The Cleveland Gazette (Cleveland, Ohio), November 22, 1884

 

            NAT TURNER

 

            By T. Thomas Fortune

 

            He stood erect, a man as proud

            As ever to a tyrant bowed

            Unwilling head or bent a knee,

            And longed, while bending, to be free:

            And o’er his ebon features came

            A shadow—‘twas of manly shame—

            Aye, shame that he should wear a chain

            And feel his manhood writhed with pain,

            Doomed to a life of plodding toil,

            Shamefully rooted to the soil!

 

            He stood erect; his eyes flashed fire;

            His robust form convulsed with ire;

            “I will be free! I will be free!

            Or, fighting, die a man!” cried he.

 

            Virginia’s hills were lit at night—

            The slave had risen in his might.

            And far and near Nat’s wail went forth,

            To South and East, and West and North,

            And strong men trembled in their power,

            And weak men felt 'twas now their hour.

            “I will be free! I will be free!

            Or, fighting, die a man!” cried he.

            The tyrant’s arm was all too strong,

            Had swayed dominion all too long;

            And so the hero met his end

            As all who fall as Freedom’s friend.

 

            The blow he struck shook slavery’s throne;

            His cause was just, e’en skeptics own;

            And round his lowly grave soon swarmed

            Freedom’s brave hosts for freedom arm’d.

            That host was swollen by Nat’s kin

            To fight for Freedom, Freedom win,

            Upon the soil that spurned his cry:

            “I will be free, or I will die!”

 

            Let tyrants quake e’en in their power,

            For sure will come the awful hour

            When they must give an answer, why

            Heroes in chains should basely die,

            Instead of rushing to the field,

            And counting battle ere they yield.