African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital Anthology

Paul Laurence Dunbar, "Ships that Pass in the Night" (1896)

Audio performance of this poem at University of Dayton 

 Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
    I look far out into the pregnant night,
  Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
    And catch the gleaming of a random light,
  That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

  My tearful eyes my soul's deep hurt are glassing;
    For I would hail and check that ship of ships.
  I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,
    My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,
  And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

  O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,
    O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!
  Is there no hope for me? Is there no way
    That I may sight and check that speeding bark
  Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?

Published in Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896)
Also published in Caroling Dusk (1927)