1795 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Robert Merry

Anastasia, "To Della Crusca, on reading The Slaves, an Elegy, written by him in 1788" The Telegraph (18 August 1795).



Thou enchanting Bard, who breath'dst thy strains,
Erewhile to decorate the mournful bier,
Where lay the sable sons of Afric's plains,
And to their mis'ries dropd'st the pitying tear.

Then bade them hope their days of woe were o'er,
That Britain's sons at length had learn'd to feel,
Had taught their soften'd bosoms to deplore
The wrongs they felt, or strive these wrongs to heal.

What added torments now must wring thy breast,
To see that dawn of hope in darkness fade;
To see that "Negroes still remain unblest,"
Still to vile bonds and slav'ry are betray'd.

Betray'd by those who once with well mask'd zeal
Seem'd foremost rank'd amongst their ardent friends;
But who by acted pity sought to steal
The heart humane to serve their private ends.

Who now the useless veil aside have thrown,
And dare e'en in the open face of day,
The diabolic sentiment to own
That Negroes are the White man's lawful prey.

"And from proud Albion a crown, where laurels twine,"
Have stol'n the gem our eyes once hop'd to see—
Full in its front, with heav'nly lustre shine,
"The radiant gem of pure humanity."

But yet Heav'n's fiat's past, nor can vain man
Or alter, or avert its high behest,
Ne'er change one atom of its mighty plan—
And Heav'n's own voice says "Negroes shall be blest."

And see e'en now where cross the Atlantic main,
Themselves begin their bleeding wrongs t' assert;
And while their strong arms their cause maintain,
They all oppression's projects disconcert.

And sure, if justice still on earth abides,
And weighs man's deeds in her unerring scale,
Against the pow'r of ruthless homicides,
Their righteous cause must finally prevail.

Yes, we behold their day of freedom dawn,
But contemplate, alas! with tearful eyes,
The Sun that ushers in that glorious morn,
'Midst sanguinary fields of slaughter rise.

But while beneath the chastisement we bow,
And hang in tears o'er the sad scenes we view,
Our aching hearts are yet compell'd t' allow
Each stroke, but bears retaliation due.

O ye who feel the temp'rate Sun that warms
This Isle, which makes fair liberty its boast,
In robes of penitence array your forms,
And mourn the bright occasion ye have lost.

For you, ye Britons, might have foremost stood,
In the suppression of that hellish trade,
Which oft has dy'd parch'd Afric's plains with blood,
And Western Ind' one scene of horrors made.

But ah, tis past! and since ye dar'd refuse
To take the glorious path which justice spreads,
Ye now behold your sanguinary views
Recoil, with tenfold anguish on your heads.

Yet our swoln eyes, which now with tears o'erflow,
At the wild horrors which around us fly,
Thro' those big tears, and lengthen'd scenes of woe,
One brilliant ray of comfort can descry.

For oft above the clouds that intervene,
The angel form of Liberty we see,
Who, pointing to the desolated scene,
Seems to pronounce that man shall yet be free.

Who seems to say, that the wild wars, which rage
Now in the moral atmosphere, like those
Which jarring elements will ofttimes wage,
When clouds, in realms of air, to clouds oppose.

Shall purify and cleanse deprav'd mankind,
And pave the way for brighter days to come,
When prejudice no more the heart shall blind—
But man, with man, shall share one equal doom.