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Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass, February 28, 1854




MY DEAR DOUGLASS:—Winter has alter-
nately smiled and frowned, frowned and
smiled upon us, till now. The other day,
gentle spring came up from where the
swallows twitter, and blew her soft and
balmy breath over us. We felt its genial in-
fluence; it was Sabbath day, and we went
to the house of prayer. Old winter became
as it were angered, (not at our, but young
spring's intrusion;) and ere twenty-four
hours elapsed, a murky cloud settled on his
stern and aged brow, and storm and rage en-
sued. As from the hands of myriads of lit-
tle demons in the air, with snow pebbles he
pelted our window—he howled round the
corner of the streets—he muffled the hasty
tread of the by-passers, who would draw
their nether garments more closely, and
hesitatingly proceed onward. Ever and
anon as he came screaming through the
crevices of the door of my cot, and making
sundry efforts to gain admittance, I sat by my
lonely fire, and my mind revolving back in
the regions of the past, stumbled on an inci-
dent, though long since, yet so similar the
circumstances then, and now so striking the
coincidence, that I beg to relate it, and, too,
in the simplicity of language that I then
penned it. Still, let no one say Ethiop is
trying to turn poet. 'Tis nature's gift, and
no man can turn to be what he
is not.—But to my story, with your, and the forgiveness of your readers:

The Beggar Girl.

As I went from one wintry morning,
The winds were fierce, and it was storming.
A little stranger, wan and wild,
Cried, Give! Oh, give a needy child!

I, without grudging, without hoarding,
Gave what ere my purse affording—
Received in turn a mournful smile,
'Twas the thanks of a beggar child.

I, soon amidst the business moving
Buying, selling, praising, proving,
As is the custom of the world,
Forgot the little beggar girl.

At night, I sat by my fire, weary,
All without was dreary, dreary,
The bleak winds in a fearful whirl,
And then recurred the beggar girl.

Fond sleep and heavy eyes refusing,
I fell into solemn musing,
Over the coldness of the world,
And trials of the beggar girl.

My thoughts still onward, onward fleeting,
Sorrows, suffering, buffets meeting,
In their swift flight round the world,
They'd meet anon the beggar girl.

As deeper in my revery falling,
Lo! a voice seemed to me calling,
Oh! oh! is this a friendless world?
'Twas like the little beggar girl's.

Though yet into my revery seeming,
Now in truth was dreaming—dreaming
About the cold and heartless world.
And dream'd I saw the beggar girl.

Next morn, beneath my window lonely,
Went a horse driver only,
Unnoticed by the world—
They said it bore the beggar girl.

When wintry winds my cot is rocking,
And storm at my door is knocking,
I then reflect upon the world,
And ne'er forget the beggar girl.


As I went forth on the morning after
Monday's storm, the same likeness appear-
ed to me; but not the same beggar
girl.—There were the same bare feet, once white,
(true sympathy is never confined to, nor
hemmed in by complexion,) now redder than
the blood oozing from them, and staining the
crisp snow that buried them at each remove;
still it was not the same beggar girl. No;
she had gone! How many of earth's beg-
gars, old and young, than the cold grave, the
colder world has buried since the first one I
speak of! How many more than the one
now before me there are, to whom the chill
tomb would be a bed of sweet mercy, to the
freezing out of the inner life by the chill
world, and with less concern than the chill
winds that now pass me!

Quite an interesting and effecting scene
took place in the Siloam Church, Brooklyn,
(Rev. Mr. Freeman's,) on Sunday morning.
It was occasioned by the leave-taking of Mr.
Charles Thompson and wife, previous to his
departure to Oberlin College, preparatory to
entering the ministry. Mr. Thompson is a
young man with superior native talents—of
fine appearance, and pleasing address—of
piety and zeal according to knowledge—and
will one day be heard from and listened to,
too. The Siloam Church from which he
goes may well take a just pride in this event.
This church has progressed very rapidly
within the last year or so, under the minis-
trations of the Rev. Mr. Freeman. It is not
a little remarkable, that from among our
valuable and intelligent citizens and mem-
bers of this church, two have been [dismiss?]-
ed this week for other destinations. In ad-
dition to Mr. Thompson, Mr. John P. An-
thony, the junior partner of the firm of J.
N. Still & Co., has left for New Haven, Conn.

Midnight. Spring is upon us. As I
pen this line that last sands of winter are run-
ning out. The grave is open for him, and
he will soon pass into it. Peace to his
ashes! The earth-workers in abundance
are already down in Gotham making their
spring purchases—such as implements of
husbandry, choice seeds, &c. May we hope
for a plentiful harvest.

Yours truly, ETHIOP.


Ethiop (William J. Wilson)




Ethiop [William J. Wilson] to Frederick Douglass. PLSr: Frederick DouglassP, 17 March 1854. Offers a poem called “The Beggar Girl”; comments on the harsh winter and coming spring; reports on the Siloam Church in Brooklyn led by Reverend Amos Noe Freeman.


This document was calendared in the published volume and has not been published in full before.


Frederick Douglass' Paper



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Frederick Douglass' Paper