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

Benjamin Griffith Brawley, "My Hero (To Robert Gould Shaw)" (1915)

Editor's note: Robert Gould Shaw led the first all-black regiment of the Union army in the Civil War. He died in 1863 at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner in Richmond. 

(To Robert Gould Shaw)

Flushed with the hope of high desire,
He buckled on his sword,
To dare the rampart ranged with fire,
Or where the thunder roared;
Into the smoke and flame he went,
For God's great cause to die--
A youth of heaven's element,
The flower of chivalry.

This was the gallant faith, I trow,
Of which the sages tell;
On such devotion long ago
The benediction fell;
And never nobler martyr burned,
Or braver hero died,
Than he who worldly honor spurned
To praise the Crucified.

And Lancelot and Sir Bedivere
May pass beyond the pale,
And wander over moor and mere 
To find the Holy Grail;
But ever yet the prize forsooth
My hero holds in fee
And he is Blameless Knight in truth,
And Galahad to me. 

Published in The Crisis, May 1915

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