Oct 302013

Many of the phrases of this poem were inspired by Martin Luther King’s justly famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” The orderly argument for disobedience, which goes through Socrates and Thoreau and Ghandi to break into non-violent flower in the mind of Dr. King, is a most interesting exercise in the influence, the reality of non-material concepts in the life of humanity. The refrain (“My feets is tired, but my soul is rested.”) is from a reported protester whom King mentions expressed herself with “ungrammatical profundity.” Seventy winters on her head, she joined in a bus-riders boycott to protest segregation, where black Americans would be forced to ride in the rear of the bus while white passengers rode up front with easiest access to entrance and egress. There was no question in her mind that the several miles walk to purchase necessities was worth whatever weariness; her soul’s rest was at stake. King himself draws several powerful parallels in his letter written to his fellow clergymen, drawn from both American history and the Bible; from the Boston Tea Party, to the jewish counselors of Nebuchadnezzar who, when they refused to bow to his golden image according to the dictates of their consciences, were thrown alive into a fully-stoked furnace. When the royal Nebuchadnezzar glanced after them to verify their punishment with the wicked lust of all those in power, he saw–not their destruction–but their shadows walking undestroyed in the flames; their righteousness had protected them. John Brown and Nat Turner took a violent path to try and end slavery, each fostering rebellions against an evil institution and paying the penalty of being hanged as law-breakers.

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