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Paul laurence dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
6

TUSKEGEE, ALA., APRIL 22, 1901.

Not to the midnight of the gloomy past,
Do we revert to—day; we look upon
The golden present and the future vast
Whose vistas show us visions of the dawn.

Nor shall the sorrows of departed years
The sweetness of our tranquil souls annoy,
The sunshine of our hopes dispels the tears,
And clears our eyes to see this later joy.

Not ever in the years that God hath given
Have we gone friendless down the thorny way,
Always the clouds of pregnant black were riven
By flashes from His own eternal day.

The women of a race should be its pride;
We glory in the strength our mothers had,
We glory that this strength was not denied
To labor bravely, nobly, and be glad.

God give to these within this temple here,
Clear vision of the dignity of toil,
That virtue in them may its blossoms rear
Unspotted, fragrant, from the lowly soil.

God bless the givers for their noble deed,
Shine on them with the mercy of Thy face,
Who come with open hearts to help and speed
The striving women of a struggling race.

Our good knight, Ted, girds his broadsword on
(And he wields it well, I ween);
He 's on his steed, and away has gone
To the fight for king and queen.
What tho’ no edge the broadsword hath?
What tho’ the blade be made of lath?
‘T is a valiant hand
That wields the brand,
So, foeman, clear the path!

He prances off at a goodly pace;
’T is a noble steed he rides,
That bears as well in the speedy race
As he bears in battle—tides.
What tho’ ‘t is but a rocking—chair
That prances with this stately air?
’T is a warrior bold
The reins doth hold,
Who bids all foes beware!

The sun is low,
The waters flow,
My boat is dancing to and fro.
The eve is still,
Yet from the hill
The killdeer echoes loud and shrill.

The paddles plash,
The wavelets dash,
We see the summer lightning flash;
While now and then,
In marsh and fen
Too muddy for the feet of men,

Where neither bird
Nor beast has stirred,
The spotted bullfrog’s croak is heard.
The wind is high,
The grasses sigh,
The sluggish stream goes sobbing by.

And far away
The dying day
Has cast its last effulgent ray;
While on the land
The shadows stand
Proclaiming that the eve’s at hand.

I.
THE young queen Nature, ever sweet and fair,
Once on a time fell upon evil days.
From hearing oft herself discussed with praise,
There grew within her heart the longing rare
To see herself; and every passing air
The warm desire fanned into lusty blaze.
Full oft she sought this end by devious ways,
But sought in vain, so fell she in despair,
For none within her train nor by her side
Could solve the task or give the envied boon.
So day and night, beneath the sun and moon,
She wandered to and fro unsatisfied,
Till Art came by, a blithe inventive elf,
And made a glass wherein she saw herself.
II.
Enrapt, the queen gazed on her glorious self,
Then trembling with the thrill of sudden thought,
Commanded that the skilful wight be brought
That she might dower him with lands and pelf.
Then out upon the silent sea—lapt shelf
And up the hills and on the downs they sought
Him who so well and wondrously had wrought;
And with much search found and brought home the elf.
But he put by all gifts with sad replies,
And from his lips these words flowed forth like wine:
‘O queen, I want no gift but thee,’ he said.
She heard and looked on him with love—lit eyes,
Gave him her hand, low murmuring, ‘I am thine,’
And at the morrow’s dawning they were wed.

AIN’T it nice to have a mammy
W’en you kin’ o’ tiahed out
Wid a—playin’ in de meddah,
An’ a—runnin’ roun’ about
Till hit’s made you mighty hongry,
An’ yo’ nose hit gits to know
What de smell means dat’s a—comin’
F’om de open cabin do’?
She wash yo’ face,
An’ mek yo’ place,
You’s hongry as a tramp;
Den hit’s eat you suppah right away,
You sta’vin’ little scamp.
W’en you’s full o’ braid an’ bacon,
An’ dey ain’t no mo’ to eat,
An’ de lasses dat’s a—stickin’
On yo’ face ta’se kin’ o’ sweet,
Don’ you t’ink hit’s kin’ o’ pleasin’
Fu’ to have som’body neah
Dat’ll wipe yo’ han’s an’ kiss you
Fo’ dey lif’ you f’ore yo cheah?
To smile so sweet,
An’ wash yo’ feet,
An’ leave 'em co’l an’ damp;
Den hit’s come let me undress you, now
You lazy little scamp.
Don’ yo’ eyes git awful heavy,
An’ yo’ lip git awful slack,
Ain’t dey som’p’n’ kin’ o’ weaknin’
In de backbone of yo’ back?
Don’ yo’ knees feel kin’ o’ trimbly,
An’ yo’ head go bobbin’ roun’,
W’en you says yo’ ‘Now I lay me,’
An’ is sno’in’ on de ‘down ’?
She kiss yo’ nose,
She kiss yo’ toes,
An’ den tu’n out de lamp,
Den hit’s creep into yo’ trunnel baid,
You sleepy little scamp.

A little dreaming by the way,
A little toiling day by day;
A little pain, a little strife,
A little joy,—and that is life.

A little short—lived summer’s morn,
When joy seems all so newly born,
When one day’s sky is blue above,
And one bird sings,—and that is love.

A little sickening of the years,
The tribute of a few hot tears
Two folded hands, the failing breath,
And peace at last,—and that is death.

Just dreaming, loving, dying so,
The actors in the drama go—
A flitting picture on a wall,
Love, Death, the themes; but is that all?

How shall I woo thee to win thee, mine own?
Say in what tongue shall I tell of my love.
I who was fearless so timid have grown,
All that was eagle has turned into dove.
The path from the meadow that leads to the bars
Is more to me now than the path of the stars.

How shall I woo thee to win thee, mine own,
Thou who art fair and as far as the moon?
Had I the strength of the torrent’s wild tone,
Had I the sweetness of warblers in June;
The strength and the sweetness might charm and persuade,
But neither have I my petition to aid.

How shall I woo thee to win thee, mine own?
How shall I traverse the distance between
My humble cot and your glorious throne?
How shall a clown gain the ear of a queen?
Oh teach me the tongue that shall please thee the best,
For till I have won thee my heart may not rest.

Break me my bounds, and let me fly
To regions vast of boundless sky;
Nor I, like piteous Daphne, be
Root—bound. Ah, no! I would be free
As yon same bird that in its flight
Outstrips the range of mortal sight;
Free as the mountain streams that gush
From bubbling springs, and downward rush
Across the serrate mountain’s side,—
The rocks o’erwhelmed, their banks defied,—
And like the passions in the soul,
Swell into torrents as they roll.
Oh, circumscribe me not by rules
That serve to lead the minds of fools!
But give me pow’r to work my will,
And at my deeds the world shall thrill.
My words shall rouse the slumb’ring zest
That hardly stirs in manhood’s breast;
And as the sun feeds lesser lights,
As planets have their satellites,
So round about me will I bind
The men who prize a master mind!'

He lived a silent life alone,
And laid him down when it was done;
And at his head was placed a stone
On which was carved a name unknown!

When the bees are humming in the honeysuckle vine
And the summer days are in their bloom,
Then my love is deepest, oh, dearest heart of mine,
When the bees are humming in the honeysuckle vine.

When the winds are moaning o’er the meadows chill and gray,
And the land is dim with winter gloom,
Then for thee, my darling, love will have its way,
When the winds are moaning o’er the meadows chill and gray.

In the vernal dawning with the starting of the leaf,
In the merry—chanting time of spring,
Love steals all my senses, oh, the happy—hearted thief!
In the vernal morning with the starting of the leaf.

Always, ever always, even in the autumn drear,
When the days are sighing out their grief,
Thou art still my darling, dearest of the dear,
Always, ever always, even in the autumn drear.

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.

When I was young I longed for Love,
And held his glory far above
All other earthly things. I cried:
‘Come, Love, dear Love, with me abide;’
And with my subtlest art I wooed,
And eagerly the wight pursued.
But Love was gay and Love was shy,
He laughed at me and passed me by.

Well, I grew old and I grew gray,
When Wealth came wending down my way.
I took his golden hand with glee,
And comrades from that day were we.
Then Love came back with doleful face,
And prayed that I would give him place.
But, though his eyes with tears were dim,
I turned my back and laughed at him.

This is to—day, a golden summer’s day
And yet—and yet
My vengeful soul will not forget
The past, forever now forgot, you say.

From that half height where I had sadly climbed,
I stretched my hand,
I lone in all that land,
Down there, where, helpless, you were limed.

Our fingers clasped, and dragging me a pace,
You struggled up.
It is a bitter Cup,
That now for naught, you turn away your face.

I shall remember this for aye and aye.
Whate’er may come,
Although my lips are dumb,
My spirit holds you to that yesterday.