"The savage cheek / Smiles at the potent spoiler; braves his frown; / And while the partial gloom is most opake, / Still vaunts the mind unfetter'd!"

— Robinson [Née Darby], Mary [Perdita] (1758-1800)

Place of Publication
Printed for Richard Phillips [etc.]
"The savage cheek / Smiles at the potent spoiler; braves his frown; / And while the partial gloom is most opake, / Still vaunts the mind unfetter'd!"
Metaphor in Context
Superstition! more destructive still
Than plague or famine, tyranny or war!
Thou palsying mischief, thou benumbing foe
To all the proudest energies of man!
Whence springs thy subtle desolating charm,
From pompous pageantry and bigot pride,
From mitred canopies, and shrines of gold,
And bones of mould'ring monks? Can freezing nights,
In cells where cold inanity presides,
Cloath'd in religion's meek and sainted guise,
Or long-drawn pageantry of empty show,
Conceal the trembling soul, from that dread pow'r
Which marks th' All-seeing! On Italia's shores,
On every plain, on ev'ry mountain top,
The voice of nature speaks, in mighty sounds,
To bid thee tremble! Then, O! nature, say--
Shall rich Italia's bow'rs, her citron shades,
Her vales prolific, mountains golden clad,
And rivers fring'd with nectar-teeming groves,
Re-echo with the mighty song of praise
To empyrean space, while shackled still
The man of colour dies? Shall torrid suns
Shoot downward their hot beams on mis'ry's race,
And call forth luxuries to pamper pride,
Steep'd in the Ethiop's tears, the Ethiop's blood!
Shall the caprice of nature, the deep tint
Of sultry climes, the feature varying,
Or the uncultur'd mind, endure the scourge
Of sordid tyranny, or heap the stores
Of his fair fellow man, whose ruddy cheek
Knows not the tear of pity; whose white breast
Conceals a heart, than adamant more hard,
More cruel than the tiger's! Bend thy gaze
O! happy offspring of a temper'd clime,
On whom the partial hand of nature set
The stamp of bloomy tints, proportions fine,
Unmixing with the goodly outside shew
The mind appropriate; bend thy pitying gaze
To Zembla's frozen sphere; where in his hut,
Roof'd by the rocky steep, the savage smiles,
In conscious freedom smiles, and mocks the storm
That howls along the sky. Th' unshackled limb,
Cloth'd in the shaggy hide of uncouth bear,
Or the fleet mountain elk, bounds o'er the cliff
The free-born tenant of the desert wild.
The glow of liberty, thro' ev'ry vein
Bids sensate streams revolve; the dusky path
Of midnight solitudes no terror brings,
Because he fears no lord. The prowling wolf,
Whose eye-balls redden 'midst the world of gloom,
Yells fierce defiance, form'd by nature's law
To share the desert's freedom. O'er the sky
The despot darkness reigns, in sullen pride,
Half the devoted year. His ebon wing
O'ershadows the blank space: his chilling breath
Benumbs the breast of nature; on his brow,
Myriads of stars with lucid lustre gem
His boundless diadem! The savage cheek
Smiles at the potent spoiler; braves his frown;
And while the partial gloom is most opake,
Still vaunts the mind unfetter'd!
If for these
Indulgent nature breaks the bonds of woe,
Gilding the deepest solitudes of night
With the pure flame of liberty sublime;
If for the untaught sons of gelid climes,
Health cheers the darkest hour with vig'rous age,
Shall the poor African, the passive slave,
Born in the bland effulgence of broad day,
Cherish'd by torrid splendours, while around
The plains prolific teem with honey'd stores
Of Afric's burning soil; shall such a wretch
Sink prematurely to a grave obscure,
No tear to grace his ashes? Or suspire,
To wear submission's long and goading chain,
To drink the tear, that down his swarthy cheek
Flows fast, to moisten his toil-fever'd lip,
Parch'd by the noontide blaze? Shall he endure
The frequent lash, the agonizing scourge,
The day of labour, and the night of pain;
Expose his naked limbs to burning gales;
Faint in the sun, and wither in the storm;
Traverse hot sands, imbibe the morbid breeze,
Wing'd with contagion, while his blister'd feet,
Scorch'd by the vertical and raging beam,
Pour the swift life-stream? Shall his frenzied eyes,
Oh! worst of mortal miseries! behold
The darling of his soul, his sable love,
Selected from the trembling, timid throng
By the wan tyrant, whose licentious touch
Seals the dark fiat of the slave's despair!
Humanity! from thee the suppliant claims
The meed of retribution! Thy pure flame
Would light the sense opake, and warm the spring
Of boundless ecstacy; while nature's laws
So violated, plead, immortal-tongu'd,
For her dark-fated children; lead them forth
From bondage infamous! Bid reason own
The dignities of man, whate'er his clime,
Estate, or colour. And, O! sacred truth!
Tell the proud lords of traffic, that the breast
Thrice ebon-tinted, bears a crimson tide,
As pure, as clear as Europe's sons can boast.
Then, liberty, extend thy thund'ring voice
To Afric's scorching climes, o'er seas that bound
To bear the blissful tidings, while all earth
Shall hail humanity! the child of heav'n!
Searching in HDIS (Poetry)
Comparing the Zemblan savage and the enslaved African. The savage mind is unthreatened and unfettered.
Date of Entry

The Mind is a Metaphor is authored by Brad Pasanek, Assistant Professor of English, University of Virginia.