Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

THE SLAVE SILIPS.

BY JOHN G. WHITTIER.

That fatal, that perfidious bark, Built i' the eclipse, and rigged with curses dark."

Milton's Lycidas.

Hark! from the ship's dark bosom,

The very sounds of hell ! The ringing clank of iron

The maniac's short, sharp yell! The hoarse, low curse, throat-stifled

The starving infant's moanThe horror of a breaking heart

Pour'd through a mother's groan!

Up from that loathsome prison

The stricken blind ones came : Below, had all been darkness-

Above, was still the same. Yet the holy breath of Heaven

Was sweetly breathing there, And the heated brow of fever

Coold in the soft sea air.

The French ship Le Rodeur, with a crew ostwenty-two men, and with one hundred and sixty negro slaves, sailed from Bonny in Africa, April, 1819. . On approaching the line, a terrible malady broke out-an obstinate disease of the eves--contagious, and altogether beyond the resources of medicine. li was aggravated by the scarcity of water among the slaves, (only half a wine glass per day being allowed to an individual,) and by the extreme impurity of the air in which they breathed. By the advice of the physician, they were brought upon deck occasionally ; but some of the poor wretches, locking theinselves in each other's arms, leaped overboard, in the hope, which so universally prevails among thens, of being swifily transported to their own homes in Africa. To check this, the captain ordered several, who were stopped in the attempt, to be shot, or hanged, before their conipanions. The disease extended to the crew; and one after another was smitten with it, until only one remained unaffected. Yet even this dreadful condition did not preclude calculation : to save the expense of supporting slaves rendered unsaleable. and to obtain grounds for a claim against the underwriters, thirty-sir of the negroes, having become blind, were thrown into the sea and drowned!

In the midst of their dreadful fears Jest the solitary individual, whose sight remained unatkcted, should also be seized with the malady, a sail was discovered. It was the Spanish slaver, Leon. The same disease had been there; and, horrible to tell, all the crew had become blind! Unable to assist each other, the vessels parted. The Spanish ship has never since been heard of.' The Rodeur reached Gundaloupe on the 21st of June; the only man who had escaped the disease, and had thus been enabled lo steer the slaver into port, caught it in three days after its arrival. -Speech of N. Benjamin Constant, in the French Chamber of Deputies, June 17, 1820.

- Overboard with them, shipmates !"

Cutlass and dirk were plied ; Fetter'd and blind, one after one,

Plunged down the vessel's side. The sabre smote above

Beneath, the lean shark lay, Waiting with wide and bloody jaw

His quick and human prey.

God of the earth! what cries

Rang upward unto Thee ? Voices of agony and blood,

From ship-deck and from sea. The last dull plunge was heard

The last wave caught its stainAnd the unsated shark look'd up

For human hearts in vain.

" All ready ?” cried the captain;

· Ay, ay!” the seamen said ;
“ Heave up the worthless lubbers-

The dying and the dead.”
Up from the slave-ship's prison

Fierce, bearded heads were thrust« Now let the sharks look to it-

Toss up the dead ones first !"

Red glow'd the Western waters

The setting sun was there, Scattering alike on wave and cloud

His fiery mesh of hair. Amidst a group in blindness,

A solitary eye Gazed, from the burden'd slaver's deck,

Into that burning sky.

Corpse after corpse came up, –

Death had been busy there; Where every blow is mercy,

Why should the Spoiler spare ? Corpse after corpse they cast

Sullenly from the ship, Yet bloody with the traces

Of fetter-Jink and whip.

- A storm," spoke out the gazer,

• Is gathering and at handCurse on't-I'd give my other eye

For one firm rood of land.” And then he laugh'd—but only

His echord langh repliedFor the blinded and the suffering

Alone were at his side.

Gloomily stood the captain,

With his arms upon his breast, With his cold brow sternly knotted,

And his iron lip compress’d. " Are all the dead dogs over ?"

Growl'd through that matted lip6. The blind ones are no better, Let's lighten the good ship."

Night settled on the waters,

And on a stormy heaven, While fiercely on that lone ship's track

The thunder.gust was driven.

[blocks in formation]

“THE ONE IDEA."

BY SARAH JANE CLARKE.

“ We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ”

Our glorious one Idea!

From the source of life it came, And it shineth far and mounteth high,

An ever living flame.

Our wives, our girls, of "One Idea!”

In each devoted mind
It dwells in beauty and in power,

Like a deity enshrined.
They are no slavish devotees,

Cloistered in gloom and night, Their life is like a morn in May,

Flowers, dew, and warm sunlight :
The flowers of good and modest deeds,

The dew of generous love,
The sunlight of that perfect peace

Which cometh from above.
They have that strong, brave, soaring hope

Which true-soul freedom brings, That earnest, fearless, fervent faith,

In all good, blessed things!
That beautiful, impassioned love,

That worship of the truth,
That flings around their fleeting years,

Immortal bloom and youth.

Then let it burn! what mortal hand

Its fiery wing shall bind ? For it hath reached the moral wastes,

The prairies of the mind !

It sweepeth off the wild, rank growth

Of prejudice anl wrong, As, fanned by mighty viewless wings,

It rolls and leaps along !

Our men are men of " One Idea!"

Ah, thou must elsewhere turn For gloomy and unsocial churls,

Ascetics hard and stern

So far beneath their lofty gaze

Rank's vain distinctions lie, They could stand before a crowned queen

And look her in the eye,

[blocks in formation]

Their foes, like pirates half o'ercome,

Stand fierce and stern at bay, Or like a sullen convict gang,

Go scowling on their way ;

But as to some high festival,

Our glad band sweeps alongAnd now rings out a joyous laugh,

And now peels out a song! Their steeps keep time to freedom's march,

Sounding within the soul,
And high, and broad, and startling truths

Their daring hands unroll,
And rear with bold, exulting shouts,

Aloft in freedom's air,
Till they float before a gazing world

As glorious banners, there!

Then cringe beneath each lightning glance

Their proud eyes on thee fling, As in their souls the “ One Idea"

Unfurls its flashing wing ! Now blessed Father of us all,

God of the bond and free!
Regard in mercy still our foes,

The foes of liberty!
Lead them from error's labyrinth,

To tread the paths of right-
Pour on their poor benighted minds,

Truth's clear and perfect light!
Oh! break upon the sleep of death

That wraps their moral powersBreathe in them as a living soul,

This « One Idea” of ours !

MASSACHUSETTS TO VIRGINIA.

Written on reading an account of the proceedings of the citizens of Norfolk, (Va.) in reference to GEORGE I ATIVER, the alleged fugitive slave, the result of whose case in Massachusells will probably be similar to that of the negro SOMERSET in England, in 1772.

EY JOHN G. WHITTIE!.

The blast from Freedom's northern hills, upon its Southern way,
Bears greeting to Virginia, from Massachusetts Bay:
No word of haughty challenging, nor battle bugle's peal,
Nor steady tread of marching files, nor clang of horseman's steel.

No trains of deep-mouthed cannon along our highways go-
Around our silent arsenals untrodden lies the snow;
And to the land-breeze of our ports, upon their errands far,
A thousand sails of Commerce swell, but none are spread for War.

We hear thy threats, Virginia! thy stormy words and high
Swell harshly on the Southern winds which melt along our sky;
Yet, not one brown, hard hand forgoes its honest labor here;
No hewer of our mountain oaks suspends his axe in fear.

Wild are the waves which lash the reefs along St. George's bank,
Cold on the shore of Labrador the fog lies white and dank;
Through storm, and wave, and blinding mist, stout are the hearts which man
The fishing.smacks of Marblehead, the sea.boats of Cape-Ann.

The cold North light, and wintry sun glare on their icy forms,
Bent grimly o’er their straining lines or wrestling with the storms;
Free as the winds they drive before, rough as the waves they roar,
They laugh to scorn the slaver's threat against their rocky home.

What means the Old Dominion? Hath she forgot the day
When o'er her conquered valleys swept the Briton's steel array ?
How side by side, with sons of hers, the Massachusetts men
Encountered Tarleton's charge of fire, and stout Cornwallis, then?

Forgets she how the Ray State, in answer to the call
Of her old House of Burgesses, spoke out from Faneuil Hall ?
When, echoing back her Henry's cry, came pulsing on each breath
Of Northern winds, the thrilling sounds of “ LITERTY OR DEATH !”

What asks the Old Dominion? If now her sons have proved
False to their father's memory-false to the faith they loved,
If she can scoff at Freedom, and its Great Charter spurn,
Must we of Massachusetts from Truth and Duty turn?

We hunt your bondmen, flying from Slavery's hateful hell
Our voices, at your bidding, take up the blood-hounds' yell-
We gather, at your summons, above our father's graves,
From Freedom's holy altar-horns to tear your wretched slaves !

Thank God! not yet so vilely can Massachusetts bow,
The spirit of her early time is with her even now;
Dream not because her pilgrim blood moves slow, and calm, and cool,
She thus can stoop her chainless neck, a sister's slave and tool !

All that a sister State should do, all that a free State may,
Heart, hand, and purse we proffer, as in our early day;
But that one dark loathsome burden, ye must stagger with alone,
And reap the bitter harvest which ye yourselves have sown!

Hold, while ye may, your struggling slaves, and burden God's free air
With woman's shriek beneath the lash, and manhood's wild despair ;
Cling closer to the "cleaving curse' that writes upon your plains,
The blasting of Almighty wrath against a land of chains.

Still shame your gallant ancestry, the cavaliers of old,
By watching round the shambles where human flesh is sold-
Gloat o'er the new-born child, and count his market value, when
The maddened mother's cry of woe shall pierce the slaver's den!

Lower than plummet soundeth, sink the Virginian name;
Plant, if ye will, your fathers' graves with rankest weeds of shame;
Be, if ye will, the scandal of God's fair universe
We wash our hands forever, of your sin, and shame, and curse,

A voice from lips whereon the coal from Freedom's shrine hath been,
Thrilled, as but yesterday, the hearts of Berkshire's mountain men;
The echoes of that solemn voice are sadly lingering still
In all our sunny valleys, on every wind-swept hill.

And when the prowling man-thief came hunting for his prey
Beneath the very shadow of Bunker's shaft of grey,
How, through the free lips of the son, the father's warning spoke;
How, from its bonds of trade and sect, the Pilgrim city broke!

A hundred thousand right arms were lifted up on high,
A hundred thousand voices sent back their loud reply;
Through the thronged towns of Essex the startling summons rang,
And up from bench and loom and wheel her young mechanics sprang.

The voice of free, broad Middlesex-of thousands as of one-
The shaft of Bunker calling to that of Lexington-
From Norfolk's ancient villages; from Plymouth's rocky bound
To where Nantucket feels the arms of ocean close her round;

From rich and rural Worcester, where through the calm repose
Of cultured vales and fringing woods the gentle Nashua flows,
To where Wachusett's wintry blasts the mountain larches stir,
Swelled up to heaven the thrilling cry of God save Latimer!'

And sandy Barnstable rose up, wet with the salt sea spray-
And Bristol sent her answering shout down Narragansett Bay!
Along the broad Connecticut old Hampden felt the thrill,
And the cheer of Hampshire's woodmen swept Jown from Holyoke Hill,

The voice of Massachusetts! Of her free sons and daughters-
Deep calling unto deep aloud-the sound of many waters!
Against the burden of that voice what tyrant power shall stand ?
No fetters in the Bay State ! No slave upon her land!

Look to it well, Virginians! In calmness we have borne,
In answer to our faith and trust, your insult and your scorn ;
You've spurned our kindest counsels-you've hunted for our lives
And shaken round our hearths and homes your manacles and gyves !

« AnteriorContinuar »