“The Gift to Sing” by James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938)


Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

“Ships That Pass In The Night” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;

I look far out into the pregnant night,

Where I can hear a solemn booming gun

And catch the gleaming of a random light,

That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul’s deep hurt are glassing;

For I would hail and check that ship of ships.

I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,

My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,

And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,

O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!

Is there no hope for me? Is there no way

That I may sight and check that speeding bark

Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?

“Night of Love” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


The moon has left the sky, love,

The stars are hiding now,

And frowning on the world, love,

Night bares her sable brow.

The snow is on the ground, love,

And cold and keen the air is.

I’m singing here to you, love;

You’re dreaming there in Paris.

But this is Nature’s law, love,

Though just it may not seem,

That men should wake to sing, love;

While maidens sleep and dream.

Them care may not molest, love,

Nor stir them from their slumbers,

Though midnight find the swain, love.

Still halting o’er his numbers.

I watch the rosy dawn, love,

Come stealing up the east,

While all things round rejoice, love,

That Night her reign has ceased.

The lark will soon be heard, love,

And on his way be winging;

When Nature’s poets, wake, love,

Why should a man be singing?

“A Thousand Martyrs I Have Made” by Aphra Behn


A THOUSAND Martyrs I have made,

All sacrific’d to my desire;

A thousand Beauties have betray’d,

That languish in resistless Fire.

The untam’d Heart to hand I brought,

And fixt the wild and wandring Thought.

I never vow’d nor sigh’d in vain

But both, thô false, were well receiv’d.

The Fair are pleas’d to give us pain,

And what they wish is soon believ’d.

And thô I talked of Wounds and Smart,

Loves Pleasures only toucht my Heart.

Alone the Glory and the SpoilI always Laughing bore away;

The Triumphs, without Pain or Toil,

Without the Hell, the Heav’n of Joy.

And while I thus at random rove

Despise the Fools that whine for Love.

“Trees” by Alfred Joyce Kilner


I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

“A Poison Tree” by William Blake


I was angry with my friend;
I told my wrath, my wrath did end.
I was angry with my foe:
I told it not, my wrath did grow.
And I waterd it in fears,
Night & morning with my tears:
And I sunned it with smiles,
And with soft deceitful wiles.
And it grew both day and night.
Till it bore an apple bright.
And my foe beheld it shine,
And he knew that it was mine.
And into my garden stole,
When the night had veild the pole;
In the morning glad I see;
My foe outstretched beneath the tree.

“Georgia Dusk” by Jean Toomer (1894 – 1967)


The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue

   The setting sun, too indolent to hold
   A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,
Passively darkens for night’s barbecue,
A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,
   An orgy for some genius of the South
   With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.
The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
   And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
   Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill
Their early promise of a bumper crop.
Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
   Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low
   Where only chips and stumps are left to show
The solid proof of former domicile.
Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,
   Race memories of king and caravan,
   High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.
Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,
   Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .
   Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper to the stars . .
O singers, resinous and soft your songs
   Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
   Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.