Posts Tagged ‘James Russell Lowell’

‘When a deed is done for freedom…’

November 30, 2019

J.R. Lowell in 1844

THE PRESENT CRISIS

by James Russell Lowell

  When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast

Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west, 

And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb 

To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime 

Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time. 

  Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,

When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro; 

At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start, 

Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart, 

And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart. 

   So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill, 

Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill, 

And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God 

In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod, 

Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod. 

   For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along, 

Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong; 

Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame 

Through its ocean-sundered fibers feels the gush of joy or shame; 

In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim. 

  Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide, 

In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side; 

Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,

Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right, 

And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light. 

  Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand, 

Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?

Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ‘t is Truth alone is strong, 

And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng 

Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.

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