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Best Famous Paul Laurence Dunbar Poems

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by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

Howdy Honey Howdy

 DO' a-stan'in' on a jar, fiah a-shinin'
Ol' folks drowsin' 'roun' de place, 
wide awake is Lou,
W'en I tap, she answah, an' I see
huh 'mence to grin,
"Howdy, honey, howdy, won't you 
step right in?"

by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 I have seen peoples come and go 
Alike the Ocean'd ebb and flow; 
I have seen kingdoms rise and fall 
Like springtime shadows on a wall. 
I have seen houses rendered great 
That grew from life's debased estate, 
And all, all, all is change I see, 
So, dearest God, take me, take me.

by Paul Laurence Dunbar |

The Debt

 This is the debt I pay 
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.
Pay it I will to the end --
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release --
Gives me the clasp of peace.
Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best --
God! but the interest!

by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 Because you love me I have much achieved, 
Had you despised me then I must have failed, 
But since I knew you trusted and believed, 
I could not disappoint you and so prevailed.

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
everything. 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.

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.

by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 O'ER fallow plains and fertile meads,
AURORA lifts the torch of day;
The shad'wy brow of Night recedes,
Cold dew-drops fall from every spray;
Now o'er the thistle's rugged head,
Thin veils of filmy vapour fly,
On ev'ry violet's perfum'd bed
The sparkling gems of Nature lie. 

The hill's tall brow is crown'd with gold,
The Milk-maid trills her jocund lay,
The Shepherd-boy unpens his fold,
The Lambs along the meadows play;
The pilf'ring LARK, with speckled breast,
From the ripe sheaf's rich banquet flies;
And lifting high his plumy crest,
Soars the proud tenant of the skies. 

The PEASANT steals with timid feet,
And gently taps the cottage door;
Or on the green sod takes his seat,
And chaunts some well-known ditty o'er;
Wak'd by the strain, the blushing MAID,
Unpractis'd in Love's mazy wiles, 
In clean, but homely garb array'd,
From the small casement peeps­and smiles. 

Proud CHANTICLEER unfolds his wing,
And flutt'ring struts in plumage gay;
The glades with vocal echoes ring,
Soft odours deck the hawthorn spray;
The SCHOOL-BOY saunters o'er the green,
With satchel, fill'd with Learning's store;
While with dejected, sullen mien,
He cons his tedious lesson o'er. 

When WINTER spreads her banner chill,
And sweeps the vale with freezing pow'r;
And binds in spells the vagrant rill,
And shrivels ev'ry ling'ring flow'r;
When NATURE quits her verdant dress,
And drops to earth her icy tears;
E'EN THEN thy tardy glance can bless,
And soft thy weeping eye appears. 

Then at the Horn's enliv'ning peal,
Keen Sportsmen for the chase prepare;
Thro' the young Copse shrill echoes steal,
Swift flies the tim'rous, panting hare;
From ev'ry straw-thatch'd cottage soars
Blue curling smoke in many a cloud;
Around the Barn's expanded doors,
The feather'd throng impatient crowd. 

Such are thy charms! health-breathing scene!
Where Nature's children revel gay; 
Where Plenty smiles with radiant mien,
And Labour crowns the circling day;
Where Peace, in conscious Virtue blest,
Invites the Heart to joy supreme;
While polish'd Splendour pants for rest
And pines in Fashion's fev'rish dream.

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.

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."

by Paul Laurence Dunbar |


 I'm afraid of needles.
I'm tired of rubber sheets and tubes.
I'm tired of faces that I don't know
and now I think that death is starting.
Death starts like a dream,
full of objects and my sister's laughter.
We are young and we are walking
and picking wild blueberries.
all the way to Damariscotta.
Oh Susan, she cried.
you've stained your new waist.
Sweet taste --
my mouth so full
and the sweet blue running out
all the way to Damariscotta.
What are you doing? Leave me alone!
Can't you see I'm dreaming?
In a dream you are never eighty.