Harlem Renaissance


I’ m all alone in this world, she said,
Ain’ t got nobody to share my bed,
Ain’ t got nobody to hold my hand —
The truth of the matter’ s
I ain’ t got no man.

Big Boy opened his mouth and said,
Trouble with you is
You ain’ t got no head!
If you had a head and used your mind
You could have me with you
All the time.

She answered, Babe, what must I do?

Mother to Son

Well, son, I’ ll tell you:
Life for me ain’ t been no crystal stair.
It’ s had tacks in it,
And splinters,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
But all the time
I’ se been a-climbin’ on,
And reachin’ landin’ s,
And turnin’ corners,
And sometimes goin’ in the dark
Where there ain’ t been no light.
So boy, don’ t you turn back.
Don’ t you set down on the steps
’ Cause you finds it’ s kinder hard.
Don’ t you fall now —
For I’ se still goin’, honey,

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I’ ve known rivers:
I’ ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln went down to New Orleans, and I’ ve seen its muddy bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I’ ve known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.

I Sit and Sew

I sit and sew — a useless task it seems,
My hands grown tired, my head weighed down with dreams —
The panoply of war, the martial tred of men,
Grim-faced, stern-eyed, gazing beyond the ken
Of lesser souls, whose eyes have not seen Death,
Nor learned to hold their lives but as a breath —
But — I must sit and sew.

The Idler

An idle lingerer on the wayside's road,
He gathers up his work and yawns away;
A little longer, ere the tiresome load
Shall be reduced to ashes or to clay.

No matter if the world has marched along,
And scorned his slowness as it quickly passed;
No matter, if amid the busy throng,
He greets some face, infantile at the last.

His mission? Well, there is but one,
And if it is a mission he knows it, nay,
To be a happy idler, to lounge and sun,
And dreaming, pass his long-drawn days away.

The Lights at Carney’s Point

O white little lights at Carney’ s Point,
You shine so clear o’ er the Delaware;
When the moon rides high in the silver sky,
Then you gleam, white gems on the Delaware.
Diamond circlet on a full white throat,
You laugh your rays on a questioning boat;
Is it peace you dream in your flashing gleam,
O’ er the quiet flow of the Delaware?