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. - -