A Plea for the Ox by Duganne

This beautiful poem should be recited with a calm, even devout dignity; occasionally rising into energetic expression as the poet apostrophizes the Deity in behalf of the down-trodden:


OF all my Father's herds and flocks,

I love the Ox—the large-eyed Ox!

I think no Christian man would wrong

The Ox—so patient, calm, and strong!

How huge his strength! and yet, with flowers

A child can lead this Ox of ours;

And yoke his ponderous neck, with cords

Made only of the gentlest words.

By fruitful Nile the Ox was Lord;

By Jordan's stream his blood was poured;

In every age—with every clan—

He loves, he serves, he dies for Man!

And, through the long, long years of God,

Since labouring Adam delved the sod,

I hear no human voice that mocks

The hue which God hath given His Ox!

While burdening toils bow down his back,

Who asks if he be white or black?

And when his generous blood is shed,

Who shall deny its common red?

"Ye shall not muzzle"—God hath sworn—

"The Ox, that treadeth out the corn!"

I think no Christian law ordains

That Ox or Man should toil in chains.

So, haply, for an Ox I pray.

That kneels and toils for us this day;

A huge, calm, patient, large-eyed Ox,

Black-skinned, among our herds and flocks.

So long, O righteous Lord! so long

Bowed down, and yet so brave and strong—

I think no Christian, just and true,

Can spurn this poor Ox for his hue!

I know not why he shall not toil,

Black-skinned, upon our broad, free soil;

And lift aloft his dusky frame,

Unbranded by a bondman's name!

And struggling still, for nobler goal,

With wakening will and soaring soul,

I know not why his great free strength

May not be our best wealth at length:

That strength which, in the limbs of slaves

Like Egypt's—only piles up graves!

But in the hands of freemen now

May build up states, by axe and plough!—

And rear up souls, as purely white

As angels, clothed with heavenly light;

 

And yield forth life-blood, richly red

As patriot hearts have ever shed.

God help us! we are veiled within—

Or white or black—with shrouds of skin;

And, at the last, we all shall crave

Small difference in the breadth of grave!

But—when the grass grows, green and calm,

And smells above our dust, like balm—

I think our rest will sweeter be,

If over us the Ox be—free!