The Temptress

James Weldon Johnson 1871 (Jacksonville) – 1938 (Wiscasset)

Old Devil, when you come with horns and tail,
With diabolic grin and crafty leer;
I say, such bogey-man devices wholly fail
To waken in my heart a single fear.

But when you wear a form I know so well,
A form so human, yet so near divine;
'Tis then I fall beneath the magic of your spell,
'Tis then I know the vantage is not mine.

Ah! when you take your horns from off your head,
And soft and fragrant hair is in their place;
I must admit I fear the tangled path I tread
When that dear head is laid against my face.

And at what time you change your baleful eyes
For stars that melt into the gloom of night,
All of my courage, my dear fellow, quickly flies;
I know my chance is slim to win the fight.

And when, instead of charging down to wreck
Me on a red-hot pitchfork in your hand,
You throw a pair of slender arms about my neck,
I dare not trust the ground on which I stand.

Whene'er in place of using patent wile,
Or trying to frighten me with horrid grin,
You tempt me with two crimson lips curved in a smile;
Old Devil, I must really own, you win.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

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James Weldon Johnson

James Weldon Johnson was an American author, educator, lawyer, diplomat, songwriter, and early civil rights activist. Johnson is best remembered for his leadership within the NAACP as well as for his writing, which includes novels, poems, and anthologies. He was also the first African-American professor at New York University. Later in life he was a professor of creative literature and writing at Fisk University. more…

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    "The Temptress" Poetry.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 26 Nov. 2020. <https://www.poetry.net/poem/20742/the-temptress>.

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