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By Frances Ellen Watkins Harper

    The Dying Words of Goethe

“Light! more light! the shadows deepen,

        And my life is ebbing low,

Throw the windows widely open:

        Light! more light! before I go.

 

“Softly let the balmy sunshine

        Play around my dying bed,

E’er the dimly lighted valley

        I with lonely feet must tread.

 

“Light! more light! for Death is weaving

        Shadows ‘round my waning sight,

And I fain would gaze upon him

        Through a stream of earthly light.”

 

Not for greater gifts of genius;

        Not for thoughts more grandly bright,

All the dying poet whispers

        Is a prayer for light, more light.

 

Heeds he not the gathered laurels,

        Fading slowly from his sight;

All the poet’s aspirations

        Centre in that prayer for light.

 

Gracious Saviour, when life’s day-dreams

        Melt and vanish from the sight,

May our dim and longing vision

        Then be blessed with light, more light.


Notes:

The epigraph of this poem was originally omitted in the changeover to the new website. Because of this, reciting the epigraph is optional for the 2019-2020 Poetry Out Loud season.

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living
  • Religion

Poet Bio

Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Born in Baltimore, poet, fiction writer, journalist, and activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, was the only child of free African American parents. She became a traveling speaker on the abolitionist circuit and she also helped slaves escape through Underground Railroad and wrote frequently for anti-slavery newspapers, earning her reputation as the mother of African-American journalism. During Reconstruction, Harper was an activist for civil rights, women's rights, and educational opportunity for all. She was superintendent of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, co-founder and vice-president of the National Association of Colored Women, and a member of the American Women's Suffrage Association. Harper was also the director of the American Association of Colored Youth.

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