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

Poems by George Marion McLellan included in "The Book of American Negro Poetry" (1922)


To dreamy languors and the violet mist
  Of early Spring, the deep sequestered vale
Gives first her paling-blue Miamimist,
  Where blithely pours the cuckoo's annual tale
Of Summer promises and tender green,
  Of a new life and beauty yet unseen.
The forest trees have yet a sighing mouth,
  Where dying winds of March their branches swing,
While upward from the dreamy, sunny South,
  A hand invisible leads on the Spring.

His rounds from bloom to bloom the bee begins
  With flying song, and cowslip wine he sups,
Where to the warm and passing southern winds,
  Azaleas gently swing their yellow cups.
Soon everywhere, with glory through and through,
  The fields will spread with every brilliant hue.
But high o'er all the early floral train,
  Where softness all the arching sky resumes,
The dogwood dancing to the winds' refrain,
  In stainless glory spreads its snowy blooms.


What dost thou here, thou shining, sinless thing,
With many colored hues and shapely wing?
Why quit the open field and summer air
To flutter here? Thou hast no need of prayer.

'Tis meet that we, who this great structure built,
Should come to be redeemed and washed from guilt,
For we this gilded edifice within
Are come, with erring hearts and stains of sin.

But thou art free from guilt as God on high;
Go, seek the blooming waste and open sky,
And leave us here our secret woes to bear,
Confessionals and agonies of prayer.


Sewanee Hills of dear delight,
  Prompting my dreams that used to be,
I know you are waiting me still to-night
  By the Unika Range of Tennessee.

The blinking stars in endless space,
  The broad moonlight and silvery gleams,
To-night caress your wind-swept face,
  And fold you in a thousand dreams.

Your far outlines, less seen than felt,
  Which wind with hill propensities,
In moonlight dreams I see you melt
  Away in vague immensities.

And, far away, I still can feel
  Your mystery that ever speaks
Of vanished things, as shadows steal
  Across your breast and rugged peaks.

O, dear blue hills, that lie apart,
  And wait so patiently down there,
Your peace takes hold upon my heart
  And makes its burden less to bear.


Christ washed the feet of Judas!
The dark and evil passions of his soul,
His secret plot, and sordidness complete,
His hate, his purposing, Christ knew the whole,
And still in love he stooped and washed his feet.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
Yet all his lurking sin was bare to him,
His bargain with the priest, and more than this,
In Olivet, beneath the moonlight dim,
Aforehand knew and felt his treacherous kiss.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And so ineffable his love 'twas meet,
That pity fill his great forgiving heart,
And tenderly to wash the traitor's feet,
Who in his Lord had basely sold his part.

Christ washed the feet of Judas!
And thus a girded servant, self-abased,
Taught that no wrong this side the gate of heaven
Was ever too great to wholly be effaced,
And though unasked, in spirit be forgiven.

And so if we have ever felt the wrong
Of Trampled rights, of caste, it matters not,
What e'er the soul has felt or suffered long,
Oh, heart! this one thing should not be forgot:
Christ washed the feet of Judas.

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