Poem: From Jack London’s ‘The Iron Heel’

I chanced upon a rather fine poem today while re-reading Jack London’s “The Iron Heel”.    It made such an impression upon me that I thought I would reproduce it here, with a little from the paragraph that precedes it for context.

…it epitomoized the paradox that he was in the spirit of him, and his conception of his spirit.  For how can a man, with thrilling, and burning, and exaltation, recite the following and still be mere mortal earth, a bit of fugitive force, an evanescent form?  Here it is:

`Joy upon joy and gain upon gain
Are the destined rights of my birth,
And I shout the praise of my endless days
To the echoing edge of the earth.
Though I suffer all deaths that a man can die
To the uttermost end of time,
I have deep-drained this, my cup of bliss,
In every age and clime—

The froth of Pride, the tang of Power,
The sweet of Womanhood!
I drain the lees upon my knees,
For oh, the draught is good;
I drink to Life, I drink to Death,
And smack my lips with song,
For when I die, another `I’ shall pass the cup along.

`The man you drove from Eden’s grove
Was I, my Lord, was I,
And I shall be there when the earth and the air
Are rent from sea to sky;
For it is my world, my gorgeous world,
The world of my dearest woes,
From the first faint cry of the newborn
To the rack of the woman’s throes.

`Packed with the pulse of an unborn race,
Torn with a world’s desire,
The surging flood of my wild young blood
Would quench the judgment fire.
I am Man, Man, Man, from the tingling flesh
To the dust of my earthly goal,
From the nestling gloom of the pregnant womb
To the sheen of my naked soul.
Bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh
The whole world leaps to my will,
And the unslaked thirst of an Eden cursed
Shall harrow the earth for its fill.
Almighty God, when I drain life’s glass
Of all its rainbow gleams,
The hapless plight of eternal night
Shall be none too long for my dreams.

`The man you drove from Eden’s grove
Was I, my Lord, was I,
And I shall be there when the earth and the air
Are rent from sea to sky;
For it is my world, my gorgeous world,
The world of my dear delight,
From the brightest gleam of the Arctic stream
To the dusk of my own love-night.’

Edit – I have just discovered that the complete volume of The Iron Heel is available to read, for free, online.  I would encourage anyone who has not read it to do so with utmost haste.  It truly is a remarkable novel.  (and if you do, please come back here and share your opinion of it.)


~ by blacksheepdiarist on June 25, 2007.

5 Responses to “Poem: From Jack London’s ‘The Iron Heel’”

  1. George

    For the most part I agree with you and enjoy reading your posts.

  2. Hi, thanks for publishing this poem. My copy of Iron Heel is in a box somewhere. We had a flood and are rebuilding, higher. My father, born in 1906, loved this poem enough to memorize it and recite it often. It had real meaning for him, which is interesting, because he considered himself an atheist. He was also a materialist, however, and I’ll bet he was thinking of the fact that every atom within him was here long before him. Just reassembled. thanks, karen

  3. love the poem reading the book now…check out OIL! by Upton Sinclair if you haven’t already, it’s remarkable and similar in topic.

  4. Yes, I am now reading the original The Iron Heel of which in 1907 Jack London wrote…and it might be that his was the first mention to that phrase, which was taken over by the Nazi and much advertising toward it’s foot stepping on the middle class or workers or the Jewish people have been ptinted. The book I have is 1913 on this title page and the prublisher was Macmillan London and New York…the poem area is where I am now and it certainly immediately reminded me of Edgar Allen Boe and that is why I looked it up. London’s poem has that same rhythm as his Annabelle Lee and the mention of the sea. Thank you for publishing the full words in this blog…Bon

  5. Isn’t it “glorious world” not gorgeous? But a very remarkable poem…one I committed to memory in high school.

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