Category: Ballads and Other Poems
Shall Be Free
|"ALL PERSON'S HELD AS SLAVES, within said designated States and parts of States, ARE, AND HENCEFORWARD SHALL BE FREE!" --Proclamation of Emancipation, Jan. 1st, 1863.
"Shall be free! shall be free!"--lo, the strong winds have caught it,
And borne it from hill top to hill top afar,
And echo to answering echo has taught it,
Through the din of the conflict, the thunder of war!
It has flashed like the lightning from ocean to ocean,
Across the black face of the skies it has blazed,
And strong men have thrilled with unwonted emotion,
And shouted for joy as they listened and gazed!
"Shall be free! shall be free!"--the poor, manacled "chattel"
Has caught the sweet word amid fetters and blows;
It has burst on his ear through the tumult of battle,
Through the shoutings of friends and the cursings of foes;
And lifting his poor, fettered hands up to heaven,
He has joined in the song that ascended to God;
Or, kneeling in trembling rapture, has given
Thanksgiving to Him who has broken the rod!
"Shall be free! shall be free!"--there are ears that have listened,
There are lips that have prayed through long, agonized years,
There are eyes that with hope's fitful radiance have glistened
Yet, as hope was deferred, have grown heavy with tears
Joy! joy!--thou hast heard it at last, lonely weeper,
Look up, for the prayer of thy anguish is heard.
Look up, ye bruised spirits, for God is your keeper,
And the heart of His boundless compassion is stirred.
"Shall be free! shall be free!"--O Humanity, listen
The Dawn that long since on the pale "Watcher" shone
Now higher, and brighter, and clearer has risen,
As the Day star rides on toward the glories of noon.
Those words that rang out from the isles of the ocean,
Sarmatia has echoed from mountain to sea
And America, from her red field of commotion,
He echoes the same stirring words--"Shall be free!"
Hark!--all the wild air is astir with the tempest!
The swift lightnings leap in red arrows on high!
Winds shriek to mad winds, and the hoarse thunder answer
As it ploughs its dread path through the shuddering sky!
There are hisses of serpents, and howlings of demons,
And moanings of anguish by land and by sea,
But, clearer than angel tones, high o'er the tumult,
Rings out the glad utterance--"they shall be free!"
And lo! dimly seen, on the crest of the billow
Lashed white by the storm, undismayed and serene,
Moves that form that once bent o'er the sufferer's pillow,
And touched the dim eyes till strange glories were seen
And sweetly, to ears that will patiently listen,
That voice which spake "peace" to turbulent sea,
Now speaks through the roar of the tempest uprisen,
In tones unmistakable,--"THEY SHALL BE FREE!"
- Mrs. J. C. Yule