Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Africa
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Africa: Vol. XXIV.  1876–79.
 
The Barbary States: Derne
The Storming of Derne
John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892)
 
          The storming of the city of Derne, in 1805, by General Eaton, at the head of nine Americans, forty Greeks, and a motley array of Turks and Arabs, was one of those feats of hardihood and daring which have in all ages attracted the admiration of the multitude. The higher and holier heroism of Christian self-denial and sacrifice, in the humble walks of private duty, is seldom so well appreciated.

NIGHT on the city of the Moor!
On mosque and tomb, and white-walled shore,
On sea-waves, to whose ceaseless knock
The narrow harbor-gates unlock,
On corsair’s galley, carack tall,        5
And plundered Christian caraval!
The sounds of Moslem life are still;
No mule-bell tinkles down the hill;
Stretched in the broad court of the khan,
The dusty Bornou caravan        10
Lies heaped in slumber, beast and man.
The Sheik is dreaming in his tent,
His noisy Arab tongue o’erspent;
The kiosk’s glimmering lights are gone,
The merchant with his wares withdrawn:        15
Rough pillowed on some pirate breast,
The dancing-girl has sunk to rest;
And, save where measured footsteps fall
Along the Bashaw’s guarded wall,
Or where, like some bad dream, the Jew        20
Creeps stealthily, his quarter through,
Or counts with fear his golden heaps,
The City of the Corsair sleeps!
 
But where yon prison long and low
Stands black against the pale star-glow,        25
Chafed by the ceaseless wash of waves,
There watch and pine the Christian slaves;
Rough-bearded men, whose far-off wives
Wear out with grief their lonely lives;
And youth, still flashing from his eyes        30
The clear blue of New England skies,
A treasured lock of whose soft hair
Now wakes some sorrowing mother’s prayer;
Or, worn upon some maiden breast,
Stirs with the loving heart’s unrest!        35
 
A bitter cup each life must drain,
The groaning earth is cursed with pain,
And, like the scroll the angel bore,
The shuddering Hebrew seer before,
O’erwrit alike, without, within,        40
With all the woes which follow sin;
But, bitterest of the ills beneath,
Whose load man totters down to death,
Is that which plucks the regal crown
Of Freedom from his forehead down,        45
And snatches from his powerless hand
The sceptred sign of self-command,
Effacing with the chain and rod
The image and the seal of God;
Till from his nature, day by day,        50
The manly virtues fall away,
And leave him naked, blind and mute,
The godlike merging in the brute!
 
Why mourn the quiet ones who die
Beneath affection’s tender eye,        55
Unto their household and their kin
Like ripened corn-sheaves gathered in?
O weeper, from that tranquil sod,
That holy harvest-home of God,
Turn to the quick and suffering,—shed        60
Thy tears upon the living dead!
Thank God above thy dear ones’ graves,
They sleep with Him,—they are not slaves.
 
What dark mass, down the mountain-sides
Swift-pouring, like a stream divides?        65
A long, loose, straggling caravan,
Camel and horse and arméd man.
The moon’s low crescent, glimmering o’er
Its grave of waters to the shore,
Lights up that mountain cavalcade,        70
And glints from gun and spear and blade
Near and more near!—now o’er them falls
The shadow of the city walls.
Hark to the sentry’s challenge, drowned
In the fierce trumpet’s charging sound!—        75
The rush of men, the musket’s peal,
The short, sharp clang of meeting steel!
 
Vain, Moslem, vain thy lifeblood poured
So freely on thy foeman’s sword!
Not to the swift nor to the strong        80
The battles of the right belong;
For he who strikes for Freedom wears
The armor of the captive’s prayers,
And Nature proffers to his cause
The strength of her eternal laws;        85
While he whose arm essays to bind,
And herd with common brutes his kind,
Strives evermore at fearful odds
With Nature and the jealous gods,
And dares the dread recoil which late        90
Or soon their right shall vindicate.
 
’T is done,—the hornéd crescent falls!
The star-flag flouts the broken walls!
Joy to the captive husband! joy
To thy sick heart, O brown-locked boy!        95
In sullen wrath the conquered Moor
Wide open flings your dungeon-door,
And leaves ye free from cell and chain,
The owners of yourselves again.
Dark as his allies desert-born,        100
Soiled with the battle’s stain, and worn
With the long marches of his band
Through hottest wastes of rock and sand,—
Scorched by the sun and furnace-breath
Of the red desert’s wind of death,        105
With welcome words and grasping hands,
The victor and deliverer stands!
 
The tale is one of distant skies;
The dust of half a century lies
Upon it; yet its hero’s name        110
Still lingers on the lips of Fame.
Men speak the praise of him who gave
Deliverance to the Moorman’s slave,
Yet dare to brand with shame and crime
The heroes of our land and time,—        115
The self-forgetful ones, who stake
Home, name, and life for Freedom’s sake.
God mend his heart who cannot feel
The impulse of a holy zeal,
And sees not, with his sordid eyes,        120
The beauty of self-sacrifice!
Though in the sacred place he stands,
Uplifting consecrated hands,
Unworthy are his lips to tell
Of Jesus’ martyr-miracle,        125
Or name aright that dread embrace
Of suffering for a fallen race!
 
 
CONTENTS · BOOK CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
  PREVIOUSNEXT  
 
Loading
Click here to shop the Bartleby Bookstore.

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2014 Bartleby.com · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors