poem index

The Slave Mother

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Heard you that shriek? It rose
   So wildly on the air,
It seemed as if a burden'd heart
   Was breaking in despair.
   
Saw you those hands so sadly clasped--
   The bowed and feeble head--
The shuddering of that fragile form--
   That look of grief and dread?
   
Saw you the sad, imploring eye?
   Its every glance was pain,
As if a storm of agony
   Were sweeping through the brain.

She is a mother pale with fear,
   Her boy clings to her side,
And in her kirtle vainly tries
   His trembling form to hide.
   
He is not hers, although she bore
   For him a mother's pains; 
He is not hers, although her blood
   Is coursing through his veins!
   
He is not hers, for cruel hands
   May rudely tear apart
The only wreath of household love
   That binds her breaking heart.
   
His love has been a joyous light
   That o'er her pathway smiled,
A fountain gushing ever new,
   Amid life's desert wild.
   
His lightest word has been a tone
   Of music round her heart, 
Their lives a streamlet blent in one--
   Oh, Father! must they part?
   
They tear him from her circling arms,
   Her last and fond embrace.
Oh! never more may her sad eyes
   Gaze on his mournful face.
   
No marvel, then, these bitter shrieks
   Disturb the listening air:
She is a mother, and her heart
   Is breaking in despair.

This poem is in the public domain.

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

by this poet

poem
Make me a grave where'er you will,
In a lowly plain, or a lofty hill; 
Make it among earth's humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.

I could not rest if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trembling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.

I could not
poem
Very soon the Yankee teachers 
    Came down and set up school; 
But, oh! how the Rebs did hate it,— 
    It was agin' their rule. 

Our masters always tried to hide 
    Book learning from our eyes; 
Knowledge didn't agree with slavery—
    'Twould make us all too wise. 

But some of us would try to steal
poem
Take sackcloth of the darkest dye,
   And shroud the pulpits round!
Servants of Him that cannot lie,
   Sit mourning on the ground.

Let holy horror blanch each cheek,
   Pale every brow with fears;
And rocks and stones, if ye could speak,
   Ye well might melt to tears!

Let sorrow breathe in every tone,
   In