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.
The author behind the initials "T. N." remains lost to current scholarship. "One-Tree Hill," a bucolic evocation of Greenwich and its environs, also appears in European Magazine over the initials "T. N." in July 1784; it may or may not be the work of the same hand. While the author continues unfamiliar to students of anti-slavery poetry, European Magazine does not. In addition to "A Negro's Address on the Apparition of Slavery," the periodical, as Wylie Sypher has pointed out, also printed Thomas Adney's "The Slave, An Ode" (October 1792) and "The African" (signed "I. M.", October 1798). Alan Richardson's recent anthology of anti-slavery verse adds Robert ("Della Crusca") Merry's "The Slaves, an Elegy" (March 1788); an anonymous "Extract" (December 1786) is a further instance of the magazine's occasional support of the abolitionist cause.
"A Negro's Address" straddles the distinction suggested by Anne Mellor between "male abolitionist writers [who] tended to attack slavery as a violation of natural law [and] certain inalienable rights" and "women writers [who] tended to condemn slavery because it violated the domestic affections." The Negro's apostrophizing of Slavery (rendered weirdly enfeebled by its status as "apparition") and relatively brief allusion to Britain (line 67) declare a confidence in the institution's imminent eradication, a confidence betrayed by the emphatically reactionary policies that followed the events of 1789.
"T. N.", "A Negro's Address on the Apparition of Slavery," European Magazine 5 (London: June 1784), pp. 455-456.