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

Maggie Pogue Johnson, "Dedicated to W.H. Sheppard" (1910)

Dedicated to Dr. W. H. Sheppard

[The returned missionary, who spent twenty years in Africa.]
On, on to the darkest continent,
As the Adriatic sailed,
In Eighteen Hundred and Ninety,
Many sad good-byes were wailed.
When two brave sons left their homes,
Their kindred, yea their blood,
To wade in Africa's unknown,
And overwhelming flood.
A caucasian and a negro,
United heart and soul,
Bound for Ethiopia's soil,
Yea Africa's distant goal.
As from the New York shore
The steamer slowly starts,
Sheppard and Lapsley bade good-bye
To sad but anxious hearts.
On, on, as the steamer glides,
'Mid the rippling water's whirl,
On to the wild and savage land,
The darkest in the world.
Yet, in that darkened land
Were millions, yea unfed,
Who never had been told
Of Christ the living bread.
But God had sent a message,
To these men so brave,
To go in Ethiopia's land,
And try these souls to save.
Gladly they heeded His command,
To go 'mid danger and strife,
And work in that distant land,
Yes, at the cost of life.
And so in Ethiopia's wild,
These two men so brave,
Prayed for Ethiopia's child,
Struggling a soul to save.
For weeks, yes, months they struggled,
Working day and night,
Until at last, how happy,—
There came a ray of light.
One soul had come to Christ,
One made to understand,
The blessed Savior's voice,
And heed to His command.
These leaders true and brave,
Prayed to Him on high a prayer,
To thank Him for this blessing,
And for His tender care.
But ere many months had passed.
There came a sad, sad day,
A cloud o'er Africa's land was cast,
For one had passed away.
A leader now was gone,
One whom they did love,
Rev. Lapsley had been called
To that home above.
His comrade also missed him,
For he was left alone,
To dwell in Ethiopia's land,
Afar from friends and home.
A work he had left unfinished,
Which he had resolved to do,
But Sheppard decided by God's aid
To carry the work on through.
So he started out one day,
With Africa's savage band,
Determined to make his way
To the Forbidden Land.*
Months they spent on the way,
To carry a ray of light
To Heathen who knew no day,
In a land where all was night.
After toiling daily,
With Ethiopia's sons,
Many were brought to Christ,
A victors crown was won.
They built a house of worship,
And toiled day after day,
Soon Ethiopia's sons
Had learned the narrow way.
They, too, began to preach,
And teach their fellowmen,
And for these blessings great
Their prayers did upward blend.
And in this land so dark,
Where never had been light,
The lame, in Christ, were made to walk.
The blind were given sight.
To Sheppard they gave great praise,
He'd ventured on their soil,
And Ethiopia's sons had raised
Thro' years of earnest toil.
For twenty years he struggled,
In Africa's darkened land,
Giving them the light
As they heeded his command.
Way off in Africa's land,
Let us in fancy look,
To see a heathen band,
Who'd never seen a book,—
Now preaching Christ and teaching,
With minds all free and bright,
All Hail to thee, oh Sheppard,
Who carried them the light.
A great work thou hast done,
To thee we give great praise,
Many laurels thou hast won
For thy remaining days.

Published in Virginia Dreams, 1910

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