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Paul laurence dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
5

WHAT if the wind do howl without,
And turn the creaking weather—vane;
What if the arrows of the rain
Do beat against the window—pane?
Art thou not armored strong and fast
Against the sallies of the blast?
Art thou not sheltered safe and well
Against the flood’s insistent swell?
What boots it, that thou stand’st alone,
And laughest in the battle’s face
When all the weak have fled the place
And let their feet and fears keep pace?
Thou wavest still thine ensign, high,
And shoutest thy loud battle—cry;
Higher than e’er the tempest roared,
It cleaves the silence like a sword.
Right arms and armors, too, that man
Who will not compromise with wrong;
Though single, he must front the throng,
And wage the battle hard and long.
Minorities, since time began,
Have shown the better side of man;
And often in the lists of Time
One man has made a cause sublime!

DEY had a gread big pahty down to Tom’s de othah night;
Was I dah? You bet! I neveh in my life see sich a sight;
All de folks f’om fou’ plantations was invited, an’ dey come,
Dey come troopin’ thick ez chillun when dey hyeahs a fife an’ drum.
Evahbody dressed deir fines’—Heish yo’ mouf an’ git away,
Ain’t seen no sich fancy dressin’ sence las’ quah’tly meetin’ day;
Gals all dressed in silks an’ satins, not a wrinkle ner a crease,
Eyes a—battin’, teeth a—shinin’, haih breashed back ez slick ez grease;
Sku’ts all tucked an’ puffed an’ ruffled, evah blessed seam an’ stitch;
Ef you’d seen 'em wif deir mistus, coul n’t swahed to which was which.
Men all dressed up in Prince Alberts, swaller—tails 'u’d tek yo’ bref!
I cain’t tell you nothin’ 'bout it, y’ ought to seen it fu’ yo’se’f.
Who was dah? Now who you askin’? How you 'spect I gwine to know?
You mus’ think I stood an’ coutned evahbody at de do.'
Ole man Babah’s house—boy Isaac, brung dat gal, Malindy Jane,
Huh a—hangin’ to his elbow, him a—struttin’ wif a cane;
My, but Hahvey Jones was jealous! seemed to stick him lak a tho’n;
But he laughed with Viney Cahteh, tryin’ ha’d to not let on,
But a pusson would 'a’ noticed f’om de d’rection of his look,
Dat he was watchin’ ev’ry step dat Ike an’ Lindy took.
Ike he foun’ a cheer an’ asked huh: 'Won’t you set down?' wif a smile,
An’ she answe’d up a—bowin’, ‘Oh, I reckon ’t ain’t wuth while.'
Dat was jes’ fu’ style I reckon, 'cause she sot down jes’ de same,
An’ she stayed dah 'twell he fetched huh fu’ to jine some so’t o’ game;
Den I hyeahd huh sayin’ propah, ez she riz to go away,
'Oh, you raly mus’ excuse me, fu’ I hardly keers to play.'
But I seen huh in a minute wif de othahs on de flo’,
An’ dah was n’t any one o’ dem a—playin’ any mo’;
Comin’ down de flo’ a—bowin’ an’ a—swayin’ an’ a—swingin’,
Puttin’ on huh high—toned mannahs all de time dat she was singin’;
'Oh, swing Johnny up an’ down, swing him all aroun’,
Swing Johnny up an’ down, swing him all aroun’,
Oh, swing Johnny up an’ down, swing him all aroun’,
Fa’ you well, my dahlin’.'
Had to laff at ole man Johnson, he’s a caution now, you bet—
Hittiin’ clost onto a hunderd, but he’s spry an’ nimble yet;
He 'lowed how a—so’t o—gigglin’, 'I ain’t ole, I’ll let you see,
D’ain’t no use in gittin’ feeble, now you youngstahs jes’ watch me,'
An’ he grabbed ole Aunt Marier—weighs th’ee hunderd mo’ er less,
An’ he spun huh 'roun’ de cabin swingin’ Johnny lak de res’.
Evahbody laffed an’ hollahed: ‘Go it! Swing huh, Uncle Jim!’
An’ he swung huh too, I reckon, lak a youngstah, who but him.
Dat was bettah’n young Scott Thomas, tryin’ to be so awful smaht.
You know when dey gits to singin’ an’ dey comes to dat ere paht:
'In some lady’s new brick house,
In some lady’s gyahden.
Ef you don’t let me out, I will jump out,
So fa’ you well, my dahlin’.'
Den dey’s got a circle 'roun’ you, an’ you’s got to break de line;
Well, dat dahky was so anxious, lak to bust hisse’f a—tryin’;
Kep’ on blund’rin’ 'roun’ an’ foolin’ 'twell he giv’ one gread big jump,
Broke de line, an lit head—fo’most in de fiah—place right plump;
Hit 'ad fiah in it, mind you; well, I thought my soul I’d bust,
Tried my best to keep f’om laffin’, but hit seemed like die I must!
Y’ ought to seen dat man a—scramblin’ f’om de ashes an’ de grime.
Did it bu’n him! Sich a question, why he did n’t give it time;
Th’ow’d dem ashes and dem cindahs evah which—a—way I guess,
An’ you nevah did, I reckon, clap yo’ eyes on sich a mess;
Fu’ he sholy made a picter an’ a funny one to boot,
Wif his clothes all full o’ ashes an’ his face all full o’ soot.
Well, hit laked to stopped de pahty, an’ I reckon lak ez not
Dat it would ef Tom’s wife, Mandy, had n’t happened on de spot,
To invite us out to suppah —well, we scrambed to de table,
An’ I’d lak to tell you ‘ ’bout it– what we had– but I ain’t able,
Mention jes’ a few things, dough I know I had n’t orter,
Fu’ I know 't will staht a hank’rin’ an’ yo’ muouf’ll 'mence to worter.
We had wheat bread white ez cotton an’ a egg pone jues like gol’,
Hog jole, bilin’ hot an’ steamin’ roasted shoat an’ ham sliced cold —
Look out! What’s de mattah wif you? Don’t be fallin’ on de flo’;
Ef it’s go’n’ to 'fect you dat way, I won’t tell you nothin’ mo’.
Dah now —well, we had hot chttlin’s —now you’s tryin’ ag 'in to fall,
Cain’t you stan’ to hyeah about it? S’pose you’d been an’ seed it all;
Seed dem gread big sweet pertaters, layin’ by de possum’s side,
Seed dat coon in all his gravy, reckon den you’d up and died!
Mandy ‘lowed ’you all mus’ 'scuse me, d’ wa’n’t much upon my she’ves,
But I’s done my bes’, to suit you, so set down an’ he’p yo’se’ves.'
Tom, he ‘lowed: ’I don’t b’lieve in 'pologisin’ an’ perfessin’,
Let 'em tek it lak dey ketch it. Eldah Thomspon, ask de blessin’.'
Wish you’d seed dat colo’ed preachah cleah his th’oat an’ bow his head;
One eye shet, an’ one eye open, —dis is evah wud he said:
'Lawd, look down in tendah mussy on sich generous hea’ts ez des;
Make us truly thankful, amen. Pass dat possum, ef you please!'
Well, we eat and drunk ouah po’tion, 'twell dah wasn’t nothin’ lef,
An’ we felt jes’ like new sausage, we was mos’ nigh stuffed to def!
Tom, he knowed how we’d be feelin’, so he had de fiddlah 'roun’,
An’ he made us cleah de cabin fu’ to dance dat suppah down.
Jim, de fiddlah, chuned his fiddle, put some rosum on his bow,
Set a pine box on de table, mounted it an’ let huh go!
He’s a fiddlah, now I tell you, an’ he made dat fiddle ring,
'Twell de ol’est an’ de lamest had to give deir feet a fling.
Jigs, cotillions, reels, an’ breakdowns, cordrills an’ a waltz er two;
Bless yo’ soul, dat music winged 'em an’ dem people lak to flew.
Cripple Joe, de old rheumatic, danced dat flo’ f’om side to middle,
Th’owed away his crutch an’ hopped it; what’s rheumatics 'ginst a fiddle?
Eldah Thompson got so tickled dat he lak to los’ his grace,
Had to tek bofe feet an’ hol’ dem so’s to keep 'em in deir place.
An’ de Christuns an’ de sinnahs got so mixed up on dat flo’,
Dat I don’t see how dey’d pahted ef de trump had chanced to blow.
Well, we danced dat way an’ capahed in de mos’ redic’lous way,
'Twell de roostahs in de bahnyard cleahed deir th’oats an’ crowed fu’ day.
Y’ ought to been dah, fu’ I tell you evahthing was rich an’ prime,
An’ dey ain’t no use in talkin’, we jes had one scrumptious time!

DOLLY sits a—quilting by her mother, stitch by stich,
Gracious, how my pulses throb, how my fingers itch,
While I note her dainty waist and her slender hand,
As she matches this and that, she stitches strand by strand.
And I long to tell her Life’s a quilt and I’m a patch;
Love will do the stitching if she’ll only be my match.

Love hath the wings of the butterfly,
Oh, clasp him but gently,
Pausing and dipping and fluttering by
Inconsequently.
Stir not his poise with the breath of a sigh;
Love hath the wings of the butterfly.

Love hath the wings of the eagle bold,
Cling to him strongly—
What if the look of the world be cold,
And life go wrongly?
Rest on his pinions, for broad is their fold;
Love hath the wings of the eagle bold.

Love hath the voice of the nightingale,
Hearken his trilling—
List to his song when the moonlight is pale,—
Passionate, thrilling.
Cherish the lay, ere the lilt of it fail;
Love hath the voice of the nightingale.

Love hath the voice of the storm at night,
Wildly defiant.
Hear him and yield up your soul to his might,
Tenderly pliant.
None shall regret him who heed him aright;
Love hath the voice of the storm at night.

THOU art the soul of a summer’s day,
Thou art the breath of the rose.
But the summer is fled
And the rose is dead
Where are they gone, who knows, who knows?
Thou art the blood of my heart o’ hearts,
Thou art my soul’s repose,
But my heart grows numb
And my soul is dumb
Where art thou, love, who knows, who knows?
Thou art the hope of my after years —
Sun for my winter snows
But the years go by
'Neath a clouded sky.
Where shall we meet, who knows, who knows?

Why was it that the thunder voice of Fate
Should call thee, studious, from the classic groves,
Where calm—eyed Pallas with still footsteps roves,
And charge thee seek the turmoil of the State?
What bade thee hear the voice and rise elate,
Leave home and kindred and thy spicy loaves,
To lead th’ unlettered and despised droves
To manhood’s home and thunder at the gate?

Far better the slow blaze of Learning’s light,
The cool and quiet of her dearer fane,
Than this hot terror of a hopeless fight,
This cold endurance of the final pain,—
Since thou and those who with thee died for right
Have died, the Present teaches, but in vain!

I

Love is the light of the world, my dear,
Heigho, but the world is gloomy;
The light has failed and the lamp down hurled,
Leaves only darkness to me.

Love is the light of the world, my dear,
Ah me, but the world is dreary;
The night is down, and my curtain furled
But I cannot sleep, though weary.

Love is the light of the world, my dear,
Alas for a hopeless hoping,
When the flame went out in the breeze that swirled,
And a soul went blindly groping.

II

The light was on the golden sands,
A glimmer on the sea;
My soul spoke clearly to thy soul,
Thy spirit answered me.

Since then the light that gilds the sands,
And glimmers on the sea,
But vainly struggles to reflect
The radiant soul of thee.

III

The sea speaks to me of you
All the day long;
Still as I sit by its side
You are its song.

The sea sings to me of you
Loud on the reef;
Always it moans as it sings,
Voicing my grief.

IV

My dear love died last night;
Shall I clothe her in white?
My passionate love is dead,
Shall I robe her in red?
But nay, she was all untrue,
She shall not go drest in blue;
Still my desolate love was brave,
Unrobed let her go to her grave.

V

There are brilliant heights of sorrow
That only the few may know;
And the lesser woes of the world, like waves,
Break noiselessly, far below.
I hold for my own possessing,
A mount that is lone and still—
The great high place of a hopeless grief,
And I call it my ‘Heart—break Hill.’
And once on a winter’s midnight
I found its highest crown,
And there in the gloom, my soul and I,
Weeping, we sat us down.

But now when I seek that summit
We are two ghosts that go;
Only two shades of a thing that died,
Once in the long ago.
So I sit me down in the silence,
And say to my soul, ‘Be still,’
So the world may not know we died that night,
From weeping on ‘Heart—break Hill.’

I GREW a rose within a garden fair,
And, tending it with more than loving care,
I thought how, with the glory of its bloom,
I should the darkness of my life illume;
And, watching, ever smiled to see the lusty bud
Drink freely in the summer sun to tinct its blood.
My rose began to open, and its hue
Was sweet to me as to it sun and dew;
I watched it taking on its ruddy flame
Until the day of perfect blooming came,
Then hasted I with smiles to find it blushing red —
Too late! Some thoughtless child had plucked my rose and fled!

SHE wrapped her soul in a lace of lies,
With a prime deceit to pin it;
And I thought I was gaining a fearsome prize,
So I staked my soul to win it.
We wed and parted on her complaint,
And both were a bit of barter,
Tho’ I’ll confess that I’m no saint,
I’ll swear that she’s no martyr.

‘THOU art a fool,’ said my head to my heart,
‘Indeed, the greatest of fools thou art,
To be led astray by the trick of a tress,
By a smiling face or a ribbon smart;’
And my heart was in sore distress.
Then Phyllis came by, and her face was fair,
The light gleamed soft on her raven hair;
And her lips were blooming a rosy red.
Then my heart spoke out with a right bold air:
‘Thou art worse than a fool, O head!’

The snow lies deep upon the ground,
And winter’s brightness all around
Decks bravely out the forest sere,
With jewels of the brave old year.
The coasting crowd upon the hill
With some new spirit seems to thrill;
And all the temple bells achime.
Ring out the glee of Christmas time.

In happy homes the brown oak—bough
Vies with the red—gemmed holly now;
And here and there, like pearls, there show
The berries of the mistletoe.
A sprig upon the chandelier
Says to the maidens, ‘Come not here!’
Even the pauper of the earth
Some kindly gift has cheered to mirth!

Within his chamber, dim and cold,
There sits a grasping miser old.
He has no thought save one of gain,—
To grind and gather and grasp and drain.
A peal of bells, a merry shout
Assail his ear: he gazes out
Upon a world to him all gray,
And snarls, ‘Why, this is Christmas Day!’

No, man of ice,—for shame, for shame!
For 'Christmas Day’ is no mere name.
No, not for you this ringing cheer,
This festal season of the year.
And not for you the chime of bells
From holy temple rolls and swells.
In day and deed he has no part—
Who holds not Christmas in his heart!

I have seen peoples come and go
Alike the Ocean’d ebb and flow;
I have seen kingdoms rise and fall
Like springtime shadows on a wall.
I have seen houses rendered great
That grew from life’s debased estate,
And all, all, all is change I see,
So, dearest God, take me, take me.