Helen Maria Williams

At Harper's Ferry Just Before the Attack

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The hour, the spot, are here at last
Their purpose, cause and hope we know,
Our duty is to hold on fast
To all the vows we made before.

To such as yield to our demand
For freedom here and everywhere,
In homes of safety let them stand
And all their household comforts spare.

Those who refuse us or resist,
Be as it may by words or arms,
Enroll their names on death's black list
To meet their dooms at war's alarms.

The blood that must be shed to-night
Can never stain the name we bear,
We fight for God's own holy right
Which is to all mankind so dear.

Virginia robbed it from a race
For over two sad hundred years,
Abused and kept it in disgrace
Regardless of entreating tears.

Those ancient tears rejoice to see
This retributive night's advance,
While Negro blood to you, to me,
Is crying aloud for vengeance.

Around us stand with cheering hand
The ghost of every Negro dead,
Each blesses the freedom we demand
Each bids us press with zeal ahead.

Angels rejoice with gladness, too,
While round the throne on high they stand,
To see poor mortal men pursue
The common foe of God and man.

Though we are few in numbers now
We trust the promise Jesus made,
That where a few for good shall bow
His spirit will be there to aid.

The saints are singing music sweet
All around the heavenly strand,
To see us here as Christians meet
To help and save our brother man.

Oh! Saviour, Angels, Saints, look on
While we the fathers will obey,
Befriend and comfort them that morn
And in the dust their burdens lay.

We open war at once to-night
And liberty for all proclaim,
We'll lead from darkness unto light
The weak, the poor, the blind and lame.

Before to-morrow's sun displays
Its golden colors in the East,
We'll wake slaveholders in amaze
To breakfast on a bloody feast.

My brothers what a holy war
In which we all will soon engage,
It will assert free equal law
Against the tyrants of the age.

The broken heart, the tearful eyes
The cheerless face none sought to please,
Will ere the morning sun arise
Have symptoms of a time of ease.

The runaways in forest wilds
And children sold to foreign shore,
Will soon return with happy smiles
To see their parents, friends, once more.

The screws, the lashes and the hounds
Shall no more glut off Negro blood,
Our forward march, our bugle sounds,
Will scatter them as by a flood.

Husband and wife, daughters and son,
Forever more shall ne'er be sold,
Together they shall live as one
Till choice or Heaven breaks the fold.

The fertile earth shall no more yield
Her fruits for unrequited toil,
The riches of the harvest field
Must be for him who tills the soil.

Ye children all of Africa
"Possess your soul" and weep no more,
This night will force America
To grant you all you asked of yore.

The laws of God your rights ordain
We are the instruments they send --
To cut your way, to break your chain,
And ages long of troubles end.

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Helen Maria Williams