By Sarah Louisa Forten Purvis.


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The Grave of the Slave

The cold storms of winter shall chill him no more,
His woes and his sorrows, his pains are all o’er;
The sod of the valley now covers his form,
He is safe in his last home, he feels not the storm.

The poor slave is laid all unheeded and lone,
Where the rich and the poor find a permanent home;
Not his master can rouse him with voice of command;
He knows not, he hears not, his cruel demand.

Not a tear, not a sigh to embalm his cold tomb,
No friend to lament him, no child to bemoan;
Not a stone marks the place, where he peacefully lies,
The earth for his pillow, his curtain the skies.

Poor slave! shall we sorrow that death was thy friend,
The last, and the kindest, that heaven could send?
The grave to the weary is welcomed and blest;
And death, to the captive, is freedom and rest.

The Slave Girl’s Address to Her Mother

Oh! mother, weep not, though our lot be hard,
And we are helpless⁠—God will be our guard:
For He our heavenly guardian doth not sleep;
He watches o’er us⁠—mother, do not weep.

And grieve not for that dear loved home no more;
Our sufferings and our wrongs, ah! why deplore?
For though we feel the stern oppressor’s rod,
Yet he must yield, as well as we, to God.

Torn from our home, our kindred and our friends,
And in a stranger’s land our days to end,
No heart feels for the poor, the bleeding slave;
No arm is stretched to rescue, and to save.

Oh! ye who boast of Freedom’s sacred claims,
Do ye not blush to see our galling chains;
To hear that sounding word⁠—“that all are free”⁠—
When thousands groan in hopeless slavery?

Upon your land it is a cruel stain⁠—
Freedom, what art thou?⁠—nothing but a name.
No more, no more! Oh God, this cannot be;
Thou to thy children’s aid wilt surely flee:
In thine own time deliverance thou wilt give,
And bid us rise from slavery, and live.

Past Joys

The friends we’ve loved, the home we’ve left,
Will ofttimes claim a tear;
And though of these we are bereft,
Still memory makes them dear.

And deep we feel each trifling ill,
Each sorrow of the soul:
But care we for the painful thrill,
That o’er some breasts doth roll?

Poor Afric’s son⁠—ah! he must feel
How hard it is to part
From all he lov’d⁠—from all that life
Had twined around his heart.

His is a sorrow deeper far,
Than all that we can show;
His is a lasting grief, o’er which
No healing balm can flow.

The mother, wife, or child he loved,
He ne’er shall see again;
To him they’re lost⁠—ay, dead indeed:
What for him doth remain?

A feeling of deep wretchedness
Comes o’er his troubled soul;
The thoughts of home⁠—of other days,
In painful visions roll.

His home⁠—ah! that lov’d name recalls
All that was dear to him;
But these were scenes he’ll know no more⁠—
He only feels they’ve been.


This sacred right none are denied,
Which makes the soul to Christ allied;
Man bends the heart and bows the knee,
And knows in prayer that he is free.

Yes, free to ask of Him, whate’er
The fainting heart alone can cheer;
To worship at that holy shrine,
Where beams thy Spirit, Lord, divine.

And Afric’s children they are free,
To breathe their vows, their prayers to Thee;
With thought of future joy and gain,
The slave forgets his grief and pain;

Forgets awhile his slavish fear;
Forgets⁠—that fetters bind him here;
And in that sweet communion rest
His hopes, his fears⁠—for he is blest.

The Slave

Our sires who once in freedom’s cause,
Their boasted freedom sought and won,
For deeds of glory gained applause,
When patriot feelings led them on.
And can their sons now speak with pride,
Of rights for which they bled and died⁠—
Or while the captive is oppressed,
Think of the wrongs they once redress’d?
Oh, surely they have quite forgot,
That bondage once had been their lot;
The sweets of freedom now they know,
They care not for the captive’s woe.
The poor wronged slave can bear no part
In feelings dearest to his heart;
He cannot speak on freedom’s side,
Nor dare he own a freeman’s pride,
His soul is dark, ay dark as night,
O’er which is shed no gleam of light;
A cloud of error, doubt and fear,
O’er him is ever hovering near;
And sad and hard his lot must be,
To know that he can ne’er be free;
To feel that his is doomed to be
A life, and death, of slavery.
But will not justice soon arise,
And plead the cause of the despised?
For oh! my country, must it be,
That they still find a foe in thee?

The Farewell

Farewell!⁠—but thou wilt soon forget
The stranger thou hast seen,
And in the gay and busy world,
Forget that I have been.

And thought of me will scarce intrude,
When other forms are nigh;
Who, decked in beauty’s bright array,
Shall pass before thine eye.

Another’s lips will charm thee then,
Another’s voice will praise;
Thou wilt forget we e’er have met
In past and happy days.

And thou wilt scarcely deign to think
Of friendship’s early dream,
Or cast one glance, in after years,
On this poor offering.

Farewell⁠—farewell!⁠—’twere better far
That we had never met,
Than meeting one brief moment here,
To part⁠—and then forget.

A Mother’s Grief

There lies the sole remaining hope
Of all my coming years;
The treasure of my widow’d heart,
The tie that bound me here.

He was the last⁠—the loveliest,
And can you blame my grief,
Or chide the falling tears which give
This bursting heart relief?

There’s nothing left for me to love
This earth holds nothing dear,
Since he, my sweet⁠—my gentle one,
Is now no longer here.

My poor fond heart had counted on
Such bliss, in future hours!
And I had dreamed his coming days
Here strewed with fairy flowers!

Perchance ’twas wrong to love him thus,
And I have been chastised⁠—
For He who gave him to my trust,
Hath called him to the skies.

He was too dear⁠—oh! far too dear,
The idol of my soul⁠—
Then blame me not⁠—this burst of grief
I cannot now control.

To the Hibernia

O, speed thee! speed thee! gallant bark,
Across the bounding wave;
Thou bearest to old Britain’s shores,
The Champion of the slave.

Propitious breezes waft thee on,
Safe o’er Atlantic’s sea;
For many a heart with fervor sends
A benizon to thee.

And he who fears not to commit
His body to thy care,
Fears not to brave the winds and waves,
Knowing that God is there.

He goes to raise the standard high,
And freedom’s flag unfurl,
And to proclaim the rallying cry
Of freedom to the world.

Then swift and steady be thy flight,
Across the briny wave;
And safely bear, O noble bark,
The Champion of the slave.


To see our pathway strewn with flowers,
While ’neath their sunny hue,
We fear that many a rankling care
Lies hidden from our view;

To cull the flowers, to love their bloom,
A season to enjoy;
To mark the blast that rudely comes
Their beauties to destroy:⁠—

Such is our life. How full of change!
How much of hope or fears!
Scarce on the cheek is seen the smile,
Ere it is lost in tears.

To see the cherished things of earth,
On which we placed the heart,
Fade, one by one, before our eyes,
And silently depart;⁠—

This is our life⁠—and who can tell
What future hours may bring?
What hopes will cheer the panting heart,
While close to earth we cling?

The morning of our days are bright,
And could the vision last⁠—
But ’tis forbid⁠—oh! changeful life,
How soon the dream is past!

The Separation

“Friend after friend departs.”

And they are gone⁠—that little band
Of friends⁠—the firm and true!
We feel the void which absence makes,
With joy, and sorrow too.

We joy that duties call them forth,
Clad in an armor bright;
With shield of faith, their surest guard,
And sword of truth and light.

We bid God speed their parting steps,
And bless the righteous cause:⁠—
Where’er the path of duty points,
May duty never pause.

And yet, we sorrow most of all,
And from the heart deplore,
That we perchance on earth again
May see these friends no more.

Their works shall live when other deeds,
Which ask a nation’s fame,
Have sank beneath Time’s whelming wave,
Unhonored and unnamed.

My Country

Oh! speak not of heathenish darkness again,
Nor tell me of lands held in error’s dread chain!
Where⁠—where is the nation so erring as we,
Who claim the proud name of the “home of the free”!
What a throb do the lov’d ties of country awake
In the heart of the exile!⁠—for time cannot break
The sweet vision of home, and all he loved well,
Which has thrown o’er his pathway a magical spell.
Can the name of “my country”⁠—the deeds which we sing⁠—
Be honored⁠—revered⁠—’midst pollution and sin?
Can the names of our fathers who perished in fight,
Be hallowed in story, midst slavery’s blight?
When America’s standard is floating so fair,
I blush that the impress of falsehood is there;
That oppression and mockery dim the high fame,
That seeks from all nations a patriot’s name.
Speak not of “my country,” unless she shall be,
In truth, the bright home of the “brave and the free!”
Till the dark stain of slavery is washed from her hand,
A tribute of homage she cannot command.

Hours of Childhood

“Blest hours of childhood! then, and then alone,
Dance we the revels gay round pleasure’s throne.”

Dear cherished hours, how much ye tell
Of all we’ve known, and loved so well!
On memory’s page there is a leaf,
Bearing a trace of pleasures brief;
Of schoolday mirth, of pastime gay,
With which we whiled those hours away.

And those we loved in early youth,
With all the fervency of truth⁠—
They seem to live, and pass us by,
With laughing lip and beaming eye.
Each favorite spot, each winding stream,
Where we have watched the bright sunbeam,
Appears at memory’s magic spell⁠—
And joys, to which we bid farewell.

When grief and bliss are in the train
Of hours we ne’er shall live again;
When sorrow clouds our after years,
And fills our cup with bitter tears;
’Tis then we wait a sigh to ye
O by-gone days of memory.

An Appeal to Woman

Oh, woman, woman, in thy brightest hour
Of conscious worth, of pride, of conscious power,
Oh, nobly dare to act a Christian’s part,
That well befits a lovely woman’s heart!
Dare to be good, as thou canst dare be great;
Despise the taunts of envy, scorn and hate;
Our “skins may differ,” but from thee we claim
A sister’s privilege, in a sister’s name.

We are thy sisters⁠—God has truly said,
That of one blood, the nations he has made.
Oh, Christian woman, in a Christian land,
Canst thou unblushing read this great command?
Suffer the wrongs which wring our inmost heart
To draw one throb of pity on thy part;
Our “skins may differ,” but from thee we claim
A sister’s privilege, in a sister’s name.

Oh, woman!⁠—though upon thy fairer brow
The hues of roses and of lilies glow⁠—
These soon must wither in their kindred earth,
From whence the fair and dark have equal birth.
Let a bright halo o’er thy virtues shed
A lustre, that shall live when thou art dead;
Let coming ages learn to bless thy name
Upon the altar of immortal fame.

The Slave Girl’s Farewell

The incident which suggested the following lines is this:⁠—A young girl was living with her mother in one of the West Indian Islands, quite unconscious of her being a slave. Her master, on leaving the Island for a permanent residence in Louisiana, cruelly separated the girl from her parent forever.

Mother, I leave thee⁠—thou hast been,
Through long, long years of pain,
The only hope my fond heart knew;
Or e’er shall know again.

The sails are set⁠—my master waits
To bear me far from thee;
I linger⁠—can I give thee up,
And cross the fearful sea?

Oh, let me gaze! how bright it seems,
As busy memory flies,
To view those scenes of other days,
Beneath those bright blue skies.

The little hut where I have played
In childhood’s fearless hours⁠—
The murmuring stream⁠—the mossy bank,
Where I have gathered flowers.

I knew not then I was a slave,
Or that another’s will,
Save thine, could bend my spirit’s pride;
Or bid my lips be still.

Who now will soothe me at my toil,
Or bathe my weary brow?
Or shield me when the heavy lash
Is raised to give the blow?

Thy fond arms press me⁠—and I feel
Thy tears upon my cheek;
Tears are the only language now,
A mother’s love can speak.

Think of me, mother, as I bend
My way across the sea;
And midst thy tears, a blessing waft,
To her who prays for thee.

A Prayer

Father, we lift the suppliant eye,
To where thou reigns’t above;
We feel that thou canst not deny
The children of thy love.

Unshaken faith, unwavering trust,
Are all that we can bring;
We are thy children, though in dust,
To thee we dare to cling.

We know that thou wilt not forsake
The poor and trembling slave;
For him the blessed Saviour spake;
And him he came to save.

We feel the chains that bind us all,
And bend us to man’s will;
But can they hold our souls enthrall’d,
Or bid our voice be still?

No:⁠—for thy power is all supreme,
Thy word shall yet stand firm;
And master and the slave shall e’en
To thee for mercy turn.


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was compiled from poems published between 1831 and 1836 by
Sarah Louisa Forten Purvis.

This ebook was transcribed and produced for
Standard Ebooks
Weijia Cheng,
and is based on digital scans from the
Internet Archive.

The cover page is adapted from
Sunday Morning,
a painting completed in 1877 by
Thomas Waterman Wood.
The cover and title pages feature the
League Spartan and Sorts Mill Goudy
typefaces created in 2014 and 2009 by
The League of Moveable Type.

The first edition of this ebook was released on
December 6, 2023, 8:52 p.m.
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May you do good and not evil.
May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others.
May you share freely, never taking more than you give.

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