My mother bore me in the southern wild,

And I am black, but O, my soul is white!

White as an angel is the English child,

But I am black, as if bereaved of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree,

And, sitting down before the heat of the day,

She took me on her lap and kissed me,

And, pointing to the East, began to say :

‘Look at the rising sun : there God does live,

And gives His light, and gives His heat away,

And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive

Comfort in morning, joy in the noonday.

‘And we are put on earth a little space,

That we may learn to bear the beams of love;

And these black bodies and this sunburnt face

Are but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

‘For when our souls have learn’d the heat to bear,

The cloud will vanish, we shall hear His voice,

Saying, “Come out from the grove, my love and care,

And round my golden ten like lambs rejoice.”‘

Thus did my mother say, and kissed me,

And thus I say to little English boy.

When I from black and he from white cloud free,

And round the tent of God like lambs we joy,

I’ll shade him from the heat till he can bear

To lean in joy upon our Father’s knee ;

And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair,

And be like him, and he will then love me.

From the Oxford Book of English Verse, 1250 – 1900, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1924.

Editors, writers and members of the Fraternal Order of the Leather Apron Club.

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