Sarah Josepha Hale


"He is a freeman whom the truth makes free,
And all are slaves beside."

Ye may place the trusty guard,
Bolt the dark and narrow room,
Bind the heavy fetter hard,
Till the links the flesh consume;
Never, never, thus confined,
Will enslaved the prisoner be-
There's no fetter on his mind;
And the spirit will be free,-
If stern memory's thrilling tone
Wake no terrors in his heart;
In the visioned future, shown,
If he act the lofty part.
Ye may bar him from the air,
And the light of heaven forbid,-
There's a region fresh and fair,
And its smile can ne'er be hid
From the meek and trusting eyes,
Looking upward steadily;
And his thoughts will thus arise,
Till he triumphs with the free,-
If his soul have never bowed
When a golden Image shone-
If among the servile crowd,
He would follow Truth alone.
Ye may deck the lofty hall
With the wealth of earth and sea,
And, in splendor over all
Wave the banners of the free-
Ye may crown the conqueror there,
With the laurels of the brave;
'Mid the honors ye prepare,
He shall feel himself a slave,-
If ambition rule his thought,
And the highest place he ask,
All the labors he has wrought
Are but scourges to his task.
Ye may twine the living flowers
Where the living fountains glide,
And beneath the rosy bowers
Let the selfish man abide,
And the birds upon the wing,
And the barks upon the wave,
Shall no sense of freedom bring;
All is slavery to the slave!
Mammon's close-linked bonds have bound him,
Self-imposed, and seldom burst;
Though heaven's waters gush around him,
He would pine with earth's poor thirst.


Though she would have been surrounded by radical abolitionist discourse from the 1830s on, Hale here deflects the specific conditions of the American institution of slavery, taking freedom as a mental condition.