African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Frances E.W. Harper, "The Fugitive's Wife" (1854)

It was my sad and weary lot 
    To toil in slavery; 
But one thing cheered my lowly cot — 
     My husband was with me. 
One evening, as our children played 
    Around our cabin door, 
I noticed on his brow a shade 
    I'd never seen before; 
And in his eyes a gloomy night 
    Of anguish and despair ; — 
I gazed upon their troubled light, 
    To read the meaning there. 
He strained me to his heaving heart  — 
    My own beat wild with fear; 
I knew not, but I sadly felt 
    There must be evil near. 
He vainly strove to east aside 
    The tears that fell like rain : — 
Too frail, indeed, is manly pride, 
    To strive with grief and pain. 
Again he clasped me to his breast, 
    And said that we must part: 
I tried to speak — but, oh! it seemed 
    An arrow reached my heart. 
''Bear not!" I cried, "unto your grave, 
    The yoke you've borne from birth; 
No longer live a helpless slave, 
    The meanest thing on earth!" 

Published in Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, 1854

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