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

Walter Everette Hawkins, "Dunbar" (1909)


The Muses tuned his harp with song— 
   Too sweet a strain to linger long, 
The tension of the chords too great 
   For longer life to compensate. 
He lived and loved like lamb at play, 
   He dreamed and sang his life away. 
A genius of the lyric art, 
   He gave to man his all—his heart. 
The world, unwilling to inspire, 
   Crushed his best music in his lyre, 
And gave to broken rhyme the praise— 
   The merry music of his lays. 
And yet he lifted up his race, 
   And gave it undisputed place 
Among the masters of the age, 
   And gave himself as heritage. 
The chord is broken in the lyre, 
   Quenched is the Muse's vestal fire; 
The oil that fed the vestal flame 
   Illumes in Heaven the Poet's name. 
And still, Sweet Singer, thou art near, 
   Thy merry music still doth cheer 
The firesides, the camp, and road, 
   And gives a lightness to the load. 
Sweet Spirit of a purer sphere, 
   We saw thee pass with holy tear; 
But hope doth wring from tears their sting—  
   In better life thou still dost sing.

Published in Chords and Discords, 1909

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