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Scholarly Editing

The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing

2013, Volume 34

"Will not these days be by thy poets sung": Poems of the Anglo-African and National Anti-Slavery Standard, 1863–1864

Edited by Elizabeth Lorang and R. J. Weir
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Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (20 February 1864)
S. N., "A Hymn of Jubilee" The Anglo-African (20 February 1864): [1]View Poem Image
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What means that thrilling bugle blast That rocks Columbia's mighty land? Grim tyrants, listening, stand aghast, While rapturous angels join the band.
'Tis not the music of the spheres,[1] Which fly through space so swift and free, That charms the philosophic ear, But 'tis the trump of jubilee.[2]
No more the wail of deep despair From suffering innocence we hear; The victims leave their shackles where Their joyous notes first strike the ear.
The mother tosses high in air Her baby boy, forever free; Invokes a curse on all who dare Renew the chains of slavery.
"We've had enough of tears and woe; Our hearts have bled at every breath; We've seen our kidnapped children go To unknown bondage worse than death.
Our furrowed backs reeking with gore Shall now be healed with freedom's oil; The driver's lash be feared no more Amid our well directed toil.
Unshackled limbs, so strong and free, Shall beat our fetters into swords Or peaceful "pruning hooks,"[3] you see, According to the will of God.
Columbia's sons, wherever found, Proclaim the glorious jubilee, While heaven shall echo back the sound "Afric's sons are forever free!"[4]


  1. Ancient philosophers believed that the motion of heavenly bodies produced harmonious music imperceptible to human ears.Go back
  2. In Leviticus 25, "the trumpet of the jubilee" heralds emancipation and redemption: "ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubilee unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family" (9–10). For Civil War–era abolitionists, "jubilee" was more than a celebration; it signified divinely ordained black emancipation—and "the fulfillment of America's national destiny" (David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass' Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee [Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989], 9). S. N.'s "Hymn" celebrates the advent of the long-awaited year. The piece may have been a response to the Emancipation Proclamation's first anniversary.Go back
  3. Old Testament verses describe the alternative transformations in these lines. Compare "they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more" (Isaiah 2:4), with the injunction "Beat your ploughshares into swords, and your pruning hooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong" (Joel 3:10).Go back
  4. "Afric's sons are forever free!" is the final line of Isaac W. Sanborn's 1863 poem "The Day of Jubilee." See Green Mountain Poets, ed. A. J. Sanborn (Claremont, NH: Claremont Manufacturing Company, 1872), 422–23. The phrase "forever free" appears in Lincoln's preliminary Emancipation Proclamation of September 22, 1863: on January 1, 1863, "all persons held as slaves within any state, or designated part of a state, the people whereof shall then be in rebellion against the United States shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free" (The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, ed. Roy P. Basler [New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953], 5:434).Go back
  5. S. N. is unidentified.Go back