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

Poems on Slavery

The Witnesses

IN Ocean’s wide domains,

Half buried in the sands,

Lie skeletons in chains,

With shackled feet and hands.

Beyond the fall of dews,

Deeper than plummet lies,

Float ships, with all their crews,

No more to sink nor rise.

There the black Slave-ship swims,

Freighted with human forms,

Whose fettered, fleshless limbs

Are not the sport of storms.

These are the bones of Slaves;

They gleam from the abyss;

They cry, from yawning waves,

“We are the Witnesses!”

Within Earth’s wide domains

Are markets for men’s lives;

Their necks are galled with chains,

Their wrists are cramped with gyves.

Dead bodies, that the kite

In deserts makes its prey;

Murders, that with affright

Scare school-boys from their play!

All evil thoughts and deeds;

Anger, and lust, and pride;

The foulest, rankest weeds,

That choke Life’s groaning tide!

These are the woes of Slaves;

They glare from the abyss;

They cry, from unknown graves,

“We are the Witnesses!”