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Paul laurence dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

POEMS
FOLLOWERS
6

Hyeah dat singin’ in de medders
Whaih de folks is mekin’ hay?
Wo’k is pretty middlin’ heavy
Fu’ a man to be so gay.
You kin tell dey 's somep’n special
F’om de canter o’ de song;
Somep’n sholy pleasin’ Sam’l,
W’en he singin’ all day long.

Hyeahd him wa’blin’ 'way dis mo’nin’
'Fo’ 't was light enough to see.
Seem lak music in de evenin’
Allus good enough fu’ me.
But dat man commenced to hollah
'Fo’ he 'd even washed his face;
Would you b’lieve, de scan’lous rascal
Woke de birds erroun’ de place?

Sam’l took a trip a—Sad’day;
Dressed hisse’f in all he had,
Tuk a cane an’ went a—strollin’,
Lookin’ mighty pleased an’ glad.
Some folks don’ know whut de mattah,
But I do, you bet yo’ life;
Sam’l smilin’ an’ a—singin’
'Case he been to see his wife.

She live on de fu’ plantation,
Twenty miles erway er so;
But huh man is mighty happy
Wen he git de chanst to go.
Walkin’ allus ain’ de nices’—
Mo’nin’ fin’s him on de way—
But he allus comes back smilin’,
Lak his pleasure was his pay.

Den he do a heap o’ talkin’,
Do’ he mos’ly kin’ o’ still,
But de wo’ds, dey gits to runnin’
Lak de watah fu’ a mill.
‘Whut ’s de use o’ havin’ trouble,
Whut 's de use o’ havin’ strife?'
Dat 's de way dis Sam’l preaches
W’en he been to see his wife.

An’ I reckon I git jealous,
Fu’ I laff an’ joke an’ sco’n,
An’ I say, 'Oh, go on, Sam’l,
Des go on, an’ blow yo’ ho’n.'
But I know dis comin’ Sad’day,
Dey 'll be brighter days in life;
An’ I 'll be ez glad ez Sam’l
W’en I go to see my wife.

Seen my lady home las’ night,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
An’ a smile go flittin’ by –
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd de win’ blow thoo de pine,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Mockin’—bird was singin’ fine,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
An’ my hea’t was beatin’ so,
When I reached my lady’s do’,
Dat I could n’t ba’ to go –
Jump back, honey, jump back.

Put my ahm aroun’ huh wais’,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an’ took a tase,
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well ez I love you?
An’ she answe’d, “'Cose I do” –
Jump back, honey, jump back.

Darling, my darling, my heart is on the wing,
It flies to thee this morning like a bird,
Like happy birds in springtime my spirits soar and sing,
The same sweet song thine ears have often heard.

The sun is in my window, the shadow on the lea,
The wind is moving in the branches green,
And all my life, my darling, is turning unto thee,
And kneeling at thy feet, my own, my queen.

The golden bells are ringing across the distant hill,
Their merry peals come to me soft and clear,
But in my heart’s deep chapel all incense—filled and still
A sweeter bell is sounding for thee, dear.

The bell of love invites thee to come and seek the shrine
Whose altar is erected unto thee,
The offerings, the sacrifice, the prayers, the chants are thine,
And I, my love, thy humble priest will be.

He had his dream, and all through life,
Worked up to it through toil and strife.
Afloat fore’er before his eyes,
It colored for him all his skies:
The storm—cloud dark
Above his bark,
The calm and listless vault of blue
Took on its hopeful hue,
It tinctured every passing beam —
He had his dream.

He labored hard and failed at last,
His sails too weak to bear the blast,
The raging tempests tore away
And sent his beating bark astray.
But what cared he
For wind or sea!
He said, ‘The tempest will be short,
My bark will come to port.’
He saw through every cloud a gleam —
He had his dream.

I sit upon the old sea wall,
And watch the shimmering sea,
Where soft and white the moonbeams fall,
Till, in a fantasy,
Some pure white maiden’s funeral pall
The strange light seems to me.

The waters break upon the shore
And shiver at my feet,
While I dream old dreams o’er and o’er,
And dim old scenes repeat;
Tho’ all have dreamed the same before,
They still seem new and sweet.

The waves still sing the same old song
That knew an elder time;
The breakers’ beat is not more strong,
Their music more sublime;
And poets thro’ the ages long
Have set these notes to rhyme.

But this shall not deter my lyre,
Nor check my simple strain;
If I have not the old—time fire,
I know the ancient pain:
The hurt of unfulfilled desire,—
The ember quenched by rain.

I know the softly shining sea
That rolls this gentle swell
Has snarled and licked its tongues at me
And bared its fangs as well;
That 'neath its smile so heavenly,
There lurks the scowl of hell!

But what of that? I strike my string
(For songs in youth are sweet);
I 'll wait and hear the waters bring
Their loud resounding beat;
Then, in her own bold numbers sing
The Ocean’s dear deceit!

Just whistle a bit, if the day be dark,
And the sky be overcast:
If mute be the voice of the piping lark,
Why, pipe your own small blast.

And it’s wonderful how o’er the gray sky—track
The truant warbler comes stealing back.
But why need he come? for your soul’s at rest,
And the song in the heart,—ah, that is best.

Just whistle a bit, if the night be drear
And the stars refuse to shine:
And a gleam that mocks the starlight clear
Within you glows benign.

Till the dearth of light in the glooming skies
Is lost to the sight of your soul—lit eyes.
What matters the absence of moon or star?
The light within is the best by far.

Just whistle a bit, if there ‘s work to do,
With the mind or in the soil.
And your note will turn out a talisman true
To exorcise grim Toil.

It will lighten your burden and make you feel
That there ’s nothing like work as a sauce for a meal.
And with song in your heart and the meal in—its place,
There ‘ll be joy in your bosom and light in your face.

Just whistle a bit, if your heart be sore;
’Tis a wonderful balm for pain.
Just pipe some old melody o’er and o’er
Till it soothes like summer rain.

And perhaps ‘t would be best in a later day,
When Death comes stalking down the way,
To knock at your bosom and see if you ’re fit,
Then, as you wait calmly, just whistle a bit.

If Death should claim me for her own to—day,
And softly I should falter from your side,
Oh, tell me, loved one, would my memory stay,
And would my image in your heart abide?
Or should I be as some forgotten dream,
That lives its little space, then fades entire?
Should Time send o’er you its relentless stream,
To cool your heart, and quench for aye love’s fire?

I would not for the world, love, give you pain,
Or ever compass what would cause you grief;
And, oh, how well I know that tears are vain!
But love is sweet, my dear, and life is brief;
So if some day before you I should go
Beyond the sound and sight of song and sea,
'T would give my spirit stronger wings to know
That you remembered still and wept for me.

When first of wise old Johnson taught,
My youthful mind its homage brought,
And made the pond’rous crusty sage
The object of a noble rage.

Nor did I think (How dense we are!)
That any day, however far,
Would find me holding, unrepelled,
The place that Doctor Johnson held!

But change has come and time has moved,
And now, applauded, unreproved,
I hold, with pardonable pride,
The place that Johnson occupied.

Conceit! Presumption! What is this?
You surely read my words amiss;
Like Johnson I,—a man of mind!
How could you ever be so blind?

No. At the ancient ‘Cheshire Cheese,’
Blown hither by some vagrant breeze,
To dignify my shallow wit,
In Doctor Johnson’s seat I sit!

Emblem of blasted hope and lost desire,
No finger ever traced thy yellow page
Save Time’s. Thou hast not wrought to noble rage
The hearts thou wouldst have stirred. Not any fire
Save sad flames set to light a funeral pyre
Dost thou suggest. Nay,—impotent in age,
Unsought, thou holdst a corner of the stage
And ceasest even dumbly to aspire.

How different was the thought of him that writ.
What promised he to love of ease and wealth,
When men should read and kindle at his wit.
But here decay eats up the book by stealth,
While it, like some old maiden, solemnly,
Hugs its incongruous virginity!

He was a poet who wrote clever verses,
And folks said he had a fine poetical taste;
But his father, a practical farmer, accused him
Of letting the strength of his arm go to waste.

He called on his sweetheart each Saturday evening,
As pretty a maiden as ever man faced,
And there he confirmed the old man’s accusation
By letting the strength of his arm go to waist.

Ring out, ye bells!
All Nature swells
With gladness at the wondrous story, —
The world was at lorn,
But Christ is born
To change our sadness into glory.

Sing, earthlings, sing!
To—night a King
Hath come from heaven’s high throne to bless us.
The outstretched hand
O’er all the land
Is raised in pity to caress us.

Come at His call;
Be joyful all;
Away with mourning and with sadness!
The heavenly choir
With holy fire
Their voices raise in songs of gladness.

The darkness breaks
And Dawn awakes,
Her cheeks suffused with youthful blushes.
The rocks and stones
In holy tones
Are singing sweeter than the thrushes.

Then why should we
In silence be,
When Nature lends her voice to praises;
When heaven and earth
Proclaim the truth
Of Him for whom that lone star blazes?

No, be not still,
But with a will
Strike all your harps and set them ringing;
On hill and heath
Let every breath
Throw all its power into singing!

A man of low degree was sore oppressed,
Fate held him under iron—handed sway,
And ever, those who saw him thus distressed
Would bid him bend his stubborn will and pray.
But he, strong in himself and obdurate,
Waged, prayerless, on his losing fight with Fate.

Friends gave his proffered hand their coldest clasp,
Or took it not at all; and Poverty,
That bruised his body with relentless grasp,
Grinned, taunting, when he struggled to be free.
But though with helpless hands he beat the air,
His need extreme yet found no voice in prayer.

Then he prevailed; and forthwith snobbish Fate,
Like some whipped cur, came fawning at his feet;
Those who had scorned forgave and called him great—
His friends found out that friendship still was sweet.
But he, once obdurate, now bowed his head
In prayer, and trembling with its import, said:

'Mere human strength may stand ill—fortune’s frown;
So I prevailed, for human strength was mine;
But from the killing pow’r of great renown,
Naught may protect me save a strength divine.
Help me, O Lord, in this my trembling cause;
I scorn men’s curses, but I dread applause!'