James Montgomery

(4 November 1771 – 30 April 1854 / Irvine in Ayrshire)

A Cry from South Africa


On building a chapel at Cape Town, for the Negro slaves of the colony, in 1828.


Afric, from her remotest strand,
Lifts to high heaven one fetter'd hand,
And to the utmost of her chain
Stretches the other o'er the main:
Then, kneeling 'midst ten thousand slaves,
Utters a cry across the waves,
Of power to reach to either pole,
And pierce, like conscience, through the soul,
Though dreary, faint, and low the sound,
Like life-blood gurgling from a wound,
As if her heart, before it broke,
Had found a human tongue, and spoke.

"Britain! not now I ask of thee
Freedom, the right of bond and free;
Let Mammon hold, while Mammon can,
The bones and blood of living man;
Let tyrants scorn, while tyrants dare,
The shrieks and writhings of despair;
An end will come -- it will not wait,
Bonds, yokes, and scourges have their date,
Slavery itself must pass away,
And be a tale of yesterday.

"But now I urge a dearer claim,
And urge it by a mightier name:
Hope of the world! on thee I call,
By the great Father of us all,
By the Redeemer of our race,
And by the Spirit of all grace;
Turn not, Britannia, from my plea;
-- So help Thee GOD as Thou help'st me!
Mine outcast children come to light
From darkness, and go down in night;
-- A night of more mysterious gloom
Than that which wrapt them in the womb:
Oh! that the womb had been the grave
Of every being born a slave!
Oh! that the grave itself might close
The slave's unutterable woes!
But what beyond that gulf may be,
What portion in eternity,
For those who live to curse their breath,
And die without a hope in death,
I know not, and I dare not think;
Yet, while I shudder o'er the brink
Of that unfathomable deep,
Where wrath lies chain'd and judgments sleep,
To thee, thou paradise of isles!
Where mercy in full glory smiles;
Eden of lands! o'er all the rest
By blessing others doubly blest,
-- To thee I lift my weeping eye;
Send me the Gospel, or I die;
The word of CHRIST's salvation give,
That I may hear his voice and live."

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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