Whittier as Abolitionist

Laus Deo!

Lincoln reading the Emancipation ProclamationConsistent with his Pacifism, Whittier celebrated the Emancipation Proclamation as the victory, rather than the surrender of Lee. When he heard about it, Whittier said, “What glorious times we live in! My heart is full of thankfulness.  It is great to live now—to see and hear what will fill the horizon of history in all coming time, and the sound in all earth’s voices forever.”  (Woodwell 329) The importance of the cause of abolition and the Emancipation Proclamation to Whittier can be seen when one realizes he began work on Snowbound, the poem that was to make him the most beloved poet in America, in the summer of 1865, and complete it by October.

 He begins “Laus Deo!“ with the following note:

“On hearing the bells ring on the passage of the constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. The resolution was adopted by Congress, January 31, 1865.  The ratification by the requisite number of States was announced “December 18, 1865.”

It is done!
Clang of bell and roar of gun
Send the tidings up and down.
How the belfries rock and reel!
 How the great guns, peal on peal,
Fling the joy from town to town!

Ring, O Bells!
Every stroke exulting tells
Of the burial hour of crime.
Loud and long, that all may hear,
Ring for every listening ear
Of Eternity and Time!

Whittier ends with

It is done!
In the circuit of the sun
Shall the sound thereof go forth.
It shall bid the sad rejoice,
It shall give the dumb a voice,
It shall belt with joy the earth!

Ring and swing,
Bells of joy!  On morning’s wing
Send the song of praise abroad!
With a sound of broken chains
Tell the nations that He Reigns,
Who alone is Lord and god!

Full text of "Laus Deo!"