originally published on November 2, 2020 on MacKenzie Lyric Poetry

Where shall they hide now, the merchants of death,
Who cloaked our eyes and robbed our throats of voice,
Who muzzled minds and sought to gag our breath,
Who in the blood of innocents rejoice?
To whom shall they turn, depravity’s elite,
The dream-smashing mobs, despoilers of youth,
Now that their toppled gods are obsolete
And die in darkness at the dawn of Truth?
Against what social order shall they now inveigh?
Against what form of right and good renew their fray?

They had their century, now we have ours.
They had their heaps of human skulls and bones,
Their killing fields, their camps, their prison towers,
Their burning cities with their no-go zones;
They had their vision of mankind made brute,
Enslaved by lust and bound by envy’s chains,
Deprived of faith, of reason destitute,
With poison coursing through their state-owned veins;
They had their sunless century of black and grey,
Their millions dead, their glut of debt they can’t repay.

They had their century, now we have ours.
Their purchased poets and their empty bards
Will not ring in these times, but waste their hours
Repeating vapid phrases, vacant words,
Nor will their sages see, nor artists draw
The marvels of this age our toils brought forth.
Their crafts are guided by no form, no law;
Their sky wants stars, their compass lacks a north.
It is for us to sing, whom God leads not astray,
That we who never feared, old shapes of fear allay.

But one man pledged the fortune he possessed
To us who cried in silence and in vain,
Eschewing pleasure, wealth, foregoing rest,
His labors consecrated to our pain.
For we had been forgotten, we who keep
The dying groans of soldiers in our ears,
The dear immortal dead, who gently sleep
In time’s soft breast, beyond the flight of years.
And he remembered us, and looked on our dismay,
This man whose word, once given, he could not betray.

And we allowed to slip what made us free,
Let laurels wilt upon our heroes’ brows,
Confining to the drawers of memory,
Their virtues we in hollow words espouse:
Our fathers’ sacred faith we failed to live;
Our fathers’ castles we have left undone;
We learned to take, forgetting how to give,
And soon discarded all that they had won.
Until one man, whose aye was aye, whose nay was nay,
Stood by us, not above us, opening our way.

Nor did he scorn our ancient loyalty
To God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
To blessed Mary in her royalty,
And Christ our King, regarding not the cost;
Nor did he blush to say the Holy Name
Of Him who by His Cross had saved the world,
But to that crown gave reverence the same,
In spite of every insult that was hurled,
That now we mark our time, our epoch’s dawning ray,
To greet, as one, the wonders of the widening day.



Joseph Charles MacKenzie is a traditional lyric poet, the only American to have won Scottish International Poetry Competition. His poetry has appeared in The New York Times, The Scotsman (Edinburgh), The Independent (London), US News and World Report, Google News, and many other outlets. He writes primarily for the Society of Classical Poets (New York) and Trinacria (New York). MacKenzie has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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17 Responses

  1. Rod Walford

    Joseph……..One of the finest poems I have read for many a year! Congratulations…..particularly on your final verse which is superb. The entire poem is priceless……I just love it!

  2. Sarban Bhattacharya

    Joseph Charles MacKenzie’s poems on the inauguration of President Trump are finest specimens of classical poetry. They are in many ways as grandiloquent as John Dryden’s Tory verse.

  3. Joe Tessitore

    My eyes tear as I add my voice to theirs, along with a heartfelt welcome back – it was truly worth the wait.

  4. Margaret Coats

    Magnificent in form and content, especially the powerful tenderness of the fourth stanza, and the strong affirmations of the last.

  5. C.B. Anderson

    I believe, Joseph Charles, that I understand this poem, but, unfortunately things might not have gone as we trusted they would. Now, as Christians we are enjoined to have hope, and you, especially, as a devout Roman Catholic, are required to have hope, but dark forces have routed our expectations. I am not yet willing to cave in to despair, but it’s a close thing. Perhaps there is a greater plan of which we are unaware, and perhaps, even, an ace that our Donald is holding in his hand. I hope that the second inauguration will not prove to be as delayed as the second coming has been, but, really, it’s not for me to say. It was good to hear from you again; you never fail to kindle light in the heart of my soul with words and, a fortiori, The Word.

  6. Beate Haddad

    (William Shakespeare would be proud of him.) It’s a gift given by our mighty God and if it’s His Divine Will, Joseph Charles MacKenzie might recite it one day in the White House in front of the elections voted honorably president!

  7. Beate Haddad

    Susan Jarvis, I would never indulge myself in comparing the bard William Shakespeare to Joseph Charles MacKenzie or any other poet.
    I’m really sorry that my comment is uncomprehended.
    I just said in brackets that William Shakespeare would have been proud of him that implicates especially political but the most poetic attitudes.

    • C.B. Anderson

      Susan Jarvis Bryant, Beate, never weighed in on this, so why do you write that your comment was misunderstood. And by the way, those were parentheses, not brackets — brackets look like this: […].

      • Joe Tessitore

        Thanks, C.B., for weighing in.
        I was wondering what he was talking about and thought I might have missed something.

  8. Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    Dear Friends,

    I thank you for your comments and wish to return your kindness in sharing my principles with you.

    You see, I am not and have never aspired to be a formalist. I am a traditional lyric poet. There is a world of difference.

    In our language of English, Caedmon was first to express the final ends of poetry.

    I declare these to be the glory of God and conversion of souls.
    All that arises from principles other than these is not and never will be poetry, but simple prosody.

    Philosophy, politics, humor, even lewdness and perversion, can all find perfect or imperfect expression in verse, but never in poetry.

    Poetry is not versified thought or opinion.

    Poetry is the radiance of God’s word through language ordered by grace collaborating with nature.

    I stand by this definition which has never been refuted, only rejected by those who are convicted by its truth—the bitter, stale old pretenders of a day that is gone.

    All good wishes!

    Joseph Charles MacKenzie

    • Anonymous

      I do not disagree with that which you say, but do you mean by this that all the poetry written by people who do not believe in God is merely “verse”. Again, if you mean this not, I have no trouble with what you say, only curiosity.


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