My country, noble spectre of the past;
Along thy rivers, and within thy vales,
There breathes a deep-toned voice, that tells of days,
When thou wert called the country of the free-
Admired and frequented; when pilgrim’d hosts
Trod thy sanctomed shores, and music filled
The air with freedom. Broad hearts of men
Were thine, in bonds of union; and around,
The voice of love and happiness arose.
Voluptuous life enkindled every heart-
But as time moved on in silence,
A dreadful change took place,
The great Abe, Lincoln wept, he saw the wreck
That slavery scattered ’round him-and he mourned
To think that scenes so bright should fade so soon.
Thou wast a marvelous country, ere the star
That lit the way to Bethlehem, gleamed the east,
And heralded a Savior-and perhaps,
Thy shores resounded with the hum of men,
When Ajax on the Afric shores did live.
Thou wast a brilliant mystery-and from far,
The nations of the earth poured into thee.
Thou prospered well, now four wars,
Stamped upon thy flag, but these four wars,
And four times four large wars of ancient times,
Could not shed blood enough to cover up
The principle that underlies the greatest
Of all wars, that’s waged by thee ‘gainst thine,
And thou could’st with one stroke exterminate.
Thou claimes’t to be a Christian country,
And rankest with highly civilized countries,
And there is nothing in the category of crime,
Or in the history of savages to surpass those-
Fiendish, blood-chilling horrors perpetrated against
My people by your Christians. The southern mob,
When in its rage feeds its vengance by shooting,
Stabbing and burning men alive, which only
Some disgusting birds and beasts, would do.
And to plead “not guilty” is a waste of time,
For when the mob’s will has been accomplished,
And its thirst for blood has by its bands been quenched.
And the victim is speechless, silent, dead,
Then the mobocratic amusers have the ear of
The world all to themselves, and the world
Listens to them-because thy noble government,
Planted by the Pilgrim Fathers, Defended by
Noble Washington and regenerated by Godsent Lincoln-
Urges it on and it widens as the waters
Of the Missisippi entering the great gulf.
And those amusers who so bravely kill, would flee
Like Phantoms if brought face to face with that
Great law on which thy forces move.
Who looks across the sea, and never comes,
Thinks thou art great, magnanimous and brave,
And we have heartily hoped that this estimate,
Would soon cease to be contradicted. Instead our
Confidence in thy nobility as a nation has been
Shaken-and the future all looks dark
And troubled. This tends to dim the lustre
Of thy noble name and to obliterate the
Cause of liberty which thou hast sung to the world.
Thy moral sense is now on a decline and we
May well ask the question “how low” some of
Thy safe guards are swept away. Supreme
Courts are surrendered, State sovereignity is
Restored, Civil rights are destroyed, men are
Lynched like beast of the forest. What next?
Emmigration wont save us for we are convinced
That this is our native land. Neither will
Colonization redeem us for we are colonized
To day upon the land that gave us birth.
Think, O America, of the sublime and glorious
Truths with which, at thy birth, thou saluted
A listening world. Thy voice was then the
Trump of an archangel, summoning oppression,
And time-honored tyranny to inherit the sweet
Freedom of thy shores. The oppressed flocked to thee.
Crowned heads trembled, toiling millions
Clapped for joy. Brotherhood, equality, liberty,
And truth were the inviting features.
You redeemed the world from the bondage
Of ages, was it to enslave them again?
And not only to enslave them but slaughter
Worse than the unspeakable Turks do
The Armenians, or the dread Spaniards
Do the Cubans. Are the horrors of Siberia,
Against the thriving Jew to be exceeded
By thy Christian crimes?
One came in humble guise, upon whose brow
A sweet harmonious peace in beauty shone.
Towards portals of peace, the heroic Ida Wells
Reposed within thy house, and talked of right.
Oh, had thy powers then but heard her voice,
And trod the way she pointed,-then with thee
This darkness would have ended,-and this crime
Which hangs about thy neck, would hang no more.
But, lacking the warm hope that filled her breast,
To cheer the rose-lipped nymph in her great work,
She down-cast minded, but determined soul
Kept a superior thought and crossed the sea.
From thy great name she could have told
Of the bright mansions in the freeman’s land:
O’er which no night descended. From her lips,
The foreign nations could have learned of love
And friendship, such as this lynched land of ours
Can show no sign or symbol.
Was weak and wavering, and she opened up
The eyes of Christian nations far across the
Sea who’ve been in darkness and misled
For quite a while. And they do think that
When a nation’s moral tone is on the decline,
We well may wonder what will be the depth.
Thou art declining noble state! and the breath
Of pestilence among thy lynching towns
Sweeps to and fro, and in the place,
Where Lincoln’s armies rode, there lies a shade,
That of late days have gathered like a pall.
A midnight hangs upon thee-not alone
This lynching crime, but the dim eclipse
Of moral desolation. Heaven’s frown
Is visible around thee. Rise! thou wreck
Of self downfall, and call upon thy God-
If alone, so that those within thy bound,
This land so dark and cheerless, may not
See the bright day of hope in gloom go down!
But where protection, which is life and light,
Broods ever like the grandure of the stars,
That studs the summer skies of boundless blue.
Frank Barbour Coffin
(Frank Barbour Coffin)
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