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Cassandra Southwick



To the God of all sure mercies let my blessing rise today,
From the scoffer and the cruel He hath plucked the spoil away;
Yes, he who cooled the furnace around the faithful three,
And tamed the Chaldean lions, hath set His handmaid free!

Last night I saw the sunset melt though my prison bars,
Last night across my damp earth-floor fell the pale gleam of stars;
In the coldness and the darkness all through the long night-time,
My grated casement whitened with autumn's early rime.

Alone, in that dark sorrow, hour after hour crept by;
Star after star looked palely in and sank adown the sky;
No sound amid night's stillness, save that which seemed to be
The dull and heavy beating of the pulses of the sea;

All night I sat unsleeping, for I knew that on the morrow
The ruler said the cruel priest would mock me in my sorrow,
Dragged to their place of market, and bargained for and sold,
Like a lamb before the shambles, like a heifer from the fold!

Oh, the weakness of the flesh was there¯the shrinking and the shame;
And the low voice of the Tempter like whispers to me came,
'Why sit'st thou thus forlornly,' the wicked murmur said,
'Damp walls thy bower beauty, cold earth thy maiden bed?

'Where be the smiling faces, and voices soft and sweet,
Seen in thy father's dwelling, hoard in the pleasant street?
Where be the youths whose glances, the summer Sabbath through,
Turned tenderly and timidly unto thy father's pew?

'Why sit'st thou here, Cassandra? Bethink thee with what mirth
Thy happy schoolmates gather around the warm, dark hearth;
How the crimson shadows tremble on foreheads white and fair,
On eyes of merry girlhood, half hid in golden hair.

'Not for thee the hearth-fire brightens, not for thee kind words are spoken,
Not for thee the nuts of Wenham woods by laughing boys are broken;
No first-fruits of the orchard within thy lap are laid,
For thee no flowers of autumn the youthful hunters braid.

'O weak, deluded maiden!¯by crazy fancies led,
With wild and raving railers an evil path to tread;
To leave a wholesome worship, and teaching pure and sound,
And mate with maniac women, loose-haired and sackcloth-bound,

'And scoffers of the priesthood, who mock at things divine,
Who rail against thy pulpit, and holy bread and wine;
Bore from their cart-tail scourgings, and from the pillory lame,
Rejoicing in their wretchedness, and glorying in their shame.

'And what a fate awaits thee!¯a sadly toiling slave,
Dragging the slowly lengthening chain of bondage to the grave!
Think of thy woman's nature, subdued in hopeless thrall,
The easy prey of any, the scoff and scorn of all!'

Oh, ever as the Tempter spoke, and feecle Nature's fears
Wrung drop by drop the scalding flow of unavailing tears,
I wrestled down the evil thoughts, and strove in silent prayer
To feel, O Helper of the weak! that Thou indeed wert there!

I thought of Paul and Silas, within Philippi's call,
And how from Peter's sleeping limbs the prison shackles fell,
Till I seemed to hear the trailing of an Angel's robe of white,
And to feel a blessed presence invisible to sight.

Bless the Lord for all his mercies!¯for the peace and love I felt,
Like the dew of Hermon's holy hill, upon my spirit melt;
When 'Get behind me, Satan! ' was the language of my heart,
And I felt the Evil Tempter with all his doubts depart.

Slow broke the gray cold morning; again the sunshine fell,
Flocked with the shade of bar and grate within my lonely cell;
The hoar-frost melted on the wall, and upward from the street
Came careless laugh and idle word, and tread of passing feet.

At length the heavy bolts fell back, my door was open cast,
And slowly at the sheriff's side, up the long street I passed;
I heard the murmur round me, and felt, but dared not see,
How, from every door and window, the people gazed on me.

And doubt and fear fell on me, shame burned upon my cheek,
Swam earth and sky around me, my trembling limbs grew weak;
'Oh Lord, support thy handmaid, and from her soul cast out
The fear of men, which brings a snare, the weakness and the doubt.

Then the dreary shadows scattered, like a cloud in morning's breeze,
And a low deep voice within me seemed whispering words like these:
'Though thy earth be as the iron, and thy heaven a brazen wall,
Trust still His loving-kindness whose power is over all.'

We paused at length, where at my feet the sunlit waters broke
On glaring roach of shining beach, and shingly wall of rock;
The merchant-ships lay idle there, in hard clear lines on high,
Treeing with rope and
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

4:07 min read
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John Greenleaf Whittier

John Greenleaf Whittier was an influential American Quaker poet and ardent advocate of the abolition of slavery in the United States. more…

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