Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VIII. National Spirit
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VIII. National Spirit.  1904.
 
II. Freedom
John Charles Frémont
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
 
THY 1 error, Frémont, simply was to act
A brave man’s part, without the statesman’s tact,
And, taking counsel but of common sense,
To strike at cause as well as consequence.
O, never yet since Roland wound his horn        5
At Roncesvalles has a blast been blown
Far-heard, wide-echoed, startling as thine own,
Heard from the van of freedom’s hope forlorn!
It had been safer, doubtless, for the time,
To flatter treason, and avoid offence        10
To that Dark Power whose underlying crime
Heaves upward its perpetual turbulence.
But, if thine be the fate of all who break
The ground for truth’s seed, or forerun their years
Till lost in distance, or with stout hearts make        15
A lane for freedom through the level spears,
Still take thou courage! God has spoken through thee,
Irrevocable, the mighty words, Be free!
The land shakes with them, and the slave’s dull ear
Turns from the rice-swamp stealthily to hear.        20
Who would recall them now must first arrest
The winds that blow down from the free Northwest,
Ruffling the Gulf; or like a scroll roll back
The Mississippi to its upper springs.
Such words fulfil their prophecy, and lack        25
But the full time to harden into things.
 
Note 1. Frémont’s proclamation of martial law in Missouri, in August, 1861, declaring free all slaves of Rebels, was received with ardor by the North, but annulled by President Lincoln as premature. [back]
 
 
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