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William Roscoe: The Wrongs of Africa: Part the Second (1788)


 

T H E

W R O N G S   OF   A F R I C A,

A   P O E M.

PART THE SECOND.


  ——FOR OF WHOM SUCH MASSACRE
MAKE THEY BUT OF THEIR BRETHREN, MEN OF MEN?.

MILTON.

 


L O N D O N:

PRINTED FOR R. FAULDER, NEW BOND-STREET

MDCCLXXXVIII.


A D V E R T I S E M E N T

     THE Author had flattered himself,that the scheme of his whole Poem would have been sufficiently evident from the first part; but having heard it urged as an objection against his work, that it was defective in its plan, he thinks it necessary to mention, that his original idea was to finish it in three parts; the first of which was intended to extend to the mode of procuring slaves on the coast of Africa—the second, to the voyage from thence to the West-Indian Islands—and the third, to the destination of the slaves, and the severities exercised on them in the colonies.——The first part, accordingly, will be found to be confined to its proper purpose; the second continues the subject, and the Author is in hopes the whole will be comprehended in the third part, though the multiplicity of materials prevents him at present from fixing any precise bounds to his work, which may also possibly be abridged, by circumstances that many in some degree invalidate the motives which first prompted the Author to this undertaking.


T H E

W R O N G S   OF   A F R I C A.


PART THE SECOND.


FAIR is this fertile spot, which God assign'd
As man's terrestrial home; where every charm
Attracts his unperverted sense, and fills
His heart with gladness: to his raptur'd sight
Th' extended landscape opens; chearful green
Invests the lawn; luxuriant forests wave;

7


[ 8 ]

The chrystal stream irriguous winds its way,
And heaven's bright azure canopies the whole.
Soft on his ear the voice of music breathes
In grateful undulations: odours sweet
From herbs and trees, from flowers of varied hue,
Salute him, and in silent whispers bring
The pleasing promise of the future year.
—Form'd with a soul to relish all their charms,
Man, wanders o'er their beauties unconfin'd,
And lauds their Author: when some fiend malign,
O'er all the scene his blighting influence sheds,
And bids it sicken on the sated sense,
To loathing and disgust.——And shall the sun,
E'er from the east his glorious course begin,
And not be blest by man? or that mild orb
That rules the hours of night, and sooths to peace
The tides of passion, hear th' insulting voice
Of hopeless anguish, that perverse arraigns
Her light, and bids her never more return?
——Yes——thanks to man, the scourge of all his kind
And traitor to himself; who never yet


[ 9 ]

Has rais'd his bounded views beyond the scope
Of selfish pleasure, and immediate good.
—Yes, thanks to man; whose follies, and whose crimes,
Change the fair face of nature, and pervert
Her dearest gifts to evil:—breathes the air
Its healthful fragrance, his misguided rage
With foul contagion loads its dropping wings,
Swept from the carnage of the reeking field.
O'er the broad ocean, whose encircling arms
Were meant to join the far dissever'd land
In friendly intercourse, and wide diffuse
The blessings of each different state to all,
His mad ambition, sends in dread array,
His messengers of terror; prompt to pour
Their fiery vengeance, on each distant shore,
Whose natives, to his absolute command,
Their soil, their produce, liberties, and lives,
Resign not. He, amidst the spicy climes
Of Asia, where prolific nature pours
her unappropriate, and superfluous wealth,


[ 10 ]

Within his hoarded magazine confines
A nation's produce; and around its doors,
With lifted hands, and unaccusing voice,
Hears the meek native suplicate for food,
And bids him perish; and, as tho' he fear'd
Some happier spot of earth should yet remain,
That bore not bleeding witness of his guilt,
He, from their parent-shore, relentless tears
The sons of Afric; to the madding wave,
To strange diseases, to the piercing taunts
Of wanton insolence, and all the wrongs
That man from man can suffer, dooms their days!

   Deep freighted now with human merchandize,
The vessel quits the shore; prepar'd to meet
The storms, and dangers, of th' Atlantick main;
Her motion scarce observ'd, save when the flood
In frequent murmurs beats against her prow,
And the tall cocoas slowly seem to change
Their former station. Lessening on the sight,
the distant mountains bow'd their cloud capt heads;


[ 11 ]

And all the bright and variegated scene,
Of hills, and groves, and lawns, and reed-built sheds,
That oft had caught the prisoner's ardent eye,
Not hopeless of escape, now gradual sunk
To one dim hue. Amongst the sable tribes
Soon spread th' alarm; when sudden from the depths
Of crouded holds, and loathsome caverns, rose
One universall yell, of dread despair,
And anguish inexpressible; for now
Hope's slender thread was broke; extinguish'd now
The spark of expectation, that had lurk'd
Beneath the ashes of their former joys,
And o'er despondency's surrounding gloom,
Had shed its languid lustre. Bold, and fierce,
Of high indignant spirit, some their chains
Shook menacing, and from their low'ring eyes,
Flash'd earnest of the flame that burnt within:
Whilst groans, and loud laments, and scalding tears,
Mark'd the keen pangs of others.—Female shrieks,
At intervals, in dreadful concert heard,


[ 12 ]

To wild distraction manly sorrow turn'd;
And ineffectual, o'er their heedless limbs,
Was wav'd the wiry whip, that dropp'd with blood.

   Now sunk the mournful day; but mournful still
The night that followed: and the rising morn,
That spread before the hopeless captives view,
Nought, but the wide expanse of air, and sea,
Heard all their cries with double rage renew'd.
Nor did the storm of headstrong passions rest,
Till the third evening clos'd; nor by degrees
Was hushed; but sudden as th' autumnal blast,
Its rage exhausted sinks at once to rest;
Whilst the wide wood, that bow'd beneath its course,
Declines its wearied branches, thus the strife
Ceas'd—not a groan, and not a voice was heard;
But, as one soul had influenc'd every breast,
A sullen stillness reign'd. Resign'd and mild,
As if forgot their former sense of wrong,
They took the scanty fare they lately spurn'd;
And if a tear should mingle with their food,


[ 13 ]

No prying eye perceiv'd it: day by day
Saw the same scene renew'd; whilst prosperous gales
Full towards her destin'd port the vessel bore;
And gently breathing o'er the seaman's mind,
Came the remembrance of his native land;
The thoughts of former pleasures, former friends,
Of rest and independance; heedless he,
That on the miseries of others, rose
The fabrick of his joys; and gratified
His selfish views, whilst multitudes bewail'd
Th' eternal loss of nature's dearest gifts;
To them irreparable wrong, to him
A slight accession to his stores of bliss.

   'Twas night; and now the ship, with steady course,
Pursued her midway voyage: subsided now
The tyrant's dread, a more indulgent lot
The slaves experienc'd; and their chains relax'd
Their biting cincture. Fearless trod the deck
The unsuspicious guard; whilst, from below,
Amidst the croud of captives, not a sound


[ 14 ]

Of louder note ascended. Yet, even then,
Each eye was wake, and ev'ry heaving breast
Was panting for revenge. For now approach'd
The awful hour, long hop'd for, long forefix'd,
Sacred to vengeance, to the thirst of blood,
And bitter retribution. Slowly roll'd
The moments, whilst with anxious minds, the slaves
Waited the voice that loos'd them from restraint,
And turn'd them on their tyrants: not more prompt
The nitrous grain, that, at the touch of fire,
Bursts in resistless flame. Nor yet the voice
Is heard; but thro' each deep and dark recess
A hollow murmer rises, that upbraids
The long delay—nor yet the voice is heard!
Whilst in each agitated breast, by turns,
Dismay, and doubt, and desparation reign;
And fancy, now triumphant, now depress'd,
Luxuriant wantons thro' the scene of blood,
Or feels the fiery torture.—"Rise, revenge,
"Revenge your wrongs," the expected voice exclaims,


[ 15 ]

And meets a ready answer, from the tongues
Of countless numbers, from each gloomy cell,
In dreadful cries return'd. But who shall tell
The wild commotion; who the frantic rage
Of savage fury, when, with joint accord,
They burst th opposing gratings, and pour'd forth,
Impetuous as the flood that breaks its mound?
—What tho' unarm'd!—upon th' unsparing steel
They rush'd regardless; and th' expected wound
Deep, but not always deadly, rous'd their minds
To fiercer desparation: thronging close,
Fearless, and firm, they join'd th' unequal war;
And when the fatal weapon pierc'd their side,
They struggled to retain it, and in death
Disarm'd the hand that conquer'd.—Thick they fell,
But oft not unreveng'd, for fastening close
Upon the foe some gain'd the vessel's side,
And rush'd together to a watry death;
Whilst from the yawning hold, emerging throngs
Replac'd the vanquish'd, and, with hideous cries,


[ 16 ]

Struck terror thro' the tyrants chilling veins,
And bad oppression tremble. Nerveless stood
The harden'd seamen: but recovering soon,
They gain'd the barrier, that across the deck
Its firm defence projected; then began
The scene of blood; then pour'd amongst the slaves,
Frantic and fierce, and madding with their wrongs,
The volley'd vengeance; whilst without a foe,
Misguided courage urg'd the strife in vain;
And check'd by hands unseen, relax'd its powers
In sudden weakness.—Terror, and surprise,
Like deadly blood-hounds, seiz'd the vanquish'd crew,
That stood defenceless, and expos'd, the mark
Of uncontroll'd revenge; and as they fell,
Without reluctance saw the purple stream,
Slow welling from the fount of life, and join'd
In kindred currents pour along the deck,
Tinging with guiltless blood the western wave.

   But hark! the sound of conquest and of joy
Bursts from th' exulting victors.——Hark again!


[ 17 ]

The thrice repeated triumph, tells the heavens,
That innocence once more has felt the fangs,
Th' insatiate fangs of guilt, and weeps in blood
Her just resistance, and her rightful aims!

   Peace to your shades, ye favour'd train, who fell
Amidst the generous struggle! o'er whose limbs
The friendly hand of Death, has interpos'd
His fated curtain; that, nor human force,
Nor human malice, nor the deep regret
Of disappointed avarice, nor the pang
Of keen remorse, that gnaws the murderer's peace,
And blasts his future joys, can e'er remove.
——Secure beneath its guardian gloom, ye sleep,
In undisturb'd repose: no more ye start
At misery's kindred shriek; no more ye weep
O'er fond domestic ties, untimely torn;
No longer from th' oppressor's hand, ye ask
The slender pittance, that prolongs your lives
To lengthen'd anguish; nor for you prepares,


[ 18 ]

Th' unfeeling planter, 'midst his cultur'd isles,
(Isles moist with tears, and fertiliz'd with blood)
His whips, his racks, his gibbets, and his chains.
——Yours is the palm of conquest;---you have found
A shelter from the hovering storm, that waits
Your less successful fellows; who lament,
And vainly wish to share your happier lot.

   Yet not beneath oblivion's gloom to rest,
Nor meet the tribute of promiscuous praise,
Was doom'd Cymbello.—Where Bancora pours,
Towards Zaire's broad flood his tributary wave,
And cools the fervid equatorial gale,
Cymbello fisrt drew breath.—His father sway'd
Monsol's imperial sceptre.—To a form
Of faultless mold, Cymbello join'd a soul,
Firm, generous, comprehensive; keen to mark,
Wise to approve, and active to pursue
Each nobler object.—Anxious for his fame,
The watchful father, to Matomba's care


[ 19 ]

Assign'd the rising virtues of the youth,
Ere in the sun-like flattery of a court,
Had shrunk their native vigour.—"Go," said he,
"Go, and beneath Matomba's peaceful roof
"Pass thy young hours; and taste those vernal sweets,
"That wait not on thy riper years, ordain'd
"To be thy country's sacrifice.—His hand
"Shall check each wandering step that turns to ill,
"And by obeying, thou shalt learn to rule."

   Remote from peopled haunts, 'midst silent groves,
Where palms, and plantains, intermix'd their shade,
Andspread their broad leaves to the scorching sun,
Matomba's dwelling stood.—A chrystal stream
Gush'd from the gloom, and lav'd a chosen spot,
That own'd his constant culture: Aloes there
Shot forth their vigorous stems, and hung their bells
In grateful negligence; Hæmanthus spread
His crimson bloom; the flowery Almond there,
Profuse of fragrance, scented all the plain,


[ 20 ]

And the gay Protea wav'd his silvery leaf,
And glitter'd on the day.—A thousand plants,
The favourites of the sun, whose vivid tints
Decay, and sicken, in our northern climes,
There in perennial lustre smil'd, nor fear'd
The chilling blasts of Eurus.—To the shades
Of this secure retreat, Matomba led
His royal pupil; with assiduous eye
Watch'd o'er his opening mind; and as he mark'd
The rising spark of curiosity,
Disclose its lambent blaze, with temperate hand
Supplied its cravings, from the boundless store
Of nature, culling what might best supply
His pleasing purpose; first, the various tribes
Of vegetative life, their scent, their hue,
Their beauteous conformation, and theit change,
Display'd a wondrous volume.—Rising hence
To animated being, wonder grew
To admiration; whilst the master's voice
Explain'd the different habits, and the laws,


[ 21 ]

Of these, that touch'd with more ethereal fire,
In flood, and forest, deep beneath the earth,
Or thro' the fields of air, delighted feel
The consciousness of being.—Thence with man,
Prime work of Heaven, he dignified his theme;
And, with resistless energy, impress'd
Upon the stripling's mind, the generous truths
That man to man is equal; that the rights
Which liberal nature gave alike to all,
Tho' often crush'd beneath the hand of power,
Can perish but with life:—that states were form'd
For social purposes: that he who claims
From subject throngs allegiance and support,
Owes in return, his confidence, his love,
His vigilance:—that royalty abus'd
Is worse than treason; and the sovereign name,
A feather'd toy, that weighs not in the scale
Of universal justice.—Stern he heard,
Nor shrunk the youth to hear the sacred strain;
And whilst his throbbing heart confess'd its power,


[ 22 ]

And the mild lustre of benevolence,
Illum'd his swimming eye, "Be mine," he cry'd,
"To guard my people's rights; and if I tear
"With impious hands the web of public faith,
"Or stain its native lustre, may the steel
"Of high vindictive freedom purge the guilt."

   Blest were the hours,whilst here the princely youth
Imbib'd instruction; interrupted oft
By vigorous exercise, and grateful toil,
For not the silken bonds of indolence
Restrain'd his ardent spirit.—Every scene
To him was pleasure; but a softer hue
Allay'd their glowing tints, a milder charm
Endear'd their beauties, when Kiaza shar'd
His devious path, and on his faithful arm
Reclin'd.—Of gentlest manners was the maid,
Matomba's daughter! sweeter than the breeze
That steals the Caltha's fragrance, and as chaste
As the cool beam of evening—yet she lov'd,
Nor sought the blameless passion to conceal.


[ 23 ]

   But years fly swift away, and swifter far
When pleasure plumes their wings. From sweet repose,
From love and leisure, to the active sphere
Of public life, the royal youth withdrew:
Yet not to pomp, or pride, did love resign
His empire; often from the crouded court,
To good Matomba's roof the prince retir'd,
Delighted to recall those happier hours
When life was new, to trace the conscious scenes
Of past delights, whose unembitter'd charm
Was dear to memory, and in lonely shades
Renew the promise of perpetual truth.

   It chanc'd one evening, when the cooler hour
Invited, and refreshing breezes blew,
Along the grassy path, Cymbello led
His lov'd companion.—O'er the chequer'd scene
The moon with interrupted radiance shone;
And in fantastic shapes, athwart the gloom,
Cocoas, and pines, their giant shadows threw.


[ 24 ]

But nor th' untimely hour, nor lengthen'd way,
Abridg'd the tale of love; renewing still,
And still renewing its exhaustless theme;
When sudden, as the crouching tyger springs
Upon his prey, rush'd from a neighbouring brake,
A troop of black banditti; that debauch'd
By European arts, had wander'd far
In search of human plunder. On the pair
They seiz'd, relentless; from the struggling grasp
Of strong affection tore them; nor indulg'd
The last sad hope, to breathe a fond farewell
To all their past endearments: pinion'd close,
O'er distant mountains, and thro' trackless plains,
They bore their princely victim; nor delay'd
By day or night their haste, till on the shore,
The white receivers grasp'd their prize; and paid
With useless wares, with baubles, and with toys,
The sacrilegious rape: with manacles
Compress'd his wrist; with ignominious chains,
Loaded his freeborn limbs; and midst the steam


[ 25 ]

Of putrid exhalations thrust him deep,
Beneath the world of waters; that refus'd,
Tho' often call'd, to whelm him in their waves,
And shield him from indignity, and shame.

   Torn by conflicting passions, bar'd from air,
With taunts and stripes insulted, and compell'd
To share the anguish of desponding throngs,
That hourly curs'd existence, soon began
His vigor to decline; and on her throne,
Sat reason tottering. Sleep refus'd to close
His eyes; that gazing wild with maniac glare,
Froze in their sockets,—when before their orbs
Rose a majestic form; that not confin'd
Within the ship's scant boundary, rear'd her head
Amidst the rolling clouds. her right hand held
A falchion dropping blood; and in her left
A heart yet palpitating, shock'd the sight.
Dreadful she smil'd yet in her dreadful smile
Lurk'd fascination: horrid was her voice,
Yet did it vibrate on the wretch's ear,


[ 26 ]

Sweeter than music. "Prince," she cry'd, "I come
"To free from weak regret thy manly mind,
"And vindicate thy wrongs.—To deeds of death
"Rise then! my steel shall point thy way."—She spoke,
And clasp'd him to her bosom. Thro' his frame
Ran fierce emotions of tumultuous joy;
He spurn'd the fond complaint; no more the sigh
Burst from his heart; his eyes forgot to weep;
Ambition now was hush'd, the patriot hope
Expired;and love himself the rule resign'd
To one unbounded thirst of dread revenge.

   True to the tenor of her magic voice
'Twas he whose genius form'd the great design,
That promis'd death or freedom; who infus'd
His glowing spirit 'midst the crowd of slaves,
Restrain'd the daring, rous'd the languid breast,
And bad them move obedient to his will,
As tho' one soul inspir'd them. His command
Had urg'd them on to action; he had led
The way to conquest; and his vigorous arm


[ 27 ]

Had wrench'd a dagger from the English chief,
And plung'd it in his heart.——But vain the strife;
Nor strength, nor courage, nor th' inspiring hope
Of vengeance aught avail. Cymbello saw
The fruitless conflict, saw around him fall
His slaughter'd fellows; whilst the wily foe
Secur'd from danger, dealt the leaden deaths
In swift rotation.——In wild agony
He turn'd his eyes; when full before him stood
His lov'd Kiaza. As the sudden flash
Of light'ning, gliding o'er the vault of night,
Gilds with its momentary blaze, the path
Of some lone traveller, 'midst the wintry storm,
Then sinks in darknes; thus a beam of joy
Diffus'd its transient lustre.—Swift he flew,
He clasp'd the maid, whose sinking head reclin'd
Upon his bosom—grief restrain'd the power
Of utterance, and the big distress was told
In silent tears.—With looks of ardent love
He o'er her hung; and now his faultering voice


[ 28 ]

Essay'd her name; but shrinking from his arms,
She fell a lifeless corse. The level'd death
Aim'd at her lover, had tranfix'd her heart.
—Cymbello rais'd his steel;—a frantic smile
Pass'd o'er his cheek;—the deadly weapon pierc'd
Life's fragile barrier; near the maid he fell,
Embrac'd her in his languid grasp, and died.

   Shall fancy then, before the awful shrine
Of public justice, dare intrude her step,
And with false tints, and wanton pencil, stain
Th' unsullied robe of truth?—Ah deem not so,
Ye advocates of mercy!—Her weak hand
Wou'd catch some feature of that demon form,
That tramples o'er creation.—But in vain
She strives to mark the terrors of his mien;
For whilst she gazes, darker shades o'erspread
His deep deformities. Th' historian's skill,
The poet's energy, the painter's art,
Shrink from the contest: nor shall fancy's eye,


[ 29 ]

Select a deed of more transcendant guilt,
Whose crimson lustre pales not, when compar'd
With the deep hue of his unvarnish'd crimes.

   —Bust soft—perchance a tale of private woe,
May lightly touch the mind: or shou'd it prompt
The tear of sympathy, may fail to rouse
Those strong emotions, that indignant glow
Which virtue feels, when generous aims inspire
Consenting bosoms; and the holy flame
Of freedom, only leads her votaries on,
To more immediate ruin. Hither then,
Ye impotent of soul, who falsely deem,
That heav'n's impartial gifts are circumscrib'd
To colour, and to climate.—Hither too
Ye studious of mankind, who ceaseless urge
Th' historic toil; and trace th' illustrious deeds
Of former days, when Greece, and Rome, were free;
For with their proudest names, a faithful band
Of these, the sable children of the sun,


[ 30 ]

Whom modern pride disdains, whom avarice dooms
To pain, and insult, shall contest the palm
Of high unconquer'd courage.—Listen then,
Whilst truth restrains the muse's wandering step,
And gives her awful sanction to the song.

   —From proud ANGOLA, o'er the western main
A vessel held her course; her wide womb fill'd
With men of firmer soul.—Distrust and fear
Induc'd severe restraint;—restraint awak'd
The thirst of vengeance; till to madness rous'd,
They dar'd th' unequal war.—But humbled soon
By undeserv'd misfortune, and abash'd,
That victory smil'd not on their bold design;
Amidst the deep recesses of the hold.
Which day-light visits not, the vanquish'd train
Withdrew them—pleas'd amidst congenial gloom,
To hide their sorrows from the victors' eye,
And weep their undistinguish'd hours away.
—Above them, with redoubled bolts secur'd,


[ 31 ]

The iron gratings frown'd; design'd to bar
Th' ascent, 'till at the destin'd port arriv'd,
The rebel throng again should meet the day.
But nature, kinder than relentless man,
Mock'd at th' attempt; and in her weakness strong,
Controll'd his harsh design.—Amongst the slaves
A swift contagion spread; from scanty food,
From putrid water, and imprison'd air,
Engender'd.—Shuddering now with selfish fear,
Resentment dropt her rod; and Avarice flew
To shield his treasure; once again were op'd
The dorrs, and on the breezy deck were led
Th' emaciate crowd of slaves; but not in throngs
Promiscuous, for suspicion, yet alarm'd
By former dangers, into number'd ranks
Had class'd them; and with chains, together bound
Thrice five reluctant wretches: for an hour
Allow'd to breathe the gale; the seek again
Their loathsome dungeon, whilst successive ranks
Of equal number, occupied the place.


[ 32 ]

   Mark! on the deck a train of sufferers sit
Close rang'd and link'd; meanwhile a chearful gale
Fills the broad canvas; and the vessel skims
Light o'er the dashing brine.—But see, their breasts
Beat high!—a look of secret joy illumes
Each sable front!—their shivering limbs confess
The unexpress'd idea!——See they rise,
At once they rise; and with consenting step
Rush towards the prow!—A momentary glance
Gives the dread signal; and they headlong plunge
Amidst the ocean.—Haste, ye heedless crew,
Haste check the sails, and sidelong to the breeze
Oppose the vessel's breadth; for see, again,
Your captives from the circling waves emerge,
And rang'd in order, once again approach
The ship, and court a parley! Now discard
Your looks ferocious; in your alter'd eye
Let kindness beam, and sordid interest wear
The mask of mercy:—of a kinder fate,
Of fruitful shores, in early prospect speak;


[ 33 ]

And let the sound of freedom, drop like balm
Upon their wounded feelings.—Hear they not?—
—They hear and spurn the treachery.—High they raise
Their arms, abhorrent of the chains they bear;
And sink indignant midst the rolling waves.

   Immortal FREEDOM! vivifying sun
Of every virtue!—when thine energies
Pervade the breast of man, he rears his head,
Like some tall plant, majestic and erect,
And is what God design'd him.—But thy smile
Withdrawn, he grovels in the dust, and soils
The honours of his brow.—O be it mine
To sound aright thy praises! At my birth,
What, tho' the Muses smil'd not, nor distill'd
Their dews hyblean.—O'er my infant couch,
What tho' they scatter'd not their fading flowers,
Yet thou wast present:—thy diviner flame
Play'd round my head;—impatient of controul,
My young step followed where thou ledst the way;


[ 34 ]

And far as memory traces back my years,
My soul, tho' touch'd with social sympathies,
Revolted at oppression.——Nymph divine!
If from the sound of Milton's golden lyre;
Of Thomson's Doric pipe, that pour'd thy praise
In one full tide of music; and the strain
Of him, who sick of outrage and of wrong,
Sigh'd for "a lodge in some vast wilderness,
"Some boundless continuity of shade,"
Thou now withhold thine audience:—hither turn
Indulgent; for tho' sweeter song hath charm'd,
Yet praise sincerer never met thine ear.

   Recall we then the days, when from the shores
Of elder Greece, from Rome's imperial bound,
Burst forth exulting Pæans. Thee they hail'd
Their patroness and pride: but oft their songs
Mistook thy genuine glory; and prophan'd
Thy name, idolatrous.—Ah! cou'd the breath
Of incense please thee? or the sound of pipes


[ 35 ]

Clamorous? whilst wasted on the self-same gale,
The groans of slaughter'd Helots pierc'd thine ears;
Or the shrill shriek of slaves, that unaccus'd,
Expir'd upon the rack?—For this thy wrath
Was kindled; soon at thy vindictive frown,
Their lofty towers, and strong cemented walls.
Shook to their base: thine heav'nly temper'd spear
Struck the firm earth; and from the teeming North,
And furious East, the torrents of thine ire
Rush'd, ready to destroy. Where once thy smile
Bad yellow harvests wave, and Plenty pour
Her unexausted horn; where once thy voice
Inspir'd the patriot breast, and steel'd the arm
Inimical to tyrants; priests and slaves
Now people all the land; and squalid want
Sits on the desert champain, and derides
The vows, that idly rise to heaven, and ask
Its undeserv'd indulgence. From their fate,
Ye nations learn, that what ye free receive,
Ye freely give: and O beware the touch


[ 36 ]

Of foul domestic slavery! that instills
Its deadly venom thro' each secret pore,
And taints the vital source of public weal.

   But why, O nymph! shall man's averted eye,
Whene'er thy brighter radiance stands confest,
Shrink from the blaze? What tho' thy port sublime
Inspire deep reverence; yet thy brow severe
Is temper'd mild with mercy: tho' thy frown
Turn pale the crimson on the tyrant's cheek,
Yet not the dews of evening softer fall
On the parch'd verdure, than thy look benign
On all th' extended race of human kind:
Nor veil'st thou now the glories of thy mien
As erst, impervious. Open is thy shrine;
Nor mute thine oracles; nor pour they forth
Ambiguous voices. There, thine handmaids, stand
The heaven-descended Sciences; and there
The train of Arts assiduous: those thy name
Exalt in grateful hymns; whilst these arrest


[ 37 ]

The fleeting sound, and give to lands remote,
And ages yet to come, the genuine song.
And now, the kindling nations feel the strain;
And starting from their lethargy, that seem'd
The fatal sleep of death; exulting, hail
The day-spring of thine empire. Even they,
The sons of Seine and Loire, have thrown aside
The flimsy covering, that but ill conceal'd
Their inward pangs; nor more, with ideot joy,
Dance to the sound, and glitter of their chains.
Led on by thee, they learn to know their worth,
And claim the rights of men; and who shall dare,
When justice arms, and liberty inspires,
To place a barrier to their bold career?

   And see, the adamantine doors unfold;
And from the center of thy temple beams
A strong, but temperate light; that plays serene
Around thine awful form. The song is mute,
And mute the choral symphonies: a pause


[ 38 ]

Of solemn silence, on the wondering sense
Imposes deep attention: now bursts forth
Thine energetic voice; and whilst it thrills
Thro' every vein, the firm dilated soul
Feels more than mortal: all the nobler powers
Of man, are up in arms, and throng to join
Thy standard; firm integrity, and truth
And spotless honour, and impartial love,
And uncorrupted justice. Hear the sound,
Ye nations! nor refuse the sacred strain
Thro; the faint medium of a mortal tongue.

   "O sons of men! O progeny belov'd
"Of every climate, and of every hue,
"Who court the boon 'tis mine alone to give—
"—Approach, nor trembling—Lo! the prize is yours,
"Your general birthright! Nor more freely blows
"Th' impartial breath of Heaven, than I diffuse
"My blessings. Why then, heedless of the good
"That courts you, wou'd ye quit the golden day,


[ 39 ]

"For the deep gloom of ignorance; where dwell
"A thousand spectre forms, the hateful brood
"Of fancy, when she vainly shun'd the grasp
"Of terror? Who that saw the chrystal spring
"Gush plenteous from its source, wou'd turn his step
"To drink pollution from the stagnant pool?
"—O shame to manhood! that the sacred light
"Of reason, damp'd by fear, should faintly pour
"An half-extinguish'd blaze! or lend its aid,
"Whilst avarice, and ambition, forge the chains
"That bind the vulgar herd; who bow their necks,
"And from obedience arrogate applause!

   "Yet is not man forsaken:—from the seats
"Of light empyreal; where, estrang'd from earth,
"Awhile my steps delay'd, again I come
"The harbinger of joy. For since the day,
"When Britain's sons, inquisitive, explor'd
"The tyrant's warrant; and his angry frown,
"With angry frowns withstood; my ready aid,


[ 40 ]

"Infus'd a secret vigor thro' the land;
"In toils and death unconquer'd.—Thence arose
"That equaliz'd dominion, liberal rule,
"Where not dependant on the sovereign breath,
"The people hold their rights; but just restraints
"Affect the whole, and leave each portion free;
"As yon bright orbs revolve their fated rounds,
"Each in its sphere; yet feel the strong controul
"Of relative dependance.—Nor shall cease
"The fair example, till thro' Europe's bounds
"It spread; and wondering nations emulate
"This last lov'd offspring of my riper cares.

   "But ah! what sounds of sorrow load the gale,
"And wild complaints, and bursting sighs, and groans
"Like those of parting nature?—'Tis the voice
"Of suffering multitudes.—And see, the muse,
"—O sight of horror! on th' astonish'd eye,
"Pours all the hated scene.—I see the hand
"Of man, against his brother man uprais'd


[ 41 ]

"Wielding the shameless whip.—I see the wretch
"Fall, and cling prostrate round his tyrant's feet;
"Whilst by expressive gestures,—nature's mute
"But powerful eloquence, he vainly strives
"To mitigate his fury.—Now he quits
"His fainting grasp!—But o'er th' atrocious deed
"O let Oblivion wrap her deepest shade;
"Lest fiends look on, and blush, that man shall dare
"So far beyond the bounds of his Maker plac'd.

   "And can it be? that man, by nature form'd
"Of powers superior; and to whom disclos'd
"Stands the whole order of this earthly frame;
"And still more wondrous, all the wider world
"Of intellect and reason: from whose mind,
"As from a polish'd mirror, bright reflect
"On their divine original, the forms
"Of virtue, truth and beauty:—say, can he
"Allow the mist of interest, to obscure
"Those truths, else obvious to his piercing eye?


[ 42 ]

"—Ah knows he not, that partial bliss depends
"On general happiness; that when he plants
"In nature's breast a dagger, every part
"Partakes the anguish? that the copious stream
"Of universal bliss, devolves along
"Like some broad river; thro' its wide extent,
"To every nation, and to all mankind,
"Diffusing health and gladness; but detach'd
"In partial channels, stagnates in its course,
"And foul and putrid spreads corruption round.

   "—Yes—he shall learn.—A beam of light divine
"Dispels the gloom. From its pursuing blaze,
"Swift to the confines of their native hell,
"Retire the foes of man.—There slavery clanks
"Her broken chains; there Cruelty his knife,
"Tho' foul'd with blood, aims harmless; Avarice there
"Sigh's o'er her fancied loss; her brittle web,
"There Sophistry bewails:—on earth, resounds
"The voice of gratulation: realm to realm,


[ 43 ]

"And shore to shore re-echoes with my name;
"And to the mercy-seat of God, asends
"The odour of a grateful sacrifice,
"Of truth, and justice, and unbounded love."

 

END OF PART SECOND


A Note on the Text

The Wrongs of Africa, A Poem. Part the Second (London: R. Faulder, 1788)

This e-text is located at www.brycchancarey.com/slavery/roscoe2.htm

Authorship: The poem, commissioned by the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the African Slave Trade, was written by William Roscoe.
Copy Text: The copy text used is held in The British Library, shelfmark: 11630.c.9 [2]

The poem is in two parts, which appeared seperately. Click Here for the full text of part one. A third part was apparently intended, but either Roscoe did not complete it, or it was not brought to the press.

 


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