Shelter'd in lowly huts their fragile forms
From burning suns and desolating storms;
Or when the halcyon sported on the breeze,
In light canoes they skimm'd the ripling seas;
Their lives in dreams of soothing languor flew,
No parted joys, no future pains they knew,
The passing moment all their bliss or care;
Such as the sires had been, the children were
From age to age; as waves upon the tide
Of stormless time, they calmly lived and died.
"Dreadful as hurricanes, athwart the main
Rush'd the fell legions of invading Spain;
With fraud and force, with false and fatal breath,
(Submission bondage, and resistance death,)
These swept the isles. In vain the simple race
Kneel'd to the iron sceptre of their grace,
Or with weak arms their fiery vengeance braved;
They came, they saw, they conquer'd, they enslaved,
And they destroy'd;—the generous heart they broke,
They crush'd the timid neck beneath the yoke;
Where'er to battle march'd their grim array,
The sword of conquest ploughed resistless way;
Where'er from cruel toil they sought repose,
Around, the fires of devastation rose.
The Indian, as he turn'd his head in flight,
Beheld his cottage flaming through the night,
And, 'midst the shrieks of murder on the wind,
Heard the mute blood-hound's death-step close behind.
"The conflict o'er, the valiant in their graves,
The wretched remnant dwindled into slaves;
Condemn'd in pestilential cells to pine,
Delving for gold amidst the gloomy mine.
The sufferer, sick of life-protracting breath,
Inhaled with joy the fire-damp blast of death:
—Condemned to fell the mountain palm on high,
That cast its shadow from the evening sky,
Ere the tree trembled to his feeble stroke,
The woodman languish'd, and his heart-strings broke:
—Condemn'd in torrid noon, with palsied hand,
To urge the slow plough o'er the obdurate land,
The labourer, smitten by the sun's fierce ray,
A corpse along the unfinish'd furrow lay.
O'erwhelm'd at length with ignominious toil,
Mingling their barren ashes with the soil,
Down to the dust the Charib people pass'd,
Like autumn foliage withering in the blast:
The whole race sunk beneath the oppressor's rod,
And left a blank among the works of God."