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James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938). The Book of American Negro Poetry. 1922.

It Was Not Fate

IT was not fate which overtook me,

Rather a wayward, wilful wind

That blew hot for awhile

And then, as the even shadows came, blew cold.

What pity it is that a man grown old in life’s dreaming

Should stop, e’en for a moment, to look into a woman’s eyes.

And I forgot!

Forgot that one’s heart must be steeled against the east wind.

Life and death alike come out of the East:

Life as tender as young grass,

Death as dreadful as the sight of clotted blood.

I shall go back into the darkness,

Not to dream but to seek the light again.

I shall go by paths, mayhap,

On roads that wind around the foothills

Where the plains are bare and wild

And the passers-by come few and far between.

I want the night to be long, the moon blind,

The hills thick with moving memories,

And my heart beating a breathless requiem

For all the dead days I have lived.

When the Dawn comes—Dawn, deathless, dreaming—

I shall will that my soul must be cleansed of hate,

I shall pray for strength to hold children close to my heart,

I shall desire to build houses where the poor will know shelter, comfort, beauty.

And then may I look into a woman’s eyes

And find holiness, love and the peace which passeth understanding.