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

Frances E.W. Harper, "Ethiopia" (1849/1854)

Editor's Note: Much of the imagery in this poem derives from the Bible. One particular passage might be Psalms 68:31: "Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God." Needless to say, inclusive representations of Africa in the Bible were extremely important in Black theology in the 19th century. --AS

 Yes! Ethiopia yet shall stretch 
      Her bleeding hands abroad; 
 Her cry of agony shall reach 
      The burning throne of God, 
 The tyrant's yoke from off her neck, 
     His fetters from her soul, 
 The mighty hand of God shall break, 
     And spurn the base control. 
 Redeemed from dust and freed from chains, 
     Her sons shall lift their eyes;
 From cloud-capt hills and verdant plains 
     Shall shouts of triumph rise. 
 Upon her dark, despairing brow, 
     Shall play a smile of peace; 
 For God shall bend unto her wo, [woe] 
     And bid her sorrows cease. 
 'Neath sheltering vines and stately palms 
     Shall laughing children play, 
 And aged sires with joyous psalms 
     Shall gladden every day. 
 Secure by night, and blest by day. 
     Shall pass her happy hours; 
 Nor human tigers hunt for prey 
     Within her peaceful bowers. 
 Then, Ethiopia! stretch, oh! stretch  
     Thy bleeding hands abroad; 
 Thy cry of agony shall reach 
     And find redress from God. 

Published in Forest Leaves in 1849
Also published in Poems on Miscellaneous Subjects, 1854, 1855, 1857

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