Voices of the Dusk 

- 1888-1958


Do you hear the witches wailing? 
       Witches wailing, wailing, wailing, 
Do you see the ghost robes trailing?
Ghost robes trailing, trailing, trailing
It is but a nighttime whisper, 
But a whisper of the zephyr?
Or my soul in secret meeting
The dim soul whose fate is loving? 
     Tell me, tell me, tell me, 
            Voices of the dusk. 

Do you see those spirits lonely? 
    Spirits lonely, lonely, lonely. 
Can they be for lost souls only? 
    Lost souls only, only, only. 
Are they but the fearful phantoms, 
Fearful phantoms from my fancy? 
Or the sprites of conscience stricken 
From a region long forgotten? 
    Tell me, tell me, tell me, 
           Voices of the Dusk. 

More by Fenton Johnson

The Banjo Player

There is music in me, the music of a peasant people.
I wander through the levee, picking my banjo and singing my songs of the cabin and the field. At
   the Last Chance Saloon I am as welcome as the violets in March; there is always food and
   drink for me there, and the dimes of those who love honest music. Behind the railroad tracks
   the little children clap their hands and love me as they love Kris Kringle.
But I fear that I am a failure. Last night a woman called me a troubadour. What is a troubadour?

In the Evening

In the evening, love returns,
   Like a wand’rer ’cross the sea;
In the evening, love returns
   With a violet for me;
In the evening, life’s a song,
   And the fields are full of green;
All the stars are golden crowns,
   And the eye of God is keen.

In the evening, sorrow dies
   With the setting of the sun;
In the evening, joy begins,
   When the course of mirth is done;
In the evening, kisses sweet
   Droop upon the passion vine;
In the evening comes your voice:
   “I am yours, and you are mine.”

The Minister

          I mastered pastoral theology, the Greek of the Apostles, and all the difficult subjects in a minister’s curriculum.
          I was as learned as any in this country when the Bishop ordained me.
          And I went to preside over Mount Moriah, largest flock in the Conference.
          I preached the Word as I felt it, I visited the sick and dying and comforted the afflicted in spirit.
          I loved my work because I loved my God.
          But I lost my charge to Sam Jenkins, who has not been to school four years in his life.
          I lost my charge because I could not make my congregation shout.   
          And my dollar money was small, very small.
          Sam Jenkins can tear a Bible to tatters and his congregation destroys the pews with their shouting and stamping.
          Sam Jenkins leads in the gift of raising dollar money.
          Such is religion.