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FORCED from home and all its pleasures,
Afric's coast I left forlorn:
To increase a stranger's treasures,
O'er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,
Paid my price in paltry gold;
But, though slave they have enroll'd me,
Minds are never to be sold.
Still in thought as free as ever,
What are England's rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,
Me to torture, me to task?
Fleecy locks and black complexion
Cannot forfeit Nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same.
Why did all-creating Nature
Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water, '.
Sweat of ours must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters iron-hearted,
Lolling at your jovial boards;
Think how many backs have smarted
For the sweets your cane affords.
Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
Is there One who reigns on high?
Has he bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from his throne, the sky?
THE NEGRO'S COMPLAINT.
Ask him, if your knotted scourges,
Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges,
Agents of his will to use?
Hark! he answers-Wild tornadoes
Strewing yonder sea with wrecks;
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
Are the voice with which he speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
Afric's sons should undergo,
Fix'd their tyrants' habitations
Where his whirlwinds answer-No.
By our blood in Afric wasted,
Ere our necks received the chain;
By the miseries that we tasted,
Crossing in your barks the main:
By our sufferings, since ye brought us
To the man-degrading mart:
All sustain'd by patience, taught us
Only by a broken heart!
Deem our nation brutes no longer,
Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier of regard and stronger
Than the colour of our kind.
Slaves of gold, whose sordid dealings
Tarnish all your boasted powers,
Prove that you have human feelings,
Ere you proudly question ours!
Video meliora proboque,
I own I am shock'd at the purchase of slaves,
And fear those who buy them and sell them are knaves;
What I hear of their hardships, their tortures, and
Is almost enough to draw pity from stones.
I pity them greatly, but I must be mum,
For how could we do without sugar and rum?
Especially sugar, so needful we see?
What, give up our desserts, our coffee, and tea!
Besides, if we do, the French, Dutch, and Danes
Will heartily thank us, no doubt, for our pains:
If we do not buy the poor creatures, they will;
And tortures and groans will be multiplied still.
If foreigners likewise would give up the trade,
Much more in behalf of your wish might be said;
But, while they get riches by purchasing blacks,
Pray tell me why we may not also go snacks?
Your scruples and arguments bring to my mind
A story 'so pat, you may think it is coin'd,
On purpose to answer you, out of my mint;
But I can assure you I saw it in print.
A youngster at school, more sedate than the rest,
Had once his integrity put to the test;
His comrades had plotted an orchard to rob,
And ask'd him to go and assist in the job.
He was shock'd, sir, like you, and answer’d—' Oh no!
What! rob our good neighbour! I pray you don't go;
Besides the man's poor, his orchard's his bread :
Then think of his children, for they must be fed.'
You speak very fine, and you look very grave,
But apples we want, and apples we'll have;
If you will go with us, you shall have a share,
If not, you shall have neither apple nor pear.'
They spoke, and Tom ponder❜d—'I see they will go :
Poor man! what a pity to injure him so!
Poor man! I would save him his fruit if I could,
But staying behind would do him no good.
If the matter depended alone upon me,
His apples might hang till they dropp'd from the tree; But since they will take them, I think I'll go too; He will lose none by me, though I get a few.’
His scruples thus silenced, Tom felt more at ease, And went with his comrades the apples to seize; He blamed and protested, but join'd in the plan : He shared in the plunder, but pitied the man.
'Twas in the glad season of spring,
Asleep at the dawn of the day,
I dream'd what I cannot but sing,
So pleasant it seem'd as I lay.
I dream'd, that on ocean afloat,
Far hence to the westward I sail'd,
While the billows high lifted the boat,
And the fresh-blowing breeze never fail’d.
In the steerage a woman I saw,
Such at least was the form that she wore, Whose beauty impress'd me with awe, Ne'er taught me by woman before : She sat, and a shield at her side
Shed light, like a sun on the waves, And, smiling divinely, she cried'I go to make freemen of slaves.'
Then, raising her voice to a strain
The sweetest that ear ever heard,
She sung of the slave's broken chain
Wherever her glory appear'd.
Some clouds, which had over us hung,
Fled, chased by her melody clear,
And methought while she liberty sung,
'Twas liberty only to hear.