1812–1871

Introduction

portrait

Born: Feb­ru­a­ry 12, 1812, Wood­stock, Con­nec­ti­cut.

Died: March 18, 1871, Brook­lyn, New York.

Buried: Green-Wood Ce­me­te­ry, Brook­lyn, New York.

Biography

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.

Works

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.

Poem

War

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
Poems, 1841

Sources

Lyrics