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

James Weldon Johnson, "From the German of Uhland" (1917)


    Three students once tarried over the Rhine,
    And into Frau Wirthin's turned to dine.

    "Say, hostess, have you good beer and wine?
    And where is that pretty daughter of thine?"

    "My beer and wine is fresh and clear.
    My daughter lies on her funeral bier."

    They softly tipped into the room;
    She lay there in the silent gloom.

    The first the white cloth gently raised,
    And tearfully upon her gazed.

    "If thou wert alive, O, lovely maid,
    My heart at thy feet would to-day be laid!"

    The second covered her face again,
    And turned away with grief and pain.

    "Ah, thou upon thy snow-white bier!
    And I have loved thee so many a year."

    The third drew back again the veil,
    And kissed the lips so cold and pale.

    "I've loved thee always, I love thee to-day,
    And will love thee, yes, forever and aye!"

Published in Fifty Years and Other Poems, 1917