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John Harris, 'The Fall of Slavery'

John Harris was born in 1820 in Bolenowe, a small village not far from Camborne, in Cornwall. His father was a miner at Dolcoath Tin Mine where young John also started at the age of 10. he began writing poetry as a child, usually in the open air where he was inspired by nature. After 20 years working in the mine, one of his poems was eventually published in a magazine. It attracted notice, and he was encouraged to produce a collection, which was published in 1853. Shortly after, he obtained a position as a Scripture Reader in Falmouth, where he stayed until his death in 1884. He published several volumes of poetry, including his masterpiece, the loco-descriptive poem Carn Brea. None of his poetry is now in print, but I am making a selection available on my Cornish Poetry page. This poem was written during the emancipation of the slaves in the 1830s and demonstrates both Harris's belief in liberty, and his deep spirituality.

John Harris
'The Fall of Slavery' (1838)

Musing by a mossy fountain,
   In the blossom month of May,
Saw I coming down a mountain
   An old man whose locks were grey;
And the flowery valleys echoed,
   As he sang his earnest lay.

"Prayer is heard, the chain is riven,
   Shout it over land and sea;
Slavery from earth is driven,
   And the manacled are free;
Brotherhood in all the nations;
   What a glorious Jubilee!

"God has answered, fall before Him,
   Laud His majesty and might;
On thy knees, O earth, adore Him:
   Now the black is as the white;
Hallelujah! hallelujah!
   Every bondsman free as light.

"Whip and scourge, and fetter broken,
   Far away in darkness hurled;
This a grand and glorious token,
   When millennium fills the world.
Hallelujah! O'er the nations
   Freedom's snowy flag unfurled.

"God has answered! Glory, glory!
   O'er the green earth let it speed;
Sun and stars take up the story,
   Nevermore a slave shall bleed;
Shout deliverance for the freeman,
   Send him succour in his need.

Glory be to God the Giver.
   Slavery now shall brand no more;
From the fountain to the river
   Freedom breathes on every shore.
Hellelujah! Hallelujah!
   Brotherhood the wide world o'er."

Read more of John Harris's poetry at my Cornish poetry page



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