In The Evil Days





This and the four following poems have special reference to that darkest

hour in the aggression of slavery which preceded the dawn of a better

day, when the conscience of the people was roused to action.



THE evil days have come, the poor

Are made a prey;

Bar up the hospitable door,

Put out the fire-lights, point no more

The wanderer's way.



For Pity now is crime; the chain

Which binds our States

Is melted at her hearth in twain,

Is rusted by her tears' soft rain

Close up her gates.



Our Union, like a glacier stirred

By voice below,

Or bell of kine, or wing of bird,

A beggar's crust, a kindly word

May overthrow!



Poor, whispering tremblers! yet we boast

Our blood and name;

Bursting its century-bolted frost,

Each gray cairn on the Northman's coast

Cries out for shame!



Oh for the open firmament,

The prairie free,

The desert hillside, cavern-rent,

The Pawnee's lodge, the Arab's tent,

The Bushman's tree!



Than web of Persian loom most rare,

Or soft divan,

Better the rough rock, bleak and bare,

Or hollow tree, which man may share

With suffering man.



I hear a voice: "Thus saith the Law,

Let Love be dumb;

Clasping her liberal hands in awe,

Let sweet-lipped Charity withdraw

From hearth and home."



I hear another voice: "The poor

Are thine to feed;

Turn not the outcast from thy door,

Nor give to bonds and wrong once more

Whom God hath freed."



Dear Lord! between that law and Thee

No choice remains;

Yet not untrue to man's decree,

Though spurning its rewards, is he

Who bears its pains.



Not mine Sedition's trumpet-blast

And threatening word;

I read the lesson of the Past,

That firm endurance wins at last

More than the sword.



O clear-eyed Faith, and Patience thou

So calm and strong!

Lend strength to weakness, teach us how

The sleepless eyes of God look through

This night of wrong

1850.





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