Whittier as Quaker

Cassandra Southwick

In 1658 two young persons, son and daughter of Lawrence Smithwick of Salem, who had himself been imprisoned and deprived of nearly all his property for having entertained Quakers at his house, were fined for non-attendance at church. They being unable to pay the fine, the General Court issued an order empowering "the Treasurer of the County to sell the said persons to any of the English nation of Virginia or Barbadoes, to answer said fines." An attempt was made to carry this order into execution, but no shipmaster was found willing to convey them to the West Indies.

To the God of all sure mercies let my blessing rise
From the scoffer and the cruel He hath plucked
the spoil away;
Yea, He who cooled the furnace around the faithful
And tamed the Chaldean lions, hath set His hand-
maid free!
Last night I saw the sunset melt through my prison
Last night across my damp earth-floor fell the pale
gleam of stars;
In the coldness and the darkness all through the
long night-time,
My grated casement whitened with autumn's early
Alone, in that dark sorrow, hour after hour crept
Star after star looked palely in and sank adown
the sky;
No sound amid night's stillness, save that which
seemed to be
The dull and heavy beating of the pulses of the sea;

All night I sat unsleeping, for I knew that on the
The ruler and the cruel priest would mock me in
my sorrow,
Dragged to their place of market, and bargained
for and sold,
Like a lamb before the shambles, like a heifer
from the fold!

Oh, the weakness of the flesh was there, the
shrinking and the shame;
And the low voice of the Tempter like whispers to
me came:
"Why sit'st thou thus forlornly," the wicked
murmur said,
"Damp walls thy bower of beauty, cold earth thy
maiden bed?

"Where be the smiling faces, and voices soft and
Seen in thy father's dwelling, heard in the pleasant
Where be the youths whose glances, the summer
Sabbath through,
Turned tenderly and timidly unto thy father's pew?

"Why sit'st thou here, Cassandra?-Bethink
thee with what mirth
Thy happy schoolmates gather around the warm
bright hearth;
How the crimson shadows tremble on foreheads
white and fair,
On eyes of merry girlhood, half hid in golden hair.

"Not for thee the hearth-fire brightens, not for
thee kind words are spoken,
Not for thee the nuts of Wenham woods by laughing
boys are broken;
No first-fruits of the orchard within thy lap are
For thee no flowers of autumn the youthful hunters

"O weak, deluded maiden!--by crazy fancies
With wild and raving railers an evil path to tread;
To leave a wholesome worship, and teaching pure
and sound,
And mate with maniac women, loose-haired and
sackcloth bound,--

"Mad scoffers of the priesthood; who mock at
things divine,
Who rail against the pulpit, and holy bread and
Sore from their cart-tail scourgings, and from the
pillory lame,
Rejoicing in their wretchedness, and glorying in
their shame.

"And what a fate awaits thee!--a sadly toiling
Dragging the slowly lengthening chain of bondage
to the grave!
Think of thy woman's nature, subdued in hopeless
The easy prey of any, the scoff and scorn of all!"

Oh, ever as the Tempter spoke, and feeble Nature's
Wrung drop by drop the scalding flow of unavailing
I wrestled down the evil thoughts, and strove in
silent prayer,
To feel, O Helper of the weak! that Thou indeed
wert there!

I thought of Paul and Silas, within Philippi's cell,
And how from Peter's sleeping limbs the prison
shackles fell,
Till I seemed to hear the trailing of an angel's
robe of white,
And to feel a blessed presence invisible to sight.

Bless the Lord for all his mercies!--for the peace
and love I felt,
Like dew of Hermon's holy hill, upon my spirit
When "Get behind me, Satan!" was the language
of my heart,
And I felt the Evil Tempter with all his doubts

Slow broke the gray cold morning; again the sunshine
Flecked with the shade of bar and grate within
my lonely cell;
The hoar-frost melted on the wall, and upward
from the street
Came careless laugh and idle word, and tread of
passing feet.

At length the heavy bolts fell back, my door was
open cast,
And slowly at the sheriff's side, up the long street
I passed;
I heard the murmur round me, and felt, but dared
not see,
How, from every door and window, the people
gazed on me.

And doubt and fear fell on me, shame burned upon
my cheek,
Swam earth and sky around me, my trembling
limbs grew weak:
"O Lord! support thy handmaid; and from her
soul cast out
The fear of man, which brings a snare, the weakness
and the doubt."

Then the dreary shadows scattered, like a cloud in
morning's breeze,
And a low deep voice within me seemed whispering
words like these:
"Though thy earth be as the iron, and thy heaven
a brazen wall,
Trust still His loving-kindness whose power is over

We paused at length, where at my feet the sunlit
waters broke
On glaring reach of shining beach, and shingly
wall of rock;
The merchant-ships lay idly there, in hard clear
lines on high,
Tracing with rope and slender spar their network
on the sky.

And there were ancient citizens, cloak-wrapped
and grave and cold,
And grim and stout sea-captains with faces bronzed
and old,
And on his horse, with Rawson, his cruel clerk at
Sat dark and haughty Endicott, the ruler of the

And poisoning with his evil words the ruler's ready
The priest leaned o'er his saddle, with laugh and
scoff and jeer;
It stirred my soul, and from my lips the seal of
silence broke,
As if through woman's weakness a warning spirit

I cried, "The Lord rebuke thee, thou smiter of the
Thou robber of the righteous, thou trampler of
the weak!
Go light the dark, cold hearth-stones,--go turn
the prison lock
Of the poor hearts thou hast hunted, thou wolf
amid the flock!"

Dark lowered the brows of Endicott, and with a
deeper red
O'er Rawson's wine-empurpled cheek the flush of
anger spread;
"Good people," quoth the white-lipped priest,
"heed not her words so wild,
Her Master speaks within her,--the Devil owns
his child!"

But gray heads shook, and young brows knit, the
while the sheriff read
That law the wicked rulers against the poor have
Who to their house of Rimmon and idol priesthood
No bended knee of worship, nor gainful offering.

Then to the stout sea-captains the sheriff, turning,
"Which of ye, worthy seamen, will take this
Quaker maid?
In the Isle of fair Barbadoes, or on Virginia's
You may hold her at a higher price than Indian
girl or Moor."

Grim and silent stood the captains; and when
again he cried,
"Speak out, my worthy seamen!"--no voice, no
sign replied;
But I felt a hard hand press my own, and kind
words met my ear,--
"God bless thee, and preserve thee, my gentle girl
and dear!"

A weight seemed lifted from my heart, a pitying
friend was nigh,--
I felt it in his hard, rough hand, and saw it in his
And when again the sheriff spoke, that voice, so
kind to me,
Growled back its stormy answer like the roaring
of the sea,--

"Pile my ship with bars of silver, pack with coins
of Spanish gold,
From keel-piece up to deck-plank, the roomage of
her hold,
By the living God who made me!--I would sooner
in your bay
Sink ship and crew and cargo, than bear this child

"Well answered, worthy captain, shame on their
cruel laws!"
Ran through the crowd in murmurs loud the people's
just applause.
"Like the herdsman of Tekoa, in Israel of old,
Shall we see the poor and righteous again for
silver sold?"

I looked on haughty Endicott; with weapon half-
way drawn,
Swept round the throng his lion glare of bitter hate
and scorn;
Fiercely he drew his bridle-rein, and turned in
silence back,
And sneering priest and baffled clerk rode
murmuring in his track.

Hard after them the sheriff looked, in bitterness of
Thrice smote his staff upon the ground, and
crushed his parchment roll.
"Good friends," he said, "since both have fled,
the ruler and the priest,
Judge ye, if from their further work I be not well

Loud was the cheer which, full and clear, swept
round the silent bay,
As, with kind words and kinder looks, he bade me
go my way;
For He who turns the courses of the streamlet of
the glen,
And the river of great waters, had turned the
hearts of men.

Oh, at that hour the very earth seemed changed
beneath my eye,
A holier wonder round me rose the blue walls of
the sky,
A lovelier light on rock and hill and stream and
woodland lay,
And softer lapsed on sunnier sands the waters of
the bay.

Thanksgiving to the Lord of life! to Him all
praises be,
Who from the hands of evil men hath set his hand-
maid free;
All praise to Him before whose power the mighty
are afraid,
Who takes the crafty in the snare which for the
poor is laid!

Sing, O my soul, rejoicingly, on evening's twilight
Uplift the loud thanksgiving, pour forth the grateful
Let all dear hearts with me rejoice, as did the
saints of old,
When of the Lord's good angel the rescued Peter

And weep and howl, ye evil priests and mighty
men of wrong,
The Lord shall smite the proud, and lay His hand
upon the strong.
Woe to the wicked rulers in His avenging hour!
Woe to the wolves who seek the flocks to raven
and devour!

But let the humble ones arise, the poor in heart
be glad,
And let the mourning ones again with robes of
praise be clad.
For He who cooled the furnace, and smoothed the
stormy wave,
And tamed the Chaldean lions, is mighty still to

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