The Old Philosopher's Advice to a Young One


Shame upon thee, craven spirit!
Is it manly, just or brave,
If a truth have shone within thee,
To conceal the light it gave?
Captive of the world's opinion —
Free to speak — but yet a slave?

All conviction should be valiant —
Tell thy truth — if truth it be;
Never seek to stem its current,
Thoughts like rivers find the sea,
It will fit the widening circle
Of Eternal Verity.

Speak thy thought if thou believ'st it,
Let it jostle whom it may,
Ev'n though the foolish scorn it,
Or the obstinate gainsay
Every seed that grows to-morrow,
Lies beneath a clod to-day.

If our sires, the noble-hearted
Pioneers of things to come,
Had like thee been weak and timid,
Traitors to themselves, and dumb;
Where would be our present knowledge,
Where the hoped Millennium?

Where would be triumphant Science,
Searching with her fearless eyes,
Through the infinite creation
In the soul that underlies, —
Soul of Beauty, soul of Goodness,
Wisdom of the earth and skies?

Where would be all great Inventions,
Each from by-gone fancies born,
Issued first in doubt and darkness,
Launched 'mid apathy or scorn?
How could noontime ever light us,
But for dawning of the morn?

Where would be our free opinion,
Where the right to speak at all,
If our sires like thee, mistrustful,
Had been deaf to duty's call,
And concealed the thoughts within them,
Lying down for fear to fall?

Should an honest thought, outspoken,
Lead thee into chains or death —
What is life, compared with Virtue?
Shalt thou not survive thy breath!
Hark! the future age invites thee!
Listen, trembler! what it saith!

It demands thy thought in Justice,
Debt, not tribute of the free;
Have not ages long departed,
Groaned and toiled and bled for thee?
If the Past have lent thee wisdom,
Pay it to Futurity.
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