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

Walter Everette Hawkins, "Ode to Ethiopia" (1909)

Ode To Ethiopia. 

Think not, O Ethiopia, 
   Thy gift to greatness small; 
Within the courts where glory dwells 
   Hangs high upon the wall 
The scroll of fame whereon thy name 
   In burning truth sublime 
Tells of thy deeds which shall survive 
   The crumbling years of time.
Tho earth ungrateful for the blood 
   Thy sons have fed her soil, 
And man forget the virtue of 
   Thy ever matchless toil; 
Eternal Truth shall weave in song 
   Thy gift to martyrdom 
To be the theme of angels in 
   The crowning years to come. 

What grander boast than boast of mind, 
   Of might, of heart and soul? 
What nobler triumphs dare to find 
   Adornment on life's scroll 
Than conquests wrought mid stripes and chains 
   Despite the chastening rod? 
Thy ebon Royalty remains 
   The sanction of a God. 

Go, Saxon, from Gibraltar search 
   To shores of Hebrides, 
Search from fair Hellas on the South 
   Beyond the Northern Seas, 
You find no such heroic race 
   As thy black fellow man— 
We fling defiance in thy face, 
   The black man leads the van.

Thy palest son e'er bleached by snows 
   Blown from fair Caucasus height 
Can boast no richer laurels won 
   Than by the black man's might; 
No generation, kindred, kind, 
   Nor race, nor tribe, nor clan, 
Has triumphed mid such threatening doom— 
   The black man leads the van. 

O Ethiopia, my pride, 
   I love thee as a bride, 
The ebon richness of thy hues— 
   I clasp thee to my side; 
From thy rich blood brave kings have sprung 
   And choicest queens are born,  
Thy velvet beauty dearer far 
   Than palest lily grown. 

Tho savage might may lead thee forth 
   And spoil thy happy isle, 
And weld the chains to mock thy pride, 
   Thy fairy lands defile; 
Thy master soul 'neath shattered dreams 
   Doth still shine forth serene—  
Despite the dreams that might have been,
   Thou art thyself, O Queen. 

Published in Chords and Discords, 1909

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