Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
Anti-Slavery Poems
After the War
Howard at Atlanta
RIGHT in the track where Sherman
  Ploughed his red furrow,
Out of the narrow cabin,
  Up from the cellar’s burrow,
Gathered the little black people,        5
  With freedom newly dowered,
Where, beside their Northern teacher,
  Stood the soldier, Howard.
He listened and heard the children
  Of the poor and long-enslavëd        10
Reading the words of Jesus,
  Singing the songs of David.
Behold!—the dumb lips speaking,
  The blind eyes seeing!
Bones of the Prophet’s vision        15
  Warmed into being!
Transformed he saw them passing
  Their new life’s portal!
Almost it seemed the mortal
  Put on the immortal.        20
No more with the beasts of burden,
  No more with stone and clod,
But crowned with glory and honor
  In the image of God!
There was the human chattel        25
  Its manhood taking;
There, in each dark, bronze statue,
  A soul was waking!
The man of many battles,
  With tears his eyelids pressing,        30
Stretched over those dusky foreheads
  His one-armed blessing.
And he said: “Who hears can never
  Fear for or doubt you;
What shall I tell the children        35
  Up North about you?”
Then ran round a whisper, a murmur,
  Some answer devising;
And a little boy stood up: “General,
  Tell ’em we ’re rising!”        40
O black boy of Atlanta!
  But half was spoken:
The slave’s chain and the master’s
  Alike are broken.
The one curse of the races        45
  Held both in tether:
They are rising,—all are rising,
  The black and white together!
O brave men and fair women!
  Ill comes of hate and scorning:        50
Shall the dark faces only
  Be turned to morning?—
Make Time your sole avenger,
  All-healing, all-redressing;
Meet Fate half-way, and make it        55
  A joy and blessing!


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