Poems of Nature/Independence
My life more civil is and free
Than any civil polity.
Ye princes, keep your realms
And circumscribèd power,
Not wide as are my dreams,
Nor rich as is this hour.
What can ye give which I have not?
What can ye take which I have got?
Can ye defend the dangerless?
Can ye inherit nakedness?
To all true wants Time's ear is deaf,
Penurious States lend no relief
Out of their pelf:
But a free soul—thank God—
Can help itself.
Be sure your fate
Doth keep apart its state,—
Not linked with any band,
Even the noblest in the land,—
In tented fields with cloth of gold
No place doth hold,
But is more chivalrous than they are,
And sigheth for a nobler war;
A finer strain its trumpet rings,
A brighter gleam its armor flings.
The life that I aspire to live,
No man proposeth me;
No trade upon the street
Wears its emblazonry.
- First printed in full in the Boston Commonwealth, October 30, 1863. The last fourteen lines had appeared in the Dial under the title of 'The Black Knight,' and are so reprinted in the Riverside Edition.
- In the Dial this line runs, 'Only the promise of my heart.'