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.
What we believe in waits latent forever through all the continents,
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,
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.)
The battle rages with many a loud alarm and frequent advance
The infidel triumphs, or supposes he triumphs,
The prison, scaffold, garrote, handcuffs, iron necklace and
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
The cause is asleep, the strongest throats are choked with their
The young men droop their eyelashes toward the ground when
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!
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 any thing is for,)
But I will search carefully for it even in being foil’d,
In defeat, poverty, misconception, imprisonment—for they too
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.
Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1871-72)