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The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point

1 I. I stand on the mark beside the shore Leave a comment on line 1 0
2       Of the first white pilgrim’s bended knee, Leave a comment on line 2 0
3     Where exile turned to ancestor, Leave a comment on line 3 0
4       And God was thanked for liberty. Leave a comment on line 4 0
5     I have run through the night, my skin is as dark, Leave a comment on line 5 0
6     I bend my knee down on this mark: Leave a comment on line 6 0
7       I look on the sky and the sea. Leave a comment on line 7 0

8 II. O pilgrim-souls, I speak to you! Leave a comment on line 8 0
9       I see you come proud and slow Leave a comment on line 9 0
10     From the land of the spirits pale as dew Leave a comment on line 10 0
11       And round me and round me ye go. Leave a comment on line 11 0
12     O pilgrims, I have gasped and run Leave a comment on line 12 0
13     All night long from the whips of one Leave a comment on line 13 0
14       Who in your names works sin and woe! Leave a comment on line 14 0

15 III. And thus I thought that I would come Leave a comment on line 15 0
16       And kneel here where ye knelt before, Leave a comment on line 16 0
17     And feel your souls around me hum Leave a comment on line 17 0
18       In undertone to the ocean’s roar; Leave a comment on line 18 0
19     And lift my black face, my black hand, Leave a comment on line 19 0
20     Here, in your names, to curse this land Leave a comment on line 20 0
21       Ye blessed in freedom’s, evermore. Leave a comment on line 21 0

22 IV. I am black, I am black, Leave a comment on line 22 0
23       And yet God made me, they say: Leave a comment on line 23 0
24     But if He did so, smiling back Leave a comment on line 24 0
25       He must have cast his work away Leave a comment on line 25 0
26     Under the feet of his white creatures, Leave a comment on line 26 0
27     With a look of scorn, that the dusky features Leave a comment on line 27 0
28       Might be trodden again to clay. Leave a comment on line 28 0

29 V. And yet He has made dark things Leave a comment on line 29 0
30       To be glad and merry as light: Leave a comment on line 30 0
31     There’s a little dark bird sits and sings, Leave a comment on line 31 0
32       There’s a dark stream ripples out of sight, Leave a comment on line 32 0
33     And the dark frogs chant in the safe morass, Leave a comment on line 33 0
34     And the sweetest stars are made to pass Leave a comment on line 34 0
35       O’er the face of the darkest night. Leave a comment on line 35 0

36 VI. But we who are dark, we are dark! Leave a comment on line 36 0
37       Ah God, we have no stars! Leave a comment on line 37 0
38     About our souls in care and cark Leave a comment on line 38 0
39       Our blackness shuts like prison-bars: Leave a comment on line 39 0
40     The poor souls crouch so far behind Leave a comment on line 40 0
41     That never a comfort can they find Leave a comment on line 41 0
42       By reaching through the prison-bars. Leave a comment on line 42 0

43 VII. Indeed we live beneath the sky, Leave a comment on line 43 0
44       That great smooth Hand of God stretched out Leave a comment on line 44 0
45     On all His children fatherly, Leave a comment on line 45 0
46       To save them from the dread and doubt Leave a comment on line 46 0
47     Which would be if, from this low place, Leave a comment on line 47 0
48     All opened straight up to His face Leave a comment on line 48 0
49       Into the grand eternity. Leave a comment on line 49 0

50 VIII. And still God’s sunshine and His frost, Leave a comment on line 50 0
51       They make us hot, they make us cold, Leave a comment on line 51 0
52     As if we were not black and lost; Leave a comment on line 52 0
53       And the beasts and birds, in wood and fold, Leave a comment on line 53 0
54     Do fear and take us for very men: Leave a comment on line 54 0
55     Could the whip-poor-will or the cat of the glen Leave a comment on line 55 0
56       Look into my eyes and be bold? Leave a comment on line 56 0

57 IX. I am black, I am black! Leave a comment on line 57 0
58       But, once, I laughed in girlish glee, Leave a comment on line 58 0
59     For one of my colour stood in the track Leave a comment on line 59 0
60       Where the drivers drove, and looked at me, Leave a comment on line 60 0
61     And tender and full was the look he gave — Leave a comment on line 61 0
62     Could a slave look so at another slave? — Leave a comment on line 62 0
63       I look at the sky and the sea. Leave a comment on line 63 0

64 X. And from that hour our spirits grew Leave a comment on line 64 0
65       As free as if unsold, unbought: Leave a comment on line 65 0
66     Oh, strong enough, since we were two, Leave a comment on line 66 0
67       To conquer the world, we thought. Leave a comment on line 67 0
68     The drivers drove us day by day; Leave a comment on line 68 0
69     We did not mind, we went one way, Leave a comment on line 69 0
70       And no better a freedom sought. Leave a comment on line 70 0

71 XI. In the sunny ground between the canes, Leave a comment on line 71 0
72       He said “I love you” as he passed; Leave a comment on line 72 0
73     When the shingle-roof rang sharp with the rains, Leave a comment on line 73 0
74       I heard how he vowed it fast: Leave a comment on line 74 0
75     While others shook he smiled in the hut, Leave a comment on line 75 0
76     As he carved me a bowl of the cocoa-nut Leave a comment on line 76 0
77       Through the roar of the hurricanes. Leave a comment on line 77 0

78 XII. I sang his name instead of a song, Leave a comment on line 78 0
79       Over and over I sang his name, Leave a comment on line 79 0
80     Upward and downward I drew it along Leave a comment on line 80 0
81       My various notes, — the same, the same! Leave a comment on line 81 0
82     I sang it low, that the slave-girls near Leave a comment on line 82 0
83     Might never guess, from aught they could hear, Leave a comment on line 83 0
84       It was only a name — a name. Leave a comment on line 84 0

85 XIII. I look on the sky and the sea. Leave a comment on line 85 0
86       We were two to love, and two to pray: Leave a comment on line 86 0
87     Yes, two, O God, who cried to Thee, Leave a comment on line 87 0
88       Though nothing didst Thou say! Leave a comment on line 88 0
89     Coldly Thou sat’st behind the sun: Leave a comment on line 89 0
90     And now I cry who am but one, Leave a comment on line 90 0
91       Thou wilt not speak to-day. Leave a comment on line 91 0

92 XIV. We were black, we were black, Leave a comment on line 92 0
93       We had no claim to love and bliss, Leave a comment on line 93 0
94     What marvel if each went to wrack? Leave a comment on line 94 0
95       They wrung my cold hands out of his, Leave a comment on line 95 0
96     They dragged him — where? I crawled to touch Leave a comment on line 96 0
97     His blood’s mark in the dust … not much, Leave a comment on line 97 0
98       Ye pilgrim-souls, though plain as this! Leave a comment on line 98 0

99 XV. Wrong, followed by a deeper wrong! Leave a comment on line 99 0
100       Mere grief’s too good for such as I: Leave a comment on line 100 0
101     So the white men brought the shame ere long Leave a comment on line 101 0
102       To strangle the sob of my agony. Leave a comment on line 102 0
103     They would not leave me for my dull Leave a comment on line 103 0
104     Wet eyes! — it was too merciful Leave a comment on line 104 0
105       To let me weep pure tears and die. Leave a comment on line 105 0

106 XVI. I am black, I am black! Leave a comment on line 106 0
107       I wore a child upon my breast, Leave a comment on line 107 0
108     An amulet that hung too slack, Leave a comment on line 108 0
109       And, in my unrest, could not rest: Leave a comment on line 109 0
110     Thus we went moaning, child and mother, Leave a comment on line 110 0
111     One to another, one to another, Leave a comment on line 111 0
112       Until all ended for the best. Leave a comment on line 112 0

113 XVII. For hark! I will tell you low, low, Leave a comment on line 113 0
114       I am black, you see, — Leave a comment on line 114 0
115     And the babe who lay on my bosom so, Leave a comment on line 115 0
116       Was far too white, too white for me; Leave a comment on line 116 0
117     As white as the ladies who scorned to pray Leave a comment on line 117 0
118     Beside me at church but yesterday, Leave a comment on line 118 0
119       Though my tears had washed a place for my knee. Leave a comment on line 119 0

120 XVIII. My own, own child! I could not bear Leave a comment on line 120 0
121       To look in his face, it was so white; Leave a comment on line 121 0
122     I covered him up with a kerchief there, Leave a comment on line 122 0
123       I covered his face in close and tight: Leave a comment on line 123 0
124     And he moaned and struggled, as well might be, Leave a comment on line 124 0
125     For the white child wanted his liberty — Leave a comment on line 125 0
126       Ha, ha! he wanted the master-right. Leave a comment on line 126 0

127 XIX. He moaned and beat with his head and feet, Leave a comment on line 127 0
128       His little feet that never grew; Leave a comment on line 128 0
129     He struck them out, as it was meet, Leave a comment on line 129 0
130       Against my heart to break it through: Leave a comment on line 130 0
131     I might have sung and made him mild, Leave a comment on line 131 0
132     But I dared not sing to the white-faced child Leave a comment on line 132 0
133       The only song I knew. Leave a comment on line 133 0

134 XX. I pulled the kerchief very close: Leave a comment on line 134 0
135       He could not see the sun, I swear, Leave a comment on line 135 0
136     More, then, alive, than now he does Leave a comment on line 136 0
137       From between the roots of the mango … where? Leave a comment on line 137 0
138     I know where. Close! A child and mother Leave a comment on line 138 0
139     Do wrong to look at one another Leave a comment on line 139 0
140       When one is black and one is fair. Leave a comment on line 140 0

141 XXI. Why, in that single glance I had Leave a comment on line 141 0
142       Of my child’s face, … I tell you all, Leave a comment on line 142 0
143     I saw a look that made me mad! Leave a comment on line 143 0
144       The master’s look, that used to fall Leave a comment on line 144 0
145     On my soul like his lash … or worse! Leave a comment on line 145 0
146     And so, to save it from my curse, Leave a comment on line 146 0
147       I twisted it round in my shawl. Leave a comment on line 147 0

148 XXII. And he moaned and trembled from foot to head, Leave a comment on line 148 0
149       He shivered from head to foot; Leave a comment on line 149 0
150     Till after a time, he lay instead Leave a comment on line 150 0
151       Too suddenly still and mute. Leave a comment on line 151 0
152     I felt, beside, a stiffening cold: Leave a comment on line 152 0
153     I dared to lift up just a fold, Leave a comment on line 153 0
154       As in lifting a leaf of the mango-fruit. Leave a comment on line 154 0

155 XXIII. But my fruit … ha, ha! — there, had been Leave a comment on line 155 0
156       (I laugh to think on ‘t at this hour!) Leave a comment on line 156 0
157     Your fine white angels (who have seen Leave a comment on line 157 0
158       Nearest the secret of God’s power) Leave a comment on line 158 0
159     And plucked my fruit to make them wine, Leave a comment on line 159 0
160     And sucked the soul of that child of mine Leave a comment on line 160 0
161       As the humming-bird sucks the soul of the flower. Leave a comment on line 161 0

162 XXIV. Ha, ha, the trick of the angels white! Leave a comment on line 162 0
163       They freed the white child’s spirit so. Leave a comment on line 163 0
164     I said not a word, but day and night Leave a comment on line 164 0
165       I carried the body to and fro, Leave a comment on line 165 0
166     And it lay on my heart like a stone, as chill. Leave a comment on line 166 0
167      — The sun may shine out as much as he will: Leave a comment on line 167 0
168       I am cold, though it happened a month ago. Leave a comment on line 168 0

169 XXV. From the white man’s house, and the black man’s hut, Leave a comment on line 169 0
170       I carried the little body on; Leave a comment on line 170 0
171     The forest’s arms did round us shut, Leave a comment on line 171 0
172       And silence through the trees did run: Leave a comment on line 172 0
173     They asked no question as I went, Leave a comment on line 173 0
174     They stood too high for astonishment, Leave a comment on line 174 0
175       They could see God sit on his throne. Leave a comment on line 175 0

176 XXVI. My little body, kerchiefed fast, Leave a comment on line 176 0
177       I bore it on through the forest, on; Leave a comment on line 177 0
178     And when I felt it was tired at last, Leave a comment on line 178 0
179       I scooped a hole beneath the moon: Leave a comment on line 179 0
180     Through the forest-tops the angels far, Leave a comment on line 180 0
181     With a white sharp finger from every star, Leave a comment on line 181 0
182       Did point and mock at what was done. Leave a comment on line 182 0

183 XXVII. Yet when it was all done aught, — Leave a comment on line 183 0
184       Earth, ‘twixt me and my baby, strewed, — Leave a comment on line 184 0
185     All, changed to black earth, — nothing white, — Leave a comment on line 185 0
186       A dark child in the dark! — ensued Leave a comment on line 186 0
187     Some comfort, and my heart grew young; Leave a comment on line 187 0
188     I sate down smiling there and sung Leave a comment on line 188 0
189       The song I learnt in my maidenhood. Leave a comment on line 189 0

190 XXVIII. And thus we two were reconciled, Leave a comment on line 190 0
191       The white child and black mother, thus; Leave a comment on line 191 0
192     For as I sang it soft and wild, Leave a comment on line 192 0
193       The same song, more melodious, Leave a comment on line 193 0
194     Rose from the grave whereon I sate Leave a comment on line 194 0
195     It was the dead child singing that, Leave a comment on line 195 0
196       To join the souls of both of us. Leave a comment on line 196 0

197 XXIX. I look on the sea and the sky. Leave a comment on line 197 0
198       Where the pilgrims’ ships first anchored lay Leave a comment on line 198 0
199     The free sun rideth gloriously, Leave a comment on line 199 0
200       But the pilgrim-ghosts have slid away Leave a comment on line 200 0
201     Through the earliest streaks of the morn: Leave a comment on line 201 0
202     My face is black, but it glares with a scorn Leave a comment on line 202 0
203       Which they dare not meet by day. Leave a comment on line 203 0

204 XXX. Ha! — in their stead, their hunter sons! Leave a comment on line 204 0
205       Ha, ha! they are on me — they hunt in a ring! Leave a comment on line 205 0
206     Keep off! I brave you all at once, Leave a comment on line 206 0
207       I throw off your eyes like snakes that sting! Leave a comment on line 207 0
208     You have killed the black eagle at nest, I think: Leave a comment on line 208 0
209     Did you ever stand still in your triumph, and shrink Leave a comment on line 209 0
210       From the stroke of her wounded wing? Leave a comment on line 210 0

211 XXXI. (Man, drop that stone you dared to lift! — ) Leave a comment on line 211 0
212       I wish you who stand there five abreast. Leave a comment on line 212 0
213     Each, for his own wife’s joy and gift, Leave a comment on line 213 0
214       A little corpse as safely at rest Leave a comment on line 214 0
215     As mine in the mangoes! Yes, but she Leave a comment on line 215 0
216     May keep live babies on her knee, Leave a comment on line 216 0
217       And sing the song she likes the best. Leave a comment on line 217 0

218 XXXII. I am not mad: I am black. Leave a comment on line 218 0
219       I see you staring in my face — Leave a comment on line 219 0
220     I know you staring, shrinking back, Leave a comment on line 220 0
221       Ye are born of the Washington-race, Leave a comment on line 221 0
222     And this land is the free America, Leave a comment on line 222 0
223     And this mark on my wrist — (I prove what I say) Leave a comment on line 223 0
224       Ropes tied me up here to the flogging-place. Leave a comment on line 224 0

225 XXXIII. You think I shrieked then? Not a sound! Leave a comment on line 225 0
226       I hung, as a gourd hangs in the sun; Leave a comment on line 226 0
227     I only cursed them all around Leave a comment on line 227 0
228       As softly as I might have done Leave a comment on line 228 0
229     My very own child: from these sands Leave a comment on line 229 0
230     Up to the mountains, lift your hands, Leave a comment on line 230 0
231       O slaves, and end what I begun! Leave a comment on line 231 0

232 XXXIV. Whips, curses; these must answer those! Leave a comment on line 232 0
233       For in this UNION you have set Leave a comment on line 233 0
234     Two kinds of men in adverse rows, Leave a comment on line 234 0
235       Each loathing each; and all forget Leave a comment on line 235 0
236     The seven wounds in Christ’s body fair, Leave a comment on line 236 0
237     While HE sees gaping everywhere Leave a comment on line 237 0
238       Our countless wounds that pay no debt. Leave a comment on line 238 0

239 XXXV. Our wounds are different. Your white men Leave a comment on line 239 0
240       Are, after all, not gods indeed, Leave a comment on line 240 0
241     Nor able to make Christs again Leave a comment on line 241 0
242       Do good with bleeding. We who bleed Leave a comment on line 242 0
243     (Stand off!) we help not in our loss! Leave a comment on line 243 0
244     We are too heavy for our cross, Leave a comment on line 244 0
245       And fall and crush you and your seed. Leave a comment on line 245 0

246 XXXVI. I fall, I swoon! I look at the sky. Leave a comment on line 246 0
247       The clouds are breaking on my brain Leave a comment on line 247 0
248     I am floated along, as if I should die Leave a comment on line 248 0
249       Of liberty’s exquisite pain. Leave a comment on line 249 0
250     In the name of the white child waiting for me Leave a comment on line 250 0
251     In the death-dark where we may kiss and agree, Leave a comment on line 251 0
252     White men, I leave you all curse-free Leave a comment on line 252 0
253       In my broken heart’s disdain! Leave a comment on line 253 0

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Source: https://marginalia.sunygeneseoenglish.org/short-poems/the-runaway-slave-at-pilgrims-point/

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