The Pariah Poem by James Edwin Campbell

The Pariah

Owned her father all the fact'ries
Which their black'ning smoke sent up,
Miles and miles all 'round the country,
From the town by hills pent up.
Traced he back his proud ancestry
To the Rock on Plymouth's shore,
Traced I mine to Dutch ship landing
At Jamestown, one year before.
Thus was she of haughty lineage,
I of mongrel race had sprung;
O'er my fathers in the workfield
Whips of scorpions had been swung.
Years of freedom were her race's,
Years of cruel slavery mine;
Years of culture were her race's,
Years of darkest ign'rance mine.
She a lily sought by all men,
I a thistle shunned by all;
She the Brahmin, I the Pariah
Who must e'er before her crawl.
Fair was I as her complexion,
Honest came my fairness, too,
For my father and my mother
Were in wedlock banded true.
Yes, this mixing of the races
Had been years, long years ago,
That you could not trace the streamlet
To the fountain whence the flow.

Like an eagle long imprisoned
Soared I into realms of light,
Scorning all the narrow valley,
Where my wings had plumed for flight.
In the Sun of modern science
I had soaring bathed my wings,
And rose higher, higher, higher,
'Bove a world of narrow things.
Then on proudly soaring pinions
I forgot my lowly birth,
When Caste's arrow, venom laden,
Struck me, shot me down to Earth.

Kind and friendly had she ever
Seemed and acted unto me,
Till of late a cold restrainment
Seemed to bar her manners free.
Then my sens'tive soul quick thinking
That the Pride of Caste was born
In her mind, grew cold and distant,
Though it pricked me like a thorn,
And my thoughts grew dark and bitter,
Bitter as the wild aloe.
I became a sneering cynic,
Deeming every man a foe,
Scorning books while scorning people.
In their pages naught I saw
But I libelled, but I censured,
Every sentence found a flaw;
Till one night the mad mob gathered,
Called in voices wild and loud
I should quickly come before them,
And address the raging crowd.
They were strikers, who were workmen
For her father stern and proud,
And they threatened to destroy him
And his works in curses loud.
At the call I stepped before them,
And they greeted wild and strong,
And my heart grew hot with hatred
Of Oppression, Caste and Wrong,
While the words poured out like lava
From the crater of my brain -
Burning, seething, hissing, raging
With the years of pent-up pain.
They had gathered by the great works,
With their blazing furnace doors,
And the lofty, flaming chimneys,
Up whose throats the hot blast roars;
And the furnace threw its hot light
'Pon their toilworn, swarthy faces,
While the flames from out the chimnies
Painted heaven with their blazes.
In their hands they held their weapons -
Tools for toil, and not for war;
On the great mill rolled and thundered,
Shaking heaven with its jar.
And their brows were dark with hatred,
And their cheeks were hot with rage,
And their voices low were growling,
Like wild beasts penned in a cage.
And the tiger rose within me
With a growl that was a curse,
And I breathed his breath of passion,
And I felt his awful thirst.
But her image came before me,
With her sad, reproachful eyes,
And her locks of sunset splendor
When the summer daylight dies.
Then banished was hot Passion,
While Mercy pleaded low,
And I cooled their angry fury,
As hot iron is cooled in snow.

And she comes and stands before me
As I gaze into the stream,
And I see her, I behold her
As some vision in a dream,
And the waves of love come surging
And they sweep my will away,
For I love her, O I love her -
Aye, forever and a day!
And I called her: 'Edie! Edie!'
As I'd called her oft before,
When as little guileless children
We plucked lilies from this shore.
Oh my voice sobbed like a harp string
When the rough hand breaks a chord,
And it wailed and moaned as sadly
As some broken-hearted bard.
And she came up to me quickly
When I thus wailed out her name,
All her soul rose in her blue eyes
There was ne'er a look of shame,
And she threw her arms up to me
And I caught her to my heart,
While the whole earth reeled beneath me
And the heavens fell apart!

Faint and trembling then I asked her
What the cruel world would say,
While she blushed but spoke out bravely:
'We'll forget the World to-day.
This I only know, I love you,
I have loved you all the while;
What care I then for your lineage
Or the harsh world's frown or smile.
Men are noble from their actions,
From their deeds and theirs alone,
Father's deeds are not their children's -
Reap not that by others sown.
They are naught but dwarfish pigmies
Who would scorn you for your birth;
Who would scorn you for your lineage,
Raise they not their eyes from Earth.
What is blood? The human body?
Trace it back, it leads to dust,
Trace it forward, same conclusion,
Naught but vile dust find you must.
But the soul is sent from heaven
And the Sculptor-Hand is God's
Part and parcel of his being,
While our bodies are but clods!'

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