The Witnesses

By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
In Ocean's wide domains,
   Half buried in the sands,
Lie skeletons in chains,
   With shackled feet and hands.

Beyond the fall of dews,
   Deeper than plummet lies,
Float ships, with all their crews,
   No more to sink nor rise.

There the black Slave-ship swims,
   Freighted with human forms,
Whose fettered, fleshless limbs
   Are not the sport of storms.

These are the bones of Slaves;
   They gleam from the abyss;
They cry, from yawning waves,
   "We are the Witnesses!"

Within Earth's wide domains
   Are markets for men's lives;
Their necks are galled with chains,
   Their wrists are cramped with gyves.

Dead bodies, that the kite
   In deserts makes its prey;
Murders, that with affright
   Scare school-boys from their play!

All evil thoughts and deeds;
   Anger, and lust, and pride;
The foulest, rankest weeds,
   That choke Life's groaning tide!

These are the woes of Slaves;
   They glare from the abyss;
They cry, from unknown graves,
   "We are the Witnesses!"

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Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 1807–1882

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Subjects Race & Ethnicity, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Money & Economics, Social Commentaries, Nature, Activities, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Henry Wadsworth  Longfellow

Biography

By far the most widely known and best-loved American poet of his time, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow achieved a level of national and international prominence possibly unequaled in the literary history of the United States. Poems such as "Paul Revere's Ride," Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie (1847), and "A Psalm of Life" became mainstays of national culture, long remembered by generations of readers who studied them in school. . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Race & Ethnicity, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Money & Economics, Social Commentaries, Nature, Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Victorian

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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