African American Poetry (1870-1926): A Digital Anthology

Cecelia Elizabeth, "The Lay of the Nile" (1920)

VICTORIA calls, in tones of mirth
While leaping the Falls, to give me birth.
Where Ripon is rushed, singing a round,
That never is hushed, I froth and bound.
I sparkle and spread, through rapids spree
To my spacious bed, and northward flee.
Aquatics abide, and sport with me;
Bold sea-birds ride my ledge and key.
I hurry the skiffs the natives row,
While fretting the cliffs where spearmen go.
Whenever I romp, through silver falls,
In crystalloid pomp my current sprawls.
Past beasts domiciled in fell, in dell,
Through jungle and wild I rush pell-mell.
For my rhythmic dower of melody,
Old Abyssinia lends loam to me.
I'm scantily poured, through shallow glades,
To grant a safe ford for Coptic maids.
Fair tropical isles with fruitage blest
My current compiles, then rifts to quest.
Through arid Sudan I surge and wind;
In the great Nubian confluents find.
I scurry to guide the ships of trade
Where caravans glide and nomads raid.
For sad Ethiops, dwelling afar,
My rhythm oft scopes a plaintive bar.
Proud Egypt of old I've built of silt;
But never a wold my silt has built.
My turbulent run naught doth abash
To leap Murchison with foam and dash.
O'er Egypt I flood, its gardens roam,
And leave it a cud of highland loam.
I meander on, tall dams I brim,
And swell at Assuan the "Great Dam's" rim.
In Upper Egypt, I split to flee
The delta abrupt, and wed the sea!


Published in The Brownies' Book, July 1920

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