From the Dark Tower

Song Cycle by Dorothy Rudd Moore (b. 1940)

Word count: 908

1. O black and unknown bards [sung text not yet checked]

O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel's lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song? 
  
Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free,
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot "swing low"? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"Nobody knows de trouble I see"? 
  
What merely living clod, what captive thing,
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,
And find within its deadened heart to sing
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?
How did it catch that subtle undertone,
That note in music heard not with the ears?
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears. 
  
Not that great German master in his dream
Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars
At the creation, ever heard a theme
Nobler than "Go down, Moses." Mark its bars
How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir
The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung
Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were
That helped make history when Time was young. 
  
There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,
That from degraded rest and servile toil
The fiery spirit of the seer should call
These simple children of the sun and soil.
O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,
You — you alone, of all the long, long line
Of those who've sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,
Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine. 

You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;
No chant of bloody war, no exulting pean
Of arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings
You touched in chord with music empyrean.
You sang far better than you knew; the songs
That for your listeners' hungry hearts sufficed
Still live, — but more than this to you belongs:
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ. 

Authorship

Confirmed with The Book of American Negro Poetry, edited by James Weldon Johnson, 1922.


Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Southern mansions [sung text checked 1 time]

Poplars are standing there still as death
 [ ... ]

Authorship

This text may be copyright, so we will not display it until we obtain permission to do so or discover it is public-domain.

3. Willow bend and weep [sung text not yet checked]

Bend willow, willow bend down deep
 [ ... ]

Authorship

This text may be copyright, so we will not display it until we obtain permission to do so or discover it is public-domain.

Confirmed with The Poetry Of The Negro 1746-1949. An anthology edited by Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc,, 1951, pages 161-162.


4. Old Black Men [sung text checked 1 time]

They have dreamed as young men dream
Of glory, love and power;
They have hoped as youth will hope
Of life's sun-minted hour.

They have seen as others saw
Their bubbles burst in air,
And they have learned to live it down
As though they did not care.

Authorship

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. No Images [sung text not yet checked]

She does not know
her beauty,
she thinks her brown body
has no glory.

If she could dance
naked
under palm trees
and see her image in the river,
she would know.

But there are no palm trees
on the street,
and dish water gives back
no images.

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

6. Dream variation [sung text not yet checked]

To fling my arms wide
In some place in the sun,
To whirl and dance
Till the bright day is done.
Then rest at cool evening
Beneath a tall tree
While night comes gently
Dark like me.
That is my dream.
To fling my arms wide
In the face of the sun.
Dance! Whirl! Whirl!
Till the quick day is done.
Rest at pale evening,
A tall, slim tree,
Night coming tenderly
Black like me.

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

7. To a poet [sung text checked 1 time]

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate; I am not even wroth
Who found earth's breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

8. From the Dark Tower [sung text not yet checked]

We shall not always plant while others reap
The golden increment of bursting fruit,
Not always countenance, abject and mute,
That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap;
Not everlastingly while others sleep
Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute,
Not always bend to some more subtle brute;
We were not made to eternally weep.
The night whose sable breast relieves the stark,
White stars is no less lovely being dark,
And there are buds that cannot bloom at all
In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall;
So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds,
And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.

Authorship

See other settings of this text.

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]