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

Benjamin Griffith Brawley, "Christopher Marlowe" (1904)

O you who wrote your sounding line
On Shakespeare's mighty mind and heart,
Before the time of Goethe's art
Delivering the sisters nine,
What measures can such lips as mine
Unto your further fame impart,
Within whose soul a song did start,
Even when you sank in Omar's wine?

With Barabas I count my gold,
And delve in murders manifold;
With Tamburlaine I rule the world,
And then with Faust to hell am hurled;
I hear the steady onward tramp
Of armies on the battle-plain ;
And then I feel the dew and damp,
And rest forever with the slain.

With you I tramp the London street,
And see the good and evil there;
With you a demon's curse repeat,
Then up to glory I repair;
For if there is a heaven to win,
Above the ken of mortal eyes,
Why wander in the ways of sin,
Beyond the pale of Paradise ?

I often wonder when I read
These tales of vast and vague desire,
How happy are those mortals freed
From such excess of love and fire,
But when I think of this man's state,
And all his meeds of joy and pain
My rising faith o'er comes my fate,
And turns the harp of life again.

Published in Voice of the Negro Magazine, February 1904

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