[Rushtalk] "Truth forever on the scaffold, lies forever on the throne"

Tom Matiska tom.matiska at att.net
Tue Apr 14 13:09:59 MDT 2015

Biggest headache since I saw a Shakespeare play last year.....  Tom
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Carl Spitzer <lynux at keepandbeararms.com> wrote:

>"Truth forever on the scaffold, lies forever on the throne" — James
>Russell Lowell
>James Russell Lowell
>December, 1845.
>When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth's aching breast
>Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,
>And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb
>To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime
>Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.
>Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
>When the travail of the Ages wrings earth's systems to and fro;
>At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,
>Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,
>And glad Truth's yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future's
>So the Evil's triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,
>Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,
>And the slave, where'er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God
>In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,
>Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.
>For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
>Round the earth's electric circle, the swift flush of right or wrong;
>Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity's vast frame
>Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;—
>In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.
>Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,
>In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;
>Some great cause, God's new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,
>Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,
>And the choice goes by forever 'twixt that darkness and that light.
>Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,
>Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?
>Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet 'tis Truth alone is strong,
>And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng
>Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.
>Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,
>That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion's sea;
>Not an ear in court or market for the low foreboding cry
>Of those Crises, God's stern winnowers, from whose feet earth's chaff
>must fly;
>Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by.
>Careless seems the great Avenger; history's pages but record
>One death-grapple in the darkness 'twixt old systems and the Word;
>Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—
>Yet that scaffold sways the Future, and, behind the dim unknown,
>Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.
>We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
>Slow of faith, how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,
>But the soul is still oracular; amid the market's din,
>List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—
>"They enslave their children's children who make compromise with sin."
>Slavery, the earthborn Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,
>Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with
>Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
>Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;—
>Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?
>Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
>Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and 'tis prosperous to be just;
>Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,
>Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,
>And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.
>Count me o'er earth's chosen heroes,—they were souls that stood alone,
>While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,
>Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline
>To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
>By one man's plain truth to manhood and to God's supreme design.
>By the light of burning heretics Christ's bleeding feet I track,
>Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,
>And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
>One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned
>Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven
>For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands,
>On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
>Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,
>While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return
>To glean up the scattered ashes into History's golden urn.
>'Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves
>Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers' graves,
>Worshippers 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
>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 to-day?
>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.
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