African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Ada Tessibel Peters, "Paul Laurence Dunbar" (1919)

 In eighteen seventy one. 
 Two freed slaves met in life; 
 Joshua Dunbar, Matilda Murphy's love  won, 
 And were united as husband and wife. 
 Matilda from a little child, 
 Was a lover of poetry and art; 
 And always in a manner mild, 
 She dealt with cduel hearts. 
 So it was the following year, 
 A son to her was born; 
 The black face, the infant dear, 
 Who gave the world book and song. 
 At seven years of age. 
 New ideas entered his life; 
 His mind in best thoughts engaged, 
 And his dreams he began to write. 
 By birth, a genius and poet. 
 By writing, won world wide fame, 
 The black author lived to know it; 
 Paul Laurence Dunbar by name. 
 Literature, spelling, and grammer, 
 Were his favorite studies in school. 
 He was modest and timid in manners. 
 And obedient to the rules. 
 He edited the High School Times, 
 Which contents interesting found. 
 By diligence he did climb. 
 To success and future renown. 
 But at last the time had come, 
 To launch out and labor find. 
 Graduating in eighteen ninety one. 
 Leaving schoolmates and friends behind 
 His color was against all he'd done, 
 Every one to him seemed greater. 
 An elevator boy's task he begun; 
 Looking for recognition later. 
 Few flowers in his path were stresvn, 
 But there were many thorns. 
 His determination was not to ruin, 
 The talent that was in him born. 
 A quaint philosophy was breathed, 
 In his dialect poems and prose; 
 Some were thoughts he achieved, 
 And others gleamed from stories told. 
 One evening Dunbar entered home. 
 With a smile on his face. 
 The first difficulty he had won, 
 For his people and his race. 
 His "Oak and Ivy poems" printed. 
 Made wide his reputation; 
 And though of African decent. 
 He was generous to all nations. 
 The poet was defender of his race; 
 His life work did devote her, 
 And his soul contents we trace. 
 In his Ode to Ethiophia. 
 To Chicago to the world's fair. 
 He must go aid his brother; 
 Alone the burden was hard to bear; 
 He hated to leave his mother. 
 But by special Providence, 
 He found work and friends, 
 Who always came to his defense, 
 With willing aids to lend. 
 Honorable Fred Douglass said, 
 He's a promising Colored man; 
 To him tribute should be paid, 
 For the place that he demands. 
 In congress in Washington, 
 He became efficient in literary work. 
 Though hardest blows he'd overcome, 
 Never would be duty shirk. 
 His fourth book, "The Lyrics and Hearth side." 
 Was dedicated to Alice, his wife. 
 His wise counsellor and guide, 
 And the sunshine of his life. 
 Of the shadows of Rocky Mountain, 
 In broken health the poet cried, 
 "Once I drank from thy fountains, 
 And sat on thy rugged side. 
 Once I was young and strong, 
 A healthy robust lad, 
 I admired the bird songs, 
 I smiled when I was sad. 
 All men held the poet dear. 
 For he lived a life worth while; 
 Although his end was drawing near. 
 He was happy, calm, and mild. 
 He gazed on the flowers sent him. 
 To give his pains relief, 
 But in a few days left them 
 And was numbered with the deceased. 
 Doctor H. T. Tobey, of Toledo, 
 Mourned the loss of his friend. 
 He regretted the Great must go, 
 As the other sons of men. 
 Ethiophia long shall weep. 
 And shall always honor give, 
 For though the poet now doth sleep, 
 His work shall ever live. 

Published in Peters Sisters, War Poems, 1919

This page has tags: