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

H.T. Johnson, "Memorial Ode to Frederick Douglass" (1904)

Memorial Ode to Frederick Douglass.

Both stately in form and noble in bearing,
Majestic in tread like some embassied lord;
Of leonine soul dread danger not fearing,
None braver than thou ever buckled on sword.
In fancy meseems to behold thee outsetting
For truth's sternest conflict and liberty's cause;
Of mien the Goliath of slavery fretting,
Disdaining his scorn and defying his laws.
Thine was not the armor of Saul, like another
Who thought to have vanquished the foe by his might;
The flame of thy zeal all thy foes could not smother,
So long as thy weapons were God and the right.
Titanic the soul that can win its own freedom,
Then turn to release others fettered with chain;
Such triumphs once marked the great victor from Edom
Who shouted his conquest o'er thousands of slain.
And thou too great hero of career now ended,
Didst free thine own self then with bravery rare,
Didst lift struggling millions and with them ascended
To heights high and strong kissed by freedom's pure air.
From lowliest depth of condition thou mountedst
And saw others mount from serfdom to the skies;
On wing as of light foul gloom thou discountedst
Till slavery's hell changed to man's paradise.
Yet on wage thy conflict illustrious wonder,
'Gainst wrong and oppression of whatever cast,
The keen-tempered lance of thy soul piercing thunder
Shall know no surcease while the struggle shall last.
Thy patience serene and thy faith's sweeping visions
Shall caste-fettered mountains view sunk out of sight;

The day is not distant though man's Indecision
Shouldst postpone its dawn and oft augur night.
Rest then wearied knight always true and victorious,
Thy helmet and plume lay aside for a crown;
In Time's starry expanse with lustre all glorious
Sunlike thou shalt shine with a radiance thine own.

Published in Wings of Ebony, 1904

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