Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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Do' a-stan'in' on a jar, fiah a-shinin' thoo,
Daih 's a moughty soothin' feelin'
De axes has been ringin' in de woods de blessid day,
Oh, dere 's lots o' keer an' trouble
Oh, I have n't got long to live, for we all
'Tis fine to play
Come, essay a sprightly measure,
Whut you say, dah? huh, uh! chile,
"Break me my bounds, and let me fly
They please me not--these solemn songs
De win' is blowin' wahmah,
Uncle John, he makes me tired;
Yes, my ha't 's ez ha'd ez stone--
On the wide veranda white,
Lay me down beneaf de willers in de grass,
The air is dark, the sky is gray,
Win' a-blowin' gentle so de san' lay low,
Swing yo' lady roun' an' roun',
I found you and I lost you,
Wen de snow 's a-fallin'
Lead gently, Lord, and slow,
The trees bend down along the stream,
Dear Miss Lucy: I been t'inkin' dat I 'd write you long fo' dis,
De win' is hollahin' "Daih you" to de shuttahs an' de fiah,
Ah, I have changed, I do not know
Oh, I des received a letter f'om de sweetest little gal;
Ah, love, my love is like a cry in the night,
My lady love lives far away,
Dream days of fond delight and hours
Heart of my heart, the day is chill,
Outside the rain upon the street,
Seen my lady home las' night,
De trees is bendin' in de sto'm,
Hain't you see my Mandy Lou,
Treat me nice, Miss Mandy Jane,
O Lord, the hard-won miles
Mastah drink his ol' Made'a,
Let those who will stride on their barren roads
Oh for the breath of the briny deep,
Thou art the soul of a summer's day,
On a summer's day as I sat by a stream,
De 'cession's stahted on de gospel way,
Come on walkin' wid me, Lucy; 't ain't no time to mope erroun'
A cloud fell down from the heavens,
Summah is de lovin' time--
It's hot to-day. The bees is buzzin'
The night is dewy as a maiden's mouth,
The sun hath shed its kindly light,
"Sunshine on de medders,
Across the hills and down the narrow ways,
Good-night, my love, for I have dreamed of thee
Folks ain't got no right to censuah othah folks about dey habits;
W'en you full o' worry
I be'n down in ole Kentucky
I've always been a faithful man
So we, who 've supped the self-same cup,
I think that though the clouds be dark,
Back to the breast of thy mother,
Know you, winds that blow your course
We is gathahed hyeah, my brothahs,
Ther' ain't no use in all this strife,
How sweet the music sounded
If thro' the sea of night which here surrounds me,
When de fiddle gits to singin' out a ol' Vahginny reel,
My muvver's ist the nicest one
When I come in f'om de co'n-fiel' aftah wo'kin' ha'd all day,
When first of wise old Johnson taught,
Since I left the city's heat
Whut time 'd dat clock strike?
Adown the west a golden glow
A lilt and a swing,
I know my love is true,
By Mystic's banks I held my dream.
As in some dim baronial hall restrained,
Home agin, an' home to stay--
"In the fight at Brandywine, Black Samson, a giant negro armed with a scythe, sweeps his way through the red ranks...." C. M. Skinner's "Myths and Legends of Our Own Land."
Standin' at de winder,
The word is writ that he who runs may read.
Caught Susanner whistlin'; well,
By rugged ways and thro' the night
By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
The cloud looked in at the window,
Bones a-gittin' achy,
It was Chrismus Eve, I mind hit fu' a mighty gloomy day--
Step wid de banjo an' glide wid de fiddle,
Ring out, ye bells!
The snow lies deep upon the ground,
Tim Murphy's gon' walkin' wid Maggie O'Neill,
In the silence of my heart,
The sky of brightest gray seems dark
Because I had loved so deeply,
Search thou my heart;
"Good-bye," I said to my conscience--
Mammy's in de kitchen, an' de do' is shet;
Villain shows his indiscretion,
Want to trade me, do you, mistah? Oh, well, now, I reckon not,
An angel, robed in spotless white,
The gray dawn on the mountain top
Ain't nobody nevah tol' you not a wo'd a-tall,
De way t'ings come, hit seems to me,
I've been watchin' of 'em, parson,
A knock is at her door, but she is weak;
Storm and strife and stress,
Jes' lak toddy wahms you thoo'
Let me close the eyes of my soul
Dey is times in life when Nature
My neighbor lives on the hill,
I have seen full many a sight
Tell your love where the roses blow,
Place this bunch of mignonette
In the east the morning comes,
An old man planted and dug and tended,
Seen you down at chu'ch las' night,
"I am but clay," the sinner plead,
Ah, Douglass, we have fall'n on evil days,
Long years ago, within a distant clime,
Pray, what can dreams avail
Come away to dreamin' town,
Dream on, for dreams are sweet:
What dreams we have and how they fly
Hit 's been drizzlin' an' been sprinklin',
Because you love me I have much achieved,
Who dat knockin' at de do'?
With what thou gavest me, O Master,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
The moon begins her stately ride
You 'll be wonderin' whut 's de reason
I's a-gittin' weary of de way dat people do,
With sombre mien, the Evening gray
Wen I git up in de mo'nin' an' de clouds is big an' black,
Seems lak folks is mighty curus
The world is a snob, and the man who wins
I had not known before
A hush is over all the teeming lists,
I stand above the city's rush and din,
I grew a rose once more to please mine eyes.
The lark is silent in his nest,
Hello, ole man, you 're a-gittin' gray,
She told the story, and the whole world wept
He had his dream, and all through life,
The gray of the sea, and the gray of the sky,
De dog go howlin' 'long de road,
De times is mighty stirrin' 'mong de people up ouah way,
How shall I woo thee to win thee, mine own?
Tek a cool night, good an' cleah,
O li'l' lamb out in de col',
When storms arise
If life were but a dream, my Love,
In this old garden, fair, I walk to-day
When August days are hot an' dry,
Oh to have you in May,
Oh, summer has clothed the earth
When summer time has come, and all
'Lias! 'Lias! Bless de Lawd!
In the tents of Akbar
At the golden gate of song
Come when the nights are bright with stars
Fu' de peace o' my eachin' heels, set down;
(From a Westerner's Point of View.)
Hyeah come C├Žsar Higgins,
Lucy done gone back on me,
De da'kest hour, dey allus say,
The sand-man he's a jolly old fellow,
Just whistle a bit, if the day be dark,
Oh, de clouds is mighty heavy
I've a humble little motto
I held my heart so far from harm,
Oh, awful Power whose works repel
Oh, de weathah it is balmy an' de breeze is sighin' low.
A crust of bread and a corner to sleep in,
It may be misery not to sing at all
Ef you's only got de powah fe' to blow a little whistle,
Hurt was the nation with a mighty wound,
Little brown baby wif spa'klin' eyes,
Oh, the day has set me dreaming
Little brown face full of smiles,
Mother 's gone a-visitin' to spend a month er two,
De ol' time's gone, de new time's hyeah
If you could sit with me beside the sea to-day,
A life was mine full of the close concern
Out of my heart, one treach'rous winter's day,
As lone I sat one summer's day,
Love me. I care not what the circling years
Key and bar, key and bar,
Once Love grew bold and arrogant of air,
The draft of love was cool and sweet
As some rapt gazer on the lowly earth,
Love hath the wings of the butterfly,
Like the blush upon the rose
When the bees are humming in the honeysuckle vine
If Death should claim me for her own to-day,
Summah night an' sighin' breeze,
Bedtime 's come fu' little boys.
In Life's Red Sea with faith I plant my feet,
Silently without my window,
It's all a farce,--these tales they tell
Out of my heart, one day, I wrote a song,
The mist has left the greening plain,
Darling, my darling, my heart is on the wing,
Ashes to ashes, dust unto dust,
Men may sing of their Havanas, elevating to the stars
Gray is the palace where she dwells,
Come to the pane, draw the curtain apart,
I don't believe in 'ristercrats
W'en de clouds is hangin' heavy in de sky,
Silence, and whirling worlds afar
The moon has left the sky, love,
Night, dim night, and it rains, my love, it rains,
Some folks t'inks hit's right an' p'opah,
Shadder in de valley
Ah, Nora, my Nora, the light fades away,
Not they who soar, but they who plod
The November sun invites me,
October is the treasurer of the year,
Done are the toils and the wearisome marches,
O Mother Race! to thee I bring
Like sea-washed sand upon the shore,
Thou arrant robber, Death!
Not to the midnight of the gloomy past,
The sun is low,
I 's boun' to see my gal to-night--
I sit upon the old sea wall,
Oh, I am hurt to death, my Love;
Granny's gone a-visitin',
Over the hills and the valleys of dreaming
De breeze is blowin' 'cross de bay.
She wrapped her soul in a lace of lies,
A maiden wept and, as a comforter,
I been t'inkin' 'bout de preachah; whut he said de othah night,
Phyllis, ah, Phyllis, my life is a gray day,
A Song
Whose little lady is you, chile,
Ef dey 's anyt'ing dat riles me
I 've journeyed 'roun' consid'able, a-seein' men an' things,
The poor man went to the rich man's doors,
Dear heart, good-night!
The little bird sits in the nest and sings
Prometheus stole from Heaven the sacred fire
I grew a rose within a garden fair,
Who say my hea't ain't true to you?
Eight of 'em hyeah all tol' an' yet
The rain streams down like harp-strings from the sky;
I am no priest of crooks nor creeds,
Will I have some mo' dat pie?
She sang, and I listened the whole song thro'.
When Phyllis sighs and from her eyes
Long had I grieved at what I deemed abuse;
"Thou art a fool," said my head to my heart,
When you and I were young, the days
When labor is light and the morning is fair,
What if the wind do howl without,
Why was it that the thunder voice of Fate
Oh, wind of the spring-time, oh, free wind of May,
Your spoken words are roses fine and sweet,
Ain't it nice to have a mammy
She gave a rose,
She told her beads with down-cast eyes,
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah,
'T is better to sit here beside the sea,
Slow moves the pageant of a climbing race;
Dey is snow upon de meddahs, dey is snow upon de hill,
Dey 's a so't o' threatenin' feelin' in de blowin' of de breeze,
A bee that was searching for sweets one day
Bird of my lady's bower,
My heart to thy heart,
Wintah, summah, snow er shine,
Dis is gospel weathah sho'--
Emblem of blasted hope and lost desire,
Dey been speakin' at de cou't-house,
Breezes blowin' middlin' brisk,
Grass commence a-comin'
A blue-bell springs upon the ledge,
The river sleeps beneath the sky,
If 'twere fair to suppose
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
I done got 'uligion, honey, an' I 's happy ez a king;
I did not know that life could be so sweet,
The Midnight wooed the Morning-Star,
Round the wide earth, from the red field your valour has won,
Bring me the livery of no other man.
W'en de evenin' shadders
Duck come switchin' 'cross de lot
Love used to carry a bow, you know,
The change has come, and Helen sleeps--
The wind told the little leaves to hurry,
Wen de colo'ed ban' comes ma'chin' down de street,
If the muse were mine to tempt it
When the corn 's all cut and the bright stalks shine
A man of low degree was sore oppressed,
Heel and toe, heel and toe,
Cover him over with daisies white
This is the debt I pay
Goo'-by, Jinks, I got to hump,
Oh, de grubbin'-hoe 's a-rustin' in de co'nah,
He scribbles some in prose and verse,
These are the days of elfs and fays:
Oh, what shall I do? I am wholly upset;
Out of the sunshine and out of the heat,
Temples he built and palaces of air,
Ah, yes, the chapter ends to-day;
Oh, the little bird is rocking in the cradle of the wind,
The wind is out in its rage to-night,
Good hunting!--aye, good hunting,
All hot and grimy from the road,
Within a London garret high,
In the heavy earth the miner
Pray why are you so bare, so bare,
Aye, lay him in his grave, the old dead year!
Our good knight, Ted, girds his broadsword on
This poem must be done to-day;
I 've been list'nin' to them lawyers
My cot was down by a cypress grove,
Sweetest of the flowers a-blooming
Dinah stan' befo' de glass,
A lover whom duty called over the wave,
An old, worn harp that had been played
Oh, who is the Lord of the land of life,
Though the winds be dank,
Out in de night a sad bird moans,
In this sombre garden close
Say a mass for my soul's repose, my brother,
I was not; now I am--a few days hence
The smell of the sea in my nostrils,
Whut dat you whisperin' keepin' f'om me?
You kin talk about yer anthems
There's a memory keeps a-runnin'
In de dead of night I sometimes,
W'en daih 's chillun in de house,
'Tis an old deserted homestead
I am the mother of sorrows,
Dey had a gread big pahty down to Tom's de othah night;
There are no beaten paths to Glory's height,
One night in my room, still and beamless,
See dis pictyah in my han'?
There's a fabulous story
Wintah time hit comin'
He sang of life, serenely sweet,
A song is but a little thing,
How's a man to write a sonnet, can you tell,--
By the pool that I see in my dreams, dear love,
Dolly sits a-quilting by her mother, stich by stitch,
Folks is talkin' 'bout de money, 'bout de silvah an' de gold;
I have no fancy for that ancient cant
The lake's dark breast
'T was three an' thirty year ago,
Along by the river of ruin
I know a man
What says the wind to the waving trees?
As a quiet little seedling
My soul, lost in the music's mist,
A little bird, with plumage brown,
I never shall furgit that night when father hitched up Dobbin,
Come, drink a stirrup cup with me,
A little dreaming by the way,
De night creep down erlong de lan',
Woman's sho' a cur'ous critter, an' dey ain't no doubtin' dat.
'Twas the apple that in Eden
A song for the unsung heroes who rose in the country's need,
When to sweet music my lady is dancing
Underneath the autumn sky,
Little lady at de do',
In a small and lonely cabin out of noisy traffic's way,
Long since, in sore distress, I heard one pray,
I stood by the shore at the death of day,
A youth went faring up and down,
Ah me, it is cold and chill
There is a heaven, for ever, day by day,
Thou art my lute, by thee I sing,--
Oh the breeze is blowin' balmy
Summah 's nice, wif sun a-shinin',
Dear critic, who my lightness so deplores,
It is as if a silver chord
Thy tones are silver melted into sound,
Belated wanderer of the ways of spring,
This is to-day, a golden summer's day
Step me now a bridal measure,
To me, like hauntings of a vagrant breath
Your presence like a benison to me
What are the things that make life bright?
Oh, the poets may sing of their Lady Irenes,
(Lines on reading "Driftwood.")
I 's feelin' kin' o' lonesome in my little room to-night,
God has his plans, and what if we
Kiss me, Miami, thou most constant one!
Cool is the wind, for the summer is waning,
Heart of the Southland, heed me pleading now,
Dey was oncet a awful quoil 'twixt de skillet an' de pot;
All de night long twell de moon goes down,
'Twixt a smile and a tear,
Two little boots all rough an' wo',
Deep in my heart that aches with the repression,
Long time ago, we two set out,
When I was young I longed for Love,
It's moughty tiahsome layin' 'roun'
Days git wa'm an' wa'mah,
The sun has slipped his tether
We wear the mask that grins and lies,
You ask why I am sad to-day,
What's the use o' folks a-frownin'
W'en us fellers stomp around, makin' lots o' noise,
When all is done, and my last word is said,
Dey was talkin' in de cabin, dey was talkin' in de hall;
G'way an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy--
Hyeah dat singin' in de medders
In the forenoon's restful quiet,
When winter covering all the ground
Slow de night 's a-fallin',
I has hyeahd o' people dancin' an' I 's hyeahd o' people singin'.
Not o'er thy dust let there be spent
Why fades a dream?
De sun hit shine an' de win' hit blow,
Oh, who would be sad tho' the sky be a-graying,
Night is for sorrow and dawn is for joy,
You bid me hold my peace
Yesterday I held your hand,