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

Charles Frederick White, "One Year Ago" (1900/1908)


Just one year ago we broke camp
In the distant Cuban plain
And began our joyful home tramp
On the transport and the train.
But, though far from lonely birth land,
I was happy and content;
I was filled with joy and mirth and
Happiness where'er I went.
In the lonely life of camping,
In the mountains wild and drear,

Or when through the country tramping,
Strove I to be of good cheer;
For I loved to ramble often
Through sweet nature's gorgeous realms:
She has power to soothe and soften
That which naught else overwhelms.
By the lonely brook and river,
Laughing in their solitude,
Where the leaves in soft breeze quivered
And all seemed with life imbued,
Where the birds were gaily chirping,
Where the fish in deep pools played
And the timid deer were lurking,
Where the bees their honey made,
In her solemnness of silence
Nature was at home to me.
In the calmness of that island
I did live contentedly.
I was wont to sit in quiet,
Or to roam in loneliness
Through the country wrecked by riot,—
But which now by peace is blessed,—
Studying language, people, action,
Or the vegetation there,

Gazing with much satisfaction
On the products, rich and rare.
Plodding o'er the rugged highlands,
Through the marshy lands below,
I would pass away the whiles and
Watch the minutes come and go.
I would sit sometimes for hours
Basking in the sun's warm rays
While a stream 'neath shady bowers
Sang to me its favorite lays.
I partook in games athletic
Which were held among the boys.
I beheld scenes so pathetic
That they saddened all my joys.
While disease and death were raging
In the towns and camps around,
While their friends were busy placing
The deceased beneath the ground,
I was well kept and protected
By some power of the Unknown,
Which also my way directed
As I through the wilds did roam:
So I lived in sweet communion
With the worlds of blue and green

By horizon linked in union,
In that heaven land of dream.

March 9, 1900.

Published in Plea of the Negro Soldier: And a Hundred Other Poems, 1908

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