My Easter Dove

There came a dove, an Easter dove, 
       When morning stars grew dim;
It fluttered round my lattice bars,
       To chant a matin hymn.

It brought a lily in its beak, 
       Aglow with dewy sheen;
I caught the strain, the incense breathed, 
       And uttered praise between.

It brought a shrine of holy thoughts 
       To calm my soul that day;
I caught the meaning of the note,
       Why did it fly away?

Come peaceful dove, sweet Easter dove! 
       Above earth’s storm and strife,
Sing of the joy of Easter-tide,
       Of light and hope and life.


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on March 31, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“My Easter Dove” appears in H. Cordelia Ray’s second and last poetry collection Poems (Grafton Press, 1910). In Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, Heidi Morse, a lecturer in nineteenth-century African American literary and cultural studies, writes, “Ray’s poems, like the many other verses written by northern black women (such as the poets named by [Gertrude Bustill] Mossell) and published in periodicals such as The Woman’s Era and A.M.E. Church Review, are authentic reflections of her social and cultural milieu. As late as 1926, the African American educator and activist Maritcha R. Lyons praised Ray’s ‘versatility, love of nature, classical knowledge, delicate fancy, an[d] unaffected piety. She sings like a gladsome child basking in the sunshine of earth’s cheer and beauty; again, like a serious maiden she stands with quiet reverent feet at the edge of sealed mysteries.’” Morse then notes,  “Ray’s obscurity within the African American literary tradition is not merely incidental; rather, I submit that scholarship on Ray has been hindered due to an artificial critical division between African American literature and classicism. For example, Angela Sorby characterizes Ray’s classical verses as the work of a ‘postsentimental’ female poet ‘performing her competence by crossing into the public sphere of the classics’ but distancing herself from potential discriminations through the ‘artifice’ of classicism. Such a reading positions Ray’s neoclassicism as a performance—perhaps even a performance of whiteness. But for Lyons and her contemporaries, Ray’s classicism was solidly rooted in her educational background and her black activist community.”