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On the Bill Which Was Passed in England For Regulating the Slave-Trade

The hollow winds of night no more
In wild, unequal cadence pour,
On musing fancy's wakeful ear,
The groan of agony severe
From yon dark vessel, which contains
The wretch new bound in hopeless chains!
Whose soul with keener anguish bleeds,
As AFRIC'S less'ning shore recedes--

No more where Ocean's unseen bound
Leaves a drear world of waters round,
Between the howling gust, shall rise
The stifled captive's latest sighs!--
No more shall suffocating death
Seize the pent victim's sinking breath;
The pang of that convulsive hour,
Reproaching man's insatiate power;
Man! who to AFRIC'S shore has past,
Relentless, as the annual blast
That sweeps the Western Isles, and flings
Destruction from its furious wings!--
And woman, she, too weak to bear
The galling chain, the tainted air,--
Of mind too feeble to sustain
The vast, accumulated pain,--
No more, in desperation wild,
Shall madly strain her gasping child;
With all the mother at her soul,
With eyes where tears have ceas'd to roll,
Shall catch the livid infant's breath,
Then sink in agonizing death!
BRITAIN! the noble, blest decree
That soothes despair, is fram'd by thee!
Thy powerful arm has interpos'd,
And one dire scene for ever clos'd;
Its horror shall no more belong
To that foul drama, deep with wrong.
O, first of EUROPE'S polish'd lands
To ease the captive's iron bands;
Long, as thy glorious annals shine,
This proud distinction shall be thine!
Not first alone when valour leads
To rush on danger's noblest deeds;
When mercy calls thee to explore
A gloomy path, untrod before,
Thy ardent spirit springs to heal,
And, greatly gen'rous, dares to feel!--
Valour is like the meteor's light,
Whose partial flash leaves deeper night;
While Mercy, like the lunar ray,
Gilds the thick shade with softer day.
Blest deed! that met consenting minds
In all but those whom av'rice binds,--
Who creep in interest's crooked ways,
Nor ever pass her narrow maze;
Or those whom hard indiff'rence steels
To every pang another feels.
For them has fortune round their bowers
Twin'd, partial nymph! her lavish flowers;
For them , from unsunn'd caves, she brings
Her summer ice; for them she springs
To climes where hotter suns produce
The richer fruit's delicious juice;
While they , whom wasted blessings tire,
Nor leave one want to feed desire,
With cool, insulting ease demand
Why, for yon hopeless, captive band,
Is ask'd, to mitigate despair,
The mercy of the common air?

The boon of larger space to breathe,
While coop'd that hollow deck beneath?
A lengthen'd plank, on which to throw
Their shackled limbs, while fiercely glow
The beams direct, that on each head
The fury of contagion shed?--
And dare presumptuous, guilty man,
Load with offence his fleeting span?
Deform creation with the gloom
Of crimes that blot its cheerful bloom?
Darken a work so perfect made,
And cast the universe in shade?--
Alas! to AFRIC'S fetter'd race
Creation wears no form of grace!
To them earth's pleasant vales are found
A blasted waste, a sterile bound;
Where the poor wand'rer must sustain
The load of unremitted pain;
A region in whose ample scope
His eye discerns no gleam of hope;
Where thought no kind asylum knows
On which its anguish may repose;
But death, that to the ravag'd breast
Comes not in shapes of terror drest;
Points to green hills where freedom roves,
And minds renew their former loves;
Or, hov'ring in the troubled air,
Hangs the fierce spectre of Despair;
Whose soul abhors the gift of life,
Who stedfast grasps the reeking knife,
Bids the charg'd heart in torrents bleed,
And smiles in frenzy at the deed!
Ye noble minds! who o'er a sky
Where clouds are roll'd, and tempests fly,
Have bid the lambent lustre play
Of one pure, lovely, azure ray;
O, far diffuse its op'ning bloom,
And the wide Hemisphere illume!
Ye, who one bitter drop have drain'd
From slav'ry's cup, with horror stain'd,
O, let no fatal dregs be found,
But dash her chalice on the ground,
While still she links her impious chain,
And calculates the price of pain;
Weighs agony in sordid scales,
And marks if death or life prevails;
Decides how near the mangling scourge
May to the grave its victim urge,--
Yet for awhile, with prudent care,
The half-worn wretch, if useful, spare;
And speculates, with skill refin'd,
How deep a wound will stab the mind;
How far the spirit can endure
Calamity, that hopes no cure!--
Ye! who can selfish cares forego
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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Helen Maria Williams

Helen Maria Williams was a British novelist poet and translator of French-language works A religious dissenter she was a supporter of abolitionism and of the ideals of the French Revolution she was imprisoned in Paris during the Reign of Terror but nonetheless spent much of the rest of her life in France A controversial figure in her own time the young Williams was favorably portrayed in a 1787 poem by William Wordsworth but she was portrayed by other writers as irresponsibly politically radical and even as sexually wanton more…

All Helen Maria Williams poems | Helen Maria Williams Books

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    "On the Bill Which Was Passed in England For Regulating the Slave-Trade" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2021. Web. 12 Apr. 2021. <https://www.poetry.com/poem/17117/on-the-bill-which-was-passed-in-england-for-regulating-the-slave-trade>.

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