Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Slave Poet of Chapel Hill

Another fascinating story that was included in Blacks in Bondage: Letters of American Slaves was that of George Moses Horton, who belonged to a Chatham County, North Carolina master. This master leased Horton out to earn extra money and many times the educated slave worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill writing poems and compositions for students for pay. In 1829, with the help of some white benefactors Horton published a book of poetry, The Hope of Liberty, desiring to earn enough money to buy his freedom. His dream proved failure though and Horton had to wait for the end of the Civil War to gain his liberty. Here is one of his beautiful poems:

The Slave's Complaint

Am I sadly cast aside,
On misfortune's rugged tide?
Will the world my pains deride
For ever?

Must I dwell in Slavery's night,
And all pleasure take its flight,
Far beyond my feeble sight,
For ever?

Worst of all, must Hope grow dim,
And withhold her cheering beam?
Rather let me sleep and dream
For ever!

Something still my heart surveys,
Groping through this dreary maze;
Is it Hope? - then burn and blaze
For ever!

Leave me not a wretch confined,
Altogether lame and blind - 
Unto gross despair consigned,
For ever!

Heaven! in whom can I confide?
Canst thou not for all provide?
Condescend to be my guide
For ever:

And when this transient life shall end,
Oh, may some kind, eternal friend
Bid me from servitude ascend,
For ever!

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