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Anti-Slavery Poems
The Freed Islands

by John Greenleaf Whittier

Written for the anniversary celebration of the first of August,
at Milton, 7846.

A few brief years have passed away
Since Britain drove her million slaves
Beneath the tropic's fiery ray
God willed their freedom; and to-day
Life blooms above those island graves!

He spoke! across the Carib Sea,
We heard the clash of breaking chains,
And felt the heart-throb of the free,
The first, strong pulse of liberty
Which thrilled along the bondman's veins.

Though long delayed, and far, and slow,
The Briton's triumph shall be ours
Wears slavery here a prouder brow
Than that which twelve short years ago
Scowled darkly from her island bowers?

Mighty alike for good or ill
With mother-land, we fully share
The Saxon strength, the nerve of steel,
The tireless energy of will,
The power to do, the pride to dare.

What she has done can we not do?
Our hour and men are both at hand;
The blast which Freedom's angel blew
O'er her green islands, echoes through
Each valley of our forest land.

Hear it, old Europe! we have sworn
The death of slavery. When it falls,
Look to your vassals in their turn,
Your poor dumb millions, crushed and worn,
Your prisons and your palace walls!

O kingly mockers! scoffing show
What deeds in Freedom's name we do;
Yet know that every taunt ye throw
Across the waters, goads our slow
Progression towards the right and true.

Not always shall your outraged poor,
Appalled by democratic crime,
Grind as their fathers ground before;
The hour which sees our prison door
Swing wide shall be their triumph time.

On then, my brothers! every blow
Ye deal is felt the wide earth through;
Whatever here uplifts the low
Or humbles Freedom's hateful foe,
Blesses the Old World through the New.

Take heart! The promised hour draws near;
I hear the downward beat of wings,
And Freedom's trumpet sounding clear
"Joy to the people! woe and fear
To new-world tyrants, old-world kings!"
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