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.
 
The New Day
 
Fenton Johnson
 
 
FROM a vision red with war I awoke and saw the Prince of Peace hovering over No Man’s Land.
Loud the whistles blew and the thunder of cannon was drowned by the happy shouting of the people.
From the Sinai that faces Armageddon I heard this chant from the throats of white-robed angels:
 
  Blow your trumpets, little children!
  From the East and from the West,        5
  From the cities in the valley,
  From God’s dwelling on the mountain,
  Blow your blast that Peace might know
  She is Queen of God’s great army.
  With the crying blood of millions        10
  We have written deep her name
  In the Book of all the Ages;
  With the lilies in the valley,
  With the roses by the Mersey,
  With the golden flower of Jersey        15
  We have crowned her smooth young temples.
  Where her footsteps cease to falter
  Golden grain will greet the morning,
  Where her chariot descends
  Shall be broken down the altars        20
  Of the gods of dark disturbance.
  Nevermore shall men know suffering,
  Nevermore shall women wailing
  Shake to grief the God of Heaven.
  From the East and from the West,        25
  From the cities in the valley,
  From God’s dwelling on the mountain,
  Little children, blow your trumpets!
 
From Ethiopia, groaning ’neath her heavy burdens, I heard the music of the old slave songs.
I heard the wail of warriors, dusk brown, who grimly fought the fight of others in the trenches of Mars.        30
I heard the plea of blood-stained men of dusk and the crimson in my veins leapt furiously.
 
  Forget not, O my brothers, how we fought
  In No Man’s Land that peace might come again!
  Forget not, O my brothers, how we gave
  Red blood to save the freedom of the world!        35
  We were not free, our tawny hands were tied;
  But Belgium’s plight and Serbia’s woes we shared
  Each rise of sun or setting of the moon.
  So when the bugle blast had called us forth
  We went not like the surly brute of yore        40
  But, as the Spartan, proud to give the world
  The freedom that we never knew nor shared.
  These chains, O brothers mine, have weighed us down
  As Samson in the temple of the gods;
  Unloosen them and let us breathe the air        45
  That makes the goldenrod the flower of Christ.
  For we have been with thee in No Man’s Land,
  Through lake of fire and down to Hell itself;
  And now we ask of thee our liberty,
  Our freedom in the land of Stars and Stripes.        50
 
I am glad that the Prince of Peace is hovering over No Man’s Land.
 

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