African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

B. Harrison Peyton, "Lo, the Dusk-Born Daughter!" (1916)


Lo, my Heart, behold! a girl of modest brown
Is gliding down the paths of our town!
Clings not round her the aura of the morning-child;
For mark, Heart, she came not while Aurora smiled
In silver effusion on the lucid air;
Her figure is not dawn-pale, nor is her hair
Fine-spun of sun-gold into a Phoebean crown!
O Eyes, she is some quickened bronze,
Which transformed to skin of finest texture,
Unto the sense as exquisitely responds
As any gloss of silk or softness of a plush!
But nay, frail Eyes; trust not the groping, blind conjecture!
Ah! tell my Heart by what mutations
Could bronze be turned half so ravishingly lush,
So ripened into rich refreshing fruit as is this girl?
And furthermore, I ask you, Eyes, e'en tho' it were toothed
Of ivory or milky-clouded pearl,
As preciously cut and delicately smoothed
As are her teeth, what mold of bronze—bronze cumbrous and cold—
Could make upon my soul, oh! such enthralling seizure 
As do these luxuriant beauties which some would dare hold
Were but a darkling blush of shame? 


Ah, no, Heart, 'twas of lowly, peaceful dusk God wrought her,
And of benignities that the lofty spheres brought her;
She is of Vesper, child and anointed daughter!
Look! how all the charms of twilight gather to her frame,
And the shades of tropics haunt her lissome shape!
Ay, too, lambent stars are twinkling, e'en when noon's aflame;
Here her crinkling, night-like tresses the gloaming drape.
Soul, gaze her quiet eyes! From what divine skies
Did they, with placid allure of dusk, escape—
These amber haze-beams that, as if ordained, transfigure, 
And with soft halos flush her every lovely feature?
Bewitched Soul, how they mark her perfect, dusk-born creature! 


Thus veined with angel-gossamers floated down
By the eventide, she is become a blessed vision—
Verily, O Soul! Soul! a miracle of brown!
As closer now she comes, oh! mark each luster
Which ripples in a sheen o'er the swarthness that is swirled
About her from pale finger-nail to eye-lash thick-curled! 
Soul, infinitely happy harmonies are
Thus bodied by her in tender, gleamy dark! 


Ay, she carries the dim spirit of the vesper-star;
And thence it comes that her sympathies impart
To shadow-purpled nightingales the dreaming of her heart
Which so elatedly he sings to rapt-hark'ning lark!
So breathe, Heart, breathe the fragrances that cluster
Round that sweet, peerless bower of her flesh whence she wafts
The warm, reposeful shade of the holy palm
And such meady dews as flavor lands of southern calm!
And drink, Heart! O Heart! drink of Elysian balm
Which her elixir-like touch brings in redolent drafts
From nightward nectaries that have their place
In lunar regions of supernal space!
And then, my Heart, let your every vibrant fiber sense
The essence, as it were, of oenomel which seems thence
To lave its haze on her delicious face,
Where is set, like a red-brown kiss, the mouth that quaffs
Its flow—oh! blissful flow the nectaries dispense
To but her who, by divine right of race, 
Is twilight vestal, and to eve enchantress-daughter
And purest cast of gloam in fluent grace of water! 


God! shall lewd flames count wanton, wind-raked husk
This girl whose nature heaves such sacred spells of dusk?
Love! O true Love! how chaste with cloistral sundown
And ways that breathe rosy airs of saintly musk, 
Oh! she must be, since that her being wears for gown
Heav'n's own highness in pure glows of auburn brown! 


Thus she moves zephyr-like in virgin grace of leisure!
And since she is sylphine-imbued with nightfall 'that drowns
Earth in ethereal tides of marvelous browns,
How meet it is that her feet, O Columbian World,
Are given to thread your occidental spread!
Why then, mad World, are persecutive shadows thus hurled
Before her feet? E'en so, World, behold! tho' meek and demure,
Yet she walks in stanch and serene procedure,
Unfaltering in her fortitude and gentle state,
Towards far horizons where, beaconing, there wait
For her more golden triumphs than any sunset has!
Ay, her way leads through dread labyrinths of hate, 
Mid trails of scorn pythonic, and minotaurs of wrath,
But like the dusk, she walks above her earthly path! 


She is some ministrant dove of celestial orders,
Or dark-veiled, mist-winged sprite, flown from Hesperian borders 
And traced of poised cloud-drift and willowed, phantom waters!
Up, Heart, and hail her, dusk-ennobled Queen of Daughters! 

Published in The Crisis, July 1916

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