Sometimes the mist overhangs my path,
And blackening clouds about me cling;
But, oh, I have a magic way
To turn the gloom to cheerful day—
_____I softly sing.

And if the way grows darker still,
Shadowed by Sorrow’s somber wing,
With glad defiance in my throat,
I pierce the darkness with a note,
_____And sing, and sing.

I brood not over the broken past,
Nor dread whatever time may bring;
No nights are dark, no days are long,
While in my heart there swells a song,
_____And I can sing.


This poem is in the public domain.

James Weldon Johnson was born on June 17, 1871, in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1920 he became executive secretary for the NAACP. Johnson’s works include The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man (1912) and The Book of American Negro Poetry (1922). He died on June 26, 1938. “The Gift to Sing” was published in Johnson’s book Fifty Years and Other Poems (1917). poets.org