The Prohibited Song

Dublin Core


The Prohibited Song


In compliance with the request of several persons, we reprint the admirable poem by Whittier, which the Hutchinson's were not allowed to sing on the other side of the Potomac, Gen. Kearney and Gen. Franklin having solemnly declared it to be incendiary, whereupon Gen. McClellan has forbidden them to sing within his lines at all. Our readers will notice that this hymn is suggested by a famous hymn of Martin Luther:—"Ein feste burg ist unser Gott."

We wait beneath the furnace-blast

The pangs of transformation:

Not painlessly doth God recast

And mould anew the nation.

Hot burns the fire

Where wrongs expire;

Nor spares the hand

That from the land

Uproots the ancient evil.

The hand-breadth cloud the sages feared

Its bloody rain is dropping;

The poison plant the fathers spared

All else is overtopping.

East, West, South, North,

It curses earth;

All justice dies,

And fraud and lies

Live only in its shadow.

What gives the wheat-field blades of steel?

What points the rebel cannon?

What sets the roaring rabble’s heel

On the old star-spangled pennon?

What breaks the oath

Of the men of the South?

What whets the knife

For the Union’s life?

Hark to the answer: SLAVERY!

Then waste no blows on lesser foes

In strife unworthy freemen.

God lifts to-day the veil, and shows

The features of the demon!

O North and South,

Its victims both,

Can ye not cry,

“Let Slavery die!”

And union find in freedom?

What though the cast-out spirit tear

The nation in his going?

We who have shared the guilt must share

The pang of his o’erthrowing!

Whate’er the loss,

Whate’er the cross,

Shall they complain

Of present pain

Who trust in God’s hereafter?

For who that leans on His right arm

Was ever yet forsaken?

What righteous cause can suffer harm

If He its part has taken?

Though wild and loud,

And dark the cloud,

Behind its folds

His hand upholds

The calm sky of to-morrow!

Above the maddening cry for blood,

Above the wild war-drumming,

Let Freedom’s voice be heard, with good

The evil overcoming.

Give prayer and purse

To stay the Curse

Whose wrong we share,

Whose shame we bear,

Whose end shall gladden Heaven!

In vain the bells of war shall ring

Of triumphs and revenges,

While still is spared the evil thing

That severs and estranges.

But blest the ear

That yet shall hear

The jubilant bell

That rings the knell

Of Slavery forever!

Then let the selfish lip be dumb,

And hushed the breath of sighing;

Before the joy of peace must come

The pains of purifying.

God give us grace

Each in his place

To bear his lot,

And, murmuring not,

Endure and wait and labor!


John Greenleaf Whittier


1:27, p. 4




John Greenleaf Whittier, “The Prohibited Song,” Periodical Poets, accessed April 14, 2024,


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