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By George Moses Horton

Alas! and am I born for this,

To wear this slavish chain?

Deprived of all created bliss,

Through hardship, toil and pain!


How long have I in bondage lain,

And languished to be free!

Alas! and must I still complain—

Deprived of liberty.


Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief

This side the silent grave—

To soothe the pain—to quell the grief

And anguish of a slave?


Come Liberty, thou cheerful sound,

Roll through my ravished ears!

Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,

And drive away my fears.


Say unto foul oppression, Cease:

Ye tyrants rage no more,

And let the joyful trump of peace,

Now bid the vassal soar.


Soar on the pinions of that dove

Which long has cooed for thee,

And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,

The sound of Liberty.


Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,

So often sought by blood—

We crave thy sacred sun to rise,

The gift of nature’s God!


Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,

And barbarism fly:

I scorn to see the sad disgrace

In which enslaved I lie.


Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,

I languish to respire;

And like the Swan unto her nest,

I’d like to thy smiles retire.


Oh, blest asylum—heavenly balm!

Unto thy boughs I flee—

And in thy shades the storm shall calm,

With songs of Liberty!

 


Source: The Longman Anthology of Poetry (Pearson, 2006)

  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

George Moses Horton
Born a slave on William Horton’s tobacco plantation, George Moses Horton taught himself to read. Around 1815 he began composing poems in his head, saying them aloud and “selling” them to buyers at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. As his fame spread, he gained the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting Hentz, a novelist and professor’s wife who transcribed his poetry and helped publish it in the newspaper. With her assistance, Horton published his first collection of poetry, The Hope of Liberty (1829), becoming the first African American to publish a book in the South—and the only one to publish it while still in slavery. After 68 years as a slave, he settled in Philadelphia for 17 years of freedom before his death. His poetry explores faith, love, and slavery while celebrating the rural beauty of Chatham County, home of the plantation on which Horton spent much of his life. See More By This Poet

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