Thursday, January 31, 2013

Some Quaker History

This semester I am trying to fit more Quaker history into my course work. I just picked up a book, Remember the Distance that Divides Us, edited by Marcia J. Heringa Mason, from Princeton University's Firestone Library for a project. The book is based on letters of a Philadelphia Quaker abolitionist and Michigan pioneer Elizabeth Margaret Chandler.

While flipping through the book, I saw a poem that Elizabeth wrote about Anthony Benezet, whose 300th birthday happens to be today. Anthony Benezet was a French-born American abolitionist, educator, and a Quaker.

So I figured I would share it here:

Anthony Benezet
by Elizabeth Chandler

Friend of the Afric! Friend of the oppress'd!
            Thou who wert cradled in a far-off clime,
Where bigotry and tyranny unbless'd,
            With gory hand defaced the page of time;
Wert thou forth driven by their stern control,
             An infant fugitive across the deep,
To teach, in after years, thy pitying soul
            O'er all the Afric's causeless wrongs to weep
Where slavery's bitter tears the flag of freedom steep?

And thou didst nobly plead for them; thy heart.
           Thrilling to all the holy sympathies,
Of natural brotherhood, wept, to see the mart
           Of commerce, with its human merchandize,
So crowded and polluted, and thy voice,
           With the clear trumpet tones of God's own word,
Rang through the guilty crowd, until no choice
           Was left them but to tremble as they heard,
Or bind with treble seal the feelings thou hadst stirr'd.

The ears of princes heard thee; and the wise,
           Touch'd by the mastery of thy earnestness,
Bade their train'd spirits for a while to rise
           From their profound research, and learn to bless
Thy generous efforts, and with kindred zeal,
           Led on by thee in duty's path to move;
And kindled by thy sacred ardour, feel,
           Like thee, that overflowing gush of love,
That lifts man's selfish heart all narrow thoughts above.

The fetters of the slave are still unbroken;
           But there will come, perchance, ere long, a day,
When by their lips who wrong'd him, shall be spoken
           The fiat of his freedom;--and the ray
Of intellectual light shall radiance pour
            On minds o'er which the gloom of darkness hung
In treble folds impervious before,
            By tyrants' hands around them rudely flung,
To bind the chains that to both limb and spirit clung.

Then shall their children learn to speak thy name,
             With the full heart of gratitude, and know
What thou hast done for them; and while they frame
That history for their infants' ears, may grow
             Perchance, in their own hearts, the likeness strong
Of they bright virtues; so thou still shalt be,
Even in thy sepulchre, their friend;--and long
              Shall those who love mankind, remember thee,
Thou noble friend of those who pined in slavery.

Happy Birthday Anthony Benezet!

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