“I am not one who has disgraced beauty of sentiment by deformity of conduct, or the maxims of a freeman by the actions of a slave; but, by the grace of God, I have kept my life unsullied.” –MILTON’S Defence of the People of England.
O Mother State! the winds of March
Blew chill o’er Auburn’s Field of God,
Where, slow, beneath a leaden arch
Of sky, thy mourning children trod.
And now, with all thy woods in leaf,
Thy fields in flower, beside thy dead
Thou sittest, in thy robes of grief,
A Rachel yet uncomforted!
And once again the organ swells,
Once more the flag is half-way hung,
And yet again the mournful bells
In all thy steeple-towers are rung.
And I, obedient to thy will,
Have come a simple wreath to lay,
Superfluous, on a grave that still
Is sweet with all the flowers of May.
I take, with awe, the task assigned;
It may be that my friend might miss,
In his new sphere of heart and mind,
Some token from my band in this.
By many a tender memory moved,
Along the past my thought I send;
The record of the cause he loved
Is the best record of its friend.
No trumpet sounded in his ear,
He saw not Sinai’s cloud and flame,
But never yet to Hebrew seer
A clearer voice of duty came.
God said: “Break thou these yokes; undo
These heavy burdens. I ordain
A work to last thy whole life through,
A ministry of strife and pain.
“Forego thy dreams of lettered ease,
Put thou the scholar’s promise by,
The rights of man are more than these.”
He heard, and answered: “Here am I!”
He set his face against the blast,
His feet against the flinty shard,
Till the hard service grew, at last,
Its own exceeding great reward.
Lifted like Saul’s above the crowd,
Upon his kingly forehead fell
The first sharp bolt of Slavery’s cloud,
Launched at the truth he urged so well.
Ah! never yet, at rack or stake,
Was sorer loss made Freedom’s gain,
Than his, who suffered for her sake
The beak-torn Titan’s lingering pain!
The fixed star of his faith, through all
Loss, doubt, and peril, shone the same;
As through a night of storm, some tall,
Strong lighthouse lifts its steady flame.
Beyond the dust and smoke he saw
The sheaves of Freedom’s large increase,
The holy fanes of equal law,
The New Jerusalem of peace.
The weak might fear, the worldling mock,
The faint and blind of heart regret;
All knew at last th’ eternal rock
On which his forward feet were set.
The subtlest scheme of compromise
Was folly to his purpose bold;
The strongest mesh of party lies
Weak to the simplest truth he told.
One language held his heart and lip,
Straight onward to his goal he trod,
And proved the highest statesmanship
Obedience to the voice of God.
No wail was in his voice,–none heard,
When treason’s storm-cloud blackest grew,
The weakness of a doubtful word;
His duty, and the end, he knew.
The first to smite, the first to spare;
When once the hostile ensigns fell,
He stretched out hands of generous care
To lift the foe he fought so well.
For there was nothing base or small
Or craven in his soul’s broad plan;
Forgiving all things personal,
He hated only wrong to man.
The old traditions of his State,
The memories of her great and good,
Took from his life a fresher date,
And in himself embodied stood.
How felt the greed of gold and place,
The venal crew that schemed and planned,
The fine scorn of that haughty face,
The spurning of that bribeless hand!