African American Poetry (1870-1927): A Digital AnthologyMain MenuFull Text Collection: Books Published by African American Poets, 1870-1927Author Pages: Bios and Full Text CollectionsAreas of Interest: Topics and ThemesThe Beginnings of the Harlem Renaissance: Overview and Timeline of Key EventsBlack Poetry Before the Harlem Renaissance: Overview and TimelinePeriodicals: African American Poetry Published in MagazinesAfrican American Poetry: Anthologies of the 1920sExploring Datasets related to African American poetryAbout This Site: Origins and a Mission StatementFurther Reading / Works CitedAmardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e1
Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The Haunted Oak" (1903)
12022-07-28T11:45:55-04:00Amardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e12131plain2022-07-28T11:45:55-04:00Amardeep Singhc185e79df2fca428277052b90841c4aba30044e1THE HAUNTED OAK
PRAY, why are you so bare, so bare, O bough of the old oak tree? And why, when I go through the shade you throw Runs a shudder over me? My leaves were as green as the best I trow, And the sap ran free in my veins, But I saw in the moonlight dim and weird, A guiltless victim's pains. I bent me down to hear his sigh, And I shook with his gurgling moan, And I trembled sore when they rode away, And left him here alone. They'd charged him with the old, old crime, And set him fast in jail; O why does the dog howl all night long? And why does the night wind wail? He prayed his prayer, and he swore his oath, And he raised his hands to the sky; But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear, And the steady tread drew nigh. Who is it rides by night, by night, Over the moonlit road? What is the spur that keeps the pace? What is the galling goad? And now they beat at the prison door, "Ho, keeper, do not stay!
We are friends of him whom you hold within, And we fain would take him away "From those who ride Past on our heels, With mind to do him wrong; They have no care for his innocence, And the rope they bear is strong." They have fooled the jailer with lying words, They have fooled the man with lies; The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn, And the great door open flies.
And now they have taken him from the jail, And hard and fast they ride; And the leader laughs low down in his throat, As they halt my trunk beside. 0, the judge he wore a mask of black, And the doctor one of white, And the minister, with his oldest son, Was curiously bedight. O foolish man, why weep you now? 'Tis but a little space, And the time will come when these shall dread The memory of your face. I feel the rope against my bark, And the weight of him in my grain; I feel in the throe of his final woe, The touch of my own last pain. And never more shall leaves come forth On a bough that bears the ban; I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead, From the curse of a guiltless man. And ever the judge rides by, rides by, And goes to hunt the deer, And ever another rides his soul, In the guise of a mortal fear. And ever the man, he rides me hard, And never a night stays he; For I feel his curse as a haunted bough, On the trunk of a haunted tree. —PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR.
Published in Lyrics of Love and Laughter (1903) Also published in The Dunbar Speaker and Entertainer (1920)