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It was a Christian minister,
Who, in the month of flowers, Walked forth at eve amid the fields
Near Bristol's ancient towers,
When, from a lonely out-house breathed,
He heard a voice of woe, And groans which less might seem from pain
Than wretchedness to flow.
Heart-rending groans they were, with words
Of bitterest despair,
Pronounced in broken prayer.
The Christian minister went in:
A Sailor there he sees,
And he was on his knees.
Nor did the Sailor, so intent,
His entering footsteps heed;
His half-forgotten creed,
And often on our Saviour called
With many a bitter groan,
From deepest guilt alone.
The miserable man was asked
Why he was kneeling there, And what had been the crime that caused
The anguish of his prayer.
“I have done a cursed thing!” he cried :
“ It haunts me night and day; And I have sought this lonely place
Here undisturbed to pray.
“ Aboard I have no place for prayer;
So I came here alone,
And call on Christ, and groan.
“ If to the mainmast-head I
go, The Wicked One is there; From place to place, from rope to rope,
He follows everywhere.
“ I shut my eyes,
it matters not ; Still, still the same I see; And, when I lie me down at night,
'Tis always day with me.
“He follows, follows everywhere;
And every place is hell:
In endless fire to dwell !
"He follows, follows everywhere;
He's still above, below:
Oh, tell me where to go !”
6 But tell thou,” quoth the stranger then,
“What this thy crime hath been ; So haply I may comfort give
To one who grieves for sin.”
“Oh, cursed, cursed is the deed!”
The wretched man replies ; “ And night and day, and everywhere,
"Tis still before my eyes.
“I sailed on board a Guinea-man,
And to the slave-coast went:
When I was innocent !
“ And we took in our cargo, there,
Three hundred negro slaves ; And we sailed homeward merrily
Over the ocean-waves.
“ But some were sulky of the slaves,
And would not touch their meat; So therefore we were forced by threats
And blows to make them eat.
6 One woman, sulkier than the rest,
Would still refuse her food :
I see her in her blood !
“The captain made me tie her up,
And flog while he stood by;
My hand to hear her cry.
“ She shrieked, she groaned: I could not spare;
For the captain he stood by :
From that poor creature's cry!
“What woman's child a sight like that
Could bear to look upon a ?
But made me still flog on.
“ She could not be more glad than I
When she was taken down :
That I have ever known.
“ I did not close my eyes all night,
Thinking what I had done :
“She groaned and moaned, but her voice grew
Fainter at morning tide; Fainter and fainter still it came,
Until, at noon, she died.
They flung her overboard : poor wretch !
She rested from her pain ;
Shall I have rest again?
“I saw the sea close over her:
Yet she is still in sight;
I hear her day and night.
“ Go where I will, do what I can,
The Wicked One I see:
O God, deliver me!
“Oh, give me comfort, if you
Oh, tell me where to fly!
For one so lost as I!”
What said the minister of Christ ?
He bade him trust in Heaven,
All sins shall be forgiven.