"On the Surrender of a Fugitive Slave" by James Russell Lowell
Look on who will in apathy, and stifle, they who _can_,
The sympathies, the hopes, the words, that make man truly man;
Let those whose hearts are dungeoned up, with interest or with ease,
Consent to hear, with quiet pulse, of loathsome deeds like these.
I first drew in New England's air, and from her hardy breast
Sucked in the tyrant-hating milk, that will not let me rest;
And if my words seem treason to the dullard and the tame,
'Tis but my Bay State dialect--our fathers spake the same.
Shame on the costly mockery of piling stone on stone
To those who won _our_ liberty! the heroes dead and gone!
While we look coldly on and see law-shielded ruffians slay
The men who fain would win their _own_! the heroes of _to-day_!
Are we pledged to craven silence? O, fling it to the wind,
The parchment wall that bars us from the least of human kind!
That makes us cringe, and temporize, and dumbly stand at rest,
While Pity's burning flood of words is red-hot in the breast!
We owe allegiance to the State; but deeper, truer, more,
To the sympathies that God hath set within our spirit's core.
Our country claims our fealty; we grant it so; but then
Before Man made us _citizens_, great Nature made us _men_!
Though we break our fathers' promise, we have nobler duties first,
The traitor to _Humanity_ is the traitor most accurst.
_Man_ is more than _Constitutions_. Better rot beneath the sod,
Than be true to _Church_ and _State_, while we are doubly false to God!
JAMES RUSSELL LOWELL.
Published as a testimony in The Duty of Disobedience to the Fugitive Slave Act by Lydia Maria Childs (Boston: Published by the American Anti-Slavery Society, 1860)