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

Maurice N. Corbett, "Liberia" (1914)

Behold! A bright oasis green
On" Afric's Western coast is seen
To rise to an important post
Where dwelt a long benighted host
Of savage men, untamed, untaught,
Whose barren minds on which a thought
Of higher life had found no root
From which intelligence could sprout.

Where once no sun of hope appeared,
Behold how heathen hearts, are cheered
By rays of light which penetrate
The clouds of their benighted state;
And?1 wisdom's stream now ripples by
Where once the soil was parched and dry;
Is seen to grow a government
Where tribal strife was prevalent.

'Tis thus Liberia has shown
What blacks can do when left alone,
When once the seeds of liberty
Are planted in their memory.

Though treachery brought him to grief,
His country found a worthy chief
In Dessalines, the warrior
The black hot-blooded emperor,
Who by his cunning, wisdom, pluck,
And daring mixed with splendid luck

Crushed out Domingo's opposition,
And she, a nation, took position.
Let those who daily find excuse
The Negro's progress to traduce,
Behold Liberia's showing grand
With obstacles on every hand.

Conscience, that monitor which comes
Into the worse sin-ridden homes,
Vile man to warn of pending fate
Should he continue in a state
Of disregard of God's decrees,
The hearts of some slave owners seized
And pricked, till they had seen it fit
That they their slaves should manumit.

But fit it would not prove to be
That Negroes bound and Negroes free
Should be permitted side by side
In daily contact to abide;
For those who were with freedom blessed
Would soon inoculate the rest
With freedom's germ, when must the wall
Of hellish human slavery fall.

To save this institution then,
From sudden death, did these white men
Unto the government apply
To have it plant a colony
For blacks, on Afric's Western shore,
Where might loosed blacks in freedom go,
Unhampered, and begin to build
A home according to their will.

Liberia was found to be
The spot to found this colony;
And slaves now freed by will or court,
Such would the government transport
Unto this land 'neath tropic skies,
Where they must either fall or rise,
According to the grit within
Just as the world tried other men.

Slave owners held it was a sin
To send these Negroes back again
To Africa, for soon they'd be
Addicted to idolatry
And superstition's magic charms
Would soon enfold them in its arms,
While idleness and poverty,
Would bring to settlement decay.

That cannibals, the land would breed
And lives of wretchedness they'd lead,
And guided by the knowledge here
Attained, would be the leaders there,
In fetish lore and tribal wars
And prove a menace to the cause
Of mission work, and slavers' plans
For treatment of the heathen lands.

To Haiti do they love to point
As a republic out of joint,
And, as a nation, a disgrace,
"Which should be banished from the face
Of this progressive hemisphere,
But ne'er in print does it appear
How well Liberia stands the test
Of government, with all the rest.

Liberia, though weak and poor
And unprotected, has done more
By splendid rule to show to earth
That Negroes have intrinsic worth
As other men, and when content,
Are capable of government
Of selves and their upgrowing seed
As men of any race or breed.

She holds the world's respect, because
Of honesty and righteous laws;
Her treaty obligations kept,
As treasures stored within the depth
Of iron vaults, and none have cause
To rail on her organic laws;
And equal rights are not denied
To those who in the land abide.
Long may Liberian Statehood live,
And may all Afric's sons receive
Through her, progress and racial pride,
That they may early cast aside
Their idols crude, their heathen rites,
Their proneness to engage in fights,
And their detested custom old
That they should men in bondage hold.

Liberia, thou art the door
Through which should missionaries pour
To Afric's teeming millions lost,
Who know not of the Holy Ghost,
Nor that the Savior bled and died
That their souls might be satisfied
Through his life blood, to live for aye
In realms of everlasting day.

Published in The Harp of Ethiopia, 1914

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