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Anti-Slavery Poems
Moloch in State Street

by John Greenleaf Whittier

In a foot-note of the Report of the Senate of Massachusetts on the case
of the arrest and return to bondage of the fugitive slave Thomas Sims it
is stated that--"It would have been impossible for the U. S. marshal
thus successfully to have resisted the law of the State, without the
assistance of the municipal authorities of Boston, and the countenance
and support of a numerous, wealthy, and powerful body of citizens. It
was in evidence that 1500 of the most wealthy and respectable
citizens-merchants, bankers, and others--volunteered their services to
aid the marshal on this occasion. . . . No watch was kept upon the
doings of the marshal, and while the State officers slept, after the
moon had gone down, in the darkest hour before daybreak, the accused was
taken out of our jurisdiction by the armed police of the city of
Boston."

The moon has set: while yet the dawn
Breaks cold and gray,
Between the midnight and the morn
Bear off your prey!

On, swift and still! the conscious street
Is panged and stirred;
Tread light! that fall of serried feet
The dead have heard!

The first drawn blood of Freedom's veins
Gushed where ye tread;
Lo! through the dusk the martyr-stains
Blush darkly red!

Beneath the slowly waning stars
And whitening day,
What stern and awful presence bars
That sacred way?

What faces frown upon ye, dark
With shame and pain?
Come these from Plymouth's Pilgrim bark?
Is that young Vane?

Who, dimly beckoning, speed ye on
With mocking cheer?
Lo! spectral Andros, Hutchinson,
And Gage are here!

For ready mart or favoring blast
Through Moloch's fire,
Flesh of his flesh, unsparing, passed
The Tyrian sire.

Ye make that ancient sacrifice
Of Mail to Gain,
Your traffic thrives, where Freedom dies,
Beneath the chain.

Ye sow to-day; your harvest, scorn
And hate, is near;
How think ye freemen, mountain-born,
The tale will hear?

Thank God! our mother State can yet
Her fame retrieve;
To you and to your children let
The scandal cleave.

Chain Hall and Pulpit, Court and Press,
Make gods of gold;
Let honor, truth, and manliness
Like wares be sold.

Your hoards are great, your walls are strong,
But God is just;
The gilded chambers built by wrong
Invite the rust.

What! know ye not the gains of Crime
Are dust and dross;
Its ventures on the waves of time
Foredoomed to loss!

And still the Pilgrim State remains
What she hath been;
Her inland hills, her seaward plains,
Still nurture men!

Nor wholly lost the fallen mart;
Her olden blood
Through many a free and generous heart
Still pours its flood.

That brave old blood, quick-flowing yet,
Shall know no check,
Till a free people's foot is set
On Slavery's neck.

Even now, the peal of bell and gun,
And hills aflame,
Tell of the first great triumph won
In Freedom's name. [*]

The long night dies: the welcome gray
Of dawn we see;
Speed up the heavens thy perfect day,
God of the free!

1851.

[Note: The election of Charles Sumner to the United States
Senate "followed bard upon" the rendition of the fugitive Sims by the
United States officials and the armed police of Boston.]
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