My Hero

(To Robert Gould Shaw )

Flushed with the hope of high desire,
    He buckled on his sword,
To dare the rampart ranged with fire,
    Or where the thunder roared;
Into the smoke and flame he went,
    For God’s great cause to die—
A youth of heaven’s element,
    The flower of chivalry.

This was the gallant faith, I trow,
    Of which the sages tell;
On such devotion long ago
    The benediction fell;
And never nobler martyr burned,
    Or braver hero died,
Than he who worldly honor spurned
    To serve the Crucified.

And Lancelot and Sir Bedivere
    May pass beyond the pale,
And wander over moor and mere
    To find the Holy Grail;
But ever yet the prize forsooth
    My hero holds in fee;
And he is Blameless Knight in truth,
    And Galahad to me.

From The Book of American Negro Poetry (Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1922), edited by James Weldon Johnson. This poem is in the public domain.