James M. Whitfield's America and Other Poems

  Table of Contents:
Cover Page
"Christmas Hymn"
"Lines on the Death of J. Quincy Adams"
"To Cinque"
"New Year's Hymn"
"To A.H."
"How Long"
"The Arch Apostate"
"The Misanthropist"
"A Hymn"
"Yes! strike again that sounding string"
"To -------"
"Prayer of the Oppressed"
"To S.A.T."
"Delusive Hope"
"To M.E.A."
"A Hymn"
"Ode for the Fourth of July"
"Midnight Musings"
"Ode to Music"
"Stanzas for the First of August"
"The North Star"
(text of all poems)

  America p1
close-up 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

AMERICA, it is to thee,
Thou boasted land of liberty, ---
It is to thee I raise my song,
Thou land of blood, and crime, and wrong.
It is to thee, my native land,
From whence has issued many a band
To tear the black man from his soil,
And force him here to delve and toil;
Chained on your blood-bemoistened sod,
Cringing beneath a tyrantís rod,
Stripped of those rights which Natureís God
   Bequeathed to all the human race,
Bound to a petty tyrantís nod,
   Because he wears a paler face.
America p2 Was it for this, that freedomís fires
Were kindled by your patriot sires?
Was it for this, they shed their blood,
On hill and plain, on field and flood?
Was it for this, that wealth and life
Were staked upon that desperate strife,
Which drenched this land for seven long years
With blood of men, and womenís tears?
When black and white fought side by side,
   Upon the well-contested field, ---
Turned back the fierce opposing tide,
   And made the proud invader yield ---
When, wounded, side by side they lay,
   And heard with joy the proud hurrah
From their victorious comrades say
   That they had waged successful war,
The thought ne'er entered in their brains
   That they endured those toils and pains,
To forge fresh fetters, heavier chains
For their own children, in whose veins
Should flow that patriotic blood,
So freely shed on field and flood.
  America p3 Oh no; they fought, as they believed,
   For the inherent rights of man;
But mark, how they have been deceived
   By slaveryís accursed plan.
They never thought, when thus they shed
   Their heartís best blood, in freedomís cause
That their own sons would live in dread,
   Under unjust, oppressive laws:
That those who quietly enjoyed
   The rights for which they fought and fell,
Could be the framers of a code,
   That would disgrace the fiends of hell!
Could they have looked, with prophetís ken,
   Down to the present evil time,
   Seen free-born men, uncharged with crime,
Consigned unto a slaverís pen, ---
Or thrust into a prison cell,
With thieves and murderers to dwell ---
While that same flag whose stripes and stars
Had been their guide through freedomís wars
As proudly waved above the pen
Of dealers in the souls of men!
  America p4 Or could the shades of all the dead,
   Who fell beneath that starry flag,
Visit the scenes where they once bled,
   On hill and plain, on vale and crag,
By peaceful brook, or oceanís strand,
   By inland lake, or dark green wood,
Whereíer the soil of this wide land
   Was moistened by their patriot blood, ---
And then survey the country oíer,
   From north to south, from east to west,
And hear the agonizing cry
Ascending up to God on high,
From western wilds to oceanís shore,
   The fervent prayer of the oppressed;
The cry of helpless infancy
   Torn from the parentís fond caress
By some base tool of tyranny,
   And doomed to woe and wretchedness;
The indignant wail of fiery youth,
   Its noble aspirations crushed,
Its generous zeal, its love of truth,
   Trampled by tyrants in the dust;
  America p5 The aerial piles which fancy reared,
   And hopes too bright to be enjoyed,
Have passed and left his young heart seared,
   And all its dreams of bliss destroyed.
The shriek of virgin purity,
   Doomed to some libertineís embrace,
Should rouse the strongest sympathy
   Of each one of the human race;
And weak old age, oppressed with care,
   As he reviews the scene of strife,
Puts up to God a fervent prayer,
   To close his dark and troubled life.
The cry of fathers, mothers, wives,
   Severed from all their hearts hold dear,
And doomed to spend their wretched lives
   In gloom, and doubt, and hate, and fear;
And manhood, too, with soul of fire,
And arm of strength, and smothered ire,
Stands pondering with brow of gloom,
Upon his dark unhappy doom,
Whether to plunge in battleís strife,
And buy his freedom with his life,
  America p6 And with stout heart and weapon strong,
Pay back the tyrant wrong for wrong,
Or wait the promised time of God,
   When his Almighty ire shall wake,
And smite the oppressor in his wrath,
And hurl red ruin in his path,
And with the terrors of his rod,
   Cause adamantine hearts to quake.
Here Christian writhes in bondage still,
   Beneath his brother Christianís rod,
And pastors trample down at will,
   The image of the living God.
While prayers go up in lofty strains,
   And pealing hymns ascend to heaven,
The captive, toiling in his chains,
   With tortured limbs and bosom riven,
Raises his fettered hand on high,
   And in the accents of despair,
To him who rules both earth and sky,
   Puts up a sad, a fervent prayer,
To free him from the awful blast
   Of slaveryís bitter galling shame ---
  America p7 Although his portion should be cast
   With demons in eternal flame!
Almighty God! Ďt is this they call
   The land of liberty and law;
Part of its sons in baser thrall
   Than Babylon or Egypt saw ---
Worse scenes of rapine, lust and shame,
   Than Babylonian ever knew,
Are perpetrated in the name
   Of God, the holy, just, and true;
And darker doom than Egypt felt,
May yet repay this nationís guilt.
Almighty God! thy aid impart,
And fire anew each faltering heart,
And strengthen every patriotís hand,
Who aims to save our native land.
We do not come before thy throne,
   With carnal weapons drenched in gore,
Although our blood has freely flown,
   In adding to the tyrantís store.
Father! before thy throne we come,
   Not in the panoply of war,
  America p8 With pealing trump, and rolling drum,
   And cannon booming loud and far;
Striving in blood to wash out blood,
   Through wrong to seek redress for wrong;
For while thou írt holy, just and good,
   The battle is not to the strong;
But in the sacred name of peace,
   Of justice, virtue, love and truth,
We pray, and never mean to cease,
   Till weak old age and fiery youth
In freedomís cause their voices raise,
And burst the bonds of every slave;
Till, north and south, and east and west,
The wrongs we bear shall be redressed.

Introduction Biography Contexts Critical Voices Teaching Approaches Bibliography