Poetry Explorer

Classic and Contemporary Poetry

TO SIR TOBY, by                 Poet Analysis     Poet's Biography
First Line: If there exists a hell, the case is clear
Last Line: And hardly safe from brother traitors there.
Subject(s): Slavery; Social Protest; Serfs

If there exists a hell -- the case is clear --
Sir Toby's slaves enjoy that portion here:
Here are no blazing brimstone lakes, 'tis true;
But kindled Rum too often burns as blue,
In which some fiend, whom nature must detest,
Steeps Toby's brand and marks poor Cudjoe's breast.
Here whips on whips excite perpetual fears,
And mingled howlings vibrate on my ears:
Here nature's plagues abound, to fret and teaze,
Snakes, scorpions, despots, lizards, centipedes --
No art, no care escapes the busy lash:
All have their dues -- and all are paid in cash --
The eternal driver keeps a steady eye
On a black herd, who would his vengeance fly,
But chained, imprisoned, on a burning soil,
For the mean avarice of a tyrant, toil!
The lengthy cart-whip guards this monster's reign --
And cracks, like pistols, from the fields of cane.
Ye powers! who formed these wretched tribes, relate,
What had they done, to merit such a fate!
Why were they brought from Eboe's sultry waste,
To see that plenty which they must not taste --
Food, which they cannot buy, and dare not steal;
Yams and potatoes -- many a scanty meal! --
One, with a gibbet wakes his negro's fears,
One to the windmill nails him by the ears;
One keeps his slave in darkened dens, unfed,
One puts the wretch in pickle ere he's dead:
This, from a tree suspends him by the thumbs,
That, from his table grudges even the crumbs!
O'er yond' rough hills a tribe of females go,
Each with her gourd, her infant, and her hoe;
Scorched by a sun that has no mercy here,
Driven by a devil, whom men call overseer --
In chains, twelve wretches to their labours haste;
Twice twelve I saw, with iron collars graced! --
Are such the fruits that spring from vast domains?
Is wealth, thus got, Sir Toby, worth your pains! --
Who would your wealth on terms, like these, possess,
Where all we see is pregnant with distress --
Angola's natives scourged by ruffian hands,
And toil's hard product shipp'd to foreign lands.
Talk not of blossoms and your endless spring;
What joy, what smile, can scenes of misery bring? --
Though Nature, here, has every blessing spread,
Poor is the labourer -- and how meanly fed! --
Here Stygian paintings light and shade renew,
Pictures of hell, that Virgil's pencil drew:
Here, surly Charons make their annual trip,
And ghosts arrive in every Guinea ship,
To find what beasts these western isles afford,
Plutonian scourges, and despotic lords: --
Here, they, of stuff determined to be free,
Must climb the rude cliffs of the Liguanee;
Beyond the clouds, in skulking haste repair,
And hardly safe from brother traitors there.

Discover our Poem Explanations and Poet Analyses!

Other Poems of Interest...

Home: PoetryExplorer.net