poetry quarterly

10th anniversary


Carrie Williams Clifford


Upon the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial at Washington, May 30, 1922

Son of the people, softly, sweetly rest!
Thy universal heart felt all the woes
Of mankind! They only were thy foes
Who hated right--who loved the evil best:
How hard man's cruelty upon thee pressed,
Thy deeply-lined and tragic visage shows!
Thy great soul-agony, only God knows,
When this great Union's fate was put to test!
But trusting in Jehovah's power to guide,
Nor caring if the whole world should deride,
With granite will, thou stoodst the Right beside.
Thus from the lowly cabin thou didst climb
To hallow this memorial sublime,
And men shall love thee to the end of time.




Carrie Williams Clifford (1862-1934) is the author of two books of poems, Race Rhymes (1911), and The Widening Light (1922). In addition, her short fiction, articles, and poems were published in Opportunity and Crisis. She and her husband William Clifford (a lawyer) moved from Cleveland to DC around 1910, after the birth of their two sons. She hosted a Sunday evening salon in her home for African American artists and intellectuals (such as Mary Church Terrell, Alain Locke, William L. Hunt, Amanda Hilyer, Harry T. Burleigh, Will Marion Cook, and Georgia Douglas Johnson), and was active in groups advocating for civil rights and women's rights, including the National Association of Colored Women and the NAACP.

In her preface to The Widening Light, published in 1922 by Walter Reid Company (the volume from which this poem comes), Clifford wrote: "The author makes no claim to unusual poetic excellence or literary brilliance. She is seeking to call attention to a condition, which she, at least, considers serious. Knowing that this may often be done more impressively through rhyme that in an elegant prose, she has take this method to accomplish this end... The theme of the group here presented—the uplift of humanity—is the loftiest that can animate the heart and pen of man: the treatment, she trusts, is not wholly unworthy...she send these lines forth with the prayer that they may change some heart, or right some wrong."



Published in Volume 11, Number 4, Fall 2010.