Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Poems by Elizabeth H. Whittier
Lines written on the departure of Joseph Sturge
After his visit to the abolitionists of the United States.

FAIR islands of the sunny sea! midst all rejoicing things,
No more the wailing of the slave a wild discordance brings;
On the lifted brows of freemen the tropic breezes blow,
The mildew of the bondman’s toil the land no more shall know.
How swells from those green islands, where bird and leaf and flower        5
Are praising in their own sweet way the dawn of freedom’s hour,
The glorious resurrection song from hearts rejoicing poured,
Thanksgiving for the priceless gift,—man’s regal crown restored!
How beautiful through all the green and tranquil summer land,
Uplifted, as by miracle, the solemn churches stand!        10
The grass is trodden from the paths where waiting freemen throng,
Athirst and fainting for the cup of life denied so long.
Oh, blessed were the feet of him whose generous errand here
Was to unloose the captive’s chain and dry the mourner’s tear;
To lift again the fallen ones a brother’s robber hand        15
Had left in pain and wretchedness by the waysides of the land.
The islands of the sea rejoice; the harvest anthems rise;
The sower of the seed must own ’t is marvellous in his eyes;
The old waste places are rebuilt,—the broken walls restored,—
And the wilderness is blooming like the garden of the Lord!        20
Thanksgiving for the holy fruit! should not the laborer rest,
His earnest faith and works of love have been so richly blest?
The pride of all fair England shall her ocean islands be,
And their peasantry with joyful hearts keep ceaseless jubilee.
Rest, never! while his countrymen have trampled hearts to bleed,        25
The stifled murmur of their wrongs his listening ear shall heed,
Where England’s far dependencies her might, not mercy, know,
To all the crushed and suffering there his pitying love shall flow.
The friend of freedom everywhere, how mourns he for our land,
The brand of whose hypocrisy burns on her guilty hand!        30
Her thrift a theft, the robber’s greed and cunning in her eye,
Her glory shame, her flaunting flag on all the winds a lie!
For us with steady strength of heart and zeal forever true,
The champion of the island slave the conflict doth renew,
His labor here hath been to point the Pharisaic eye        35
Away from empty creed and form to where the wounded lie.
How beautiful to us should seem the coming feet of such!
Their garments of self-sacrifice have healing in their touch;
Their gospel mission none may doubt, for they heed the Master’s call,
Who here walked with the multitude, and sat at meat with all!        40

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