THE AFRICAN CHIEF
by William Cullen Bryant
THE AFRICAN CHIEF
The story of the African Chiefrelated in this balladmay be found in theAfrican Repository for April 1825. The subject of it was a warrior of majesticstaturethe brother of Yarradeeking of the Solima nation. He had been takenin battleand was brought in chains for sale to the Rio Pongaswhere he wasexhibited in the market-placehis ankles still adorned with the massy rings ofgold which he wore when captured. The refusal of his captor to listen to hisoffers of ransom drove him madand he died a maniac.
Chained in the market-place he stood
A man of giant frame
Amid the gathering multitude
That shrunk to hear his name-
All stern of look and strong of limb
His dark eye on the ground:-
And silently they gazed on him
As on a lion bound.
Vainlybut wellthat chief had fought
He was a captive now
Yet pridethat fortune humbles not
Was written on his brow.
The scars his dark broad bosom wore
Showed warrior true and brave;
A prince among his tribe before
He could not be a slave.
Then to his conqueror he spake-
"My brother is a king;
Undo this necklace from my neck
And take this bracelet ring
And send me where my brother reigns
And I will fill thy hands
With store of ivory from the plains
And gold-dust from the sands."
"Not for thy ivory nor thy gold
Will I unbind thy chain;
That bloody hand shall never hold
The battle-spear again.
A price thy nation never gave
Shall yet be paid for thee;
For thou shalt be the Christian's slave
In lands beyond the sea."
Then wept the warrior chiefand bade
To shred his locks away;
Andone by oneeach heavy braid
Before the victor lay.
Thick were the platted locksand long
And deftly hidden there
Shone many a wedge of gold among
The dark and crisped hair.
"Lookfeast thy greedy eye with gold
Long kept for sorest need;
Take it- thou askest sums untold
And say that I am freed.
Take it- my wifethe longlong day
Weeps by the cocoa-tree
And my young children leave their play
And ask in vain for me."
"I take thy gold- but I have made
Thy fetters fast and strong
And ween that by the cocoa shade
Thy wife will wait thee long."
Strong was the agony that shook
The captive's frame to hear
And the proud meaning of his look
Was changed to mortal fear.
His heart was broken- crazed his brain:
At once his eye grew wild;
He struggled fiercely with his chain
Whisperedand weptand smiled;
Yet wore not long those fatal bands
And onceat shut of day
They drew him forth upon the sands
The foul hyena's prey.