"T. N.," "A Negro's Address on the Apparition of Slavery" (1834)



A NEGRO's ADDRESS on the APPARITION of SLAVERY

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  PSAPHON, my God! what means this trembling limb?
    What form approaches with so fierce an eye?
  'Tis Slavery shakes the lash--her aspect grim
    Perturbs my frame, and wakes the heartfelt sigh.
      She nearer comes, and nearer yet;
      I'll speak her, tho' I lose my wit.
      Offspring of hell, whose horrid chains
      Display a thousand gory stains--
      Keep thee afar; yet come thou near
      Enough for me to reach thine ear,
For I will tell such truths as hell cannot deny,
Nor those who thrive by yielding thee accurst supply.

  A thirst for gold and foul luxurious ease,
    With pride of heart and treachery beside,
  (Av'rice, thy advocate, to this agrees)
    First bade thee cross the Ethiopic tide;
      There in a sad and fatal hour,
      Licens'd by plentitude of pow'r,
      To soft humanity's disgrace,
      In iron gyves you bound our race,
      Then fled; and for base profit bore
      The victims to Orista's shore:
Upon the mart, all bare, like brutes, thy freight was bound,
Of liberty no more to know than the soft sound.

  No more with joy I meet the rising sun;
    No more enraptur'd lead the hunters up,
  Rouse the fierce game, and, when the toil is done,
    Quaff in the shade the cool Mignola cup.
      No more, alas! I bend the bow,
      My spear is changed to the hoe,
      And where the spotted pard-skin hung,
      A coarse inglorious garment's slung;
      Thy whips, thy chains, are now for me,
      (Curs'd fiend) instead of Liberty!
All this, and more, the hapless negro's doom'd to know,
'Till friendly death, to torture thee, relieves his woe.

  Nor man alone contents thy fatal grasp:
    E'en as the vulture darts upon her prey,
  The sable virgin thou art known to clasp,
    And bear from friends, from parents far away;
      To Kencheque's weedy shores,
      Where still our race in vain implores,
      Where so detested is thy pow'r;
      My sisters in the natal hour
      Their offspring kill, nor think it wrong,
      To save them from thy hellish thong,
Thy scourge that sharply lacerates by day, by night,
While thou art grinning by with horrible delight.

  Think'st thou, foul fiend, protected as thou art
    By mighty kingdoms who the cross confess,
  Thus long with sorrow's thorns to pierce the heart,
    And lock the manacles of sad distress?
      Hark! a soft sound pervades mine ears,
      And, lo! a modest band appears!
      'Tis Philadelphia's sober train,
      Who hate the scourge, and scorn the chain;
      Emerging from Atlantia's wave,
      They come all peaceable and grave,
And thus of Lusitania's Queen they crave,
"Fair Portugal, emancipate the human slave."

  'Tis not a flattering phantom that I see,
    Call'd forth from fancy's ample stores,
  'Tis truth, 'tis justice speaks "let all be free,
    From Blanco's Cape to rich Angola's shores."
      Why should the artless negro maid
      Enrich the subtle Fantee's trade?
      She, like the maid of Britain's isle,
      Has equal claim to freedom's smile;
      The hand that made her form so fair,
      Fashion'd the jetty maid with care,
And bade her, where fair fancy led, at will to rove,
Free as the blithesome bird that wings the ample grove.

  Slav'ry, avaunt! nor flash thy flaming eyes,
    Hope tells me thy long triumph soon shall cease,
  The western world (more lib'ral grown) applies
    For universal Liberty and Peace.

      Hear'st thou the sound, tyrannic foe?
      Thou do'st, and fear'st an overthrow:
      The race of Cham has felt too long
      Thy galling fetters and thy thong;
      The time, the happy time draws near,
      When slav'ry shall not meet the ear.

Hence then! or if thou must torment--his fears increase,
Who, to promote thy traffick, robb'd my soul of peace!
She flies, Oh! sacred Psaphon! I implore of thee,
Fast bind her in those fetters she prepar'd for me.
                                                            T. N.

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Notes on the poem