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

Paul Laurence Dunbar, "If" (1896)

  If life were but a dream, my Love,
    And death the waking time;
  If day had not a beam, my Love,
    And night had not a rhyme,--
      A barren, barren world were this
      Without one saving gleam;
      I 'd only ask that with a kiss
      You 'd wake me from the dream.

  If dreaming were the sum of days,
    And loving were the bane;
  If battling for a wreath of bays
    Could soothe a heart in pain,--
      I 'd scorn the meed of battle's might,
      All other aims above
      I 'd choose the human's higher right,
      To suffer and to love!

Published in Lyrics of Lowly Life, 1896
Also published in Colored American Magazine, July 1908

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