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

Ode to Ethiopia by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1895)

First published in Majors and Minors (1895). Also published in Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896)


  O Mother Race! to thee I bring
  This pledge of faith unwavering,
    This tribute to thy glory.
  I know the pangs which thou didst feel,
  When Slavery crushed thee with its heel,
    With thy dear blood all gory.

  Sad days were those--ah, sad indeed!
  But through the land the fruitful seed
    Of better times was growing.
  The plant of freedom upward sprung,
  And spread its leaves so fresh and young--
    Its blossoms now are blowing.

  On every hand in this fair land,
  Proud Ethiope's swarthy children stand
    Beside their fairer neighbor;
  The forests flee before their stroke,
  Their hammers ring, their forges smoke,--
    They stir in honest labour.

  They tread the fields where honour calls;
  Their voices sound through senate halls
    In majesty and power.
  To right they cling; the hymns they sing
  Up to the skies in beauty ring,
    And bolder grow each hour.

  Be proud, my Race, in mind and soul;
  Thy name is writ on Glory's scroll
    In characters of fire.
  High 'mid the clouds of Fame's bright sky
  Thy banner's blazoned folds now fly,
    And truth shall lift them higher.

  Thou hast the right to noble pride,
  Whose spotless robes were purified
    By blood's severe baptism.
  Upon thy brow the cross was laid,
  And labour's painful sweat-beads made
    A consecrating chrism.

  No other race, or white or black,
  When bound as thou wert, to the rack,
    So seldom stooped to grieving;
  No other race, when free again,
  Forgot the past and proved them men
    So noble in forgiving.

  Go on and up! Our souls and eyes
  Shall follow thy continuous rise;
    Our ears shall list thy story
  From bards who from thy root shall spring,
  And proudly tune their lyres to sing
    Of Ethiopia's glory.

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