Paul Laurence Dunbar
Dunbar was born in Dayton, Ohio to parents who had escaped from slavery; his father was a veteran of the American Civil War, having served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment. His parents instilled in him a love of learning and history. He was a student at an all-white high school, Dayton Central High School, and he participated actively as a student. During high school, he was both the editor of the school newspaper and class president, as well as the president of the school literary society. Dunbar had also started the first African-American newsletter in Dayton.
He wrote his first poem at age 6 and gave his first public... more »
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Paul Laurence Dunbar Poems
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,
It may be misery not to sing at all, And to go silent through the brimming day; It may be misery never to be loved, But deeper griefs than these beset the way.
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.
Summer in the South
The Oriole sings in the greening grove As if he were half-way waiting, The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green, Timid, and hesitating.
I know what the caged bird feels, alas! When the sun is bright on the upland slopes; When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass, And the river flows like a stream of glass;
The mist has left the greening plain, The dew-drops shine like fairy rain, The coquette rose awakes again Her lovely self adorning.
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,
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,
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.
When Malindy Sings
G'way an' quit dat noise, Miss Lucy-- Put dat music book away; What's de use to keep on tryin'? Ef you practise twell you're gray,
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.
Little Brown Baby
Little brown baby wif spa'klin' eyes, Come to yo' pappy an' set on his knee. What you been doin', suh -- makin' san' pies? Look at dat bib -- you's es du'ty ez me.
Ah, Douglass, we have fall'n on evil days, Such days as thou, not even thou didst know, When thee, the eyes of that harsh long ago Saw, salient, at the cross of devious ways,
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.
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Edgar Allan Poe
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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 overwise,
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!