by Daniel Webster Davis
In days of old, when our fond mother earth,
Now seamed and wrinkled with her weight of years,
Was young and gay, rejoicing in her birth,
Nor gave one thought of future cares and tears.
When prehistoric man roamed hill and dell,
And gods and genii ruled the world below,
Came Odin, great, to drink of Mimir's well,
That he all wisdom of the world might know.
"Who drinks of Mimir's well must leave behind,
His gift most dear, that he doth highly prize."
The gift was made, and he, though wise, half blind,
Has left in Mimir's grasp one of his eyes.
So gods of wisdom ask of men to-day,—
Who would be wise, some sacrifice must make;
Some good give up, something of self away,
Ere he the wisdom of this world can take.
So this black-child, our father's image fair,
In eb'ny cut, as we, too, would be wise,
Our gift hath made, our pledges, too, are there,
Of years of suffering, toil and sacrifice.
In life's hard school we've conned these lessons o'er,
Mid sobs and tears of slavery's galling chain;
Mid darkening days, God grant may come no more;
Mid opposition, prejudice and pain.
What lessons learned? That God and right must win,
God is not dead, but guards the weak alway;
The stars still shine, though faith and hope grow dim.
We still can trust—the Negro meets to pray.
We seek the truth, nor wish one fault to hide;
The truth alone is that can make men free,
Expose the sores, the remedies applied
Will soothe and heal, and give true liberty.
Not to complain of burdens hard to bear;
To fret and whine, resolve and go away;
We meet to plan how we can do our share
To lift the load—The Negro meets to pray.
We know full well of all the gloomy past;
Of all the darkness in which now we grope;
Of all the night that seems will never pass;
And still we meet with bosoms filled with hope.
No night so dark, but comes some cheering ray,
No sky so drear, but some bright star is there;
The harbor bells still ring and seem to say,
"Just look this way: the world is still so fair."
We needs must fear the foes that lie within,
That spoil our youth. With hearts both brave and stout,
Must fight 'gainst our own ignorance and sin,
More than the hate and prejudice without.
Let others hate, we'll teach our children love;
Let others fight, we'll teach endure the wrong;
No cowards we, our teaching's from above,
When met in right then only are we strong.
We've met each trust, when slave as well as free,
Our record's made, go search it, ye who will.
Oh, Country fair, our fathers died for thee,
From Boston field to blood-bought San Juan Hill.
Their children come; no special favors ask,
In Dixie land, the fair place of our birth;
But equal chance in this God-given task,
To make our home the fairest spot on earth.
Ye leaders here, no nobler work than thine
Could men or angels ask. We vow to-day
To life our race, by lifting as we climb;
For this great task the Negro meets to pray.
No flaming sword, no curses loud and deep,
We bring to-day, though we have suffered long,
Oh, rouse, ye race, from calm indifferent sleep,
And face life's work,—then only are we strong.
God hear us now, and guide our thoughts aright,
Give inspiration from above to-day;
Plan for us well, and help us see the light;
By thy command, thy children meet to pray.
And from our knees to rise to bear our load,
To reach the unreached Negro youth and save;
To spend ourselves for Country, race and God,
Each in his field with hearts both stout and brave.
So soon for aye the lights of earth are o'er,
The gloom be past, the toil and conflict done;
And angels' voices sing on yonder shore,
For war-scarred veterans, God's sweet welcome home.
Last updated March 22, 2023