Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882). Complete Poetical Works. 1893.

Poems on Slavery

The Quadroon Girl

THE SLAVER in the broad lagoon

Lay moored with idle sail;

He waited for the rising moon,

And for the evening gale.

Under the shore his boat was tied,

And all her listless crew

Watched the gray alligator slide

Into the still bayou.

Odors of orange-flowers, and spice,

Reached them from time to time,

Like airs that breathe from Paradise

Upon a world of crime.

The Planter, under his roof of thatch,

Smoked thoughtfully and slow;

The Slaver’s thumb was on the latch,

He seemed in haste to go.

He said, “My ship at anchor rides

In yonder broad lagoon;

I only wait the evening tides,

And the rising of the moon.”

Before them, with her face upraised,

In timid attitude,

Like one half curious, half amazed,

A Quadroon maiden stood.

Her eyes were large, and full of light,

Her arms and neck were bare;

No garment she wore save a kirtle bright,

And her own long, raven hair.

And on her lips there played a smile

As holy, meek, and faint,

As lights in some cathedral aisle

The features of a saint.

“The soil is barren,—the farm is old,”

The thoughtful planter said;

Then looked upon the Slaver’s gold,

And then upon the maid.

His heart within him was at strife

With such accursèd gains:

For he knew whose passions gave her life,

Whose blood ran in her veins.

But the voice of nature was too weak;

He took the glittering gold!

Then pale as death grew the maiden’s cheek,

Her hands as icy cold.

The Slaver led her from the door,

He led her by the hand,

To be his slave and paramour

In a strange and distant land!