Liberty Is Never Defeated


The bullets of tyrants have, since the first king ruled, never been able to put down the unquenchable thirst of man for his rights.
Under and behind all the bosh of the regular politicians, there burns, almost with fierceness, an immortal courage and prophecy in every sane soul that cannot, must not, under any circumstances, capitulate,
The divine fire which more or less, during all ages, has only waited a chance to leap forth and confound the calculations of the tyrants and all their tribe.

O to struggle against great odds, to meet enemies undaunted!
To look strife, torture, prison, popular odium, face to face!
To mount the scaffold, to advance to the muzzles of guns with perfect nonchalance,
The rebel gaily adjusting his throat to the rope-noose!
(I stood very near you old man when cool and indifferent, but trembling with age and your unheal’d wounds, you mounted the scaffold.)

The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs,
The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace, and leadballs do their work,
The great speakers and writers are exiled, they lie sick in distant lands,
The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their own blood,
The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet,
Bloody corpses of young men lie in new-made graves,
The rope of the gibbet hangs heavily,
The creatures of power laugh aloud.

But for all this liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the infidel enter’d into full possession,
Not for nothing have the indomitable heads of the earth been always ready to fall for liberty.
All the brave, strong, devoted men who’ve forward sprung in freedom’s help, all years, all lands,
That is nothing that is quell’d by one or two failures, or any number of failures,
Or by the indifference or ingratitude of the people, or by any unfaithfulness,
All these things bear fruits—and they are good.

Those corpses of young men,
Those martyrs that hang from the gibbets—those hearts pierced by the gray lead,
Cold and motionless as they seem, live elsewhere with unslaughter’d vitality.
They live in other young men,
They live in brothers, again ready to defy!
They were purified by death—they were taught and exalted.

I see the clear sunsets of the martyrs, all the beautiful disdain and calmness of martyrs,
I see from the scaffolds the descending ghosts, (I see nimble ghosts whichever way I look,)
I see those who in any land have died for the good cause.
Not a disembodied spirit can the weapons of tyrants let loose,
But it stalks invisibly over the earth, whispering, counseling, cautioning,
Not a grave of the murder’d for freedom but grows seed for freedom, in its turn to bear seed,
Which the winds carry afar and re-sow, and the rains and the snows nourish.
The seed is spare, nevertheless the crop shall never run out,
The determined purpose—death does not stop it—it is filled up by others—and their death by others 
still,
Lo, freedom’s features fresh undimm’d look forth—the same immortal face looks forth.

Liberty, let others despair of you—I never despair of you.
Is the house shut? is the master away?
Nevertheless, be ready, be not weary of watching,
He will soon return, his messengers come anon,
When the exiles that pined away in distant lands and died have borne the fruit they died for.
I see the scaffold untrodden and mouldy, I see no longer any axe upon it,
I wait with perfect trust, no matter how long,
And from today sad and cogent I maintain the bequeath’d cause, as for all lands.

I send these words to Paris with my love:
O star of France,

Symbol of enthusiast’s dreams of brotherhood,
Of terror to the tyrant and the priest,
Thou couldst not, wouldst not, wear the usual chains.

Beat back and baffled long!
Thou surely wakedst weeping from thy drugg’d sleep;

Again thy star O France, fair lustrous star,
In heavenly peace, clearer, more bright than ever,
Shall beam immortal.

Liberty is poorly served by men whose good intent is quelled from one failure or two failures or any number of failures, or from casual indifference.
When liberty goes out of a place it is not the first to go, nor the second or third to go,
It waits for all the rest to go, it is the last.
When all life and all the souls of men and women are discharged from any part of the earth,
Then only shall liberty or the idea of liberty be discharged from that part of the earth,
And the infidel come into full possession.

Courage yet, my brother or my sister!
Keep on—
O hope and faith!
O aching close of exiled patriots’ lives!
O many a sicken’d heart!
Turn back unto this day and make yourselves afresh.

Whatever we do not attain, we at any rate attain the experiences of the fight.
Though not for us the joy of entering at the last the conquer’d city—not ours the chance ever to see with our own eyes the peerless power and splendid eclat of the democratic principle, filling the world with effulgence and majesty—we throb with currents of attempt at l
east—
We wield ourselves as a weapon is wielded,
We are powerful and tremendous in ourselves

There is yet the prophetic vision, the hardening of the strong campaign, the joy of being toss’d in the brave turmoil of these times—with the proud consciousness that amid whatever clouds, seductions, or heart-wearying postponements, we have never deserted, never despair’d, never abandon’d the faith.
Time is ample. Let the victors come after us.

NEXT: Reform: Institutions and Individuals