Verse > John Greenleaf Whittier > The Poetical Works in Four Volumes
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John Greenleaf Whittier (1807–1892).  The Poetical Works in Four Volumes.  1892.
 
Appendix I. Early and Uncollected Verses
Benevolence
 
HAIL, heavenly gift! within the human breast,
  Germ of unnumber’d virtues—by thy aid
The fainting heart, with riving grief opprest,
  Survives the ruin adverse scenes have made:
Woes that have wrung the bosom, cares that preyed        5
  Long on the spirit, are dissolv’d by thee—
Misfortune’s frown, despair’s disastrous shade,
  Ghastly disease, and pining poverty,
Thy influence dread, and at thy approach they flee.
 
Thy spirit led th’ immortal Howard on;        10
  Nurtur’d by thee, on many a foreign shore
Imperishable fame, by virtue won,
  Adorns his memory, tho’ his course is o’er;
Thy animating smile his aspect wore,
  To cheer the sorrow-desolated soul,        15
Compassion’s balm in grief-worn hearts to pour,
  And snatch the prisoner from despair’s control,
Steal half his woes away and lighter make the whole.
 
Green be the sod on Cherson’s honor’d field,
  Where wraps the turf around his mouldering clay;        20
There let the earth her choicest beauties yield,
  And there the breeze in gentlest murmurs play;
There let the widow and the orphan stray,
  To wet with tears their benefactor’s tomb;
There let the rescued prisoner bend his way,        25
  And mourn o’er him, who in the dungeon’s gloom
Had sought him and averted misery’s fearful doom.
 
His grave perfum’d with heartfelt sighs of grief,
  And moistened by the tear of gratitude,—
Oh, how unlike the spot where war’s grim chief        30
  Sinks on the field, in sanguine waves imbrued!
Who mourns for him, whose footsteps can be viewed
  With reverential awe imprinted near
The monument rear’d o’er the man of blood?
  Or who waste on it sorrow’s balmy tear?        35
None! shame and misery rest alone upon his bier.
 
Offspring of heaven! Benevolence, thy pow’r
  Bade Wilberforce its mighty champion be,
And taught a Clarkson’s ardent mind to soar
  O’er every obstacle, when serving thee:—        40
Theirs was the task to set the sufferer free,
  To break the bonds which bound th’ unwilling slave,
To shed abroad the light of liberty,
  And leave to all the rights their Maker gave,
To bid the world rejoice o’er hated slavery’s grave.        45
 
Diffuse thy charms, Benevolence! let thy light
  Pierce the dark clouds which ages past have thrown
Before the beams of truth—and nature’s right,
  Inborn, let every hardened tyrant own;
On our fair shore, be thy mild presence known;        50
  And every portion of Columbia’s land
Be as God’s garden with thy blessings sown;
  Yea, o’er Earth’s regions let thy love expand
Till all united are in friendship’s sacred band!
 
Then in that hour of joy will be fulfilled        55
  The prophet’s heart-consoling prophecy;
Then war’s commotion shall on earth be stilled,
  And men their swords to other use apply;
Then Afric’s injured sons no more shall try
  The bitterness of slavery’s toil and pain,        60
Nor pride nor love of gain direct the eye
  Of stern oppression to their homes again;
But peace, a lasting peace, throughout the world shall reign.

  9th mo., 1825.
 
 
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