The Negro's Complaint

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The Negro's Complaint is a poem by William Cowper, which talks about slavery from the perspective of the slave.[1] It was written in 1788.[2][3] It was intended to be sung to the tune of a popular ballad, Admiral Hosier's Ghost.[4]

Here is the poem:

Forc'd from home, and all its pleasures,
  Afric's coast I left forlorn;
To increase a stranger's treasures,
  O'er the raging billows borne.
Men from England bought and sold me,
  Paid my price in paltry gold;
But, though theirs they have enroll'd me,
  Minds are never to be sold.

Still in thought as free as ever,
  What are England's rights, I ask,
Me from my delights to sever,
  Me to torture, me to task?
Fleecy locks, and black complexion
  Cannot forfeit nature's claim;
Skins may differ, but affection
  Dwells in white and black the same.

Why did all creating Nature
 Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water,
 Sweat of ours must dress the soil.
Think, ye masters, iron-hearted,
 Lolling at your jovial boards;
Think how many backs have smarted
 For the sweets your cane affords.

Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
  Is there one who reigns on high?
Has he bid you buy and sell us,
  Speaking from his throne the sky?
Ask him, if your knotted scourges,
  Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges
  Agents of his will to use?

Hark! He answers!—Wild tornadoes,
  Strewing yonder sea with wrecks;
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows,
  Are the voice with which he speaks.
He, foreseeing what vexations
  Afric's sons should undergo,
Fix'd their tyrants' habitations
  Where his whirlwinds answer—No.[5]

— Stanzas 1-5


  1. ^ "Historical Analysis". Marymount University. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  2. ^ Fulford, Tim; Kitson, Peter J. ""Romanticism and colonialism: races, places, peoples, 1785-1800," page 4 of 5". Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  3. ^ Ingrassia, Catherine E.; Ravel, Jeffrey S. Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture. JHU Press. p. 107. ISBN 9780801881923. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  4. ^ Fairer, David; Gerrard, Christine. Eighteenth-Century Poetry: An Annotated Anthology. John Wiley & Sons. p. 627. ISBN 9781118824757. Retrieved 14 February 2017.
  5. ^ Cowper, William (1913). Milford, H. S. (ed.). The Complete Poetical Works. London: Oxford University Press. pp. 371-372.