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.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper - 1825-1911
Bury Me in a Free Land
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 rest if I heard the tread Of a coffle gang to the shambles led, And the mother's shriek of wild despair Rise like a curse on the trembling air. I could not sleep if I saw the lash Drinking her blood at each fearful gash, And I saw her babes torn from her breast, Like trembling doves from their parent nest. I'd shudder and start if I heard the bay Of bloodhounds seizing their human prey, And I heard the captive plead in vain As they bound afresh his galling chain. If I saw young girls from their mother's arms Bartered and sold for their youthful charms, My eye would flash with a mournful flame, My death-paled cheek grow red with shame. I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated might Can rob no man of his dearest right; My rest shall be calm in any grave Where none can call his brother a slave. I ask no monument, proud and high, To arrest the gaze of the passers-by; All that my yearning spirit craves, Is bury me not in a land of slaves.