We have no falsehoods to defend
We want the facts;
Our force, our thought, we do not spend
In vain attacks.
And we will never meanly try
To save some fair and pleasing lie.
The simple truth is what we ask,
Not the ideal;
We’ve set ourselves the noble task
To find the real.
If all there is naught but dross,
We want to know and bear our loss.
We will not willingly be fooled,
By fables nursed;
Our hearts, by earnest thought, are schooled
To bear the worst;
And we can stand erect and dare
All things. all facts that really are.
We have no God to serve or fear,
No hell to shun,
No devil with malicious leer.
When life is done
An endless sleep may close our eyes.
A sleep with neither dreams nor sighs.
We have no master on the land —
No king in air —
Without a manacle we stand,
Without a prayer,
Without a fear of coming night,
We seek the truth, we love the light.
We do not bow before a guess,
A vague unknown;
A senseless force we do not bless
In solemn tone.
When evil comes we do not curse,
Or thank because it is no worse.
When cyclones rend — when lightning blights,
‘Tis naught but fate;
There is no God of wrath who smites
In heartless hate.
Behind the things that injure man
There is no purpose, thought, or plan.
We waste no time in useless dread,
In trembling fear;
The present lives, the past is dead,
And we are here,
All welcome guests at life’s great feast —
We need no help from ghost or priest.
Our life is joyous, jocund, free —
Not one a slave
Who bends in fear the trembling knee,
And seeks to save
A coward soul from future pain;
Not one will cringe or crawl for gain.
The jeweled cup of love we drain,
And friendship’s wine
Now swiftly flows in every vein
With warmth divine.
And so we love and hope and dream
That in death’s sky there is a gleam.
We walk according to our light,
Pursue the path
That leads to honor’s stainless height,
Careless of wrath
Or curse of God, or priestly spite,
Longing to know and do the right.
We love our fellow-man, our kind,
Wife, child, and friend.
To phantoms we are deaf and blind,
But we extend
The helping hand to the distressed;
By lifting others we are blessed.
Love’s sacred flame within the heart
And friendship’s glow;
While all the miracles of art
Their wealth bestow
Upon the thrilled and joyous brain,
And present raptures banish pain.
We love no phantoms of the skies,
But living flesh,
With passion’s soft and soulful eyes,
Lips warm and fresh,
And cheeks with health’s red flag unfurled,
The breathing angels of this world.
The hands that help are better far
Than lips that pray.
Love is the ever gleaming star
That leads the way,
That shines, not on vague worlds of bliss,
But on a paradise in this.
We do not pray, or weep, or wail;
We have no dread,
No fear to pass beyond the veil
That hides the dead.
And yet we question, dream, and guess,
But knowledge we do not possess.
We ask, yet nothing seems to know;
We cry in vain.
There is no “master of the show”
Who will explain,
Or from the future tear the mask;
And yet we dream, and still we ask
Is there beyond the silent night
An endless day;
Is death a door that leads to light?
We cannot say.
The tongueless secret locked in fate
We do not know. —
We hope and wait.
Extract from The Devil (1899) by Robert Green Ingersoll
Source: The Works of Robert G. Ingersoll, Dresden Memorial Edition in Twelve Volumes. Volume IV – Lectures. New York: The Ingersoll League, 1929. Reproduced in Electronic Form 2003 by Bank of Wisdom, USA. (p145-149)