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1865

THE DEATH OF SLAVERY

by William Cullen Bryant

THE DEATH OF SLAVERY -

O thou great Wrongthatthrough the slow-paced years

Didst hold thy millions fetteredand didst wield

The scourge that drove the laborer to the field

And turn a stony gaze on human tears

Thy cruel reign is o'er;

Thy bondmen crouch no more

In terror at the menace of thine eye;

For He who marks the bounds of guilty power

Long-sufferinghath heard the captive's cry

And touched his shackles at the appointed hour

And lo! they falland he whose limbs they galled

Stands in his native manhooddisenthralled.

A shout of joy from the redeemed is sent;

Ten thousand hamlets swell the hymn of thanks;

Our rivers roll exultingand their banks

Send up hosannas to the firmament!

Fields where the bondman's toil

No more shall trench the soil

Seem now to bask in a serener day;

The meadow-birds sing sweeterand the airs

Of heaven with more caressing softness play

Welcoming man to liberty like theirs.

A glory clothes the land from sea to sea

For the great land and all its coasts are free. -

Within that land wert thou enthroned of late

And they by whom the nation's laws were made

And they who filled its judgment-seats obeyed

Thy mandaterigid as the will of Fate.

Fierce men at thy right hand

With gesture of command

Gave forth the word that none might dare gainsay;

And grave and reverend oneswho loved thee not

Shrank from thy presenceand in blank dismay

Choked downunutteredthe rebellious thought;

While meaner cowardsmingling with thy train

Provedfrom the book of Godthy right to reign. -

Great as thou wertand feared from shore to shore

The wrath of Heaven o'ertook thee in thy pride;

Thou sitt'st a ghastly shadow; by thy side

Thy once strong arms hang nerveless evermore.

And they who quailed but now

Before thy lowering brow

Devote thy memory to scorn and shame

And scoff at the palepowerless thing thou art.

And they who ruled in thine imperial name

Subduedand standing sullenly apart

Scowl at the hands that overthrew thy reign

And shattered at a blow the prisoner's chain. -

Well was thy doom deserved; thou didst not spare

Life's tenderest tiesbut cruelly didst part

Husband and wifeand from the mother's heart

Didst wrest her childrendeaf to shriek and prayer;

Thy inner lair became

The haunt of guilty shame;

Thy lash dropped blood; the murdererat thy side

Showed his red handsnor feared the vengeance due.

Thou didst sow earth with crimesandfar and wide

A harvest of uncounted miseries grew

Until the measure of thy sins at last

Was fulland then the avenging bolt was cast! -

Go nowaccursed of Godand take thy place

With hateful memories of the elder time

With many a wasting plagueand nameless crime

And bloody war that thinned the human race;

With the Black Deathwhose way

Through wailing cities lay

Worship of Molochtyrannies that built

The Pyramidsand cruel creeds that taught

To avenge a fancied guilt by deeper guilt-

Death at the stake to those that held them not.

Lo! the foul phantomssilent in the gloom

Of the flown agespart to yield thee room.

I see the better years that hasten by

Carry thee back into that shadowy past

Wherein the dusty spacesvoid and vast

The graves of those whom thou hast murdered lie.

The slave-penthrough whose door

Thy victims pass no more

Is thereand there shall the grim block remain

At which the slave was sold; while at thy feet

Scourges and engines of restraint and pain

Moulder and rust by thine eternal seat.

Theremid the symbols that proclaim thy crimes

Dwell thoua warning to the coming times. - -

THE END




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