University of Virginia Library

God Reigns

In ages past ere wisdom's height
Had sent its piercing ray
To cleave the heavy clouds of night
And usher in the day.
Men's minds were held in thralldom deep,
The slaves to one blind school,
Till reasons let this sentence sweep
“God reigns and right shall rule.”
The war clouds heavy hung and dark,
The storm was swelling fast,
But over all the tumult—hark!
A voice comes down the blast
And, lo! the tempest is still,
And fiery passions cool;
As with a cry the earth is filled—
“God reigns and right shall rule.”
Four million slaves in chains lay bound,
Harrassed by myriad woes—
The lash of whip, the chase of hound,
The curses of their foes.
But Lincoln came, and with a stroke
He broke the clanking chains
And unto all the world he spoke
Right rules, Jehovah reigns.


Today the skeptic wields his pen,
The infidel his tongue
The keen agnostic lureth men
His mazy ways among.
But let them talk and let them write—
O'er bigot, sage and fool,
There sways an arm of fearless might—
“God reigns and right shall rule.”
The court may temper its decrees
To favor wealth or might;
The water of a thousand seas
May try to drown the right;
The king his agents may command,
And ply each royal tool,
But there is still the master hand—
“God reigns and right shall rule.”
Yea, wrong may triumph for a day
With bold delusive power,
But, oh! how stormy is its sway,
And, oh! how brief its hour!
The hosts of sin are soon undone,
Peace flies on pinions cool;
The battle gained, the victory won—
“God reigns, and right shall rule.”

Original manuscript in Dunbar's handwriting dated 1902 in Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection, MSS 659, series 1, box 1, OHS. Quoted by permission.