("These Truly are the Brave")
AND OTHER POEMS
WILLIAM F. NEIL
St. Joseph, Mo.
Press of The Gray Printing Co.
Kansas City, Kansas
The compilation of this little volume has been altogether
a labor of love, and no revision or emendation of the poems
has been attempted. In the midst of the author's useful and
brilliant career, he was ^stricken with illness and being too
modest to present his poems to the world, I have gathered a
few for publication, thereby giving to the Race that which it
could ill afford to lose, and also furnishing him an adequate
means of support.
THE CRISIS (September 1917) printed his poem "Negro
Soldiers," and states that the poem "carries an honor of high¬
est excellence." The Kansas Ciity Sun also has published sev¬
eral of Irs poems. In these poems, we find the peculiar melod¬
iousness of verse, the impassioned earnestness of his nature, his
scorn of injustice, his quick sympathy ior the oppressed and
encouragement for the growing Race. If he had written no
more than these, I feel that he has done his part to rouse
the great heart of the Negro youth to higher aspirations.
I do not profess to be literary, but I am confident that
whoever thoughtfully reads these poems must acknowledge that
the writer is a genius.
Hoping that this excellent little volume may be received
with the genial spirit in which it is offered, I am
WILLIAM F. NEIL,
South St. Joseph, Mo.
February , 1918.
THESE truly are the Brave,
These men who cast aside
Old memories, to walk the blood-stained pave
Of Sacrifice, joining the solemn tide
That moves away to suffer, and to die
For Freedom, when their own is yet denied—
O Pride! O Prejudice! When they pass by
Hail them, the Brave, for you now crucified!
These truly are the Free,
These souls that grandly rise
Above base dreams of vengeance for their wrongs,
Who march to War, with visions in their eyes
Of Peace through Brotherhood; lifting glad songs
Aforetime, while they front the firing-line—
Stand, and behold; they take the field today,
Shedding their blood, like Him now held divine,
That those who mock might find a better way!
RACES O' MEN
BLACK-MAN or White-man,
Yellow-man or Jew-
Lord, can races matter
If men's hearts be true?
Can the clay give color
To the spirit's guise?
God, do races differ
In Thy righteous eye?
From one dust Thou mad'st them;
Climates gave them hue.
Far apart their customs
Changed, their language too.
Isolation bound them,
Shut them from the view
Of the selfsame ideals
They together knew.
Yet through all the ages,
Carving wood or stone,
They, whate'er they called Thee,
Sought the Great Unknown.
In jungle, cave or temple,
Palace, grove or church—
All have sought to know Thee
All have blundered much.
Now the Morning cometh,
Walls are breaking down;
Human seas they mingle—
Black and white and brown.
In the world's four corners
Ancient kinships meet;
Ocean trade-ways clamor
Like a city street.
God, Jehovah, Allah,
Thy high purpose prove
Send upon the races
Peace and Joy and Love.
Teach them they are brothers,
Teach them to be true
Black-man and white-man,
Yellowman and Jew!
LAMENT OF A SUMMER TOURIST
I'VE HAD a time, a jolly time,
Throughout this summer season.
The days and weeks have been a rhyme,
Melodious. No reason
Had I to think of anything
That leads to pain or worry.
But, oh, this rude awakening!
Oh! days why did you hurry?
I now arise to grimly face,
Ye gods, the awful warning,
And though I smile my nerve to brace,
I dread each new day's dawning.
What shall I do? What shall I do?
You seem to think it funny;
Summertime is almost through,
And wintertime means money!
I LOVED you, Dear. I did not know how much,
i!i Until the silence of the Grave lay cold
Between us, arid your hand I could not touch,
And your sweet face, Oh! never more behold.
I loved you, Dear. I did not know how true.
Until in other eyes I found no light;
I know—Alas! my Spirit without you,
Must drift forever in a starless night!
THE VEILED LADY
SHE wore a veil. I could not see
What tint or hue her skin might be
But, Oh! she was so trim and neat,
Her voice was music, low and sweet,
And while I watched her, to my eyes
She seemed an-Angel from the skies.
Still thus I mused, "She may be one
Of those women dark men should shun;
The kind who at the faintest cry
May bring a mad mob howling nigh."
And so I would have turned away
For fear great danger here might lay.
But ah, just then she turned toward me,
Lifted her veil so daintily, and smiled;
My brain was in a whirl,
Seeing such eyes and teeth o' pearl,
And Cupid laughed, the little clown,
For, oh, thank God, her face was brown!
A WAR DRAMA IN ONE ACT
Time—Last Night. Place—Southern City.
SPEAKING to me ? What do you say ?
The War brings Freedom? Yes it may.
You came from Europe here to make—
How's that? You want us to forsake
This Country and help you to thrust
Its Flag and Pride into the dust?
Say, Who are you? My Friend? You lie!
You are a sneak-thief, foreign spy.
Take that, You scoundrel! That and That!
I wish I had a baseball bat—
I'll teach you how to talk to me
About money, and more liberty!
Yes, Officer, I struck the man.
Let him explain why, if he can.
I knocked him down, and blacked his eyes—
Why look at me in such surprise?
Because he's White and I am Black?
Give me protection. Hold them back!
Just see them come. The Mob grows bigger.
They shout, "Lynch him, the dirty Nigger!"
Because I dared to knock and beat
A White man in the public street.
It's the same old song. They pay no heed
To right or wrong, but just the deed.
This man I met just while ago,
Called me by name, and whispered low,
Asked me to help him get the ear
Of all my people living near.
Offered me money just to say,
We would desert the Flag today.
Said that my folk might swiftly rise,
If we would help the foreign spies
Wreck buildings, bridges, loot and spoil
The Country where we gave our toil;
Help bring it low with bomb and flame,
Until it lisps the Kaiser's name.
Oh, many things he said to me,
Of turnings, Mobs, and Liberty,
And while he talked my eyes saw red.
I knocked him down, sir! Say he's fled?
Why has all the crowd grown still?
Lead on, Officer, as you will.
I care for neither bond nor bail,
For the first time, I go to jail.
You won't arrest me? Why the shout?
What are the people cheering about ?
I, a Hero? Well, that's good.
I've done no more than thousands would.
We want the World to understand,
Though oftimes scourged with cruel hand.
Always held up to the light for flaws,
And girded round by Jim-crow laws,
The Negro will not seek revenge,
To force bound Justice's prison hinge.
We are standing by the President,
To do his will with full intent.
Where he sends us we will go,
To face undaunted any foe.
We love the Flag that makes men free,
We pledge it whole-soul loyalty.
From Lexington to Carrizal,
Black-men did fight, Black-men did fall.
And ever at the high command,
The Negro proudly takes his stand.
Thank God! He knows no traitor's ban
He's a true, blade-straight American!
THE ROAD OF HUMAN LIFE
ALONG the Road of Human Life,
So very near, on either side,
With winds and storms and billows rife,
There is a sea that's wide;
And woe to him who trips and falls
Into that darkening tide.
Oh! it is all that Hope can do
To keep lifted our eyes
And day by day our strength renew
With visions and dream-lies;
To lead us by that awful flood
From which no soul may rise.
Despair! Despair! That is the sea
Which ever is at our feet,
Seeks to envelop you and me,
In ruin full, complete,
Cause us to deem this life a curse
And make death's name sound sweet.
Work, Laugh and Love! Thus only can
The trembling spirit hold,
Its journey true across the span
Of years that doth unfold,
Amid earth's barren scenery
Until life's tale is told!
I JOURNEYED with her to the gates of Death,
JLL A lonesome road, yet tried to turn away
Her footsteps, marking still her panting breath,
But soon I knew with me she could not stay,
And then methought; perhaps we shall not part.
For surely she shall need me where she goes.
Then did it seem she looked into my heart,
Whispering; On me alone, the doors must close.
O Little Sister! Can you see me still,
On this dim threshold, where you said : Goodbye?
Weird is the night. The moon shines pale and chill-
The Gates are fast, nor ope to such as I.
The hills grow bright with sunlight of the Dawn —
Life calls me back, yet fain would I go on!
HAD you called from the fire, or from the sea,
From 'mid the roaring flames, or dark'ning wave,
With eagerness I then had come to thee,
To perish with thee if I could not save.
But now helpless I sit and watch you die.
There is no power can save, the doctors say,
I lift my eyes unto the silent sky,
And wonder why it is that mortals pray.
ALL THESE MUST die before the Morning breaks;
They who at God an angry finger shake,
Declaring that because He made them White,
That they should rule the world by sacred right.
They who deny a common Brotherhood—
They who cry aloud; they think no Blackman good—
The blood-cursed mob always eager to take
The rope in hand or light the flaming stake,
Jeering the wretch while he in death pain quakes—
All these must die before the Morning breaks.
All these must die before the Morning breaks;
The Blackmen, faithless, they whose loud laughter wakes
Harsh echoes in the most unbias places.
They who choose vice, and scorn the gentle graces—
Who by their manners breed contemptuous hate,
Suggesting jim-crow laws from state to state—
They who think on earth they may not find,
An ideal man nor woman of their kind.
But from some other Race that ideal take—
All these must die before the Morning breaks!
We know, O Lord, that there will come a time,
When o'er the World will dawn the Age Sublime,
When Truth shall call to all mankind to stand
Before Thy throne, as Brothers, hand in hand.
Be not displeased with him who this song makes—
All these must die before the Morning breaks!
CASTLES IN THE AIR
I BUILD my castles in the air:
So beautiful they seem to me,
Standing in all their glory there,
Like stars above the sea.
I "watch them with admiring eyes,
For in them dwell life's fondest hope,
If they be swept from out the skies,
In darkness I must grope.
They hold life's joys, life's sweetest dreams;
They make the weary years seem bright.
As one guided by bright starbeams
I struggle through the night.
Sometimes from out the skies they fall,
And my soul shrieks in its pain;
But from the heights I hear Hope's call,
"Arise and build again."
What though life be with sorrow filled
And each day brings its load of care,
I'm happy still while I can build
My castles in the air!
PRAYER TO THE FLAG
FLAG of the Brave, that moves afar.
To curb the wrath of tyrant kings;
To drag "Oppression to the bar
Of Judgment, list to him that sings!
Thou art my Flag. I love thee still,
In spite of them who rend, and smear
Thee with base crimes; who seek to kill
My People's hopes with baleful sneer
I love thee still, and now I lift
My eyes to thee on high, above,
To pray thee for the promised gift
Of Freedom for the Race I love.
E'er thy stars mount dim Europe's skies,
To cheer brave hearts to Victory,
I pray thee hear my People's cries,
Here in the Home-land, set men free.
Thy great fleets cruise in foreign seas.
Thy armies gather for the fray,
To strike Injustice to its knees,
The World doth praise thy might today
And wilt thou boast thy Honor still,
To those who fear thy venging rod,
When Disfranchisement halts the will
Of millions here on Freedom's sod?
Put down the terror of the Mob.
Sit Justice on the throne to reign.
Where thy dark children brood, and sob,
Speak peace unto their souls again.
Open full-wide the Golden Gate
Of Equal Chance, that all may strive—
Or Glory 'neath thy folds we wait,
All broken, bruised, but yet alive.
Far Lands have called thee. They have need
Of thy strong aid, yet, are we least,
Who in thy household now doth plead,
And must we starve while aliens feast?
Great is our faith. Our hearts are thine.
Blackmen will follow where you tell.
Upon whatever battle-line,
Thou know'st, with them, that all is well.
Flag of the Brave ! Our foes are thine,
Against them let thy wrath be hurled,
And then go forth with might divine,
To 'stablish Peace for all the World!