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Poem by John Pierpont

The Chain

Is it his daily toil that wrings
From the slave's bosom that deep sigh?
Is it his niggard fare that brings
The tear into his down-cast eye?

O no; by toil and humble fare
Earth's sons their health and vigor gain;
It is because the slave must wear
His chain.

Is it the sweat from every pore
That starts, and glistens in the sun,
As, the young cotton bending o'er,
His naked back it shines upon?

Is it the drops that, from his breast
Into the thirsty furrow fall,
That scald his soul, deny him rest,
And turn his cup of life to gall?

No;-for, that man with sweating brow
Shall eat his bread, doth God ordain;
This the slave's spirit doth not bow;
It is his chain.

Is it, that scorching sands and skies
Upon his velvet skin have set
A hue, admired in beauty's eyes,
In Genoa's silks, and polished jet?

No; for this color was his pride,
When roaming o'er his native plain;
Even here, his hue can he abide,
But not his chain.

Nor is it, that his back and limbs
Are scored with many a gory gash,
That his heart bleeds, and his brain swims,
And the Man dies beneath the lash.

For Baäl's priests, on Carmel's slope,
Themselves with knives and lancets scored,
Till the blood spirted,-in the hope
The god would hear, whom they adored;-

And Christian flagellants their backs
All naked to the scourge have given;
And martyrs to their stakes and racks
Have gone, of choice, in hope of heaven;-

For here there was an inward WILL!
Here spake the spirit, upward tending;
And o'er Faith's cloud-girt altar, still,
Hope hung her rainbow, heaven-ward bending.

But will and hope hath not the slave,
His bleeding spirit to sustain:-
No,-he must drag on, to the grave,
His chain. 

John Pierpont

John Pierpont's other poems:
  1. Death of Charles Follen
  2. Christian's Duty to Attempt the Salvation of Drunkards
  3. Evening Prayer for a Child
  4. Her Chosen Spot
  5. The Temperance Crew

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