To Toussaint Louverture - poem by Wordsworth

From TLP
Jump to: navigation, search
The dungeon in which Toussaint Louverture died.
Portrait of William Wordsworth.
Lithograph by Maurin after a lost earlier drawing.
The sonnet, To Toussaint L'Ouverture by the British poet William Wordsworth (April 7, 1770 Cockermouth, Cumberland – April 13, 1850) gives an example of how closely the Toussaint Louverture's actions and later imprisonment by the French at Fort de Joux, were followed around the world.

The Haitian Revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, died in French captivity in the dungeon at Fort de Joux on April 7, 1803.

Mary Persyn, in her article The Sublime Turn Away from Empire, makes the argument that the Haitian Revolution - and Toussaint Louverture's role in it - heavily influenced Wordsworth during his early years. (Persyn)


TOUSSAINT, the most unhappy of men! 1
Whether the whistling Rustic tend his plough
Within thy hearing, or thy head be now
Pillowed in some deep dungeon's earless den; -
O miserable Chieftain! where and when
Wilt thou find patience? Yet die not; do thou
Wear rather in thy bonds a cheerful brow:
Though fallen thyself, never to rise again,
Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind
Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies;
There's not a breathing of the common wind
That will forget thee; thou hast great allies;
Thy friends are exultations, agonies,
And love, and man's unconquerable mind.

created 1802, ~August 1-29; published 1803, Morning Post, London, February 2, 1803

Note 1: In his autobiographical text Memoir of Toussaint Louverture, Written by Himself, Toussaint Louverture writes: "...I am made the most unhappy of men; my liberty is taken from me..." (Beard p. 325)

See also


  • Beard, J. R. (John Relly) (1863). Toussaint L'Ouverture: A Biography and Autobiography. Chapel Hill, NC: Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH. Online Publication
  • Dietrich H. Fischer: William Wordsworth (1770 - 1850) A Selection - English and German [Date of access: November 9, 2005].
  • Persyn, Mary. (2002) The Sublime Turn Away from Empire: Wordsworth's Encounter with Colonial Slavery, 1802. RON - Romanticism on the Net. Montréal: Université de Montréal. (electronic version) ISSN : 1467-1255 [Date of access: November 9, 2005].
  • Wikipedia contributors (2006). William Wordsworth. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 05:25, February 20, 2006 [1].
  • Wordsworth, William. (1888). The Complete Poetical Works. London: Macmillan and Co.. Online text:, 1999. [2]. [Date of access: November 9, 2005].

External links