Letitia Elizabeth Landon (1802-1838 / England)
The African Prince
IT was a king in Africa,
He had an only son;
And none of Europe's crowned kings
Could have a dearer one.
With good cane arrows five feet long,
And with a shining bow,
When but a boy, to the palm woods
Would that young hunter go.
And home he brought white ivory,
And many a spotted hide:
When leopards fierce and beautiful
Beneath his arrows died.
Around his arms, around his brow,
A shining bar was rolled;
It was to mark his royal blood,
He wore that bar of gold.
And often at his father's feet,
The evening he would pass;
When, weary of the hunt, he lay
Upon the scented grass.
Alas! it was an evil day,
When such a thing could be:
When strangers, pale and terrible,
Came o'er the distant sea.
They found the young prince mid the woods,
The palm woods deep and dark:
That day his lion-hunt was done,
They bore him to their bark.
They bound him in a narrow hold,
With others of his kind;
For weeks did that accursed ship
Sail on before the wind.
Now shame upon the cruel wind,
And on the cruel sea,
That did not with some mighty storm,
Set those poor captives free:
Or, shame to those weak thoughts, so fain
To have their wilful way:
God knoweth what is best for all—
The winds and seas obey.
At length a lovely island rose
From out the ocean wave;
They took him to the market-place,
And sold him for a slave.
Some built them homes, and in the shade
Of flowered and fragrant trees,
They half forgot the palm-hid huts
They left far o'er the seas.
But he was born of nobler blood,
And was of nobler kind;
And even unto death, his heart
For its own kindred pined.
There came to him a seraph child
With eyes of gentlest blue:
If there are angels in high heaven,
Earth has its angels too.
She cheered him with her holy words,
She soothed him with her tears;
And pityingly she spoke with him
Of home and early years.
And when his heart was all subdued
By kindness into love,
She taught him from this weary earth
To look in faith above.
She told him how the Saviour died
For man upon the tree;
'He suffered,' said the holy child,
'For you as well as me.'
Sorrow and death have need of faith—
The African believed;
As rain falls fertile on the earth
Those words his soul received.
He died in hope as only those
Who die in Christ depart—
One blessed name within his lips,
One hope within his heart.
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