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A Poem a Day Series 2019 – Day 29

Into the Light

Let the Light Enter

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper1825 – 1911

The dying words of Goethe.
“Light! more light! the shadows deepen,
   And my life is ebbing low,
Throw the windows widely open:
   Light! more light! before I go.”
“Softly let the balmy sunshine
   Play around my dying bed,
E’er the dimly lighted valley
   I with lonely feet must tread.”
“Light! more light! for Death is weaving
   Shadows ‘round my waning sight,
And I fain would gaze upon him
   Through a stream of earthly light.”
Not for greater gifts of genius;
   Not for thoughts more grandly bright,
All the dying poet whispers
   Is a prayer for light, more light.
Heeds he not the gathered laurels,
   Fading slowly from his sight;
All the poet’s aspirations
   Centre in that prayer for light.

 

This poem is in the public domain. 

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A Poem a Day Series 2019 – Day 19

Prayer at Sunrise

James Weldon Johnson1871 – 1938

Now thou art risen, and thy day begun.
How shrink the shrouding mists before thy face,
As up thou spring’st to thy diurnal race!
How darkness chases darkness to the west,
As shades of light on light rise radiant from thy crest!
For thee, great source of strength, emblem of might,
In hours of darkest gloom there is no night.
Thou shinest on though clouds hide thee from sight,
And through each break thou sendest down thy light.

O greater Maker of this Thy great sun,
Give me the strength this one day’s race to run,
Fill me with light, fill me with sun-like strength,
Fill me with joy to rob the day its length.
Light from within, light that will outward shine,
Strength to make strong some weaker heart than mine,
Joy to make glad each soul that feels its touch;
Great Father of the sun, I ask this much.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on June 28, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

A Poem a Day Series – Day 16

Emancipation Day

Emancipation Day is a holiday in Washington DC to mark the anniversary of the signing of the Compensated Emancipation Act, which president Abraham Lincoln signed on April 16, 1862. It is annually held on April 16.

On Liberty and Slavery

Alas! and am I born for this,
   To wear this slavish chain?
Deprived of all created bliss,
   Through hardship, toil, and pain!
   
How long have I in bondage lain,
   And languished to be free!
Alas! and must I still complain--
   Deprived of liberty.

Oh, Heaven! and is there no relief
   This side the silent grave--
To soothe the pain--to quell the grief
   And anguish of a slave?
   
Come, Liberty, thou cheerful sound,
   Roll through my ravished ears!
Come, let my grief in joys be drowned,
   And drive away my fears.
   
Say unto foul oppression, Cease:
   Ye tyrants rage no more,
And let the joyful trump of peace,
   Now bid the vassal soar.
   
Soar on the pinions of that dove
   Which long has cooed for thee,
And breathed her notes from Afric’s grove,
   The sound of Liberty.
   
Oh, Liberty! thou golden prize,
   So often sought by blood--
We crave thy sacred sun to rise,
   The gift of nature’s God!
   
Bid Slavery hide her haggard face,
   And barbarism fly:
I scorn to see the sad disgrace
   In which enslaved I lie.
   
Dear Liberty! upon thy breast,
   I languish to respire;
And like the Swan upon her nest,
   I’d to thy smiles retire.
   
Oh, blest asylum--heavenly balm!
   Unto thy boughs I flee--
And in thy shades the storm shall calm,
   With songs of Liberty!

This poem is in the public domain.

A Poem a Day Series 2019 – Day 13

Twilighs with Stars

El Beso

Twilight—and you
Quiet—the stars; 
Snare of the shine of your teeth, 
Your provocative laughter, 
The gloom of your hair; 
Lure of you, eye and lip; 
Yearning, yearning, 
Languor, surrender; 
Your mouth, 
And madness, madness, 
Tremulous, breathless, flaming, 
The space of a sigh; 
Then awakening—remembrance, 
Pain, regret—your sobbing; 
And again, quiet—the stars, 
Twilight—and you.

This poem is in the public domain.

A Poem a Day Series – Day 7

Phyllis

Paul Laurence Dunbar1872 – 1906

Phyllis, ah, Phyllis, my life is a gray day,
     Few are my years, but my griefs are not few, 
Ever to youth should each day be a May-day,
     Warm wind and rose-breath and diamonded dew— 
Phyllis, ah, Phyllis, my life is a gray day.

Oh for the sunlight that shines on a May-day!
     Only the cloud hangeth over my life. 
Love that should bring me youth’s happiest heyday
    Brings me but seasons of sorrow and strife; 
Phyllis, ah, Phyllis, my life is a gray day.

Sunshine or shadow, or gold day or gray day,
     Life must be lived as our destinies rule; 
Leisure or labor or work day or play day—
     Feasts for the famous and fun for the fool; 
Phyllis, ah, Phyllis, my life is a gray day.

This poem is in the public domain.

A Poem a Day Series 2019 – Day 2

Crocuses

The Crocuses

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper1825 – 1911

They heard the South wind sighing
    A murmur of the rain;
And they knew that Earth was longing
    To see them all again.
 
While the snow-drops still were sleeping
    Beneath the silent sod;
They felt their new life pulsing
    Within the dark, cold clod.
 
Not a daffodil nor daisy
    Had dared to raise its head;
Not a fairhaired dandelion
    Peeped timid from its bed;
 
Though a tremor of the winter
    Did shivering through them run;
Yet they lifted up their foreheads
    To greet the vernal sun.
 
And the sunbeams gave them welcome,
    As did the morning air—
And scattered o’er their simple robes
    Rich tints of beauty rare.
 
Soon a host of lovely flowers
    From vales and woodland burst;
But in all that fair procession
    The crocuses were first.
 
First to weave for Earth a chaplet
    To crown her dear old head;
And to beauty the pathway
    Where winter still did tread.
 
And their loved and white haired mother
    Smiled sweetly ’neath the touch,
When she knew her faithful children
    Were loving her so much.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on September 9, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.