February 23, 2022 Courtney Napier

On Liberty and Slavery”

George Moses Horton was born the property of William Horton and his tobacco plantation in 1798. After teaching himself to read, a love for poetry blossomed. First, lines sprouted leaves in his mind, and then they grew into flowering buds that he sold to University of North Carolina students at the Chapel Hill farmers market. Finally, after gaining the attention of a novelist and professor’s wife, Horton’s produced it’s first mature fruit, a published collection of poetry entitled The Hope of Liberty (1829). Though he made enough money from this first volume to purchase his freedom, he was forced to remain in chains for another 30 years,  He finally experienced liberty for himself the age of 68 with the end of the Civil War. He settled in Philadelphia, where he enjoyed his freedom until his death 17 years later.

On Liberty and Slavery
By George Moses Horton

Alas! and am I born for this,
To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
Through hardship, toil and pain!

How long have I in bondage lain,
And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain—
Deprived of liberty.

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
This side the silent grave—
To soothe the pain—to quell the grief
And anguish of a slave?

Come Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
And drive away my fears.

Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
Now bid the vassal soar.

Soar on the pinions of that dove
Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,
The sound of Liberty.

Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
So often sought by blood—
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
The gift of nature’s God!

Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
In which enslaved I lie.

Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
I languish to respire;
And like the Swan unto her nest,
I’d like to thy smiles retire.

Oh, blest asylum—heavenly balm!
Unto thy boughs I flee—
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
With songs of Liberty!

Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (Pearson, 2006). Published online by The Poetry Foundation.


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