A Word From a Petitioner

Original Text: 
i>The Anti -- Slavery Poems of John Pierpont. Boston: Oliver Johnson, 1843; Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Literature House, 1970: 10-14.
1What! our petitions spurned! The prayer
2Of thousands, -- tens of thousands, -- cast
3Unheard, beneath your Speaker's chair!
4But ye will hear us, first or last.
5The thousands that, last year, ye scorned,
6Are millions now. Be warned! Be warned!
7Turn not, contemptuous, on your heel; --
8It is not for an act of grace
9That, suppliants, at your feet we kneel, --
10We stand; -- we look you in the face,
11And say, -- and we have weighed the word, --
12That our petitions SHALL be heard.
13There are two powers above the laws
14Ye make or mar: -- they're our allies.
15Beneath their shield we'll urge our cause,
16Though all your hands against us rise.
17We're proved them, and we know their might;
18The CONSTITUTION and the RIGHT.
19We say not, ye shall snap the links
20That bind you to your dreadful slaves;
21Hug, if ye will, a corpse that stinks,
22And toil on with it to your graves!
23But, that ye may go, coupled thus,
24Ye never shall make slaves of us.
25And what, but more than slaves, are they,
26Who're told they ne'er shall be denied
27The right of prayer; yet, when they pray,
28Their prayers, unheard, are thrown aside?
29Such mockery they will tamely bear,
30Who're fit an iron chain to wear.
31'The ox, that treadeth out the corn,
32Thou shalt not muzzle.' -- Thus saith God.
33And will ye muzzle the free -- born, --
34The man, -- the owner of the sod, --
35Who 'gives the grazing ox his meat,'
36And you, -- his servants here, -- your seat?
37There's a cloud, blackening up the sky!
38East, west, and north its curtain spreads;
39Lift to its muttering folds your eye!
40Beware! for, bursting on your heads,
41It hath a force to bear you down; --
42'T is an insulted people's frown.
43Ye may have heard of the Soultán,
44And how his Janissaries fell!
45Their barracks, near the Atmeidán,
46He barred, and fired; -- and their death -- yell
47Went to the stars, -- and their blood ran,
48In brooks, across the Atmeidán.
49The despot spake; and, in one night,
50The deed was done. He wields, alone,
51The sceptre of the Ottomite,
52And brooks no brother near his throne.
53Even now, the bow -- string, at his beck,
54Goes round his mightiest subject's neck;
55Yet will he, in his saddle, stoop, --
56I've seen him, in his palace -- yard, --
57To take petitions from a troop
58Of women, who, behind his guard,
59Come up, their several suits to press,
60To state their wrongs, and ask redress.
61And these, into his house of prayer,
62I've seen him take; and, as he spreads
63His own before his Maker there,
64These women's prayers he hears or reads; --
65For, while he wears the diadem,
66He is instead of God to them.
67And this he must do. He may grant,
68Or may deny; but hear he must.
69Were his Seven Towers all adamant,
70They'd soon be levelled with the dust,
71And 'public feeling' make short work, --
72Should he not hear them, -- with the Turk.
73Nay, start not from your chairs, in dread
74Of cannon -- shot, or bursting shell!
75These shall not fall upon your head,
76As once upon your house they fell.
77We have a weapon, firmer set,
78And better than the bayonet; --
79A weapon that comes down as still
80As snow -- flakes fall upon the sod;
81But executes a freeman's will
82As lightning does the will of God;
83And from its force, nor doors nor looks
84Can shield you; -- 't is the ballot -- box.
85Black as your deed shall be the balls
86That from that box shall pour like hail!
87And, when the storm upon you falls,
88How will your craven cheeks turn pale!
89For, at its coming though ye laugh,
90'T will sweep you from your hall, like chaff.
91Not women, now, -- the people pray.
92Hear us, -- or from us ye will hear!
93Beware! -- a desperate game ye play!
94The men that thicken in your rear, --
95Kings though ye be, -- may not be scorned.
96Look to your move! your stake! -- YE'RE WARNED.
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
2004
Rhyme: 
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