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

James D. Corrothers, "Listen, O Isles!" (1914)

[An appreciation of the Philippine Constabulary Band, organized by a Negro, Captain Loving, through the suggestion of former President Taft.] 

Swirled over-most by Titan winds that toss
Their limbs and ringlets in the eddying air.
Like death-loosed poets, with their breeze-blown hair,
Hymning to mountains, precipice and palm,
Or sighing soft as Seraph's evening psalm—
Startled by storm burst; stilled in love's deep loss,
Listen, O Dream Isles of the Orient Main,
Thy brown elves wake and pour lost Eden's choral strain! 

Thrilled by brown magi from the nymphean coves.
Old nations sing as if the centuries
Sighed to the stars some old, lost planet's love;
Now Egypt breathes: now Babylon, Persia, Greece,
Through these soft pipes, wake, sighing, like the groves
Where gods have wandered, and where winds are whispering "Peace."
But hear the flute's sweet eccentricities
'Neath the white moon, you castled stream above,
Till crash of cymbals, turban'd Turks have known,
And sound's fine rain, and booming of deep drums,
(And the brown gnome who pursueth wind gusts through
Old Triton's wreathed shell, he wakes anew—
Bellowing, like Neptune's rage, with much ado),
Drown, with their ocean roar, the little bird
Whose notes, like dainty Ariel's, laughed that they were heard.
Was it Adonis, wandering alone,
Waked, with sweet lips, the silver piccolo,
Fair Music's nightingale, which sang: "Mine own,
Mine own, dear Love, dost thou not know; not know?"
Now, o'er the hills, is it Apollo comes,
Pouring (oh, hear!) sound's golden honey down could drown
Those silver reeds whose notes go down to some
Well's bottom, over crystal rocks?Oh, come!
Hear music ripple, like a breeze that's blown
O'er ripening fields and Daphne's rosy vale,
Full, deep and resonant! Hear this rose gale
Of June's sweet Calliope wake, and all
The muses rouse from dreamy murmurings!
Hear shout and revel; romp and tipsy call
Of woodland fairies. List! What siren sings
O'er ocean voicings— deep, divinely deep!
What billowed tempests rage; what surge and sweep;
What equal thunderings storm Poseidon's throne,
And sound Earth's black abyss! Now Ares fires
The clouds, and far his awful symphony fills
The world. 'Tis war! Embattled Harmony Sends
Echo flying, golden, to the hills,
To win brave heights where the winged eagle tires.
And oh! the battle music rageth gloriously!
Till, victory won, a last loud bar begins
With roll of kettledrums, like boom of bees that drone,
On heavy wings, down sultry summer winds,
And unmolested bays where love sees one white sail. 


And what of him who leads these happy fauns?
This Afric' Pan who broke the crystal lip
Of Sound's lost river; plashed there, and let drip
Thy soul, O Islands, mystical and sweet,
Through reeds that bowed and nodded at Taft's feet,
Fair and unbroken, 'mid the clamorous
Dawn's Cry and appealings? Courage, O my race! 
Courage and patience, Islands; ye shall yet have place! 

* Written at the suggestion of Dr. W. Bishop Johnson, of Washington, D. C. 

Published in The Crisis, June 1914

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