Thursday, February 24, 2011

The perfect poem for our Time

Tiananmen Square, China 1989

              -by Sam Walter Foss (June 19, 1858 - February 26, 1911) 

Men seem as alike as the leaves on the trees,
As alike as the bees in a swarming of bees;
And we look at the millions that make up the state
All equally little and equally great,
And the pride of our courage is cowed.
Then Fate calls for a man who is larger than men --
There's a surge in the crowd -- there's a movement -- and then
There arises a man that is larger than men --
And the man comes up from the crowd.

The chasers of trifles run hither and yon,
And the little small days of small things go on,
And the world seems no better at sunset than dawn,
And the race still increases its plentiful spawn.
And the voice of our wailing is loud.
Then the Great Deed calls out for the Great Men to come,
And the Crowd, unbelieving, sits sullen and dumb --
But the Great Deed is done, for the Great Man is come --
Aye, the man comes up from the crowd.

There's a dead hum of voices, all say the same thing,
And our forefathers' songs are the songs that we sing,
And the deeds by our fathers and grandfathers done
Are done by the son of the son of the son,
And our heads in contrition are bowed.
Lo, a call for a man who shall make all things new
Goes down through the throng! See! he rises in view!
Make room for the men who shall make all things new! --
For the man who comes up from the crowd.

And where is the man who comes up from the throng
Who does the new deed and who sings the new song,
And makes the old world as a world that is new?
And who is the man? It is you! It is you!
And our praise is exultant and proud.
We are waiting for you there -- for you are the man!
Come up from the jostle as soon as you can;
Come up from the crowd there, for you are the man --
The man who comes up from the crowd.

(Click here for more about Sam Walter Foss, a poet introduced to me by my family doctor this year.)

Tunisia 2011 (photo via Google images)

Egypt 2011 (photo via

Wisconsin 2011 (Photo via

Libya 2011 (Photo via AP-Hussein Malla)

About this video:


4 June [2009] is the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Be part of a memorial made of dancing bodies in cities around the world- this video introduces the dance based on the steps of tank man, who faced off the tanks in 1989 and became a symbol of courage against tyranny. For more info and to join this worldwide dance spectacular: It is an artwork by Deborah Kelly featuring Teik Kim Pok dancing choreography by Jane McKernan in a video made by Sven Simulacrum. With many thanks to May Ee Wong, Fiona Freiheit, Frank Motz, Wei Lai, Martin del Amo, Fei Wong, Lachlan Warner, Celia White, Mark Mitchell, Lee Weng Choy, Estee Wah, Su Goldfish, Bec Dean, Katie Hepworth, Kernow Craig and David Teh.

Protester clip art via



Theodore Daniel Richards said...

Bravo maestra! A courageous post.

the watercats said...

There is definately something in the air this year. Myself and the ronald had a conversation, a couple of days after new years day, we commented how there was a tangible something, something we couldn't describe, like the thick atmosphere before a storm. It was either going to be really good, or really bad.. I guess, each of those things begets the other... who know's where we'll end up! Bring it on I say :-)

mythopolis said...

Its actually quite chilling to think about. The struggle against oppression, and the many brave souls who have given their lives for it. It brings to mind the many war memorials, or the vast cemeteries that tell the toll of war. And it brings to mind a number of world leaders who tried to change things and were subsequently assassinated.

Thanks for posting this. Both the poem and the video were quite moving.

susan said...

That's a wonderful poem and a truly delightful post. I never would have guessed the Libyans would have been brave enough.

Kathe W. said...

Lydia- this is such a wonderful thoughtful post- we all have to pause and think and remember

ds said...

I've been thinking of Tiananmen Square also. That was quite a year (fall of Berlin Wall, Solidarity). It comes in waves, doesn't it?

Thank you for this. The poem is so very true.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

China may never fall apart, but the people were heroic for trying. Tunisia, Egypt,, love it. You can oppress people only for so long. Then watch out.

And Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio...wtch out. Is this the new american revolution?

La Belette Rouge said...

Absolutely incredible. What an incredible anthem of liberty. Seeing freedom emerge is such a wonderful thing to witness.

kj said...

god lydia, i so appreciate your consciousness and concern. every day now i wonder what is happening throughout the mideast and the world, and i hope.

this poem! i am going to study the line and rhyme sequence for inspiration and copying. oh if i could ever write a poem like this...(in my dreams!)

Lydia said...

Theodore Daniel Richards~ I loved your "Bravo" nearly as much as I love this poem. :)

the watercats~ The conversation you describe with Ronald would have been fascinating to tape...if you had known ahead of time that you would be having it, which, of course, you would not it simply becomes another indicator of the "thick atmosphere before a storm" that appears to be happening.

mythopolis~ I have been thinking of those world (and movement) leaders who were assassinated for taking the lead/taking a stand in the past, especially Anwar el-Sadat in recent weeks. I had his wonderful autobiography In Search of Identity but sent it to my nephew some years ago when his interest in Egypt became strong. Would like to read it again.

susan~ The Libyan people must have been mysteriously seething for many years, their anger welling and able to be pronounced now due to the inspiration from other lands. They will endure much...

Kathe~ Yes, thank you. Does 1989 not seem like only yesterday in some regards, and in other ways almost not a part of our lifetimes? How strange....

ds~ My pleasure; it was wonderful to share this with you all. You are right that it was quite a year (everyone remembers the Berlin Wall but nice to be reminded of the excitement of Solidarity), and 2011 looks like it will be quite a year, too.

MacGregors~ Yes, they were heroic for trying. I looked at quite a few different videos at youtube about the rebellion and about Tank Man while preparing this post. The people were remarkable. Amazing to me, also, were the street scenes with everyone on bicycles....transportation in China has changed dramatically.

Many are wondering about the possibility of this being the new American revolution. Where will it take us? What will we make of it?

Belette Rouge~ It really is incredible to be witnesses to all that is happening worldwide now. I also think it is important for each of us to figure out what role we have to play, be it minute or huge.

kj~ First, your most recent poem blew me away. You are a very good poet! Second, I agree about the poem in this post; it is so strong and so wise and I like it better each time I read it.

My dear doctor sat with me in one of his patient rooms and quoted from memory another of Foss' poems, one that is so indicative of the kind of man who has headed my health care for more than 20 years now. He is nearly 82 and it pains me to say that I suppose one day I will share that poem at my blog as my tribute to him (I hope you won't know which poem it is for many years).

Frosty Duncan said...

Thank you for this post, there are so many emotions being felt by the actions of the people around the world, I too Have wondered if knowing I could be shot by a sniper for wanting freedom, could I march? I hope I could.

Phivos Nicolaides said...

A great post. Always caring dear Lydia about the rest of the world and not only for your own country. This proves the greatness of your personality, thinking and emotions.

Lydia said...

Frosty~ I apologize for letting my replies slide a few days. As always, it was a pleasure to hear from you, to know you were here. :)

Phivos~ Same apology to you as above to Frosty! I am humbled by your comment...and thank you for these kind words so undeserved.



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