George Moses Horton, Myself

By George Moses Horton 1798–1883 George Moses Horton
I feel myself in need
   Of the inspiring strains of ancient lore,
My heart to lift, my empty mind to feed,
   And all the world explore.

I know that I am old
   And never can recover what is past,
But for the future may some light unfold
   And soar from ages blast.

I feel resolved to try,
   My wish to prove, my calling to pursue,
Or mount up from the earth into the sky,
   To show what Heaven can do.

My genius from a boy,
   Has fluttered like a bird within my heart;
But could not thus confined her powers employ,
   Impatient to depart.

She like a restless bird,
   Would spread her wing, her power to be unfurl’d,
And let her songs be loudly heard,
   And dart from world to world.


Source: African-American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 1992)

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Poet George Moses Horton 1798–1883

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

Biography

Born a slave on William Horton’s tobacco plantation, George Moses Horton taught himself to read. Around 1815 he began composing poems in his head, saying them aloud and “selling” them to an increasingly large crowd of buyers at the weekly Chapel Hill farmers market. Students at the nearby University of North Carolina bought his love poems and lent him books. As his fame spread, he gained the attention of Caroline Lee Whiting . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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