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SLAVERY.

A POEM.

1 HAIL, soft Philanthropy, to thee I sing
2 Blest source, whence all our social pleasures spring;
3 When every Muse bends prostrate at thy shrine,
4 And tunes her lyre to harmony divine;
5 Shall I attempt to join the favour'd throng,
6 And pay the tribute of an artless song?
7 Bright as the beams of glory round you shine,
8 Glance not contempt, ye minions of the nine;
9 Bold as I soar, yet never think I came,
10 A rival Muse, to grasp the wreath of fame;
11 Though oft a wand'rer through the lone retreats
12 Of your Parnassus, stor'd with balmy sweets;
13 Where flow'rs and blossoms, of the lovliest hue,
14 In lively bloom and vary'd fragrance grew;
15 Their winning beauties gave but short delight,
16 Borne by superior genius from my sight;
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17 Yet may my humble blossom find a place
18 Amidst the wreath each bard has twin'd to grace
19 The brow of sympathy, for, oft there grows,
20 On the same spot, the daisy and the rose.
21 Nor may the rose disdain the modest flow'r
22 That gives her beauties more distinguish'd pow'r.
23 What though no hand, in honour of my lay,
24 Shall bind my temples with Parnassian bay;
25 Or fancy raise no bright poetic dream;
26 Yet soft humanity inspires my theme.
27 All bounteous heav'n, that bless'd my native isle
28 With gentle Liberty's enchanting smile,
29 Gave me a heart, too oft indeed to blame,
30 Yet fraught with feelings none should blush to name.
31 Long in that heart may mild compassion reign,
32 Compassion, form'd to weep for others pain;
33 The throb of anguish ever swell my breast,
34 When mis'ry sinks, by tyranny oppress'd.
35 May one dire fiend far from my wishes stray,
36 No baneful av'rice e'er my actions sway;
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37 That vile assassin, stain'd with num'rous crimes,
38 Who bears the shaft of death to distant climes;
39 Whose flinty breast, unknown to social love,
40 No tears, no pray'rs, no suff'rings, e'er can move.
41 When he appears, behold affection bleed!
42 Joy flies the scene and lasting pangs succeed.
43 And shall Britannia, whose maternal arms
44 Clasp every virtue, dress'd in heavenly charms;
45 Shall she, when rival realms revere her name,
46 She, pride of nations and the boast of fame,
47 Welcome a guest so vile, and seek to gain
48 New treasures from the guiltless suff'rer's pain?
49 When justice, fir'd by distant scenes explor'd,
50 High o'er the foes of Asia waves her sword?
51 To wounded Africa's unhappy shore,
52 No pow'r the violated rights restore?
53 Sad on her plains the plunder'd wretches bend,
54 To weep a child, a parent, or a friend;
55 For, all that Britons feel, their souls inspire,
56 The same affection and the same desire;
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57 The mournful dame, with equal frenzy, wild,
58 Laments the hapless fortune of her child,
59 Torn from her arms, snatch'd from his native soil,
60 To sad captivity and painful toil!
61 In vain she weeps, in vain she swells to rage,
62 The wretch still suffers what her fears presage.
63 These scenes of woe, ye son's of av'rice, view,
64 These sorrows fill the cup of mirth for you;
65 Ah! think, for you, what blessings nature pours,
66 Fames courts your grasp, and fortune swells your stores;
67 Whilst art and luxury their charms employ
68 To dress your hours in fascinating joy;
69 While round your steps seducing syrens sing,
70 Ah! think, whence do these fatal pleasures spring!
71 Survey the wretch whose toil creates your joy,
72 No chearful hopes his gloomy mind employ;
73 If he reflects what hours in sadness flew,
74 The next as sadly opens to his view;
75 Each sun, that rises, rises but to shed
76 Fresh streams of sorrow on his hapless head;
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77 In vain o'er him revolving seasons roll,
78 They bring no peace to his aflicted soul!
79 Say, does the gallant soldier waste his breath
80 Amid the horrors of triumphant death?
81 Deep pierc'd with wounds, does he the martial band
82 Inspire with ardour for their native land?
83 Fearless of perils, that around him wait,
84 He braves the dangers of impending fate;
85 Yet honours to reward his toil appear,
86 And loud applause salutes his raptur'd ear;
87 Millions to him their grateful thanks avow,
88 And conquest twines her laurel round his brow.
89 Not thus the slave; alas! no honours bloom
90 To soothe the constant rigour of his doom;
91 Ambition unrestrain'd that noble flame
92 That guides the hero to the heights of fame,
93 The sole inspirer and the glorious spring
94 Of all that record boasts, or poets sing;
95 Ambition, ever anxious to aspire,
96 Burns in his breast a fierce, but hopeless, fire;
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97 With fainting heart he sees the morning smile,
98 And goes, reluctant, to his wonted toil;
99 His weaken'd spirits still invite repose,
100 And gloomy apathy his mind o'erflows.
101 Ye foes of heav'n, and Britain's dire disgrace,
102 Unjust opressors of an injur'd race,
103 Tell us, who form'd the slave you thus deride,
104 The sport of insult, indolence, and pride?
105 With mis'ry should he sink so meanly down,
106 Adore your smile, and tremble when you frown;
107 At your command with servile swiftness fly,
108 And mark with dread the language of your eye?
109 Tell, why such baleful tyranny should reign,
110 Caprice empow'ring to distribute pain?
111 Yet, you will say, surrounding foes combine
112 To catch th'advantages that we decline;
113 But, sure, that impious land must deeply bleed,
114 And dark dishonour all its fame succeed;
115 Then let them hence the guilty commerce bear,
116 And what heav'n sanctions be Britannia's care.
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117 Once Superstition, in a fatal hour,
118 O'er Europe rais'd the sceptre of her power;
119 She reign'd triumphant minister of death,
120 And peace and pleasure faded in her breath;
121 Deep in monastic solitude entomb'd,
122 The bud of beauty wither'd ere it bloom'd;
123 The brilliant eye, where love had fought to dwell,
124 Shed all its lustre o'er the cloister'd cell;
125 The smiling lip, of bright vermillion dye,
126 Grew pale, and quiver'd with the passing sigh;
127 The music floating from each tuneful tongue,
128 With midnight hymns the Gothic arches rung.
129 Here, through reflection's eye, the pensive mind
130 Sought with regret for objects far behind;
131 And fond remembrance, as she heav'd a sigh,
132 Drew back the soul just soaring to the sky;
133 Save where misguided zeal in peace withdrew,
134 From each bright pleasure, each enchanting view.
135 The still retreat pale Melancholy sought,
136 And found each object suited to her thought;
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137 Soft Sensibility might here deplore,
138 And feel the shaft of falsehood wound no more;
139 The sport of fortune, long to comfort lost,
140 With hope far banish'd, expectation cross'd;
141 Explor'd these scenes to weep for anguish past,
142 Where the swell'd throbbing heart has burst at last.
143 Th'Eternal from the throne of grace survey'd,
144 With eye averse, the sacrifice they made;
145 No forc'd devotion found acceptance there,
146 No grateful incense issu'd from her pray'r.
147 Thus Superstition could not fix her sway
148 In heav'n, but look'd on earth to seize her prey;
149 And yet, unsated with domestic pain,
150 Sought to extend the terrors of her reign.
151 She saw, as on the fatal heights she stood,
152 Her impious altars drench'd in guiltless blood;
153 Where fortitude with candid virtue join'd,
154 And sought by sacred truths to save mankind;
155 There she bestow'd her persecutions dire,
156 And close pursu'd with unrelenting ire;
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157 Nor ceas'd to scourge them with her vengeful rod,
158 Till each, a martyr'd saint, embrac'd his God.
159 But when, to grace the world, Religion shone,
160 In Britain first she deign'd to fix her throne;
161 Freedom and Charity, at her command,
162 Chas'd Superstition from the drooping land;
163 Despair, as public discourd ceas'd to sting,
164 Beat the retiring gloom with raven wing;
165 In vain Enthusiasm disdain'd to fly,
166 And roll'd the livid light'ning of her eye;
167 In vain with phrenzy wild her fetters broke,
168 And threaten'd horrid vengeance as she spoke;
169 Religion bound her with her magic chain,
170 And fix'd a period to the monster's reign;
171 Yet, last of all, withdrew a blacker foe
172 Than ever issu'd from the realms below;
173 Fraudful Hypocrisy, in whom was seen
174 An aspect ever gentle and serene;
175 Her tongue was fraught with many an artful lie,
176 Dissembled sanctity illum'd her eye;
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177 She wore the spotless robe of heav'nly truth,
178 To cheat credulity and artless youth;
179 Soft on her smiling lip dire falsehood hung,
180 And music grac'd the poison of her tongue.
181 But soon the fell contention rag'd no more,
182 And liberty the victors garland wore:
183 Yet, as the conquering goddess soar'd to life,
184 She mourn'd the ravage of internal strife.
185 So when some furious tempest racks the night,
186 To break her solemn gloom with horrid light,
187 Morn smiles to show the blasted plants and flow'rs,
188 Or torn trees mingling with the shatter'd tow'rs.
189 Thus, from the wreck of civil broils, arose
190 The dread and envy of insulting foes;
191 Thus rose the honours of Britannia's name;
192 Her naval splendour and her martial fame.
193 There hoary time on rapid wing might view
194 Immortal glories ripen as he flew;
195 The gems of genius there adorn the mind,
196 By science polish'd, and by taste refin'd;
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197 There in the beams of liberty alone,
198 Appears the soften'd splendour of a throne.
199 Nor could my Muse, did she to rapture spring,
200 The bright succession of those glories sing.
201 In other lands if public virtue glows,
202 From Britain first the great example flows;
203 There springs the plant, there blooms, through endless time,
204 The weak exotic of another clime;
205 The Britons' gen'rous valour never fought
206 To gain a conquest with oppressions fraught;
207 They own the spirit to be tryly brave,
208 The pow'r to conquer and the will to save;
209 They boast the sympathy to soften woe,
210 To form the faithful friend and gen'rous foe.
211 View from that happy shore a nymph arise,
212 Bright as the blushes of autumnal skies;
213 She comes, angelic Freedom, with her train,
214 To tear from Afric's sons the galling chain;
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215 See at her feet each generous Briton kneels,
216 Each views your inj'ries and your anguish feels;
217 Neglect long shewn, your suff'rings seeks to blame,
218 And, seeking, blushes for his country's fame.
219 Amidst the glories of an age refin'd,
220 The feeling heart, the sympathising mind,
221 With fond attention o'er your sorrows pause,
222 And join with ardour in the glorious cause.
223 Friends of philanthropy, to you be giv'n
224 The greatest bounties of indulgent heav'n;
225 Peace o'er your slumbers ever stretch her wing,
226 And 'neath your feet eternal blessings spring;
227 For, angels teach celestial joys to flow
228 On hearts where sympathy delights to glow;
229 That peace divine, that can the soul sustain,
230 When keen affliction aims the shaft of pain,
231 That Pow'r from life's dark danger form'd to save,
232 And lift the eye of hope beyond the grave.
233 Goddess of Freedom, hear thy suppliant's pray'r,
234 And haste to snatch the captive from despair;
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235 Before his lighten'd steps thy pleasures strew,
236 And place thy train of virtues in his view;
237 Bid his unfetter'd inclination stray,
238 Where blooming industry extends her sway;
239 Where indolence herself was oft beguil'd,
240 By promis'd gain, to tread the rugged wild;
241 Rouse ev'ry passion, wake each fond desire,
242 And teach his wishes greatly to aspire;
243 Instruct him, goddess, on his native plain,
244 To sing the glories of a George's reign;
245 Tell him, at his command you sought their shore,
246 Their wrongs to pity, and their rights restore;
247 Through the blue concave thy white flag unfurl'd,
248 And arm thy bands to prop a sinking world.

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About this text

Title (in Source Edition): SLAVERY. A POEM.
Themes:
Genres: heroic couplet; narrative verse

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Source edition

Poems on Slavery. London: Printed for Messrs. EGERTONS, Charing-Cross; Mr. MURRAY, Temple-Bar; and Mr. J. JOHNSON, No. 72, St. Paul's Church-yard M.DCC.LXXXVIII, 1788, pp. 1-13.  (ESTC T61945)

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The text has been typographically modernized, but without any silent modernization of spelling, capitalization, or punctuation. The source of the text is given and all editorial interventions have been recorded in textual notes. Based on the electronic text originally produced by the ECCO-TCP project, this ECPA text has been edited to conform to the recommendations found in Level 5 of the Best Practices for TEI in Libraries version 3.0.