Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire "A Negro Song" (1799)





THE loud wind roar'd, the rain fell fast;
The White Man yielded to the blast:
He sat him down, beneath our tree;
For weary, sad, and faint was he;
And ah, no wife, or mother's care,
For him, the milk or corn prepare:


The White Man, shall our pity share;
Alas, no wife or mother's care,
For him the milk or corn prepare.


The storm is o'er; the tempest past;
And Mercy's voice has hush'd the blast.
The wind is heard in whispers low;
The White Man far away must go;--
But ever in his heart will bear
Remembrance of the Negro's care.


Go, White Man, go;--but with thee bear
The Negro's wish, the Negro's prayer;
Remembrance of the Negro's care.

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Notes on the poem

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Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire is an interesting historical figure. Her life was filled with madness, scandal, parties, poetry, and gentlemen. She was born June 7, 1757, daughter of the Earl of Spencer. Her marriage to William, Duke of Devonshire (June 5,1774), was long awaited and kept a secret from the public, lest the wedding be overrun with spectators. In 1782 she formed a friendship with Lady Elizabeth Forster which did not end when Lady Elizabeth ("Bess") bore the Duchess's husband three children. She had ties to the French court through her mother, Georgiana Poyntz, and was a favourite of Marie Antoinette. She was in London with her husband during the famous madness of King George the III (b. 1738, d. 1820; ruled 1760-1820)and kept a diary of the court proceedings during that time. In this diary her intelligence and humour as well as her tenderness are constantly apparent. "...His [the King's] madness is sometimes very touching and sometimes occasions his saying clever things..." She kept a close bond with her mother all her life and corresponded with her frequently. In these letters, her mother often gave advice on how to get out of the "scrapes" the Duchess was constantly in (The Duchess had extramarital affairs and was an avid (apparently unlucky) gambler). Georgiana's letters to her mother sometimes included pieces of her poetry, though none contain "A Negro Song." She published one novel in her lifetime called The Syph (also in 1799). She died in 1806 at the age of 49 and was outlived by her husband, four children, Lady Elizabeth Foster, her beloved mother and mad King George.

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Bibliographical note

Cavendish, Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, "A Negro Song," published in Travels in the Interior Districts of Africa by Mungo Park (London: W. Bulmer, 1799), pp. xxi-xxv.
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This hypertext was created on October 27, 1999, by Stephanie D. Storrs.