The Poetical Works of Elizabeth Margaret Chandler/The Recaptured Slave
The Recaptured Slave
Woe to thee, tyrant! woe!
Does that white brow of thine which shows so fair
And the rich tint thy cheek is wont to wear,
Make thee the ruler of my destiny?
Or does thy blood more freely flow,
Than that which pours so madly now,
Along my burning veins—that thou should'st be
The favourite of fortune—proud and free—
And I should be thy slave—thy vassal?—no!
'T is true, I was thy slave—the power was thine—
And thou hadst made me such—through lingering years,
One weary task of ceaseless toil was mine,
Of servitude and tears—
But didst thou think no kindly glow,
Could warm my heart to joy or woe?
Mistaken fool! I heard thee name a name,
That rush'd like fire along my burning breast,
And from that instant there awoke a flame,
That ne'er has been, and ne'er shall be suppress'd—
I heard the glorious name of liberty!
And from that hour I panted to be free!
I had breathed on—not lived—in recklessness,
And idle dull submission to my fate;
But then the very sunbeams seem'd to press
Upon my senses, with a bitter weight—
As though they spake upbraidingly,
That all around me should be free,
And I should be so vile—that I should bow,
And tremble at the gathering of thy brow!
I once had loved the gushing mirth
Of the young spring—when bee, flower, bird,
And every thing upon the earth,
Seem'd fraught with joy—but now, one word,
One only word, came o'er my brain,
Again, again, again,
As if 't were scorch'd in characters of flame
And that one word was Freedom! all things seem'd
To shape their voices only to that name—
The wild bird's joyous song—the fish that gleam'd
Through the bright flood—the murmur of the wave—
Nay, even the breath of heaven—methought seem'd whispering, Slave!
I fled, and ere another set of sun,
My galling chains were broken—I was free!
A new, a bright existence was begun—
And my soul knew and felt its potency.
The voice of eve seem'd sweeter to my ears,
And all things brighter to my eye—till tears
From my full heart gush'd up tumultuously—
Wife, children, friends, were all forgotten—all—
I only felt that I was free from thrall.
'T is over now—and I once more am thine—
But thinkest thou that, having known the bliss—
That though one moment only has been mine,
I will live on in servitude like this,
And wear the chains of bondage? tyrant, no!
My blood be on thy head! woe rest upon thee, woe!
Art thou my master! then come ask the wave,
To give thee back thy slave!