FREEDOM IN POETRY
Liberty neglected is tyranny invited.
Liberty, like muscles, needs exercise for development.
Authority enforces uniformity, Liberty offers diversity.
Dictation in mental matters makes mendicants and masters.
The capacity for liberty is developed by liberty itself.
Liberty is as secure to the just as it is insecure to the unjust.
An individual weakness is admitted when one submits to the dictation of another.
To enthrone reason is to discard error; to accept tolerance is to destroy prejudice.
Liberty is not accountable to authority’s standard; it is to be measured by its own standard.
Liberty is the lever that will lift the race.
The great poets were and are Libertarians, and they were great because they were Libertarians. Who ever heard of a real poet singing of slavery? Their song was for liberty. It is possible that they were the first to dream of that blessed condition where authority has passed away. They seem to be among the first to oppose a set plan for their art. They have always been accused of taking what is called “poetic license.” By taking this “license” with old standards we have today many forms of poetry, and these various forms give us a variety of pleasure. This we would have been deprived of if the poets had been conformists. It is true that there have been poets who have sung for their tyrant king for pay, but they were not great poets. The great were rebels. Listen to what Shelley says of the rulers:
“Fear not the tyrants shall rule forever Or the priests of the evil faith; They stand on the brink of that mighty river
Whose waves they have tainted with death. It is fed from the depths of a thousand dells;
Around them it foams and rages and swells, And their swords and their sceptres I floating see,
Like wrecks on the surge of eternity.”
Being free, the poets are versatile. They have given us many kinds of poetry. Some stick to the classic style, others give us the rollicking, western verse that pleases and thrills so many and inspires to noble deeds. Some give us reminiscent rhymes that revive the memory of home and childhood. Wherever there is misery, his heart throbs with sympathy, and he is ready to redress all wrongs.
Poets like Robert Burns sing of love. He spoke from the heart, and won the heart of the world. No hypocrisy there, no concealment. We know what he was by his own revelation, and he is loved for what he was.
The fact reveals itself that the poet that would not be constrained has assisted in his own economic emancipation. For centuries he was the poverty-stricken writer; today the poet is highly compensated. He has won his independence by his manly, venturesome nature.
The real poet is a doubter and a rebel. Conformity would have crippled his production.
Any sort of restraint does violence to his temperament. To interefere with his individualistic expression is to lose the thing of real value. It may be novel and noble at the same time. The world ought to be grateful to the poet for disturbing the monotony of a conservative existence. He frees by breaking the tyranny of custom. The conservative public pretends a reverence for the classic poetry as a means of checking the progressive poets’ verse. But the real poet will not be content to imitate others or lag behind. The bugle call he hears is “Forward, march!” Walt Whitman puts it this way:
“For the idea, the idea of perfect and free individuals,
“For that, the bard walks in advance,leader of leaders.”
The following selections are samples from the free poets that voice the sentiment of many other champions of liberty in their ranks:
John Byers Wilson – “The Poet”:
Of the world’s great pulsing heart,
He must ever be a part;
Of its gladness, cheer and ease,
And all its many miseries;
He must soar with beauty bright,
He must stand on reason’s height,
He must with fierce passion pant,
The truth must know from rant and cant;
He must with the lordly talk,
He must with the weakling walk;
He must with the starving feel,
He must with the drunken reel.
He must hear the clink of gold
On marriage marts where hearts are sold;
He must hear the virtuous vows
Of rustic loves, ‘neath budding boughs;
He must know life as it is-
All its joys and pains be his,
All its tenderest sympathies;
Sweet nature’s one inspired call,
To represent some phase of all;
To paint the universal soul,
Expressed within the varied whole,
And e’er the incarnation be,
And clarion voice of liberty.
James Russell Lowell – “Stanzas on Freedom” :
Men! who boast it is that ye
Come of fathers brave and free,
If there breathe on earth a slave,
Are ye truly free and brave?
If ye do not feel the chain,
When it works a brother’s pain,
Are ye not base slaves indeed,
Slaves unworthy to be freed?
Women! who shall one day bear
Sons to breathe New England air, I
f ye hear without a blush,
Deeds to make the roused blood rush
Like red lava through your veins,
For your sisters now in chains,
Answer! are ye fit to be
Mothers of the brave and free?
Is true freedom but to break
Fetters for our own dear sake,
And with leathern hearts, forget
That we owe mankind a debt?
No! true freedom is to share
All the chains our brothers wear.
And, with heart and hand, to be
Earnest to make others free!
They are slaves who fear to speak
For the fallen and the weak;
They are slaves who will not choose
Hatred, scoffing and abuse,
Rather than in silence shrink
From the truth they needs must think;
They are slaves who dare not be
In the right with two or three.
Walt Hurt – “Freedom of the Press” :
Although the work is but begun, wherever man has wrought
On any soil beneath the sun for liberty of thought,
With stifled sighs within his heart, in Russia or at Rome,
There Progress has some little part and Hope has found a home.
But what is thought, however free, remaining unexpressed ?.
Or Goddess of our Liberty in prison raiment dressed?
A shackled hand of no avail shall prove in Freedom’s fight,
Nor Joan within a tyrant’s jail may lead the ranks of Right.
While eyes shall know the touch of tears, while yet the soul must yearn,
And through the blackness of the years the torch of Truth shall burn,
Unto the limit of each land in Law’s remotest reach
The friends of Freedom will demand right of spontaneous speech.
Let masters tie the tongue of him who wears a weight of chains,
But free alike of speech. and limb the sovereign man remams;
His lips will not submit to locks, for dauntless is his plan:
Give muzzles to the dog and ox they were not made for man!
But short of life is any speech, nor does it travel far,
And few truths that it may teach upon this swinging star.
So while the rivers seek the sea, and wrongs call for redress,
Protection for the weak will be an unrestricted press.
Truth’s battles as of old are fought with levin-bolt and lead-
The lightning of a human thought that hurtles forth instead
Of deadly hail a leaden slug of quite another stripe,
Where’s War’s opposing forces tug -. lead of the linotype.
Who passes judgment on the acts and motives of all men,
Who figures out the final facts and weighs worth truly, when
The race appears before Fame’s bar, will find in summing up
That Gutenberg was greater far than Gatling is or Krupp.
While Liberty remains in reach and hearts must break and bleed;
While syllables of human speech give voice to human need;
While still there is a truth to teach and yet a soul to heed,
A free and fearless press must preach Emacipation’s creed.
In course of time will come a day when not a single throne
Shall throw a shadow on the way that Justice treads alone;
The ragged Goddess of Reform shall don a fairer guise
And set a star in ev’ry storm that sweeps the wider skies.
In that new hour of blessed birth the world will wiser be,
And all the nations of the earth forever will agree
What time a ransomed race has found man’s reason grown full ripe
In Freedom’s temple where resound the many tongues of type.
J. N. Boult – “The Birth of Liberty” :
Hark! ye governmental madmen;
Hark! thou prostituted press;
Hark! thou Judas in the pulpit
Tell your masters this from me.
Whom they tried in vain to purchase
It whose goal is liberty.
In this European slaughter,
In this melting pot of man,
In this slaughter-house of humans,
Ye have purchased with your gold;
Ye must lose, whoever conquers,
Liberty is uncontrolled.
Send your physically fittest,
Send them twenty million strong;
Let the blood of countless “heroes”
Paint the earth a brilliant red.
Liberty will rise triumphant
O’er the bodies of the dead.
Hark! while yet I pen this message
To the soulless of the earth,
While the thunder of the cannons
Can be heard across the sea,
There is born a beauteous maiden
And her name is Liberty.
Chains are breaking in the dungeons
Rebels rise on every hand”
Turnkeys are the friends of “traitors,”
Slaves no longer bend the knee;
Parasites must go forever,
Clear the track for “Liberty.”
(Written in 1915)
James Russell Lowell – “Present Crisis”:
‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers’ graves,
Worshipers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;-
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that make Plymouth Rock sublime?
They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past’s;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee.
The rude grasp of that great impulse which drove them across the sea.
They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-lit altar fires;
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away
To light up the martyr-fagots ’round the prophets of today?
New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! We ourselves must Pilgrims be,
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea,
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-rusted key.
Thomas Paine-“Liberty Tree” (1775):
In a chariot of light from the regions of day, The Goddess of Liberty came;
Ten Thousand celestials directed the way, And hither conducted the dame.
A fair budding branch from the gardens above
Where millions with millions agree,
She brought in her hand as a pledge of her love,
And the plant she named Liberty Tree.
The celestial exotic struck deep in the ground,
Like a native it flourished and bore;
The fame of its fruit drew the nations around,
To seek out this peaceable shore.
Unmindful of names or distinction they came,
For freemen like brothers agree;
With one spirit endued, they one friendship pursued,
And their temple was Liberty Tree.
Beneath this fair tree, like the patriarchs of old
Their bread in contentment they ate,
Unvexed with the troubles of silver and gold,
The cares of the grand and the great.
With timber and tar they Old England supplied,
And supported her power on the sea;
Her battles they fought, without getting a groat,
For the honor of Liberty Tree.
But hear, 0 ye swains, ’tis a tale most profane,
How all the tyrannical powers, Kings, Commons, and Lords, are united amain,
To cut down this guardian of ours;
From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,
Through the land let the sound of it flee,
Let the far and the near, all united with a cheer,
In defence of our Liberty Tree.
FREEDOM AND REASON
(Dedicated to Libertarian Charles T. Sprading)
By John A. Morris
Freedom is the world’s ideal
Great men have made it so,
When we make it full and real
All slavery must go!
In the manifold delusions,
By ages long accurst,
Man’s raging revolutions
In fire and blood immerst
Have ne’er brought unto him
The long hoped for free time,
Nor through the ages dim
His freedom through war’s crime!
To impose subjective sway
With skillful ways to kill
Freedom ne’er has come this way
And Freedom never will;
In just one way can Freedom come;
In but one time and season,
And not along with fife and drum,
But in the light of Reason.
By Jas. Gowdy Clark
Ah! green their glory long will be
Who give their lives to liberty;
Their names will linger broad and bright
When other names are lost to sight;
Their memory will dearer grow
While sounding seas and rivers flow;
And, though the world is black with crime,
Their fame shall live, a light sublime,
A pillar of deliverance burning,
To which th’ oppressed, for Freedom yearning
May turn, as Israel turned of yore,
And view from far the Promised Shore.