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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.
The Library of the World’s Best Literature. An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Slave

By Thomas Campbell (1777–1844)

From the ‘Pleasures of Hope’

AND say, supernal Powers! who deeply scan

Heaven’s dark decrees, unfathomed yet by man,—

When shall the world call down, to cleanse her shame,

That embryo spirit, yet without a name,

That friend of Nature, whose avenging hands

Shall burst the Libyan’s adamantine bands?

Who, sternly marking on his native soil

The blood, the tears, the anguish and the toil,

Shall bid each righteous heart exult to see

Peace to the slave, and vengeance on the free!

Yet, yet, degraded men! th’ expected day

That breaks your bitter cup is far away;

Trade, wealth, and fashion ask you still to bleed,

And holy men give Scripture for the deed;

Scourged and debased, no Briton stoops to save

A wretch, a coward—yes, because a slave!

Eternal Nature! when thy giant hand

Had heaved the floods and fixed the trembling land,

When life sprang startling at thy plastic call,

Endless thy forms, and man the lord of all:—

Say, was that lordly form inspired by thee,

To wear eternal chains and bow the knee?

Was man ordained the slave of man to toil,

Yoked with the brutes, and fettered to the soil,

Weighed in a tyrant’s balance with his gold?

No! Nature stamped us in a heavenly mold!

She bade no wretch his thankless labor urge,

Nor, trembling, take the pittance and the scourge;

No homeless Libyan, on the stormy deep,

To call upon his country’s name and weep!

Lo! once in triumph, on his boundless plain,

The quivered chief of Congo loved to reign;

With fires proportioned to his native sky,

Strength in his arm, and lightning in his eye;

Scoured with wild feet his sun-illumined zone,

The spear, the lion, and the woods, his own:

Or led the combat, bold without a plan,

An artless savage, but a fearless man.

The plunderer came;—alas! no glory smiles

For Congo’s chief, on yonder Indian isles;

Forever fallen! no son of nature now,

With Freedom chartered on his manly brow.

Faint, bleeding, bound, he weeps the night away,

And when the sea-wind wafts the dewless day,

Starts, with a bursting heart, for evermore

To curse the sun that lights their guilty shore!

The shrill horn blew; at that alarum knell

His guardian angel took a last farewell.

That funeral dirge to darkness hath resigned

The fiery grandeur of a generous mind.

Poor fettered man! I hear thee breathing low

Unhallowed vows to Guilt, the child of Woe:

Friendless thy heart; and canst thou harbor there

A wish but death—a passion but despair?

The widowed Indian, when her lord expires,

Mounts the dread pile, and braves the funeral fires!

So falls the heart at Thraldom’s bitter sigh;

So Virtue dies, the spouse of Liberty!