James Montgomery

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

Inscription under the Picture of an Aged Negro-woman


Art thou a woman? -- so am I; and all
That woman can be, I have been, or am;
A daughter, sister, consort, mother, widow.
Whiche'er of these thou art, O be the friend
Of one who is what thou canst never be!
Look on thyself, thy kindred, home, and country,
Then fall upon thy knees, and cry "Thank GOD,
An English woman cannot be a SLAVE!"

Art thou a man? -- Oh! I have known, have loved,
And lost, all that to woman man can be;
A father, brother, husband, son, who shared
My bliss in freedom, and my woe in bondage.
-- A childless widow now, a friendless slave,
What shall I ask of thee, since I have nought
To lose but life's sad burden; nought to gain
But heaven's repose? -- these are beyond thy power;
Me thou canst neither wrong nor help; -- what then?
Go to the bosom of thy family,
Gather thy little children round thy knees,
Gaze on their innocence; their clear, full eyes,
All fix'd on thine; and in their mother, mark
The loveliest look that woman's face can wear,
Her look of love, beholding them and thee:
Then, at the altar of your household joys,
Vow one by one, vow altogether, vow
With heart and voice, eternal enmity
Against oppression by your brethern's hands:
Till man nor woman under Britain's laws,
Nor son nor daughter born within her empire,
Shall buy, or sell, or hold, or be, a slave.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Comments about this poem (Inscription under the Picture of an Aged Negro-woman by James Montgomery )

  • Rookie Andrew Cole (9/24/2005 1:24:00 PM)

    I am a student of early English abolitionists. This Poem reveals much of the inner workings of abolutionists' thought - generalized through Montgomery. One can only imagine the structure of the picture referenced in the Poem's title or; perhaps as with JW Turner's Slaveship Paintings, the picture, too, existed only in the mind of the abolitionist! Montgomery is saying that England's future is tied to her past- (Report) Reply

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