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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

The Fugitive Slave’s Apostrophe to the North Star

By John Pierpont (1785–1866)

[From Airs of Palestine, and Other Poems. 1840.—Poems. 1854.]

STAR of the North! though night winds drift

The fleecy drapery of the sky

Between thy lamp and me, I lift,

Yea, lift with hope, my sleepless eye

To the blue heights wherein thou dwellest,

And of a land of freedom tellest.

Star of the North! while blazing day

Pours round me its full tide of light,

And hides thy pale but faithful ray,

I, too, lie hid, and long for night:

For night;—I dare not walk at noon,

Nor dare I trust the faithless moon,—

Nor faithless man, whose burning lust

For gold hath riveted my chain;

Nor other leader can I trust,

But thee, of even the starry train;

For, all the host around thee burning,

Like faithless man, keep turning, turning.

I may not follow where they go:

Star of the North, I look to thee

While on I press; for well I know

Thy light and truth shall set me free;—

Thy light, that no poor slave deceiveth;

Thy truth, that all my soul believeth.

They of the East beheld the star

That over Bethlehem’s manger glowed;

With joy they hailed it from afar,

And followed where it marked the road,

Till, where its rays directly fell,

They found the Hope of Israel.

Wise were the men who followed thus

The star that sets man free from sin!

Star of the North! thou art to us,—

Who’re slaves because we wear a skin

Dark as is night’s protecting wing,—

Thou art to us a holy thing.

And we are wise to follow thee!

I trust thy steady light alone:

Star of the North! thou seem’st to me

To burn before the Almighty’s throne,

To guide me, through these forests dim

And vast, to liberty and HIM.

Thy beam is on the glassy breast

Of the still spring, upon whose brink

I lay my weary limbs to rest,

And bow my parching lips to drink.

Guide of the friendless negro’s way,

I bless thee for this quiet ray!

In the dark top of southern pines

I nestled, when the driver’s horn

Called to the field, in lengthening lines,

My fellows at the break of morn.

And there I lay, till thy sweet face

Looked in upon “my hiding-place.”

The tangled cane-brake,—where I crept

For shelter from the heat of noon,

And where, while others toiled, I slept

Till wakened by the rising moon,—

As its stalks felt the night wind free,

Gave me to catch a glimpse of thee.

Star of the North! in bright array

The constellations round thee sweep,

Each holding on its nightly way,

Rising, or sinking in the deep,

And, as it hangs in mid-heaven flaming,

The homage of some nation claiming.

This nation to the Eagle cowers;

Fit ensign! she’s a bird of spoil;

Like worships like! for each devours

The earnings of another’s toil.

I’ve felt her talons and her beak,

And now the gentler Lion seek.

The Lion, at the Virgin’s feet

Crouches, and lays his mighty paw

Into her lap!—an emblem meet

Of England’s Queen and English law:—

Queen, that hath made her Islands free!

Law, that holds out its shield to me!

Star of the North! upon that shield

Thou shinest!—O, forever shine!

The negro from the cotton-field,

Shall then beneath its orb recline,

And feed the Lion couched before it,

Nor heed the Eagle screaming o’er it!