THE AFRICAN PRINCE, NOW IN ENGLAND, TO ZARA AT HIS FATHER'S COURT,
WRITTEN IN THE YEAR MDCCXLIX.
1 PRINCES, my fair, unfortunately great,
2 Born to the pompous vassalage of state,
3 Whene'er the public calls, are doom'd to sly
4 Domestic bliss, and break the private tie.
5 Fame pays with empty breath the toils they bear,
6 And love's soft joys are chang'd for glorious care;[Page 208]
7 Yet conscious virtue, in the silent hour,
8 Rewards the hero with a noble dower.
9 For this alone I dar'd the roaring sea,
10 Yet more, for this I dar'd to part with thee.
11 But while my bosom feels the nobler flame,
12 Still unreprov'd, it owns thy gentler claim.
13 Tho' virtue's awful form my soul approves,
14 'Tis thine, thine only, Zara, that it loves.
15 A private lot had made the claim but one,
16 The prince alone must love, for virtue, shun.
17 Ah! why distinguish'd from the happier crowd,
18 To me the bliss of millions disallow'd?
19 Why was I singled for imperial sway,
20 Since love and duty point a different way?
21 Fix'd the dread voyage, and the day decreed,
22 When, duty's victim, love was doom'd to bleed,
23 Too well my memory can these scenes renew,
24 We met to sigh, to weep our last adieu.
25 That conscious palm, beneath whose towering shade
26 So oft our vows of mutual love were made;
27 Where hope so oft anticipated joy,
28 And plann'd of future years the best employ;
29 That palm was witness to the tears we shed,
30 When that fond hope, and all those joys were fled.
31 Thy trembling lips, with trembling lips, I prest,
32 And held thee panting to my panting breast.
33 Our sorrow, grown too mighty to sustain,
34 Now snatch'd us, fainting, from the sense of pain.
35 Together sinking in the trance divine,
36 I caught thy fleeting soul, and gave thee mine! [Page 209]
37 O! blest oblivion of tormenting care!
38 O! why recall'd to life and to despair?
39 The dreadful summons came, to part — and why?
40 Why not the kinder summons but to die?
41 To die together were to part no more,
42 To land in safety on some peaceful shore,
43 Where love's the business of immortal life,
44 And happy spirits only guess at strife.
45 "If in some distant land my prince should find
46 " Some nymph more fair, you cried, as Zara kind "—
47 Mysterious doubt! which could at once impart
48 Relief to mine, and anguish to thy heart.
49 Still let me triumph in the fear exprest,
50 The voice of love that whisper'd in thy breast;
51 Nor call me cruel, for my truth shall prove
52 'Twas but the vain anxiety of love.
53 Torn from thy fond embrace, the strand I gain,
54 Where mourning friends inflict superfluous pain;
55 My father there his struggling sighs supprest,
56 And in dumb anguish clasp'd me to his breast,
57 Then sought, conceal'd the conflict of his mind,
58 To give the sortitude he could not find;
59 Each life-taught precept kindly he renew'd,
60 "Thy country's good, said he, be still pursued!
61 " If, when the gracious gods my son restore,
62 "These eyes shall sleep in death, to wake no more;
63 " If then these limbs, that now in age decay,
64 "Shall mouldering mix with earth's parental clay;
65 " Round my green tomb perform the sacred rite,
66 "Assume my throne, and let thy yoke be light;[Page 210]
67 " From lands of freedom glorious precepts bring,
68 "And reign at once a father and a king."
69 How vainly proud, the arrogantly great
70 Presume to boast a monarch's godlike state!
71 Subject alike, the peasant and the king,
72 To life's dark ills, and care's corroding sting.
73 From guilt and fraud, that strikes in silence sure,
74 No shield can guard us, and no arms secure.
75 By these, my fair, subdued, thy prince was lost,
76 A naked captive on a barbarous coast.
77 Nurtur'd in ease, a thousand servants round,
78 My wants prevented, and my wishes crown'd,
79 No painful labours stretch'd the tedious day,
80 On downy feet my moments danc'd away.
81 Where-e'er I look'd, officious courtiers bow'd,
82 Where-e'er I pass'd, a shouting people crowd;
83 No fears intruded on the joys I knew,
84 Each man my friend, my lovely mistress you.
85 What dreadful change! abandon'd and alone,
86 The shouted prince is now a slave unknown;
87 To watch his eye, no bending courtiers wait,
88 No hailing crowds proclaim his regal state;
89 A slave condemn'd, with unrewarded toil,
90 To turn, from morn to eve, a burning soil.
91 Fainting beneath the sun's meridian heat,
92 Rouz'd by the scourge, the taunting jest I meet:
93 "Thanks to thy friends, they cry, whose care recalls
94 " A prince to life, in whom a nation falls! "
95 Unwholesome scraps, my strength but half sustain'd,
96 From corners glean'd, and ev'n by dogs disdain'd;[Page 211]
97 At night I mingled with a wretched crew,
98 Who by long use with woe familiar grew;
99 Of manners brutish, merciless, and rude,
100 They mock'd my sufferings, and my pangs renew'd;
101 In groans, not sleep, I pass'd the weary night,
102 And rose to labour with the morning light.
103 Yet, thus of dignity and ease beguil'd,
104 Thus scorn'd and scourg'd, insulted and revil'd,
105 If Heaven with thee my faithful arms had blest,
106 And fill'd with love my intervals of rest,
107 Short tho' they were, my soul had never known
108 One secret wish to glitter on a throne;
109 The toilsome day had heard no sigh of mine,
110 Nor stripes, nor scorn, had urg'd me to repine.
111 A monarch, still beyond a monarch blest,
112 Thy love my diadem, my throne thy breast;
113 My courtiers, watchful of my looks, thy eyes,
114 Should shine, persuade, and flatter, and advise;
115 Thy voice my music, and thy arms should be —
116 Ah! not the prison of a slave in me!
117 Could I with infamy content remain,
118 And wish thy lovely form to share my chain?
119 Could this bring ease? forgive th' unworthy thought,
120 And let the love that sinn'd atone the fault.
121 Could I, a slave, and hopeless to be free,
122 Crawl, tamely recent from the scourge, to thee?
123 Thy blooming beauties could these arms embrace?
124 My gullty joys enslave an infant race?
125 No: rather blast me lightnings, whirlwind tear,
126 And drive these limbs in atoms thro' the air;[Page 212]
127 Rather than this, O! curse me still with life,
128 And let my Zara smile a rival's wife:
129 Be mine alone th' accumulated woe,
130 Nor let me propagate my curse below.
131 But, from this dreadful scene, with joy I turn;
132 To trust in Heaven, of me let Zara learn.
133 The wretch, the sordid hypocrite, who sold
134 His charge, an unsuspecting prince, for gold,
135 That Justice mark'd, whose eyes can never sleep,
136 And death, commission'd, smote him on the deep.
137 The generous crew their port in safety gain,
138 And tell my mournful tale, nor tell in vain;
139 The king, with horror of th' atrocious deed,
140 In haste commanded, and the slave was freed.
141 No more Britannia's cheek, the blush of shame,
142 Burns for my wrongs, her king restores her fame:
143 Propitious gales, to Freedom's happy shore
144 Waft me triumphant, and the prince restore;
145 Whate'er is great and gay around me shine,
146 And all the splendor of a court is mine.
147 Here knowledge too, by piety refin'd,
148 Sheds a blest radiance o'er my brightening mind;
149 From earth I travel upward to the sky,
150 I learn to live, to reign, yet more, to die.
151 O! I have tales to tell, of love divine —
152 Such blissful tidings! they shall soon be thine.
153 I long to tell thee, what, amaz'd, I see,
154 What habits, buildings, trades, and polity!
155 How art and nature vie to entertain
156 In public shows, and mix delight with pain. [Page 213]
157 O! Zarap
p He alludes to the Play of Oroonoko, at which he was present, and so affected as to be unable to continue, during its performance, in the house., here, a story like my own,
158 With mimic skill, in borrow'd names, was shown;
159 An Indian chief, like me, by fraud betray'd,
160 And partner in his woes an Indian maid.
161 I can't recal the scenes, 'tis pain too great,
162 And, if recall'd, should shudder to relate.
163 To write the wonders here, I strive in vain;
164 Each word would ask a thousand to explain.
165 The time shall come, O! speed the lingering hour!
166 When Zara's charms shall lend description power;
167 When plac'd beside thee in the cool alcove,
168 Or thro' the green Savannahs as we rove,
169 The frequent kiss shall interrupt the tale,
170 And looks shall speak my sense, tho' language fail.
171 Then shall the prodigies, that round me rise,
172 Fill thy dear bosom with a sweet surprize;
173 Then all my knowledge to thy faithful heart,
174 With danger gain'd, securely I'll impart.
175 Methinks I see thy changing looks express
176 Th' alternate sense of pleasure and distress;
177 As all the windings of my fate I trace,
178 And wing thy fancy swift from place to place.
179 Yet where, alas! has flattering thoughts convey'd
180 The ravish'd lover with his darling maid?
181 Between us, still unmeasur'd oceans roll,
182 Which hostile barks infest, and storms controul.
183 Be calm my bosom, since th' unmeasur'd main,
184 And hostile barks, and storms, are God's domain:[Page 214]
185 He rules resistless, and his power shall guide
186 My life in safety o'er the roaring tide;
187 Shall bless the love that's built on virtue's base,
188 And spare me to evangelize my race.
189 Farewell! thy prince still lives, and still is free:
190 Farewell! hope all things, and remember me.