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

Frank B. Coffin, "Voice from the South" (1897)

Editor's Note: This poem references Annie Julia Cooper's "Voice from the South" (1892), a book advocating for racial justice and women's rights

 Voice From The South. 
 To Mrs. Annie Julia Cooper. 
 I read that book, "Voice from the South," 
 I read it o'er again ;
 I re-read, heart leaped up to mouth 
 At its triumphant aim. 
 It 'rouses those noble feelings, 
 Which partly are obscure ; 
 It makes us see as we are seen, 
 And fits us to endure.
 It pictures a steadfast purpose, 
 A brave and daring will, 
 A human-needed promise that 
 We hope the years will fill. 
 Noble woman, grandly gifted, 
 Sent to tell the world true facts; 
 Sure the race will be uplifted 
 By thy words, thy deeds, thy acts. 
 Thy dauntless words are great and bold, 
 At times they seem to be 
 Like John Brown's in dark slavery's days, 
 While battling for the free. 
 Earth's grandest hearts uplift to thee, 
 They feel thy spreading fame ; 
 And children that are yet to be 
 Will "hallowed be thy name." 
 From thy book, those worthy pages, 
 All our anxious hearts entreat; 
 All true trophies of the ages, 
 Are enshrined at thy dear feet. 
 Oh! wished for, hoped for, happy time, 
 When I can have the grace, 
 To grasp thy hand, and more sublime, 
 Upon thy statue gaze.
 When e'er I 'tempt to write of thee, 
 Love takes my thoughts away ; 
 Thy dazzling fame makes all that flee, 
 Which most I long to say. 
 If thou hadst hearing in thy heart, 
 To know how others beat; 
 Then thoushouldst walk where'er thou art, 
 Where throbbing millions greet. 
 O ye whose noble, lucid pen, 
 Forever filled with ink; 
 To touch the hearts and minds of men, 
 And make whole nations think. 
 It may be that in this cold world, 
 You will be ostracised 
 For noble truths which you have hurled 
 At those who right despise. 
 But Christ was ostracised by men, 
 He conquered every one ; 
 Brave Luther faced the Papal den, 
 And he the victory won. 
 So while within this vale of tears, 
 Where sins and woes are rife ; 
 words will prove, in coming years, 
 The gift of mortal life. 

 Since we are scattered as a race, 
 And thou hast power to write; 
 While God prolongs thy days of grace, 
 Cry to the race "unite." 
 Thou hast been writing, noble one, 
 Thou dost not write in vain ; 
 Thy words, methink, are pressing on, 
 They shall be entertained. 
 Thy writing has a dwelling place, 
 Above this lynching ken; 
 We hope thy spirit will never trace 
 Such wicked haunts of men. 
 In some far off diviner land, 
 There stands a giant Mast ; 
 It waves to you a cheering hand, 
 From heroes of the past. 
 Thy 'lectric voice, whose strong control, 
 As with an angel's breath 
 Can stir the fountain of the soul, 
 And cheer the long bereft. 
 Write on, and may thy words still strike 
 The conscience of the nation ; 
 And show that all men are alike, 
 And have been since creation.

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

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