Thursday, June 18, 2015

South Carolina, 1782

Asked to dine with a South Carolina planter,
Hector St. John Crevecoeur took a small,
Cool path through the woods.
“Examining some peculiar plants,”
He felt the air disturbed, though the day was calm and sultry.

He saw “large birds of prey, anxiously endeavoring to perch”
On a cage, raised over the path, which held
“a negro: the birds had picked out his eyes,
his cheek bones were bare.
No sooner were the birds flown,
than swarms of insects covered the whole body.”

Crevecoeur lifted water to the dying man,
Then “mustered strength enough to walk away.”
His dinner host said that the slave
Had killed his overseer.

In his letter Crevecoeur hoped this scene
Would account for his “melancholy reflections,”
For which he apologized anyway:
“While all is joy in Charles-Town, would you imagine
that scenes of misery overspread the country?
Where do you conceive that nature
Intended we should be happy?”

His host, wrote Crevecoeur,
Had given all the usual arguments,
Self-protection and the order of nature,
“With the repetition of which I shall not trouble you.”

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