Albery Allson Whitman


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The shepherd-king of Judah's olden days,
Waked his sweet harp to sing Jehovah's praise,
Then this his theme was in his happy hour:
"Captivity hath lost her horn of power.
The mighty Arm hath broke oppression's staff,
And drives the spoiler's hosts, as wind drives chaff,
And moves his kingdoms as the thistle down,
By wanton whirlwinds here and there is blown!"

How panting thousands of his faithful tribe,
Drank this sweet strain, no mortal can describe.
Young freedom then first raised his voice sublime,
And spoke his triumphs in the ear of Time.
The soldier sang it on his tented hill,
The maiden at her toilsome slow hand-mill;
The shepherd piped it where he sauntered 'mong
His bleating folds, and desert paths along;
And morn and eventide, the Temple's choir
Poured forth the strain, by matron joined and sire.
The wilderness and solitary waste,
With gladsome music woke, and joyous haste;
Engedi's palmy hills their voices gave,
And echo answered from the prophet's cave; --
"Ye seed of Jacob sound the jubilee,
The Lord hath triumphed and His hosts are free.
Spread thro' the heathen's land the joyous news,
The Mighty God 's the refuge of the Jews!
Our shield and strength, our everlasting Sun,
And who shall gainsay what His hand hath done?"
Their sister nations heard the swelling strain,
And ages answered ages back again,
Till yet along the march of centuries
The idea of God and Freedom flies.
Sweet strain! How rapture in it yet is heard
Wherever righteousness her horn hath reared!
Remoteness lends a sweetness to the sound
By changes undisturbed, by lore not bound.
It lives while empires sink and pass away,
Wisdoms go out, and languages decay.

High o'er the heights of tall ambitions gaze,
Beyond proud emulation's wildest maze,
And Freedom there hath set her glorious stars,
Eternal more than Jupiter or Mars.
Her Washington rides first upon our sky,
Lending his brilliance to the thousands nigh.
Next Lincoln, whom a grateful nation mourns,
Shoots blazing from the age which he adorns.
Sinks on the eve of dreadful war's alarms,
But sinks with a saved nation in his arms!
And Old John Brown of Harper's Ferry fame,
Peace to his shade, and honor to his name,
The negro's light of hope, the friend of right,
Looms on life's deep, a melancholy light;
The comet of his age, ominous, lone,
And saddest that on earth has ever shone.
But peerless champion of Equal Rights,
Great Sumner stands, like those majestic hights
That guard New England shores from Ocean's shocks,
With lifted arms of everlasting rocks;
And with the strength of ages in their locks.
'Twas he who, on his bosom, bore a race,
And met their proud oppressor face to face;
Rose like some Ajax, in his ponderous strength,
And drove his lance, with all its trenchant length,
Full on the brazen disk of slav'ry's shield,
Until the monster wrong, beneath it reeled.
And when the smoke of war had cleared away,
And in the nation's sky there broke new day;
'Twas he, who, mailed in all the might of lore,
The valiant friends of mankind went before,
To wipe the blots of caste from freedom's code,
And all its axioms of wrong explode;
Lift equal justice up, exalt her laws,
And in her temple plead the black man's cause.

Let love lorn bards illuminate their lays,
With moonlight soft, and sing some Juno's praise;
Or whine with cadence sweet, and sickly sweet,
Their few torn hopes at some Diana's feet;
Let school-house heroes rave around the walls,
Where patriotism rises, treason falls,
Sing loud heroics of a glorious strand,
A freedom's eagle, and a white man's land;
Let fools pass by and wag their empty heads,
Deride the sons of Slavery's humble sheds,
And statesmen prate of law and precedence,
My pen appeals to right and common sense.
The black man has a cause, deny who dares,
And him to vindicate my muse prepares.
A part of this great nation's hist'ry, he
Has made in valor and fidelity.
His sweat has poured to swell our ample stores,
His blood run freely to defend our shores;
And prayers ascended to the Lord of all,
To save the nation from a direful fall.

Who has not felt in childhood's heart the thrill
Of bloody Georgetown and of Bunker's Hill?
Who has not heard the drums of freedom swell,
When Putnam triumphed and when Warren fell?
Proud were our sires, Ticonderoga's boast,
Fearless defenders of Atlantic's coast.
When from fair freedom's terraced hights, we turn
A backward gaze, our grateful bosoms burn,
To see those heroes with red battle clenched,
Till in brave blood their humble fields are drenched.
With Valley Forge's snowy locks to see
The desp'rate fingers of young liberty,
Grappling, and see his valiant misery;
And then o'er Delaware's rough wint'ry stream,
To see a thousand loyal muskets gleam
In night's cold face; and hear the strong brave oars
That meet the hurrying ice between the shores!
And can we then forget that patriots, black,
Marched with white brothers to the dread attack?

And when in these late years, the war fiend came,
On tempest horsed, and waved a sword of flame,
When giant treason shook his locks of gore,
And from the East to West the Union tore;
When our free institutions shook and reeled,
Hope turned her eyes towards the battle-field;
And loyal hearts that ne'er before had quaked,
Then quaked, and all their hoarded riches staked.
A nation's hands were then imploring raised,
While freedom's arch with bolts of ruin blazed.
Where then the prowess of a century,
The loud boast of white-handed chivalry?
Where, when in triumph wild, the Southern hordes
Unbent their strength, and drew their fearless swords?
Ah! well, we prayed, and God in his own time,
His sable answer sent on Dixie's clime.
The strong armed negro threw off slavery's yoke,
And loud as thunder on the world's ear broke
His shouts of onward! To the front he went,
And in the smoke and din of battle blent,
With brothers white, where color nothing meant.
And there, till our victorious banner swept
Once more the hights of freedom, and we wept
For joy, he stood beneath our startlit dome,
Until a grateful Union called him home.

Now let the nation fling him from her arms,
Forget the part he bore, when war's alarms
Were rumbling hoarsely in her troubled ear,
And direful overthrow was plainly near;
Forget the hands that caught her falling stars,
And tore loud triumph from the flaunting bars
Of treason; yea, despise the sable race,
And music then will breathe the name with praise!

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Albery Allson Whitman