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James Weldon Johnson

Voluptas

To chase a never-reached mirage
Across the hot, white sand,
And choke and die, while gazing on
Its green and watered strand.

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Omar

Old Omar, jolly sceptic, it may be
That, after all, you found the magic key
To life and all its mystery, and I
Must own you have almost persuaded me.

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From The Spanish

Twenty years go by on noiseless feet,
He returns, and once again they meet,
She exclaims, 'Good heavens! and is that he?'
He mutters, 'My God! and that is she!'

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The Reward

No greater earthly boon than this I crave,
That those who some day gather 'round my grave,
In place of tears, may whisper of me then,
'He sang a song that reached the hearts of men.'

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Life

Out of the infinite sea of eternity
To climb, and for an instant stand
Upon an island speck of time.
From the impassible peace of the darkness
To wake, and blink at the garish light
Through one short hour of fretfulness.

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I Hear The Stars Still Singing

I hear the stars still singing
To the beautiful, silent night,
As they speed with noiseless winging
Their ever westward flight.
I hear the waves still falling
On the stretch of lonely shore,
But the sound of a sweet voice calling
I shall hear, alas! no more.

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An Explanation

Look heah! 'Splain to me de reason
Why you said to Squire Lee,
Der wuz twelve ole chicken thieves
In dis heah town, includin' me.
Ef he tole you dat, my brudder,
He said sump'n dat warn't true;
W'at I said wuz dis, dat der wuz
Twelve, widout includin' you.
Oh! . . . !—

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To America

How would you have us, as we are?
Or sinking 'neath the load we bear?
Our eyes fixed forward on a star?
Or gazing empty at despair?

Rising or falling? Men or things?
With dragging pace or footsteps fleet?
Strong, willing sinews in your wings?
Or tightening chains about your feet?

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Her Eyes Twin Pools

Her eyes, twin pools of mystic light,
The blend of star-sheen and black night;
O'er which, to sound their glamouring haze,
A man might bend, and vainly gaze.
Her eyes, twin pools so dark and deep,
In which life's ancient mysteries sleep;
Wherein, to seek the quested goal,
A man might plunge, and lose his soul.

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The Gift to Sing

Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day —
I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow's somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
And I can sing.

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