Poetry Corner

Today is acknowledged annually as the  International Day for the Remembrance of the Slave Trade and its Abolition so I have chosen The Fall of Slavery by John Harris.


‘The Fall of Slavery’ (1838)

Musing by a mossy fountain,
In the blossom month of May,
Saw I coming down a mountain
An old man whose locks were grey;
And the flowery valleys echoed,
As he sang his earnest lay.

“Prayer is heard, the chain is riven,
Shout it over land and sea;
Slavery from earth is driven,
And the manacled are free;
Brotherhood in all the nations;
What a glorious Jubilee!

“God has answered, fall before Him,
Laud His majesty and might;
On thy knees, O earth, adore Him:
Now the black is as the white;
Hallelujah! hallelujah!
Every bondsman free as light.

“Whip and scourge, and fetter broken,
Far away in darkness hurled;
This a grand and glorious token,
When millennium fills the world.
Hallelujah! O’er the nations
Freedom’s snowy flag unfurled.

“God has answered! Glory, glory!
O’er the green earth let it speed;
Sun and stars take up the story,
Nevermore a slave shall bleed;
Shout deliverance for the freeman,
Send him succour in his need.

Glory be to God the Giver.
Slavery now shall brand no more;
From the fountain to the river
Freedom breathes on every shore.
Hellelujah! Hallelujah!
Brotherhood the wide world o’er.”

John Harris 1838slavery

1 reply »

  1. Oh, lord, if only this were so. It’s happening right now, right here in Britain. It’s not official, it’s not condoned, but it is happening.
    The difference is – it isn’t legal, so, maybe if folk paid attention to what’s happening in their neighbourhood, and, if suspicious, took action, that might help.

    That’s the down side. At the same time, while wondering how anyone could ever think they actually owned another human being, I do know that no-one can ‘own’ another human being – no one can own our thoughts.
    The slave could be saying “Yes, sir”, while thinking – whatever they wanted to think. Scant consolation, but it is something, and something which can stop a person from going under. No one can own our thoughts and our spirit. No one.
    Hence all the wonderful songs from African/American slaves, often encoded so they could sing them in the fields and the ‘bosses’ didn’t know.
    “Wade in the Water”
    The human spirit.
    A very disturbing subject, disturbing re. our behaviour towards each other, and our infinite capacity for self-delusion. Some of the slave owners maintained that the slaves weren’t even people – a useful delusion.
    As some folk don’t let themselves think about the fact that animals are sentient beings.
    And – there are a lot of different kinds of slavery. “Mind-forged manacles”, to quote William Blake.
    The freedom of living as fearlessly as possible within our situation, that’s something to aim for.
    And every one of us can do that – whether slave, or ‘free’. And that’s something a lot of those slaves in America managed to do – live, think, sing, be, continue. What a wonder we are.
    And what I’m saying isn’t meant in a patronizing or condescending way, at all – I marvel at how they did maintain their spirit – and they did. And came through it.

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