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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
America: Vols. XXV–XXIX. 1876–79.

Southern States: Charlestown, Va.

Brown of Ossawatomie

By John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)

JOHN BROWN of Ossawatomie spake on his dying day:

“I will not have, to shrive my soul, a priest in Slavery’s pay.

But let some poor slave-mother whom I have striven to free,

With her children, from the gallows-stair put up a prayer for me!”

John Brown of Ossawatomie, they led him out to die;

And lo! a poor slave-mother with her little child pressed nigh.

Then the bold, blue eye grew tender, and the old harsh face grew mild,

As he stooped between the jeering ranks and kissed the negro’s child!

The shadows of his stormy life that moment fell apart;

And they who blamed the bloody hand forgave the loving heart.

That kiss from all its guilty means redeemed the good intent,

And round the grisly fighter’s hair the martyr’s aureole bent!

Perish with him the folly that seeks through evil good!

Long live the generous purpose unstained with human blood!

Not the raid of midnight terror, but the thought which underlies;

Not the borderer’s pride of daring, but the Christian’s sacrifice.

Nevermore may yon Blue Ridges the Northern rifle hear,

Nor see the light of blazing homes flash on the negro’s spear.

But let the free-winged angel Truth their guarded passes scale,

To teach that right is more than might, and justice more than mail!

So vainly shall Virginia set her battle in array;

In vain her trampling squadrons knead the winter snow with clay.

She may strike the pouncing eagle, but she dares not harm the dove;

And every gate she bars to Hate shall open wide to Love!