Where is the promise of my years;
    Once written on my brow?
Ere errors, agonies and fears
Brought with them all that speaks in tears,
Ere I had sunk beneath my peers;
    Where sleeps that promise now?

Naught lingers to redeem those hours,
    Still, still to memory sweet!
The flowers that bloomed in sunny bowers
Are withered all; and Evil towers
Supreme above her sister powers
    Of Sorrow and Deceit.

I look along the columned years,
    And see Life’s riven fane,
Just where it fell, amid the jeers
Of scornful lips, whose mocking sneers,
For ever hiss within mine ears
    To break the sleep of pain.

I can but own my life is vain
    A desert void of peace;
I missed the goal I sought to gain,
I missed the measure of the strain
That lulls Fame’s fever in the brain,
    And bids Earth’s tumult cease.

Myself! alas for theme so poor
    A theme but rich in Fear;
I stand a wreck on Error’s shore,
A spectre not within the door,
A houseless shadow evermore,
    An exile lingering here.

  • Source: African-American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 1992)

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