To Charles Sumner

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To Charles Sumner
by John Greenleaf Whittier

If I have seemed more prompt to censure wrong
Than praise the right; if seldom to thine ear
My voice hath mingled with the exultant cheer
Borne upon all our Northern winds along;
If I have failed to join the fickle throng
In wide-eyed wonder, that thou standest strong
In victory, surprised in thee to find
Brougham's scathing power with Canning's grace combined;
That he, for whom the ninefold Muses sang,
From their twined arms a giant athlete sprang,
Barbing the arrows of his native tongue
With the spent shafts Latona's archer flung,
To smite the Python of our land and time,
Fell as the monster born of Crissa's slime,
Like the blind bard who in Castalian springs
Tempered the steel that clove the crest of kings,
And on the shrine of England's freedom laid
The gifts of Cumve and of Delphi's' shade,--
Small need hast thou of words of praise from me.
Thou knowest my heart, dear friend, and well canst guess
That, even though silent, I have not the less
Rejoiced to see thy actual life agree
With the large future which I shaped for thee,
When, years ago, beside the summer sea,
White in the moon, we saw the long waves fall
Baffled and broken from the rocky wall,
That, to the menace of the brawling flood,
Opposed alone its massive quietude,
Calm as a fate; with not a leaf nor vine
Nor birch-spray trembling in the still moonshine,
Crowning it like God's peace. I sometimes think
That night-scene by the sea prophetical,
(For Nature speaks in symbols and in signs,
And through her pictures human fate divines),
That rock, wherefrom we saw the billows sink
In murmuring rout, uprising clear and tall
In the white light of heaven, the type of one
Who, momently by Error's host assailed,
Stands strong as Truth, in greaves of granite mailed;
And, tranquil-fronted, listening over all
The tumult, hears the angels say, Well done!