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"The Negro's Complaint" is a poem written by Englishman William Cowper, a poet and hymnodist, who composed this controversial poem as an act of conscience, for he felt the guilt for the sin of enslaving Africans by his countrymen. Cowper gives voice to those who have none and are not permitted to make any outcries, hoping to awaken the conscience of slave owners and traders both.
In seven stanzas written in mostly iambic pentameter with the rhyme scheme ababcdcd, there is a musicality to this poem reflective of the emotions of the speaker, a slave. In one stanza, he voices the question of why God has created the cotton plant,
Why did all-creating nature
Make the plant for which we toil?
and how horrible it is for anyone to be a slave,
Think, ye masters iron-hearted...
How many back have smarted
For the sweets your can affords...
Further, the speaker of the poem foresees what God will do to the slave traders. They must heed their actions,
Hark! He answers! -- Wild tornadoes
Strewing yonder seas with wrecks
Wasting towns, plantations, meadows....
Finally, the speaker challenges the slave traders to reflect upon what they do to these innocent people, how their actions are contradictory to their Christian philosophy. Then, he exhorts people to prove that they do, indeed, possess the human charity necessary for a good life and act against this heinous crime of slavery.
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