George Boyer Vashon

A life-day

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The breeze awakes with morn's first ray,
Like childhood roused from sleep to play;
The sunshine, like a fairy sprite,
Comes to undo the wrong of night;
And earth is jocund with the glee
That swells from hill and vale and tree.
It echoes music fitly set
For mocking-bird and paroquet;
And, joyous as a ransomed soul,
It hears the notes of the oriole.
The murmur of the wide-swept cane
Hymneth the rapture of the plain,
And mingles with the brooklet's song, --
A mirthful brook with fitful gleam,
Hasting to Mississippi's stream,
And glad'ning both its banks along,
Surely, to be mid scenes like this
Doth render like a dream of bliss --
A treasure-store without alloy; --
Here Joy's alive, and Life is joy.
Oh! what a joy it is to him
Who for this scene has left the room
Where sickness, hollow-eyed and grim,
Hath held, for years, its court of gloom, --
Whose shrunken limbs too clearly own
That there the monster had his throne!
They tell not all his tale of woe, --
How friends and brothers from him fled,
And left him to the fever's glow,
The ulcered frame, the throbbing head,
With no defense against the grave
Save this -- the care of one poor slave.
That faithful one is by his side; --
What more of bliss can now betide?
What matter that the earth is fair?
What matter that the glad bird's sing?
His pleasure, is that she doth share
The balmy breeze's welcoming.
Her sweet smile is the sunshine bright
That floods the landscape wide with light;
Her gladsome youth the genial morn
That doth his happy day adorn,
And her soft voice the music sweet
With which no warbler can compete.
And now that Life and Hope again
Ope to him paths long closed by pain, --
Now, while her tawny cheek, her eye,
Are bright with modest ecstacy,
The hushed shades of the orange grove
Smilingly hear his tale of love.

How swiftly glide our mortal years,
When Love doth wing each blissful hour, --
When all our hopes, and all our fears,
Are minions of his magic power!
Twelve years! Twelve moments in her life,
Since she became a happy wife!
All chains are riven save the tie
Which links her to his destiny.
What cares he for the glance of scorn
That mock him in his daily walk?
What, that each coming night and morn
Echoes his neighbors' gibing talk?
She, once his slave and now his bride,
Out-values all the earth beside.
And 'neath the orange trees he strays
With her, as in their younger days;
But not with her alone; for now
His hand doth press a maiden's brow
Whose flaxen curls and eyes of blue,
From her fond sires have caught their hue.
Beside them stands a dark-eyed boy,
Whose laugh rings out his infant joy,
As, now and then, comes flashing by,
The many-colored butterfly.
Oh! with such pledges of fond love
As thou dost mark in either boon,
Say, mother, hath not He above
Granted thy morn a fitting noon?

Alas! that noon should yield to night
Its treasured joys of life and light!
Alas! that sun-bright happiness
Should be o'erclouded by distress!
The noble soul who gladly gave
A wife's name to his faithful slave,
Hath passed away, and those who fled
In horror from his stricken bed,
Have come, like vultures to the dead, --
Have come to batten on the store
He left to those he held so dear --
To claim them in their anguish sore,
As born thralls to a bondage drear.
And one whose guilty deeds hurl shame
On white-robed Justice' sainted name,
Holding no sacred thing in awe,
Dared to proclaim the marriage tie
Shielding them with its purity,
A fraud upon the slaver's law.
A wailing comes upon the breeze,
That sighs amid the orange trees;
And she is there, and all alone.
Oh, linger, night! for with the day
Her children will be far away --
Her children! Ah! no more her own!
O, mother! mourning by the spot
Hallowed by sweetest memory,
And bidding fancy shape the lot
Each little one is doomed to see.
Alas! thy poor heart knows too well,
What to itself it dares not tell!
Hundreds of boys as gently born
As he who was thy joy and pride,
Have by the cruel lash been torn,
And 'neath its bloody scourgings died.
Hundreds of maidens full as fair
As she whose little life you gave,
Know what a dowry of despair,
Is beauty in a female slave.
And thou, lorn mother! -- thy sole part
Is weeping, till it breaks thy heart.
Shades of the heroes, long since gone!
Was this your glory's end and aim?
Was it for this, O, Washington!
That welcoming the rebel's name,
Halter and battle you defied?
For this, O, Warren! that you died?

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George Boyer Vashon