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POEMS ON SLAVERY.
1842. [The following Poems, with one exception, were written at sea, in the latter part of October. I had not then heard of Dr. Channing's death. Since that event the poem addressed to him is no longer appropriate. have decided, however, to let it remain as it was written, a feeble testimony of my admiration for a great and good man.) TO WILLIAM E. CHANNING.
They clasped his neck, they kissed his The pages of thy book I read,
cheeks, And as I closed each one,
They held him by the hand ! My heart, responding, ever said,
A tear burst from the sleeper's lids * Servant of God! well done!”
And fell into the sand. Well done! Thy words are great and And then at furious speed he rode bold;
Along the Niger's bank; At times they seem to me,
His bridle-reins were golden chains, Like Luther's, in the days of old,
And, with a martial clank, Half-battles for the free.
At each leap he could feel his scabbard
of steel Go on, until this land revokes
Smiting his stallion's flank.
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their
flight, A voice is ever at thy side
O’er plains where the tamarind grew, Speaking in tones of might, Like the prophe voice, that cried,
Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts,
And the ocean rose to view. To John in Patmos, “Write!
At night he heard the lion roar, Write ! and tell out this bloody tale ; And the hyæna scream; Record this dire eclipse,
And the river-horse, as he crushed the This Day of Wrath, this Endless Wail,
reeds This dread Apocalypse.
Beside some hidden stream;
And it passed, like a glorious roll of THE SLAVE'S DREAM.
drums, BESIDE the ungathered rice he lay,
Through the triumph of his dream. His sickle in his hand;
The forests, with their myriad tongues, His breast was bare, his matted hair
Shouted of liberty; Was buried in the sand.
And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud, Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep, With a voice so wild and free, He saw his Native Land.
That he started in his sleep and smiled Wide through the landscape of his
At their tempestuous glee. dreams
He did not feel the driver's whip, The lordly Niger flowed ;
Nor the burning heat of day; Beneath the palm-trees on the plain For death had illumined the Land of Once more a king he strode ;
Sleep, And heard the tinkling caravans
And his lifeless body lay Descend the mountain-road.
A worn-out fetter that the soul He saw once more his dark-eyed queen
„Had broken and thrown away! Among her children stand;
THE GOOD PART,
In valleys green and cool;
Are in the village school.
That robes the hills above,
All things with arms of love.
With praise and mild rebukes;
By her angelic looks.
Of one who came to save;
And liberate the slave.
When all men shall be free;
Their falling chains shall be.
In decent poverty,
And deed of charity.
To break the iron bands
And laboured in her lands.
Their outbound sails have sped,
Now earns her daily bread. It is their prayers, which never cease,
That clothe her with such grace; Their blessing is the light of peace
That shines upon her face.
And the cedar grows, and the poisonous
vine Is spotted like the snake ; Where hardly a human foot could pass,
Or a human heart would dare, On the quaking turf of the green morass He crouched in the rank and tangled
a wild beast in his lair. A poor old slave, infirm and lame;
Great scars deformed his face; On his forehead he bore the brand of
shame, And the rags, that hid his mangled frame,
Were the livery of disgrace. All things above were bright and fair,
All things were glad and free; Lithe squirrels darted here and there, And wild birds filled the echoing air
With songs of Liberty!
From the morning of his birth;
And struck him to the earth!
THE WITNESSES. In Ocean's wide domains,
Half buried in the sands, Like skeletons in chains,
With shackled feet and hands, Beyond the fall of dews,
Deeper than plummet lies,
No more to sink nor rise.
Freighted with human forms,
Are not the sport of storms, These are the bones of Slaves; They gleam from the abyss;
from yawning waves, “We are the Witnesses !” Within Earth's wide domains
Are markets for men's lives; Their necks are galled with chains,
Their wrists are cramped with gyves. Dead bodies, that the kite
In deserts makes its prey; Murders, that with affright
Scare schoolboys from their play!
THE SLAVE IN THE DISMAL
The hunted Negro lay;
And a bloodhound's distant bay. Where will-o'-the-wisps and glow
worms shine, In bulrush and in brake; Where waving mosses shroud the pine,
All evil thoughts and deeds;
The planter, under his roof of thatch, Anger, and lust, and pride;
Smoked thoughtfully and slow; The foulest, rankest weeds,
The Slaver's thumb was on the latch, That choke Life's groaning tide!
He seemed in haste to go. These are the woes of Slaves;
He said, “My ship at anchor rides They glare from the abyss;
In yonder broad lagoon; They cry, from unknown graves, I only wait the evening tides, "We are the Witnesses?"
And the rising of the moon."
Before them, with her face upraised, THE SLAVE SINGING AT
In timid attitude,
Like one half curious, half amazed, MIDNIGHT.
A Quadroon maiden stood. Loud he sang the Psalm of David !
Her eyes were large, and full of light, He, a Negro and enslaved,
Her arms and neck were bare ; Sang of Israel's victory,
No garment she wore save a kirtle Sang of Zion, bright and free.
bright, In that hour, when night is calmest, And her own long, raven hair. Sang he from the Hebrew Psalmist,
And on her lips there played a smile In a voice so sweet and clear
As holy, meek, and faint, That I could not choose but hear.
As lights in some cathedral aisle Songs of triumph, and ascriptions,
The features of a saint. Such as reached the swart Egyptians,
“The soil is barren,-the farm is old ?” When upon the Red Sea coast
The thoughtful Planter said ; Perished Pharaoh and his host.
Then looked upon the Slaver's gold, And the voice of his devotion
And then upon the maid. Filled my soul with strange emotion;
His heart within him was at strife For its tones by turns were glad,
With such accursèd gains; Sweetly solemn, wildly sad.
For he knew whose passions gave her Paul and Silas, in their prison,
life, Sang of Christ, the Lord arisen,
Whose blood ran in her veins.
But the voice of nature was too weak; But, alas ! what holy angel
He took the glittering gold ! Brings the Slave this glad evangel?
Then pale as death grew the maiden's And what earthquake's arm of might
cheek, Breaks his dungeon-gates at night?
Her hands as icy cold.
He led her by the hand,
In a strange and distant land !
BEWARE! The Israelite of old, who tore Under the shore his boat was tied,
The lion in his path,—when, poor and And all her listless crew
blind, Watched the gray alligator slide Into the still bayou.
He saw the blessed light of heaven no
more, Odours of orange-flowers, and spice, Shorn of his noble strength and forced Reached them from time to time,
to grind Like airs that breathe from Paradise In prison, and at last led forth to be Upon a world of crime.
A pander to Philistine revelry,
Upon the pillars of the temple laid
who made A cruel mockery of his sightless The poor, blind Slave, the scoff and jest
of all, Expired, and thousands perished in
There is a poor, blind Samson in this
land, Shorn of his strength, and bound in
bonds of steel, Who may, in some grim revel, raise his
hand, And shake the pillars of this Common
weal, Till the vast Temple of our libcrties A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish
THE SPANISH STUDENT.
Students of Alcalá.
Gentlemen of Madrid.
Count of the Gipsies.
A young Gipsy.
A Gipsy Girl.
A poor Girl.
The Padre Cura's Niece.
chambers. Night. The Count in
night, Don Carlos;
I had engagements elsewhere. Pray who was there?
Lara. Why, all the town and court. The house was crowded ; and the busy
fans Among the gaily dressed and perfumed
ladies Fluttered like butterflies among the
Don C. What was the play?
It was a dull affair ; One of those comedies in which you see, As Lope says,* the history of the world Brought down from Genesis to the Day
of Judgment. There were three duels fought in the
first act, Three gentlemen receiving deadly
wounds, Laying their hands upon their hearts,
and saying, "Oh, I am dead!” a lover in a closet, An old hidalgo, and a gay Don Juan, A Doña Inez with a black mantilla, Followed at twilight by an unknown
lover, Who looks intently where he knows
she is not! Don C. Of course the Preciosa
danced to-night! Lara. And never better. Every footAs lightly as a sunbeam on the water. I think the girl extremely beautiful. Don C. Almost beyond the privilege
of woman! I saw her in the Prada yesterday. Her step was royal, en-like,-and
her face As beautiful as a saint's in Paradise. Lara. May not a saint fall from her
this angel fell, And, though she is a virgin outwardly, Within she is a sinner ; like those panels Of doors and altar-pieces the old monks Painted in convents, with the Virgin
Mary, On the outside, and on the inside Venus! Don C. You do her wrong; indeed,
you do her wrong! She is as virtuous as she is fair. Lara. How credulous you are! Why, look you, friend,
*“La cólera de un Español sentado no se templa, sino le representan en dos horas hasta el final juicio desde el Génesis.”
-Lope de Vega.
There's not a virtuous woman in
Madrid, In this whole city! And would you
persuade me That a mere dancing-girl, who shows
herself, Nightly, half-naked, on the stage, for
money, And with voluptuous motions fires the
And therefore won The easier.
Don C. Nay, not to be won at all! The only virtue that a Gipsy prizes Is chastity. That is her only virtue. Dearer than life she holds it. I re
member A Gipsy woman, a vile, shameless bawd, Whose craft was to betray the young
and fair; And yet this woman was above all
bribes. And when a noble lord, touched by her
beauty, The wild and wizard beauty of her race, Offered her gold to be what she made
others, She turned upon him, with a look of
scorn, And smote him in the face ! Lara.
And does that prove That Preciosa is above suspicion ? Don C. It proves a nobleman may
be repulsed When he thinks conquest easy. I
believe That woman, in her deepest degrada
tion, Holds something sacred, something
undefiled, Some pledge and keepsake of her higher
nature, And, like the diamond in the dark, re
tains Some quenchless gleam of the celestial
taken the gold.
I am sure of it.