Freedom To The Slave Summary
The poem “Freedom To The Slave” is about a freed slave as he is physically freed. The speaker expresses the feelings of the newly freed slave.
Social Background of the poem
Anti-slavery movement in England or abolitionism in the United Kingdom (late 18th and early 19th centuries) was the movement to end the practice of slavery in England. It was written when the Anti-slavery movement was prevalent in England. The poem “Freedom to the Slave” recounts the experience of a recently freed slave.
Freedom To The Slave
Derozio seems to have influenced by the humanitarian ideal of the west. For instance, the influence of Thomas Campbell is seen in the lines “And as the slave departs, the man returns”. The line is extracted from Campbell’s poem “The Pleasures of Hope”. It is a long poem about the downfall of Poland in the hands of oppressors and hopes for improvement in society.
The speaker was curious about the freed slave’s state of mind. The speaker was thinking about what could be the slave’s feeling when he was first told that he was no more a slave. The slave became excited and the speaker was curious to know how his heart would beat when he was first told that he was free from the shackles of bondage.
The slave was no more kneeling down; he stood up on his feet. His thoughts were elevated as he stood up. He started to feel himself a free man. Kneeling implies to have lowered one’s self in front of others.
In the state of slavery a slave bows down to the master or the superior ones. The physical posture of bowing down also suggests withdrawing one ‘self’ to the others. Here in the poem, as the slave got freedom, he rose on his feet which suggested the mental elevation of the slave. The slave was free from the status of a slave.
The slave looked above and felt the fresh wind. He smiled jubilantly to see the wild birds flying freely, the running stream that is flowing beneath him. Then the slave thinks of them that he was also free like the winds, wild birds, and the stream.
The poet uses the imagery of the winds, wild birds, and stream. Through the vivid imagery of natural elements which include the wind, wild birds, and stream the poet conveyed the slave’s emotional state of mind.
Like the fresh winds, the slave also felt fresh as he was declared free. The slave was elated to see the wild birds because like the wild birds the slave could also roam freely without any restriction. Besides these winds and wild birds, there was another element of nature that complemented his sense of freedom in the poem and that is the stream. The relentlessly flowing stream implies free life.
The statement, imagery is used to convey the idea of freedom of the slave, was indicated as the slave thought of the winds and birds, and floods and he shed tears with a sense of pleased, “I’m free as they!”
In the next part of the poem, the speaker addresses freedom, and freedom is personified. The speaker eulogizes freedom, “Oh freedom!” saying there is very special in its name that kindles the altar of the soul with endless flame.
Glory to the braveheart that bleeds for freedom and lets nobody be bleed. And blessed to the generous hand who shatters the chain of bondage that is given by a tyrant and empathizes with the degraded man and gives him freedom.
The speaker says that the patriot achieves success when the patriot’s sword is uncovered for freedom which means the patriot is ready to fight for freedom. The speaker hails glory to the one whose chest is injured and the gush of blood flows in the name of freedom.
Like in The Orphan Girl, here the speaker also praises the generous man that breaks the chain that is bound by an autocrat and empathizes with the degraded condition of a slave. Seeing the downgrading condition of the slave, the benignant man gives freedom to the slave.
In most of Derozio’s poems, the reflection of patriotism is discernible in his poetic expression. Here Derozio in “Freedom to the Slave” praises the patriot for sacrificing life for the nation and bringing freedom to the land. Infusion of patriotism resonates in the poem just like his patriotic poems such as “To India-My Native Land”, “The Harp of India” etc.
The theme of both poems is freedom. In “To India-My Native Land” Derozio uses the image of a golden bird to refer to the past glory of India and how the country has been enslaved by the British. The poet will dig into the heritage of distant past and will bring some fragmented sublime out of it which men have hardly seen.
“The Harp of India” also celebrates the glorious past of India and at the same time mourns over the loss of its glory because of the invasion of the British empire. The poet hopes that India will regain its glory.
In this connection, it can be justified that burning nationalistic zeal is a notable feature of Derozio’s poetry. The poet also praises the man by referring to as “generous hand” that breaks the shackles of slavery from a tyrant and empathizes with the feeling of a slave and gives freedom to this slave.
Structure – Freedom To The Slave
The poet uses the rhyme scheme of ABCB, DEFE, the 2nd line rhymes with and 4th line, but after every four lines, it changes.
The essence of the poem is freedom, freedom is an integral part of our existence. It is the freedom that gives meaning to our existence. It was the freedom that added meaning to the life of recently freed slave.
- Singh, Rajveer. Et.al. “Socio-cultural factors in the development of H.L.V. Derozio as a poet and renaissance spirit in the poems The Golden Vase, The Eclipse and The Ruins of Rajmahal awakening national consciousness.” IJELLH, vol 6, issue 10, Oct. 2018.
- The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Abolitionism European and American social movement.” Britannica, 25 April 2020, https://www.britannica.com/biography/Thomas-Clarkson.