A Cry from South Africa

Original Text: 
The Poetical Works of James Montgomery. Collected by Himself (London: Longman, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1850): 341. British Library 11611.f.12
On building a chapel at Cape Town, for the Negro slaves of the colony, in 1828.
1Afric, from her remotest strand,
2Lifts to high heaven one fetter'd hand,
3And to the utmost of her chain
4Stretches the other o'er the main:
5Then, kneeling 'midst ten thousand slaves,
6Utters a cry across the waves,
7Of power to reach to either pole,
8And pierce, like conscience, through the soul,
9Though dreary, faint, and low the sound,
10Like life-blood gurgling from a wound,
11As if her heart, before it broke,
12Had found a human tongue, and spoke.
13"Britain! not now I ask of thee
14Freedom, the right of bond and free;
16The bones and blood of living man;
17Let tyrants scorn, while tyrants dare,
18The shrieks and writhings of despair;
19An end will come -- it will not wait,
20Bonds, yokes, and scourges have their date,
21Slavery itself must pass away,
22And be a tale of yesterday.
23"But now I urge a dearer claim,
24And urge it by a mightier name:
25Hope of the world! on thee I call,
26By the great Father of us all,
27By the Redeemer of our race,
28And by the Spirit of all grace;
29Turn not, Britannia, from my plea;
30-- So help Thee GOD as Thou help'st me!
31Mine outcast children come to light
32From darkness, and go down in night;
33-- A night of more mysterious gloom
34Than that which wrapt them in the womb:
35Oh! that the womb had been the grave
36Of every being born a slave!
37Oh! that the grave itself might close
38The slave's unutterable woes!
39But what beyond that gulf may be,
40What portion in eternity,
41For those who live to curse their breath,
42And die without a hope in death,
43I know not, and I dare not think;
44Yet, while I shudder o'er the brink
45Of that unfathomable deep,
46Where wrath lies chain'd and judgments sleep,
47To thee, thou paradise of isles!
48Where mercy in full glory smiles;
49Eden of lands! o'er all the rest
50By blessing others doubly blest,
51-- To thee I lift my weeping eye;
52Send me the Gospel, or I die;
53The word of CHRIST's salvation give,
54That I may hear his voice and live."


15] Mammon: Aramaic term for "wealth" (cf. Matthew 6.24). Back to Line
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 2001