The instruction for this weekend’s Writing 201: Poetry Potluck is, “Share with us a poem that you love (by someone who isn’t you, please). You can quote a particularly striking line (or two) in a new message in the Commons, or drop a link to the whole piece. Most importantly: tell us, in a sentence or two, what about it moves you.”
My choice is the anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” by James Weldon Johnson. As documented on the NAACP website, it was first written as a poem.
What moves me about this poem turned anthem? Simply everything. The words. The history it documents. The connection I feel to those who have sung it before me, those who sing it now, and those who will. I can go on and on. I am moved to tears every time I hear, read, or sing the words.
Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
‘Til earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the list’ning skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on ’til victory is won.
Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
‘Til now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.
God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand,
True to our God,
True to our native land.