Gateway to the Classics: Display Item
William Cullen Bryant

The Antiquity of Freedom

O Freedom! thou art not, as poets dream,

A fair young girl, with light and delicate limbs,

And wavy tresses gushing from the cap

With which the Roman master crowned his slave

When he took off the gyves. A bearded man,

Armed to the teeth, art thou; one mailed hand

Grasps the broad shield, and one the sword; thy brow,

Glorious in beauty though it be, is scarred

With tokens of old wars; thy massive limbs

Are strong with struggling. Power at thee has launched

His bolts, and with his lightnings smitten thee;

They could not quench the life thou hast from heaven.

Merciless Power has dug thy dungeon deep,

And his swart armorers, by a thousand fires,

Have forged thy chain; yet while he deems thee bound,

The links are shivered, and the prison walls

Fall outward; terribly thou springest forth,

As springs the flame above a burning pile,

And shoutest to the nations, who return

Thy shoutings, while the pale oppressor flies.