Read at his centenary celebration, Cleveland, Ohio.
Ah, dark and grim and direful were those days,
For cursed was our fair land, and torn with cries
And groanings loud and terrible, of man
Oppressed and tortured by his brother man.
The poor, black, naked slave was worked and whipped
And scourged; held, bought and sold as chattel
At the behest of him who styled himself his owner;
His body, mind, yea e'en his very soul
Was held by cruel masters to belong to them!
"How long,' O Lord, how long?" wailed these despairing ones.
As Slavery's cruel bonds grew stronger day by day,
More loathsome and unbearable!
While thus they agonized in prayer, beseeching
God, the father, for relief from this
Distressed and pitiful estate, lo!
Suddenly from out the mists of chaos
And confusion, rose a voice commanding.
Clear, loud-crying, "I am in earnest —
I will not equivocate — I will not
Retreat a single inch — And I will be heard!"
It was the voice of one who hated slavery
As he hated nothing else on earth ;
It was the voice of one, who advocated
Freedom for all men.
It was the voice of Garrison, the brave,
Which sounded clear above the tumult, saying —
"Tyrants as all hist'ry shows, must be destroyed!"
Alarm fell on the sleek, complacent master.
The quiet advocate of abolition likewise started!
Dared he thus boldly agitate for right.
Dared he thus forcibly denounce the wrong?
A nation listened breathless!
Again the voice came ringing, firm, emphatic —
"Are we enough to make a revolution?
No, but we are enough, one to begin;
And once begun it cannot be turned back!
I am for revolution, were I utterly alone;
I am there because I must be there;
I cannot choose but obey the voice of God!''
It was enough ! A Christian nation could not,
Would not listen to the voice of God.
The South cried for his blood;
In Boston he was mobbed; dragged thro' the streets
A rope around his neck, because, forsooth.
He dared to speak for Freedom, Justice, Right.
But brute force cannot thrust Truth down.
Nor mobs with ropes o'ercome it.
Tho' cast in prison
Mocked at, jeered, yet Garrison, the great.
Ceased not to plead the cause of the despised slave.
He aroused a nation from its lethargy!
The North viewed with dismay, the horrid beast
The haughty South was nursing in its breast;
Should this foul thing besmirch Columbia's name?
Should free America, home of the brave.
Become a noissome prison house for slaves!
Not if the trenchant pen or mighty voice
Of Garrison, the noble, could prevent.
By day, by night, in season, out — he passionately
Pleaded for his enslaved countrymen.
So bold a leader could not long lack friends.
Soon honest men became his staunch allies.
The few, became a host! The little stream
Became a flood, resistless, strong, compelling!
The climax came
In a supreme outburst of blood and carnage.
The strife was fierce, the struggle desperate;
But. glory be to God, the chains were snapped.
The slaves were freed, and Garrison, immortalized!
Peace to thy ashes. Honored Dead!
We come today, thy grave to strew with flowers
Of loving words, of honest praise; we come
Ten million of thy countrymen
Thy bier to consecrate with fragrant incense
Welling up from grateful hearts!
Published in Race Rhymes, 1911