The Works of James M. Whitfield: America and Other Writings by a Nineteenth-Century African American Poet

By James M. Whitfield; Robert S. Levine et al. | Go to book overview

ELEGY ON T. T. TATEM, ESQ. 1

A HERO’S soul has passed away,
Gone to a higher, brighter sphere;
His body to its kindred clay
Is borne, and leaves us sorrowing here.

He was a hero, not like those
Whose sanguine path o’er field and flood
Is marked by heaps of slaughtered foes,
And traced in characters of blood.

But his the soul that dared to stand
Alone in conflict for the right,
With all the powers of the land
Arrayed against him in the fight,

With freedom for his battle-word,
Truth for his sword, and faith his shield,
He fought the battles of the Lord,
And died in harness on the field.

Why should we sorrow? Not that he
Is called from labor to reward,
To share the glorious destiny
That waits true servants of the Lord.

l. From the Pacific Appeal, 15 November 1862, 4. In all probability the elegy is
for Thomas T. Tatum, an African American abolitionist and barber whom Whitfield
knew from Buffalo. According to the Colored American, Tatum and Whitfield attended
a number of meetings together in the early 1840s, including the “GREAT MEETING IN
BUFFALO” at which African Americans initiated a campaign for voting rights. Whit-
field and Tatum served on the “committee of five” charged to “procure signatures to
the petition” (Colored American, 9 January 1841, 2).

-213-

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