All Life Is Built From Song

James Weldon Johnson (1871 – 1938)

You are young, gifted, and Black. We must begin to tell our young, There’s a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that’s just begun.

James Weldon Johnson


by Langston Hughes (1901 – 1967)

If I had some small change
I’d buy me a mule,
Get on that mule and
Ride like a fool.

If I had some greenbacks
I’d buy me a Packard,
Fill it up with gas and
Drive that baby backward.

If I had a million
I’d get me a plane
And everybody in America’d
Think I was insane.

But I ain’t got a million,
Fact is, ain’t got a dime —
So just by if-ing
I have a good time!


Now and Then

by James Weldon Johnson


“All life is built from song”
   In youth’s young morn I sang;
And from a top-near hill
   The echo broke and rang.

The years with pinions swift
   To youth’s high noon made flight,
“All life is built from song”
   I sang amid the fight.

To life’s sun-setting years,
   My feet have come—Alas!
And through its hopes and fears
   Again I shall not pass.

The lusty song my youth
   With high-heart ardor sang
Is but a tinkling sound—
   A cymbal’s empty clang.

And now I sing, my Dear,
   With wisdom’s wiser heart,
“All life is built from love,
   And song is but a part.”

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A Sonnet Obsession

I am a life-long Minnesotan who resides in Minneapolis. I hope you enjoy my curated selection of sonnets, short poems and nerdy ruminations. I am pleased to offer Fourteenlines as an ad and cookie free poetry resource, to allow the poetry to be presented on its own without distractions. Fourteenlines is a testament to the power of the written word, for anyone wanting a little more poetry in their life.

5 thoughts on “All Life Is Built From Song”

  1. Waoo .❤
    You are young, gifted, and Black. We must begin to tell our young, There’s a world waiting for you, Yours is the quest that’s just begun.


  2. First, let me note that I enjoy following your blog and have been introduced to many poems here. I’ve got a friendly/supportive puzzle that reading this one has led me to.

    I knew the words you use at this post’s epigraph as the lyrics to a Nina Simone song, I’d even casually assumed she wrote them. Seeing them attributed to the remarkable James Weldon Johnson made me sit up and take notice. I said to myself “He wrote that too!” I casually wondered if it was a passage that Simone adapted, maybe extracted or added to.

    Looking at the song credits it appears that Simone may be responsible for the music and a remarkable performance of it, but that the lyrics are credited to a Weldon Irvine, who’s a more modern guy than JWJ. Yet, I do see James WELDON Johnson attributed as the author of those words in several of those Internet graphics which like to put up inspirational quotes. I’m wondering if the Weldon part of both names has caused confusion/misattribution? Or did Irving adapt something that JWJ wrote? After all the title of the song is borrowed from Hansbury’s play.


      1. I did a quick google search as now you have me intrigued. Here’s my opinion. I think its likely a case of all of the above being true. I think some poem or speech of Weldon Johnson contained some form of that quote originally, but Weldon Irving wrote the first full lyrics that Nina Simone performed. I think the most honest thing would be to put all three names attached to the quote, as I think its a case of the words became more profound over time in each successive artist’s voice.

        Liked by 1 person

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