1812
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Stanzas on the Anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade.

Metrical Effusions; or Verses on Various Occasions.

Bernard Barton


Eight Spenserians: the Quaker poet salutes the abolition of the slave trade and the Christian mission to Africa: "The BIBLE! sacred pledge of love divine, | The christian's treasure, now the heathen's prize, | Shall soon complete redemption's grand design, | And bring salvation home to Afric's eyes."

In a letter to Hannah More, Elizabeth Montagu had compared William Wilberforce, the abolitionist celebrated by Barton, to Spenser's hero: "Your bower is worthy to receive, and delightful enough to retain, the Red Cross Knight; but, to our infinite regret, he made a very short visit at Sandleford. I hope he did not consider it as Error's den" September 1789; in Memoirs of Hannah More (1835) 1:331-32.

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "William Wilberfrce, long leader of the Anti-Slavery party in the House of Commons. He died in 1833. His son, Dr. Samuel Wilberforce, is now Bishop of Oxford" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 1:407n.



Again the rapid flight of time brings round
The sacred hour to virtue justly dear:
My muse! commemorate, with joyful sound,
An hour which unborn ages shall revere.
E'en that glad hour which wip'd the bitter tear
From Afric's cheek, and cast her chains away:
Freedom, humanity, and justice, hear!
To you I dedicate this votive lay,
And consecrate to you this ever glorious day.

All hail, ye heavenly band! your holy fire
Inflam'd with virtuous ardour CLARKSON's breast;
Awoke that zeal which labour ne'er could tire,
Danger affright, nor av'rice lull to rest.
He saw poor Afric's sable sons opprest;
Saw them, transported from their native shore,
Meet stern-eyed death in all his horrors drest,
Or life more horrible than death deplore.
Such were the scenes he saw — scenes we behold no more.

CLARKSON! and WILBERFORCE! thrice honour'd names!
Ye shine conspicuous 'mid that chosen band,
Whose steady zeal a nation's reverence claims,
Whose generous labours have redeem'd the land.
And could a humble poet's trembling hand
Present to merit half the tribute due,
Thy name, illustrious GLOSTER! forth should stand
Amid the bold disinterested few,
Who prejudice defied, and spurn'd her venal crew.

Among the hosts who hail with just applause
This joyful hour, my partial eyes survey
A sect, whose ardent zeal in virtue's cause,
Prompts me the tribute of respect to pay.
Ye FRIENDS OF PEACE! to you this glorious day
Is doubly sanctified, is doubly dear;
On Afric's shores no more shall martial fray
Infringe that sacred law your souls revere;
But strife and war shall cease, and happier days appear.

On Guinea's coast, where once the shriek of wo
Proclaim'd the reign of anguish and despair;
Where avarice sunk the man the brute below,
And christian monsters mock'd the captive's prayer;
A different aspect shall that region wear:
There scenes of bliss shall once more greet the eye;
The festive song the evening gale shall bear
In broken accents to the distant sky—
Blest sounds of peaceful mirth, and village revelry.

O Thou! whose sceptre sways this earthly ball,
This trivial atom in creation's round;
"Who seest with equal eye as God of all,"
A Negro fetter'd, or a Monarch crown'd:
O Thou! whose power and goodness none can bound,
Heal Afric's wrongs, and pardon Europe's crime;
Proclaim through torrid wastes that joyful sound,
Which Jordan's vallies heard in earlier time:
Salvation's gladdening voice, and Gospel truths sublime!

E'en while I sing, behold! a beam of light
Shines tremulously o'er my raptur'd mind,
Foreboding that the soul's protracted night
Shall, like the body's patient sufferings, find
An end at last; for charity, more kind
Than proud munificence could ever boast,
To leave no entrance for regret behind,
Hath rais'd of pious ranks a countless host,
Who rear her standard high, and shout from coast to coast.

The BIBLE! sacred pledge of love divine,
The christian's treasure, now the heathen's prize,
Shall soon complete redemption's grand design,
And bring salvation home to Afric's eyes.
Soon shall the sun of righteousness arise,
And shine o'er every zone from pole to pole:
Then, O my Country! ever just as wise,
'Till planets in their orbits cease to roll,
Shalt thou remain enshrin'd in every grateful soul.

[pp. 114-18]