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

Charles Frederick White, "On the Death of Dunbar" (1906)


[To his Mother]
Is Dunbar gone, forever and for aye?
No, he is not! his soul has never died;
His spirit form is with us through our day;
Nor in our night does it desert our side.
Though sweet "Li'l' Gal" may weep, "Malindy" mourn,
"The Party" veil its face with solemn crepe
In sorrow for him of whom they were born;
And though we, too, may weep at his sad fate;
Yet one consoling thought remains to cheer
Us in this hour of lamentation deep:
His soul yet lives, is with us year by year.
He is not dead, for in our midst he sleep
Enfolded 'tween the covers of his books.
The old tree, torn with bullets, by the road
Still moans the story of its deadened looks;
The "Ole Mule," with his lazy human load,
Still plods along his weary homeward way;
"Malindy Sings" as sweetly to our mind;
The "Uncalled" hovers round us as to sway
Our lives with "Lyrics," poetry and rhyme.
We need but to unfold his clothbound bier,
To take him from his grave upon our shelves
And lend his inmost soul our closest ear,
And Dunbar lives, and speaks, e'en, as ourselves.
A life we mourn which late we oft extolled;
A work unfinished, yet complete, we read,
Like his, our lives, our talents will unfold
And bloom with beauty, if our hearts we heed.

Feb., 1906.

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