The Negro Singer

O’er all my song the image of a face
    Lieth, like shadow on the wild sweet flowers.
    The dream, the ecstasy that prompts my powers;
    The golden lyre’s delights bring little grace
To bless the singer of a lowly race.
    Long hath this mocked me: aye in marvelous hours,
    When Hera’s gardens gleamed, or Cynthia’s bowers,
    Or Hope’s red pylons, in their far, hushed place!
But I shall dig me deeper to the gold;
    Fetch water, dripping, over desert miles.
    From clear Nyanzas and mysterious Niles
Of love; and sing, nor one kind act withhold.
    So shall men know me, and remember long,
    Nor my dark face dishonor any song.

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