Esther A. Yates “Fettered Liberty” (1915)
To come so near, and yet not touch the goal!
Its gleaming bars, like some pale pilgrim soul
After the weary night.
To feel the unbounded joy! My efforts crowned
Then strive to leap, and find my feet are bound,
My short-lived freedom past!
To see my fond hopes crumble as do things In dreams;
My skin a burden that should serve as wings!
The earth with passion teems!
To live with the books, to teach my eager brain
And every noble power and gift to train
Then meet this time-worn fact:
That prejudicial bars rise everywhere.
My barrier. For this my soul must bear
And opposition face.
How long shall I restrain the hot life-tide
With just resentment surges? Must I bide
And this? And this? And fearful hide?
And cringing terror show?
Or shall I let the prejudice of years
With outward passivness, and inward tears,
Or leave unsatisfied my tears,
Nor even question why?
And this is freedom? This is liberty?
Where justice reigns? “Home of the brave and and free”?
The deepened furrows of servility
Upon a burdened race!
Jehovah, burn into our faith’s weak ray
We crave but half a chance to blaze a way
To dawn, from racial night.
God of a trampled race! We must, we dare
Free, that we may be men! We leave our fare
If only in the battles wear and tear,
Thou’ll lead our host through fog or noon-day glare
To freedom! Liberty!
Published in The Crisis, December 1919
Re-typed by Christian Farrior