Lift Every Voice and Sing

Lift Every Voice and Sing

by James Weldon Johnson

Lift every voice and sing
Till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
Let our rejoicing rise
High as the listening skies,
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us.
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
Let us march on till victory is won.

Stony the road we trod,
Bitter the chastening rod,
Felt in the days when hope unborn had died;
Yet with a steady beat,
Have not our weary feet
Come to the place for which our fathers sighed?
We have come over a way that with tears has been watered,
We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered,
Out from the gloomy past,
Till now we stand at last
Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.

God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee,
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand,
May we forever stand.
True to our God,
True to our native land.

Summary of Lift Every Voice and Sing

  • Popularity of “Lift Every Voice and Sing”: This famous literary piece was written by James Weldon Johnson, a great American author and a diplomat. ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ was first published in 1900. The poem speaks about the contentment the African-Americans feel in honor of liberty. It also accounts for the difficulties they faced in the past. Thought it was first written as a poem, later it was referred to as a national anthem of African-American people. It was also performed on Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
  • “Lift Every Voice and Sing” As a Representation of Joy: The poet illustrates African-American’s feelings about freedom. At the outset, the speaker provides a realistic picture of their jubilation and pleasure and illustrates how they enjoyed the golden moments, singing and acknowledging their achievements. Later, he digs deeper into the gloomy history of African-Americans and discusses the difficulties and violence they faced while they were in bondage. Although they endured a lot, yet they did not lose hope. Now they are standing at the brink of a new, hopeful, and bright future. Therefore, they thank God, who guided them on the difficult paths. However, what enchants the reader is the undaunted struggle of African-Americans and the unflinching faith that helped them face difficulties and struggle for liberty.
  • Major Themes in “Lift Every Voice and Sing: Endurance, freedom, suffering, and joy are the major themes of this poem. The poem celebrates the victory and liberty of African-American people. It also gives an account of their painful path and discusses the way they have struggled for their betterment. But, in spite of all the deprivations, they thank God and want to be true to Him till the end.

Analysis of Literary Devices in “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

Literary devices are tools that represent the writer’s ideas, feelings, and emotions. James Weldon has also used some literary devices in this poem to discuss the phenomenon of slavery and liberty. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.

  • Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /ou/ in “Let it resound loud as the rolling sea” and the sound of /i/ in “Ring with the harmonies of Liberty”.
  • Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ in “High as the listening skies” and the sound of /d/ in “Stony the road we trod”.
  • Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession such as the sound of /wh/ in “Where the white gleam of our bright star is cast.”
  • Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “Lift every voice and sing”; “Come to the place for which our fathers sighed” and “We have come, treading our path through the blood of the slaughtered.”
  • Symbolism: Symbolism means to use symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings different from literal meanings. Singing is the symbol of joy and freedom, while stony roads are the symbol of their sufferings.
  • Simile: A simile is a figure of speech used to compare an object and a person with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, in “High as the listening skies, Let it resound loud as the rolling sea” the poet compares singing with high skies and rolling sea.
  • Anaphora: It refers to the repetition of a word or expression in the first part of some verses. For example, “Sing a song” in the first stanza of the poem to emphasize the reason for their singing.
  • Enjambment: It is defined as a thought or clause that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it moves over the next line. For example,

“Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices in “Lift Every Voice and Sing”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this rhyme.

  • Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem, each having a varied length.
  • Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABAB rhyme scheme which pattern continues until the end.
  • End Rhyme: End rhyme is used to make the stanza melodious. For example, “sing/ring”, “begun/won”, “might/light” and hand/stand.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below can be used in religious sermons to make people understand that every test comes from God. You may also use the lines to encourage people so that they don’t lose hope in the hard times.

“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who hast brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who hast by Thy might
Led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”