Let me make the songs for the people, Songs for the old and young; Songs to stir like a battle-cry Wherever they are sung. Not for the clashing of sabres, For carnage nor for strife; But songs to thrill the hearts of men With more abundant life. Let me make the songs for the weary, Amid life’s fever and fret, Till hearts shall relax their tension, And careworn brows forget. Let me sing for little children, Before their footsteps stray, Sweet anthems of love and duty, To float o’er life’s highway. I would sing for the poor and aged, When shadows dim their sight; Of the bright and restful mansions, Where there shall be no night. Our world, so worn and weary, Needs music, pure and strong, To hush the jangle and discords Of sorrow, pain, and wrong. Music to soothe all its sorrow, Till war and crime shall cease; And the hearts of men grown tender Girdle the world with peace.
Within this black hive to-night There swarm a million bees; Bees passing in and out the moon, Bees escaping out the moon, Bees returning through the moon, Silver bees intently buzzing, Silver honey dripping from the swarm of bees Earth is a waxen cell of the world comb, And I, a drone, Lying on my back, Lipping honey, Getting drunk with that silver honey, Wish that I might fly out past the moon And curl forever in some far-off farmyard flower.
Lift every voice and sing Till earth and heaven ring, Ring with the harmonies of Liberty; Let our rejoicing rise High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea. Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us, Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us, Facing the rising sun of our new day begun Let us march on till victory is won.
Stony the road we trod, Bitter the chastening rod, Felt in the days when hope unborn had died; Yet with a steady beat, Have not our weary feet Come to the place for which our fathers sighed? We have come over a way that with tears has been watered, We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered, Out from the gloomy past, Till now we stand at last Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years, God of our silent tears, Thou who has brought us thus far on the way; Thou who has by Thy might Led us into the light, Keep us forever in the path, we pray. Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee; Shadowed beneath Thy hand, May we forever stand. True to our God, True to our native land.
Visible, invisible, A fluctuating charm, An amber-colored amethyst Inhabits it; your arm Approaches, and It opens and It closes; You have meant To catch it, And it shrivels; You abandon Your intent— It opens, and it Closes and you Reach for it— The blue Surrounding it Grows cloudy, and It floats away From you.
Go home and write a page tonight. And let that page come out of you— Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple? I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem. I went to school there, then Durham, then here to this college on the hill above Harlem. I am the only colored student in my class. The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem, through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas, Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y, the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you: hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page. (I hear New York, too.) Me—who? Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love. I like to work, read, learn, and understand life. I like a pipe for a Christmas present, or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach. I guess being colored doesn’t make me not like the same things other folks like who are other races. So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white. But it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white— yet a part of me, as I am a part of you. That’s American. Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me. Nor do I often want to be a part of you. But we are, that’s true! As I learn from you, I guess you learn from me— although you’re older—and white— and somewhat more free.
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.