by Luis G. Dato
Over the isles and oceans from the west
And east, her armies surged, each echelon
Landing as clockwork clicking with the dawn,
Obedient to Fate’s summons, Time’s behest.
Ally long missed, a much awaited guest,
America came with them o’er the foam,
Encountering in distant shores their home,
In the battle-death, abrupt, unwelcome rest.
Wave upon faultless wave, they came in glory,
Yet grander laurel than mere victory,
Their power the Philippines to life restored;
Inscribed in flame and blood the deathless story,
Of Liberty returning liberty,
Crushing forever the enemy abhorred.
How may our faltering lips, our halting pen,
A nation’s heart to unburden e’er aspire?
Long will notes falter, fail the hesitant lyre,
The tongue cleave to our mouth to sing in vain
That which shall live in memories of men,
While to remember still in men resides;
When will the years forget the gray-green tides,
That told America was here again?
Well might astound the grandeur of this deed,
A nation’s gift and priceless heritage
To pass to generations still unborn;
Her generous blood she shed at our sore need,
Our creeds she rescued from a new dark age,
When night was darkest, then she came with morn..
Roosevelt! America should hold in awe,
Like heraldry of kings your commoner’s name,
Perpetually you staked Man’s cosmic claim,
In worlds at war, for Freedom’s reign of law;
With you who visions of world union saw,
The Stars and Stripes became an oriflamme;
Heedless of sacrifice and blind to fame,
Europe you snatched from the Germanic claw,
From despond’s slough to heights sublime,
Not Europe’s only, but earth’s liberty!
Not Hitler’s nor the Hun your dynasty,
But roster of the champions Heaven hurled;
Your charters stand, a monument for Time,
America’s you were, and of the world.
Three years of darkness, fatal, frightful time,
When man was prized no dearer than as swine,
When History turned back, in Terror’s reign,
Rule of the sword, of treachery and crime;
When ne’er the evening fell, nor bell would chime,
But added to the avenging wrath divine,
Where never shall the future add one line
To Torture’s pages, writ with neither rhyme
Nor reason by Nippon! Men of the hills,
For whom sleep was a stranger, night is past!
Hear not with fear so rudely roused thy rest,
‘Tis not the foe by night to send cold thrills,
Of horror in our homes, stricken, aghast,
America comes, like thunder from the West!
An ominous silence broods beyond the sea,
Two-engined bombers feint a surprise thrust
Off-sea, the while in clouds of whirling dust,
Roaring, the buses teem with infantry.
“On to the coast! Repel the enemy!
Hail to the colors! Still in God we trust!”
Though they be slain, their armour lie with rust
For Home and, with God’s help, a people free.
Adieu to the boys as their swift truck slips
Around the corner in the deepening night,
A last embrace, a kiss on the young lips
Of the beloved one, left to see in fright,
A vision of the strange Apocalypse
Chuckle inaudible in eerie light.
Long had been set the stage of History:
Borne as by waters through the human tide,
Leering and lusty, fatal horseman ride,
The curse since Cain upon Fecundity,
Haughty and cruel, with effrontery,
Danger ignoring, and death to deride,
The mass moves on through Hell unstupefied
With air distracted, mien of mystery.
Now will the threads of History begin
Anew, the fields soon fill with epitaphs,
Dropped from the scales of Famine, scythes of Death;
Yet man moves on, inscrutable mannekin,
Who,when the battle joins still sings and laughs,
While o’er Humanity Charon lays his wreath.
The Apocalypse! the seven-horned beast,
Under whose hoofs, all justice, liberty
Are optical illusion, suave lie
Of visionaries at a drunken feast;
The Apocalypse! and four-horsed at the least,
And seven-crowned, each crown a blasphemy,
Each head, Nemesis of Humanity,
Bloody and swift, forever unappeased.
Acrid as wind, with sonorous absurd phrases
The universe it rides with ugly sneer
Blackened with smoke, a genii of the storm;
Its pungent breath all yesterday erases,
Leaving not even the memory of a tear,
Nor even a morsel for the hungry Worm.
Now are adrift the wheels of circumstance,
The long suspended sword of Damocles,
Girded afresh for the new Golden Fleece,
Past porticoes afire, as war gods dance!
Violent the pace, retreat or the advance,
Rendine the slumberous spell of Peace
As Mars devours the fair Hesperides,
And leering Charon casts his fatal glance
O’er armored legions in their bloody stride
Over the shambles of the ended calm:
Roaring they go, in their high dudgeon’s pride,
But the cool winds still sway the placid palm,
And in the fragrant hour of even-tide,
Deathlessly, oh, deathlessly, life sings her psalms.
Destiny stalks the human caravan,
Hardly had ceased the Nation’s jubilee,
With Peace, a rescued, last Eurydice,
In arms of the new Orpheus, luckless nun,
Than it again eludes the grasp of creed and clan;
Forfeit once more to strife the magic key,
As though by irony or Heaven’s decree,
No pure hand held it but a charlatan.
So from experience Man turns taciturn,
Peace savors in his mouth a bitter taste,
Who sees so oft his treasured castles burn,
His monuments of centuries laid in waste;
Sudden the spell, the rapture of Return,
Sudden the Victory soon lost in haste.
Now struts upon the stage caricature
Of the Peace man dreamed of to no avail
For ages, since the first-born Cain turned pale,
At sight of Abel’s blood, and to adjure
The hand of Heaven for his life impure;
Since Man in armour first beyond the veil
Saw how on earth the powers of Ill prevail,
Avarice, lust, a bloody cynosure.
With blood upon his brow lest man forget,
The vampire holds Humanity at bay,
Of well-oiled phrase and readier bayonet,
Who thunders over earth with lightning ray;
Beyond, loom spire, cathedral, minaret,
The innocent lamb, the unsuspecting prey.
Whence sprung this curse, what nascent dynasty
Of darkness should be traced with his descent,
Narcissian ogre, phantom insolent,
Sewer of crime, Ambition’s vagary?
From what foul brain was foaled this anarchy,
And rapine which the peace of nations rent,
Whence this lost soul of Hell impenitent,
Whence, who would do the world such injury?
Who may this soul of darkness now reclaim,
How set aright once more his path astray,
He who the race of man could so blaspheme?
None else but what has given him birth -the flame
Of Hell eternal where lost hopes betray,
So from his eyes his soul pass, ghastly gleam!
This was the upstart who with hymns of hate
Would hold upon the world its obsequy,
Mirror of ill, new-modelled knavery,
Who would Humanity so immolate
Upon the flames of conflict, execrate
The race with Superman’s apology,
Who now endures, historic irony,
What he designed the vanquished nations’ fate!
Ah, bloody, bitter was the daily bread,
He sought with which to nourish his Desire;
The plains with Victory and Defeat run red,
And at the feet of Power, powers expire;
This was the ghost of terror, mankind’s dread,
Ashes upon a bomb’s impromptu pyre.
Then was the mission reached — were they afraid,
Who viewed the embattled, naming corridor,
Smoke overhead, and drenched with slaughter’s gore,
After the flare, the endless cannonade
Shattering and booming through the blackened glade?
Now War’s book opens, bringing to the fore,
The bloodbath of the heroes, future lore,
Longer to stay than the last barricade.
The pledge with God and Home man would renew,
Life naught become on the disputed plain
Irrevocably earth’s glory or war’s rue,
Bright laurel leaf or else the supreme pain,
The rendezvous to keep at last men knew,
Hereafter they would live, nor die in vain.
After the duel of thunder, atrophy
Of shell-shocked ear and dazzled eye, the hell
Gone under fire, the blind will to repel
Onset of feint of foe, the agony
Unspeakable of the last mystery,
Of the lost friend as ‘neath ill stars he fell,
In the last rush to the doomed citadel,
The last lap in the plod to Victory:
After delirious, frantic wars by night,
Blessed be peace, of friends the dear abode;
After the ultimate fury, first respite
To reach through jungles the first stretch of road,
The sunny smile, the tremulous delight,
While far or near stray enemy shells explode.
Six years or more of whirling hurricane,
Years laid in ashes, bloody masquerade,
Never in human memory may fade
The years when mankind dragged a captive’s chain,
When Peace, its very memory was bane,
When Law survived, a hunted retrograde
Through lurid light and heartless cavalcade;
Six years of gloom, and then the light again
That follows like a flood Wrong’s overthrow;
After the rats and cellars, the bright vision
Of stars and sun, no more wan-cheeked Despair;
Always the birth comes bounding from the throe,
Glad laughter follow hollow-tongued derision,
After the night of Horror, Freedom’s air.
And thunder broke, tremendous, odious sound
To thwarted foes who in the midnight peer,
Affrighted at the rapture of their rear,
While desperate they reach the battle-ground;
Shell-burst and bombs above the vales rebound,
As the first waves upon the coast appear,
Nippon retreats! a muffled, maddened cheer,
Of Liberation audible, profound
Thrills through the lands which knew so long the fang
Of Nippon’s Octopus Famine and drought –
While the hills blaze, the hearts of millions sang
With jubillance too deep for word of mouth
The Stars and Stripes proudly again to hang,
For the new time had broken from the South.
No swarms of children roam the battle-grounds
While o’er war’s roads the P.U. cars race down,
To reach the bustling market hours in town
Where men, no longer soldiers, make the rounds
In quest of profits, once the seasoned hounds
Who hunted Japs. Children will match the noun,
Pronoun and verb, and measure the unknown,
While with their merry voice the school resounds,
From blood-stained walls the mystery inquire
Which Life, like an industrious miser hides;
Uphill, artillery grinds the brittle gods
Of clay, once Nippon’s outposts of Empire;
O’er soft, green rice-beds, trucks sprawl on their sides,
And like some Sphinx, the plowman breaks the sods.
Dusty and hot, the G.I.’s march along
The cobbled, bullet-riddled, palm-fringed street,
Steady and rhythmic, the unweary feet
March to the ringing arc of bugle song.
Three ghostly years and more! the tryst was long,
Weary the wait, return so bitter-sweet
Of the Ideal from the first retreat
Of Freedom’s standards from the hosts of wrong!
Heavy, exuding sweat, tramping they come
The spirit of the homeland in their gait,
The good Samaritan and heart of Christ;
Slack step! Break ranks! a letter comes from home,
A pack of Camels, sea-soaked, and over-late,
A WAC’s new photo, semi-nude, sun-kist.
Luis G. Dato (July 4, 1906 – January 29, 1985) was a poet, writer and educator from Sta. Cruz, Baao, Camarines Sur. He published books in English including Manila A Collection of verse (1926), My Book of Verses (1936) and the Land of Mai in 1975. He also wrote several books and text in Bikol such as, Vocabulario Bikol-Ingles-Kastila (1963), Cantahon na Bikol (1969), Morfologia kan Tataramon na Bikol (serialized in Naga Times), Patotodon sa Bikol (Bikol Mail) and Sarabihon sa Bikol.