One feels, since he is gone, that he made his great qualities seem so natural and inevitable, we forgot that all did not share them. We forgot the scholar’s proverbial reproach of timidity and selfishness, in watching him. While he lived, it seemed a matter of course that the greatest acquirements and the heartiest self-devotion should go together. Can we keep our strength, without the tonic of his example? How petty it now seems to ask for any fine-drawn subtilties of poet or seer in him who gave his life to the cause of the humblest! Life speaks the loudest. We do not ask what Luther said or wrote, but only what he did; and the name of Theodore Parker will not only long outlive his books, but will last far beyond the special occasions out of which he moulded his grand career.
* * * * *
Io triumphe! Lo, thy certain art,
My crafty sire, releases us at length!
False Minos now may knit his baffled brows,
And in the labyrinth by thee devised
His brutish horns in angry search may toss
The Minotaur,—but thou and I are free!
See where it lies, one dark spot on the breast
Of plains far-shining in the long-lost day,
Thy glory and our prison! Either hand
Crete, with her hoary mountains, olive-clad
In twinkling silver, ’twixt the vineyard rows,
Divides the glimmering seas. On Ida’s top
The sun, discovering first an earthly throne,
Sits down in splendor: lucent vapors rise
From folded glens among the awaking hills,
Expand their hovering films, and touch, and spread
In airy planes beneath us, hearths of air
Whereon the morning burns her hundred fires.
Take thou thy way between the cloud and wave,
O Daedalus, my father, steering forth
To friendly Samos, or the Carian shore!
But me the spaces of the upper heaven
Attract, the height, the freedom, and the joy.
For now, from that dark treachery escaped,
And tasting power which was the lust of youth,
Whene’er the white blades of the sea-gull’s wings
Flashed round the headland, or the barbed files
Of cranes returning clanged across the sky,
No half-way flight, no errand incomplete
I purpose. Not, as once in dreams, with pain
I mount, with fear and huge exertion hold
Myself a moment, ere the sickening fall
Breaks in the shock of waking. Launched, at last,
Uplift on powerful wings, I veer and float
Past sunlit isles of cloud, that dot with light
The boundless archipelago of sky.
I fan the airy silence till it starts
In rustling whispers, swallowed up as soon;
I warm the chilly ether with my breath;
I with the beating of my heart make glad
The desert blue. Have I not raised myself
Unto this height, and shall I cease to soar?