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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,
Well done! Thy words are great and bold; Like the prophetic voice, that cried
At times they seem to me

To John in Patmos, " Write!”
Like Luther's, in the days of old,

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 !


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,
His breast was bare, bis matted hair And fell into the sand.

Was buried in the sand.
Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep, And then at furious speed he rode
He saw his Native Land.

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,

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She dwells by great Kenbawa's side,

In valleys green and cool;
And all her hope and all her pride

Are in the village school.
Her soul, like the transparent air

That robes the hills above,
Though not of earth, encircles there

All things with arms of love. And thus she walks among her girls

With praise and mild rebukes;
Subduing e'en rude village churls

By her angelic looks.
She reads to them at eventide

Of One who came to save ;
To cast the captive's chains aside,

And liberate the slave.
And oft the blessed time foretells

When all men shall be free;

And musical, as silver bells,

Their falling chains shall be.
And following her beloved Lord,

In decent poverty,
She makes her life one sweet record

And deed of charity.
For she was rich and gave up all

To break the iron bands
Of those who waited in her hall,

And laboured in her lands.
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.


Loud he sang the Psalm of David !
He, a Negro, and en-laved,
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?



Is dark fens of the Dismal Swamp A poor old slave, infirm and lame;
The hunted Negro lay ;

Great scars deformed his face ;
He saw the fire of the midnight camp, On his forehead he bore the brand of
And heard at times a horse's trainp,

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!
Where hardly a human foot could pass, On him alone was the doom of pain,
Or a human heart would dare,

From the morning of his birth ;
On the quaking turf of the green morass : On him alone the curse of Cain
He crouched in the rank and tangled grass, Fell, like a tail on the garnered grain,

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.
He seemed in haste to go.

But the voice of nature was too weak;
He said, “My ship at anchor rides He took the glittering gold !
In yonder broad lagoon ;

Then pale as death grew the maiden's I only wait the evening tides,

And the rising of the moon.”

Her hands as icy cold.
Before them, with her face upraised, The Slaver led, her from the door,
In timid attitude,

He led her by the band,
Like one half curious, half amazed, To be his slave and paramour
A Quadroon maiden stood.

In a strange and distant land !

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BEWARE! The Israelite of old, who tore

The lion in his path,—when, poor and blind,
He saw the blessed light of heaven no more,

Shorn of his noble strength and forced to grind
In prison, and at last led forth to be
A pander to Philistine revelry,–
Upon the pillars of the temple laid

His desperate hands, and in its overthrow
Destroyed himself, and with him those who made

A cruel mockery of his sightless woe;
The poor, blind Slave, the scoff and jest of all,
Expired, and thousands perished in the fall!

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 Commonweal,
Till the vast Temple of our liberties
A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies.



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.
There are marks of age,

Once in Elsinore,
There are thumb-marks on thy margin, At the court of old King IIamlet,
Made by hands that clasped thee rudely Yorick and his boon companions
At the ale house.

Sang these ditties.
Soiled and dull thou art;

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.

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