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ADVERTISEMENT. The following Poem was occasioned by a fact which had recently
happened at the time of its first publication, in 1773. A Negro, belonging to the Captain of a West-India-man, having agreed to marry a white woman, his fellow-servant, in order to effect his purpose, left his master's house, and procured himself to be baptized; but being detected and taken, he was sent on board the Captain's vessel then lying in the river: where, finding no chance of escaping, and preferring death to another voyage to America' he took an opportunity of stabbing himself. As soon as his deter. minatiod is fixed, he is supposed to write this Epistle to his intended wife.
Arm’d with thy sad last gift--the pow'r to die!
Thy shafts, stern Fortune, now I can defy;
Thy dreadful mercy points at length the shore,
Where all is peace, and men are slaves no more;
This weapon, ev’n in chains, the brave can wield,
And vanquish'd quit triumphantly the field :
Beneath such wrongs let pallid Christians live,
Such they can perpetrate, and may forgive.
Yet while I tread that gulf's tremendous brink,
Where nature shudders, and where beings sink,
Ere yet this hand a life of torment close,
And end by one determin'd stroke my woes,
Is there a fond regret, which moves my mind
To pause, and cast a lingering look behind?
O my lov'd bride -for I have call'd thee mine,
Dearer than life, whom I with life resign,
For thee ev’n here this faithful heart shall glow,
A pang shall rend me, and a tear shall flow.-
How shall I sooth thy grief, since fate denies
Thy pious duties to my closing eyes?
I cannot clasp thee in a last embrace,
Nor gaze in silent anguish on thy face ;
I cannot raise these fetter'd arms for thee,
To ask that mercy Heav'n denies to me;
Yet let thy tender breast my sorrows share,
Bleed for my wounds, and feel my deep despair.
Yet let thy tears bedew a wretch's grave,
Whom Fate forbade thy tenderness to save.
Receive these sighs—to thee my soul I breathe,
Fond love in dying groans is all I can bequeath.
"Why did I, slave, beyond my lot aspire?
Why didst thou fan the inauspicious fire?
For thee I bade my drooping soul revive ;
For thee alone I could have borne to live;
And love, I said, shall make me large amends,
For persecuting foes, and faithless friends:
Fool that I was ! inur'd so long to pain,
To trust to hope, or dream of joy again.
Joy, stranger guest, my easy faith betray'd,
And love now points death's eternal shade ;
There, while I rest from misery's galling load,
Be thou the care of ever pitying God;
Nor may that demon's unpropitious pow'r,
Who shed his influence on my natal hour,
Pursue thee too with unrelenting hate,
And blend with mine the colour of thy fate.
For thee may those soft hours return again,
When Pleasure led thee smiling o'er the plain,
Ere, like some hell-born spectre of dismay,
I cross'd thy path, and darken'd all the way.
Ye waving groves, which from this cell I view!
Ye meads, now glittering with the morning dew!
Ye flowers, which blush on yonder hated shore,
That at my baneful step shall fade no more,
A long farewell !--I ask no vernal bloom-
No pageant wreaths to wither on my tomb.
Let serpents hiss and night-shade blacken there,
To mark the friendless victim of despair!
And better in th' untimely grave to rot,
The world and all its cruelties forgot,
Than dragg’d once more beyond the western main,
To groan beneath some dastard planter's chain,
Where my poor countrymen in bondage wait
The slow enfranchisement of lingering fate.
Oh! my heart sinks, my dying eyes o’erflow,
When memory paints the picture of their wo!
For I have seen them, ere the dawn of day,
Rous'd by the lash, begin their cheerless way:
Greeting with groans unwelcome morn’s return,
While rage and shame their gloomy bosoms burn:
And, chiding every hour the slow-pac'd sun,
Endure their toils till all his race was run;
No eye to mark their sufferings with a tear,
No friend to comfort, and no hope to cheer;
Then like the dull unpitied brutes repair
To stalls as wretched, and as coarse a fare;
Thank Heav'n, one day of misery was o'er,
And sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more.
Sleep on! ye lost companions of my woes,
For whom in death this tear of pity flows;
Sleep and enjoy the only boon of Heav'n,
To you in common with your tyrant's giv'n!
O while soft slumber from their couches flies,
Still may the balmy blessing steep your eyes;
In swift oblivion lull awhile your woes,
And brightest visions gladden the repose !
Let Fancy, then, unconscious of the change,
Through our own fields and native forests range;
Waft ye to each once-haunted stream and grove,
And visit every long-lost scene ye love!
I sleep no more--nor in the midnight shade
Invoke ideal phantoms to my aid :
Nor wake again, abandon'd and forlorn,
To find each dear delusi
fled at morn ;
A slow consuming death let others wait,
I snatch destruction from unwilling fate.
Yon ruddy streaks the rising sun proclaim,
That never more shall beam upon my shame;
Bright orb! for others let thy glory shine,
Mature the golden grain and purple vine,
While fetter'd Afric still for Europe toils,
And Nature's plunderers riot on her spoils ;
Be theirs the gifts thy partial rays supply,
Be mine the gloomy privilege to die.
And thou, whose impious avarice and pride The holy Cross to my sad brows denied,
Forbade mę Nature's common rights to claim,
Or share with thee a Christian's sacred name;
Thou too, farewell for not beyond the grave
Extends thy power, nor is my dust thy slave.
In vain Heav'n spread so wide the swelling sex,
Vast wat’ry barrier, 'twixt thy world and me;
Swift round the globe, by earth nor Heav'n controld,
Fly stern oppression, and dire lust of gold.
Where'er the hell-hounds mark their bloody way,'
Still nature groans, and man becomes their prey.
In the wild wastes of Afric's sandy plain,
Where roars the lion through his drear domain,
To curb the savage monarch in the chase,
There too Heav'n planted man's majestic race;
Bade reason's sons with nobler titles rise,
List high their brow sublime, and scan the skies.
What though the sun in his meridian blaze
Dart on their naked limbs his scorehing rays:
What though no rosy tints adorn their face,
No silken tresses shine with flowing grace :
Yet of ethereal temper are their-souls,
And in their veins the tide of honour rolls:
And valour kindles there the hero's flame,
Contempt of death, and thirst of martial fá me;
And pity melts the sympathizing breast,
Ah! fatal virtue for the brave distress'd.
“My torturd bosom, sad remembrance spare ; Why dost thou plant thy keenest daggers there? And show me what I was, and aggravate despair ? Ye streams of Gambia, and thou sacred shade! Where in my youth's first dawn I joyful stray'd,