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Anti-Slavery Poems
The World's Convention

by John Greenleaf Whittier

of The Friends of Emancipation, held in London in 1840

 Joseph Sturge, the founder of the British and Foreign Anti-Slavery
Society, proposed the calling of a world's anti-slavery convention, and
the proposal was promptly seconded by the American Anti-Slavery Society.
The call was addressed to "friends of the slave of every nation and of
every clime."

Yes, let them gather! Summon forth
The pledged philanthropy of Earth.
From every land, whose hills have heard
The bugle blast of Freedom waking;
Or shrieking of her symbol-bird
From out his cloudy eyrie breaking
Where Justice hath one worshipper,
Or truth one altar built to her;

Where'er a human eye is weeping
O'er wrongs which Earth's sad children know;
Where'er a single heart is keeping
Its prayerful watch with human woe
Thence let them come, and greet each other,
And know in each a friend and brother!

Yes, let them come! from each green vale
Where England's old baronial halls
Still bear upon their storied walls
The grim crusader's rusted mail,
Battered by Paynim spear and brand
On Malta's rock or Syria's sand!
And mouldering pennon-staves once set
Within the soil of Palestine,
By Jordan and Gennesaret;
Or, borne with England's battle line,
O'er Acre's shattered turrets stooping,
Or, midst the camp their banners drooping,
With dews from hallowed Hermon wet,
A holier summons now is given
Than that gray hermit's voice of old,
Which unto all the winds of heaven
The banners of the Cross unrolled!
Not for the long-deserted shrine;
Not for the dull unconscious sod,
Which tells not by one lingering sign
That there the hope of Israel trod;
But for that truth, for which alone
In pilgrim eyes are sanctified
The garden moss, the mountain stone,
Whereon His holy sandals pressed,--
The fountain which His lip hath blessed,--

Whate'er hath touched His garment's hem
At Bethany or Bethlehem,
Or Jordan's river-side.
For Freedom in the name of Him
Who came to raise Earth's drooping poor,
To break the chain from every limb,
The bolt from every prison door!
For these, o'er all the earth hath passed
An ever-deepening trumpet blast,
As if an angel's breath had lent
Its vigor to the instrument.

And Wales, from Snowden's mountain wall,
Shall startle at that thrilling call,
As if she heard her bards again;
And Erin's "harp on Tara's wall"
Give out its ancient strain,
Mirthful and sweet, yet sad withal,--
The melody which Erin loves,
When o'er that harp, 'mid bursts of gladness
And slogan cries and lyke-wake sadness,
The hand of her O'Connell moves!
Scotland, from lake and tarn and rill,
And mountain hold, and heathery bill,
Shall catch and echo back the note,
As if she heard upon the air
Once more her Cameronian's prayer
And song of Freedom float.
And cheering echoes shall reply
From each remote dependency,
Where Britain's mighty sway is known,
In tropic sea or frozen zone;
Where'er her sunset flag is furling,
Or morning gun-fire's smoke is curling;
From Indian Bengal's groves of palm
And rosy fields and gales of balm,
Where Eastern pomp and power are rolled
Through regal Ava's gates of gold;
And from the lakes and ancient woods
And dim Canadian solitudes,
Whence, sternly from her rocky throne,
Queen of the North, Quebec looks down;
And from those bright and ransomed Isles
Where all unwonted Freedom smiles,
And the dark laborer still retains
The scar of slavery's broken chains!

From the hoar Alps, which sentinel
The gateways of the land of Tell,
Where morning's keen and earliest glance
On Jura's rocky wall is thrown,
And from the olive bowers of France
And vine groves garlanding the Rhone,--
"Friends of the Blacks," as true and tried
As those who stood by Oge's side,
And heard the Haytien's tale of wrong,
Shall gather at that summons strong;
Broglie, Passy, and he whose song
Breathed over Syria's holy sod,
And, in the paths which Jesus trod,
And murmured midst the hills which hem
Crownless and sad Jerusalem,
Hath echoes whereso'er the tone
Of Israel's prophet-lyre is known.

Still let them come; from Quito's walls,
And from the Orinoco's tide,
From Lima's Inca-haunted halls,
From Santa Fe and Yucatan,--
Men who by swart Guerrero's side
Proclaimed the deathless rights of man,
Broke every bond and fetter off,
And hailed in every sable serf
A free and brother Mexican!
Chiefs who across the Andes' chain
Have followed Freedom's flowing pennon,
And seen on Junin's fearful plain,
Glare o'er the broken ranks of Spain
The fire-burst of Bolivar's cannon!
And Hayti, from her mountain land,
Shall send the sons of those who hurled
Defiance from her blazing strand,
The war-gage from her Petion's hand,
Alone against a hostile world.

Nor all unmindful, thou, the while,
Land of the dark and mystic Nile!
Thy Moslem mercy yet may shame
All tyrants of a Christian name,
When in the shade of Gizeh's pile,
Or, where, from Abyssinian hills
El Gerek's upper fountain fills,
Or where from Mountains of the Moon
El Abiad bears his watery boon,
Where'er thy lotus blossoms swim
Within their ancient hallowed waters;
Where'er is beard the Coptic hymn,
Or song of Nubia's sable daughters;
The curse of slavery and the crime,
Thy bequest from remotest time,
At thy dark Mehemet's decree
Forevermore shall pass from thee;
And chains forsake each captive's limb
Of all those tribes, whose hills around
Have echoed back the cymbal sound
And victor horn of Ibrahim.

And thou whose glory and whose crime
To earth's remotest bound and clime,
In mingled tones of awe and scorn,
The echoes of a world have borne,
My country! glorious at thy birth,
A day-star flashing brightly forth,
The herald-sign of Freedom's dawn!
Oh, who could dream that saw thee then,
And watched thy rising from afar,
That vapors from oppression's fen
Would cloud the upward tending star?
Or, that earth's tyrant powers, which heard,
Awe-struck, the shout which hailed thy dawning,
Would rise so soon, prince, peer, and king,
To mock thee with their welcoming,
Like Hades when her thrones were stirred
To greet the down-cast Star of Morning!
"Aha! and art thou fallen thus?
Art thou become as one of us?"

Land of my fathers! there will stand,
Amidst that world-assembled band,
Those owning thy maternal claim
Unweakened by thy, crime and shame;
The sad reprovers of thy wrong;
The children thou hast spurned so long.

Still with affection's fondest yearning
To their unnatural mother turning.
No traitors they! but tried and leal,
Whose own is but thy general weal,
Still blending with the patriot's zeal
The Christian's love for human kind,
To caste and climate unconfined.

A holy gathering! peaceful all
No threat of war, no savage call
For vengeance on an erring brother!
But in their stead the godlike plan
To teach the brotherhood of man
To love and reverence one another,
As sharers of a common blood,
The children of a common God
Yet, even at its lightest word,
Shall Slavery's darkest depths be stirred:
Spain, watching from her Moro's keep
Her slave-ships traversing the deep,
And Rio, in her strength and pride,
Lifting, along her mountain-side,
Her snowy battlements and towers,
Her lemon-groves and tropic bowers,
With bitter hate and sullen fear
Its freedom-giving voice shall hear;
And where my country's flag is flowing,
On breezes from Mount Vernon blowing,
Above the Nation's council halls,
Where Freedom's praise is loud and long,
While close beneath the outward walls
The driver plies his reeking thong;
The hammer of the man-thief falls,
O'er hypocritic cheek and brow
The crimson flush of shame shall glow
And all who for their native land
Are pledging life and heart and hand,
Worn watchers o'er her changing weal,
Who fog her tarnished honor feel,
Through cottage door and council-hall
Shall thunder an awakening call.
The pen along its page shall burn
With all intolerable scorn;
An eloquent rebuke shall go
On all the winds that Southward blow;
From priestly lips, now sealed and dumb,
Warning and dread appeal shall come,
Like those which Israel heard from him,
The Prophet of the Cherubim;
Or those which sad Esaias hurled
Against a sin-accursed world!
Its wizard leaves the Press shall fling
Unceasing from its iron wing,
With characters inscribed thereon,
As fearful in the despot's ball
As to the pomp of Babylon
The fire-sign on the palace wall!

And, from her dark iniquities,
Methinks I see my country rise
Not challenging the nations round
To note her tardy justice done;
Her captives from their chains unbound;
Her prisons opening to the sun
But tearfully her arms extending
Over the poor and unoffending;
Her regal emblem now no longer

A bird of prey, with talons reeking,
Above the dying captive shrieking,
But, spreading out her ample wing,
A broad, impartial covering,
The weaker sheltered by the stronger
Oh, then to Faith's anointed eyes
The promised token shall be given;
And on a nation's sacrifice,
Atoning for the sin of years,
And wet with penitential tears,
The fire shall fall from Heaven!

1839.
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