Frederick Douglass

- 1872-1906
A hush is over all the teeming lists,
   And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
   And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn,
Laments the passing of her noblest born.

She weeps for him a mother's burning tears—
   She loved him with a mother's deepest love.
He was her champion thro' direful years,
   And held her weal all other ends above.
When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust,
He raised her up and whispered, "Hope and Trust."

For her his voice, a fearless clarion, rung
   That broke in warning on the ears of men;
For her the strong bow of his power he strung,
   And sent his arrows to the very den
Where grim Oppression held his bloody place
And gloated o'er the mis'ries of a race.

And he was no soft-tongued apologist;
   He spoke straightforward, fearlessly uncowed;
The sunlight of his truth dispelled the mist,
   And set in bold relief each dark hued cloud;
To sin and crime he gave their proper hue,
And hurled at evil what was evil's due.

Through good and ill report he cleaved his way.
   Right onward, with his face set toward the heights,
Nor feared to face the foeman's dread array,—
   The lash of scorn, the sting of petty spites.
He dared the lightning in the lightning's track,
And answered thunder with his thunder back.

When men maligned him, and their torrent wrath
   In furious imprecations o'er him broke,
He kept his counsel as he kept his path;
   'Twas for his race, not for himself he spoke.
He knew the import of his Master's call,
And felt himself too mighty to be small.

No miser in the good he held was he,—
   His kindness followed his horizon's rim.
His heart, his talents, and his hands were free
   To all who truly needed aught of him.
Where poverty and ignorance were rife,
He gave his bounty as he gave his life.

The place and cause that first aroused his might
   Still proved its power until his latest day.
In Freedom's lists and for the aid of Right
   Still in the foremost rank he waged the fray;
Wrong lived; his occupation was not gone.
He died in action with his armor on!

We weep for him, but we have touched his hand,
   And felt the magic of his presence nigh,
The current that he sent throughout the land,
   The kindling spirit of his battle-cry.
O'er all that holds us we shall triumph yet,
And place our banner where his hopes were set!

Oh, Douglass, thou hast passed beyond the shore,
   But still thy voice is ringing o'er the gale!
Thou'st taught thy race how high her hopes may soar,
   And bade her seek the heights, nor faint, nor fail.
She will not fail, she heeds thy stirring cry,
She knows thy guardian spirit will be nigh,
And, rising from beneath the chast'ning rod,
She stretches out her bleeding hands to God!

More by Paul Laurence Dunbar

A Negro Love Song

Seen my lady home las' night,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel' huh han' an' sque'z it tight,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f'om huh eye,
An' a smile go flittin' by--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Hyeahd de win' blow thoo de pine,
    Jump back, honey, jump back,
Mockin'-bird was singin' fine,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
An' my hea't was beatin' so,
When I reached my lady's do',
Dat I couldn't ba' to go--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Put my ahm aroun' huh wais',
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an' took a tase,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well ez I love you?
An' she answe'd, "'Cose I do"--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Signs of the Times

Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah, 
   Frost a-comin' in de night, 
Hicka' nuts an' wa'nuts fallin', 
   Possum keepin' out o' sight. 
Tu'key struttin' in de ba'nya'd, 
   Nary a step so proud ez his; 
Keep on struttin', Mistah Tu'key, 
   Yo' do' know whut time it is. 


Cidah press commence a-squeakin' 
   Eatin' apples sto'ed away, 
Chillun swa'min' 'roun' lak ho'nets, 
   Huntin' aigs ermung de hay. 
Mistah Tu'key keep on gobblin' 
   At de geese a-flyin' souf, 
Oomph! dat bird do' know whut's comin'; 
   Ef he did he'd shet his mouf. 


Pumpkin gittin' good an' yallah 
   Mek me open up my eyes; 
Seems lak it's a-lookin' at me 
   Jes' a-la'in' dah sayin' "Pies." 
Tu'key gobbler gwine 'roun' blowin', 
   Gwine 'roun' gibbin' sass an' slack; 
Keep on talkin', Mistah Tu'key, 
   You ain't seed no almanac. 


Fa'mer walkin' th'oo de ba'nya'd 
   Seein' how things is comin' on, 
Sees ef all de fowls is fatt'nin' — 
   Good times comin' sho's you bo'n. 
Hyeahs dat tu'key gobbler braggin', 
   Den his face break in a smile — 
Nebbah min', you sassy rascal, 
   He's gwine nab you atter while. 


Choppin' suet in de kitchen, 
   Stonin' raisins in de hall, 
Beef a-cookin' fu' de mince meat, 
   Spices groun' — I smell 'em all. 
Look hyeah, Tu'key, stop dat gobblin', 
   You ain' luned de sense ob feah, 
You ol' fool, yo' naik's in dangah, 
   Do' you know Thanksgibbin's hyeah?

In Summer

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies' soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air's soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer's boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another's ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o'erfull heart, without aim or art;
'T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard,—
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.