Published on Academy of American Poets (

To Joseph Lee

How strange, how passing strange, when we awake
        And lift our faces to the light
To know that you are lying shut away
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange, when we lie down
        To sleep, to know that you are quite
Alone beneath the moon, the stars, the little leaves,
        Within the night.

How strange, how passing strange to know—our eyes
        Will gladden at the fine sweet sight
Of you no more, for now your face is hid
        Within the night.

Strange, strange indeed, these things to us appear
        And yet we know they must be right;
And though your body sleeps, your soul has passed
        Beyond the night.

Ah! friend, it must be sweet to slip from out
        The tears, the pain, the losing fight
Below, and rest, just rest eternally
        Beyond the night.

And sweet it must be too, to know the kiss
        Of Peace, of Peace, the pure, the white
And step beside her hand in hand quite close
        Beyond the night.


This poem is in the public domain. 

About this Poem

“To Joseph Lee” was published in the Boston Evening Transcript on November 11, 1908. 


Angelina Weld Grimké

Angelina Weld Grimké was born in Boston on February 27, 1880. She was the daughter of Archibald Grimké, who had been born a slave in Charleston, South Carolina, and Sarah Stanley Grimké, a white woman and the daughter of an abolitionist. Named after her great-aunt, the abolitionist and suffragist, Angelina Grimké Weld, Grimké grew up in liberal, aristocratic Boston society. She attended the best preparatory schools in Massachusetts, including Cushing Academy and the now defunct Carleton School. She was raised mainly by her father after her mother abandoned her in 1887.

Grimké's first poems appeared in the early 1900s in Colored American Magazine, The Boston Evening Transcript, and The Pilot. Grimké penned her best-known work, the play Rachel, in response to W. E. B. Du Bois’s call for Black theatrical productions. The play, which examined the impact of a lynching on an African American family, was staged in Washington, D.C. in 1916 and published in 1920. It was the first drama penned by an African American and performed by African American actors for a white audience. Grimké next published the short story “The Closing Door” in The Birth Control Review of 1919, which examined themes of lynching and infanticide. Her work also appeared in Harlem Renaissance-era anthologies, including Countee Cullen’s Caroling Dusk (Harper and Brothers, 1927); Charles S. Johnson’s Ebony and Topaz (National Urban League, 1927); Alain Locke’s The New Negro (Atheneum, 1925); and Robert T. Kerlin’s Negro Poets and Their Poems (The Associated Publishers, 1923). Her poetry has experienced a revival in recent decades, with particular attention on her erotic love sonnets addressed to women, such as “Grass Fingers” and “El Beso,” leading to new recognition for Grimké as a lesbian poet. 

Grimké died on June 10, 1958.

Date Published: 2016-09-24

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