By George Moses Horton
Weep for the country in its present state,
And of the gloom which still the future waits;
The proud confederate eagle heard the sound,
And with her flight fell prostrate to the ground!
Weep for the loss the country has sustained,
By which her now dependent is in jail;
The grief of him who now the war survived,
The conscript husbands and the weeping wives!
Weep for the seas of blood the battle cost,
And souls that ever hope forever lost!
The ravage of the field with no recruit,
Trees by the vengeance blasted to the root!
Weep for the downfall o’er your heads and chief,
Who sunk without a medium of relief;
Who fell beneath the hatchet of their pride,
Then like the serpent bit themselves and died!
Weep for the downfall of your president,
Who far too late his folly must repent;
Who like the dragon did all heaven assail,
And dragged his friends to limbo with his tail!
Weep o’er peculiar swelling coffers void,
Our treasures left, and all their banks destroyed;
Their foundless notes replete with shame to all,
Expecting every day their final fall,
In quest of profit never to be won,
Then sadly fallen and forever down!
Horton’s poetry is remarkable. I am particularly struck by these two poems, which share in formal verse the complexity of sadness, loss and utter madness that was the Civil War and yet also fondly remembers and honors the land of where he grew up. These poems are a testament that despite living under the cruelty of slavery and war, there was still life and those that are resilient find a way to take something good from even the worst of situations. Hidden in The Southern Refugee, is also the stark and brutal reality that the end of the war did not bring resolution or restitution for freed slaves, instead it ushered in an even more incipient form of racism, the era of Jim Crow laws that was as common in the northern states who fought to end slavery as it was embedded in southern culture.
How far have we come as a nation in creating a society that affords equity and opportunity for all? We’ve come a ways, but I don’t think we have truly reconciled our vicious past. It is a question each of us is left to ponder on our own. And if we are fortunate, we can ponder those questions in our garden or the gardens of our minds. What is planted in your garden?
The Southern Refugee
By George Moses Horton
What sudden ill the world await,
From my dear residence I roam;
I must deplore the bitter fate,
To straggle from my native home.
The verdant willow droops her head,
And seems to bid a fare thee well;
The flowers with tears their fragrance shed,
Alas! their parting tale to tell.
’Tis like the loss of Paradise,
Or Eden’s garden left in gloom,
Where grief affords us no device;
Such is thy lot, my native home.
I never, never shall forget
My sad departure far away,
Until the sun of life is set,
And leaves behind no beam of day.
How can I from my seat remove
And leave my ever devoted home,
And the dear garden which I love,
The beauty of my native home?
Alas! sequestered, set aside,
It is a mournful tale to tell;
’Tis like a lone deserted bride
That bade her bridegroom fare thee well.
I trust I soon shall dry the tear
And leave forever hence to roam,
Far from a residence so dear,
The place of beauty—my native home.