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Anti-Slavery Poems
The New Year

by John Greenleaf Whittier

Addressed to the Patrons of the Pennsylvania Freeman.

The wave is breaking on the shore,
The echo fading from the chime
Again the shadow moveth o'er
The dial-plate of time!

O seer-seen Angel! waiting now
With weary feet on sea and shore,
Impatient for the last dread vow
That time shall be no more!

Once more across thy sleepless eye
The semblance of a smile has passed:
The year departing leaves more nigh
Time's fearfullest and last.

Oh, in that dying year hath been
The sum of all since time began;
The birth and death, the joy and pain,
Of Nature and of Man.

Spring, with her change of sun and shower,
And streams released from Winter's chain,
And bursting bud, and opening flower,
And greenly growing grain;

And Summer's shade, and sunshine warm,
And rainbows o'er her hill-tops bowed,
And voices in her rising storm;
God speaking from His cloud!

And Autumn's fruits and clustering sheaves,
And soft, warm days of golden light,
The glory of her forest leaves,
And harvest-moon at night;

And Winter with her leafless grove,
And prisoned stream, and drifting snow,
The brilliance of her heaven above
And of her earth below;

And man, in whom an angel's mind
With earth's low instincts finds abode,
The highest of the links which bind
Brute nature to her God;

His infant eye bath seen the light,
His childhood's merriest laughter rung,
And active sports to manlier might
The nerves of boyhood strung!

And quiet love, and passion's fires,
Have soothed or burned in manhood's breast,
And lofty aims and low desires
By turns disturbed his rest.

The wailing of the newly-born
Has mingled with the funeral knell;
And o'er the dying's ear has gone
The merry marriage-bell.

And Wealth has filled his halls with mirth,
While Want, in many a humble shed,
Toiled, shivering by her cheerless hearth,
The live-long night for bread.

And worse than all, the human slave,
The sport of lust, and pride, and scorn!
Plucked off the crown his Maker gave,
His regal manhood gone!

Oh, still, my country! o'er thy plains,
Blackened with slavery's blight and ban,
That human chattel drags his chains,
An uncreated man!

And still, where'er to sun and breeze,
My country, is thy flag unrolled,
With scorn, the gazing stranger sees
A stain on every fold.

Oh, tear the gorgeous emblem down!
It gathers scorn from every eye,
And despots smile and good men frown
Whene'er it passes by.

Shame! shame! its starry splendors glow
Above the slaver's loathsome jail;
Its folds are ruffling even now
His crimson flag of sale.

Still round our country's proudest hall
The trade in human flesh is driven,
And at each careless hammer-fall
A human heart is riven.

And this, too, sanctioned by the men
Vested with power to shield the right,
And throw each vile and robber den
Wide open to the light.

Yet, shame upon them! there they sit,
Men of the North, subdued and still;
Meek, pliant poltroons, only fit
To work a master's will.

Sold, bargained off for Southern votes,
A passive herd of Northern mules,
Just braying through their purchased throats
Whate'er their owner rules.

And he, [*] the basest of the base,
The vilest of the vile, whose name,
Embalmed in infinite disgrace,
Is deathless in its shame!

A tool, to bolt the people's door
Against the people clamoring there,
An ass, to trample on their floor
A people's right of prayer!

Nailed to his self-made gibbet fast,
Self-pilloried to the public view,
A mark for every passing blast
Of scorn to whistle through;

There let him hang, and hear the boast
Of Southrons o'er their pliant tool,--
A new Stylites on his post,
"Sacred to ridicule!"

Look we at home! our noble hall,
To Freedom's holy purpose given,
Now rears its black and ruined wall,
Beneath the wintry heaven,

Telling the story of its doom,
The fiendish mob, the prostrate law,
The fiery jet through midnight's gloom,
Our gazing thousands saw.

Look to our State! the poor man's right
Torn from him: and the sons of those
Whose blood in Freedom's sternest fight
Sprinkled the Jersey snows,

Outlawed within the land of Penn,
That Slavery's guilty fears might cease,
And those whom God created men
Toil on as brutes in peace.

Yet o'er the blackness of the storm
A bow of promise bends on high,
And gleams of sunshine, soft and warm,
Break through our clouded sky.

East, West, and North, the shout is heard,
Of freemen rising for the right
Each valley hath its rallying word,
Each hill its signal light.

O'er Massachusetts' rocks of gray,
The strengthening light of freedom shines,
Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay,
And Vermont's snow-hung pines!

From Hudson's frowning palisades
To Alleghany's laurelled crest,
O'er lakes and prairies, streams and glades,
It shines upon the West.

Speed on the light to those who dwell
In Slavery's land of woe and sin,
And through the blackness of that bell,
Let Heaven's own light break in.

So shall the Southern conscience quake
Before that light poured full and strong,
So shall the Southern heart awake
To all the bondman's wrong.

And from that rich and sunny land
The song of grateful millions rise,
Like that of Israel's ransomed band
Beneath Arabia's skies:

And all who now are bound beneath
Our banner's shade, our eagle's wing,
From Slavery's night of moral death
To light and life shall spring.

Broken the bondman's chain, and gone
The master's guilt, and hate, and fear,
And unto both alike shall dawn
A New and Happy Year.

1839.

[Note: The Northern author of the Congressional rule against
receiving petitions of the people on the subject of Slavery.]
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