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

Frank B. Coffin, "Lincoln's Call" (1897)

Lincoln's Call. 
 You know 'twas eighteen sixty-one, 
 The civil war had just begun, 
 The ship of state was at the place, 
 To picture up the South's disgrace; 
 And Lincoln quickly saw the point, 
 Where he could knock things out of joint ; 
 And all the sight which he had seen, 
 Before his mind began to gleam. 
 He thought of countless human slaves, 
 Murdered, buried without a grave; 
 He thought of the wicked overseer, 
 Whose cruelty could have no peer; 
 He thought of the master's snarling cry 
 "That Negro's worthless, let him die." 
 Rethought of the Southern auction block, 
 Where human beings sold as stock; 
 He thought of mother's wailing cry, 
 When wicked men her child would buy ; 
 He thought how cruel they could be,
 To counteract the mother's plea; 
 He thought how men were sold like mules, 
 And left their wives with wicked fools; 
 He thought of Christian mother's weep, 
 To see her child drove off like sheep ; 
 He thought of mother's vain distress, 
 To have a babe sold from her breast ; 
 And worst of all since God's creation, 
 He thought of that abomination 
 Amalgamation of the races, 
 On terms that give us blushing faces ; 
 He thought of masters who had slaves, 
 Whose virtue they would often crave ; 
 And she, no matter how she feel, 
 To master's wicked lust must yield; 
 These sights as dark as dark midnight, 
 Made angels shudder in their flight; 
 The goddess of the angry deep, 
 These horrors made her conscience weep; 
 The gladiator drop'd his sword, 
 At sight of Southern festive boards. 
 Diana said with heart aglow, 
 Such sights have never reign'd before; 
 These things weighed Lincoln's heart with  grief, 
 And when the nation made him chief

 He gave a long, tremendous call, 
 From out the nation's senate hall, 
 And all the North heard his appeal, 
 And marched out on ihe battle field; 
 The Pilgrim Fathers, dead and gone, 
 Pushed brave New England in the throng, 
 Good William Penn said from his grave: 
 "My Quakers join the Lincoln wave." 
 The father of the country said 
 "March on, it is the rightful tread!" 
 The heroes of Thermopylae 
 Heard Lincoln's call for liberty, 
 And cried from out their distant graves, 
 "If you must die, men's freedom save." 
 Crispus Attucks, whose blood ran down, 
 When Washington was in renown, 
 His blood cried out "if you'd be free, 
 All strike at once for liberty !" 
 Sojourner Truth, her voice was heard, 
 *March on !" was the commanding word, 
 Nat Turner screamed out from the sod; 
 " I would thou precious, allwise God, 
 Had spared my life upon the land 
 To follow Lincoln's brave command, 
 Then I could quickly do my part, 
 For poor down-trodden, human hearts,

 I'd help to strike that mighty blow, 
 To let my bondaged people go!" 
 John Brown's bleeding body cried: 
 "This is the cause for which I died!" 
 Frederick Douglass, grand old man, 
 Who aided John Brown in his plans, 
 Who stood with Lincoln and conversed, 
 Was ready now to stand the worst. 
 He used his voice, his pen, his mind, 
 And men who heard him fell in line. 
 These voices echoed Lincoln's sound. 
 And stirred the people all around ; 
 From Maine to California's coast, 
 Rose freedom's great advancing host. 
 Men speaking in the senate hall, 
 Responded to the noble call ; 
 The Gov'nors left the state affairs, 
 The writer left his easy chair, 
 The lawyer quit the city bar, 
 And left his office door ajar; 
 The bus' ness man went out his store, 
 Perhaps to enter there no more ; 
 The teacher left his tutorship, 
 And gave his gun a lasting grip. 
 The student left his study desk, 
 And marched with teacher breast abreast,

 The hunter left the stag at bay, 
 For Lincoln's call he must obey; 
 "The plow was in the furrow staid, 
 The herds without a keeper stray'd," 
 The fish' man left his pole and line, 
 The blacksmith drop'd his red hot iron, 
 The artist let go paint and brush, 
 And to the army made a rush. 
 Husbands kissed their wives good-bye, 
 Left the children, went to die; 
 Mothers told sons to heroes be, 
 In the cause of liberty; 
 The young man in the prime of life, 
 Left his newly wedded wife; 
 The lover left his loved one's side 
 Whom he had vowed to make his bride, 
 He loved his girl with all his heart, 
 But country's love was now his part; 
 Each son and father rushed to arms, 
 At Lincoln's signals of alarm. 
 The war began, brave Lincoln stood, 
 As pilot in the human flood ; 
 Again he made a long appeal, 
 More men were needed in the field. 
 His voice was heard all o'er the land, 
 A million men obeyed command.
 At Gettysburg, brave Lincoln stood, 
 And he was in a better mood ; 
 He saw the cause for which he fought, 
 Was plain before the people brought; 
 And on that bloody battlefield, 
 The enemies began to yield ; 
 And Lincoln, with his God push'd pen, 
 Wrote these words on the hearts of men : 
 "All human beings claimed as slaves 
 Are placed upon great freedom's wave." 
 And angels echoed around the throne ; 
 "Rejoice thy freedom is thy own !" 
 The Negro left his master's farm, 
 For he had heard the last alarm, 
 But half in doubt and half in stress, 
 He wondered which would be the best 
 "If massa ketch me gwine away, 
 He'll Mil dis n----- shur as day ; 
 But whats de use to stay back herr, 
 He's killing n------ ebry yerr, 
 Boss Lincoln says dat I am free,  
 I'll strike a blow for liberty!" 
 He marched out like a soldier man, 
 And joined the host of freedom's van. 
 The war moved on for two more years, 
 And brave men fought without a fear,

 Till Sherman's host had reached the sea, 
 And Grant had captured noble Lee, 
 Then men laid down their arms of yore, 
 And peace did reign from shore to shore, 
 Now Lincoln's work was bravely done, 
 The confidence of Men he'd won, 
 His enemies he'd conquered well, 
 And they before him prostrate fell. 
 He'd kept the faith, he'd fought his fight, 
 And in the stillness of the night 
 When he least look'd for any strife, 
 A demon struck him for his life. 
 He fell a corpse to mortal man, 
 In this down trodden, sinful land; 
 His soul had heard the angel's cry; 
 "Thy work's complete, thy home's on high," 
 So when the general roll is called, 
 Including, Wickliffe. Luther, Paul ; 
 Men who have died to set men free, 
 Lincoln's name on the list will be. 
 And men who dwell upon the earth, 
 Will yet concede to Lincoln's worth, 
 And burn his birthday in the minds, 
 Of children 'till the end of time. 
 As long as there remains a trace 
 Of Afric blood in mortal face, 
 So long will Lincoln honored be, 
 His virtues suns: from sea to sea. 

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