Frederick Douglass

By Robert Hayden 1913–1980 Robert Hayden
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful
and terrible thing, needful to man as air,   
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all,   
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,   
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more   
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:   
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro   
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world   
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien,   
this man, superb in love and logic, this man   
shall be remembered. Oh, not with statues’ rhetoric,   
not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone,
but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives   
fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

Robert Hayden, “Frederick Douglass” from Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden. Reprinted with the permission of Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Source: The Collected Poems of Robert Hayden (Liveright Publishing Corporation, 1966)

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Poet Robert Hayden 1913–1980

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Heroes & Patriotism

Holidays Kwanzaa

Poetic Terms Sonnet, Elegy

 Robert  Hayden

Biography

Born Asa Bundy Sheffey into a poor family, Robert Hayden’s parents left him to be raised by foster parents. Due to extreme nearsightedness, Hayden turned to books rather than sports in his childhood. Some of his best-known poems can be found in his collection A Ballad of Remembrance. Hayden was the first African American to be appointed as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. Hayden's formal, elegant poems about the . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Heroes & Patriotism

Poetic Terms Sonnet, Elegy

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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