At Port Royal





In November, 1861, a Union force under Commodore Dupont and General

Sherman captured Port Royal, and from this point as a basis of

operations, the neighboring islands between Charleston and Savannah were

taken possession of. The early occupation of this district, where the

negro population was greatly in excess of the white, gave an opportunity

which was at once seized upon, of practically emancipating the slaves

and of beginning that work of civilization which was accepted as the

grave responsibility of those who had labored for freedom.



THE tent-lights glimmer on the land,

The ship-lights on the sea;

The night-wind smooths with drifting sand

Our track on lone Tybee.



At last our grating keels outslide,

Our good boats forward swing;

And while we ride the land-locked tide,

Our negroes row and sing.



For dear the bondman holds his gifts

Of music and of song

The gold that kindly Nature sifts

Among his sands of wrong:



The power to make his toiling days

And poor home-comforts please;

The quaint relief of mirth that plays

With sorrow's minor keys.



Another glow than sunset's fire

Has filled the west with light,

Where field and garner, barn and byre,

Are blazing through the night.



The land is wild with fear and hate,

The rout runs mad and fast;

From hand to hand, from gate to gate

The flaming brand is passed.



The lurid glow falls strong across

Dark faces broad with smiles

Not theirs the terror, hate, and loss

That fire yon blazing piles.



With oar-strokes timing to their song,

They weave in simple lays

The pathos of remembered wrong,

The hope of better days,--



The triumph-note that Miriam sung,

The joy of uncaged birds

Softening with Afric's mellow tongue

Their broken Saxon words.





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