Per Caritatem

Below is Frederick Douglass’s elegant description of how he often looked across the Chesapeake Bay, which was full of sailboats, and imagined that he was sailing away to live as a freeman.Frederick Douglass

Those beautiful vessels, robed in purest white, so delightful to the eye of freemen, were to me so many shrouded ghosts, to terrify and torment me with thoughts of my wretched condition.  I have often, in the deep stillness of a summer’s Sabbath, stood all alone upon the lofty banks of that noble bay, and traced, with saddened heart and tearful eye, the countless number of sails moving off to the mighty ocean.  The sight of these always affected me powerfully…with no audience but the Almighty, I would pour out my soul’s complaint… ‘You are loosed from your moorings, and are free; I am fast in my chains, and am a slave! You move merrily before the gentle gale, and I sadly before the bloody whip!  You are freedom’s swift-winged angels, that fly round the world; I am confined in bands of iron!  O that I were free!  O, that I were on one of your gallant decks, and under your protecting wing!  Alas! Betwixt me and you, the turbid waters roll.  Go on, go on.  O that I could also go!  Could I but swim!  If I could fly!  O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute!  The glad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance.  I am left in the hottest hell of unending slavery.  O God, save me!  God, deliver me!  Let me be free!  Is there any God?  Why am I a slave?[1]

Notes


[1] Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies: Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave / My Bondage and My Freedom / Life and Times of Frederick Douglass.  Edited by Henry Louis Gates Jr.  New York:  Library of America, 1994, p. 59.

Comments are closed.