THE sweetest singer once thou wast, but art no more;
An elf thou wast of what thou now shalt be,
Where thou art in realms of that celestial shore;
There thou shalt sing through all eternity.
We, peerless bard, bewail thy loss
And shed heart-broken tears,
Though meekly thou hast borne thy cross
And winged the flight of years!
Thrice blessed singer, wrapped in heavenly bliss,
Of earth's poor souls thy fortune who can tell?
Perchance thy splendid lot be solely this:
To change thy lute with the angel Israfel!
If so, then smite thy golden strings
With fingers nimble, strong,
Till all along fair heaven rings
With cadence of thy song!
Thee tyrant earth once held, imprisoned soul,
That suffered tortures of relentless strife,
Fair heaven now holds within her sheltered fold,
And gives thee robe and harp-eternal life!
Grant him, O God, unfaltering breath
To sing from heaven afar
A song to cheer our souls in death--
The peerless Paul Dunbar!
Published in The Sylvan Cabin, 1911