Poems / William Cullen Bryant [electronic text]

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Title
Poems / William Cullen Bryant [electronic text]
Author
Bryant, William Cullen, 1794-1878
Publication
New York: Harper and Brothers
1840
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Link to this Item
http://name.umdl.umich.edu/BAD0508.0001.001
Cite this Item
"Poems / William Cullen Bryant [electronic text]." In the digital collection American Verse Project. https://name.umdl.umich.edu/BAD0508.0001.001. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed May 29, 2024.

Pages

THE AFRICAN CHIEF.

CHAINED in the market-place he stood, * 1.1 A man of giant frame, Amid the gathering multitude That shrunk to hear his name— All stem of look and strong of limb, His dark eye on the ground:— And silently they gazed on him, As on a lion bound.
Vainly, but well, that chief had fought, He was a captive now, Yet pride, that fortune humbles not, Was written on his brow. The scars his dark broad bosom wore, Showed warrior true and brave; A prince among his tribe before, He could not be a slave.
Then to his conqueror he spake— "My brother is a king; Undo this necklace from my neck, And take this bracelet ring

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And send me where my brother reigns, And I will fill thy hands With store of ivory from the plains, And gold-dust from the sands."
"Not for thy ivory nor thy gold Will I unbind thy chain; That bloody hand shall never hold The battle-spear again. A price thy nation never gave, Shall yet be paid for thee; For thou shalt be the Christian's slave, In lands beyond the sea."
Then wept the warrior chief, and bade To shred his locks away; And, one by one, each heavy braid Before the victor lay. Thick were the platted locks, and long, And deftly hidden there Shone many a wedge of gold among The dark and crisped hair.
"Look, feast thy greedy eye with gold Long kept for sorest need; Take it—thou askest sums untold, And say that I am freed. Take it—my wife, the long, long day Weeps by the cocoa-tree, And my young children leave their play, And ask in vain for me."

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"I take thy gold but I have made Thy fetters fast and strong, And ween that by the cocoa shade Thy wife will wait thee long." Strong was the agony that shook The captive's frame to hear, And the proud meaning of his look Was changed to mortal fear.
His heart was broken—crazed his brain: At once his eye grew wild; He struggled fiercely with his chain, Whispered, and wept, and smiled; Yet wore not long those fatal bands, And once, at shut of day, They drew him forth upon the sands, The foul hyena's prey.

Page [114]

Notes

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