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

James T. Franklin, "Douglas (To His Widow)" [Douglass] (1900)

(To his widow.)

     Is Douglas dead?
  That grand old man, that pleasant face,
     That mirrored idol of the Negro Race!
  Has he been struck from foremost rank,
      Into earth’s dusty apron sank
  And no one to take his place?
           God forbid!             

  Yea forbid that the winds should mourn,
      Or on zephyr’s timely wings be borne
  That word: For death in silent tread,
      Would loath to disgrace that honored head
  By writing ’boveit “He is dead:”
             For he lives.

  And every hour that wings away,
      Prolongs his life another day.
  For sure the flower from its stalk,
      May drop and wither upon the walk,
  Yet lives to bloom again that stalk:
             So Douglas lives.

  He tho’ a plant of the tropics, grew
      In America to live and do;
  And did he it, and did it well,
      True until his gray hairs fell.
  Of a greater man, no records tell,
          And still he lives.

  Tho’ kind old mother earth, perhap,
      Doth rock him gently in her lap,
  His slumber is sweetest rest:   
     Gray hairs float on-his mother’* breaat:
  Yet speak not of him, but as the best,
           For still he lives.

      And up this barrier wall of life,
           His deed amid the storm and strife,
      Doth, clutching, climb on like the vine,
           Around each rock some tendrils twine,
      Till blossom they in warm sunshine
                   To never die.

      No, never, tho’ that aged head
          Be lulled to sleep—but one was made,
      And making him, was made a cleft
          In earth, and not a remnant left,
      From which onother might be made.
          So sleep on thou aged blest,

      Thy work is done, so take thy rest.
          For bear, O winds, to murmur aught
      But praise for mighty deeds he wrought!
          Rock gently in thy orb, O earth,
      Fret not him of humble birth,
               But let him rest.

      Stoop down, O heaven, kiss his brow,
          For oft before thee did he bow;
      Let holy angels watch his grave,
          And ne’er let man forget the brave.
      The good, the noble, tumble slave
          Who rose to highest fame.

Published in Jessamine Poems, 1900

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