Lo! winter held the earth in its dark strife.
Scarred Nature's beauty, hushed its pulse of life;
Now, through her trembling bosom, mystic breath
Blows the eternal lilies in the fields of death.
William Stanley Braithwaite was born in Boston December 6, 1878. He left school at the age of twelve and started to learn the compositor's trade at the press of Girin & Company. On account of ill health, he had to give this up, and there followed four or five years of odd jobs, "such as a lad—a colored lad—might find to do," as Mr. Braithwaite quietly puts it.
After managing a little bookstore in Newport and working in a club, the vision of the poet proved too alluring to be longer resisted. At the age of twenty-four he therefore began his literary career. In 1904 came his sad-covered little book, "Lyrics of Life and Love," with its first low cry of a freed soul:
I am glad day long for the gift of song,
For time and change and sorrow;
For the sunset wings and the world-end things
Which hang on the edge of to-morrow.
I am glad for my heart whose gates apart
Are the entrance-place of wonders,
Where dreams come in from the rush and din
Like sheep from the rains and thunders.
Two years later Mr. Braithwaite began his first great life work—a survey and evaluation of English poetry from 1557 to 1910. Three volumes of these splendidly conceived anthologies have appeared—the "Book of Elizabethan Verse" (1906), the "Book of Georgean Verse" (1908), and the "Book of Restoration Verse" (1909). The last volume, the "Book of Victorian Verse," completing the series, will appear this year.
Besides these volumes Mr. Braithwaite has issued the "House of Falling Leaves," and will publish soon "New England Poems and Lyrics," a river anthology and a volume of essays.
Mr . Braithwaite's art is characterized by care, restraint and exquisite taste. H e marks the rise of Negro American letters above the mere bonds of race into the universal brotherhood.
Published in The Crisis, April 1911