The Tree of Knowing Good and Evil
Ages rise in splendor, born with tumult to be free,
Given good and evil by the serpent on the tree:
Apple for your tasting, dear, a wisdom God may fear,
Taste the peach of higher sight that makes the cosmos clear.
Swiftly all the schoolmen are a jape one might despise,
Mocked by haunted engines that are daring to be wise.
Peasants, unenlightened, must be freed to serve the rod,
Money for their chaining seized from altars raised to God.
None can for them speak because the king has lost his head,
priests are turned to bureaucrats, and saints are lying dead.
Homebound wars of faith must all the peaceful nations flee!
Fight instead for cotton and for gold across the sea,
Fight instead for oil, which makes the highways rise;
Call it 'cost of freedom' whenever a soldier dies.
Freedom shall be given; no longer under heel,
All may follow reason, or be slaves to what they feel;
Freedom to be counted, to rise and speak your say:
Be as free as e'er you please, as long as you obey.
Babel rose in glory as the railroads ran on steam,
Bearing stones of science quarried from the land of dream,
Bearing hopes and horrors such as gods alone can make,
Weapons for the grasping hands that from the rajahs take.
Close the plains and commons; there's profit there to find;
Push the peasants off the land when they speak their mind;
Bring them, though they kick, to the progress of the age,
Teaching all that liberty is working for a wage.
'Prince of powers of the air' you thought was but a name;
Rumor broadcast on the air is power just the same:
Do your part and buy with thanks the fruits we advertise:
Factories, plastic, cars, and silver planes to fill the skies.
Life is like tradition; it is something handed down,
Being as you were before, heritage as crown;
Thirsting to be like the gods, we break the ties of past.
Ages born of breaking, though, unbroken cannot last.
Solving every problem will a newer problem form;
Never will the lightning-fire save you from the storm.
Yet you shall be mighty, as wise as gods on thrones,
Ruling land and sea and air till darkness takes your bones.
Good is not denied you; you may know all goods you please,
Nothing for the getting but to reach your hand and sieze,
Even if they harm you by their measure, mode or kind,
Even if the taking leaves a better good behind.
Greater shall you be, day by day, and year by year,
Greater in accomplishment for which you pay so dear;
Greater than the gods of old will ever men arise;
Greater till they are no more and every wonder dies.
Might on might will pile, like a tower that you build;
Moving all by reason, lightning you will wield;
Up and up to heaven, your limit only sky,
Till your meaning garbles though you know not how or why:
Every age in splendor has a doom, that it must pass;
Every age of might reveals the serpent in the grass.