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Walt Whitman

(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892 / New York / United States)

To A Foil'd European Revolutionaire



COURAGE yet! my brother or my sister!
Keep on! Liberty is to be subserv'd, whatever occurs;
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,
Or the show of the tushes of power, soldiers, cannon, penal statutes.

Revolt! and still revolt! revolt!
What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents,
and all the islands and archipelagos of the sea;
What we believe in invites no one, promises nothing, sits in calmness
and light, is positive and composed, knows no discouragement,
Waiting patiently, waiting its time.

(Not songs of loyalty alone are these, 10
But songs of insurrection also;
For I am the sworn poet of every dauntless rebel, the world over,
And he going with me leaves peace and routine behind him,
And stakes his life, to be lost at any moment.)


Revolt! and the downfall of tyrants!
The battle rages with many a loud alarm, and frequent advance and
retreat,
The infidel triumphs--or supposes he triumphs,
Then the prison, scaffold, garrote, hand-cuffs, iron necklace and
anklet, lead-balls, do their work,
The named and unnamed heroes pass to other spheres,
The great speakers and writers are exiled--they lie sick in distant
lands, 20
The cause is asleep--the strongest throats are still, choked with
their own blood,
The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when they meet;
--But for all this, liberty has not gone out of the place, nor the
infidel enter'd into full possession.

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 there are no more memories of heroes and martyrs,
And 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.


Then courage! European revolter! revoltress! 30
For, till all ceases, neither must you cease.

I do not know what you are for, (I do not know what I am for myself,
nor what anything is for,)
But I will search carefully for it even in being foil'd,
In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment--for they too are
great.

Revolt! and the bullet for tyrants!
Did we think victory great?
So it is--But now it seems to me, when it cannot be help'd, that
defeat is great,
And that death and dismay are great.

Submitted: Tuesday, December 31, 2002

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