It takes great strength to train
To modern service your ancestral brain;
To lift the weight of the unnumbered years
Of dead men’s habits, methods and ideas;
To hold that back with one hand, and support
With the other the weak steps of new resolve!
It takes great strength to bring your life up square
With your accepted thought, and hold it there,
Resisting the inertia that drags back
From new attempts to the old habit’s track.
It is so easy to drift back—to sink—
So hard to live abreast of what you think!
It takes great strength to live where you belong,
When other people think that you are wrong;
People you love, and who love you, and whose
Approval is a pleasure you would choose.
To bear this pressure, and succeed at length
In living your belief—well, it takes strength—
Courage, too. But what does courage mean
Save strength to help you face a pain foreseen;
Of setting yourself against your grandsire’s brain:
Dangerous risk of walking alone and free,
Out of the easy paths that used to be;
And the fierce pain of hurting those we love,
When love meets truth, and truth must ride above!
But the best courage man has ever shown,
Is daring to cut loose, and think alone.
Dark are the unlit chambers of clear space,
Where light shines back from no reflecting face.
Our sun’s wide glare, our heaven’s shining blue,
We owe to fog and dust they fumble through;
And our rich wisdom that we treasure so,
Shines from a thousand things that we don’t know.
But to think new—it takes a courage grim
As led Columbus over the world’s rim.
To think—it costs some courage—and to go—
Try it—it taxes every power you know.
It takes great love to stir a human heart
To live beyond the others, and apart;
A love that is not shallow, is not small;
Is not for one or two, but for them all.
Love that can wound love for its higher need;
Love that can leave love, though the heart may bleed;
Love that can lose love, family and friend,
Yet live steadfastly, loving to the end.
A love that asks no answer, that can live,
Moved by one burning, deathless force—to give!
Love, strength and courage; courage, strength and love—
The heroes of all time are built thereofCharlotte Anna Perkins Stetson Gilman (1860–1935) …launched her career as a lecturer, author, and reformer with the story for which she is best-known today, “The Yellow Wallpaper.” She was hailed as the “brains” of the US women’s movement, whose focus she sought to broaden from suffrage to economics. Her most influential sociological work criticized the competitive individualism of capitalists and Social Darwinists, and touted altruistic service as the prerequisite to both social progress and human evolution. By 1900, Gilman had become an international celebrity, but had already faced a scandal over her divorce and “abandonment” of her child. As the years passed, her audience shrunk and grew more hostile, and she increasingly positioned herself in opposition to the society that in an earlier, more idealistic period she had seen as the better part of the self. In her final years, she unflinchingly faced breast cancer, her second husband’s sudden death, and finally, her own carefully planned suicide— she “preferred chloroform to cancer” and cared little for a single life when its usefulness was over. A remarkable woman whose public solutions often belied her private anxieties.
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