An Ode To Ethiopia

A poem by Edward Smyth Jones

TO THE ASPIRING NEGRO YOUTH

After years of patient study and historical research, I have made the following deductions of parts played by the Ethiopian in the annals of history, under the caption, "An Ode to Ethiopia." It is true that questions will rise regarding the racial identity of some of my characters, in view of historical statements which place them with the Caucasian race; yet I firmly believe, were impartial history written, my claims would be justified. However, Time, the great Arbiter, will finally decide the equity of my claims.


I

Thou Sovran Queen of Afric's sunny strands,
I smite my lyre to sing thy praise unsung;
In strains far sweeter than seraphic bands,
A lay deep in my bosom's core is sprung.
Fair Queen, although my years as yet be young,
Deep thoughts and musings of thy history old,
Where odes and fiery epics long have hung,
Live centuries in my immortal soul
And strike sweet Lydian measures on my harp of gold.


II

Therefore, my song floats softly up to thee,
Full soft as those sweet zephyrs of the spring,
Of which it was and is and still must be,
The sweetest of aeolian strains that ring!
I breathe it on the soft sea winds which bring
Their cooling treasures from the rolling deep;
They 'fresh my brow and make my sad heart sing
And ever lure my drowsy eyes from sleep,
And bid thy vesper chorist strictest vigil keep.


III

Of all the nations that have trod the earth,
In civil states or in the forest wild,
Thou wast the first of real enlightened birth,
Born in fair Egypt on the spreading Nile.
In valleys fertile, sunny climates mild,
Thou sternly taught the "chosen" Hebrew race -
Madonna sheltered with her Holy Child,
Who came to plead man's all unworthy case,
And drained His sacred heart, earth's vilest sin efface!


IV

Long ere the Grecian oped his classic lids
Or mould' true beauty with artistic hands,
Thou reared upon thy plains the lofty pyramids,
With sphinx and obelisks 'decked thy burning sands.
Aye! Queen, thou then wast hailed in all the lands
Long ere vain Babel 'fused the human tongue
In dialects rude of wild barbaric bands;
Thou soared to Wisdom's realm, her sceptre wrung,
And reigned the wisest queen the nations all among.


V

Thou first taught man the mystic sciences probe,
To scan earth's apex, median, and base;
Thou, too, inscribed the belt around the globe,
And made deep tracings on its hoary face.
Well fixed each angle, arc, and line in place,
Then soared thou far into the "milky way,"
Far in the bright, celestial span of space,
Where orbs and planets all their homage pay
Unto the sun, the ever reigning "King of Day."


VI

Once in great splendor did thy Pharaohs rule
In Egypt, with her glory flown of yore;
They laid foundations of the mundane school,
And taught the art of governmental lore.
And then from thy great military store
Thou sent the gallant Hannibal to war,
Taught Romans tactics never known before,
And filled their hearts with ever-cowering awe,
And bowed their haughty heads to thy majestic law.


VII

But in this age is writ another story;
Then pen of arrogant, vain Caucasian sage,
Has thee full robbed of thy immortal glory,
And smeared thy name on History's sacred page!
Forsooth, the Book, once closed for many an age,
Is opened by thy sons - though fraught with pain -
The curtain's drawn; they rise upon the stage;
And their valiant deeds and blood shall wash the stain
As clean as April showers wash the dusty plain.


VIII

I sing now of thy heroes of today,
Thy sturdy warriors and thy gallant knights,
Who charge into the thickest of the fray,
And die for country and their free-born rights, -
For orphans, widows and their little mites.
Thus, Attucks brave, without a moment's pause,
(While reeled the Nation in her darkest plights)
Full bared his breast in Freedom's holy cause,
First fell and tore the code of Tyranny's cruel laws!


IX

Now, if my lay is yet not sweet enough,
I'll bid a gentler, subtler strain awake,
And sing of fights with Jackson on the Gulf
And Perry's hard-fought battle on the Lake!
Of fights in fen and moor and hoary brake,
On Lookout Mountain and the rolling main -
Through searing blasts of bleak December's flake,
And drenching torrents of fair April's rain:
Their valiant deeds are springing ever up amain!


X

They fought, the Union from State's Rights to free;
At Vicksburg, Wagner, and Port Hudson lent
Their aid; their deeds at Pillow and Olustee
Rose surge on surge like ocean billows rent!
The praises of the gallant Ninth and Tenth
Will ever rise and soft float to the sky -
They bagged Old Bull in Rocky Mountain tent;
Then stormed the Spanish block-housed Hills on high,
And bade the tyrant Spaniard's heaving heart to die!


XI

"High time, my Haitian islet must be free!"
Great Touissant thus his declaration tacks;
Then drives proud Frenchmen into the yawning sea -
"The bravest whites, by bravest of the blacks."
Brave Maceo pursues the Spanish packs,
And Aguinaldo, in the mountain wilds,
Pours shot and shell into the tyrants' backs -
They save her throne and Freedom on them smiles,
True heroes, and the Fathers of their sunlit Isles!


XII

Thy sons have triumphed in the Halls of State;
Hamilton and Douglas were the first to gain,
With lightning eye and tongue of thunder great,
The civic lead of thy illustrious train.
Next Bruce and Revels, senatorial twain;
John Lynch and Small emit a brilliant light,
And Langston, Pinchback, Cheatham all remain;
With Dancy, Vernon, Anderson, and White,
Liang Williams, Lyons, Terrell stand for "Civic Right."


XIII

In science's realm with Banneker we start,
Then read on Medicae's emblazoned wall:
"Dan Williams here first stitched the human heart!"
Close by the names of Curtis, Boyd, and Hall.
But others list'd and heard Invention's call,
In all its sweetness of the days of yore,
And Woods, the greatest foreman of them all,
Shouts on his voyage with Black and Baltimore:
"We come! we come! good Dame, thy region to explore!"


XIV

"I, too," said 'Monia Lewis, "can make a man!"
Then mould' his form with most artistic ease -
But all aeolian strains Blind Tom could scan,
And play as softly as the South Sea breeze
Upon his major and his minor keys!
Good Douglas gently wakes the violin's song,
And White leads home the zephyrs from the seas;
While Coleridge-Taylor with an art more strong
Full finds the key-note of Dame Nature's vesper song!


XV

If shady nooks in Poesy's realm they choose,
Or barks to drift the smooth, prosaic stream,
There Phillis held communion with the Muse,
And Chesnutt woke the "Colonel" from his dream!
Max Barber, Thompson, Knox and Fortune beam;
Great Braithwaite scales the classic mountain heights,
And Cooper, like a beacon light, will gleam;
While Dunbar, sun-like, sheds his holy lights
In dazzling splendor on his solar satellites!


XVI

These brilliant names shall never fade away:
Emblazoned in the sacred Hall of Fame,
They shall remain till dawns that direful Day,
The valid seal beneath thy sacred name.
Deft Tanner, artist, ever blazing flame,
With Pickens, Bruce and Locke of classic dell,
Old Truth and Harper, Yates and Ruffin came,
And Walker, Terrell, Williams, known so well
Long ere Marie had taught the hoary world to spell!


XVII

The learned Scarborough writes the classic Greek;
Dean Miller thinks in calculations cold;
While Cogman writes the annals of the meek,
DuBois reveals the secrets of the Soul!
But all shall read in letters gilded gold:
"Who teaches head and heart and hands, has won
The priceless boon, the guerdon of the goal,
The portion due thy most illustrious son,
Tuskegee's seer and sage, the noble Washington!"


XVIII

Thy songs inspire and cheer the human soul,
Still plodding forth in search of Beulah's vale;
Lead wondering lambs into the Master's fold,
When Flora Burgeon's notes far float the gale!
Though Patti Brown we loud applaud and hail,
And Hackley's voice is heard in every land, -
Black Patti is the queenly nightingale
That leads the chorus, as they singing stand
As Miriam stood, to sing thee to the "Promised Land!"


XIX

I see the Prophet's mandate to the land,
In golden letters glit'ring in the sky:
"Fair Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hand,
Her sons shall sway the earth long ere they die!"
As swift as lightnings with the storm-clouds fly,
To light the path celestial feet have trod:
So be thy soaring to the realms on high,
When mortal feet no more shall tread this sod,
And thy holy spirit wings its homeward flight to God!

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