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[56] I have seen the primal entry
On the books beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever,
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
At the bridge that passes over,
At the dark bridge with the cover.

On a midnight dank and dreary,
When my form was weak and weary
Then my spirit left its dwelling,
Left it in another's keeping;
In the kind care of another,
Of a loving angel brother,
Who had left his earth-friends weeping,
And had crossed the river swelling,
But had found a passage over--
Found a backward passage over,
Through the dark bridge with the cover,
And had made another entry
On the shore this side the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
At the bridge that passes over,
At the dark bridge with the cover.

As my spirit made its entry
On the shore beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
At the bridge that passes over,
At the dark bridge with the cover,
There I met the writing angel
With his records all before him,
And a halo hanging o'er him,
With his books named in the evangel.

With an anxious, saddened feeling
Through my inner spirit stealing,
Turned I to the writing angel,
With his books named in the evangel,
Just to learn the situation
Of our struggling, bleeding nation;
Just to learn this from the entry
On the books beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
At the bridge that passes over,
At the dark bridge with the cover.

With a tear the angel said it:
“There's your debt and there's your credit--
Just inspect each primal entry
On the books this side the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river.”

Turned I quick aside the cover,
And I glanced the pages over,
And I found the primal entry
On the books beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
Was before the old embargo,
When the Dutch ship with her cargo,
Ploughed her keel across our waters,
With her fettered sons and daughters,
'Twas a charge for “countless terrors,”
And the “middle passage horrors.”

Then the next or second entry
On the books beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
At the bridge that passes over,
At the dark bridge with the cover,
Was for “wails of wives and mothers,
And for sisters, fathers, brothers,
When the auction-hammer thundered
That all kindred ties were sundered.”

Then the next and final entry
On the books beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river,
At the bridge that passes over,
At the dark bridge with the cover,
Was for “proceeds of the cargo,
Brought before the old embargo,”
And I found the angel had it,
With each mill of interest added--
But we pass now to the credit
As the writing angel had it.

Turned I then again the cover,
And I searched the pages over,
But I found no credit entry
On the books beyond the sentry,
Of the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside the river;
Then I gave unto the angel
All his books named in the evangel,
When a deeper, saddened feeling
Came across my spirit stealing;
But the angel sternly said it--
“You shall have your honest credit.”

“When your land is filled with terrors
Like the Middle Passage horrors,
All the horrors of each cargo
Since the Dutch keel ploughed your waters
With her sable sons and daughters,
Long before the slave embargo:

“When your wails of wives and mothers,
Of your sisters, fathers, brothers,
Shall amount through all your slaughters
To the wails of sons and daughters,
Of the sable sons and daughters,
Since the auction-hammer thundered
That all human ties were sundered:

“When the proceeds of the cargo,
Brought before the old embargo--
When the proceeds as you had it,
With each mill of interest added,
Shall be squandered in your slaughters,
'Mid your wails of wives and daughters,
You will get your honest credit!”

Then he closed the opening cover,
When again I crossed the river,
By the sentry standing ever
Gaunt and grim beside that river;
Then my spirit sought its dwelling,
Left within a brother's keeping,
Of an angel brother's keeping,
When that brother left my dwelling,
And recrossed the river swelling,
From this land with sorrow laden,
To his better home in Aidenn.

Exeter, September, 1862.

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Exeter, N. H. (New Hampshire, United States) (1)
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September, 1862 AD (1)
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