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Paul laurence dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
6

Dear critic, who my lightness so deplores,
Would I might study to be prince of bores,
Right wisely would I rule that dull estate—
But, sir, I may not, till you abdicate.

She told the story, and the whole world wept
At wrongs and cruelties it had not known
But for this fearless woman’s voice alone.
She spoke to consciences that long had slept:
Her message, Freedom’s clear reveille, swept
From heedless hovel to complacent throne.
Command and prophecy were in the tone
And from its sheath the sword of justice leapt.
Around two peoples swelled a fiery wave,
But both came forth transfigured from the flame.
Blest be the hand that dared be strong to save,
And blest be she who in our weakness came—
Prophet and priestess! At one stroke she gave
A race to freedom and herself to fame.

I AM no priest of crooks nor creeds,
For human wants and human needs
Are more to me than prophets’ deeds;
And human tears and human cares
Affect me more than human prayers.
Go, cease your wail, lugubrious saint!
You fret high Heaven with your plaint.
Is this the 'Christian’s joy’ you paint?
Is this the Christian’s boasted bliss?
Avails your faith no more than this?
Take up your arms, come out with me,
Let Heav’n alone; humanity
Needs more and Heaven less from thee.
With pity for mankind look 'round;
Help them to rise —and Heaven is found.

TO F. N.

Like sea—washed sand upon the shore,
So fine and clean the tale,
So clear and bright I almost see,
The flashing of a sail.

The tang of salt is in its veins,
The freshness of the spray
God give you love and lore and strength,
To give us such alway.

A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
A minute to smile and an hour to weep in,
A pint of joy to a peck of trouble,
And never a laugh but the moans come double;
And that is life!

A crust and a corner that love makes precious,
With a smile to warm and the tears to refresh us;
And joy seems sweeter when cares come after,
And a moan is the finest of foils for laughter;
And that is life!

Shadder in de valley
Sunlight on de hill,
Sut’ny wish dat locus’
Knowed how to be still.
Don’t de heat already
Mek a body hum,
'Dout dat insec’ sayin’
Hottah days to come?

Fiel’ 's a shinin’ yaller
Wid de bendin’ grain,
Guinea hen a callin’,
Now’s de time fu’ rain;
Shet yo’ mouf, you rascal,
Wha’ 's de use to cry?
You do’ see no rain clouds
Up dah in de sky.

Dis hyeah sweat’s been po’in’
Down my face sence dawn;
Ain’t hit time we 's hyeahin’
Dat ah dinnah ho’n?
Go on, Ben an’ Jaspah,
Lif yo’ feet an’ fly,
Hit out fu’ de shadder
Fo’ I drap an’ die.

Hongry, lawd a’ mussy,
Hongry as a baih,
Seems lak I hyeah dinnah
Callin’ evahwhaih;
Daih 's de ho’n a blowin’!
Let dat cradle swing,
One mo’ sweep, den da’kies,
Beat me to de spring!'

Tek a cool night, good an’ cleah,
Skiff o’ snow upon de groun’;
Jes’ 'bout fall—time o’ de yeah
W’en de leaves is dry an brown;
Tek a dog an’ tek a axe,
Tek a lantu’n in yo’ han’,
Step light whah de switches cracks,
Fu’ dey 's huntin’ in de lan’.
Down thoo de valleys an’ ovah de hills,
Into de woods whah de 'simmon—tree grows,
Wakin’ an’ skeerin’ de po’ whippo’wills,
Huntin’ fu’ coon an’ fu’ 'possum we goes.

Blow dat ho’n dah loud an’ strong,
Call de dogs an’ da’kies neah;
Mek its music cleah an’ long,
So de folks at home kin hyeah.
Blow it twell de hills an’ trees
Sen’s de echoes tumblin’ back;
Blow it twell de back’ard breeze
Tells de folks we 's on de track.
Coons is a—ramblin’ an’ 'possums is out;
Look at dat dog; you could set on his tail!
Watch him now—steady,—min’—what you 's about,
Bless me, dat animal’s got on de trail!

Listen to him ba’kin now!
Dat means bus’ness, sho 's you bo’n;
Ef he’s struck de scent I ‘low
Dat ere ’possum’s sholy gone.
Knowed dat dog fu’ fo’teen yeahs,
An’ I nevah seed him fail
Wen he sot dem flappin’ eahs
An’ went off upon a trail.
Run, Mistah 'Possum, an’ run, Mistah Coon,
No place is safe fu’ yo’ ramblin’ to—night;
Mas’ gin’ de lantu’n an’ God gin de moon,
An’ a long hunt gins a good appetite.

Look hyeah, folks, you hyeah dat change?
Dat ba’k is sha’per dan de res’.
Dat ere soun’ ain’t nothin’ strange,—
Dat dog’s talked his level bes’.
Somep’n’ 's treed, I know de soun’.
Dah now,—wha 'd I tell you? see!
Dat ere dog done run him down;
Come hyeah, he’p cut down dis tree.
Ah, Mistah 'Possum, we got you at las’—
Need n’t play daid, laying dah on de groun’;
Fros’ an’ de 'simmons has made you grow fas’,—
Won’t he be fine when he’s roasted up brown!

A hush is over all the teeming lists,
And there is pause, a breath—space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn,
Laments the passing of her noblest born.

She weeps for him a mother’s burning tears—
She loved him with a mother’s deepest love
He was her champion thro’ direful years,
And held her weal all other ends above.
When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust,
He raised her up and whispered, ‘Hope and Trust.’

For her his voice, a fearless clarion, rung
That broke in warning on the ears of men;
For her the strong bow of his pow’r he strung
And sent his arrows to the very den
Where grim Oppression held his bloody place
And gloated o’er the mis’ries of a race.

And he was no soft—tongued apologist;
He spoke straight—forward, fearlessly uncowed;
The sunlight of his truth dispelled the mist
And set in bold relief each dark—hued cloud;
To sin and crime he gave their proper hue,
And hurled at evil what was evil’s due.

Thro’ good and ill report he cleaved his way
Right onward, with his face set toward the heights,
Nor feared to face the foeman’s dread array—
The lash of scorn, the sting of petty spites.
He dared the lightning in the lightning’s track,
And answered thunder with his thunder back.

When men maligned him and their torrent wrath
In furious imprecations o’er him broke,
He kept his counsel as he kept his path;
'Twas for his race, not for himself, he spoke.
He knew the import of his Master’s call
And felt himself too mighty to be small.

No miser in the good he held was he—
His kindness followed his horizon’s rim.
His heart, his talents and his hands were free
To all who truly needed aught of him.
Where poverty and ignorance were rife,
He gave his bounty as he gave his life.

The place and cause that first aroused his might
Still proved its pow’r until his latest day.
In Freedom’s lists and for the aid of Right
Still in the foremost rank he waged the fray;
Wrong lived; His occupation was not gone.
He died in action with his armor on!

We weep for him, but we have touched his hand,
And felt the magic of his presence nigh,
The current that he sent thro’ out the land,
The kindling spirit of his battle—cry
O’er all that holds us we shall triumph yet
And place our banner where his hopes were set!

Oh, Douglass, thou hast passed beyond the shore,
But still thy voice is ringing o’er the gale!
Thou 'st taught thy race how high her hopes may soar
And bade her seek the heights, nor faint, nor fail.
She will not fail, she heeds thy stirring cry,
She knows thy guardian spirit will be nigh,
And rising from beneath the chast’ning rod,
She stretches out her bleeding hands to God!

In the silence of my heart,
I will spend an hour with thee,
When my love shall rend apart
All the veil of mystery:

All that dim and misty veil
That shut in between our souls
When Death cried, ‘Ho, maiden, hail!’
And your barque sped on the shoals.

On the shoals? Nay, wrongly said.
On the breeze of Death that sweeps
Far from life, thy soul has sped
Out into unsounded deeps.

I shall take an hour and come
Sailing, darling, to thy side.
Wind nor sea may keep me from
Soft communings with my bride.

I shall rest my head on thee
As I did long days of yore,
When a calm, untroubled sea
Rocked thy vessel at the shore.

I shall take thy hand in mine,
And live o’er the olden days
When thy smile to me was wine,—
Golden wine thy word of praise,

For the carols I had wrought
In my soul’s simplicity;
For the petty beads of thought
Which thine eyes alone could see.

Ah, those eyes, love—blind, but keen
For my welfare and my weal!
Tho’ the grave—door shut between,
Still their love—lights o’er me steal.

I can see thee thro’ my tears,
As thro’ rain we see the sun.
What tho’ cold and cooling years
Shall their bitter courses run,—

I shall see thee still and be
Thy true lover evermore,
And thy face shall be to me
Dear and helpful as before.

Death may vaunt and Death may boast,
But we laugh his pow’r to scorn;
He is but a slave at most,—
Night that heralds coming morn.

I shall spend an hour with thee
Day by day, my little bride.
True love laughs at mystery,
Crying, ‘Doors of Death, fly wide.’

In the tents of Akbar
Are dole and grief to—day,
For the flower of all the Indies
Has gone the silent way.

In the tents of Akbar
Are emptiness and gloom,
And where the dancers gather,
The silence of the tomb.

Across the yellow desert,
Across the burning sands,
Old Akbar wanders madly,
And wrings his fevered hands.

And ever makes his moaning
To the unanswering sky,
For Sutna, lovely Sutna,
Who was so fair to die.

For Sutna danced at morning,
And Sutna danced at eve;
Her dusky eyes half hidden
Behind her silken sleeve.

Her pearly teeth out—glancing
Between her coral lips,
The tremulous rhythm of passion
Marked by her quivering hips.

As lovely as a jewel
Of fire and dewdrop blent,
So danced the maiden Sutna
In gallant Akbar’s tent.

And one who saw her dancing,
Saw her bosom’s fall and rise
Put all his body’s yearning
Into his lovelit eyes.

Then Akbar came and drove him—
A jackal—from his door,
And bade him wander far and look
On Sutna’s face no more.

Some day the sea disgorges,
The wilderness gives back,
Those half—dead who have wandered,
Aimless, across its track.

And he returned—the lover,
Haggard of brow and spent;
He found fair Sutna standing
Before her master’s tent.

'Not mine, nor Akbar’s, Sutna!'
He cried and closely pressed,
And drove his craven dagger
Straight to the maiden’s breast.

Oh, weep, oh, weep, for Sutna,
So young, so dear, so fair,
Her face is gray and silent
Beneath her dusky hair.

And wail, oh, wail, for Akbar,
Who walks the desert sands,
Crying aloud for Sutna,
Wringing his fevered hands.

In the tents of Akbar
The tears of sorrow run,
But the corpse of Sutna’s slayer,
Lies rotting in the sun.

In the heavy earth the miner
Toiled and laboured day by day,
Wrenching from the miser mountain
Brilliant treasure where it lay.
And the artist worn and weary
Wrought with labour manifold
That the king might drink his nectar
From a goblet made of gold.

On the prince’s groaning table
Mid the silver gleaming bright
Mirroring the happy faces
Giving back the flaming light,
Shine the cups of priceless crystal
Chased with many a lovely line,
Glowing now with warmer colour,
Crimsoned by the ruby wine.

In a valley sweet with sunlight,
Fertile with the dew and rain,
Without miner’s daily labour,
Without artist’s nightly pain,
There there grows the cup I drink from,
Summer’s sweetness in it stored,
And my lips pronounce a blessing
As they touch an old brown gourd.

Why, the miracle at Cana
In the land of Galilee,
Tho’ it puzzles all the scholars,
Is no longer strange to me.
For the poorest and the humblest
Could a priceless wine afford,
If they 'd only dip up water
With a sunlight—seasoned gourd.

So a health to my old comrade,
And a song of praise to sing
When he rests inviting kisses
In his place beside the spring.
Give the king his golden goblets,
Give the prince his crystal hoard;
But for me the sparkling water
From a brown and brimming gourd!

SOME folks t’inks hit’s right an’ p’opah,
Soon ez bedtime come erroun’,
Fu’ to scramble to de kiver,
Lak dey’d hyeahed de trumpet soun’.
But dese people day all misses
Whut I mos’ly does desiah;
Dat’s de settin’ roun’ an’ dozin’,
An’ a—noddin’ by de fiah.
When you’s tiahed out a—hoein’,
Er a—followin’ de plough,
Whut’s de use of des a—fallin’
On yo’ pallet lak a cow?
W’y, de fun is all in waitin’
In de face of all de tiah,
An’ a—dozin’ and a—drowsin’
By a good ol’ hick’ry fiah.
Oh, you grunts an’ groans an’ mumbles
Case yo’ bones is full o’ col’,
Dough you feels de joy a—tricklin’
Roun’ de co’nahs of yo’ soul.
An’ you ‘low anothah minute
’S sho to git you wa’m an’ dryah,
W’en you set up pas’ yo’ bedtime,
Case you hates to leave de fiah.
Whut’s de use o’ downright sleepin’?
You can’t feel it while it las’,
An’ you git up feelin’ sorry
W’en de time fu’ it is pas’.
Seem to me dat time too precious,
An’ de houahs too short entiah,
Fu’ to sleep, w’en you could spen’ 'em
Des a—noddin’ by de fiah.