No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
Emily Brontë (1847). No coward soul is mine.
1. CLARERE AUDERE GAUDERE (Be bright: be daring: be joyful)
This does not incite ostentation nor recklessness: clarity and boldness are ancient virtues and were aspirations of many Classical and Enlightenment thinkers, now shared by, for instance, Buddhists, Critical Rationalists and Quakers. For the latter all the rest may be vanity, since much that is intrinsic to heraldry is incompatible with their Testimonies of equality and simplicity and, by implication, the Peace Testimony. Whereas an exemplary ‘enlightened’ and undaunted outlook is customary to them:
Let your light so shine before men ….
The Society of Friends (1964, London). Advices and Queries: Advice IV.
As for joyfulness, the motto should not be mistaken as merely urging hedonism, rather it also accords with the ancient virtue of eudaimonia[a] (εὐδαιμονία, happiness). The primary classical sense of which was ‘living well and acting well’: the emotional state now almost exclusively associated with ‘happiness’ was then seen as secondary and a consequence of the prior active virtue. Nonetheless, this detracts little from the simple exhortation to be joyful and, rightly, others will take their own inspirations from the motto — words once uttered leave the tender care of their author to join the unruly commonwealth of meaning.
2. Whether or not this provenance is appropriate is uncertain: there are other etymological candidates, distinct from the Gaelic incidence, namely:
Despite the obvious temptation, there is no evidence for a derivation from a supposed truncation of the (late Middle) English congeal, from Old French congeler, from medieval Latin congelare (compounded: con- ‘together’ + -gelare ‘freeze’): they are merely homophones. Even so the Proto-Indo-European roots of *ghel- ‘to shine’ and *gel- ‘frost’ are probably cognate.
3. ΖΗΤΕΙΝ ΤΗΝ ΑΛΗΘΕΙΑΝ (Seek the truth)
This is an evocation of a characteristic of Classical Greek scepticism, πάντοτε ζητεῖν τὴν ἀλήθειαν[b,c] (ever seeking the truth): whereas the Gospel is assertive, κ[αὶ] γνώσεσθε τὴν ἀλήθειαν · καὶ ἡ ἀλήθεια ἐλευθερώσει ὑμᾶς[d] (And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free).
For Truth certainly would do well enough, if she were once left to shift for her Self. She seldom has received, and I fear never will receive, much Assistance from the Power of Great men; to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcome.
John Locke (1685). A Letter Concerning Toleration.
La vérité est donc à la fois l'ennemie du pouvoir comme de ceux qui l'exercent ….
Truth is at once the enemy of power and those who exercise it ….‡
Nicolas de Condorcet (1791). Cinq mémoires sur l'instruction publique (803KB, PDF). Cinquième mémoire: Sur l'instruction relative aux sciences: Choix des maîtres.
‡ There have been politicians and leaders who were exceptions to these maxims, and their ineluctable consequences, but they are few: Solon,[e] Cincinnatus[f] and George Washington stand out. In as much as those who wield power find truth extraneous or even inimical to their interests and aspirations, so is an abiding concern for truth a necessity for the lovers of Liberty to prevail against them; since, against the enduring and ingrained delusions of politicians:
Being first virtues of human activities, truth and justice are uncompromising.
John Rawls (1971). A Theory of Justice. Harvard.
See also: Lord Acton (1907). Historical Essays and Studies: Appendix.
Again, the relevance of the Johannine assertion (John 8:32) that the truth shall make you free is plain, although fortuitous, given the secular context.