Saturday, January 31, 2009

Two poems by George Moses Horton; "On Liberty and Slavery" and "To Eliza"

George Moses Horton was born in Northampton County, North Carolina, approx. 1797 (d. 1883), as a slave of the Horton family. He learned to read and write while being hired out by his master to the president of Chapel Hill and he was a campus character there. He wrote love poems for the students at 25 or 50 cents a piece according to the degree of ardor desired. Then fugitive poems by him crept into print and in 1829 his first volume titled The Hope of Liberty was published in Raleigh, which made him the first southern black to be an author. The same piece of work was later republished in Philadelphia in 1837 as Poems by a Slave but he did not earn enough to buy his freedom. However, he escaped to the North when the Northern troops occupied Raleigh in 1865, and he became a free man, and during that same year he published another work called Naked Genius.

Here is "On Liberty and Slavery":

"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 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!"


"To Eliza":

"Eliza, tell thy lover why
Or what induced thee to deceive me?
Fare thee well - away I fly -
I shun the lass who thus will grieve me.

Eliza, still thou art my song,
Although by force I may foresake thee;
Fare thee well, for I was wrong
To woo thee while another take thee.

Eliza, pause and think awhile -
Sweet lass! I shall forget thee never:
Fare thee well! although I smile,
I grieve to give thee up for ever.

Eliza, I shall think of thee -
My heart shall ever twine about thee;
Fare thee well - but think of me,
Compell'd to live and die without thee.
"Fare the well! - and if for ever,
Still for ever fare thee well!*""

* Last two lines is from "Fare thee well" by George Gordon Byron.

4 comments:

Mama Shujaa said...

Dear Ras Love Princess,

Thank you for sharing the remarkable story of George Moses Horton and these two poems! I learned something today.

The generosity of spirit exhibited in both poems leave imprints on my mind and soul; to understand the circumstances under which they were written and the overall arching power of the words...!

It is very motivating.

Mama Shujaa

Maithri said...

Amen to what Mama said dear sister Carina,

This is absolutely beautiful and deeply moving,

Thanks for the light of your soul in this world,

M

thewindhover said...

Two powerful poems.. thank you for sharing them. I always find your posts so interesting and thought-provoking - touching on things that need to be said and talked about. Blessings.

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