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    GLIMPSES OF INFANCY.   Table of Contents     THE SNAIL'S LESSON.

Thompson, Priscilla Jane
Ethiope Lays

- ETHIOPE LAYS.
- THE OLD FREEDMAN.


THE OLD FREEDMAN.


HE sits in front of the bright, blazing grate;
A poor old freedman, maimed and gray;
With worn hands folded, he sits and waits,
His Master's summons, from day to day,
His ebon brow is seamed deeply with care;
His dim eyes, robbed of their scanty sight,
By the dazzling red of the ember's glare,
Sets him to dreaming as though 'twere night.

And his hard, early life comes, scene by scene,
As acts appear on a play-house stage;
While he sits with a thoughtful smile, serene,
And views the past, in a dreamy maze.
Yes, now he can smile as he thinks on those days,
For the fire of youth has long fled his breast;
He has cast the burden of past cares away,
And humbly looks to his Master, for rest.

He hears the fierce screams of his mother, wild,
Anguished and startling, and loud as of old;
While haplessly he, her remaining child,
Is hurried "down the river," and sold.
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50
And now comes the scene of that sugar farm,
Where the lash and fever, rules supreme;
Where the humid, sickly, atmosphere, warm,
Brings on a giddiness, e'en in his dream.

He is hoeing cane, with a stalwart pace,
And with him, a girl, the joy of his life;
With her graceful figure and dark brown face,
And her sunny smile--his own fair wife.
When'er the overseer's back is turned,
He lends a strong hand to her lagging row;
That her exacting task may be earned,
To ward from her back, the brutal blow.

Despite the appalling crosses of life,
He deems himself, e'en a happy man--
Just to have her near, and to call her "wife,"
And to hurriedly press her little worn hand.
The third scene is on, and now he behold,
His Lucy coming with eyes filled with tears;
"Oh Ruben," she's crying, "why I'm to be sold!"
The words fall like doom upon his shocked ears.

Again that dull giddiness rises within,
His lower limbs weaken, he rests on his hoe;
Poor Lucy embraces again and again,
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Then turns, and back to the "big house" doth go.
Her fleeting form, brings him back to himself;
He drops his hoe, with a desperate groan:
He'll make the rude trader take back his foul pelf.
He'll claim his wife, for she is his own.

Oh, futile struggle! he sees his fair love,
Borne off by the rude, evil, trader, who spoils,
While he helplessly, calls on his Father above,
And is fiercely, brutally, lashed for his toils.
Oh, let us pass over the dark days that came--
And rev'rently screen this act of his life!
When the anguish of Rizpah, who mourned for
her slain,
Could not be compared, with his grief o'er his wife.

And now, clears the smoke, that is black as the
night;
He stands firm, a giant with Gettysburg's brave;
The death blows he deals, in the hand to hand
fight.
Serves vengeance to rebels who late held him slave.
And now, he is come to the calm years of peace;
His restless wand'rings in search of his wife;
When despaired and discouraged, his wanderings
cease,
And he fills with religion, the void of his life.
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52

And now, the last scene, the triumphant--the grand!
With dim sight renewed and infirmities, fled,
Fair Lucy once more is pressing his hand,
And Jesus is placing a crown on his head.
For there, in front of the bright blazing, grate,
With a sad, kind, smile, and expressionless eye,
At the end of the day, in the even, late,
He had taken his fight, to his home on high.
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    GLIMPSES OF INFANCY.   Table of Contents     THE SNAIL'S LESSON.