Maya Angelou’s “His Day is Done” Tribute to Nelson Mandela. Video, Poem transcript

SHARE Maya Angelou’s “His Day is Done” Tribute to Nelson Mandela. Video, Poem transcript

WASHINGTON–Poet Maya Angelou, who met Nelson Mandela in the 1960s, when she was married to a South African, penned a poem in tribute to his memory titled “His Day is Done.” She wrote the poem at the request of the U.S. State Department, which produced the above video.

Dr. Maya Angelou in Memory of Nelson Mandela

His day is done.

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 Father

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,

Emerging triumphant

Although born into the brutal embrace of Apartheid

Scarred by the savage atmosphere of racism,

Unjustly imprisoned

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

His inauguration.

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.

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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