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

Matthew Bennett, "They" (1924)


"They jest at scars who never felt a wound,"
They speak of love who never sensed the "thrill,"
They grind out verse, who'se lyre was ne'er attuned,
To meet the edict of the pop'lar will.

They dream of wealth and fame on heights sublime,
Although in truth, they never had amount,
Or held in trust, the item of a dime
To swell the coffers of a bank-account.

They babble war, who never held a gun.
They talk of thrift who never saved a cent;
They shout: "Fair Play," but make a good safe run,
When ranging landlords come to get their rent.

They want good service, 'though they never gave,
The eager, willing bell-hop lugging bags,
A thin and lonely dime, his soul to save,
Or starved street-beggars in their tattered rags.

They play at stocks, and in a sprawling hand,
They write out checks, who'se funds have long been nil,
At last, the Boss gets "hep" and out they land ;
Because they cannot pay their hotel-bill.

They boast of fights who never graced a glove,
They picture goals, they think they will attain,
They dream not dreams, and do not know whereof
They build these fairy castles in their brain.

They prate of Peace who never strove to be
Staunch guardians of the Brotherhood of Man;
They shout aloud, for "World Democracy!"
But brand with shame each universal plan.

They daily wail of wrongs beyond the sea,
While here, defenceless Negroes writhe and burn;
Great GodI What will the awful tribute be,
That day when Black Men get their just return?

Published in The Messenger, November 1924

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