POEM BY MR. T. THOMAS FORTUNE.
In introducing T. Thomas Fortune, of New York, editor of The Age, one of the leading papers published in the interest of his race. Mr. Thompson paid a fitting tribute to his abilities and his earnest efforts to secure the erection of the monument.
Mr. Fortune read an original poem, entitled, “Frederick Douglass”
The poem follows:
We cannot measure here the dizzy heights he trod
To whom this glyptic shaft is lifted from the sod,
Towards the matchless azure of sweet Freedom’s skies,
If we forget the depths whence God bade him arise,
Above the slave’s log cabin and a sireless birth,
To be a prince among the children of the earth !
No giant who has placed one foot upon the land
And one upon the sea, with power to them command,
To bid the angry turbulence of each be still,
And have them bend obedient to his master’s will —
Ever started lower in the social scale than he —
This Champion of the Slave, this Spokesman of the Free !
In him the deathless lesson of one common race
Was taught anew — the lesson you who will may trace
From Babel’s fatal tower to fateful Waterloo —
From Eden’s blest abode to slavery’s Tuckaho —
That still “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin,”
The world of love and joy, the world of woe and sin.
But such as Douglass was not born to wear a chain —
At the slave’s task to bend and cower and cringe and
To bare his princely back to the rude lash whose welt
Produced no pain that his proud soul must have felt !
As Moses did, he served in bondage for an hour
The better to be armed to crush the master’s power.
It has been ever thus since the old world was young —
The giants of the race from the head of woe have sprung —
Out of the agony and sweat and rayless hope
In which the swarming masses have been doomed to grope.
So lifts its head from rocks and sands the lighthouse brave,
To guide the fearless sailor o’er the treacherous wave.
For who can sing of woe who never felt a pain —
Who never hoped ‘gainst hope to know a joy again?
Who thirst for vengeance on the skulking, coward foe
As he whose sire or mate has fallen ‘neath the blow?
Who feel the venom of the slave’s undying hate
As lie whose lot has been the slave’s degrading fate?
‘Twas a long way to the north star from Tuckaho —
From slavery’s dark shade to freedom’s electric glow —
From out the depths — “O the depths !” — of slavery’s long
To the high altitude of freedom’s fadeless light !
And here he stood in winter’s storm and summer’s sun,
Majestic, brave, till the fierce war was fought and won.
We claim him as our own, the greatest of the race,
In whom the rich sun stamp of Africa you trace,
And we delight to place upon his massive brow
Affection’s crown of reverence, as we do now.
But, in a larger sense, forsooth, did he belong
To all the race, a prophet strong among the strong !
For he was large in stature and in soul and head
True type of New America, whose sons, ’tis said,
The western world shall have as glorious heritage —
That they shall write in history’s fadeless, truthful page
Such deeds as ne’er before have wrought for liberty
And all the arts of peace — the strongest of the free !
And every depth he braved, and every height he trod
From earth’s alluring shrines to the presence of his God;
And he was cheered by children’s confidence and trust,
A tribute never withheld from the true and just;
And woman’s sympathy was his, the divine power
That rules the world in calmest and stormiest hour !
To him all weakness and all suffering appealed;
‘Gainst none such was his brave heart ever steeled.
And pleading womanhood for honest rights denied
No champion had of sturdier worth to brave wrong’s pride —
To claim for her in all the fullest measure true
Of justice God ordained her portion, as her due.
He needs no monument of stone who writes his name
By deeds, in diamond letters, in the Book of Fame —
Who rises from the bosom of the race to be
A champion of the slave, a spokesman of the free —
Who scorns the fetters of a slave’s degrading- birth
And takes his place among the giants of the earth.
This shaft is lifted high in Heaven’s holy air
To keep alive our wavering hope, a message bear
Of inspiration to the living from the dead,
Who dared to follow where the laws of duty led,
They are so few — these heroes of the weak and strong —
That we must honor them in story and in song.
So let this towering, monumental column stand,
While freedom’s sun shall shine upon our glorious land,
A guiding star of hope divine for all our youth,
A living witness to the all-enduring truth —
The living truth that makes men brave to death, and true —
The truth whose champions ever have been few —
The truth that made the life of Douglass all sublime,
And gave it as a theme of hope to every clime !
Mr. Fortune’s poem was followed by an excellent violin solo by Joseph Douglass, of Washington, a grandson of Frederick Douglass. The older members of the audience, who remembered the great freedman’s love for music, and his own proficiency in the use of the violin, recalled many instances and greeted the young player with enthusiasm.
He played a selection from Verdi’s “II Trovatore.”
An Authentic History of the Douglass Monument; Biographical Facts and Incidents in the Life of Frederick Douglass (1903)
More information on the radical friendship of Frederick Douglass and T. Thomas Fortune across generations and geography will be shared February 8, 2020 at the T. Thomas Fortune Foundation and Cultural Center. See you soon!