The Ship Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific

Francis Lieber

Rend America asunder   
And unite the binding sea   
That emboldens man and tempers,—   
      Make the ocean free.   
Break the bolt that bars the passage,         
That our river richly pours   
Western wealth to western nations;   
      Let that sea be ours,—   
Ours by all the hardy whalers,   
By the pointing Oregon,           
By the west-impelled and working,   
      Unthralled Saxon son.   
Long indeed they have been wooing,   
The Pacific and his bride;   
Now ’t is time for holy wedding,—           
      Join them by the tide.   
Have the snowy surfs not struggled   
Many centuries in vain   
That their lips might seal the union?   
      Lock them main to main.           
When the mighty God of nature   
Made this favored continent,   
He allowed it yet unsevered,   
      That a race be sent,   
Able, mindful of his purpose,           
Prone to people, to subdue,   
And to bind the land with iron,   
      Or to force them through.   
What the prophet-navigator,   
Seeking straits to his Catais,           
But began, now consummate it—   
      Make the strait and pass.   
Blessed the eyes that shall behold it,   
When the pointing boom shall veer,   
Leading through the parted Andes,           
      While the nations cheer!   
There at Suez, Europe’s mattock   
Cuts the briny road with skill,   
And must Darien bid defiance   
      To the pilot still?          
Do we breathe this breath of knowledge   
Purely to enjoy its zest?   
Shall the iron arm of science   
      Like a sluggard rest?   
Up then, at it! earnest people!           
Bravely wrought thy scorning blade,   
But there ’s fresher fame in store yet,   
      Glory for the spade.   
What we want is naught in envy,   
And for all we pioneer;           
Let the keels of every nation   
      Through the isthmus steer.   
Must the globe be always girded   
Ere we get to Bramah’s priest?   
Take the tissues of your Lowells           
      Westward to the East.   
Ye, that vanquish pain and distance,   
Ye, enmeshing Time with wire,   
Court ye patiently forever   
      Yon Antarctic ire?           
Shall the mariner forever   
Double the impending capes,   
While his longsome and retracting   
      Needless course he shapes?   
What was daring for our fathers,           
To defy those billows fierce,   
Is but tame for their descendants;   
      We are bid to pierce.   
Ye that fight with printing armies,   
Settle sons on forlorn track,           
As the Romans flung their eagles,   
      But to win them back.   
Who, undoubting, worship boldness,   
And, if baffled, bolder rise,   
Shall we lag when grandeur beckons           
      To this good enterprise?   
Let the vastness not appall us;   
Greatness is thy destiny.   
Let the doubters not recall us;   
      Venture suits the free.           
Like a seer, I see her throning,   
Winland strong in freedom’s health,   
Warding peace on both the waters,   
      Widest Commonwealth.   
Crowned with wreaths that still grow greener,           
Guerdon for untiring pain,   
For the wise, the stout, and steadfast:   
      Rend the land in twain.   
Cleave America asunder,   
This is worthy work for thee.           
Hark! The seas roll up imploring,   
      “Make the ocean free.”

Work on the ship canal linking the Atlantic to the Pacific ocean across the isthmus of Panama began in 1881. The canal was only completed in 1914. It is 48 miles long and saves ships a journey of thousands of miles around the southern tip of South America.

Main Location:

Panama Canal, Panama