An Ante-Bellum Sermon

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This video excerpt, from the 1990 video “The Eyes of the Poet,” features Herbert Woodward Martin performing the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dr. Martin, University of Dayton professor emeritus, is an acclaimed scholar and interpreter of Dunbar’s works.

Run Time

3:36 min.


We is gathahed hyeah, my brothahs, In dis howlin' wildaness, Fu' to speak some words of comfo't To each othah in distress. An' we chooses fu' ouah subjic' Dis -- we'll 'splain it by an' by; "An' de Lawd said, 'Moses, Moses,' An' de man said, 'Hyeah am I.'"

Now ole Pher'oh, down in Egypt, Was de wuss man evah bo'n, An' he had de Hebrew chillun Down dah wukin' in his co'n; 'T well de Lawd got tiahed o' his foolin', An' sez he: "I' ll let him know -- Look hyeah, Moses, go tell Pher'oh Fu' to let dem chillun go."

"An' ef he refuse to do it, I will make him rue de houah, Fu' I'll empty down on Egypt All de vials of my powah." Yes, he did -- an' Pher'oh's ahmy Wasn't wuth a ha'f a dime; Fu' de Lawd will he'p his chillun, You kin trust him evah time.

An' yo' enemies may 'sail you In de back an' in de front; But de Lawd is all aroun' you, Fu' to ba' de battle's brunt. Dey kin fo'ge yo' chains an' shackles F'om de mountains to de sea; But de Lawd will sen' some Moses Fu' to set his chillun free.

An' de lan' shall hyeah his thundah, Lak a blas' f'om Gab'el's ho'n, Fu' de Lawd of hosts is mighty When he girds his ahmor on. But fu' feah some one mistakes me, I will pause right hyeah to say, Dat I 'm still a-preachin' ancient, I ain't talkin' 'bout to-day.

But I tell you, fellah christuns, Things'll happen mighty strange; Now, de Lawd done dis fu' Isrul, An' his ways don't nevah change, An' de love he showed to Isrul Was n't all on Isrul spent; Now don't run an' tell yo' mastahs Dat I's preachin' discontent.

'Cause I isn't; I'se a-judgin' Bible people by deir ac's; I 'se a-givin' you de Scriptuah, I 'se a-handin' you de fac's. Cose ole Pher'oh b'lieved in slav'ry, But de Lawd he let him see, Dat de people he put bref in, -- Evah mothah's son was free.

An' dahs othahs thinks lak Pher'oh, But dey calls de Scriptuah liar, Fu' de Bible says "a servant Is a-worthy of his hire." An' you cain't git roun' nor thoo dat, An' you cain't git ovah it, Fu' whatevah place you git in, Dis hyeah Bible too 'll fit.

So you see de Lawd's intention, Evah sence de worl' began, Was dat His almighty freedom Should belong to evah man, But I think it would be bettah, Ef I'd pause agin to say, Dat I'm talkin' 'bout ouah freedom In a Bibleistic way.

But de Moses is a-comin', An' he's comin', suah and fas' We kin hyeah his feet a-trompin', We kin hyeah his trumpit blas'. But I want to wa'n you people, Don't you git too brigity; An' don't you git to braggin' 'Bout dese things, you wait an' see.

But when Moses wif his powah Comes an' sets us chillun free, We will praise de gracious Mastah. Dat has gin us liberty; An' we 'll shout ouah halleluyahs, On dat mighty reck'nin' day, When we 'se reco'nised ez citiz' -- Huh uh! Chillun, let us pray!