Wake Nicodemus!

by Henry Clay Work
(with a few word alterations and extra verses (*)
by Michael Charters)

Nicodemus the slave was of African birth,
And was bought for a bag full of gold.
He was reckoned to be of the salt of the earth,
But he died years ago very old.

Twas his last sad request, so we laid him to rest
In the trunk of an old hollow tree.
Wake me up was his charge at the first break of day,
Wake me up for the great jubilee.

He was known as a prophet, at least was as wise,
For he spoke of the new day to come,
And we listened in awe as he rolled up his eyes,
And we heeded the shake of his thumb.

Though he clothed us with fear, yet the garments he wore
Were in patches at elbow and knee,
And he still wears the suit that he used to of yore
As he sleeps in the old hollow tree.

*Wake Nicodemus and open your eyes,
The morn you’ve awaited is near.
Wake Nicodemus, wake up and arise,
And greet the first day of the year.

Nicodemus was never the sport of the lash,
Though bullets have oft crossed his path.
There were none of his masters so brave and so rash
As to face such a man in his wrath.

Yet his great heart of kindness was filled to the brim;
He obeyed who was put to command.
But he longed for that morning which then was so dim,
For the morning which now is at hand.

Twas a long weary night, we were almost in fear
That the future was more than he knew.
Twas a long weary night but the morning is here,
And the words of our prophet are true.

*Wake Nicodemus, and reach out your hands
To feel the light touch of the air,
And welcome all those who came from far lands
To attend the great jubilee fair.

There are signs in the sky that the darkness is gone,
There are tokens in endless array -
While the storm which had seemingly banished the dawn
Was the herald of a beautiful day.

*Nicodemus oft talked of his African birth,
And his father and mother as well,
And the future he foretold with gladness and mirth
Rings clear like a high jangling bell.

*Wake Nicodemus, oh prophet so keen,
Alight from your old hollow tree.
Wake Nicodemus, speak of what is foreseen,
And tell of the new day to be.

*Wake wake Nicodemus! Wake and arise!
Your prophecy well now is true.
Wake Nicodemus and welcome your prize,
We’ve waited a long time for you.