The Branded Hand





Captain Jonathan Walker, of Harwich, Mass., was solicited by several

fugitive slaves at Pensacola, Florida, to carry them in his vessel to

the British West Indies. Although well aware of the great hazard of the

enterprise he attempted to comply with the request, but was seized at

sea by an American vessel, consigned to the authorities at Key West, and

thence sent back to Pensacola, where, after a long and rigorous

confinement in prison, he was tried and sentenced to be branded on his

right hand with the letters "S.S." (slave-stealer) and amerced in a

heavy fine.



WELCOME home again, brave seaman! with thy

thoughtful brow and gray,

And the old heroic spirit of our earlier, better day;

With that front of calm endurance, on whose

steady nerve in vain

Pressed the iron of the prison, smote the fiery

shafts of pain.



Is the tyrant's brand upon thee? Did the brutal

cravens aim

To make God's truth thy falsehood, His holiest

work thy shame?

When, all blood-quenched, from the torture the

iron was withdrawn,

How laughed their evil angel the baffled fools to

scorn!



They change to wrong the duty which God hath

written out

On the great heart of humanity, too legible for

doubt!

They, the loathsome moral lepers, blotched from

footsole up to crown,

Give to shame what God hath given unto honor

and renown!



Why, that brand is highest honor! than its traces

never yet

Upon old armorial hatchments was a prouder blazon

set;

And thy unborn generations, as they tread our

rocky strand,

Shall tell with pride the story of their father's

branded hand!



As the Templar home was welcome, bearing back-

from Syrian wars

The scars of Arab lances and of Paynim scimitars,

The pallor of the prison, and the shackle's crimson span,

So we meet thee, so we greet thee, truest friend of

God and man.



He suffered for the ransom of the dear Redeemer's grave,

Thou for His living presence in the bound and

bleeding slave;

He for a soil no longer by the feet of angels trod,

Thou for the true Shechinah, the present home of God.



For, while the jurist, sitting with the slave-whip

o'er him swung,

From the tortured truths of freedom the lie of

slavery wrung,

And the solemn priest to Moloch, on each God-

deserted shrine,

Broke the bondman's heart for bread, poured the

bondman's blood for wine;



While the multitude in blindness to a far-off Saviour

knelt,

And spurned, the while, the temple where a present

Saviour dwelt;

Thou beheld'st Him in the task-field, in the prison

shadows dim,

And thy mercy to the bondman, it was mercy unto Him!



In thy lone and long night-watches, sky above and

wave below,

Thou didst learn a higher wisdom than the babbling

schoolmen know;

God's stars and silence taught thee, as His angels

only can,

That the one sole sacred thing beneath the cope of

heaven is Man!



That he who treads profanely on the scrolls of law

and creed,

In the depth of God's great goodness may find

mercy in his need;

But woe to him who crushes the soul with chain

and rod,

And herds with lower natures the awful form of God!



Then lift that manly right-hand, bold ploughman

of the wave!

Its branded palm shall prophesy, "Salvation to

the Slave!"

Hold up its fire-wrought language, that whoso

reads may feel

His heart swell strong within him, his sinews

change to steel.



Hold it up before our sunshine, up against our

Northern air;

Ho! men of Massachusetts, for the love of God,

look there!

Take it henceforth for your standard, like the

Bruce's heart of yore,

In the dark strife closing round ye, let that hand

be seen before!



And the masters of the slave-land shall tremble at

that sign,

When it points its finger Southward along the

Puritan line

Can the craft of State avail them? Can a Christless

church withstand,

In the van of Freedom's onset, the coming of that

band?

1846.





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