Sunday, March 30, 2008

What's over your coffee pot?



Courage! my brother or my sister!
Keep on! Liberty is to be subserv'd, whatever occurs;
That is nothing, that is quell'd by one or two failures, or any number of failures,
Or by the indifference or the ingratitude of the people, or by any unfaithfulness,
Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.

What we believe in waits latent forever in Asia, Africa, Europe America, Australia, Cuba,
and all the islands and archipelagoes of the sea;
What we believe in invited NO 1, promises nothing, sits in calmness and light is positive and
composed, knows no discouragement,
Waits patiently its time a year, a century, a hundred centuries.

The battle rages with many loud alarm, and frequent advance and retreat,
The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs,
The prison, scaffold, garotte, handcuffs, iron necklace and lead-balls do their work,
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres,
The great writers and speakers are exiled, they lie sick in distant lands,
The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with blood,
The young men droop their eyelashes to the ground when they meet;
But for all this Liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the infidel enter'd into full possession.

When Liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go, nor the second or the third to go,
It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last.

When there are no memories of the lovers of the whole of the nations of the world,
The lovers' names scouted in the public gatherings by the orators,
Boys not christened after them, but christened after traitors and murders instead,
Laws for slaves sweet to the taste of the people -- the slave hunt acknowledged,
You or I walking abroad upon the earth, elated at the sight of slaves, no matter who they are,
And when all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged from that part of the earth,
Then shall the instinct of Liberty be discharged from that part of the earth,
Then shall the infidel and tyrant come into possession.

Then courage!
For, till all ceases, neither must you cease.

I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I am for myself, or what any thing is for,)
But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd,
In defeat, poverty, imprisonment -- for they too are great.

Did we think victory great?
So it is -- but now it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that defeat is great,
And that death and dismay are great.

Leaves of Grass, 1856-60

[After Liberty Poem. (1959). Lithograph. Jerome, Arizona: Rampart Press.]

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