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

Priscilla Jane Thompson, "Address to Ethiopia" (1900)


   My weak and trampled race!
With fathomless emotion,
   Thy dismal path I trace.

Thy bright and stalwart, swarthy, sons,
   Thy meek-eyed daughters, fair,
I trace through centuries by-gone,
   Of misery and despair.

Thy fathers' fathers long were taught;
   Nay, forced by tyrants, bold,
To worship at a mortal shrine,
   With humble heart and soul.

So long hath slav'ry's blasting hand,
   O'er thee its power swayed,
That now, though freedom sweet is thine,
   I see thee cowed and dazed.

The sin is at thy tyrant's door;
   The curse is at thine own;
And e'er shall rest upon thy head,
   Till thou shalt cast it down.

Oh! rouse thy slumb'ring manhood, strong!
   A foothold boldly earn;
And scorn thy brothers' patronage,
   When he's thy fellow-worm.

Tear down those idols thou hast built,
   In weakness to the proud!
Knowest thou that in thy blindness, deep,
   Thou desecrate thy God?

Oh rise in union great and strong!
   Hold each black brother, dear;
And form a nation of thine own,
   Despite thy tyrant's jeers!

We need not reek in blood and groans,
   This is a war within;
We need but conquer cow' ring self,
   And rise a man with men.

What though our number may be few?
   Hath not the Jews long stood,
In unions strong, 'mid myriads
   Of foes, who craved their blood?

Then rise, oh fainting Ethiopes!
   And gather up thy strength;
For by repeated efforts, strong,
   Thou'lt gain thy grounds at length.

The same God hath created thee,
   That did thy fairer brother;
Thinkst thou, that in His justice, great,
   He'd prize one 'bove the other?

Published in Ethiope Lays, 1900

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