“Oh Still, Small Voice of Calm”
Breathe through the pulses of our desire
Thy coolness and Thy balm;
Let sense be dumb, let flesh retire;
Speak through the earthquake, wind, and fire,
O still, small voice of calm!
– John Greenleaf Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807 – 1892) was an influential American Quaker poet and abolitionist. Highly regarded in his lifetime and after, he is remembered for his patriotic poems and a number of poems turned into hymns. Whittier grew up on a poor farm with a large extended family and little formal education. However, he was heavily influenced by Quaker ideologies of humanitarianism, compassion, and social responsibility, introduced to him by his father. He remained an outspoken proponent of abolitionism as a founding member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Many of his early poems dealt with the cause of slavery. After the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment, Whittier turned to other forms of poetry; his most famous include Snow-Bound and Dear Lord and Father of Mankind. Starting around 1850, he also wrote folksy New England ballads and narrative poems, sentimental country idylls, and simple religious poems that appealed strongly to his readers.