earlyamericanwomenpoets



dates unknown

Nothing is known about Ann Plato beyond her book of "essays" in prose and verse. She was a free African-American who lived in Hartford, Connecticut, where she was a member of the Colored Congregational Church. Her minister, the Reverend W. C. Pennington, wrote the introductory notice for her book. He published her work in a volume printed "For the Author" in Hartford in 1841. It is possible that she was a young teacher or in preparation to become one.

To the First of August

Britannia's isles proclaim,
That freedom is their theme;
And we do view those honor'd lands,
With soul-delighting mien.

And unto those they held in gloom,
Gave ev'ry one their right;
They did disdain fell slavery's shade,
And trust in freedom's light.

Then unto ev'ry British blood,
Their noble worth revere,
And think them ever noble men,
And like them, hence appear.

And when on Britain's isle remote,
We're then in freedom's bounds,
And while we stand on British ground,
You're free, — you're free, — resounds.

Lift ye that country's banner high,
And may it nobly wave,
Until beneath the azure sky,
Man shall be no more a slave.

And oh! when youth's ecstatic hour,
When winds and torrents foam,
And passion's glowing noon are past,
To bless that fre born home;

Then let us celebrate the day,
And lay the thought to heart,
And teach the rising race the way,
That they may not depart.


The Natives of America

Tell me a story, father please,
And then I sat upon his knees.
Then answer'd he, — "What speech make known,
Or tell the words of native tone,
Of how my Indian fathers dwelt,
And, of sore oppression felt,
And how they mourned a land serene,
It was an ever mournful theme."

Yes, I replied, — I like the hear,
And bring my father's spirit near;
Of every pain they did forego,
Oh, please to tell me all you know.
In history often do I read,
Of pain which none but they did heed.

He thus began. "We were a happy rae,
When we no tongue but ours did trace,
We were in ever peace,
We sold, we did release —
Our brethren, far remote, and far unknown,
And spake to them in silent, tender tone.
We all were then as in one band,
We join'd and took each other's hand;
Our dress was suited to the clime,
Our food was such as roam'd that time,
Our houses were of sticks compos'd;
No matter, — for they us enclos'd.

But then discover'd was this land indeed
By European men; who then had need
Of this far country. Columbus came afar,
And thus before we could say Ah!
What meaneth this? — we fell in cruel hands.
Though some were kind, yet others then held bands
Of cruel oppression. Then too, foretold our chief, —
Beggars you will be come — is my belief.
We sold, then some bought lands,
We altogether moved in foreign hands.

Wars ensued. They knew the handling of fire-arms.
Mothers spoke, — no fear this breast alarms,

They will not cruelly us oppress,
Or thus our lands possess.
Alas! it was a cruel day; we were crush'd:
Into the dark, dark woods we rush'd
To seek a refuge.

My daughter, we are now diminish'd, unknown,
Unfelt! Alas! no tender tone
To cheer us when the hunt is done;
Fathers sleep, — we're silent every one.

Oh! silent the horror, and fierce the fight,
When my brothers were shrouded in night;
Strangers did us invade — strangers destroy'd
The fields, which were by us enjoy'd.

Our country is cultur'd, and looks all sublime,
Our fathers are sleeping who lived in the time
That I tell. Oh! could I tell them my grief
In its flow, that in roaming, we find no relief.

I love my country; and shall, until death
Shall cease my breath.

Now daughter dear I've done,
Seal this upon thy memory; until the morrow's sun
Shall sink, to rise no more;
And if my years should score,
Remember this, though I tell no more."


Sources

Andrews, William L., et. al. The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Plato, Ann. ed. Essays; Including Biographies and Miscellaneous Pieces, in Prose and Poetry. James W. C. Pennington. Hartford: Printed for the Author, 1841.