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

Frances E.W. Harper, "Do Not Cheer, Men Are Dying" (1898)


  Do not cheer, for men are dying
     From their distant homes in pain;
  And the restless sea is darkened
     By a flood of crimson rain.

  Do not cheer, for anxious mothers
     Wait and watch in lonely dread;
  Vainly waiting for the footsteps
     Never more their paths to tread.

  Do not cheer, while little children
     Gather round the widowed wife,
  Wondering why an unknown people
     Sought their own dear father's life.

  Do not cheer, for aged fathers
     Bend above their staves and weep,
  While the ocean sings the requiem
     Where their fallen children sleep.

  Do not cheer, for lips are paling
     On which lay the mother's kiss;
  'Mid the dreadful roar of battle
     How that mother's hand they miss!

  Do not cheer: once joyous maidens,
     Who the mazy dance did tread,
  Bow their heads in bitter anguish,
     Mourning o'er their cherished dead.

  Do not cheer while maid and matron
     In this strife must bear a part;
  While the blow that strikes a soldier
     Reaches to some woman's heart.

  Do not cheer till arbitration
     O'er the nations holds its sway,
  And the century now closing
     Ushers in a brighter day.

  Do not cheer until the nation
     Shall more wise and thoughtful grow
  Than to staunch a stream of sorrow
     By an avalanche of woe.

  Do not cheer until each nation
     Sheathes the sword and blunts the spear,
  And we sing aloud for gladness:
     Lo, the reign of Christ is here,

  And the banners of destruction
     From the battlefield are furled,
  And the peace of God descending
     Rests upon a restless world.

Published in Frances E.W. Harper's Poems (1898)

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