Letter to the Editor: A Poem Honoring John Brown

~ Submitted by Donald Marshall

On Martin Luther King Day, perhaps this little historical note will be of interest.

While I was perusing the poetry of William Herbert Carruth recently (also the author of the poem Each in His Own Tongue), I came across his poem about the abolitionist, John Brown, and then comments about John Brown by Frederick Douglass.

As many know, John Brown was hanged for his pre-civil war efforts opposing slavery in 1859

John Brown by William Herbert Carruth

Had he been made of such poor clay as we,
Who, when we feel a little fire aglow
‘Gainst wrong within us, dare not let it grow,
But crouch and hide it, lest the scorner see
And sneer, yet bask our self-complacency
In that faint warmth — had he been fashioned so,
The nation n’er had come to that birth-throe
That gave the world a new humanity.
He was no vain professor of the word —
His life a mockery of the creed; — he made
No discount on the Golden Rule, but heard
Above the Senate’s brawls and din of trade
Ever the clank of chains, until he stirred
The nation’s heart on that immortal raid.

This commentary is from a speech by Frederick Douglass, John Brown: an Address, presented at Storer College, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, May 30, 1881

“Did John Brown fail? He certainly did fail to get out of Harper’s Ferry before being beaten down by United States soldiers; he did fail to save his own life, and to lead a liberating army into the mountains of Virginia. But he did not go to Harper’s Ferry to save his life. The true question is, Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? and to this I answer ten thousand times, No! No man fails, or can fail who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause.”

Carruth was a professor at the University of Kansas and a Unitarian. He also was a proponent of Eugenics, unfortunately.


Keep our journalism strong! Support The Citizen Journalism Fund today. Contact The Bedford Citizen: editor@thebedfordcitizen.org or 781-325-8606

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