December 24, 2011

Birth of Chandler: naught but changeless gloom

Elizabeth Margaret Chandler was born in Centreville, Delaware on December 24, 1807. Her mother died two days later and her father, unable to care for his daughter, left her in the care of her grandmother in Philadelphia. He died when young Margaret was about 8 years old. At 16, she began publishing poems locally. By age 23, she moved to the Michigan Territory but died only four years later in 1834.

By 18, her writing became more serious as she focused on anti-slavery pieces — likely inspired by her Quaker background. One critic concluded Chandler was "the first American female author that ever made the Abolition of Slavery the principal theme of her active exertions."

Often, Chandler's poems directly appeal to womanly sensibilities. In one of her poems, a child asks, "What is a slave, mother?" The child does not believe that people can be bought and sold and children can be torn away from their parents. "Alas, yes, my child," the mother answers. The child concludes it is "a sinful thing" and only a "savage and wicked" land would allow it. According to contemporary sources, Chandler's most famous poem was "The Slave's Appeal":

Christian mother! when thy prayer
Trembles on the twilight air,
And thou askest God to keep,
In their waking and their sleep,
Those whose love is more to thee
Than the wealth of land or sea,
Think of those who wildly mourn
For the loved ones from them torn!

Christian daughter, sister, wife!
Ye who wear a guarded life—
Ye, whose bliss hangs not, like mine,
On a tyrant's word or sign,
Will ye hear, with careless eye,
Of the wild despairing cry,
Rising up from human hearts,
As their latest bliss departs!

Blest ones! whom no hands on earth
Dares to wrench from home and hearth,
Ye whose hearts are shelter'd well,
By affection's holy spell,
Oh, forget not those for whom
Life is naught but changeless gloom,
O'er whose days of cheerless sorrow,
Hope may paint no brighter tomorrow.

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