Verse > Anthologies > James Weldon Johnson, ed. > The Book of American Negro Poetry
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James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938).  The Book of American Negro Poetry.  1922.
 
Negro Poets
 
Charles Bertram Johnson
 
 
FULL many lift and sing
Their sweet imagining;
Not yet the Lyric Seer,
The one bard of the throng,
With highest gift of song,        5
Breaks on our sentient ear.
 
Not yet the gifted child,
With notes enraptured, wild,
That storm and throng the heart,
To make his rage our own,        10
Our hearts his lyric throne;
Hard won by cosmic art.
 
I hear the sad refrain,
Of slavery’s sorrow-strain;
The broken half-lispt speech        15
Of freedom’s twilit hour;
The greater growing reach
Of larger latent power.
 
Here and there a growing note
Swells from a conscious throat;        20
Thrilled with a message fraught
The pregnant hour is near;
We wait our Lyric Seer,
By whom our wills are caught.
 
Who makes our cause and wrong        25
The motif of his song;’
Who sings our racial good,
Bestows us honor’s place,
The cosmic brotherhood
Of genius—not of race.        30
 
Blind Homer, Greek or Jew,
Of fame’s immortal few
Would still be deathless born;
Frail Dunbar, black or white,
In Fame’s eternal light,        35
Would shine a Star of Morn.
 
An unhorizoned range,
Our hour of doubt and change,
Gives song a nightless day,
Whose pen with pregnant mirth        40
Will give our longings birth,
And point our souls the way?
 

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