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Alfred H. Miles, ed. The Sacred Poets of the Nineteenth Century. 1907.

By The West Indies (1809). II. The Slaver (“Lives there a savage”)

James Montgomery (1771–1854)

(From Part III)

LIVES there a savage ruder than the slave?

—Cruel as death, insatiate as the grave,

False as the winds that round his vessel blow,

Remorseless as the gulf that yawns below,

Is he who toils upon the wafting flood,

A Christian broker in the trade of blood;

Boisterous in speech, in action prompt and bold,

He buys, he sells,—he steals, he kills, for gold.

At noon, when sky and ocean, calm and clear,

Bend round his bark one blue unbroken sphere;

When dancing dolphins sparkle through the brine,

And sunbeam circles o’er the water shine;

He sees no beauty in the heaven serene,

No soul-enchanting sweetness in the scene,

But, darkly scowling at the glorious day,

Curses the winds that loiter on their way.

When swoll’n with hurricanes the billows rise,

To meet the lightning midway from the skies;

When from the unburthen’d hold his shrieking slaves

Are cast, at midnight, to the hungry waves;

Not for his victims strangled in the deeps,

Not for his crimes the harden’d pirate weeps,

But grimly smiling, when the storm is o’er,

Counts his sure gains, and hurries back for more.


When the loud trumpet of eternal doom

Shall break the mortal bondage of the tomb;

When with a mother’s pangs the expiring earth

Shall bring her children forth to second birth:

Then shall the sea’s mysterious caverns, spread

With human relics, render up their dead:

Though warm with life the heaving surges glow,

Where’er the winds of heaven were wont to blow,

In sevenfold phalanx shall the rallying hosts

Of ocean slumberers join their wandering ghosts,

Along the melancholy gulph, that roars

From Guinea to the Charibbean shores.

Myriads of slaves, that perish’d on the way,

From age to age the shark’s appointed prey,

By livid plagues, by lingering tortures slain,

Or headlong plunged alive into the main,

Shall rise in judgment from their gloomy beds,

And call down vengeance on their murderers’ heads.