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Featured Poem: Songs for the People by Francis Ellen Watkins Harper

Written by Francesca Dolan, 18th October 2021

To mark Black History Month, we want to showcase the work of black authors and poets from throughout history. This week's featured poem comes from our Teaching and Learning Coordinator at The Reader, Lisa Spurgin, who introduces us to 'Songs for the People' by Francis Ellen Watkins Harper.

Songs for the People

Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.

Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.

Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life's fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.

Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o'er life's highway.

I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.

Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.

Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.

by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

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