For Righteousness’ Sake by John Greenleaf Whittier

FOR RIGHTEOUSNESS’ SAKE

by John Greenleaf Whittier

Inscribed to friends under arrest for treason against the slave power.

"Alfred" [Statue of King Alfred the Great in Winchester], June 30, 2012. Photo taken by Flickr.com user "ramograph." Creative Commons License

Alfred” [Statue of King Alfred the Great in Winchester], June 30, 2012. Photo taken by Flickr.com user “ramograph.” Creative Commons License

THE age is dull and mean. Men creep,
Not walk; with blood too pale and tame
To pay the debt they owe to shame;
Buy cheap, sell dear; eat, drink, and sleep
Down-pillowed, deaf to moaning want;
Pay tithes for soul-insurance; keep
Six days to Mammon, one to Cant.

In such a time, give thanks to God,
That somewhat of the holy rage
With which the prophets in their age
On all its decent seemings trod,
Has set your feet upon the lie,
That man and ox and soul and clod
Are market stock to sell and buy!

The hot words from your lips, my own,
To caution trained, might not repeat;
But if some tares among the wheat
Of generous thought and deed were sown,
No common wrong provoked your zeal;
The silken gauntlet that is thrown
In such a quarrel rings like steel.

The brave old strife the fathers saw
For Freedom calls for men again
Like those who battled not in vain
For England’s Charter, Alfred’s law;
And right of speech and trial just
Wage in your name their ancient war
With venal courts and perjured trust.

God’s ways seem dark, but, soon or late,
They touch the shining hills of day;
The evil cannot brook delay,
The good can well afford to wait.
Give ermined knaves their hour of crime;
Ye have the future grand and great,
The safe appeal of Truth to Time!

1855

Other Whittier poems

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