William Cowper's Poem 'The Negro's Complaint'

Why did all-creating nature 
Make the plant for which we toil?
Sighs must fan it, tears must water, 
Sweat of ours must dress the soil.


Think, ye masters iron-hearted,
Lolling at your jovial boards,
Think how many backs have smarted
For the sweets your cane affords.

 

Is there, as ye sometimes tell us,
Is there One who reigns on high?
Has He bid you buy and sell us,
Speaking from his throne, the sky?


Ask him, if your knotted scourges,
Matches, blood-extorting screws,
Are the means that duty urges
Agents of his will to use?

 

Need some help?

toil = work

dress = cover

ye = you

lolling = lying around, relaxing

smarted = to be in pain/ hurt

knotted scourges = a very painful type of whip used to punish slaves

screws = device used for punishing slaves

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