Defiance and Revolt


I have little hope of any man or any community of men, that looks to some civil
or military power to defend its vital rights,
There is no week nor day nor hour when tyranny may not enter, if the people lose their supreme confidence in themselves, and lose their roughness and spirit of defiance.
Tyranny may always enter; there is no charm, no bar against it,
The only bar against it is a large, resolute breed of men;

If we have it not in ourselves to defend what belongs to us, then the citadel and heart of the towns are taken.

Strictly speaking, the people have no right to complain of being hampered and cheated and hoodwinked and overtaxed and insulted, for they always hold the remedy in their own hands;
Just so long, in any country, as no revolutionists advance, and are backed by the people, just so long do they who are in power fairly represent that country.

The show passes, all does well enough of course,
All does very well—till one flash of defiance—
How beggarly appear arguments before a defiant deed!
All waits or goes by default till a strong being appears;
He or she is the proof of the race and of the ability of the universe.

There is always occasion for courage and determined power and defiance,
Launching into the self-complacent atmosphere of our days a rasping, questioning, dislocating agitation and shock.
The great redeeming movements and revolutions of the world have been those which have been mainly for an idea.

Let others praise eminent men and hold up peace—I hold up agitation and conflict,
(As for me, I love screaming, wrestling, boiling-hot days.)
As circulation to air, so is agitation and a plentiful degree of speculative license to political and moral sanity,
Agitation is the test of the goodness and solidness of all politics and law and institutions and religions—
If they cannot stand it, there is no genuine life in them, and they shall die.
All that is great and grand in any political organization in the world, is the result of this turbulence and
destructiveness,
All great emotions, agitations, etc., produce the mightiest ameliorating results.

I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel the world over,
Songs of stern defiance ever ready,
My call is the call of battle, I nourish active rebellion,
O latent right of insurrection! O quenchless, indispensable fire!
Vive, the unpopular cause—the spirit that audaciously aims—the never-abandon’d efforts,
Vive, the attack—the perennial assault!

I am the god of revolt—deathless, sorrowful, vast—
Lifted now and always against whoever scorning assumes to rule me, whoever oppresses me.
(Whom have you slaughter’d lately?
Whose is that blood upon you so wet and sticky?)

I have been wronged—I am oppressed—
I hate him that oppresses me,
I am lurid with rage!
Hot toward one I hate, ready in my madness to knife him,
I am justified of myself,
Damn him! how he does defile me!
This day or some other I will have him and the like of him to do my will upon,
I will either destroy him or he shall release me,
Never more to wield the sceptre lost by his imprudence and tyranny.
 

Those appear that are hateful to me,
I invoke revenge to assist me,
For a hundred years I will pursue those who have injured me so much,
I will not listen; I will not spare.
They shall not hide themselves in their graves,
I will pursue them thither,
Out with them from their coffins!
Out with them from their shrouds!
Though they hide themselves under the lappets of God I will pursue them there,
I will drag them out,
The lappets of God shall not protect them.

I am a curse, sharper than serpent’s eyes or wind of the ice-fields,
O topple down curse! topple more heavy than death!
The sweet marches of heaven shall be stopped with my maledictions:
Let fate pursue them,
May the genitals and womb that begat them rot,
I do not know any horror that is dreadful enough for them,
What is the worst whip you have?

The long precedent crushing of the masses into the earth, in abject poverty, hunger—every right denied, humanity attempted to be put back for generations—yet nature’s force, titanic here, the stronger and hardier for that repression—waiting terribly to break forth, revengeful—the pressure on the dykes, and the bursting at last—
Suddenly out of its stale and drowsy lair, the lair of slaves,
Like lightning it le’pt forth half startled at itself—
Feet upon the ashes and the rags, hands tight to the throats of king.

God, ’twas delicious!
That brief, tight, glorious grip upon the throats of kings,
Sombre, superb and terrible,
As Ahimoth, brother of Death.
I was not so sick from the blood in the gutters running,
Was not so shock’d at the repeated fusillades of the guns,
Pale, silent, stern, what could I say to that long-accrued retribution?
I do not deny that terrible red birth and baptism,
Could I wish humanity different?
Could I wish the people made of wood and stone?
Or that there be no justice in destiny or time?

O Liberty! O mate for me!
Here too the blaze, the grape-shot and the axe, in reserve, to fetch them out in case of need,
Here too, though long represt, can never be destroy’d,
Here too the blaze could rise at last murdering and ecstatic,
Here too demanding full arrears of vengeance.

Then courage revolter, revoltress!
Resist much, obey little,
Beat the gong of revolt,
Symbol of my soul, its dearest hopes.
Abate not one jot of your fullest radicalism,
For till all ceases neither must you cease the struggle and the daring, rage divine for liberty.

NEXT:  LIBERTY IS NEVER DEFEATED