Tuskegee

- 1880-1960

Wherefore this busy labor without rest?
Is it an idle dream to which we cling,
Here where a thousand dusky toilers sing
Unto the world their hope? “Build we our best.
By hand and thought,” they cry, “although unblessed.”
So the great engines throb, and anvils ring,
And so the thought is wedded to the thing;
But what shall be the end, and what the test?
Dear God, we dare not answer, we can see
Not many steps ahead, but this we know—
If all our toilsome building is in vain,
Availing not to set our manhood free,
If envious hate roots out the seed we sow,
The South will wear eternally a stain.

More by Leslie Pinckney Hill

A Far Country

Beyond the cities I have seen,
Beyond the wrack and din,
There is a wide and fair demesne
Where I have never been.

Away from desert wastes of greed,
Over the peaks of pride,
Across the seas of mortal need
Its citizens abide.

And through the distance though I see
How stern must be the fare,
My feet are ever fain to be
Upon the journey there.

In that far land the only school
The dwellers all attend
Is built upon the Golden Rule,
And man to man is friend.

No war is there nor war’s distress,
But truth and love increase—
It is a realm of pleasantness,
And all her paths are peace.

Summer Magic

So many cares to vex the day,
    So many fears to haunt the night,
My heart was all but weaned away
    From every lure of old delight.
Then summer came, announced by June,
    With beauty, miracle and mirth.
She hung aloft the rounding moon,
    She poured her sunshine on the earth,
She drove the sap and broke the bud,
    She set the crimson rose afire.
She stirred again my sullen blood,
    And waked in me a new desire.
Before my cottage door she spread
    The softest carpet nature weaves,
And deftly arched above my head
    A canopy of shady leaves.
Her nights were dreams of jeweled skies,
    Her days were bowers rife with song,
And many a scheme did she devise
    To heal the hurt and soothe the wrong.
For on the hill or in the dell,
    Or where the brook went leaping by
Or where the fields would surge and swell
    With golden wheat or bearded rye,
I felt her heart against my own,
    I breathed the sweetness of her breath,
Till all the cark of time had flown,
    And I was lord of life and death.

The Teacher

Lord, who am I to teach the way
To little children day by day,
So prone myself to go astray?

I teach them KNOWLEDGE, but I know
How faint they flicker and how low
The candles of my knowledge glow.

I teach them POWER to will and do,
But only now to learn anew
My own great weakness through and through.

I teach them LOVE for all mankind
And all God’s creatures, but I find
My love comes lagging far behind.

Lord, if their guide I still must be,
Oh let the little children see
The teacher leaning hard on Thee.