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

Frank B. Coffin, "Frances E. Harper (Tribute)" (1897)

 Frances E. Harper. 
 Dear friend, to me one vision craved, 
 Alas! has been denied; 
 But thy strong words on page of book 
 My mind anew inspires, 
 Thy noble soul has lifted mine, 
 As rippling waves are drawn; 
 My spirit heard thy words sublime, 
 About the woman's dawn.
 Some mysteries of Afric's race, 
 Were left for thee to prove ; 
 Thy lucid voice, thy pen of grace, 
 Filled up with hope and love 
 Woke the dead pulse of joy supreme, 
 In our discouraged hearts, 
 Dispells the long delusive dream, 
 Makes new ambitions start. 
 The rebels who pronounce us brutes, 
 With conscience all at rest ; 
 Feel the great throb of Afric's truth, 
 That stirs from out thy breast ; 
 Maid of a higher, nobler cause, 
 Thou queen of ancient night; 
 Defender of the virtuous laws 
 Of our young woman's rights. 
 Thy name has spread like night's domain, 
 When all her glittering lamps 
 Illume the vast and level plains 
 Into the peaceful camps 
 Where martyrs keep the righteous post 
 Doubting our freedom yet, 
 And speed the faithfuf, onward host, 
 With eyes on justice set.
 They are not dead, those who have died, 
 Like holy angels come 
 To mortals in their faithful strides 
 For country, love and home; 
 Thou knowest the psalms by sages wrought, 
 Through shaky, mythic phrase; 
 Thou nobler psalms than they have taught, 
 Yet they have all the praise. 
 The time will come when this great state, 
 With conscience clear and true, 
 Will feel the strain of human fate, 
 Revealed to them by you ; 
 And from her high esteemed estate, 
 She will throw open wide 
 The portal of her royal gate. 
 So long to us denied. 
 Continue in thy noble work, 
 O, faithful sister great, 
 Until thy mind redeeming words, 
 Are spread in every state; 
 Bring womanhood her honors due, 
 Heal up these long disgraces ; 
 The time has come when woman must 
 March out and lead the races.

Published in Coffin's Poems with Ajax' Ordeals, 1897

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