Morning Light

- 1885-1979

(The Dew-drier)

It is a custom in some parts of Africa for travelers into the jungles to send before them in the early morning little African boys called “Dew-driers” to brush with their bodies the dew from the high grasses—and be, perchance, the first to meet the leopard’s or hyena’s challenge—and so open the road. “Human Brooms,” Dan Crawford calls them.

Brother to the firefly—
For as the firefly lights the night
So lights he the morning—
Bathed in the dank dews as he goes forth
Through heavy menace and mystery
Of half-waking tropic dawns,
Behold a little black boy, a naked black boy,
Sweeping aside with his slight frame
Night’s pregnant tears,
And making a morning path to the light
For the tropic traveler!

Bathed in the blood of battle,
Treading toward a new morning,
May not his race—its body long bared to the world’s disdain,
Its face schooled to smile for a light to come—
May not his race, even as the dew-boy leads,
Bear onward the world toward a new day-dawn
When tolerance, forgiveness,
Such as reigned in the heart of One
Whose heart was gold,
Shall shape the earth for that fresh dawning
     After the dews of blood?


The Bronze Legacy

To a Brown Boy

Tis a noble gift to be brown, all brown,
     Like the strongest things that make up this earth,
Like the mountains grave and grand,
     Even like the very land,
     Even like the trunks of trees—
     Even oaks, to be like these!
God builds His strength in bronze.

To be brown like thrush and lark!
     Like the subtle wren so dark!
Nay, the king of beasts wears brown;
     Eagles are of this same hue.
I thank God, then, I am brown.
     Brown has mighty things to do.

Peacock Feather

Heav’n’s deepest blue,
Earth’s richest green,
Minted dust of stars,
Molten sunset sheen,
Are blent together
On this lithe brown feather,
In a disc of light—
Lithe, light!

O Sea, That Knowest Thy Strength

Hast thou been known to sing,
        O sea, that knowest thy strength?
Hast thou been known to sing? 
        Thy voice, can it rejoice?
Naught save great sorrowing,
        To me, thy sounds incessant
Do express, naught save great sorrowing.
Thy lips, they daily kiss the sand,
        In wanton mockery.
Deep in thine awful heart
        Thou dost not love the land.
        Thou dost not love the land.
        O sea, that knowest thy strength.

“These sands, these listless, helpless,
        Sun-gold sands, I’ll play with these,
Or crush them in my white-fanged hands
        For leagues, to please
The thing in me that is the Sea,
        Intangible, untamed,
        Untamed and wild,
        And wild and weird and strong!”