19th Century: 1864
African American Literature 1619-1926
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911)
Bury Me in a Free Land
(published in the Libertor on January 14, 1864)
Make me a grave where'er you will,
In a lowly plain or a lofty hilll;
Make it among eath's humblest graves,
But not in a land where men are slaves.
I could not rest, if around my grave
I heard the steps of a trebling slave;
His shadow above my silent tomb
Would make it a place of fearful gloom.
I could not sleep, if I heard the tread
Of a coffle-gang to the shambles led,
And the mother's shriek of wild despair
Rise, like a curse, on the trembling air.
I could not rest, if I saw the lah
Drinking her blood at each fearful gash;
And I saw her babes torn from her breast,
Like trembling doves from their parent nest.
I'd shudder and start, if I heard the bay
Of a bloodhound seizing his human prey;
And I heard the captive plead in vain,
As they bound, afresh, his galling chain.
If I saw young girls from their mother's arms
Bartered and sold for their youthful charms,
My eye would flash with a mournful flame,
My death-pale cheek grow red with shame.
I would sleep, dear friends, where bloated Might
Can rob no man of his dearest right;
My rest shall be calm in any grave
Where none can call his brother a slave.
I ask no monument, proud and high,
To arrest the gaze of passers by;
All that my yearning spirit craves
Is- Bury me not in a land of slaves!