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1825

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.

THE END




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