TO SIR TOBY, - Louise Imogen Guiney Poems


Poems » louise imogen guiney » to sir toby


        “ The motions of his spirit are black as night,
        “ And his affections dark as Erebus.

               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 mingles howlings vibrate on my ears:
            Here nature's plagues abound, to fret and teaze,
            Snakes, scorpions, despots, lizards, centipees –
            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 sculking haste repair,
            And hardly safe from brother traitors there.