Poems on Slavery, Issue 2

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John Owen, 1842 - Slavery - 31 pages
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Page 11 - The Slave's Dream BESIDE the ungathered rice he lay, His sickle in his hand; His breast was bare, his matted hair Was buried in the sand. Again, in the mist and shadow of sleep, He saw his Native Land. Wide through the landscape of his dreams The lordly Niger flowed; Beneath the palm-trees on the plain Once more a king he strode, And heard the tinkling caravans Descend the mountain-road. He saw once more his dark-eyed queen Among her children...
Page 13 - Before him, like a blood-red flag, The bright flamingoes flew ; From morn till night he followed their flight, O'er plains where the tamarind grew, Till he saw the roofs of Caffre huts, And the ocean rose to view. At night he heard the lion roar, And the hyena scream, And the river-horse as he crushed the reeds Beside some hidden stream ; And it passed like a glorious roll of drums, Through the triumph of his dream.
Page 14 - And the river-horse, as he crushed the reeds Beside some hidden stream ; And it passed, like a glorious roll of drums, Through the triumph of his dream. The forests, with their myriad tongues, Shouted of liberty ; And the Blast of the Desert cried aloud, With a voice so wild and free, That he started in his sleep and smiled At their tempestuous glee. He did not feel the driver's whip, Nor the burning heat of day ; For Death had illumined the Land of Sleep, And his lifeless body lay A worn-out fetter,...
Page 19 - THE SLAVE IN THE DISMAL SWAMP. IN dark fens of the Dismal Swamp The hunted Negro lay ; He saw the fire of the midnight camp, And heard at times a horse's tramp And a bloodhound's distant bay. "Where will-o'-the-wisps and glow-worms shine, In bulrush and in brake; Where waving mosses shroud the pine, And the cedar grows, and the poisonous vine Is spotted like the snake; Where hardly a human foot could pass, Or a human heart would dare...
Page 31 - His desperate hands, and in its overthrow Destroyed himself, and with him those who made A cruel mockery of his sightless woe ; The poor, blind Slave, the scoff and jest of all, Expired, and thousands perished in the fall! There is a poor, blind Samson in this land, Shorn of his strength and bound in bonds of steel, Who may, in some grim revel, raise his hand, And shake the pillars of this Common weal, Till the vast Temple of our liberties A shapeless mass of wreck and rubbish lies.
Page 12 - He saw once more his dark-eyed queen Among her children stand ; They clasped his neck, they kissed his cheeks, They held him by the hand ! — A tear burst from the sleeper's lids And fell into the sand. And then at furious speed he rode Along the Niger's bank ; His bridle reins were golden chains, And with a martial clank, At each leap he could feel his scabbard of steel Smiting his stallion's flank.
Page 8 - Neigh'd courage to his rider, and brake through Groves of opposed pikes, bearing his lord Safe to triumphant victory ; old or wounded, Was set at liberty, and freed from service. The Athenian mules, that from the quarry drew Marble...
Page 22 - Perished Pharaoh and his host. And the voice of his devotion Filled my soul with strange emotion, For its tones by turns were glad, Sweetly solemn, wildly sad. Paul and Silas, in their prison, Sang of Christ, the Lord arisen, And an earthquake's arm of might Broke their dungeon -gates at night.
Page 19 - Where hardly a human foot could pass, Or a human heart would dare , On the quaking turf of the green morass He crouched in the rank and tangled grass, Like a wild beast in his lair. A poor old slave , infirm and lame ; Great scars deformed his face ; On his forehead he bore the brand of shame , And the rags, that hid his mangled frame, Were the livery of disgrace. All things above were bright and fair, All things were glad and free ; Lithe squirrels darted here and there, And wild birds filled the...
Page 21 - Songs of triumph, and ascriptions, Such as reached the swart Egyptians, When upon the Red Sea coast Perished Pharaoh and his host. And the voice of his devotion Filled my soul with strange emotion; For its tones by turns were glad, Sweetly solemn, wildly sad.

About the author (1842)

During his lifetime, Longfellow enjoyed a popularity that few poets have ever known. This has made a purely literary assessment of his achievement difficult, since his verse has had an effect on so many levels of American culture and society. Certainly, some of his most popular poems are, when considered merely as artistic compositions, found wanting in serious ways: the confused imagery and sentimentality of "A Psalm of Life" (1839), the excessive didacticism of "Excelsior" (1841), the sentimentality of "The Village Blacksmith" (1839). Yet, when judged in terms of popular culture, these works are probably no worse and, in some respects, much better than their counterparts in our time. Longfellow was very successful in responding to the need felt by Americans of his time for a literature of their own, a retelling in verse of the stories and legends of these United States, especially New England. His three most popular narrative poems are thoroughly rooted in American soil. "Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie" (1847), an American idyll; "The Song of Hiawatha" (1855), the first genuinely native epic in American poetry; and "The Courtship of Miles Standish" (1858), a Puritan romance of Longfellow's own ancestors, John Alden and Priscilla Mullens. "Paul Revere's Ride," the best known of the "Tales of a Wayside Inn"(1863), is also intensely national. Then, there is a handful of intensely personal, melancholy poems that deal in very successful ways with those themes not commonly thought of as Longfellow's: sorrow, death, frustration, the pathetic drift of humanity's existence. Chief among these are "My Lost Youth" (1855), "Mezzo Cammin" (1842), "The Ropewalk" (1854), "The Jewish Cemetery at Newport" (1852), and, most remarkable in its artistic success, "The Cross of Snow," a heartfelt sonnet so personal in its expression of the poet's grief for his dead wife that it remained unpublished until after Longfellow's death. A professor of modern literature at Harvard College, Longfellow did much to educate the general reading public in the literatures of Europe by means of his many anthologies and translations, the most important of which was his masterful rendition in English of Dante's Divine Comedy (1865-67).

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