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Best Famous Paul Laurence Dunbar Poems

Here is a collection of the all-time best famous Paul Laurence Dunbar poems. This is a select list of the best famous Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry. Reading, writing, and enjoying famous Paul Laurence Dunbar poetry (as well as classical and contemporary poems) is a great past time. These top poems are the best examples of Paul Laurence Dunbar poems.

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Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

We Wear the Mask

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes—
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.
Why should the world be over-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while We wear the mask.
We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile Beneath our feet, and long the mile; But let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask!

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 Therefore I dare reveal my private woe, 
The secret blots of my imperfect heart, 
Nor strive to shrink or swell mine own desert, 
Nor beautify nor hide.
For this I know, That even as I am, thou also art.
Thou past heroic forms unmoved shalt go, To pause and bide with me, to whisper low: "Not I alone am weak, not I apart Must suffer, struggle, conquer day by day.
Here is my very cross by strangers borne, Here is my bosom-sin wherefrom I pray Hourly deliverance--this my rose, my thorn.
This woman my soul's need can understand, Stretching o'er silent gulfs her sister hand.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 You know how it is waking
from a dream certain you can fly
and that someone, long gone, returned

and you are filled with longing,
for a brief moment, to drive off
the road and feel nothing

or to see the loved one and feel
Perhaps one morning, taking brush to hair you'll wonder how much of your life you've spent at this task or signing your name or rising in fog in near darkness to ready for work.
Day begins with other people's needs first and your thoughts disperse like breath.
In the in-between hour, the solitary hour, before day begins all the world gradually reappears car by car.

More great poems below...

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


They please me not—these solemn songs
That hint of sermons covered up.
'Tis true the world should heed its wrongs,
But in a poem let me sup,
Not simples brewed to cure or ease
Humanity's confessed disease,
But the spirit-wine of a singing line,
[Pg 127]Or a dew-drop in a honey cup!

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

Frederick Douglass

 A hush is over all the teeming lists,
And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn, Laments the passing of her noblest born.
She weeps for him a mother's burning tears-- She loved him with a mother's deepest love He was her champion thro' direful years, And held her weal all other ends above.
When Bondage held her bleeding in the dust, He raised her up and whispered, 'Hope and Trust.
' For her his voice, a fearless clarion, rung That broke in warning on the ears of men; For her the strong bow of his pow'r he strung And sent his arrows to the very den Where grim Oppression held his bloody place And gloated o'er the mis'ries of a race.
And he was no soft-tongued apologist; He spoke straight-forward, fearlessly uncowed; The sunlight of his truth dispelled the mist And set in bold relief each dark-hued cloud; To sin and crime he gave their proper hue, And hurled at evil what was evil's due.
Thro' good and ill report he cleaved his way Right onward, with his face set toward the heights, Nor feared to face the foeman's dread array-- The lash of scorn, the sting of petty spites.
He dared the lightning in the lightning's track, And answered thunder with his thunder back.
When men maligned him and their torrent wrath In furious imprecations o'er him broke, He kept his counsel as he kept his path; 'Twas for his race, not for himself, he spoke.
He knew the import of his Master's call And felt himself too mighty to be small.
No miser in the good he held was he-- His kindness followed his horizon's rim.
His heart, his talents and his hands were free To all who truly needed aught of him.
Where poverty and ignorance were rife, He gave his bounty as he gave his life.
The place and cause that first aroused his might Still proved its pow'r until his latest day.
In Freedom's lists and for the aid of Right Still in the foremost rank he waged the fray; Wrong lived; His occupation was not gone.
He died in action with his armor on! We weep for him, but we have touched his hand, And felt the magic of his presence nigh, The current that he sent thro' out the land, The kindling spirit of his battle-cry O'er all that holds us we shall triumph yet And place our banner where his hopes were set! Oh, Douglass, thou hast passed beyond the shore, But still thy voice is ringing o'er the gale! Thou 'st taught thy race how high her hopes may soar And bade her seek the heights, nor faint, nor fail.
She will not fail, she heeds thy stirring cry, She knows thy guardian spirit will be nigh, And rising from beneath the chast'ning rod, She stretches out her bleeding hands to God!

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

Merry Autumn

 It's all a farce,—these tales they tell 
 About the breezes sighing, 
And moans astir o'er field and dell, 
 Because the year is dying.
Such principles are most absurd,— I care not who first taught 'em; There's nothing known to beast or bird To make a solemn autumn.
In solemn times, when grief holds sway With countenance distressing, You'll note the more of black and gray Will then be used in dressing.
Now purple tints are all around; The sky is blue and mellow; And e'en the grasses turn the ground From modest green to yellow.
The seed burs all with laughter crack On featherweed and jimson; And leaves that should be dressed in black Are all decked out in crimson.
A butterfly goes winging by; A singing bird comes after; And Nature, all from earth to sky, Is bubbling o'er with laughter.
The ripples wimple on the rills, Like sparkling little lasses; The sunlight runs along the hills, And laughs among the grasses.
The earth is just so full of fun It really can't contain it; And streams of mirth so freely run The heavens seem to rain it.
Don't talk to me of solemn days In autumn's time of splendor, Because the sun shows fewer rays, And these grow slant and slender.
Why, it's the climax of the year,— The highest time of living!— Till naturally its bursting cheer Just melts into thanksgiving.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

The Paradox

 I am the mother of sorrows, 
I am the ender of grief; 
I am the bud and the blossom, 
I am the late-falling leaf.
I am thy priest and thy poet, I am thy serf and thy king; I cure the tears of the heartsick, When I come near they shall sing.
White are my hands as the snowdrop; Swart are my fingers as clay; Dark is my frown as the midnight, Fair is my brow as the day.
Battle and war are my minions, Doing my will as divine; I am the calmer of passions, Peace is a nursling of mine.
Speak to me gently or curse me, Seek me or fly from my sight; I am thy fool in the morning, Thou art my slave in the night.
Down to the grave I will take thee, Out from the noise of the strife, Then shalt thou see me and know me-- Death, then, no longer, but life.
Then shalt thou sing at my coming, Kiss me with passionate breath, Clasp me and smile to have thought me Aught save the foeman of death.
Come to me, brother, when weary, Come when thy lonely heart swells; I'll guide thy footsteps and lead thee Down where the Dream Woman dwells.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 WHO dat knockin' at de do'?
Why, Ike Johnson, -- yes, fu' sho!
Come in, Ike.
I's mighty glad You come down.
I t'ought you's mad At me 'bout de othah night, An' was stayin' 'way fu' spite.
Say, now, was you mad fu' true W'en I kin' o' laughed at you? Speak up, Ike, an' 'spress yo'se'f.
'T ain't no use a-lookin' sad, An' a-mekin' out you's mad; Ef you's gwine to be so glum, Wondah why you evah come.
I don't lak nobody 'roun' Dat jes' shet dey mouf an' frown,-- Oh, now, man, don't act a dunce! Cain't you talk? I tol' you once, Speak up, Ike, an' 'spress yo'se'f.
Wha'd you come hyeah fu' to-night? Body'd t'ink yo' haid ain't right.
I's done all dat I kin do,-- Dressed perticler, jes' fu' you; Reckon I'd 'a' bettah wo' My ol' ragged calico.
Aftah all de pains I's took, Cain't you tell me how I look? Speak up, Ike, an' 'spress yo'se'f.
Bless my soul! I 'mos' fu'got Tellin' you 'bout Tildy Scott.
Don't you know, come Thu'sday night, She gwine ma'y Lucius White? Miss Lize say I allus wuh Heap sight laklier 'n huh; An' she'll git me somep'n new, Ef I wants to ma'y too.
Speak up, Ike, an' 'spress yo'se'f.
I could ma'y in a week, Ef de man I wants 'ud speak.
Tildy's presents'll be fine, But dey would n't ekal mine.
Him whut gits me fu' a wife 'Ll be proud, you bet yo' life.
I's had offers; some ain't quit; But I has n't ma'ied yit! Speak up, Ike, an' 'spress yo'se'f.
Ike, I loves you,--yes, I does; You's my choice, and allus was.
Laffin' at you ain't no harm.
-- Go 'way, dahky, whaih's yo' arm? Hug me closer--dah, dat's right! Was n't you a awful sight, Havin' me to baig you so? Now ax whut you want to know,-- Speak up, Ike, an' 'spress yo'se'f!

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

Frederick Douglass

 When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful 
and terrible thing, needful to man as air, 
usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all, 
when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole, 
reflex action; when it is finally won; when it is more 
than the gaudy mumbo jumbo of politicians:
this man, this Douglass, this former slave, this Negro 
beaten to his knees, exiled, visioning a world 
where none is lonely, none hunted, alien, 
this man, superb in love and logic, this man 
shall be remembered.
Oh, not with statues' rhetoric, not with legends and poems and wreaths of bronze alone, but with the lives grown out of his life, the lives fleshing his dream of the beautiful, needful thing.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

Common Things

 I like to hear of wealth and gold, 
And El Doradoes in their glory; 
I like for silks and satins bold 
To sweep and rustle through a story.
The nightingale is sweet of song; The rare exotic smells divinely; And knightly men who stride along, The role heroic carry finely.
But then, upon the other hand, Our minds have got a way of running To things that aren't quite so grand, Which, maybe, we are best in shunning.
For some of us still like to see The poor man in his dwelling narrow, The hollyhock, the bumblebee, The meadow lark, and chirping sparrow.
We like the man who soars and sings With high and lofty inspiration; But he who sings of common things Shall always share our admiration.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

A Negro Love Song

 Seen my lady home las' night, 
Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel' huh han' an' sque'z it tight, Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh, Seen a light gleam f'om huh eye, An' a smile go flittin' by -- Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd de win' blow thoo de pine, Jump back, honey, jump back.
Mockin'-bird was singin' fine, Jump back, honey, jump back.
An' my hea't was beatin' so, When I reached my lady's do', Dat I could n't ba' to go -- Jump back, honey, jump back.
Put my ahm aroun' huh wais', Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an' took a tase, Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true? Love me well ez I love you? An' she answe'd, "'Cose I do"-- Jump back, honey, jump back.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

A Golden Day

 I Found you and I lost you, 
All on a gleaming day.
The day was filled with sunshine, And the land was full of May.
A golden bird was singing Its melody divine, I found you and I loved you, And all the world was mine.
I found you and I lost you, All on a golden day, But when I dream of you, dear, It is always brimming May.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 He was a poet who wrote clever verses, 
And folks said he had a fine poetical taste; 
But his father, a practical farmer, accused him 
Of letting the strength of his arm go to waste.
He called on his sweetheart each Saturday evening, As pretty a maiden as ever man faced, And there he confirmed the old man's accusation By letting the strength of his arm go to waist.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

If I Could But Forget

 If I could but forget 
The fullness of those first sweet days, 
When you burst sun-like thro' the haze 
Of unacquaintance, on my sight, 
And made the wet, gray day seem bright 
While clouds themselves grew fair to see.
And since, no day is gray or wet But all the scene comes back to me, If I could but forget.
If I could but forget How your dusk eyes look into mine, And how I thrilled as with strong wine Beneath your touch; while sped amain The quickened stream thro' ev'ry vein; How near my breath fell to a gasp, When for a space our fingers met In one electric vibrant clasp, If I could but forget.
If I could but forget The months of passion and of pain, And all that followed in their train-- Rebellious thoughts that would arise, Rebellious tears that dimmed mine eyes, The prayers that I might set love's fire Aflame within your bosom yet-- The death at last of that desire-- If I could but forget.

Written by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

A Choice

 They please me not-- these solemn songs 
That hint of sermons covered up.
'T is true the world should heed its wrongs, But in a poem let me sup, Not simples brewed to cure or ease Humanity's confessed disease, But the spirit-wine of a singing line, Or a dew-drop in a honey cup!