Our Family Tree
By Joseph Cephas Holly (1825-1855)
On the death of my sister Cecilia—the last of five members of the family, who died successively.
Our family tree is in the sear
And yellow leaf of life;
Branch after branch, year after year,
Yields to death’s pruning knife.
First, youngest born, as if ’twere meet,
The sacrifice should be,
"The last of earth," the first to meet
Th’ unknown eternity.
’Twas God who gave, ’twas He who took,
His voice let us obey,
So that in his eternal book,
Our names shine bright as day.
Source: African-American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 1992)