Ada Cambridge (21 November 1844 – 19 July 1926 / St Gemans, Norfolk)
I Dare Not
I hear strange voices in the air.
My pulses leap, I tear my hair
In rage, rebellion, and despair;
Yet dare not speak.
I am for right, my foes for wrong,
But they are legion, they are strong,
And I am one amid the throng,
Alone and weak.
What ear would hear me if I cried?
What comrades rally to my side?
What force have I to stem the tide?
What right have I?
Though I should plunge in flood and flame,
Though I should suffer shame and blame,
The world would triumph all the same —
And I should die.
Why should I join the hopeless fray?
Why should I waste my little day?
Oh, why should I be called to pay
So vast a price?
* * * *
Have courage, craven soul of mine!
The light within thee is divine,
And others need to see it shine,
Let that suffice.
Others beside thee quake and quail
Before the terrors that prevail;
Thy captive kindred faint and fail
As well as thou.
But when thy lifted front they see,
They will take heart and soar with thee;
It is thy help to set them free
They wait for now.
Give to those silent sufferers each
What inspiration he can reach;
Give righteous treason honest speech,
That all may hear.
This god of custom that we dread,
This social code that weighs like lead,
What is it worth, when all is said?
What is't to fear?
When with a faithful eye one sees
That they whose will we live to please,
Crush right with might for love of ease,
And selfish greed.
When infinite night and silence lower
O'er such brief span of human power,
These poor conventions of an hour
Seem poor indeed.
Be brave, my soul! The world may frown,
And its brute fashions bear thee down,
But Truth will swim, whate'er may drown,
And Truth will live.
Be bold to speak at Truth's behest,
And, though thou suffer without rest,
Yet still thy gain shall be the best
That life can give.
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