The Spirit of Toussaint
By the late Rev. Dr. Vardill
In Bourbon’s dome, while wearied Gallia sleeps,
What sable shade its midnight vigil keeps?
The martyr’d chief of Afric’s scatter’d bands
By the drear couch of gaunt Ambition stands:
Sublime he smiles, and stern in holy hate,
Pours on his murd’rer’s ears the voice of fate.
“Sleep, foe to man! till conquest’s sudden wings
Sweep from thy blood-red throne the shame of kings!
Sleep, till beneath yon frozen hills of slain
Her deep and swift volcano bursts again.
Then fall, as ever freedom’s foes shall fall,
While scoffing nations rend thy regal pall;—
But thou, fair Gallia, Europe’s second pride,
Shall thy broad throne the wrongs of Afric hide?
Shall they whose hands Oppression’s sceptre broke
On pleading brothers bind her direst yoke?
No; Freedom scorns to build her sacred seat
But where firm faith and white-arm’d Justice meet:
Not where pale fiends the wolves of Rapine urge,
Or gaunt ambition grasps Destruction’s scourge,
Fiery yet frail, as burning columns stand
Rais’d by the whirlwind’s breath on Afric’s sand.
No! they who Freedom’s holy shrine embrace
Bind in one golden link the human race;
In ev’ry soil assist her genial birth
And spread the gen’rous blessing over earth.
Such were her chosen sons who dauntless bore
Her purest ensigns to Columbia’s shore,
More blest in Nature’s rudest realms to roam
Than crush’d with fetter’d luxury at home.
Bland in pure faith and firm in patient toil,
They taught the howling wilderness to smile;
To savage souls religion’s beauty prov’d,
And gave the sacred liberty they lov’d.
Sons of the west! if bounteous fate has given
To you the brightest surest way to heav’n;
If the ETERNAL ONE to you reveals
His awful name, and your redemption seals,
Why to one clime and one pale race confine
Man’s first, best birthright—liberty divine?
Why to your sable brothers still deny
All but a slave’s last privilege—to die!
On one immortal sire ye bid us call
Whose sun, his image, shines alike on all,
Yet we, whose bosoms share his glorious flame,
Possess no boon but slavery and shame!
Condemn’d in chains the life of life to waste
And nurse with blood the fruits our tyrants taste!
Speaks Nature thus? can Europe’s slender zone
Clasp all that freedom, truth, and valour own?
O no! tho’ Afric’s burning clime denies
Locks of soft silk, and sapphire-seeming eyes,
Beneath their sable masks our fervid souls
Shine pure as those which freeze beneath the poles!
There meagre av’rice blights their noblest fruit,
And the proud reason’r sinks into a brute.
Unveil those froze souls—they cannot prove
Such faith as ours, such death-defying love!
Not softer smiles your blue-ey’d daughters boast
Then the dark dames of Congo’s golden coast—
Than thine, my Zayde! yet Europe’s ruffians tore
Thy helpless beauty from our parent shore!
My child! my gem!—I saw, I saw thee strain
Thy pleading eyes and fetter’d hands in vain:—
I heard thy shrill shriek from the closing deep—
But thou wert not a slave—I did not weep;
No!—tears of guilty blood and deeds of fire
Shall mark thy name, and vindicate thy sire.
Awake, fair Gallia!—if thy sons survey
The stars’ long path, and trace the comets way,
Teach the soft stream o’er burning wastes to flow,
And lead triumphant Art through hills of snow,
Come!—o’er dark Afric’s desert bosom guide
Fair Freedom’s steps, and Mercy’s genial tide;
Bid Wisdom’s stars diffuse their lengthen’d light
Thro’ the grim clouds of Oppression’s night.
Then, my lov’d country!—then thy virgin streams
Shall meet unveil’d our radiant fathers beams;
Commerce shall there her thousand flags unfold,
And thy rich havens glow with piles of gold;
The cane mellifluous and the balmy vine
Shall spread where lions prowl and serpents twine:
Thy tenfold harvests distant worlds shall feed
And Afric’s wealth be fost’ring Europe’s meed.
Visions of glory, dreams of hope, remain!
Ye sooth’d my last lone pang of mortal pain;
Bright in the west’s fair isle my soul beheld
The famish’d fiends of giant Av’rice quell’d,
While in a dungeon’s silent depth I lay
Sold—stifled—crush’d—apostate Treason’s prey!
But thou, destroyer!—thou whose countless slave
Thy banner leads to people distant graves,
Thou too shalt fail—low, desolate, and lone,
With none to honour, none to prop thy throne,
Abhorr’d and abject as the serpents’ isle
Where ravens mock Ambition’s fallen pile.
Then, while the links of mould’ring grandeur break,
And all but Fear and Shame thy couch forsake,
A voice like mine shall pierce thy death-cold ear,
A form like mine thy sinking eye-balls sear;
Avenging scorpions round thy breast shall twine,
And thy departing soul remember mine!
- The temple of Achilles, described by Arrian, in the isle of Serpents. ↩