African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital Anthology

Fenton Johnson, "When I Die" (1913)


When I die my song shall be,
Crooning of the summer breeze;
When I die my shroud shall be,
Leaves plucked from the maple trees;
On a couch as green as moss
And a bed as soft as down,
I shall sleep and dream my dream
Of a poet's laurel crown.


When I die my star shall drop
Singing like a nightingale;
When I die my soul shall rise,
Where the lyre strings never fail;
In the rose my blood shall lie,
In the violet the smile,
And the moonbeams thousand strong,
Past my grave each night shall file.

Published in A Little Dreaming, 1913
Also published in Carolind Gusk, 1927