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Maria and Harriet Falconar: Poems on Slavery (1788)


 

P O E M S

O N

   S L A V E R Y:

B Y

MARIA FALCONAR, aged 17,

A N D

HARRIET FALCONAR, aged 14.


If any Man be found stealing any of his Brethren, and maketh Merchandise of him, or selleth him, then the Thief shall die, and thou shalt put away Evil from among you. Deut. xxiv. 7.


L O N D O N:

Printed for Messrs. EGERTONS, Charing-Cross; Mr.
MURRAY, Temple-Bar; and Mr. J. JOHNSON,
No. 72, St. Paul's Church-yard
M.DCC.LXXXVIII



T O

H E R  G R A C E

T H E

Dutchess of DEVONSHIRE.

    MADAM,
Honoured with the protection of your Grace, we have ventured to present the following little pieces to the public, confident that your approbation is sufficient to recommend them. Of your impar-


vi      D  E  D  I  C  A  T  I  O  N.

tial generosity we have recieved a most indisputable proof, by this favour you have condescended to confer upon us, who were personally strangers to your Grace, and whose sole recommendation was an attachment to the muses. This circumstance alone will afford ample testimony of your regard to the interests of literature, while the attention you have paid to the subject of these poems reflects the truest honour on your sensibility. However, therefore, the faults of this


D  E  D  I  C  A  T  I  O  N.      vii

publication may be thought worthy of censure, we have the satisfaction to know that is possesses one merit, as our taste will certainly be commended in the choice of a patron so illustrious.

      We have the Honour to be,
        With the profoundest Respect,
          Your Grace's most obliged,
            And most humble Servants,

              M. and H.FALCONAR.


( 1 )

S L A V E R Y.
A  P O E M.

BY MARIA FALCONAR.

HAIL, soft Philanthropy, to thee I sing
Blest source, whence all our social pleasures spring;
When every Muse bends prostrate at thy shrine,
And tunes her lyre to harmony divine;
Shall I attempt to join the favour'd throng,
And pay the tribute of an artless song?
Bright as the beams of glory round you shine,
Glance not contempt, ye minions of the nine;
Bold as I soar, yet never think I came,
A rival Muse, to grasp the wreath of fame;
Though oft a wand'rer through the lone retreats
Of your Parnassus, stor'd with balmy sweets;
Where flow'rs and blossoms, of the lovliest hue,
In lively bloom and vary'd fragrance grew;
Their winning beauties gave but short delight,
Borne by superior genius from my sight;


2            S L A V E R Y.

Yet may my humble blossom find a place
Amidst the wreath each bard has twin'd to grace
The brow of sympathy, for, oft there grows,
On the same spot, the daisy and the rose.
Nor may the rose disdain the modest flow'r
That gives her beauties more distinguish'd pow'r.
What though no hand, in honour of my lay,
Shall bind my temples with Parnassian bay;
Or fancy raise no bright poetic dream;
Yet soft humanity inspires my theme.
All bounteous heav'n, that bless'd my native isle
With gentle Liberty's enchanting smile,
Gave me a heart, too oft indeed to blame,
Yet fraught with feelings none should blush to name.
Long in that heart may mild compassion reign,
Compassion, form'd to weep for others pain;
The throb of anguish ever swell my breast,
When mis'ry sinks, by tyranny oppress'd.
May one dire fiend far from my wishes stray,
No baneful av'rice e'er my actions sway;


B Y  M.  F A L C O N A R            3

That vile assassin, stain'd with num'rous crimes,
Who bears the shaft of death to distant climes;
Whose flinty breast, unknown to social love,
No tears, no pray'rs, no suff'rings, e'er can move.
When he appears, behold affection bleed!
Joy flies the scene and lasting pangs succeed.
And shall Britannia, whose maternal arms
Clasp every virtue, dress'd in heavenly charms;
Shall she, when rival realms revere her name,
She, pride of nations and the boast of fame,
Welcome a guest so vile, and seek to gain
New treasures from the guiltless suff'rer's pain?
When justice, fir'd by distant scenes explor'd,
High o'er the foes of Asia waves her sword?
To wounded Africa's unhappy shore,
No pow'r the violated rights restore?
Sad on her plains the plunder'd wretches bend,
To weep a child, a parent, or a friend;
For, all that Britons feel, their souls inspire,
The same affection and the same desire;


4            S L A V E R Y.

The mournful dame, with equal frenzy, wild,
Laments the hapless fortune of her child,
Torn from her arms, snatch'd from his native soil,
To sad captivity and painful toil!
In vain she weeps, in vain she swells to rage,
The wretch still suffers what her fears presage.
These scenes of woe, ye son's of av'rice, view,
These sorrows fill the cup of mirth for you;
Ah! think, for you, what blessings nature pours,
Fames courts your grasp, and fortune swells your stores;
Whilst art and luxury their charms employ
To dress your hours in fascinating joy;
While round your steps seducing syrens sing,
Ah! think, whence do these fatal pleasures spring!
Survey the wretch whose toil creates your joy,
No chearful hopes his gloomy mind employ;
If he reflects what hours in sadness flew,
The next as sadly opens to his view;
Each sun, that rises, rises but to shed
Fresh streams of sorrow on his hapless head;


B Y  M.  F A L C O N A R            5

In vain o'er him revolving seasons roll,
They bring no peace to his aflicted soul!
Say, does the gallant soldier waste his breath
Amid the horrors of triumphant death?
Deep pierc'd with wounds, does he the martial band
Inspire with ardour for their native land?
Fearless of perils, that around him wait,
He braves the dangers of impending fate;
Yet honours to reward his toil appear,
And loud applause salutes his raptur'd ear;
Millions to him their grateful thanks avow,
And conquest twines her laurel round his brow.
Not thus the slave; alas! no honours bloom
To soothe the constant rigour of his doom;
Ambition unrestrain'd that noble flame
That guides the hero to the heights of fame,
The sole inspirer and the glorious spring
Of all that record boasts, or poets sing;
Ambition, ever anxious to aspire,
Burns in his breast a fierce, but hopeless, fire;


6            S L A V E R Y.

With fainting heart he sees the morning smile,
And goes, reluctant, to his wonted toil;
His weaken'd spirits still invite repose,
And gloomy apathy his mind o'erflows.
Ye foes of heav'n, and Britain's dire disgrace,
Unjust opressors of an injur'd race,
Tell us, who form'd the slave you thus deride,
The sport of insult, indolence, and pride?
With mis'ry should he sink so meanly down,
Adore your smile, and tremble when you frown;
At your command with servile swiftness fly,
And mark with dread the language of your eye?
Tell, why such baleful tyranny should reign,
Caprice empow'ring to distribute pain?
Yet, you will say, surrounding foes combine
To catch th'advantages that we decline;
But, sure, that impious land must deeply bleed,
And dark dishonour all its fame succeed;
Then let them hence the guilty commerce bear,
And what heav'n sanctions be Britannia's care.


B Y  M.  F A L C O N A R            7

   Once Superstition, in a fatal hour,
O'er Europe rais'd the sceptre of her power;
She reign'd triumphant minister of death,
And peace and pleasure faded in her breath;
Deep in monastic solitude entomb'd,
The bud of beauty wither'd ere it bloom'd;
The brilliant eye, where love had fought to dwell,
Shed all its lustre o'er the cloister'd cell;
The smiling lip, of bright vermillion dye,
Grew pale, and quiver'd with the passing sigh;
The music floating from each tuneful tongue,
With midnight hymns the Gothic arches rung.
Here, through reflection's eye, the pensive mind
Sought with regret for objects far behind;
And fond remembrance, as she heav'd a sigh,
Drew back the soul just soaring to the sky;
Save where misguided zeal in peace withdrew,
From each bright pleasure, each enchanting view.
The still retreat pale Melancholy sought,
And found each object suited to her thought;


8            S L A V E R Y.

Soft Sensibility might here deplore,
And feel the shaft of falsehood wound no more;
The sport of fortune, long to comfort lost,
With hope far banish'd, expectation cross'd;
Explor'd these scenes to weep for anguish past,
Where the swell'd throbbing heart has burst at last.
Th'Eternal from the throne of grace survey'd,
With eye averse, the sacrifice they made;
No forc'd devotion found acceptance there,
No grateful incense issu'd from her pray'r.
Thus Superstition could not fix her sway
In heav'n, but look'd on earth to seize her prey;
And yet, unsated with domestic pain,
Sought to extend the terrors of her reign.
She saw, as on the fatal heights she stood,
Her impious altars drench'd in guiltless blood;
Where fortitude with candid virtue join'd,
And sought by sacred truths to save mankind;
There she bestow'd her persecutions dire,
And close pursu'd with unrelenting ire;


B Y  M.  F A L C O N A R            9

Nor ceas'd to scourge them with her vengeful rod,
Till each, a martyr'd saint, embrac'd his God.
But when, to grace the world, Religion shone,
In Britain first she deign'd to fix her throne;
Freedom and Charity, at her command,
Chas'd Superstition from the drooping land;
Despair, as public discourd ceas'd to sting,
Beat the retiring gloom with raven wing;
In vain Enthusiasm disdain'd to fly,
And roll'd the livid light'ning of her eye;
In vain with phrenzy wild her fetters broke,
And threaten'd horrid vengeance as she spoke;
Religion bound her with her magic chain,
And fix'd a period to the monster's reign;
Yet, last of all, withdrew a blacker foe
Than ever issu'd from the realms below;
Fraudful Hypocrisy, in whom was seen
An aspect ever gentle and serene;
Her tongue was fraught with many an artful lie,
Dissembled sanctity illum'd her eye;


10            S L A V E R Y.

She wore the spotless robe of heav'nly truth,
To cheat credulity and artless youth;
Soft on her smiling lip dire falsehood hung,
And music grac'd the poison of her tongue.
But soon the fell contention rag'd no more,
And liberty the victors garland wore:
Yet, as the conquering goddess soar'd to life,
She mourn'd the ravage of internal strife.
So when some furious tempest racks the night,
To break her solemn gloom with horrid light,
Morn smiles to show the blasted plants and flow'rs,
Or torn trees mingling with the shatter'd tow'rs.
Thus, from the wreck of civil broils, arose
The dread and envy of insulting foes;
Thus rose the honours of Britannia's name;
Her naval splendour and her martial fame.
There hoary time on rapid wing might view
Immortal glories ripen as he flew;
The gems of genius there adorn the mind,
By science polish'd, and by taste refin'd;


B Y  M.  F A L C O N A R            11

There in the beams of liberty alone,
Appears the soften'd splendour of a throne.
Nor could my Muse, did she to rapture spring,
The bright succession of those glories sing.
In other lands if public virtue glows,
From Britain first the great example flows;
There springs the plant, there blooms, through endless time,
The weak exotic of another clime;
The Britons' gen'rous valour never fought
To gain a conquest with oppressions fraught;
They own the spirit to be tryly brave,
The pow'r to conquer and the will to save;
They boast the sympathy to soften woe,
To form the faithful friend and gen'rous foe.
View from that happy shore a nymph arise,
Bright as the blushes of autumnal skies;
She comes, angelic Freedom, with her train,
To tear from Afric's sons the galling chain;


12            S L A V E R Y.

See at her feet each generous Briton kneels,
Each views your inj'ries and your anguish feels;
Neglect long shewn, your suff'rings seeks to blame,
And, seeking, blushes for his country's fame.
Amidst the glories of an age refin'd,
The feeling heart, the sympathising mind,
With fond attention o'er your sorrows pause,
And join with ardour in the glorious cause.
Friends of philanthropy, to you be giv'n
The greatest bounties of indulgent heav'n;
Peace o'er your slumbers ever stretch her wing,
And 'neath your feet eternal blessings spring;
For, angels teach celestial joys to flow
On hearts where sympathy delights to glow;
That peace divine, that can the soul sustain,
When keen affliction aims the shaft of pain,
That Pow'r from life's dark danger form'd to save,
And lift the eye of hope beyond the grave.
Goddess of Freedom, hear thy suppliant's pray'r,
And haste to snatch the captive from despair;


B Y  M.  F A L C O N A R            13

Before his lighten'd steps thy pleasures strew,
And place thy train of virtues in his view;
Bid his unfetter'd inclination stray,
Where blooming industry extends her sway;
Where indolence herself was oft beguil'd,
By promis'd gain, to tread the rugged wild;
Rouse ev'ry passion, wake each fond desire,
And teach his wishes greatly to aspire;
Instruct him, goddess, on his native plain,
To sing the glories of a George's reign;
Tell him, at his command you sought their shore,
Their wrongs to pity, and their rights restore;
Through the blue concave thy white flag unfurl'd,
And arm thy bands to prop a sinking world.



14            S L A V E R Y.

S L A V E R Y.
A  P O E M.

BY HARRIET FALCONAR.

YE noble few, firm fix'd in virtue's cause,
Ye just protectors of our sacred laws,
Whose hearts stern av'rice strove in vain to steel,
And bless'd with souls disdaining not to feel;
Let not the genial warmth, the latent fire,
That glows in Britain's valiant sons, expire;
But in your breasts let justice still prevail,
While Pity weeps to hear the woe-fraught tale.
Angelic maid, thy melting eye may boast
The tear still pour'd o'er Afric's desert coast;
Unhappy land, where hostile av'rice reigns,
And rears her blood-stain'd banners o'er thy plains;
Where stern Opression's hireling minions rove,
To burst each tender tie of social love;
Inhuman fiend, thy desolating hand
Spread wide destruction o'er the bleeding land;


B Y  H.  F A L C O N A R            15

Bade gay-plum'd joy and guiltless pleasure cease,
And banish'd far the healing balm of peace.
Yet once on them fair Peace propitious smil'd,
And social joy the tedious hour beguil'd;
On them bright Pleasure cast her fairest ray,
Soft as the rosy beam of op'ning day;
Love, health, and innocence, they still possess'd,
Contested tenants of the peaceful breast;
Vindictive fate rul'd o'er thye dreadful hour,
When first Opression's desolating pow'r,
Deaf to the mourning parents plaintive cry,
The widow's fondness or the lover's sigh,
From each fond breast the hapless victims tore,
Far from the prospect of their native shore.
Think not, ye slaves in pleasure's venal train,
The weeping orphan's tears are pour'd in vain;
Awhile in soft repose ye calmly rest,
Nor heed the pangs that tear each bleeding breast;
For you gay Pleasure spreads her gladsome wing,
And fair the fading flow'rs of fortune spring;


16            S L A V E R Y.

Yet heav'n, indignant, views the impious deed
That bids the injur'd sons of Afric bleed;
Soon shall the voice of angry Justice call,
And bid the pointed sword of vengeance fall;
Shall pleasure then avert the dreadful nod,
Or calm the vengeance of an angry God?
No, in that hour reflection wakes anew,
And calls each crime, each folly, to the view;
Bids the lost thoughts eternity explore,
Or pause o'er scenes we can recal no more.
   To man superior reason's light was giv'n,
Reason, the noblest gift of bounteous heav'n;
Unfailing beam, bright intellectual ray
Thou steady guide through errors devious way;
Say, wert thou first by gracious heav'n design'd,
To stamp injustice on the human kind;
Forbid it truth, forbid it ev'ry breast
That heaves in pity for the wretch oppress'd;
Yet reason, jutice, mercy, plead in vain,
Still the sad victim drags his galling chain;


B Y  H.  F A L C O N A R            17

Still bows submissive to the tyrant hand,
That tore the suff'rer from his native land;
Yet, e'er the arts of lux'ry began,
They boasted liberty, the right of man;
Serene, they saw each peaceful morning smile,
Joy led their hours and plenty bless'd their toil;
Their pleading sighs, their suppliant moving pray'r,
Daughter of Virtue! Royal Charlotte, hear!
Sovereign, yet parent, of this happy isle,
O'er whose gay plains fair Plenty deigns to smile;
Where spotless peace extends her azure wing,
And liberty's enchanting blossoms spring;
Thine is compassion's sympathetic sigh,
The melting tear that beams in pity's eye;
The heart like thine, that feels another's pain,
Hears not distress'd misfortune plead in vain;
Be't thine to heal pale sorrow's wounded breast,
And lull each raging passion into rest;
Let not the wretched slave in vain deplore
The long-lost joys he must behold no more;


18            S L A V E R Y.

Then, while Britannia hails thy sacred name,
A deed like this shall swell the trump of fame;
Virtues like thine shall wake the sounding lyre,
Each bosom glow with emulative fire;
And, swell'd with themes like this, the poet's page
Remain admir'd through each succeeding age.
   When Superstition rais'd her threat'ning hand,
And scatter's horror round the bleeding land,
On sad Britannia's ravag'd plains she stood,
Drench'd in one fatal stream of martyr'd blood;
O'er ev'ry scene, with fell delight, she flew,
And smil'd, exulting, at the dreadful view;
Religion's sacred truths, though once design'd
To banish error from the darken'd mind,
Avail'd not here; her pure celestial light,
Lost in the gloom of superstition's night,
Drooping, beheld the fatal torrent roll
Resistless terrors o'er the doubtful soul;
Till bright Eliza came, whose matchless sway
Call'd forth the dawn of fair religion's day;


B Y  H.  F A L C O N A R            19

Cherish'd the genial influence as it rose,
Dispell'd their errors and reliev'd their woes.
Shall Britain then, who boasts th'unrivall'd deed,
Relentless, see the guiltless victim bleed;
Amid the horrors of tormenting pain
He seeks for mercy, but he seeks in vain;
Affrighted Mercy quits the guilty land,
Where grim Oppression waves her tyrant hand;
Where, to the savage herd, a harmless prey,
Sinks faint beneath the fervid beam of day;
Or, haply trembling in the midnight air,
Sunk in the deepest gloom of low despair;
Or burning thirst and furious want, combin'd,
With wild distraction fire his glowing mind,
Till death restores to him eternal rest,
And calms the tumults of his troubled breast.
   The British youth, torn from his much-lov'd home,
O'er foreign seas and foreign coasts to roam,
Amid the fury of the piercing blast,
The swell'd wave circling round the shiver'd mast,


20            S L A V E R Y.

While bursting peals of thunder rend the skies,
And o'er the deck the foaming billows rise,
Awhile in terror views the light'ning glare,
With streaming horror, through the midnight air;
The storm once past, he gains the friendly ray
Of hope, to guide him through the dang'rous way;
Smiling, she bids each future prospect rise,
Through fancy's vary'd mirror, to his eyes.
Not so the slave; oppress'd with secret care,
He sinks the hapless victim of despair;
Or, doom'd to torments that might even move
The steely heart, and melt it into love;
Til worn with anguish, with'ring in his bloom,
He falls an early tenant of the tomb!
Shall Britain view, unmov'd, sad Afric's shore
Delug'd so oft in streams of purple gore!
Britain, where science, peace, and plenty, smile,
Virtue's bright seat, and freedom's favour'd isle!
Rich are her plains and fruitful is her clime,
The scourge of tyrants, and the boast of time;


B Y  H.  F A L C O N A R            21

Of ev'ry virtue, ev'ry worth possess'd
That fires the hero's or the patriot's breast;
There, nobly warm'd with animating fire,
Our Shakespear struck his soul-commanding lyre;
There scenes of bliss immortal Milton sung,
And notes harmonious issu'd from his tongue;
And bards like these shall boast in ev'ry age,
While native genius glows in Hayley's page;
While genius bids, to our enchanted eyes,
In Swift's own strains, a second Pope arise.
When truth, perplex'd in error's thorny maze,
Threw o'er the world obscure and darken'd rays,
then Newton rose, unveil'd the beauteous maid;
He spoke, and nature stood at once display'd.
These were the souls that Britain once posses'd,
When genuine virtue fir'd the patriot's breast;
And still shall she protect fair freedom's cause,
And vindicate her violated laws;
Waft peace and freedom to a wretched land,
And scatter blessings with a lib'ral hand.


22            S L A V E R Y.

   In Britain's paradise, by freedom made,
The tree of commerce spread's its ample shade;
Unsparing plenty bends the lofty brow,
And wealth bright glitters on each golden bough;
On some the richest gems of India shone,
And added lustre to the British throne;
Such as in gentle radiance might outvie
The melting lustre of the sparkling eye;
Such as in gay variety might grace
The native beauties of the lovely face:
On some the bud of health, in rosy bloom,
Call'd languid sickness from an early tomb;
Or bade contented labour calmly smile
O'er the rich prospect of his native soil.
One ample branch, superior to the rest,
Rose to the view, in splendid radiance dress'd;
On ev'ry leaf the tempting manna hung,
In golden dyes each beauteous blossom sprung;
The flow'rs of brightest hue oppression nam'd,
Yet from the tree the rank of commerce claim'd;


B Y  H.  F A L C O N A R            23

Led by the fair deciet beneath its shade,
With eager eye the slaves of av'rice stray'd;
This fatal fruit was lovliest to the view,
That on the spreading tree of commerce grew;
They grasp'd the baneful load with fatal haste,
Destructive poison to the th'enchanted taste;
Lost in the pleasing dream, awhile the soul,
Where av'rice reign'd secure from all controul,
Slept calm, till conscience, with unerring dart,
Struck deep conviction through the guilty heart;
And bade reflection wake the feeling mind,
That turn'd to ev'ry scene it left behind:
There might they see the tortur'd wretch implore
Eternal vengeance on Britannia's shore;
In silent grief, amid distraction wild,
The wretched parent mourn her long-lost child;
These scenes appear when death, in terror dress'd,
Bids sharp repentance wound the shudd'ring breast;
When o'er your heads th'avenging thunders roll,
And quick destruction seems to snatch the soul;


24            S L A V E R Y.

When fast around the dreadful light'nings fall,
And guilt shall hear th'incens'd Almighty's call;
Then will his wrath destroy the life he gave,
And justice snatch the soul that mercy could not save.
Britain, be thine the glorious task to heal
The bleeding wounds thy wretched sons shall feel;
Extend thy ev'ry noble pow'r to save
The wretch just tott'ring o'er an early grave;
For, noble were the deed that could impart
Reviving vigour to the drooping heart;
For, then no more the fatal branch shall bind,
In golden ties, the lost enchanted mind;
Tear ev'ry fibre from the verdant root,
And blast each dang'rous blossom ere it shoot;
So shall the praise of ransom'd millions rise,
In grateful incense, to the echoing skies;
So through the world thy matchless fame extend,
And wond'ring nations hail thee mercy's friend;
Thee, first in ev'ry virtue, ev'ry worth,
That gives to glory or to genius birth;


B Y  H.  F A L C O N A R            25

Let thy avenging, thy all-conqu'ring, hand
Give peace and freedom to an injur'd land!
Glory be thine; and, let pale mis'ry prove
The joys of friendship and the bliss of love;
And heav'nly liberty's celestial ray
Beam o'er the world one pure eternal day!

 

T H E  E N D.


A Note on the Text

Publication Details: Maria Falconar and Harriet Falconar, Poems on Slavery (London: Egertons, Murray, and Johnson, 1788)

Copy Text: The copy text used is held in The British Library, shelfmark: 1164.e.23

This page includes the full text of both Maria Falconar's poem and Harriet Falconar's poem. This web page has been formatted to closely resemble the original, although it is not an exact facsimile. Like all self-respecting teenagers, the Falconars appear to have been a bit slapdash with their punctuation. Punctuation errors are therefore theirs, not mine!

This e-text is located at www.brycchancarey.com/slavery/falconar.htm


 


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