Born: February 12, 1812, Woodstock, Connecticut.
Died: March 18, 1871, Brooklyn, New York.
Buried: Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn, New York.
Burleigh was an active reformer and member of the Unitarian denomination. In 1837, he went to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where, having been previously apprenticed in the printing trade, he published the Christian Witness and Temperance Banner.
In 1843, he became editor of the Christian Freeman at Hartford, Connecticut. From 1849–55, he was an agent of the New York State Temperance Society. From 1855–70, he was Harbormaster in New York City.
Burleigh contributed poems and hymns to various periodicals and journals. Many of these were collected and published as Poems (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J. Miller McKim, 1841). This volume was enlarged with additional pieces and republished by Burleigh’s widow in 1871.
The vulture hovers o’er the reeking plain,
Called to the feast of Death, by Glory spread—
A mingled mass of dying and of dead—
While cannons roar and trumpets shriek amain,
And fierce-eyed Havoc, drunk with human gore,
Yet reckless, sateless, yells in rage for more!
Shudder, oh Earth! and cover not thy slain—
Hide not their blood, which from the steaming sod,
Cries loud for retribution! Shall not God,
Ye chiefs, ye warriors—progeny of Cain—
Visit the lands for this? The widow’s cries
Witness against you—and the orphan’s shriek
Is heard in Heaven! Your hands with murder reek,
And God abhors your bloody sacrifice!
How long, oh Lord! how long shall Carnage reign,
And mad Ambition and demoniac Rage,
With sway despotic, o’er Thy heritage?
Shall dove-eyed Peace ne’er smile on man again?
Shall Justice frown, and Mercy plead, in vain,
While smokes the earth with blood, and rampart War
Crushes the Nations ’neath his iron car,
Gorging himself with hecatombs of slain?
Shall Truth be dumb, shall Virtue shrink, afraid
To pour rebuke upon the sons of Hell—
The fiends of Passion—who, with purpose fell,
Still drive in human blood their demon trade?
Forbid it, righteous God! assert Thy sway,
Till Earth shall hear Thy voice, and hearing shall obey!
William Henry Burleigh