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

Lucian B. Watkins “Song of the American Dove”   (1916)

I build my nest not on the crest
Of the mountain-throne, but in the breast–
The sheltering arm of the forest warm,
Where my dovelets swing ‘mid the maddest storm;
Here I see and sigh! ‘neath the grieving sky, 
Lo, a race is hung on the trees!
A-wing I go, and the land below 
Is riot-red with a cruel woe;
For the hand of Hate, at a furious rate,
Is sowing the seeds of a terrible fate;
And each venomous seed is the prejudice weed
That buds and blooms with a murderous deed!
Oh, I love the land of Justice grand, 
Where men are free, heart, head and hand;
Where the smile and nod of the greening sod
Are bright and and glad with the gift of God:
Where over the plains and the mountainous reigns
The flag that frees each soul from chains!
“Land of the free,” whose flag I see!
What boots thy boast of Liberty? 
 What avails thy might, while in thy sight
A race is robbed of its dearest right?
Hark! I hear the yell of the hounds of hell–
Thy sons obsessed with the lynching spell!
How I long to see thy Liberty
With e’en thy lowliest subject free;
With none denied or crushed in pride,
But souls ascending side by side;
Thy streaming Stars and bleeding Bars
Thus mean a victory more than war’s!
“Let freedom ring”- ‘tis a well to sing, 
But let it from the mountains bring–
Not only to the fortunate few–
Its peace to all ‘neath the “Red, White and Blue!”
Ah! I see and sigh, ‘neath the heavens high,
While a race is hung on the trees to die!

Published in The Crisis. June 1916


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