The Slave Dealer

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From ocean's wave a Wanderer came,
 With visage tanned and dun:
His Mother, when he told his name,
 Scarce knew her long-lost son;
So altered was his face and frame
 By the ill course he had run.

There was hot fever in his blood,
 And dark thoughts in his brain;
And oh! to turn his heart to good
 That Mother strove in vain,
For fierce and fearful was his mood,
 Racked by remorse and pain.

And if, at times, a gleam more mild
 Would o'er his features stray,
When knelt the Widow near her Child,
 And he tried with her to pray,
It lasted not  for visions wild
 Still scared good thoughts away.

"There's blood upon my hands!" he said,
 "Which water cannot wash;
It was not shed where warriors bled  
 It dropped from the gory lash,
As I whirled it o'er and o'er my head,
 And with each stroke left a gash.

"With every stroke I left a gash,
 While Negro blood sprang high;
And now all ocean cannot wash
 My soul from murder's dye;
Nor e'en thy prayer, dear Mother, quash
 That Woman's wild death-cry!

"Her cry is ever in my ear,
 And it will not let me pray;
Her look I see  her voice I hear  
 As when in death she lay,
And said, 'With me thou must appear
On God's great Judgment-day!'"

"Now, Christ from frenzy keep my son!"
 The woeful Widow cried;
"Such murder foul thou ne'er hast done  
 Some fiend thy soul belied!"  
"  Nay, Mother! the Avenging One
 Was witness when she died!

"The writhing wretch with furious heel
 I crushed  no mortal nigh;
But that same hour her dread appeal
 Was registered on high;
And now with God I have to deal,
 And dare not meet His eye!"

© Thomas Pringle