Song of Slaves in the Desert

John Greenleaf Whittier

Where are we going? where are we going,   
Where are we going, Rubee?   
Lord of peoples, lord of lands,   
Look across these shining sands,   
Through the furnace of the noon,           
Through the white light of the moon.   
Strong the Ghiblee wind is blowing,   
Strange and large the world is growing!   
Speak and tell us where we are going,   
  Where are we going, Rubee?           
Bornou land was rich and good,   
Wells of water, fields of food,   
Dourra fields, and bloom of bean,   
And the palm-tree cool and green:   
Bornou land we see no longer,           
Here we thirst and here we hunger,   
Here the Moor-man smites in anger:   
  Where are we going, Rubee?   
When we went from Bornou land,   
We were like the leaves and sand,           
We were many, we are few;   
Life has one, and death has two:   
Whitened bones our path are showing,   
Thou All-seeing, thou All-knowing!   
Hear us, tell us, where are we going,           
  Where are we going, Rubee?   
Moons of marches from our eyes   
Bornou land behind us lies;   
Stranger round us day by day   
Bends the desert circle gray;           
Wild the waves of sand are flowing,   
Hot the winds above them blowing,—   
Lord of all things!—where are we going?   
  Where are we going, Rubee?   
We are weak, but Thou art strong;           
Short our lives, but Thine is long;   
We are blind, but Thou hast eyes;   
We are fools, but Thou art wise!   
Thou, our morrow’s pathway knowing   
Through the strange world round us growing,           
Hear us, tell us where are we going,   
  Where are we going, Rubee?

Over centuries, millions of sub-saharan Africans were enslaved by the Arabs of the North.

Main Location:

Borno, Nigeria

Other locations: