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The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler/The Confessions of The Year

The Confessions of The YearEdit

The gray old year—the dying year,
His sands were well nigh run;
When there came by one in priestly weed,
To ask of the deeds he'd done.
“Now tell me, ere thou treadst the path
Thy brethren all have trode,
The scenes that life has shown to thee
Upon thine onward road.”

“I've seen the sunbeam rise and set,
As it rose and set before
And the hearts of men bent earthwardly,
As they have been evermore;
The Christian raised his hallow'd fanes,
And bent the knee to God;
But his hand was strong, and guilt and wrong
Defaced the earth he trod.

“The Indian, by his forest streams,
Still chased the good red deer,
Or turn'd away to kneel and pray
With the Christian's faith and fear;
The hunting-knife he flung aside,
He dropp'd the warrior blade,
And delved for bread the soil o'er which
His fathers idly stray'd.

“The white man saw that gold was there,
And sought, with savage hand,
To drive his guiltless brother forth,
A wanderer o'er the land.
I saw—and gave the tale of shame
To swell on history's page,—
A blot upon Columbia's name
For many a future age.

“With aching brow and wearied limb,
The slave his toil pursued;
And oft I saw the cruel scourge
Deep in his blood imbrued;
He till'd oppression's soil, where men
For liberty had bled,
And the eagle wing of Freedom waved
In mockery, o'er his head.

“The earth was fill'd with the triumph shout
Of men who had burst their chains;
But his, the heaviest of them all,
Still lay on his burning veins;
In his master's hall there was luxury,
And wealth, and mental light;
But the very book of the Christian law
Was hidden from him in night.

“In his master's halls there was wine and mirth,
And songs for the newly free;
But his own low cabin was desolate
Of all but misery.
He felt it all—and to bitterness
His heart within him turn'd,
While the panting wish for liberty
Like a fire in his bosom burn'd.

“The haunting thought of his wrongs grew changed
To a darker and fiercer hue,
Till the horrible shape it sometimes wore
At last familiar grew;
There was darkness all within his heart,
And madness in his soul,
And the demon spark, in his bosom nursed,
Blazed up beyond control.

“Then came a scene—oh! such a scene!
I would I might forget
The ringing sound of the midnight scream,
And the hearth-stone redly wet!
The mother slain while she shriek'd in vain
For her infant's threaten'd life,
And the flying form of the frighted child,
Struck down by the bloody knife.

“There's many a heart that yet will start,
From its troubled sleep, at night,
As the horrid form of the vengeful slave
Comes in dreams before the sight.
The slave was crush'd, and his fetters’ link
Drawn tighter than before;
And the bloody earth again was drench'd
With the streams of his flowing gore.

“Ah! know they not, that the tightest band
Must burst with the wildest power?—
That the more the slave is oppress'd and wrong'd,
Will be fiercer his rising hour?
They may thrust him back with the arm of might,
They may drench the earth with his blood,—
But the best and purest of their own,
Will blend with the sanguine flood.

“I could tell thee more,—but my strength is gone,
And my breath is wasting fast;
Long ere the darkness to-night has fled,
Will my life from the earth have pass'd;
But this, the sum of all I have learn'd,
Ere I go I will tell to thee;—
If tyrants would hope for tranquil hearts,
They must let the oppress'd go free.”