To William Lloyd Garrison

by John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier, American Romantic poet and abolitionist, was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts on December 17, 1807, and died on September 7, 1892. He is considered a Fireside Poet, or part of a group of New England authors that wrote material very suitable to be read as entertainment to members of a family, often read aloud in front of a residential fireplace.

 

Champion of those who groan beneath 
Oppression's iron hand 
In view of penury, hate, and death, 
I see thee fearless stand. 
Still bearing up thy lofty brow, 
In the steadfast strength of truth, 
In manhood sealing well the vow 
And promise of thy youth.

Go on, for thou hast chosen well; 
On in the strength of God! 
Long as one human heart shall swell 
Beneath the tyrant's rod. 
Speak in a slumbering nation's ear, 
As thou hast ever spoken, 
Until the dead in sin shall hear, 
The fetter's link be broken!

I love thee with a brother's love, 
I feel my pulses thrill, 
To mark thy spirit soar above 
The cloud of human ill. 
My heart hath leaped to answer thine, 
And echo back thy words, 
As leaps the warrior's at the shine 
And flash of kindred swords!

They tell me thou art rash and vain, 
A searcher after fame; 
That thou art striving but to gain 
A long-enduring name; 
That thou hast nerved the Afric's hand 
And steeled the Afric's heart, 
To shake aloft his vengeful brand, 
And rend his chain apart.

Have I not known thee well, and read 
Thy mighty purpose long? 
And watched the trials which have made 
Thy human spirit strong? 
And shall the slanderer's demon breath 
Avail with one like me, 
To dim the sunshine of my faith 
And earnest trust in thee?

Go on, the dagger's point may glare 
Amid thy pathway's gloom; 
The fate which sternly threatens there 
Is glorious martyrdom 
Then onward with a martyr's zeal; 
And wait thy sure reward 
When man to man no more shall kneel, 
And God alone be Lord!

 

— The Complete Works of John Greenleaf Whittier, By John G. Whittier, Volume III

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