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IF the muse were mine to tempt it

And my feeble voice were strong,

If my tongue were trained to measures,

I would sing a stirring song.

I would sing a song heroic

Of those noble sons of Ham,

Of the gallant colored soldiers

Who fought for Uncle Sam!

In the early days you scorned them, And with many a flip and flout

Said "These battles are the white man's, And the whites will fight them out." Up the hills you fought and faltered, In the vales you strove and bled, While your ears still heard the thunder Of the foes' advancing tread.

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Then distress fell on the nation,

And the flag was drooping low;

Should the dust pollute your banner? No! the nation shouted, No!

So when War, in savage triumph,

Spread abroad his funeral pall --

Then you called the colored soldiers, And they answered to your call.

And like hounds unleashed and eager For the life blood of the prey,

Spring they forth and bore them bravely

In the thickest of the fray.

And where'er the fight was hottest, Where the bullets fastest fell,

There they pressed unblanched and fearless At the very mouth of hell.

Ah, they rallied to the standard

To uphold it by their might;

None were stronger in the labors,

None were braver in the fight.

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From the blazing breach of Wagner

To the plains of Olustee,

They were foremost in the fight

Of the battles of the free.

And at Pillow! God have mercy

On the deeds committed there,

And the souls of those poor victims

Sent to Thee without a prayer.

Let the fulness of Thy pity

O'er the hot wrought spirits sway

Of the gallant colored soldiers

Who fell fighting on that day!

Yes, the Blacks enjoy their freedom,

And they won it dearly, too;

For the life blood of their thousands Did the southern fields bedew.

In the darkness of their bondage,

In the depths of slavery's night,

Their muskets flashed the dawning,

And they fought their way to light.

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They were comrades then and brothers. Are they more or less to-day?

They were good to stop a bullet

And to front the fearful fray.

They were citizens and soldiers,

When rebellion raised its head;

And the traits that made them worthy,-Ah! those virtues are not dead.

They have shared your nightly vigils, They have shared your daily toil;

And their blood with yours commingling Has enriched the Southern soil.

They have slept and marched and suffered 'Neath the same dark skies as you, They have met as fierce a foeman,

And have been as brave and true.

And their deeds shall find a record

In the registry of Fame;

For their blood has cleansed completely Every blot of Slavery's shame.

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So all honor and all glory

To those noble sons of Ham --

The gallant colored soldiers

Who fought for Uncle Sam!


This is the debt I pay

Just for one riotous day,

Years of regret and grief,

Sorrow without relief.


There's a memory keeps a-runnin' Through my weary head to-night,

An' I see a picture dancin'

In the fire-flames' ruddy-light;

'Tis the picture of an orchard

Wrapped in autumn's purple haze,

With the tender light about it

That I loved in other days.

An' a-standin' in a corner

Once again I seem to see

The verdant leaves an' branches

Of an old apple-tree.

You perhaps would call it ugly,

An' I don't know but it's so,

When you look the tree all over Unadorned by memory's glow;

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For its boughs are gnarled an' crooked, An' its leaves are gettin' thin,

An' the apples of its bearin'

Wouldn't fill so large a bin

As they used to. But I tell you,

When it comes to pleasin' me,

It's the dearest in the orchard, --

Is that old apple-tree.


I would hide within its shelter, Settlin' in some cosy nook,

Where no calls nor threats could stir me From the pages o' my book.

Oh, that quiet, sweet seclusion

In its fulness passeth words!

It was deeper than the deepest

That my sanctum now affords.

Why, the jaybirds an' the robins,

They was hand in glove with me,

As they winked at me 'an warbled

In that old apple-tree.

It was on its sturdy branches

That in summers long ago

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I would tie my swing an' dangle

In contentment to an' fro,

Idly dreaming' childish fancies, Buildin' castles in the air,

Makin' o' myself a hero

Of romances rich an' rare.

I kin shet my eyes an' see it

Jest as plain as plain kin be,

That same old swing a-danglin'

To the old apple-tree.

There's a rustic seat beneath it

That I never kin forget.

It's the place where me an' Hallie -Little sweetheart -- used to set,

When we'd wander to the orchard

So's no listenin' ones could hear

As I whispered sugared nonsense

Into her little willin' ear.

Now my gray old wife is Hallie,

An' I'm grayer still than she,

But I'll not forget our courtin' 'Neath the old apple-tree,

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Life for us ain't all been summer,

But I guess we've had our share

Of its flittin' joys an' pleasures, An' a sprinklin' of its care.

Oft the skies have smiled upon us; Then again we've seen 'em frown, Though our load was ne'er so heavy That we longed to lay it down.

But when death does come a-callin', This my last request shall be, --

That they'll bury me an' Hallie

'Neath the old apple-tree.


I know what the caged bird feels, alas!

When the sun is bright in the upland slopes;

When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass

And the river flows like a stream of glass;

Whend the first bird sings and the first buds opes,

And the faint perfume from its chalice steals -

I know what the caged bird feels!


I know why the caged bird beats his wing

Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;

For he must fly back to his perch and cling

When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;

And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars

And they pulse again with a keener sting -

I know why he beats his wing!


I know why the caged birds sings, ah me,

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,

When he beats his bars and would be free;

It is not a carol of joy or glee,

But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,

But a plea, that updward to Heaven he flings -

I know why the caged bird sings.



NOT they who soar, but they who plod

Their rugged way, unhelped, to God

Are heroes; they who higher fare,

And, flying, fan the upper air,

Miss all the toil that hugs the sod. 'Tis they whose backs have felt the rod, Whose feet have pressed the path unshod, May smile upon defeated care,

Not they who soar.

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High up there are no thorns to prod, Nor boulders lurking 'neath the clod To turn the keenness of the share,

For flight is ever free and rare;

But heroes they the soil who've trod, Not they who soar!



THE river sleeps beneath the sky,

And clasps the shadows to its breast; The crescent moon shines dim on high; And in the lately radiant west

The gold is fading into gray.

Now stills the lark his festive lay, And mourns with me the dying day.

While in the south the first faint star Lifts to the night its silver face, And twinkles to the moon afar

Across the heaven's graying space,

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Low murmurs reach me from the town,

As Day puts on her sombre crown,

And shakes her mantle darkly down.


Because I had loved so deeply,

Becuase I had loved so long,

God in His great compassion

God gave me the gift of song.


Because I have loved so vainly,

And sung with such faltering breath,

The Master, in infinite mercy,

Offers the boon of death.



MY cot was down by a cypress grove,

And I sat by my window the whole night long, And heard well up from the deep dark wood

A mocking-bird's passionate song.

And I thought of myself so sad and lone,

And my life's cold winter that knew no spring; Of my mind so weary and sick and wild,

Of my heart too sad to sing.

But e'en as I listened the mock-bird's song, A thought stole into my saddened heart,

And I said, "I can cheer some other soul

By a carol's simple art."

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For oft from the darkness of hearts and lives Come songs that brim with joy and light,

As out of the gloom of the cypress grove The mocking-bird sings at night.

So I sang a lay for a brother's ear

In a strain to soothe his bleeding heart,

And he smiled at the sound of my voice and lyre, Though mine was a feeble art.

But at his smile I smiled in turn,

And into my soul there came a ray:

In trying to soothe another's woes

Mine own had passed away.



THE lake's dark breast

Is all unrest,

It heaves with a sob and a sigh.

Like a tremulous bird,

From its slumber stirred,

The moon is a-tilt in the sky.

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From the silent deep

The waters sweep,

But faint on the cold white stones,

And the wavelets fly

With a plaintive cry

O'er the old earth's bare, bleak bones.

And the spray upsprings

On its ghost-white wings,

And tosses a kiss at the stars;

While a water-sprite,

In sea-pearls dight,

Hums a sea-hymn's solemn bars.

Far out in the night,

On the wavering sight

I see a dark hull loom;

And its light on high,

Like a Cyclops' eye,

Shines out through the mist and gloom.

Now the winds well up

From the earth's deep cup,

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And fall on the sea and shore,

And against the pier

The waters rear

And break with a sullen roar.

Up comes the gale,

And the mist-wrought veil

Gives way to the lightning's glare,

And the cloud-drifts fall,

A sombre pall,

O'er water, earth, and air.

The storm-king flies,

His whip he plies,

And bellows down the wind.

The lightning rash

With blinding flash

Comes pricking on behind.

Rise, waters, rise,

And taunt the skies

With your swift-flitting form.

Sweep, wild winds, sweep,

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And tear the deep

To atoms in the storm.

And the waters leapt,

And the wild winds swept,

And blew out the moon in the sky,

And I laughed with glee,

It was joy to me

As the storm went raging by!


OUT in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;

I look far out into the pregnant night,

Where I can hear a solemn booming gun

And catch the gleaming of a random light,

That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul's deep hurt are glassing;

For I would hail and check that ship of ships.

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I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,

My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,

And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing. O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,

O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!

Is there no hope for me? Is there no way

That I may sight and check that speeding bark

Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?



O LORD, the hard-won miles

Have worn my stumbling feet:

Oh, soothe me with thy smiles,

And make my life complete.

The thorns were thick and keen

Where'er I trembling trod;

The way was long between

My wounded feet and God.

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Where healing waters flow

Do thou my footsteps lead.

My heart is aching so;

Thy gracious balm I need.



AH, Nora, my Nora, the light fades away,

While Night like a spirit steals up o'er the hills; The thrash from his tree where he chanted all day, No longer his music in ecstasy trills.

Then, Nora, be near me; thy presence doth cheer me, Thine eye hath a gleam that is truer than gold.

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I cannot but love thee; so do not reprove me,

If the strength of my passion should make me too bold.

Nora, pride of my heart,--

Rosy cheeks, cherry lips, sparkling with glee,-Wake from thy slumbers, wherever thou art;

Wake from thy slumbers to me.

Ah, Nora, my Nora, there's love in the air,--

It stirs in the numbers that thrill in my brain;

Oh, sweet, sweet is love with its mingling of care, Though joy travels only a step before pain.

Be roused from thy slumbers and list to my numbers; My heart is poured out in this song unto thee. Oh, be thou not cruel, thou treasure, thou jewel; Turn thine ear to my pleading and hearken to me.


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.

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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.


HE scribbles some in prose and verse,

And now and then he prints it;

He paints a little, -- gathers some

Of Nature's gold and mints it.

He plays a little, sings a song,

Acts tragic roles, or funny;

He does, because his love is strong, But not, oh, not for money!

He studies almost everything

From social art to science;

A thirsty mind, a flowing spring, Demand and swift compliance.

He looms above the sordid crowd --

At least through friendly lenses;

While his mamma looks pleased and proud,

And kindly pays expenses.