[Page 14]

SLAVERY.

A POEM.

1 YE noble few, firm fix'd in virtue's cause,
2 Ye just protectors of our sacred laws,
3 Whose hearts stern av'rice strove in vain to steel,
4 And bless'd with souls disdaining not to feel;
5 Let not the genial warmth, the latent fire,
6 That glows in Britain's valiant sons, expire;
7 But in your breasts let justice still prevail,
8 While Pity weeps to hear the woe-fraught tale.
9 Angelic maid, thy melting eye may boast
10 The tear still pour'd o'er Afric's desert coast;
11 Unhappy land, where hostile av'rice reigns,
12 And rears her blood-stain'd banners o'er thy plains;
13 Where stern Opression's hireling minions rove,
14 To burst each tender tie of social love;
15 Inhuman fiend, thy desolating hand
16 Spread wide destruction o'er the bleeding land;
[Page 15]
17 Bade gay-plum'd joy and guiltless pleasure cease,
18 And banish'd far the healing balm of peace.
19 Yet once on them fair Peace propitious smil'd,
20 And social joy the tedious hour beguil'd;
21 On them bright Pleasure cast her fairest ray,
22 Soft as the rosy beam of op'ning day;
23 Love, health, and innocence, they still possess'd,
24 Contested tenants of the peaceful breast;
25 Vindictive fate rul'd o'er thye dreadful hour,
26 When first Opression's desolating pow'r,
27 Deaf to the mourning parents plaintive cry,
28 The widow's fondness or the lover's sigh,
29 From each fond breast the hapless victims tore,
30 Far from the prospect of their native shore.
31 Think not, ye slaves in pleasure's venal train,
32 The weeping orphan's tears are pour'd in vain;
33 Awhile in soft repose ye calmly rest,
34 Nor heed the pangs that tear each bleeding breast;
35 For you gay Pleasure spreads her gladsome wing,
36 And fair the fading flow'rs of fortune spring;
[Page 16]
37 Yet heav'n, indignant, views the impious deed
38 That bids the injur'd sons of Afric bleed;
39 Soon shall the voice of angry Justice call,
40 And bid the pointed sword of vengeance fall;
41 Shall pleasure then avert the dreadful nod,
42 Or calm the vengeance of an angry God?
43 No, in that hour reflection wakes anew,
44 And calls each crime, each folly, to the view;
45 Bids the lost thoughts eternity explore,
46 Or pause o'er scenes we can recal no more.
47 To man superior reason's light was giv'n,
48 Reason, the noblest gift of bounteous heav'n;
49 Unfailing beam, bright intellectual ray
50 Thou steady guide through errors devious way;
51 Say, wert thou first by gracious heav'n design'd,
52 To stamp injustice on the human kind;
53 Forbid it truth, forbid it ev'ry breast
54 That heaves in pity for the wretch oppress'd;
55 Yet reason, jutice, mercy, plead in vain,
56 Still the sad victim drags his galling chain;
[Page 17]
57 Still bows submissive to the tyrant hand,
58 That tore the suff'rer from his native land;
59 Yet, e'er the arts of lux'ry began,
60 They boasted liberty, the right of man;
61 Serene, they saw each peaceful morning smile,
62 Joy led their hours and plenty bless'd their toil;
63 Their pleading sighs, their suppliant moving pray'r,
64 Daughter of Virtue! Royal Charlotte, hear!
65 Sovereign, yet parent, of this happy isle,
66 O'er whose gay plains fair Plenty deigns to smile;
67 Where spotless peace extends her azure wing,
68 And liberty's enchanting blossoms spring;
69 Thine is compassion's sympathetic sigh,
70 The melting tear that beams in pity's eye;
71 The heart like thine, that feels another's pain,
72 Hears not distress'd misfortune plead in vain;
73 Be't thine to heal pale sorrow's wounded breast,
74 And lull each raging passion into rest;
75 Let not the wretched slave in vain deplore
76 The long-lost joys he must behold no more;
[Page 18]
77 Then, while Britannia hails thy sacred name,
78 A deed like this shall swell the trump of fame;
79 Virtues like thine shall wake the sounding lyre,
80 Each bosom glow with emulative fire;
81 And, swell'd with themes like this, the poet's page
82 Remain admir'd through each succeeding age.
83 When Superstition rais'd her threat'ning hand,
84 And scatter's horror round the bleeding land,
85 On sad Britannia's ravag'd plains she stood,
86 Drench'd in one fatal stream of martyr'd blood;
87 O'er ev'ry scene, with fell delight, she flew,
88 And smil'd, exulting, at the dreadful view;
89 Religion's sacred truths, though once design'd
90 To banish error from the darken'd mind,
91 Avail'd not here; her pure celestial light,
92 Lost in the gloom of superstition's night,
93 Drooping, beheld the fatal torrent roll
94 Resistless terrors o'er the doubtful soul;
95 Till bright Eliza came, whose matchless sway
96 Call'd forth the dawn of fair religion's day;
[Page 19]
97 Cherish'd the genial influence as it rose,
98 Dispell'd their errors and reliev'd their woes.
99 Shall Britain then, who boasts th'unrivall'd deed,
100 Relentless, see the guiltless victim bleed;
101 Amid the horrors of tormenting pain
102 He seeks for mercy, but he seeks in vain;
103 Affrighted Mercy quits the guilty land,
104 Where grim Oppression waves her tyrant hand;
105 Where, to the savage herd, a harmless prey,
106 Sinks faint beneath the fervid beam of day;
107 Or, haply trembling in the midnight air,
108 Sunk in the deepest gloom of low despair;
109 Or burning thirst and furious want, combin'd,
110 With wild distraction fire his glowing mind,
111 Till death restores to him eternal rest,
112 And calms the tumults of his troubled breast.
113 The British youth, torn from his much-lov'd home,
114 O'er foreign seas and foreign coasts to roam,
115 Amid the fury of the piercing blast,
116 The swell'd wave circling round the shiver'd mast,
[Page 20]
117 While bursting peals of thunder rend the skies,
118 And o'er the deck the foaming billows rise,
119 Awhile in terror views the light'ning glare,
120 With streaming horror, through the midnight air;
121 The storm once past, he gains the friendly ray
122 Of hope, to guide him through the dang'rous way;
123 Smiling, she bids each future prospect rise,
124 Through fancy's vary'd mirror, to his eyes.
125 Not so the slave; oppress'd with secret care,
126 He sinks the hapless victim of despair;
127 Or, doom'd to torments that might even move
128 The steely heart, and melt it into love;
129 Til worn with anguish, with'ring in his bloom,
130 He falls an early tenant of the tomb!
131 Shall Britain view, unmov'd, sad Afric's shore
132 Delug'd so oft in streams of purple gore!
133 Britain, where science, peace, and plenty, smile,
134 Virtue's bright seat, and freedom's favour'd isle!
135 Rich are her plains and fruitful is her clime,
136 The scourge of tyrants, and the boast of time;
[Page 21]
137 Of ev'ry virtue, ev'ry worth possess'd
138 That fires the hero's or the patriot's breast;
139 There, nobly warm'd with animating fire,
140 Our Shakespear struck his soul-commanding lyre;
141 There scenes of bliss immortal Milton sung,
142 And notes harmonious issu'd from his tongue;
143 And bards like these shall boast in ev'ry age,
144 While native genius glows in Hayley's page;
145 While genius bids, to our enchanted eyes,
146 In Swift's own strains, a second Pope arise.
147 When truth, perplex'd in error's thorny maze,
148 Threw o'er the world obscure and darken'd rays,
149 then Newton rose, unveil'd the beauteous maid;
150 He spoke, and nature stood at once display'd.
151 These were the souls that Britain once posses'd,
152 When genuine virtue fir'd the patriot's breast;
153 And still shall she protect fair freedom's cause,
154 And vindicate her violated laws;
155 Waft peace and freedom to a wretched land,
156 And scatter blessings with a lib'ral hand.
[Page 22]
157 In Britain's paradise, by freedom made,
158 The tree of commerce spread's its ample shade;
159 Unsparing plenty bends the lofty brow,
160 And wealth bright glitters on each golden bough;
161 On some the richest gems of India shone,
162 And added lustre to the British throne;
163 Such as in gentle radiance might outvie
164 The melting lustre of the sparkling eye;
165 Such as in gay variety might grace
166 The native beauties of the lovely face:
167 On some the bud of health, in rosy bloom,
168 Call'd languid sickness from an early tomb;
169 Or bade contented labour calmly smile
170 O'er the rich prospect of his native soil.
171 One ample branch, superior to the rest,
172 Rose to the view, in splendid radiance dress'd;
173 On ev'ry leaf the tempting manna hung,
174 In golden dyes each beauteous blossom sprung;
175 The flow'rs of brightest hue oppression nam'd,
176 Yet from the tree the rank of commerce claim'd;
[Page 23]
177 Led by the fair deciet beneath its shade,
178 With eager eye the slaves of av'rice stray'd;
179 This fatal fruit was lovliest to the view,
180 That on the spreading tree of commerce grew;
181 They grasp'd the baneful load with fatal haste,
182 Destructive poison to the th'enchanted taste;
183 Lost in the pleasing dream, awhile the soul,
184 Where av'rice reign'd secure from all controul,
185 Slept calm, till conscience, with unerring dart,
186 Struck deep conviction through the guilty heart;
187 And bade reflection wake the feeling mind,
188 That turn'd to ev'ry scene it left behind:
189 There might they see the tortur'd wretch implore
190 Eternal vengeance on Britannia's shore;
191 In silent grief, amid distraction wild,
192 The wretched parent mourn her long-lost child;
193 These scenes appear when death, in terror dress'd,
194 Bids sharp repentance wound the shudd'ring breast;
195 When o'er your heads th'avenging thunders roll,
196 And quick destruction seems to snatch the soul;
[Page 24]
197 When fast around the dreadful light'nings fall,
198 And guilt shall hear th'incens'd Almighty's call;
199 Then will his wrath destroy the life he gave,
200 And justice snatch the soul that mercy could not save.
201 Britain, be thine the glorious task to heal
202 The bleeding wounds thy wretched sons shall feel;
203 Extend thy ev'ry noble pow'r to save
204 The wretch just tott'ring o'er an early grave;
205 For, noble were the deed that could impart
206 Reviving vigour to the drooping heart;
207 For, then no more the fatal branch shall bind,
208 In golden ties, the lost enchanted mind;
209 Tear ev'ry fibre from the verdant root,
210 And blast each dang'rous blossom ere it shoot;
211 So shall the praise of ransom'd millions rise,
212 In grateful incense, to the echoing skies;
213 So through the world thy matchless fame extend,
214 And wond'ring nations hail thee mercy's friend;
215 Thee, first in ev'ry virtue, ev'ry worth,
216 That gives to glory or to genius birth;
[Page 25]
217 Let thy avenging, thy all-conqu'ring, hand
218 Give peace and freedom to an injur'd land!
219 Glory be thine; and, let pale mis'ry prove
220 The joys of friendship and the bliss of love;
221 And heav'nly liberty's celestial ray
222 Beam o'er the world one pure eternal day!

Text

  • TEI/XML [chunk] (XML - 472K / ZIP - 47K) / ECPA schema (RNC - 357K / ZIP - 73K)
  • Plain text [excluding paratexts] (TXT - 9.9K / ZIP - 4.6K)

About this text

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

Text view / Document view

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. 14-25.  (ESTC T61945)

Editorial principles

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.