William Cowper


[Written March (?), 1788.  Published in The Gentleman's
Nov., 1788; afterwards in 1800.]

'TWAS in the glad season of spring,
     Asleep at the dawn of the day,
I dream'd what I cannot but sing,
     So pleasant it seem'd as I lay.
I dream'd that on ocean afloat,
     Far hence to the westward I sail'd,
While the billows high lifted the boat,
     And the fresh-blowing breeze never fail'd.

In the steerage a woman I saw,
     Such at least was the form that she wore,
Whose beauty impress'd me with awe,
     Ne'er taught me by woman before.
She sat, and a shield at her side
     Shed light like a sun on the waves,
And smiling divinely, she cried—
     I go to make Freemen of Slaves—

Then raising her voice to a strain
     The sweetest that ear ever heard,
She sang of the slave's broken chain,
     Wherever her glory appear'd.
Some clouds which had over us hung
     Fled, chas'd by her melody clear,
And methought while she Liberty sung,
     'Twas Liberty only to hear.

Thus swiftly dividing the flood,
     To a slave-cultur'd island we came,
Where a Demon, her enemy, stood—
     Oppression his terrible name.
In his hand, as the sign of his sway,
     A scourge hung with lashes he bore,
And stood looking out for his prey
     From Africa's sorrowful shore.

But soon as approaching the land
     That goddess-like woman he view'd,
The scourge he let fall from his hand,
     With blood of his subjects imbrued.
I saw him both sicken and die,
     And the moment the monster expir'd
Heard shouts that ascended the sky
     From thousands with rapture inspir'd.

Awaking, how could I but muse
     At what such a dream should betide?
But soon my ear caught the glad news
     Which serv'd my weak thought for a guide—
That Britannia, renown'd o'er the waves
     For the hatred she ever has shown
To the black-sceptred rulers of slaves,
     Resolves to have none of her own.







The Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper.
H. S. Milford, ed.
London: Henry Frowde, 1905. 373-4.



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