The Enthusiast, by Herman Melville
“Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him”
Shall hearts that beat no base retreat
In youth’s magnanimous years –
Ignoble hold it, if discreet
When interest tames to fears;
Shall spirits that worship light
Perfidious deem its sacred glow,
Recant, and trudge where worldlings go,
Conform and own them right?
Shall Time with creeping influence cold
Unnerve and cow? The heart
Pine for the heartless ones enrolled
With palterers of the mart?
Shall faith abjure her skies,
Or pale probation blench her down
To shrink from Truth so still, so lone
Mid loud gregarious lies?
Each burning boat in Caesar’s rear,
Flames -No return through me!
So put the torch to ties though dear,
If ties but tempters be.
Nor cringe if come the night:
Walk through the cloud to meet the pall,
Though light forsake thee, never fall
From fealty to light.
Written late in life, this passionate poem from Herman Melville touches on the necessity of fidelity to the creative impulse, the “sacred glow,” despite the vitriol of naysayers, accusers and critics.
Every artist or poet is keenly aware of this challenge. Often times the discouraging word or spirit is born inside the individual himself. Subversive questions echo in the mind: “You’re not good enough.” “You don’t have what it takes.” “Who do you think you are?” If you listen too much or even attempt to debate, failure is likely to follow.
Conversely, if you remain faithful to the creative impulse, refusing to be unnerved or to cower, the way is made clear for genuine and unique expression through you. Whether the brilliance comes from the tip of your tongue or the tip of your pen, brush or bow, the creative impulse must be clothed by you in some manner, translated, as it were, into expression.
To borrow and rephrase a beautiful saying, let not the expression of true minds admit impediments.