The Slaves Of Martinique





Suggested by a daguerreotype taken from a small French engraving of two

negro figures, sent to the writer by Oliver Johnson.



BEAMS of noon, like burning lances, through the

tree-tops flash and glisten,

As she stands before her lover, with raised face to

look and listen.



Dark, but comely, like the maiden in the ancient

Jewish song

Scarcely has the toil of task-fields done her graceful

beauty wrong.



He, the strong one and the manly, with the vassal's

garb and hue,

Holding still his spirit's birthright, to his higher

nature true;



Hiding deep the strengthening purpose of a freeman

in his heart,

As the gregree holds his Fetich from the white

man's gaze apart.



Ever foremost of his comrades, when the driver's

morning horn

Calls away to stifling mill-house, to the fields of

cane and corn.



Fall the keen and burning lashes never on his back

or limb;

Scarce with look or word of censure, turns the

driver unto him.



Yet, his brow is always thoughtful, and his eye is

hard and stern;

Slavery's last and humblest lesson he has never

deigned to learn.



And, at evening, when his comrades dance before

their master's door,

Folding arms and knitting forehead, stands he

silent evermore.



God be praised for every instinct which rebels

against a lot

Where the brute survives the human, and man's

upright form is not!



As the serpent-like bejuco winds his spiral fold

on fold

Round the tall and stately ceiba, till it withers in

his hold;



Slow decays the forest monarch, closer girds the

fell embrace,

Till the tree is seen no longer, and the vine is in

its place;



So a base and bestial nature round the vassal's

manhood twines,

And the spirit wastes beneath it, like the ceiba

choked with vines.



God is Love, saith the Evangel; and our world of

woe and sin

Is made light and happy only when a Love is

shining in.



Ye whose lives are free as sunshine, finding, where-

soe'er ye roam,

Smiles of welcome, looks of kindness, making all

the world like home;



In the veins of whose affections kindred blood is

but a part.,

Of one kindly current throbbing from the universal

heart;



Can ye know the deeper meaning of a love in Slavery

nursed,

Last flower of a lost Eden, blooming in that Soil

accursed?



Love of Home, and Love of Woman!--dear to all,

but doubly dear

To the heart whose pulses elsewhere measure only

hate and fear.



All around the desert circles, underneath a brazen

sky,

Only one green spot remaining where the dew is

never dry!



From the horror of that desert, from its atmosphere

of hell,

Turns the fainting spirit thither, as the diver seeks

his bell.



'T is the fervid tropic noontime; faint and low the

sea-waves beat;

Hazy rise the inland mountains through the glimmer

of the heat,--



Where, through mingled leaves and blossoms,

arrowy sunbeams flash and glisten,

Speaks her lover to the slave-girl, and she lifts her

head to listen:--



"We shall live as slaves no longer! Freedom's

hour is close at hand!

Rocks her bark upon the waters, rests the boat

upon the strand!



"I have seen the Haytien Captain; I have seen

his swarthy crew,

Haters of the pallid faces, to their race and color

true.



"They have sworn to wait our coming till the night

has passed its noon,

And the gray and darkening waters roll above the

sunken moon!"



Oh, the blessed hope of freedom! how with joy

and glad surprise,

For an instant throbs her bosom, for an instant

beam her eyes!



But she looks across the valley, where her mother's

hut is seen,

Through the snowy bloom of coffee, and the lemon-

leaves so green.



And she answers, sad and earnest: "It were wrong

for thee to stay;

God hath heard thy prayer for freedom, and his

finger points the way.



"Well I know with what endurance, for the sake

of me and mine,

Thou hast borne too long a burden never meant

for souls like thine.



"Go; and at the hour of midnight, when our last

farewell is o'er,

Kneeling on our place of parting, I will bless thee

from the shore.



"But for me, my mother, lying on her sick-bed

all the day,

Lifts her weary head to watch me, coming through

the twilight gray.



"Should I leave her sick and helpless, even freedom,

shared with thee,

Would be sadder far than bondage, lonely toil, and

stripes to me.



"For my heart would die within me, and my brain

would soon be wild;

I should hear my mother calling through the twilight

for her child!"



Blazing upward from the ocean, shines the sun of

morning-time,

Through the coffee-trees in blossom, and green

hedges of the lime.



Side by side, amidst the slave-gang, toil the lover

and the maid;

Wherefore looks he o'er the waters, leaning forward

on his spade?



Sadly looks he, deeply sighs he: 't is the Haytien's

sail he sees,

Like a white cloud of the mountains, driven seaward

by the breeze.



But his arm a light hand presses, and he hears a

low voice call

Hate of Slavery, hope of Freedom, Love is mightier

than all.

1848.





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