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Full Poem - The Negro's Complaint


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Abolition poem - one of several that Cowper wrote. This poem became a 'civil rights' ballard for the movement:

Forced from home and all its pleasures,
Afric’s coast I left forlorn;
To increase a stranger’s treasures,
O’er the raging billows borne.
Men from England brought and sold me,
Paid my price in paltry gold;
But, though slave they have enroll’d me
Minds are never to be sold.

Still in thoughts as free as ever,
What are England’s rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,
Me to torture, me to task?
Fleecy locks and black complexion
Cannot forfeit nature’s claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
Dwells in white and black the same.

Why did all-creating Nature
Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water,
Sweat of our must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters, iron-hearted,
Lolling at your jovial boards,
Think how many blacks have smarted
For the sweets your cane affords.

Is there, as ye sometime tell us,
Is there One who reigns on high?
Has He bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from His throne, the sky?
Ask Him, if your knotted scourges,
Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges
Agents of His will to use?

Hark! He answers! – Wild tornadoes
Strewing yonder sea with wreaks,
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
Are the voices with which He speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
Afric’s sons should undergo’
Fix’d their tyrants’ habitations
Where His whirlwinds answer – No

By our blood in Afric wasted,
Ere our necks received the chain;
By the miseries that we tasted,
Crossing in your barks the main;
By our suffering, since ye brought us
To the man-degrading mart
All sustain’d by patience taught us
Only by a broken heart!

Dream our nation brutes no longer,
Till some reason ye shall find
Worthier of regards and stronger
Than the colour of our kind.
Slaves of gold, whose sordid dealings
Tarnish all your boasted powers,
Prove that you have human feelings
Ere you proudly question ours!

Written 1788 and first published in The Gentleman’s Magazine December 1793

12th Mar 2008 by Diane Earl

Citizenship, History

Key Stages:
Key Stage 2, Key Stage 3, Key Stage 4, Key Stage 4+

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