James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

January 1

The Proclamation

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

  • On January 1st, 1863, President Lincoln, in his capacity of Commander-in-Chief of the armies of the United States, declared as a military measure, in accordance with notice proclaimed Sept. 22nd, 1862, that within certain specified territory in armed rebellion, all persons held as slaves “are, and henceforward shall be free.”

  • SAINT PATRICK, slave to Milcho of the herds

    Of Ballymena, wakened with these words:

    “Arise and flee

    Out from the land of bondage, and be free!”

    Glad as a soul in pain, who hears from heaven

    The angels singing of his sins forgiven,

    And, wondering, sees,

    His prison opening to their golden keys.

    He rose a man who laid him down a slave,

    Shook from his locks the ashes of the grave,

    And outward trod

    Into the glorious liberty of God.

    He cast the symbols of his shame away;

    And, passing where the sleeping Milcho lay,

    Though back and limb

    Smarted with wrong, he prayed, “God pardon him!”

    So he went forth; but in God’s time he came

    To light on Uilline’s hills a holy flame;

    And, dying, gave

    The land a saint that lost him as a slave.

    O dark, sad millions, patiently and dumb

    Waiting for God, your hour at last has come,

    And freedom’s song

    Breaks the long silence of your night of wrong!

    Arise and flee! shake off the vile restraint

    Of ages; but, like Ballymena’s saint,

    The oppressor spare,

    Heap only on his head the coals of prayer.

    Go forth, like him! like him return again,

    To bless the land whereon in bitter pain

    Ye toiled at first,

    And heal with freedom what your slavery cursed.