Peacock Feather

- 1885-1979

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!

More by Effie Lee Newsome

Morning Light

(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?


O Autumn, Autumn!

O Autumn, Autumn! O pensive light
     and wistful sound!
Gold-haunted sky, green-haunted ground!

When, wan, the dead leaves flutter by
     Deserted realms of butterfly!
When robins band themselves together

     To seek the sound of sun-steeped weather;
And all of summer’s largesse goes
     For lands of olive and the rose!

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.

Related Poems

Fantasy

I sailed in my dreams to the Land of Night
Where you were the dusk-eyed queen,
And there in the pallor of moon-veiled light
The loveliest things were seen ...

A slim-necked peacock sauntered there
In a garden of lavender hues,
And you were strange with your purple hair
As you sat in your amethyst chair
With your feet in your hyacinth shoes.

Oh, the moon gave a bluish light
Through the trees in the land of dreams and night.
I stood behind a bush of yellow-green
And whistled a song to the dark-haired queen ...

Summer in the South

                        The oriole sings in the greening grove
                                           As if he were half-way waiting,
                                           The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
                                           Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
             And the nights smell warm and piney,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
             Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
             Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
             And the woods run mad with riot.

An Hymn to the Evening

Soon as the sun forsook the eastern main
The pealing thunder shook the heav’nly plain;
Majestic grandeur! From the zephyr’s wing,
Exhales the incense of the blooming spring,
Soft purl the streams, the birds renew their notes,
And through the air their mingled music floats.
   Through all the heav’ns what beauteous dies are spread!
But the west glories in the deepest red:
So may our breasts with every virtue glow,
The living temples of our God below!
   Fill’d with the praise of him who gives the light,
And draws the sable curtains of the night,
Let placid slumbers soothe each weary mind,
At morn to wake more heav’nly, more refin’d;
So shall the labors of the day begin
More pure, more guarded from the snares of sin.
   Night’s leaden sceptre seals my drowsy eyes,
Then cease, my song, till fair Aurora rise.