James Monroe Whitfield

Self-Reliance

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I love the man whose lofty mind
On God and its own strength relies;
Who seeks the welfare of his kind,
And dare be honest though he dies;
Who cares not for the world's applause,
But, to his own fixed purpose true,
The path which God and nature's laws
Point out, doth earnestly pursue.
When adverse clouds around him lower,
And stern oppression bars his way,
When friends desert in trial's hour,
And hope sheds but a feeble ray;
When all the powers of earth and hell
Combine to break his spirit down,
And strive, with their terrific yell,
To crush his soul beneath their frown --
When numerous friends, whose cheerful tone
In happier hours once cheered him on,
With visions that full brightly shone,
But now, alas! are dimmed and gone!
When love, which in his bosom burned
With all the fire of ardent youth,
And which he fondly thought returned
With equal purity and truth,
Mocking his hopes, falls to the ground,
Like some false vision of the night,
Its vows a hollow, empty sound,
Scathing his heart with deadly blight,
Choking that welling spring of love,
Which lifts the soul to God above,
In bonds mysterious to unite
The finite with the infinite;
And draw a blessing from above,
Of infinite on finite love.
When hopes of better, fear of worse,
Alike are fled, and naught remains
To stimulate him on his course:
No hope of bliss, no fear of pains
Fiercer than what already rend,
With tortures keen, his inmost heart,
Without a hope, without a friend,
With nothing to allay the smart
From blighted love, affections broken,
From blasted hopes and cankering care,
When every thought, each word that's spoken
Urges him onward to despair.
When through the opening vista round,
Shines on him no pellucid ray,
Like beam of early morning found,
The harbinger of perfect day;
But like the midnight's darkening frown,
When stormy tempests roar on high,
When pealing thunder shakes the ground,
And lurid lightning rends the sky!
When clothed in more than midnight gloom,
Like some foul specter from the tomb,
Despair, with stern and fell control,
Sits brooding o'er his inmost soul --
'T is then the faithful mind is proved,
That, true alike to man and God,
By all the ills of life unmoved,
Pursues its straight and narrow road.
For such a man the siren song
Of pleasure hath no lasting charm;
Nor can the mighty and the strong
His spirit tame with powerful arm.
His pleasure is to wipe the tear
Of sorrow from the mourner's cheek,
The languid, fainting heart to cheer,
To succor and protect the weak.
When the bright face of fortune smiles
Upon his path with cheering ray,
And pleasure, with alluring wiles,
Flatters, to lead his heart astray,
His soul in conscious virtue strong,
And armed with innate rectitude,
Loving the right, detesting wrong,
And seeking the eternal good
Of all alike, the high or low,
His dearest friend, or direst foe,
Seeks out the brave and faithful few,
Who, to themselves and Maker true,
Dare, in the name and fear of God,
To spread the living truth abroad!
Armed with the same sustaining power,
Against adversity's dark hour,
And from the deep deceitful guile
Which lurks in pleasure's hollow smile,
Or from the false and fitful beam
That marks ambition's meteor fire,
Or from the dark and lurid gleam
Revealing passion's deadly ire.
His steadfast soul fearing no harm,
But trusting in the aid of Heaven,
And wielding, with unfaltering arm,
The utmost power which God has given --
Conscious that the Almighty power
Will nerve the faithful soul with might,
Whatever storms may round him lower,
Strikes boldly for the true and right.

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James Monroe Whitfield