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A Litany Of Atlanta

by: George Marion McClellan

Done at Atlanta, in the Day of Death, 1906

O Silent God, Thou whose voice afar in mist and mystery hath left our ears
an-hungered in these fearful days--
_Hear us, good Lord!_

Listen to us, Thy children: our faces dark with doubt are made a mockery
in Thy sanctuary. With uplifted hands we front Thy heaven, O God, crying:
_We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!_

We are not better than our fellows, Lord, we are but weak and human men.
When our devils do deviltry, curse Thou the doer and the deed: curse them
as we curse them, do to them all and more than ever they have done to
innocence and weakness, to womanhood and home.
_Have mercy upon us, miserable sinners!_

And yet whose is the deeper guilt? Who made these devils? Who nursed them
in crime and fed them on injustice? Who ravished and debauched their
mothers and their grandmothers? Who bought and sold their crime, and waxed
fat and rich on public iniquity?
_Thou knowest, good God!_

Is this Thy justice, O Father, that guile be easier than innocence, and
the innocent crucified for the guilt of the untouched guilty?
_Justice, O judge of men!_

Wherefore do we pray? Is not the God of the fathers dead? Have not seers
seen in Heaven's halls Thine hearsed and lifeless form stark amidst the
black and rolling smoke of sin, where all along bow bitter forms of
endless dead?
_Awake, Thou that sleepest!_

Thou art not dead, but flown afar, up hills of endless light, thru blazing
corridors of suns, where worlds do swing of good and gentle men, of women
strong and free--far from the cozenage, black hypocrisy and chaste
prostitution of this shameful speck of dust!
_Turn again, O Lord, leave us not to perish in our sin!_

From lust of body and lust of blood
_Great God, deliver us!_

From lust of power and lust of gold,
_Great God, deliver us!_

From the leagued lying of despot and of brute,
_Great God, deliver us!_

A city lay in travail, God our Lord, and from her loins sprang twin Murder
and Black Hate. Red was the midnight; clang, crack and cry of death and
fury filled the air and trembled underneath the stars when church spires
pointed silently to Thee. And all this was to sate the greed of greedy men
who hide behind the veil of vengeance!
_Bend us Thine ear, O Lord!_

In the pale, still morning we looked upon the deed. We stopped our ears
and held our leaping hands, but they--did they not wag their heads and
leer and cry with bloody jaws: _Cease from Crime_! The word was
mockery, for thus they train a hundred crimes while we do cure one.
_Turn again our captivity, O Lord!_

Behold this maimed and broken thing; dear God, it was an humble black man
who toiled and sweat to save a bit from the pittance paid him. They told
him: _Work and Rise_. He worked. Did this man sin? Nay, but some one
told how some one said another did--one whom he had never seen nor known.
Yet for that man's crime this man lieth maimed and murdered, his wife
naked to shame, his children, to poverty and evil.
_Hear us, O Heavenly Father!_

Doth not this justice of hell stink in Thy nostrils, O God? How long shall
the mounting flood of innocent blood roar in Thine ears and pound in our
hearts for vengeance? Pile the pale frenzy of blood-crazed brutes who do
such deeds high on Thine altar, Jehovah Jireh, and burn it in hell forever
and forever!
_Forgive us, good Lord; we know not what we say!_

Bewildered we are, and passion-tost, mad with the madness of a mobbed and
mocked and murdered people; straining at the armposts of Thy Throne, we
raise our shackled hands and charge Thee, God, by the bones of our stolen
fathers, by the tears of our dead mothers, by the very blood of Thy
crucified Christ: _What meaneth this?_ Tell us the Plan; give us the
_Keep not thou silence, O God!_

Sit no longer blind, Lord God, deaf to our prayer and dumb to our dumb
suffering. Surely Thou too art not white, O Lord, a pale, bloodless,
heartless thing?
_Ah! Christ of all the Pities!_

Forgive the thought! Forgive these wild, blasphemous words. Thou art still
the God of our black fathers, and in Thy soul's soul sit some soft
darkenings of the evening, some shadowings of the velvet night.

But whisper--speak--call, great God, for Thy silence is white terror to
our hearts! The way, O God, show us the way and point us the path.

Whither? North is greed and South is blood; within, the coward, and
without, the liar. Whither? To death?
_Amen! Welcome dark sleep!_

Whither? To life? But not this life, dear God, not this. Let the cup pass
from us, tempt us not beyond our strength, for there is that clamoring and
clawing within, to whose voice we would not listen, yet shudder lest we
must, and it is red, Ah! God! It is a red and awful shape.

In yonder East trembles a star.
_Vengeance is mine; I mill repay, saith the Lord!_

Thy will, O Lord, be done!
_Kyrie Eleison!_

Lord, we have done these pleading, wavering words.
_We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!_

We bow our heads and hearken soft to the sobbing of women and little
_We beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord!_

Our voices sink in silence and in night.
_Hear us, good Lord!_

In night, O God of a godless land!

In silence, O Silent God.

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