Randolph Of Roanoke





O MOTHER EARTH! upon thy lap

Thy weary ones receiving,

And o'er them, silent as a dream,

Thy grassy mantle weaving,

Fold softly in thy long embrace

That heart so worn and broken,

And cool its pulse of fire beneath

Thy shadows old and oaken.



Shut out from him the bitter word

And serpent hiss of scorning;

Nor let the storms of yesterday

Disturb his quiet morning.

Breathe over him forgetfulness

Of all save deeds of kindness,

And, save to smiles of grateful eyes,

Press down his lids in blindness.



There, where with living ear and eye

He heard Potomac's flowing,

And, through his tall ancestral trees,

Saw autumn's sunset glowing,

He sleeps, still looking to the west,

Beneath the dark wood shadow,

As if he still would see the sun

Sink down on wave and meadow.



Bard, Sage, and Tribune! in himself

All moods of mind contrasting,--

The tenderest wail of human woe,

The scorn like lightning blasting;

The pathos which from rival eyes

Unwilling tears could summon,

The stinging taunt, the fiery burst

Of hatred scarcely human!



Mirth, sparkling like a diamond shower,

From lips of life-long sadness;

Clear picturings of majestic thought

Upon a ground of madness;

And over all Romance and Song

A classic beauty throwing,

And laurelled Clio at his side

Her storied pages showing.



All parties feared him: each in turn

Beheld its schemes disjointed,

As right or left his fatal glance

And spectral finger pointed.

Sworn foe of Cant, he smote it down

With trenchant wit unsparing,

And, mocking, rent with ruthless hand

The robe Pretence was wearing.



Too honest or too proud to feign

A love he never cherished,

Beyond Virginia's border line

His patriotism perished.

While others hailed in distant skies

Our eagle's dusky pinion,

He only saw the mountain bird

Stoop o'er his Old Dominion!



Still through each change of fortune strange,

Racked nerve, and brain all burning,

His loving faith in Mother-land

Knew never shade of turning;

By Britain's lakes, by Neva's tide,

Whatever sky was o'er him,

He heard her rivers' rushing sound,

Her blue peaks rose before him.



He held his slaves, yet made withal

No false and vain pretences,

Nor paid a lying priest to seek

For Scriptural defences.

His harshest words of proud rebuke,

His bitterest taunt and scorning,

Fell fire-like on the Northern brow

That bent to him in fawning.



He held his slaves; yet kept the while

His reverence for the Human;

In the dark vassals of his will

He saw but Man and Woman!

No hunter of God's outraged poor

His Roanoke valley entered;

No trader in the souls of men

Across his threshold ventured.



And when the old and wearied man

Lay down for his last sleeping,

And at his side, a slave no more,

His brother-man stood weeping,

His latest thought, his latest breath,

To Freedom's duty giving,

With failing tengue and trembling hand

The dying blest the living.



Oh, never bore his ancient State

A truer son or braver

None trampling with a calmer scorn

On foreign hate or favor.

He knew her faults, yet never stooped

His proud and manly feeling

To poor excuses of the wrong

Or meanness of concealing.



But none beheld with clearer eye

The plague-spot o'er her spreading,

None heard more sure the steps of Doom

Along her future treading.

For her as for himself he spake,

When, his gaunt frame upbracing,

He traced with dying hand "Remorse!"

And perished in the tracing.



As from the grave where Henry sleeps,

From Vernon's weeping willow,

And from the grassy pall which hides

The Sage of Monticello,

So from the leaf-strewn burial-stone

Of Randolph's lowly dwelling,

Virginia! o'er thy land of slaves

A warning voice is swelling!



And hark! from thy deserted fields

Are sadder warnings spoken,

From quenched hearths, where thy exiled sons

Their household gods have broken.

The curse is on thee,--wolves for men,

And briers for corn-sheaves giving

Oh, more than all thy dead renown

Were now one hero living

1847.





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