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

Maurice N. Corbett, "Hayti" (1914)

Amid the great Antillian isles
Where tropic sun in grandeur smiles
On San Domingo's fertile plains,
Where Afric's children once in chains
The whole of that republic own,
And rules as rules a king his throne,
Was born of parentage obscure,
The great Toussaint L’Ouverture.

Scan the whole race for worth within,
He greatest was of Negro men.
For fifty years an humble slave,
Though of a heart both stout and brave.
He yielded meekly to the will
Of his indulgent owner, 'till
In desperation, secretly,
The slaves struck for their liberty.

Though planned he not the overthrow
Of slavery, he to the fore
Of those commanding, soon did rise,
When genius to organize,
And great ability to plan
Were seeking for the proper man
With courage bold to lead the way,
And sense enough to win the day.

King Alexander was called great
(As ancient histories relate)
Because the whole known world ruled he
When he was only thirty-three;
'Tis also said he wept because
In conquering kings, he had to pause;
Because of kingdoms, there were none
Whose monarchs he had not dethroned.

His father, Philip, ruled a throne,
And he no other life had known
Save one of war and pomp and power
And giving orders every hour;
Was cradled in experience's school,
And tutored how to lead and rule
His countrymen, in war and peace,
As well became a son of Greece.

Stands Hannibal in bold relief
As the greatest military chief
Of all the ages; yet he too 
Up, in the camp, a soldier grew;
In arts of war was taught the ways,
Engaged in warfare all his days,
And was unconquerable because
lie knew all military laws.

Scotland, in singing her sad fate
Can boast her Bruce, in prowess great;
That country's sovereign for a while,
And then was chased into exile.
He calls his followers once more
And wins his kingdom back before
The proud usurpers of his crown
Could muster men to hold him down.

Gained Caesar greatness on that morn
He crossed the tempting Rubicon,
Which marked his sphere of rule in Rome,
And won the empire for his own.
This know, who are with Caesar charmed,
He conquered Rome with Roman arms,
And Roman treasure in his trust,
To satiate ambition's lust.

Napoleon, the warrior he,
The favored son of destiny,
The kingdoms of the world o'erturned,
Their kings uncrowned, their cities, burned
Their fields were strewn with soldiers dead
And France's proud banner o'er them spread
This fact upon men's minds I'd stamp:
This man was cradled in the camp.

In youth, the rudiments of law
He mastered, and the arts of war
In will, in purpose, and in heart.
Knew he, and was himself a part
On life's great stage, he only wrought
On other men what he was taught;
How best to wield the sword to kill,
And mankind bend to do his will.

Then let us take our favorite son,
The first in all things,—Washington,
This nation freed he for our own
And first received the ruler's crown,
And, from the laws which have been since
Enacted here, all governments
Their form of rule have modified,
So that the ballots now decide,

Who holds a seat in parliament,
Congress, and chair of president,
But Washington had won applause
For gallantry in Indian wars,
Which fitted him in after life
For leader in the fiercer strife,
When by a well-directed stroke
Freed he this land from British yoke.

You men who laud our Grant and Lee
For deeds of valor, must agree
That in the civil war, they fought
As they at West Point had been taught.
If by assault, or. in defense
Their soldiers gained great prominence,
The world decided as a rule
They'd prove the merits of their school.

But not a command ever knew
The great Toussaint L'Ouverture,
And in his youth he never saw
Within a book of common law,
Was reared to be another's tool
Without a dream he'd ever rule
His native isle, a shining star,
A very king—an emperor.

When revolution's banner red,
O'er San Domingo's soil was spread,
This untaught man, this trusty slave,
Was found the bravest of the brave.
By far the wisest of the wise,
The cynosure of wise men's eyes;
The organizer, leader, judge,
Without whose orders none dared budge.

He broke the heavy bondsman's chain
Whicfr bound Domingo fast to Spain,
Then with" the Warrior's polished lance
Beat back the soldiers of proud France,
And' with a will preeminent,
He took the reins of government
And "First among the blacks became,
By valiant deeds as well as name.

In state-craft, General L'Ouverture
Had builded wiser than he knew.
And hundred years have rolled away,
And still triumphant stands today
"The Black Republic" pertinent
Unto his worth, a monument.
A land where black men make the laws
Despite their many civil wars.

Although her colors show the scars
Of insurrections, civil wars,
And their attending poverty,
Still theirs has been the novelty
Of black men's rule without the sights
Of cannibals and heathen rights
Which haters of the blacks declare
If blacks should rule would be their share.

This wholesome truth the world should know:
That these black people war no more
Than do their neighbors 'round about,
Who war within and war without
Their country's borders, year by year,
Till nations start not when they hear
That some mad tropic Lochinvar
Has loosed his howling dogs of war.

Published in The Harp of Ethiopia, 1914

This page has tags: