“O Lord, How Long” Will the Tocsin of Liberty be Silent?

A tocsin is an alarm signal given by the ringing of a bell, and hence a knell of danger.”

Inscribed on the Liberty Bell is Leviticus XXV v. X:

…Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”

162 years ago, on the birthday of George Washington, was the last time the Liberty Bell rang out clearly. At that time it was called the “State House bell” of “Pensylvania.” It was the abolitionists who first gave it the name “Liberty Bell,” in reference to its inscription.

The following poem was published in the book, “The Liberty Bell” by the abolitionist group, Friends of Freedom in 1842, four years before the bell was silenced forever in trying to “repair” its crack. Unfortunately, the fissure in the Liberty Bell is an apt metaphor for a country that professes to stand for liberty and justice for all, but whose Constitution is literally broken and the freedom it guarantees is thus fissured for its inhabitants.

“The Liberty Bell”

John Piermont

The tocsin of Freedom and Slavery’s knell,

That a whole long year has idle hung,

Again is wagging its clamorous tongue!

As it merrily swings,

Its notes it flings

On the dreamy ear of planters and kings,

And it gives them a token,

Of manacles broken; –

And all that the prophets of Freedom have spoken.

With tounges of flame,

(Like those which came

On the men who first spoke in the Saviour’s name,)

Comes over their soul

As death-bells knowl,

Or the wheels of coming thunder roll!

Our Liberty Bell –

They know it well,

The tocsin of Freedom and Slavery’s knell!

Our Liberty Bell! let its startling tone

Abroad o’re a slavish land be thrown!

Nay, on the wings of the Northeast wind,

Let it reach the isles of the Western Ind –

Those isles of the sun

Where the the work is done

That, here at the North, is but just begun.

Let the Bell be swung,

Till old and young,

That dwell New England’s hills among,

Shall wake at the peal,

And, with holy zeal,

Beside their mountain altars kneel,

And pray that the yoke

From the necks may be broke

Of the millions who feel the “continual stroke”

Of the despot’s rod;

And that Earths’s green sod

No more by the foot of a slave may be trod.

Let the Liberty Bell ring out – ring out!

And let freemaen reply with a thundering shout,

That the gory scourges and clanking chains,

That blast the beauty of Southern plains,

Shall be stamped in the dust; –

And that thrice-gorged Lust,

That gloats on his helpless bond-slaves’s bust,

Ere long shall see

That slave set free,

And joining in Liberty’s Jubilee,

That Jubilee song!

“O Lord, how long”

Must the world yet wait for that Jubilee song?

Yet, come it must;

Jehovah is just,

And His Truth and his Spirit we cheerfully trust.

That truth to tell

Comes the Liberty Bell,

And that spirit shall make it strike Slavery’s knell.

Our Liberty Bell! Let its solemn chime

Fall on the ear of hoary Time,

As onwar – onward to its goal

He sees the chariot of Liberty roll;

While, with shout and song,

The swelling throng

Of the friends of the bondman urge it along.

Let the same chime fall

On the ears of all,

Who tread on the neck of the negro thral,

Till they start from the ground,

As they will at the sound

When the trumpets of angels are pealing around.

And the murdered slave

Comes forth from his grave,

And smiles at the flash of th’ Avenger’s glaive,

And the world shall accord

In the righteous award

To both tyrant and slave, in that day of the Lord.

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