Yamba’s Appeal to the British People

Cover to the 1797 edition of “The Sorrows of Yamba”

The Sorrows of Yamba by Hannah More and Eaglesfield Smith calls for the abrogation of Slavery within Britain and its colonies by not only giving an account of the atrocities dealt to the captured African people, but by also appealing to the readers’ Humanity and Faith. We can see this throughout the poem due to the imagery and the message conveyed to us from the text.

The poem tells of how the character of Yamba is abducted by slavers during the night from her hut and family in Africa. She tells us that only “for love of filthy Gold” (ln 29) the slavers rush her and her infant daughter to the coast to be sold to British slave-traders. If this was not enough heartache for Yamba to endure, the poem says that she awoke one morning to find her “poor child was dead and cold” (ln 48).  The now deceased child is of so little importance to the slave-traders that it “gained a wat’ry Grave” (ln 54) as the body is thrown overboard.

After being sold to a cruel master who whips Yamba and gives her unfit food to eat, she is nearing death from the hard labor into which she was sold. The character decides that if she is to die, then it will be on her own terms and choice. So Yamba runs away to commit suicide by drowning herself in the sea. As fate would have it, she is saved from the act by an “English Missionary Good” (ln 82). The Missionary begins to proselytize and succeeds in converting Yamba to Christianity, as she says “Duly now baptiz’d am I, by good Missionary Man” (ln 137-38). The poem continues to say that Jesus not only died for White people, but even the Africans as Yamba tells us that Jesus “Died for wretched Yamba too” (ln 104).

What More and Eaglesfield attempt here is an appeal to the decency of the British people by calling not only upon the tenants of their Christian faith, but their treatment of other human beings. We see this in the duality of Yamba being abducted by the British slave-traders and given the salvation of God by an Englishman. This is intentional that these acts within the story are perpetrated by the British.  More and Eaglesfield are showing their readers, the British populace, that if they have the power and will to commit these atrocities against other human beings, then they also have the power and duty, as put forth by their God, to put an end those acts and deeds committed by the British people against the Africans.

Works Citied

Manning, Peter, Susan Wolfson, David Damrosch, and Kevin Dettmar.The Longman Anthology of British            

        Literature: The Romantics and Their Contemporaries. 5th. Boston: Pearson Education, Inc, 2012. 263-67. Print.

Cover of “The Sorrows of Yamba”. 1797. Photograph. The Abolition Project. Web.