James Madison Bell

Liberty Or Death

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Virginius, the Roman Father,
With beating heart, though brave,
Beheld his fair Virginia doomed,
To be a tyrant's slave.


Despair had gather'd on his brow,
Commingled with regret;
A gleam of hope ran through his soul,
I may redeem her yet.


Come hither, belov'd Virginia,
Ere we forever part;
He clasp'd her to his beating breast,
Then stab'd her to the heart.


Thus, did a Roman Father slay,
The idol of his soul,
To screen her from a tyrant's lust,
A tyrant's foul control.


Though this was done in days of yore,
The act was truly brave;
What value, pray, is life to man,
If that man be a slave?


Go and ask of Margaret Garner,
Who's now in prison bound,
(No braver woman e'er hath trod,
Columbia's slave-cursed ground


Why did she with a mother's hand
Deprive her child of breath?
She'll tell you, with a Roman's smile,
That slavery's worse than death.


O! that every bondman now,
Through all that slave-cursed land,
Had each a heart like Margaret's,
Their freedom to demand.


Then the Jubilee year would come;
On spire and dome you'd see
Inscribed in blazing characters,
That all mankind are free.


Long live the name of Margaret,
In every freeman's breast;
And when her days are numbered here,
May she in heaven be blest!

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James Madison Bell