Whittier as Abolitionist

Yankee Girl

Plantation such as the Yankee Girl is refusingThe poems which had the strongest emotional impact on the average reader were the narratives. Whittier told the stories of slaves and slave holders in a number of poems. One of his most famous is “Yankee Girl,” about the rejection of a wealthy Southern slave holder by a poor Yankee girl. Ellen, the Yankee girl, is spinning in her humble cottage when,

Who comes in his pride to that low cottage-door,
The haughty and rich to the humble and poor?
‘Tis the great Southern planter, the master who waves
His whip of dominion o’er hundreds of slaves.

He begins by insulting Yankees,

“Nay, Ellen, for shame! Let those Yankee fools spin,
Who would pass for our slaves with a change of their skin;
Let them toil as they will at the loom or the wheel,
Too stupid for shame, and too vulgar to feel!

He invites her to come “away to the South.”

“Oh, come to my home, where my servants shall all
Depart at they bidding and come at they call;
They shall heed thee as mistress with trembling and awe,
And each wish of thy heart shall be felt as a law.”

But Ellen arises and “with a scorn in her eye” answers:

“Go back, haughty Southron! They treasures of gold
Are dim with the blood of the hearts thou hast sold;
Thy home may be lovely, but round it I hear
The crack of the whip and the footsteps of fear!

And even though Southern weather may be better,

…dearer the blast round our mountains which raves,
Than the sweet summer zephyr which breathes over slaves!

“Full low at thy bidding thy negroes may kneel,
With the iron of bondage on spirit and heel;
Yet know that the Yankee girl sooner would be
In fetters with them, than in freedom with thee!”

Full text of "Yankee Girl"

Next poem >