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Help me analyze the poem "The Negro's Complaint" by William Cowper.

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lezilh | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted May 22, 2013 at 8:23 AM via web

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Help me analyze the poem "The Negro's Complaint" by William Cowper.

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portd | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted May 22, 2013 at 6:58 PM (Answer #2)

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The poem "The Negro's Complaint" by William Cowper is a seven-stanza poem, with each stanza consisting of eight lines. The poem employs a rhyme scheme, which is "ababcdcd" with strong end rhymes.

 

The poem documents in a sense, a man's journey, albeit a journey he did not want to take, from his home in Africa to a life of slavery. It is evident that he was uprooted harshly from his life in Africa as seen in this line…

 

            Forc'd from home and all its pleasures,

 

He has been purchased, as if he is a piece of merchandise, from men from England. However, this man indicates that although they bought his physical being, they have not, will not, and cannot purchase his mind (his thoughts and free will thinking). In this sense, he is still free. This is what he can hold onto to retain his dignity as a human being.

 

It is poignant that this man notes that no matter what a person's skin color – he being a black man - we all have the same human feelings, hope, wishes, and dreams for a peaceful, productive as well as free life.

 

In addition, this man ponders a big question that concerns him – does God allow for what these English men are doing – does he sanction their actions against these men who are now slaves. The answer from the man, as pertains to God, is that God does not sanction this behavior. In fact, the man believes God is punishing the nation for this, with tornadoes, "wasting towns", and more. This is apparent in the lines…

 

             He, foreseeing what vexations

                Afric's sons should undergo,

            Fix'd their tyrants' habitations

               Where his whirlwinds answer—No.

 

In the end, the man questions those who have made him a slave. He asks them to prove that they have human feelings, in essence that they are capable of compassion, mercy, justice and decent, right behavior.

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