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

Walter Everette Hawkins, "To W.E. Burghardt Du Bois" (1909)

To W. E. Burghardt DuBois. 

   Let darts assail his plaited mail, 
       Who stands alone for right; 
   Let scorns of men and hisses rail 
   Against his armor—all will fail, 
       Nor threat, nor thrall shall fright,— 
   Hero is he who dares assail 
   The wrong till wrong shall quake and quail, 
   Who stands mid lightning and the gale 
       Alone with God and Right.
O Ethiope, arise, shake off thy wail, 
   For unto thee is born a Galahad— 
Thy peerless Knight to win the Holy Grail, 
   In whose undaunted strength thy sons are glad. 
He bids thee rise above the sordid sod, 
His trenchant sword doth carve the rising road 
       That leads to hills of God. 

Du Bois brave, we love thee for thy might, 
   We glory in thy cultured, winging soul; 
All thine beyond the "Veil" fair realms of light. 
   And thou wouldst have us seek the highest goal. 
Thy noble soul is not content with bread, 
But Manna from the hills of God instead. 
       Where Heaven's love is shed.

With thunder thou dost thunder back at wrong, 
   Thy great ideals will make a nation free; 
Thy lightnings pierce the evils of the strong, 
   And thou dost make no tame apology. 
While moles may not attain unto thy flight, 
Both men and angels follow thee to light, 
       O noble, princely Knight. 

Or fame, or blame, thou givest man his due, 
   Nor flinch when Justice bids thee strike the wrong; 
Thou givest right and wrong their proper hue, 
   Demanding what most rightly doth belong. 
Tho baser men assail thee, thou dost stand, 
Tho no vast armies follow thy command— 
       God's still at thy right hand. 

And thou dost not accept inferior place, 
   For thou art part of God like other men; 
Nor dost thou grin at wrongs done to thy race, 
   Nor seek thru fawning art applause to win. 
Thou playest well and best the master role. 
Illuming baser parts with gift of soul— 
       Thou playest for men, not mole. 

And what is wealth or worldly praise to thee? 
   (Thy eagle wings—they stretch too far for men) 
Thou seekest for a higher liberty,
   And carest not the fickle crowd to win. 
Thy kingdoms are the stretch of moral worlds, 
Adorned with freedom's intellectual pearls, 
       Where light of God unfurls.

O Child of Night, all Heaven bids thee fly;
   And soaring high pluck from thy wings a quill, 
And dip it in the stars of Heaven's sky; 
   And pen thy race's name on Heaven's Hill. 
Then angels' harps attuned to chords unknown 
Shall chant the pulsing strain from throne to throne 
       Of one so nobly born. 

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