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John Greenleaf Whittier
1807 - 1892

American poet and newspaper editor. Whittier was a Massachusetts Quaker descended from the earliest American settlers. He achieved fame as an ardent abolitionist first, and retained it as a major poetic voice of the spirit of New Hampshire. His birthday was for years a state holiday in several American states, and Whittier Peak in the Sandwich Mountains is an enduring monument to his influence.


Of all we loved and honored, naught / Save power remains; / A fallen angel's pride of thought, / Still strong in chains. / All else is gone; from those great eyes / The soul has fled; / When faith is lost, when honor dies, / The man is dead!

from "Ichabod", a scathing poem about American Senator Daniel Webster, who went against widespread sentiment in his state of Massachusetts to abolish slavery in an attempt (some historians think) to avoid the Civil War which nevertheless occurred ten years later
Was this the promise of the free, / The great hope of our early time, / That slavery's poison vine should be / Upborne by Freedom's prayer-nursed tree

1844 - from "The Sentence of John Brown"
Action, action, is the spirit's means of progress, its sole test of rectitude, its only source of happiness. And should not decided action follow our deep convictions...?

Sep. 1843 - from an address to the Liberty Party convention at New Bedford
The plot has exploded - we've found out the trick; / The bribe goes a-begging; the fusion won't stick. / When the Wide-awake lanterns are shining about, / The rogues stay at home, and the true men are out!

from "The Quakers Are Out"
I trace your lines of argument; / Your logic linked and strong / I weigh as one who dreads dissent, / And fears a doubt as wrong. / But still my human hands are weak / to hold your iron creeds; / Against the words ye bid me speak / My heart within me pleads.

from "Revelation"
In mercy or in judgment / He shall turn and overturn, / Till the heart shall be his temple / Where all of him shall learn.

1878 - from The Vision of Echard
I suffer with no vain pretence / Of triumph over flesh and sense...

1880 - from "My Trust"
What asks our Father of his children, / save Justice and mercy and humility, / A reasonable service of good deeds, / Pure living, tenderness to human needs, / Reverence and trust, and prayer for light to see / The Master's footprints in our daily ways? / No knotted scourge nor sacrificial knife, / But the calm beauty of an ordered life / Whose very breathing is unworded praise!

from "Requirement"
So welcome I from every source / The tokens of that primal Force, / Older than heaven itself, yet new / As the young heart it reaches to, / Beneath whose steady impulse rolls / The tidal wave of human souls; / Guide, comforter, and inward word, / The eternal spirit of the lord!

1871 - from "Miriam"
The tale is one of an evil time, / When souls were fettered and thought was crime, / And heresy's whisper above its breath / Meant shameful scourging and bonds and death!

from "How the Women Went from Dover", a poem about persecution of Quakers
Too cheaply truths, once purchased dear, / Are made our own, / Too long the world has smiled to hear / Our boast of full corn in the ear / By others sown... But now the cross our worthies bore / On us is laid; / Profession's quiet sleep is o'er, / And in the scale of truth once more / Our faith is weighed.

from "Anniversary Poem"
Where's the manly spirit of the hearted and unshackled gone? / Sons of old freemen, do we but inherit their names alone? / Is the old pilgrim spirit quenched with us? / Stoops the strong manhood of our souls so low, / That Mammon's lure or Party's wile can win us to silence now? / Now, when our nation to ruin's brink is verging, / let us speak while there is time! / Now, when the padlocks for our lips are forging. / Silence is crime!

from "A Summons"