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The Louisiana Purchase

by Douglas Malloch

Like men who play at chess, great minds there are
That play with nations—by a move or chance
They make an epoch in the world's advance,
They seal sweet peace or loosen bloody war.

Yet they who play at chess and play at strife
Know not the unrevealed, the ultimate.
How much of human life appears as fate;
How much of fate seems human-ordered life.

The little things men oft esteem the most,
And scorn the greater, vital things they do;
How great is Austerlitz till Waterloo;
How small are titles on an exile coast.

The one-time bauble of a foreign throne—
A throne unconscious of fore-doomed defeat—
Arises now, its destiny complete,
A greater empire than Napoleon's own.

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