“Away to Canada” by Joshua McCarter Simpson (1820 – 1876)


Away to Canada

BY JOSHUA MCCARTER SIMPSON
Adapted to the case of Mr. S.,
Fugitive from Tennessee.
I’m on my way to Canada,
That cold and dreary land;
The dire effects of slavery,
I can no longer stand.
My soul is vexed within me so,
To think that I’m a slave;
I’ve now resolved to strike the blow
For freedom or the grave.
O righteous Father,
Wilt thou not pity me?
And aid me on to Canada,
Where colored men are free.
I heard Victoria plainly say,
If we would all forsake
Our native land of slavery,
And come across the Lake.
That she was standing on the shore,
With arms extended wide,
To give us all a peaceful home,
Beyond the rolling tide.
Farewell, old master!
That’s enough for me—
I’m going straight to Canada,
Where colored men are free.
I heard the old-soul driver say,
As he was passing by,
That darkey’s bound to run away,
I see it in his eye.
My heart responded to the charge,
And thought it was no crime;
And something seemed my mind to urge,
That now’s the very time.
O! old driver,
Don’t you cry for me,
I’m going up to Canada,
Where colored men are free.
Grieve not, my wife—grieve not for me,
O! do not break my heart,
For nought but cruel slavery
Would cause me to depart.
If I should stay to quell your grief,
Your grief I would augment;
For no one knows the day that we
Asunder might be rent.
O! Susannah,
Don’t you cry for me—
I’m going up to Canada,
Where colored men are free.
I heard old master pray last night—
I heard him pray for me;
That God would come, and in his might
From Satan set me free;
So I from Satan would escape,
And flee the wrath to come—
If there’s a fiend in human shape,
Old master must be one.
O! old master,
While you pray for me,
I’m doing all I can to reach
The land of Liberty.
Ohio’s not the place for me;
For I was much surprised,
So many of her sons to see
In garments of disguise.
Her name has gone out through the world,
Free Labor, Soil, and Men;
But slaves had better far be hurled
Into the Lion’s Den.
Farewell, Ohio!
I am not safe in thee;
I’ll travel on to Canada,
Where colored men are free.
I’ve now embarked for yonder shore,
Where man’s a man by law,
The vessel soon will bear me o’er,
To shake the Lion’s paw.
I no more dread the Auctioneer,
Nor fear the master’s frowns,
I no more tremble when I hear
The beying negro-hounds.
O! old Master,
Don’t think hard of me—
I’m just in sight of Canada,
Where colored men are free.
I’ve landed safe upon the shore,
Both soul and body free;
My blood and brain, and tears no more
Will drench old Tennesse.
But I behold the scalding tear,
Now stealing from my eye,
To think my wife—my only dear,
A slave must live and die.
O, Susannah!
Don’t grieve after me—
For ever at a throne of grace,
I will remember thee.

From “Moses: A Story of the Nile” by Frances E. W. Harper (by 1825 – 1911)


From “Moses: A Story of the Nile”

BY Frances E.W. Harper

Moses sought again the presence of the king:
And Pharaoh’s brow grew dark with wrath,
And rising up in angry haste, he said
Defiantly, ‘If thy God be great, show
Us some sign or token of his power.’
Then Moses threw his rod upon the floor,
And it trembled with a sign of life;
The dark wood glowed, then changed into a thing
Of glistening scales and golden rings, and green
And brown and purple stripes; a hissing, hateful
Thing, that glared its fiery eye, and darting forth
From Moses’ side, lay coiled and panting
At the monarch’s feet. With wonder open-eyed
The king gazed on the changed rod, then called
For his magicians — wily men, well versed
In sinful lore — and bade them do the same.
And they, leagued with the powers of night, did
Also change their rods to serpents; then Moses’
Serpent darted forth, and with a startling hiss
And angry gulp, he swallowed the living things
That coiled along his path. And thus did Moses
Show that Israel’s God had greater power
Than those dark sons of night.
But not by this alone
Did God his mighty power reveal: He changed
Their waters; every fountain, well and pool
Was red with blood, and lips, all parched with thirst,
Shrank back in horror from the crimson draughts.
And then the worshiped Nile grew full of life:
Millions of frogs swarmed from the stream — they clogged
The pathway of the priests and filled the sacred
Fanes, and crowded into Pharaoh’s bed, and hopped
Into his trays of bread, and slumbered in his
Ovens and his pans.

There came another plague, of loathsome vermin;
They were gray and creeping things, that made
Their very clothes alive with dark and sombre
Spots — things of loathsome in the land, they did
Suspend the service of the temple; for no priest
Dared to lift his hand to any god with one
Of those upon him. And then the sky grew
Dark, as if a cloud were passing o’er its
Changeless blue; a buzzing sound broke o’er
The city, and the land was swarmed with flies.
The Murrain laid their cattle low; the hail
Cut off the first fruits of the Nile; the locusts
With their hungry jaws, destroyed the later crops,
And left the ground as brown and bare as if a fire
Had scorched it through.
Then angry blains
And fiery boils did blur the flesh of man
And beast; and then for three long days, nor saffron
Tint, nor crimson flush, nor soft and silvery light
Divided day from morn, nor told the passage
Of the hours; men rose not from their seats, but sat
In silent awe. That lengthened night lay like a burden
On the air, — a darkness one might almost gather
In his hand, it was so gross and thick. Then came
The last dread plague — the death of the first born.

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou


 

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou (1928 – 2014)

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

“They Have not Chosen Me, He Said” by Emily Dickinson


‘They have not chosen me,’ he said,
‘But I have chosen them!’
Brave—Broken hearted statement—
Uttered in Bethlehem!

I could not have told it,
But since Jesus dared—
Sovereign! Know a Daisy
They dishonor shared!