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Poems on Slabern.
[The following Poems, with one exception, were written at sea, in the latter part of October, 1942. I had not then heard of Dr. Channing's death. Since that event, the poem addressed to him is no longer appropriate. I have decided, however, to let it remain as it was written in testimony of my admiration for a great and good man.)
TO WILLIAM E. CHANNING. The pages of thy book I read,
The feudal curse, whose whips and yokes And as I closed each one,
Insult humanity. My heart, responding, ever said,
A voice is ever at thy side, “Servant of God! well done!”
Speaking in tones of might,
To John in Patmos, " Write!”
Write! and tell out this bloody tale ; Half-battles for the free.
Record this dire clipse Go on, until this land revokes
This Day of Wrath, this Endless Wail, The old and chartered Lie,
This dread Apocalypse !
THE SLAVE'S DREAM.
BESIDE the ungathered rice he lay,
They held him by the hand ! His sickle in his band ;
A tear burst from the sleeper's lids,
Was buried in the sand.
Along the Niger's bank;
His bridle-reins were golden chains, Wide through the landscape of his And, with a martial clank, dreams
At each leap he could feel his scabbard The lordly Niger flowed ;
of steel Beneath the palm-trees on the plain Smiting his stallion's flank.
Once more a king he strode; And heard the tinkling caravans
Before him, like a blood-red flag, Descend the mountain-road.
The bright flamingoes flew;
From morn till night he followed their He saw once more his dark-eyed queen flight, Among her children stand ;
O'er plains where the tamarind grew, They clasped his neck, they kissed his Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts, cheeks,
And the ocean rose to view,
THE GOOD PART THAT SHALL NOT BE TAKEN AWAY.
She dwells by great Kenbawa's side,
In valleys green and cool;
Are in the village school.
That robes the hills above,
All things with arms of love. And thus she walks among her girls
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;
And musical, as silver bells,
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.
THE SLAVE SINGING AT MIDNIGHT.
Loud he sang the Psalm of David !
And the voice of his devotion
THE SLAVE IN THE DISMAL SWAMP.
Is dark fens of the Dismal Swamp A poor old slave, infirm and lame;
Great scars deformed his face ;
shame, And a bloodhound's distant bay. And the rags, that hid his mangled
frame, Where will-o'-the-wisps and glow-worms
Were the livery of disgrace. shine, In bulrush and in brake;
All things above were bright and fair, Where waving mosses shroud the pine, All things were glad and free; And the cedar grows, and the poisonous Lithe squirrels darted here and there, vine
And wild birds filled the echoing air Is spotted like the snake;
With songs of Liberty!
From the morning of his birth ;
a Like a wild beast in his lair.
And struck him to the earth!
THE QUADROON GIRL. The Slaver in the broad lagoon Her eyes were large, and full of light, Lay moored with idle sail ;
Her arms and neck were bare ; He waited for the rising moon, No garment she wore, save a kirtle bright, And for the evening gale.
And her own long, raven hair. Under the shore his boat was tied, And on her lips there played a smile And all her listless crew
As loly, meek, and faint, Watched the gray alligator slide
As lights in some cathedral aisle Into the still bayou.
The features of a saint.
“The soil is barren,--the farm is old ; " Odours of orange-flowers, and spice, Reached them from time to time,
The thoughtful Planter said ;
Then looked upon the Slaver's gold, Like airs that breathe from Paradise
And then upon the maid. Upon a world of crime.
His heart within him was at strife The Planter, under his roof of thatch, With such acrursèd gains ;
Smoked thoughtfully and slow; For he knew whose passions gave her life. The Slaver's thumb was on the latch,
Whose blood ran in her veins.
But the voice of nature was too weak;
Then pale as death grew the maiden's I only wait the evening tides,
Her hands as icy cold.
He led her by the band,
In a strange and distant land !
BEWARE! The Israelite of old, who tore
The lion in his path,—when, poor and blind,
Shorn of his noble strength and forced to grind
His desperate hands, and in its overthrow
A cruel mockery of his sightless woe;
There is a poor, blind Samson in this land,
Shorn of his strength, and bound in bonds of steel,
And shake the pillars of this Commonweal,
TO AN OLD DANISH SONG-BOOK. WELCO my old frie
Thou recallest homes Welcome to a foreign fireside,
Where thy songs of love and friendship While the sullen gales of autumn Made the gloomy Northern winter Shake the windows.
Bright as summer. The ungrateful world
Once some ancient Scald, Has, it seems, dealt harshly with thee, In his bleak, ancestral Iceland, Since, beneath the skies of Denmark, Chanted staves of these old ballads First I met thee.
To the Vikings.
Once in Elsinore,
Sang these ditties.
Once Prince Frederick's Guard Yellow are thy time-worn pages,
Sang them in their smoky barracks ;As the russet, rain-molested
Suddenly the English cannon Leaves of autumn.
Joined the chorus ! Thou art stained with wine
Peasants in the field, Scattered from bilarious goblets,
Sailors on the roaring ocean, As the leaves with the libations
Students, tradesmen, pale mechanics, Of Olympus.
All hare sung them. Yet dost thou recall
Thou hast been their friend; Days departed, half-forgotten,
They, alas, have left thee friendless! When in dreamy youth I wandered Yet at least by one warm fireside By the Baltic,
Art thou welcome. When I paused to hear
And, as swallows build The old ballad of King Christian In these wide, old-fashioned chimneys, Shouted from suburban taverns
So thy twittering songs shall nestie In the twilight.
In my bosom, Thou recallest bards,
Quiet, close, and warm, Who, in solitary chambers,
Sheltered from all molestation, And with hearts by passion wasted, And recalling by their voices
Youth and travel.
Wrote thy pages.