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William Cullen Bryant's "The African Chief"

The following is the complete text of William Cullen Bryant's poem, "The African Chief." The various books, short stories and poems we offer are presented free of charge with absolutely no advertising as a public service from Internet Accuracy Project.


Visit these other works by the "poet of nature," William Cullen Bryant
"The Ages"
"Among the Trees"
"Catterskill Falls"
"The Cloud on the Way"
A collection of his short poems
"The Death of Slavery"
"Earth"
"The Embargo"
"A Forest Hymn"
"The Fountain"
"Hymn to Death"
"A Legend of the Delawares"
"A Meditation on Rhode Island Coal"

"The Night Journey of a River"
"The Old Man's Counsel"
"The Planting of the Apple-Tree"
"The Prairies"
"A Rain-Dream"
"The Rats and Mice"
"The Rivulet"
"The Song of the Sower"
"Thanatopsis"
"To a Mosquito"
"The Two Graves"
"A Winter Piece"

To see all available titles by other authors, drop by our index of free books alphabetized by author or arranged alphabetically by title.

Potential uses for the free books, stories and prose we offer
* Rediscovering an old favorite book, short story or poem.
* Bibliophiles expanding their collection of public domain eBooks at no cost.
* Teachers trying to locate a free online copy of a short story or poem for use in the classroom.


NOTE: We try to present these classic literary works as they originally appeared in print. As such, they sometimes contain adult themes, offensive language, typographical errors, and often utilize unconventional, older, obsolete or intentionally incorrect spelling and/or punctuation conventions.


"The African Chief" by William Cullen Bryant

THE AFRICAN CHIEF

BY WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT

The story of the African Chief, related in this ballad, may be found in the African Repository for April, 1825. The subject of it was a warrior of majestic stature, the brother of Yarradee, king of the Solima nation. He had been taken in battle, and was brought in chains for sale to the Rio Pongas, where he was exhibited in the market-place, his ankles still adorned with the massy rings of gold which he wore when captured. The refusal of his captor to listen to his offers of ransom drove him mad, and he died a maniac.


Chained in the market-place he stood,
A man of giant frame,
Amid the gathering multitude
That shrunk to hear his name--
All stern of look and strong of limb,
His dark eye on the ground:--
And silently they gazed on him,
As on a lion bound.

Vainly, but well, that chief had fought,
He was a captive now,
Yet pride, that fortune humbles not,
Was written on his brow.
The scars his dark broad bosom wore,
Showed warrior true and brave;
A prince among his tribe before,
He could not be a slave.

Then to his conqueror he spake--
"My brother is a king;
Undo this necklace from my neck,
And take this bracelet ring,
And send me where my brother reigns
And I will fill thy hands
With store of ivory from the plains,
And gold-dust from the sands."

"Not for thy ivory nor thy gold
Will I unbind thy chain;
That bloody hand shall never hold
The battle-spear again.
A price thy nation never gave
Shall yet be paid for thee;
For thou shalt be the Christian's slave,
In lands beyond the sea."

Then wept the warrior chief, and bade
To shred his locks away;
And, one by one, each heavy braid
Before the victor lay.
Thick were the platted locks, and long,
And deftly hidden there
Shone many a wedge of gold among
The dark and crisped hair.

"Look, feast thy greedy eye with gold
Long kept for sorest need;
Take it--thou askest sums untold,
And say that I am freed.
Take it--my wife, the long, long day,
Weeps by the cocoa-tree,
And my young children leave their play,
And ask in vain for me."

"I take thy gold--but I have made
Thy fetters fast and strong,
And ween that by the cocoa shade
Thy wife will wait thee long."
Strong was the agony that shook
The captive's frame to hear,
And the proud meaning of his look
Was changed to mortal fear.

His heart was broken--crazed his brain:
At once his eye grew wild;
He struggled fiercely with his chain,
Whispered, and wept, and smiled;
Yet wore not long those fatal bands,
And once, at shut of day,
They drew him forth upon the sands,
The foul hyena's prey.




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