Today is Victory in Europe Day

And in commemoration of that momentous occasion, the great radio dramatist Norman Corwin wrote a radio program called “On A Note of Triumph,” that told the story of the war and reflected on the promise of a world where fascism looked like it was defeated.  And though it wasn’t, the promise of that moment resounds still and inspires.  The prayer below (“not a formal prayer, not a down-on-your-knees prayer,” Corwin said in a 2001 interview with Tony Kahn) invokes some of that promise in beautiful language.  And as beautiful as the words are, they’re best listened to in the context of the great radio program (which is referenced plenty in Philip Roth’s I Married a Communist, where I first heard of Corwin and “On a Note of Triumph” from).  The poem brings to mind Anna Louise Strong’s words from Soviets Expected It, written before the war had ended:

“Act swiftly!  History never gave man such a threat and such a chance!”

The world’s in a not dissimilar place and only through the fulfillment of Corwin’s secular sacrament can it pull back from it.

Poem from “On a Note of Triumph”

Lord God of trajectory and blast
Whose terrible sword has laid open the serpent
So it withers in the sun for the just to see,
Sheathe now the swift avenging blade with the names
of nations writ on it,
And assist in the preparation of the ploughshare.

Lord God of fresh bread and tranquil mornings,
Who walks in the circuit of heaven among the worthy,
Deliver notice to the fallen young men
That tokens of orange juice and a whole egg appear
now before the hungry children;

That night again falls cooling on the earth as quietly
as when it leaves your hand;

That Freedom has withstood the tyrant
like a Malta in a hostile sea,
And that the soul of man is surely a Sevastopol
which goes down hard and leaps from ruin quickly.

Lord God of the topcoat and the living wage
Who has furred the fox against the time of winter
And stored provender of bees in summer’s brightest
Do bring sweet influences to bear upon the assembly
Accept the smoke of the milltown among the accredited
clouds of the sky:
Fend from the wind with a house and hedge, him
whom you made in your image,
And permit him to pick of the tree and the flock
That he may eat today without fear of tomorrow
And clothe himself with dignity in December.

Lord God of test-tube and blueprint
Who jointed molecules of dust and shook them till
their name was Adam,
Who taught worms and stars how they could live together,
Appear now among the parliaments of conquerors
and give instruction to their schemes:
Measure out new liberties so none shall suffer
for his father’s color or the credo of his choice:
Post proofs that brotherhood is not so wild a dream as
those who profit by postponing it pretend:
Sit at the treaty table and convoy the hopes of the little
peoples through expected straits,
And press into the final seal a sign that peace will
come for longer than posterities can see ahead,
That man unto his fellow man shall be a friend forever.

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