1791 ca.
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Complaint of an African Woman for the Loss of her Husband.

Poems on Several Occasions. By the late Rev. Thomas Browne.

Rev. Thomas Browne


A pastoral ballad in seven double-quatrain stanzas. The speaker, addressing her orphaned child, considers suicide but decides to live for the sake of her innocent babe. The slavers are declared more cruel than the tigers of the forest: "'Tis hunger alone that excites | These monsters to range thro' the wood; But the Christian, more savage, delights | To riot in carnage and blood." This posthumously-published poem was composed as part of the effort to persuade Parliament to abolish the slave trade. A substantial portion of Thomas Browne's volume is devoted to pastoral poetry, including two eclogues and a pastoral ballad in the Yorkshire dialect.

The editor of the volume, John Merritt, believes that this and several other poems by Browne he enumerates "were written in the very early periods of his youth, when his stock of ideas, and command of language, were, of course, very confined" p. x.



Poor child! (how contented it sleeps)
As yet quite a stranger to woe;
'Tis unknown why thy mother thus weeps,
Why her tears thus incessantly flow:
Ah, cease not to flow briny tears!
Ye bring to my anguish relief;
Ye give vent to my heart rending cares,
And soften the sharpness of grief.

Ah! did ye not flow to my aid,
My heart would have broken in twain;
Alas! by barbarians betray'd,
I shall ne'er see my husband again!
The wretches well skill'd to beguile,
With a smile on their brow thou didst meet;
Ah! why didst thou trust in that smile,
Beneath it lurk'd faithless deceit.

I am told that in dungeons confin'd,
Shut out from the light of the day,
With strong fetters the captive they bind,
Who is made (sad misfortune!) their prey:
That in huge floating castles they're born,
To a country far distant from here—
From all tender connexions they're torn,
From all that their souls could hold dear.

Far, far, they are born from the soil,
Where their love, their affections remain;
And compell'd for their tyrants to toil,
To gather their harvests with pain.
The sigh that is bursting my heart,
Accuses my fondness and care;
Ah why did I let thee depart!
In thy dangers why did not I share!

Ah my child! — but I shall not yet be
Quite of all consolation bereft—
I will cease to lament — since in thee,
I still some small comfort have left:
I will live! — but it is for thy sake!
To thee I'll transfer all my care;
But for thee — I had plung'd in the lake,
In the transports of grief and despair.

To the woods dark recesses I'll fly,
Where fell tygers prowl nightly for prey;
Could I hide from these ravagers' eye—
The tyger's less cruel than they.
'Tis hunger alone that excites
These monsters to range thro' the wood;
But the Christian, more savage, delights
To riot in carnage and blood.

Grief will soon bring my life to a close,
To the land I shall then wing my way,
Where the spirits departed repose—
Impatient I wait for the day!
I again shall my husband behold,
In safety reclin'd in the grove;
Where the fierce Christian thirsting for gold,
Shall part me no more from my love.

[pp. 89-92]