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.



abridged version

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all text and photographs © 1998-2006 by Doug Sinclair unless where otherwise noted