Read the Poem Cast on the Emancipation Bells

The largest abolitionist bells in the Emancipation Bells carillon are united by a single poem: “Songs for the People” by Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Across seven stanzas, the poem is a balm to soothe the weary and uplift the oppressed. Two lines each will be cast in bronze on the heaviest bells, ending on the bell dedicated to the poet and abolitionist herself – a signature to the ‘sweet anthem of love and duty.’

Songs for the People

By 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.