Lyrics of Life (1909)/Benjamin Franklin

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For other versions of this work, see Benjamin Franklin (Coates).


"Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis."

Franklin! our Franklin! America's loved son!—
Loved in his day, and now, as few indeed:
Franklin! whose mighty genius allies won,
To aid her, in great need!

Franklin! with noble charm that fear allays,—
Tact, judgment, insight, humor naught could dim!—
"Antiquity," said Mirabeau, "would raise
Altars to honor him!"

How should one country claim him, or one hour?
Bound to no narrow circuit, and no time,
He is the World's—part of her lasting dower,
One with her hope sublime.

His kindred are the equable and kind
Whose constant thought is to uplift and bless;
The witty, and the wise, the large of mind,
Who ignorance redress:

His kindred are the bold who, undismayed,
Believe that good is ever within reach,—
All who move onward—howsoe'er delayed—
Who learn, that they may teach:

Who overcoming pain and weariness,
In life's long battle bear a noble part;
All who, like him,—greatest of gifts!—possess
The genius of the heart!

How should we praise whose deeds belittle praise,
Whose monument perpetual is our land
Saved by his wisdom, in disastrous days,
From tyranny's strong hand?—

How praise whose Titan-thought, beyond Earth's ken
Aspiring, tamed the lightnings in revolt,
Subduing to the will of mortal men
The awful thunderbolt?

Our debt looms larger than our love can pay:
We know not with what homage him to grace
Whose name outlasts the monument's decay,—
A glory to our race!

With tireless hope, he seems to move before
Beck'ning to all that helpful is and free:
A lover of mankind, inheritor
Of Immortality!


"Eripuit coelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis": A line in Latin that Marquis Turgot wrote under a portrait of Franklin. An English translation by James Elphinston (pre-1817):

He snatcht the bolt from Heaven's avenging hand,
Disarm'd and drove the tyrant from the land.