Frances Ellen Watkins Harper lived an extraordinary life during extraordinary times. Born in Baltimore in September 24, 1824 and orphaned at an early age, she was destined to become a prominent abolitionist, temperance and women’s suffrage activist. She used poetry to advocate for a compassionate society.
“Songs for the People” speaks of embracing a spirit of kindness and hope for others when we face seemingly overwhelming challenges. Her words are not spoken with sentimentality, but with power and authority that resonate in our current reality.
As Frances Ellen Watkins Harper wrote many decades ago, “We are all bound up together in one great bundle of humanity, and society cannot trample on the weakest and feeblest of its members without receiving the curse in its own soul.”
Songs For The People
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper
Let me make the songs for the people,
Songs for the old and young;
Songs to stir like a battle-cry
Wherever they are sung.
Not for the clashing of sabres,
For carnage nor for strife;
But songs to thrill the hearts of men
With more abundant life.
Let me make the songs for the weary,
Amid life's fever and fret,
Till hearts shall relax their tension,
And careworn brows forget.
Let me sing for little children,
Before their footsteps stray,
Sweet anthems of love and duty,
To float o'er life's highway.
I would sing for the poor and aged,
When shadows dim their sight;
Of the bright and restful mansions,
Where there shall be no night.
Our world, so worn and weary,
Needs music, pure and strong,
To hush the jangle and discords
Of sorrow, pain, and wrong.
Music to soothe all its sorrow,
Till war and crime shall cease;
And the hearts of men grown tender
Girdle the world with peace.
This poem is in the public domain.
This public artwork was produced by local artist Justin Langlois as part of the City’s first Artist-in-Residence program. Since mid-2016, Justin has been working with the Sustainability Group, learning about the various initiatives and themes that shape the Greenest City Action Plan and contributing to ideas and opportunities for greater engagement. The work produced aims to open up an ongoing dialogue about social, economic, and environmental sustainability.
This project is supported by the City of Vancouver through the Public Art Program and the Sustainability Group with assistance from Engineering Services, Utilities, Streets and Electrical Design and Operations.
City of Vancouver