"Who Speaks The Truth Stabs Falsehood To The Heart"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: "L'Envoi" appeared at the end of Lowell's first volume of poetry, A Year's Life. The book was dedicated, though not formally, to Maria White, to whom the poet had become engaged in the fall of 1840. She is the "mine own betrothed" of the poem, to whom the poet dedicates these early works, which he terms "the firstlings of my muse,–/ Poor windfalls of unripe experience,/ Young buds plucked hastily by childish hands." In this poem he speaks of the themes appropriate to the work of American poets, who should ignore the tall peaks, great lakes, vast forests, and wide prairies, in order to write about "the freedom and divinity of man,/ The glorious claims of human brotherhood." The American poet, says Lowell, must not be willing, "though clad with angelwings," to write about "dead men's dead thoughts." He issues a call for American poetry to bring forth new songs to equal the challenge and hope for freedom that America gives to men:

Never had poets such high call before,
Never can poets hope for higher one,
And if they be but faithful to their trust,
Earth will remember them with love and joy,
And, oh, far better, God will not forget.
For he who settles Freedom's principles
Writes the death-warrant of all tyranny;
Who speaks the truth stabs Falsehood to the heart,
And his mere word makes despots tremble more
Than ever Brutus with his dagger could.
Wait for no hints from waterfalls or woods,
Nor dream that tales of red men, brute and fierce,
Repay the finding of this Western World,
Or needed half the globe to give them birth . . .