Freedom's Anthem

God save the helpless slave,
Whether on land or wave.
God save the slave.
Emancipate him soon,
And turn his night to noon;
O grant him freedom’s boon.
God save the slave.
Free all the sable race,
And send Columbia peace.
God save the slave.
Then new stars arise
Far brighter in the skies
Than serfdom’s galaxies.
God save the slave.
See, Lord, the orphan’s tear
Dropt on its mother’s bier,
Dead ‘neath the lash.
Comfort the weeping bride,
Sold from her husband’s side,
Whilst on life’s highest tide.
God save the slave.
Scatter all freedom’s foes,
End Afric’s countless woes.
God save the slave.
Put forth thy matchless power,
O all thy Spirit shower,
Haste the millennial hour.
God save the slave.
70, Knowsley-street, Preston, March 21, 1862.

Title:Freedom's Anthem

Author:Joseph Barnes

Publication:Preston Guardian

Published in:Preston

Date:March 21st 1862

Keywords:slavery, war


Barnes’ poem ‘Freedom’s Anthem’ proclaims support for the emancipation of slavery, and calls upon God to “put forth thy matchless power” to support the northern States fighting in the American Civil War. The steadily alternating couplets and triplets, as well as strict use of iambic trimeter (or iambic dimeter during the refrain of “God save the slave”) serve to reinforce the musicality of the poem, allowing for easy singing of its celebration of liberation. Barnes explores the notions of a brighter future for the slaves in his images of “new stars” arising, and seeing “noon” rather than “night”, connoting new and more hopeful beginnings. Every line begins with an imperative, making it clear that the speaker is addressing God. Before directly demanding God to use his power to free the slaves, the speaker laments the suffering of women and children and the “countless woes” of Africa as a whole: “the weeping bride” and the “orphan’s tear” will be no more if God acts now, and “Haste[s] the millennial hour”, hence bringing peace to the slaves and, of course, back to Lancashire.

Katie Pitman, University of Exeter