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

Joseph S. Cotter, Jr., "O Little David, Play on Your Harp" (1919)

O Little David, play on your harp, 
That ivory harp with the golden strings 
And sing as you did in Jewry Land, 
Of the Prince of Peace and the God of Love 
And the Coming Christ Immanuel. 

O Little David, play on your harp. 
A seething world is gone stark mad; 
And is drunk with the blood, 
Gorged with the flesh, 
Blinded with the ashes 
Of her millions of dead. 
From out it all and over all 
There stands, years old and fully grown, 
A monster in the guise of man. 
He is of war and not of war; 
Born in peace, 
Nutured in arrogant pride and greed, 
World-creature is he and native to no land. 
And war itself is merciful 
When measured by his deeds. 
Beneath the 
Crescent Lie a people maimed; 
Their only sin — 
That they worship God. 
On Russia's steppes
Is a race in tears; 
Their one offense — 
That they would be themselves. 
On Flanders plains 
Is a nation raped; A bleeding gift 
Of "Kultur's" conquering creed. 
And in every land 
Are black folk scourged; 
Their only crime — 
That they dare be men. 

O Little David, play on your harp, 
That ivory harp with the golden strings; 
And psalm anew your songs of Peace, 
Of the soothing calm of a Brotherly Love, 
And the saving grace of a Mighty God. 
O Little David, play on your harp.

Published in The Band of Gideon And Other Poems (1922)

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