Well may I say my life has been
One scene of sorrow and of pain;
From early days I griefs have known,
And as I grew my griefs have grown:
Dangers were always in my path;
And fear of wrath, and sometimes death;
While pale dejection in me reign’d
I often wept, by grief constrained.
When taken from my native land,
By an unjust and cruel band,
How did uncommon dread prevail!
My sighs no more I could conceal.
To ease my mind I often strove,
And tried my trouble to remove:
I sung, and utter’d sighs between–
Assay’d to stifle guilt with sin.
But O’ not all that I could do
Would stop the current of my woe;
Conviction still my vileness shew’d;
How great my guilt—how lost to good!
‘ Prevented, that I could not die,
‘ Nor could to one sure refuge fly;
‘ An orphan state I had to mourn,–
‘ Forsook by all, and left forlorn.’
Those who beheld my downcast mein,
Could not guess at my woes unseen:
They by appearance could not know
The troubles that I waded through.
Lust, anger, blasphemy, and pride,
With legions of such ills beside,
‘ Troubled my thoughts,’ while doubts and fears
Clouded and darken’d most my years.
‘Sighs now no more would be confin’d–
‘ They breath’d the trouble of my mind:’
I wish’d for death, but check’d the word,
And often pray’d unto the Lord.
Unhappy, more than some on earth,
I thought the place that gave me birth–
Strange thoughts oppress’d—while I replied
” Why not in Ethiopia died?”
And why thus spar’d when nigh to hell?–
God only knew—I could not tell!
‘ A tott ring fence a bowing wall,’
‘ I thought myself ere since the fall.’
Oft times I mus’d, and nigh despair,
While birds melodious fill’d the air:
‘ Thrice happy songsters, ever free,’
How blest were they, compared to me!
Thus all things added to my pain,
While grief compell’d me to complain;
When sable clouds began to rise
My mind grew darker than the skies.
The English nation call’d to leave,
How did my breast with sorrows heave!
I long’d for rest—cried “Help me, Lord!
” Some mitigation, Lord, afford!”
Yet on, dejected, still I went–
Heart-throbbing woes within me pent;
Nor land, nor sea, could comfort give,
Nor aught my anxious mind relieve.
Weary with troubles yet unknown
To all but God and self alone,
Numerous months for peace I strove,
Numerous foes I had to prove.
Inur’d to dangers, griefs, and woes,
Train’d up midst perils, death, and foes,
said, “Must it thus ever be?–
” No quiet is permitted me.”
Hard hap, and more than heavy lot!
I pray’d to God “Forget me not–
” What thou ordain’st help me to bear;
” But O! deliver from despair!”
Strivings and wrestling seem’d in vain;
Nothing I did could ease my pain:
Then gave I up my work and will,
Consess’d and own’d my doom was hell!
Like some poor pris’ner at the bar,
Conscious of guilt, of sin and fear,
Arraign’d, and self-condemn’d, I stood–
‘ Lost in the world and in my blood!’
Yet here, ‘midst blackest clouds confin’d,
A beam from Christ, the day-star shin’d;
Surely, thought I, if Jesus please,
He can at once sign my release.
I, ignorant of his righteousness,
Set up my labours in its place;
‘ Forgot for why his blood was shed,
‘ And pray’d and fasted in its stead.’
He dy’d for sinners—I am one!
Might not his blood for me atone?
Tho’ I am nothing else but sin,
Yet surely he can make me clean!
Thus light came in, and I believ’d;
Myself forgot, and help receiv’d!
My Saviour then I know I found,
For, eased from guilt no more I groan’d.
O, happy hour, in which I ceas’d
To mourn, for then I found a rest!
My soul and Christ were now as one–
Thy light, O Jesus, in me shone!
Bless’d be thy name, for now I know
I and my works can nothing do;
” The Lord alone can ransom man–
” For this the spotless Lamb was slain!”
When sacrifices, works, and pray’r,
Prov’d vain, and ineffectual were,
” Lo, then I come!” the Savior cry’d,
And bleeding, bow’d his head and dy’d!
He dy’d for all who ever saw
No help in them, nor by the law:–
I this have seen; and gladly own
” Salvation is by Christ alone!”
-Olaudah Equiano (1745-1797)
More about the poet: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/equiano_olaudah.shtml
Image Credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olaudah_Equiano