1. After Nelson Mandela died in December, Maya Angelou wrote a poem to commemorate the life of her friend.
2. The poem — “His Day is Done” — feels especially meaningful now that Maya has also died.
3. Among the other beautiful lines, Maya wrote:
4. “We will not forget you, we will not dishonor you, we will remember and be glad that you lived among us, that you taught us, and that you loved us all.”
5. Watch the full video to hear Maya reading her poem aloud:
6. And here’s a transcript of the entire poem:
His day is done.
The news came on the wings of a wind
Reluctant to carry its burden.
Nelson Mandela’s day is done.
The news, expected and still unwelcome
Reached us in the United States and suddenly
Our world became somber.
Our skies were leadened
His day is done.
We see you, South African people
Standing speechless at the slamming
Of that final door
Through which no traveler returns.
Our spirits reach out to you
Bantu, Zulu, Xhosa, Boer
We think of you
And your Son of Africa,
Your One More Wonder of the World.
We send our souls to you
As you reflect upon
Your David armed with
A mere stone facing down
The Mighty Goliath,
Man of strength Gideon,
Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid
Scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism,
In the bloody maws of South African dungeons.
Would the man survive?
Could the man survive?
His answer strengthened men and women
Around the world.
In the Alamo in San Antonio, TX
On the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco,
In Chicago’s loop
In New Orleans Mardi Gras
In New York City’s Times Square
We watched as the hope of Africa sprang
Through the prison’s doors
His stupendous heart in tact
His gargantuan will
Hale and hearty
He had not been crippled by brutes
Nor was his passion for the rights
Of human beings
Diminished by twenty-seven years of imprisonment
Even here in America
We felt the cool
Refreshing breeze of freedom
When Nelson Mandela took
The seat of the Presidency
In his Country
Where formally he was not even allowed to vote
We were enlarged by tears of pride
As we saw Nelson Mandela’s
Former prison guards
Invited, courteously, by him to watch
From the front rows
We saw him accept
The world’s award in Norway
With the grace and gratitude
Of the Solon in Ancient Roman Courts
And the confidence of African Chiefs
From ancient royal stools.
No sun outlasts its sunset
But will rise again
And bring the dawn
Yes, Mandela’s day is done,
Yet we, his inheritors
Will open the gates wider
For reconciliation and we will respond
Generously to the cries
Of the Blacks and Whites,
The Asian, the Hispanic,
The poor who live piteously
On the floor of our planet
He has offered us understanding
We will not withhold forgiveness
Even from those who do not ask
Nelson Mandela’s day is done
We confess it in tearful voices
Yet we lift our own to say
Thank You, Our Gideon.
Thank You, Our David.
Our great courageous man
We will not forget you
We will not dishonor you
We will remember and be glad
That you lived among us
That you taught us
That you loved us
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