To Her Infant Child.
I cannot tell how much I love
To look on thee, my child;
Nor how that looking rocks my soul
As on a tempest wild;
For I have borne thee to the world,
And bid thee breathe its air,
But soon to see around thee drawn
The curtains of despair.
Now thou art happy, child, I know,
As little babe can be;
Thou dost not fancy in thy dreams
But thou art all as free
As birds upon the mountain winds,
(If thou hast thought of bird,)
Or anything thou thinkest of,
Or thy young ear has heard.
What are thy little thoughts about?
I cannot certain know,
Only there's not a wing of them
Upon a breath of woe,
For not a shadow's on thy face,
Nor billow heaves thy breast,
All clear as any summer's lake
With not a zephyr press'd.
But thou art born a slave, my child;
Those little hands must toil,
That brow must sweat, that bosom ache
Upon another's soil;
And if perchance some tender joy
Should bloom upon thy heart,
Another's hand may enter there,
And tear it soon apart.
Thou art a little joy to me,
But soon thou may'st be sold,
Oh! lovelier to thy mother far
Than any weight of gold;
Or I may see thee scourg'd and driv'n
Hard on the cotton-field,
To fill a cruel master's store,
With what thy blood may yield.
Should some fair maiden win thy heart,
And thou should'st call her thine;
Should little ones around thee stand,
Or round thy bosom twine,
Thou wilt not know how soon away
These loves may all be riv'n,
Nor what a darkened troop of woe
Through thy lone breast be driv'n.
Thy master may be kind, and give
Thy every wish to thee,
Only deny that greatest wish,
That longing to be free:
Still it will seem a comfort small
That thou hast sweeter bread,
A better hut than other slaves,
Or pillow for thy head.
What joys soe'er may gather round,
What other comforts flow,
That, like a mountain in the sea,
O'ertops each wave below,
That ever-upward, firm desire
To break the chains, and be
Free as the ocean is, or like
The ocean-winds, be free.
Oh, child! thou art a little slave;
And all of thee that grows,
Will be another's weight of flesh,
But thine the weight of wees
Thou art a little slave, my child,
And much I grieve and mourn
That to so dark a destiny
A lovely babe I've borne.
And gladly would I lay thee down
To sleep beneath the sod,
And give thy gentle spirit back,
Unmarr'd with grief, to God:
The tears I shed upon that turf
Should whisper peace to me,
And tell me in the spirit land
My lovely babe was free.
I then should know thy peace was sure,
And only long to go
The road which thou had'st gone, and wipe
Away these tears that flow.
Death to the slave has double power;
It breaks the earthly clod,
And breaks the tyrant's sway, that he
May worship only God.
The Narrative of Lunsford Lane, Formerly of Raleigh, N.C., 1842