"Yet of etherial temper are their souls, / And in their veins the tide of honour rolls; / And valour kindles there the hero's flame, / Contempt of death, and thirst of martial flame. / And pity melts the sympathizing breast, / Ah! fatal virtue!—for the brave distrest."
— Day, Thomas (1748-1789)
The world and it's all its cruelties forgot,
Than, dragg'd once more beyond the Western main,
To groan beneath some dastard planter's chain,
Where my poor countrymen in bondage wait,
The slow enfranchisement of ling'ring fate.
Oh! my heart sinks, my dying eyes o'erflow,
When mem'ry paints the picture of their woe!
For I have seen them, ere the dawn of day,
Rouz'd by the lash, go forth their chearless way,
And while their souls with shame and anguish burn,
Salute with groans unwelcome morn's return,
And, chiding every hour the slow-pac'd sun
Pursue their toils, till all his race was run,
Without one hope—to mitigate their pain—
One distant hope, their freedom to regain;
Then like the dull unpitied brutes repair
To stalls more wretched, and to coarser fare,
Thank Heav'n one day of misery was o'er,
And sink to sleep, and wish to wake no more.
Sleep on! dear, lost companions in despair,
Whose suff'rings still my latest tears shall share!
Sleep, and enjoy the only boon of Heav'n
To you in common with your tyrants giv'n.
O while soft slumber from their couches flies,
Still may it's balmy blessing steep your eyes;
Awhile in sweet oblivion lull your woes,
And brightest visions gladden the repose!
Let fancy then, unconscious of the change,
Thro' our own climes, and native forests range,
Still waft ye to each well-known stream and grove,
And visit every long-lost scene ye love!
—I sleep no more —nor in the midnight shade,
Invoke ideal phantoms to my aid,
Nor wake again, abandon'd and forlorn,
To find each dear delusion fled at morn;
Swift round the globe, by earth nor heav'n controul'd,
Fly proud oppression and dire lust of gold.
Wheree'er the thirsty hell-hounds take their way,
Still nature bleeds, and man becomes their prey.
In the wild wastes of Afric's sandy plain,
Where roars the lion through his drear domain,
To curb the savage monarch in the chace,
There too Heav'n planted man's majestic race;
Bade reason's sons with nobler titles rise,
Lift high their brow sublime, and scan the skies.
What tho the sun in his meridian blaze
On their scorch'd bodies dart his fiercest rays?
What tho' no rosy tints adorn their face,
No silken ringlets shine with flowing grace?
Yet of etherial temper are their souls,
And in their veins the tide of honour rolls;
And valour kindles there the hero's flame,
Contempt of death, and thirst of martial flame.
And pity melts the sympathizing breast,
Ah! fatal virtue!—for the brave distrest.
See Thomas Day, The Dying Negro, a Poetical Epistle, Supposed to Be Written by a Black, (Who Lately Shot Himself on Board a Vessel in the River Thames;) To His Intended Wife. (London: printed for W. Flexney, opposite Gray's Inn Gate, Holborn, 1773). <Link to ESTC><Link to ECCO.>
Link to 3rd edition at Brycchan Carey's web site: http://www.brycchancarey.com/slavery/dying.htm.