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Long since, beyond the Southern Sea

Their outbound sails have sped,
While she, in meek humility,

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.


In dark fens of the Dismal Swaup

The hunted Negro lay!
He saw the fire of the midnight camp,
And heard at times a horse's tramp,

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,
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 grass,

Like 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 !
On him alone was the doom of pain,

From the morning of his birth ;
On him alone the curse of Cain
Fell, like a flail on the garnered grain,

And struck him to the earth!


Loud he sang the psalm of David !
He, a negro and enslaved,
Sang of Israel's victory,
Sang of Zion, bright and free.

In that hour when night is calmest,
Sang he from the Hebrew Psalmist,
In a voice so sweet and clear,
That I could not choose but hear,

Songs of triumph, and ascriptions,
Such as reached the swart Egyptians,
When upon the Red Sea coast
Perished Pharaoh and his host.

And the voice of his devotion
Filled my soul with strange emotion;
For its tones by turns were glad,
Sweetly solemn, wildly sad.

Paul and Silas, in their prison,
Sang of Christ, the Lord arisen,
And an earthquake's arm of might
Broke their dungeon-gates at night.

But, alas! what holy angel
Brings the slave this glad evangel?
And what earthquake's arm of might
Breaks his dungeon-gates at night?


In Ocean's wide domains,

Half buried in the sands, Lie skeletons in chains,

With shackled feet and hands.

Beyond the fall of dews,

Deeper than plummet lies, Float ships, with all their crews,

No more to sink or rise.

There the black Slave-ship swims,

Freighted with human forms, Whose fettered, fleshless limbs

Are not the sport of storms,

These are the bones of slaves !

They gleam from the abyss; They cry, 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!

All evil thoughts and deeds;

Anger, and lust, and pride;
The foulest, rankest weeds,

That choke Life's groaning tidel,

These are the woes of Slaves ;

They glare from the abyss;
They cry, from unknown graves,
" We are the Witnesses


The Slaver in the broad lagoon

Lay moored, with idle sail ; He waited for the rising moon,

And for the evening gale.

Under the shore his boat was tied,

And all her listless crew Watched the gray alligator slide

Into the still bayou.

Odours of orange-flowers, and spice,

Reached them from time to time, Like airs that breathe from Paradise

Upon a world of crime.

The Planter, under his roof of thatch,

Smoked thoughtfully and slow; The Slaver's thumb was on the latch,

He seemed in haste to go.

He said, “My ship at anchor rides

In yonder broad lagoon;
I only wait the evening tides,

And the rising of the moon."

Before them, with her face upraised,

In timid attitude,
Like one half-curious, half-amazed,

A Quadroon maiden stood.
Her eyes were, like a falcon's, gray,

Her arms and neck were bare ;
No garment she wore, save a kirtle gay,

And her own long raven hair.
And on her lips there played a smile,

As holy, meek, and faint,
As lights, in some cathedral aisle,

The features of a saint.

“The soil is barren—the farm is old,"

The thoughtful Planter said;
Then looked upon the Slaver's gold,

And then upon the maid.
His heart within him was at strife

With such accursed gains;
For he knew whose passions gave her life,

Whose blood ran in her veins.

But the voice of nature was too weak,

He took the glittering gold !
Then pale as death grew the maiden's cheek,

Her hands as icy cold.
The Slaver led her from the door,

He led her by the hand,
To be his slave and paramour

In a strange and distant land!

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