Two Poems on Woodrow Wilson


Two Poems on Woodrow Wilson


Bates, Katherine Lee, 1859-1929






Katharine Lee Bates writes two poems of tribute for Woodrow Wilson.


Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Papers, University of California, Santa Barbara


Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum


Woodrow Wilson




Two poems on Woodrow Wilson by Katharine Lee Bates, author of "America the Beautiful", late Professor of English Literature in Wellesley College, published in her volume "AMERICA THE DREAM" by Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York, 1930


The hemlock cup for Socrates;
     The cross for Christ our Lord;
And evermore the centuries
     Are listening to their word.

O Woodrow Wilson, firm of soul,
     For you is no defeat;
The crown of thorns, the bitter bowl,
     Make victory complete.

Deserted and betrayed today,
     A million morrows come
To follow where you lead the way
     And make the world a home.
October, 1920

                       Woodrow Wilson

You may trample the Dreamer--and God forgive
     The wrongs men's hatreds do!--
But the Dream, the Dream, the Dream shall live
     Till it wins the heart of you.

We stand so close to terror and to splendor
     Muffled in the dark or dazzled by the glow,
We can not tell our doom from our defender,

Bewildered by imensity of woe.
Fear, famine, massacre the waste globe over,
Old empires rocking, states in rending throe 

Of revolution, yet the treasure-trover
Is groping in the ruins, and men graze 
Like cattle in their own fenced field of clover,

Unmindful that the forest is ablaze.
Now have we dealt with our high Patriot,
The world's bright beacon in distracted days?

Still lights in darkness shine, and still their lot 
Is that the darkness comprehendeth not 


Epitome of all hisotric pages,
We have read the ancient savageries of war
In print scarce dried. All dreams of all ages

Crowd our brief stage; the stealthy senator
Poisons the wind with whispers against greatness
That dwindles him, till our worn warrior

Is ringed with daggers; crookedness and straightness,
The traitor knights and questers of the Grail,
Merge in the last dim battle, desolatness

Of chivalry, where blindly through the veil
Of wizard mist spears at haphazard smite
Sore-wounded Arthur in his silver mail,

Until the pagans triumph in the fight
Sobs into silence of the deepening night.


Spirit long shaping for sublime endeavor,
A Sword of God, the gleaming metal came
From stern Scoth ancestry, where whatsoever

Was true, was pure, was noble, won acclaim;
From scholar sires of holy consecration
Whose saints were Knox and Calvin. In the flame

And on the Anvil, in that strong creation
Of blade from ore, did not Geneva call
Unto Geneva? For the world's salvation

Was wrought that brand, a splendor over all,
Deep-scored by many a skilled atrificer,
With runes, cross-hilted, jeweled for the hall,

Keen-edged for combat, burning throug base slur 
And cruel calumny, Excalibur.


Upflung upon an agony excedding
All agonies this haggard earth has borne,
On his one heart beat all the frantic pleading 

Of all the starved, plague-ridden, battle-torn,
Perishing peoples, while those furtive foeman,
Old Selfishness, Derision, Faith Forsworn,

Let fly their venomed arrows, practiced bowman  
From ambush. So the wrestling glorious dream
That winged his heart was brought to dust, an omen, 

Ill for humanity, prompt to blaspheme
A brightness dimmed, a roseate vision paled.
Yet from that trampled heart the immortal gleam.

Ascends a living League of Nations hailed
By Christmas chimes. Its champion has not failed. 


Democracy! Alas, our souls our shaken. 
The wisdom of the multitude is vain,
A passion that all varying winds awaken,

Save it become the wisdom of the main,
The innumerable-crested, tossing ocean,
Whose tides, though buffeted by hurricane,

Follow with deep, undauntable devotion
Their guiding moon, calm goddess of the sea,
Rhythm and law of all its foaming motion.

O surging hearts! Unless divine decree 
Of Right control us, one more sorry jest
For cynic Time shall our Republic be.

"Democracy is on its final test,"
Warns our white leader, who has loved it best.

December, 1920 

Original Format




Bates, Katherine Lee, 1859-1929, “Two Poems on Woodrow Wilson,” 1930, WWP19633, Eleanor Wilson McAdoo Collection at the University of California-Santa Barbara, Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Staunton, Virginia.