Anti-slavery poems : songs of labor and reform / by John Greenleaf Whittier [electronic text]

About this Item

Anti-slavery poems : songs of labor and reform / by John Greenleaf Whittier [electronic text]
Whittier, John Greanleaf, 1807-1892
[New York, N.Y.]: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.

The University of Michigan Library provides access to these materials for educational and research purposes. These materials are in the public domain in the United States. If you have questions about the collection please contact Digital Content & Collections at, or if you have concerns about the inclusion of an item in this collection, please contact Library Information Technology at

DPLA Rights Statement: No Copyright - United States

Cite this Item
"Anti-slavery poems : songs of labor and reform / by John Greenleaf Whittier [electronic text]." In the digital collection American Verse Project. University of Michigan Library Digital Collections. Accessed April 13, 2024.


WE wait beneath the furnace-blast The pangs of transformation; Not painlessly doth God recast And mould anew the nation. Hot burns the fire Where wrongs expire; Nor spares the hand That from the land Uproots the ancient evil.
The hand-breadth cloud the sages feared Its bloody rain is dropping; The poison plant the fathers spared All else is overtopping. East, West, South, North, It curses the earth;

Page 220

All justice dies, And fraud and lies Live only in its shadow.
What gives the wheat-field blades of steel? What points the rebel cannon? What sets the roaring rabble's heel On the old star-spangled pennon? What breaks the oath Of the men o' the South? What wets the knife For the Union's life? — Hark to the answer: Slavery!
Then waste no blows on lesser foes In strife unworthy freemen. God lifts to-day the veil, and shows The features of the demon! O North and South, Its victims both, Can ye not cry, "Let slavery die!" And union find in freedom?
What though the cast-out spirit tear The nation in his going? We who have shared the guilt must share The pang of his o'erthrowing! Whate'er the loss, Whate'er the cross, Shall they complain Of present pain Who trust in God's hereafter?

Page 221

For who that leans on His right arm Was ever yet forsaken? What righteous cause can suffer harm If He its part has taken? Though wild and loud, And dark the cloud, Behind its folds His hand upholds The calm sky of to-morrow!
Above the maddening cry for blood Above the wild war-drumming, Let Freedom's voice be heard, with good The evil overcoming. Give prayer and purse To stay the Curse Whose wrong we share, Whose shame we bear, Whose end shall gladden Heaven!
In vain the bells of war shall ring Of triumphs and revenges, While still is spared the evil thing That severs and estranges. But blest the ear That yet shall hear The jubilant bell That rings the knell Of Slavery forever!
Then let the selfish lip be dumb, And hushed the breath of sighing; Before the joy of peace must come The pains of purifying.

Page 222

God give us grace Each in his place To bear his lot, And, murmuring not, Endure and wait and labor!
Do you have questions about this content? Need to report a problem? Please contact us.