Life was trembling, faintly trembling
On the bondman's latest breath,
And he felt the chilling pressure
Of the cold, hard hand of Death.
He had been an Afric chieftain,
Worn his manhood as a crown;
But upon the field of battle
Had been fiercely stricken down.
He had longed to gain his freedom,
Waited, watched and hoped in vain,
Till his life was slowly ebbing --
Almost broken was his chain.
By his bedside stood the master,
Gazing on the dying one,
Knowing by the dull grey shadows
That life's sands were almost run.
"Master," said the dying bondman,
"Home and friends I soon shall see;
But before I reach my country,
Master write that I am free;
"For the spirits of my fathers
Would shrink back from me in pride,
If I told them at our greeting
I a slave had lived and died;
"Give to me the precious token,
That my kindred dead may see --
Master! write it, write it quickly!
Master! write that I am free!"
At his earnest plea the master
Wrote for him the glad release,
O'er his wan and wasted features
Flitted one sweet smile of peace.
Eagerly he grasped the writing;
"I am free!" at last he said.
Backward fell upon the pillow,
He was free among the dead.
More verses by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
- The Building
- The Dying Queen
- I'M Tired Of Life
- President Lincoln's Proclamation Of Freedom
- Go Work In My Vineyard