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

Frank B. Coffin, "Only" (1897)

 Only Afric's jungles 
 Satisfied his mind, 
 While the happy Negro 
 On his couch reclined. 
 Only a human trading ship 
 Coasting along the shore, 
 The Negro knew not whither 
 Still he had to go. 
 Only a "Star Spangled banner," 
 The Negro saw it wave, 
 But he saw not "land of free" 
 Neither "home of brave." 
 Only slavery's hardships 
 The Negro bore for years, 
 On through the wilderness 
 With headaches and tears.
 Only John Brown's body 
 Is moulding in the clay, 
 Yet his soul is marching, 
 Showing us the way. 
 Only Bull Run's battle, 
 Up sprang General Grant, 
 Four long years of bloodshed, 
 Freedom was the chant. 
 Only Abraham Lincoln 
 Gave the mighty stroke, 
 And four million Negroes 
 Lost the slavish yoke. 
 Only an education, 
 That is what he wants, 
 And to be a citizen 
 But they say he can't. 
 Only abiding by the law 
 Of our God and man, 
 And on all public questions 
 For the right, he tries to stand. 
 Only to suit the appetites 
 Of other wicked men, 
 Our race is mobb'd and lynch'd 
 Isn't that a sin? 
 Only proud America 
 Detests human strife, 
 Still has not courage to 
 Protect human life. 
 Only that coming day, 
 'Pointed hour make haste, 
 She must stand 'fore her God, 
 Past that solemn test. 

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

This page has tags: