On the Slave Trade
by Elisha Thornton
Almighty Father, thine the righteous cause,
Nor does the muse presume the task (too great
For mortal man) without a deep felt seed
Of holy aid: may thou inspire the theme.
Long groan’d the seed beneath the heavy task,
Where Nilus flood o’erflows her fertile banks.
Where Pharoah proud with adamantine heart,
Exulted long, exulted in the wo
Of Jacob’s seed, till tenfold vengeance sent
To plead their cause to let the captive free,
Lo Africk’s children they in bondage too,
Long griev’d, without a corresponding sigh,
To soothe their languid heart; save in a few
Who echo’d back their agonizing moan.
Come feeling heart, and view the tragic scene,
Come view the massacre, on Africk’s shore,
A scene of blood, shed by uninjure’d men:
By men who worship at the shrine of gain,
By men who bow in Mammon’s temple, where
they sacrifice, where they their birthrights sell
For pottage poor, their hands imbrue in blood.
Most horrible the havock made of men,
Detested more, by how much these profess
The sacred name, the name of him who bled
For sinful man; not causing men to bleed.
What but the charms of gold, alluring wealth?
What but a loss to every sense of good?
What but some Demon from the lowest pit,
Could stimulate the noble mind of man
To deeds so black, under the gospel day?
To kidnap little children as they pass,
Or while the sultry hours by them are spent
In pretty prattel, by some golden brook,
Or in some cooling bower - lo, snatched away
By tyger-hearted men - no more to see,
Nor ever more embrace parental arms!
Nor parents them enjoy; but pine away
Their days; with thoughts of wo they’re destin’d to
Among they many crimes, Oh! Christendom,
Not one more complicated, one more black
Than this - Men too are taught to fight.
See Afric’s sons, from thirst of gain (confer’d)
With reeking blades, nor pity taught to show,
Nor wont to yield, fall welt’ring in their blood!
See captur’d wretches, marched now along
toward the ship; nor dare they turn an eye
To bid farewel their country or their friends;
But hastened are on board the stifeling bark,
Where close confin’d, beneath the deck they’re bound,
Midst noxious stench - where many pine and die!
Parents compell’d, must quit their golden coast,
Rent from their babes - husband and wife must part
And bid adieu - heart broken sighs ascends!
How wish’d for now, the stroke of death implor’d
That king of terrors to the human breast,
Is now most sought - no remedy but this.
To free from bonds, free from the galling yoke
See black despair - the swollen breast ascends
On deck, and resolute to end his woe,
Plunges humself into the watery main!
Nor does he dread at all the grim jaw’d shark;
But meets of choice the monster’s deadly fangs
The few poor drooping souls who reach the Isles,
Are like the beasts of burthen, scourged on,
In hunger, thirst and toil, ‘till death release!
Why Neptune ever taught to plow the deep!
Why e’er Columbia’s ships were wafted o’er!
Or why this western world at all explor’d,
To prove the seat of wo - untimely grave -
Of many millions of that sable race!
Alas! alas! for Britain, France, And Spain,
Alas! for you our States, why long combin’d
To tyrannize - vain the attempt to joy
Tott’ring our peace - a baseless fabrick stands,
While this exulting in unrighteous gain
In vain our States shall hail the youthful morn,
Of peaceful independence in our land,
‘Till Africk’s sons to liberty restor’d.
Oh! may the late catastrophe suffice,
When like the mountain cataract, wild waste
O’er spread, and ravag’d through a flourishing land:
That woful day - in which we left to dash
With Britains’s sons, as earthern pitchers brake.
Thou spirit benign! why stay’d thy furbish’d sword?
Why not provok’d to send us famine too?
With pestilence, thy terror striking rod
To scourge the world, for crimes of deepest dye.
But gracious thou! our eyes unclos’d to free
Grim tyranny, that monster from beneath,
Who sits proud regent of the lowest abbess,
May Britain fraught with Clarkson’s multiply’d,
And may our States with Woolman’s meek abound,
With Benezet’s, conspire to plead their cause.
May ruling powers too, unite with these,
And let the captive free - then peace shall flow.
God bless our States unite them in a band.
Lord, your’s is the right cause.
The muse who inspires this writer, who cannot do it alone, does so with holy aid; may you influence us on this subject.