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In dark fens of the Dismal Swamp

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 glowworms 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 Negru 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 Pharoah 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 ?

THE WITNESSES. 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.

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