

I for one lean toward London being the original author, but only because I've been unable to find any other possible source.