Robert Southey



              The Sailor, Who Had Served In The Slave Trade


                   In September, 1798,  a Dissenting  Minister  of  Bristol,
                   discovered a Sailor in the neighbourhood  of  that  City,
                   groaning and praying in a hovel.  The  circumstance  that
                   occasioned his agony of mind is detailed in  the  annexed
                   Ballad, without the  slightest  addition  or  alteration. 
                   By presenting it as a Poem the story is made more public, 
                   and such stories ought to be made as public as possible.


                   He stopt, — it surely was a groan
                     That from the hovel came!
                   He stopt and listened anxiously
                     Again it sounds the same.

                   It surely from the hovel comes!
                     And now he hastens there,
                   And thence he hears the name of Christ
                     Amidst a broken prayer.

                   He entered in the hovel now,
                     A sailor there he sees,
                   His hands were lifted up to Heaven
                     And he was on his knees.

                   Nor did the Sailor so intent
                     His entering footsteps heed,
                   But now the Lords prayer said, and now
                     His half-forgotten creed.

                   And often on his Saviour calld
                     With many a bitter groan,
                   In such heart-anguish as could spring
                     From deepest guilt alone.

                   He askd the miserable man
                     Why he was kneeling there,
                   And what the crime had been that causd
                     The anguish of his prayer.

                   Oh I have done a wicked thing!
                     It haunts me night and day,
                   And I have sought this lonely place
                     Here undisturbd to pray.

                   I have no place to pray on board
                     So I came here alone,
                   That I might freely kneel and pray,
                     And call on Christ and groan.

                   If to the main-mast head I go,
                     The wicked one is there,
                   From place to place, from rope to rope,
                     He follows every where.

                   I shut my eyes, — it matters not —
                     Still still the same I see, —
                   And when I lie me down at night
                     Tis always day with me.

                   He follows follows every where,
                     And every place is Hell!
                   O God — and I must go with him
                     In endless fire to dwell.

                   He follows follows every where,
                     Hes still abovebelow,
                   Oh tell me where to fly from him!
                     Oh tell me where to go!

                   But tell me, quoth the Stranger then,
                     What this thy crime hath been,
                   So haply I may comfort give
                     To one that grieves for sin.

                   O I have done a cursed deed
                     The wretched man replies,
                   And night and day and every where
                     Tis still before my eyes.

                   I saild on board a Guinea-man
                     And to the slave-coast went;
                   Would that the sea had swallowed me
                     When I was innocent!

                   And we took in our cargo there,
                     Three hundred negroe slaves,
                   And we saild homeward merrily
                     Over the ocean waves.

                   But some were sulky of the slaves
                     And would not touch their meat,
                   So therefore we were forced by threats
                     And blows to make them eat.

                   One woman sulkier than the rest
                     Would still refuse her food, —
                   O Jesus God! I hear her cries —
                     I see her in her blood!

                   The Captain made me tie her up
                     And flog while he stood by,
                   And then he cursd me if I staid
                     My hand to hear her cry.

                   She groand, she shriekd — I could not spare
                     For the Captain he stood by —
                   Dear God! that I might rest one night
                     From that poor womans cry!

                   She twisted from the blows — her blood
                     Her mangled flesh I see —
                   And still the Captain would not spare —
                     Oh he was worse than me!

                   She could not be more glad than I
                     When she was taken down,
                   A blessed minute — twas the last
                     That I have ever known!

                   I did not close my eyes all night,
                     Thinking what I had done;
                   I heard her groans and they grew faint
                     About the rising sun.

                   She groand and groand, but her groans grew
                     Fainter at morning tide,
                   Fainter and fainter still they came
                     Till at the noon she died.

                   They flung her overboard; — poor wretch
                     She rested from her pain, —
                   But when — O Christ! O blessed God!
                     Shall I have rest again!

                   I saw the sea close over her,
                     Yet she was still in sight;
                   I see her twisting every where;
                     I see her day and night.

                   Go where I will, do what I can
                     The wicked one I see —
                   Dear Christ have mercy on my soul,
                     O God deliver me!

                   To morrow I set sail again
                     Not to the Negroe shore —
                   Wretch that I am I will at least
                     Commit that sin no more.

                   O give me comfort if you can —
                     Oh tell me where to fly —
                   And bid me hope, if there be hope,
                     For one so lost as I.

                   Poor wretch, the stranger he replied,
                     Put thou thy trust in heaven,
                   And call on him for whose dear sake
                     All sins shall be forgiven.

                   This night at least is thine, go thou
                     And seek the house of prayer,
                   There shalt thou hear the word of God
                     And he will help thee there!

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