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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
page 1 page 2 page 3 page 4
Complete Issue: The Anglo-African (25 February 1865)
G. H. Thomas,  "'Dulce Est Mori Pro Patria'"  The Anglo-African (25 February 1865): [2]View Poem Image
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Who says—That, bent on conquest, or for glory's empire
We gave our fallen heroes; give our warriors daily dying— Who says: that we, with heart's of pride, and envious
     souls o'erflowing,
Fight 'gainst the right, and set mankind—death's awful
     harvests mowing—
Proclaims a solemn, sinful lie—a self-deluding sham! We fight for God, and liberty, and Father Abraham.
Where hold we in this awful strife, a single selfish aim? Is it a crime to cherish deep our noble father's fame— Who left us one great empire; and one loved flag to wave Far o'er its fields, where erst they had bled o'er a tyrant's
Ah, never tell a specious thing like that to men of sense— Would England, with her Ireland part, on any false pre-
Is it a crime to give to faithful Afric's sons at last That freedom England nobly gave, full thirty years and
A nation, who has toiled for us, through unrewarded years! Should we forever be unjust, through interest or weak
O, never let the giant heart of the Yengees[4] beat with
Save honor's—valor's—Freedom's pulse, with these be it
The Great Jehovah, in his Tome, of wondrous wisdom
Tells how he had in ancient times black Pharoah's war-
     hosts smitten.
Because they—like these Southern hosts; fought for a na-
Enslaved industrious millions, and would not let them go. Then Israel crossed the Red Sea's gulf, and gained free
     Canaan's land,
The tyrants, strewed a palsied dust, along their native
And so in this great Freedom's war, shall these enslaved be
Cross through the mighty gulf of blood, the modern red,
     red sea;—
And rolling back the purple tide, in torrents on the foe— Disperse them on its war-worn banks, or ere to peace we
And all who truly will obey, the Father Great—"I am," Will fight for Freedom, Union, and Father Abraham.
Fight on then war-worn patriots—the world cannot up-
And history in characters of golden light and shade, Shall picture forth thy glorious deeds to coming valorous
While they on veneration's knee, shall praise their father's
Who dying left them liberty complete and full and free, A great united people, who shall "rule the stormy sea."[5]
And yon ye colored mothers, if your milk be pure and
And ye love your manly sons, and truly wish their manes
And high and lofty—while at home ye bandages may sew, Send forth your youths—deserving them—by conflict with
     the foe,
And ye poor serfs, whene'er ye can, all Jack and Jim and
Fly to our ranks, and strike your blows for Father Abra-
Who says—That, bent on conquest, or for glory's empire
We gave our fallen heroes; give our warriors daily dying— Who says, that we, with hearts of pride, and envious
     souls o'erflowing—
Fight 'gainst the right, and set mankind—death's awful
     harvests mowing—
Proclaims a solemn sinful lie, a self-deluding sham! We fight for God, and liberty, and Father Abraham.


  1. An abbreviated version of a phrase from Horace: "Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori"—"sweet it is and honorable to die for one's native land" (Odes, book 3, no. 2, vol. 13; David West, trans., Horace Odes II: Dulce Periculum [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002], 23. Thanks, also, to Anthony Bowen for his assistance).Go back
  2. The question likens England to the United States, and the rebel South to Ireland. Thomas identifies his commitment to the Union with British abolitionism and imperialism. His praise for emancipation in the British West Indies renders an ironic subtext unlikely.Go back
  3. The British government passed legislation abolishing slavery in British colonies in July 1833. The terms of the Abolition of Slavery Bill (introduced May 1833) were amended as a result of parliamentary debate: slaves in the British West Indies would be freed on August 1, 1834; in return, planters would receive a grant of twenty million pounds, plus the right to the labor of former slaves over the age of six (now termed "apprentices") for a period of six years. Several years later, on August 1, 1838, the apprenticeship system was abandoned and full freedom for former slaves declared (James Walvin, Black Ivory: A History of British Slavery [London: Harper Collins, 1992], 308).Go back
  4. According to John Russell Bartlett's 1859 Dictionary of Americanisms, "The name [Yengees or Yenkees] was originally given by the Massachusetts Indians to the English colonists, being the nearest sound they could give for 'English.' It was afterward adopted by the Dutch on the Hudson, who applied the term in contempt to all the people of New England. During the American Revolution, it was eagerly caught at by the British soldiers" (518).Go back
  5. Probably from a version of "The Hardy Norseman's House of Yore," by British composer Robert Lucas Pearsall (1795–1856); the phrase "ruled the stormy sea" serves as the song's refrain.Go back
  6. Unidentified. In March 1865 the Anglo-African published two more poems attributed to Thomas: a verse letter paired with a similar piece by "Little Unknown" under the title "Correspondents Wanted" (March 18, 1865) and "The Flag We Love So Well" (March 25, 1865).Go back