Anti-Slavery Poems III. From Volume III., the Works of Whittier: Anti-Slavery Poems and Songs of Labor and Reform

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Excerpt DERNE. The storming of the city of Derne, in 1805, by General Eaton, at the head of nine Americans, forty Greeks, and a motley array of Turks and Arabs, was one of those feats of hardihood and daring which have in all ages attracted the admiration of the multitude. The higher and holier heroism of Christian self-denial and sacrifice, in the humble walks of private duty, is seldom so well appreciated. NIGHT on the city of the Moor!On mosque and tomb, and white-walled shore,On sea-waves, to whose ceaseless knockThe narrow harbor-gates unlock,On corsair's galley, carack tall,And plundered Christian caraval!The sounds of Moslem life are still;No mule-bell tinkles down the hill;Stretched in the broad court of the khan,The dusty Bornou caravanLies heaped in slumber, beast and man;The Sheik is dreaming in his tent,His noisy Arab tongue o'erspent;The kiosk's glimmering lights are gone,The merchant with his wares withdrawn;Rough pillowed on some pirate breast,The dancing-girl has sunk to rest;And, save where measured footsteps fallAlong the Bashaw's guarded wall,Or where, like some bad dream, the JewCreeps stealthily his quarter through,Or counts with fear his golden heaps,The City of the Corsair sleeps. But where yon prison long and lowStands black against the pale star-glow,Chafed by the ceaseless wash of waves,There watch and pine the Christian slaves;Rough-bearded men, whose far-off wivesWear out with grief their lonely lives;And youth, still flashing from his eyesThe clear blue of New England skies,A treasured lock of whose soft hairNow wakes some sorrowing mother's prayer;Or, worn upon some maiden breast,Stirs with the loving heart's unrest. A bitter cup each life must drain,The groaning earth is cursed with pain,And, like the scroll the angel boreThe shuddering Hebrew seer before,O'erwrit alike, without, within,With all the woes which follow sin;But, bitterest of the ills beneathWhose load man totters down to death,Is that which plucks the regal crownOf Freedom from his forehead down,And snatches from his powerless handThe sceptred sign of self-command,Effacing with the chain and rodThe image and the seal of God;Till from his nature, day by day,The manly virtues fall away,And leave him naked, blind and mute,The godlike merging in the brute! Why mourn the quiet ones who dieBeneath affection's tender eye,Unto their household and their kinLike ripened corn-sheaves gathered in?O weeper, from that tranquil sod,That holy harvest-home of God,Turn to the quick and suffering, shedThy tears upon the living deadThank God above thy dear ones' graves,They sleep with Him, they are not slaves. What dark mass, down the mountain-sidesSwift-pouring, like a stream divides?A long, loose, straggling caravan,Camel and horse and armed man.The moon's low crescent, glimmering o'erIts grave of waters to the shore,Lights tip that mountain cavalcade,And gleams from gun and spear and bladeNear and more near! now o'er them fallsThe shadow of the city walls....
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