To Sir Toby,

A Sugar Planter in the Interior Parts of Jamaica, Near the City of San Jago de la Vega, (Spanish Town), 1784

Original Text: 
The Poems of Philip Freneau, ed. Fred Lewis Pattee, II (New Jersey, 1902) : 258-60. PS 755 AZ University of Toronto at Mississauga
        ." The motions of his spirit are black as night,
        ." And his affections dark as Erebus.."
                                                 SHAKESPEARE.
1               If there exists a hell .- the case is clear .-
2            Sir Toby's slaves enjoy that portion here:
3            Here are no blazing brimstone lakes .- 'tis true;
4            But kindled Rum too often burns as blue;
5            In which some fiend, whom nature must detest,
6            Steeps Toby's brand, and marks poor Cudjoe's breast.
7               Here whips on whips excite perpetual fears,
8            And mingles howlings vibrate on my ears:
9            Here nature's plagues abound, to fret and teaze,
10            Snakes, scorpions, despots, lizards, centipees .-
11            No art, no care escapes the busy lash;
12            All have their dues -- and all are paid in cash --
13            The eternal driver keeps a steady eye
14            On a black herd, who would his vengeance fly,
15            But chained, imprisoned, on a burning soil,
16            For the mean avarice of a tyrant, toil!
17            The lengthy cart-whip guards this monster's reign .-
18            And cracks, like pistols, from the fields of cane.
19               Ye powers! who formed these wretched tribes, relate,
20            What had they done, to merit such a fate!
22            To see that plenty which they must not taste .-
23            Food, which they cannot buy, and dare not steal;
24             Yams and potatoes .- many a scanty meal! .-
25               One, with a gibbet wakes his negro's fears,
26            One to the windmill nails him by the ears;
27            One keeps his slave in darkened dens, unfed,
28            One puts the wretch in pickle ere he's dead:
29            This, from a tree suspends him by the thumbs,
30            That, from his table grudges even the crumbs!
31               O'er yond' rough hills a tribe of females go,
32            Each with her gourd, her infant, and her hoe;
33            Scorched by a sun that has no mercy here,
34            Driven by a devil, whom men call overseer .-
35            In chains, twelve wretches to their labours haste;
36            Twice twelve I saw, with iron collars graced! .-
37               Are such the fruits that spring from vast domains?
38            Is wealth, thus got, Sir Toby, worth your pains! .-
39            Who would your wealth on terms, like these, possess,
40            Where all we see is pregnant with distress .-
41            Angola's natives scourged by ruffian hands,
42            And toil's hard product shipp'd to foreign lands.
43               Talk not of blossoms, and your endless spring;
44            What joy, what smile, can scenes of misery bring? .-
45            Though Nature, here, has every blessing spread,
46            Poor is the labourer .- and how meanly fed! .-
47               Here Stygian paintings light and shade renew,
48            Pictures of hell, that Virgil's pencil drew:
49            Here, surly Charons make their annual trip,
50            And ghosts arrive in every Guinea ship,
51            To find what beasts these western isles afford ,
52            Plutonian scourges, and despotic lords: --
53               Here, they, of stuff determined to be free,
55            Beyond the clouds, in sculking haste repair,

Notes

21] "A small negro kingdom near the river Senegal" (poet's note). Back to Line
54] "The mountains northward of Kingston" (poet's note). Back to Line
56] "Alluding to the Independent negroes on the blue mountains, who for a stipulated reward, deliver up every fugitive that falls into their hands, to the English Government" (poet's note). Back to Line
Publication Notes: 
Originally, "The Island Field Hand," National Gazette July 21, 1792.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
Rhyme: 
Form: