Dr. Booker T. Washington to the National Negro Business League

- 1861-1949
’Tis strange indeed to hear us plead
   For selling and for buying
When yesterday we said: “Away
   With all good things but dying.”

The world’s ago, and we’re agog
   To have our first brief inning;
So let’s away through surge and fog
   However slight the winning.

What deeds have sprung from plow and pick!
   What bank-rolls from tomatoes!
No dainty crop of rhetoric 
   Can match one of potatoes.

Ye orators of point and pith,
   Who force the world to heed you,
What skeletons you’ll journey with
   Ere it is forced to feed you.

A little gold won’t mar our grace,
   A little ease our glory.
This world’s a better biding place 
   When money clinks its story. 

My Song

I sang me a song, a tiny song, 
   A song that was sweet to my soul,
And set it a-float on the sea of chance
   In search of a happy goal.

I said to my song: “Go on, go on
   And lodge in a tender spot
Of some human soul where the fires of hate
   And selfishness are not.”

My song went on but a little space
   And hied it back to me;
And fell at my feet in a sorry plight—
   The victim of cruelty.

I gazed a moment and quickly saw
   Just how it had come about,
A cruel critic had caught my song
   And probed the soul of it out.

O, poor indeed is the human mind
   (And why was it ever wrought?)
That can thrive on husk in the form of words,
   And not on a sturdy thought.

Related Poems

The World Is Too Much With Us

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not.—Great God! I'd rather be
A pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.