16+ Best Paul Laurence Dunbar Poems Worth Reading

Paul Laurence Dunbar became one of the first influential Black poets in American literature. His reputation rests upon his verse written in black dialect. Powerful collection of profoundly inspirational Paul Laurence Dunbar poems will brighten up your day and make you feel ready to take on anything.

If you’re searching for the greatest poetry of all time that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of famous Billy Collins poems, selected Countee Cullen poems, and best known poems by Leonard Cohen.

Most Famous Paul Laurence Dunbar Poems

Speakin’ At De Cou’T-House

Dey been speakin’ at de cou’t-house,
An’ laws-a-massy me,
‘T was de beatness kin’ o’ doin’s
Dat evah I did see.
Of cose I had to be dah
In de middle o’ de crowd,
An’ I hallohed wid de othahs,
Wen de speakah riz and bowed.

I was kind o’ disapp’inted
At de smallness of de man,
Case I ‘d allus pictered great folks
On a mo’ expansive plan;
But I t’ought I could respect him
An’ tek in de wo’ds he said,
Fu’ dey sho was somp’n knowin’
In de bald spot on his haid.

But hit did seem so’t o’ funny
Aftah waitin’ fu’ a week
Dat de people kep’ on shoutin’
So de man des could n’t speak;
De ho’ns dey blared a little,
Den dey let loose on de drums,–.
Some one toll me dey was playin’
‘See de conkerin’ hero comes.’

‘Well,’ says I, ‘you all is white folks,
But you ‘s sutny actin’ queer,
What’s de use of heroes comin’
Ef dey cain’t talk w’en dey’s here?’
Aftah while dey let him open,
An’ dat man he waded in,
An’ he fit de wahs all ovah
Winnin’ victeries lak sin.

Wen he come down to de present,
Den he made de feathahs fly.
He des waded in on money,
An’ he played de ta’iff high.
An’ he said de colah question,
Hit was ovah, solved, an’ done,
Dat de dahky was his brothah,
Evah blessed mothah’s son.

Well he settled all de trouble
Dat’s been pesterin’ de lan’,
Den he set down mid de cheerin’
An’ de playin’ of de ban’.
I was feelin’ moughty happy
‘Twell I hyeahed somebody speak,
‘Well, dat’s his side of de bus’ness,
But you wait for Jones nex’ week.’

Reluctance

Will I have some mo’ dat pie?
No, ma’am, thank-ee, dat is–I–
Bettah quit daihin’ me.
Dat ah pie look sutny good:
How ‘d you feel now ef I would?
I don’ reckon dat I should;
Bettah quit daihin’ me.

Look hyeah, I gwine tell de truf,
Mine is sholy one sweet toof:
Bettah quit daihin’ me.
Yass’m, yass’m, dat’s all right,
I ‘s done tried to be perlite:
But dat pie ‘s a lakly sight,
Wha ‘s de use o’ daihin’ me?

My, yo’ lips is full an’ red,
Don’t I wish you ‘d tu’n yo’ haid?
Bettah quit daihin’ me.
Dat ain’t faih, now, honey chile,
I ‘s gwine lose my sense erwhile
Ef you des set daih an’ smile,
Bettah quit daihin’ me.

Nuffin’ don’ look ha’f so fine
Ez dem teef, deah, w’en dey shine:
Bettah quit daihin’ me.
Now look hyeah, I tells you dis;
I ‘ll give up all othah bliss
Des to have one little kiss,
Bettah quit daihin’ me.

Laws, I teks yo’ little han’,
Ain’t it tendah? bless de lan’–
Bettah quit daihin’ me.
I ‘s so lonesome by myse’f,
‘D ain’t no fun in livin’ lef’;
Dis hyeah life’s ez dull ez def:
Bettah quit daihin’ me.

Why n’t you tek yo’ han’ erway?
Yass, I ‘ll hol’ it: but I say
Bettah quit daihin’ me.
Holin’ han’s is sholy fine.
Seems lak dat ‘s de weddin’ sign.
Wish you ‘d say dat you ‘d be mine;–
Dah you been daihin’ me.

Right’s Security

WHAT if the wind do howl without,
And turn the creaking weather-vane;
What if the arrows of the rain
Do beat against the window-pane?
Art thou not armored strong and fast
Against the sallies of the blast?
Art thou not sheltered safe and well
Against the flood’s insistent swell?
What boots it, that thou stand’st alone,
And laughest in the battle’s face
When all the weak have fled the place
And let their feet and fears keep pace?
Thou wavest still thine ensign, high,
And shoutest thy loud battle-cry;
Higher than e’er the tempest roared,
It cleaves the silence like a sword.
Right arms and armors, too, that man
Who will not compromise with wrong;
Though single, he must front the throng,
And wage the battle hard and long.
Minorities, since time began,
Have shown the better side of man;
And often in the lists of Time
One man has made a cause sublime!

The Boogah Man 

W’EN de evenin’ shadders
Come a-glidin’ down,
Fallin’ black an’ heavy
Ovah hill an’ town,
Ef you listen keerful,
Keerful ez you kin,
So’s you boun’ to notice
Des a drappin’ pin;
Den you’ll hyeah a funny
Soun’ ercross de lan’;
Lay low; dat’s de callin’
Of de Boogah Man!
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Hyeah him ez he go erlong de way;
Woo-oo, woo-o!
Don’ you wish de night’ ud tu’n to day?
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Hide yo’ little peepers ‘hind yo’ han’;
Woo-oo,woo-oo!
Callin’ of de Boogah Man.
W’en de win’s a-shiverin’
Thoo de gloomy lane,
An’ dey comes de patterin’
Of de evenin’ rain,
W’en de owl’s a-hootin’,
Out daih in de wood,
Don’ you wish, my honey,
Dat you had been good?
‘T ain’t no use to try to
Snuggle up to Dan;
Bless you, dat’s de callin’
Of de Boogah Man!
Ef you loves yo’ mammy,
An’ you min’s yo’ pap,
Ef you nevah wriggles
Outen Sukey’s lap;
Ef you says yo’ ‘Lay me’
Evah single night
‘Fo’ dey tucks de kivers
An’ puts out de light,
Den de rain kin pattah,
Win’ blow lak a fan,
But you need n’ bothah
‘Bout de Boogah Man!

The Bohemian

Bring me the livery of no other man.
I am my own to robe me at my pleasure.
Accepted rules to me disclose no treasure:
What is the chief who shall my garments plan?
No garb conventional but I ‘ll attack it.
(Come, why not don my spangled jacket?)

The Discovery

THESE are the days of elfs and fays:
Who says that with the dreams of myth,
These imps and elves disport themselves?
Ah no, along the paths of song
Do all the tiny folk belong.
Round all our homes,
Kobolds and gnomes do daily cling,
Then nightly fling their lanterns out.
And shout on shout, they join the rout,
And sing, and sing, within the sweet enchanted ring.
Where gleamed the guile of moonlight’s smile,
Once paused I, listening for a while,
And heard the lay, unknown by day, —
The fairies’ dancing roundelay.
Queen Mab was there, her shimmering hair
Each fairy prince’s heart’s despair.
She smiled to see their sparkling glee,
And once I ween, she smiled at me.
Since when, you may by night or day,
Dispute the sway of elf-folk gay;
But, hear me, stay!
I’ve learned the way to find Queen Mab and elf and fay.
Where e’er by streams, the moonlight gleams,
Or on a meadow softly beams,
There, footing round on dew-lit ground,
The fairy folk may all be found.

The Dilettante: A Modern Type

HE scribbles some in prose and verse,
And now and then he prints it;
He paints a little, — gathers some
Of Nature’s gold and mints it.
He plays a little, sings a song,
Acts tragic roles, or funny;
He does, because his love is strong,
But not, oh, not for money!
He studies almost everything
From social art to science;
A thirsty mind, a flowing spring,
Demand and swift compliance.
He looms above the sordid crowd —
At least through friendly lenses;
While his mamma looks pleased and proud,
And kindly pays expenses.

The Delinquent

GOO’-BY, Jinks, I got to hump,
Got to mek dis pony jump;
See dat sun a-goin’ down
‘N’ me a-foolin’ hyeah in town!
Git up, Suke — go long!
Guess Mirandy’ll think I’s tight,
Me not home an’ comin’ on night.
What’s dat stan’in’ by de fence?
Pshaw! why don’t I lu’n some sense?
Git up, Suke — go long!
Guess I spent down dah at Jinks’
Mos’ a dollah fur de drinks.
Bless yo’r soul, you see dat star?
Lawd, but won’t Mirandy rar?
Git up, Suke — go long!
Went dis mo’nin’, hyeah it’s night,
Dab’s de cabin dah in sight.
Who’s dat stan’in’ in de do’?
Dat must be Mirandy, sho’,
Git up, Suke — go long!
Got de close-stick in huh han’,
Dat look funny, goodness lan’,
Sakes alibe, but she look glum!
Hyeah, Mirandy, hyeah I come!
Git up, Suke — go long!
Ef ‘t hadn’t a be’n fur you, you slow ole fool,
I’d a’ be’n home long fo’ now!

The Death Of The First Born

COVER him over with daisies white,
And eke with the poppies red,
Sit with me here by his couch to-night,
For the First-Born, Love, is dead.
Poor little fellow, he seemed so fair
As he lay in my jealous arms;
Silent and cold he is lying there
Stripped of his darling charms.
Lusty and strong he had grown forsooth,
Sweet with an infinite grace,
Proud in the force of his conquering youth,
Laughter alight in his face.
Oh, but the blast, it was cruel and keen,
And ah, but the chill it was rare;
The look of the winter-kissed flow’r you’ve seen
When meadows and fields were bare.
Can you not wake from this white, cold sleep
And speak to me once again?
True that your slumber is deep, so deep,
But deeper by far is my pain.
Cover him over with daisies white,
And eke with the poppies red,
Sit with me here by his couch to-night,
For the First-Born, Love, is dead.

The Dance

Heel and toe, heel and toe,
That is the song we sing;
Turn to your partner and curtsey low,
Balance and forward and swing.
Corners are draughty and meadows are white,
This is the game for a winter’s night.

Hands around, hands around,
Trip it, and not too slow;
Clear is the fiddle and sweet its sound,
Keep the girls’ cheeks aglow.
Still let your movements be dainty and light,
This is the game for a winter’s night.

Back to back, back to back,
Turn to your place again;
Never let lightness nor nimbleness lack,
Either in maidens or men.
Time hasteth ever, beware of its flight,
Oh, what a game for a winter’s night!

Slower now, slower now,
Softer the music sighs;
Look, there are beads on your partner’s brow
Though there be light in her eyes.
Lead her away and her grace requite,
So goes the game on a winter’s night.

The Change Has Come

THE change has come, and Helen sleeps—
Not sleeps; but wakes to greater deeps
Of wisdom, glory, truth, and light,
Than ever blessed her seeking sight,
In this low, long, lethargic night,
Worn out with strife
Which men call life.
The change has come, and who would say
‘I would it were not come to-day’?
What were the respite till to-morrow?
Postponement of a certain sorrow,
From which each passing day would borrow!
Let grief be dumb,
The change has come.

The Lapse

This poem must be done to-day;
Then, I ‘ll e’en to it.
I must not dream my time away,–
I ‘m sure to rue it.
The day is rather bright, I know
The Muse will pardon
My half-defection, if I go
Into the garden.
It must be better working there,–
I ‘m sure it’s sweeter:
And something in the balmy air
May clear my metre.
Ah this is noble, what a sky!
What breezes blowing!
The very clouds, I know not why,
Call one to rowing.
The stream will be a paradise
To-day, I ‘ll warrant.
I know the tide that’s on the rise
Will seem a torrent;
I know just how the leafy boughs
Are all a-quiver;
I know how many skiffs and scows
Are on the river.
I think I ‘ll just go out awhile
Before I write it;
When Nature shows us such a smile,
We should n’t slight it.
For Nature always makes desire
By giving pleasure;
And so ‘t will help me put more fire
Into my measure.
The river’s fine, I ‘m glad I came,
That poem ‘s teasing;
But health is better far than fame,
Though cheques are pleasing.
I don’t know what I did it for,–
This air ‘s a poppy.
I ‘m sorry for my editor,–
He ‘ll get no copy!

The Garret

Within a London garret high,
Above the roofs and near the sky,
My ill-rewarding pen I ply
To win me bread.
This little chamber, six by four,
Is castle, study, den, and more,–
Altho’ no carpet decks the floor,
Nor down, the bed.

My room is rather bleak and bare;
I only have one broken chair,
But then, there’s plenty of fresh air,–
Some light, beside.
What tho’ I cannot ask my friends
To share with me my odds and ends,
A liberty my aerie lends,
To most denied.

The bore who falters at the stair
No more shall be my curse and care,
And duns shall fail to find my lair
With beastly bills.
When debts have grown and funds are short,
I find it rather pleasant sport
To live ‘above the common sort’
With all their ills.

I write my rhymes and sing away,
And dawn may come or dusk or day:
Tho’ fare be poor, my heart is gay.
And full of glee.
Though chimney-pots be all my views;
‘T is nearer for the winging Muse,
So I am sure she ‘ll not refuse
To visit me.

The Fount Of Tears

All hot and grimy from the road,
Dust gray from arduous years,
I sat me down and eased my load
Beside the Fount of Tears.

The waters sparkled to my eye,
Calm, crystal-like, and cool,
And breathing there a restful sigh,
I bent me to the pool.

When, lo! a voice cried: ‘Pilgrim, rise,
Harsh tho’ the sentence be,
And on to other lands and skies–
This fount is not for thee.

‘Pass on, but calm thy needless fears,
Some may not love or sin,
An angel guards the Fount of Tears;
All may not bathe therein.’

Then with my burden on my back
I turned to gaze awhile,
First at the uninviting track,
Then at the water’s smile.

And so I go upon my way,
Thro’out the sultry years,
But pause no more, by night, by day,
Beside the Fount of Tears.

The Fisher Child’s Lullaby

THE wind is out in its rage to-night,
And your father is far at sea.
The rime on the window is hard and white
But dear, you are near to me.
Heave ho, weave low,
Waves of the briny deep;
Seethe low and breathe low,
But sleep you, my little one, sleep, sleep.
The little boat rocks in the cove no more,
But the flying sea-gulls wail;
I peer through the darkness that wraps the shore,
For sight of a home set sail.
Heave ho, weave low,
Waves of the briny deep;
Seethe low and breathe low,
But sleep you, my little one, sleep, sleep.
Ay, lad of mine, thy father may die
In the gale that rides the sea,
But we’ll not believe it, not you and I,
Who mind us of Galilee.
Heave ho, weave low,
Waves of the briny deep;
Seethe low and breathe low,
But sleep you, my little one, sleep, sleep.

The Disturber

Oh, what shall I do? I am wholly upset;
I am sure I ‘ll be jailed for a lunatic yet.
I ‘ll be out of a job–it’s the thing to expect
When I ‘m letting my duty go by with neglect.
You may judge the extent and degree of my plight
When I ‘m thinking all day and a-dreaming all night,
And a-trying my hand at a rhyme on the sly,
All on account of a sparkling eye.

There are those who say men should be strong, well-a-day!
But what constitutes strength in a man? Who shall say?
I am strong as the most when it comes to the arm.
I have aye held my own on the playground or farm.
And when I ‘ve been tempted, I haven’t been weak;
But now–why, I tremble to hear a maid speak.
I used to be bold, but now I ‘ve grown shy,
And all on account of a sparkling eye.

There once was a time when my heart was devout,
But now my religion is open to doubt.
When parson is earnestly preaching of grace,
My fancy is busy with drawing a face,
Thro’ the back of a bonnet most piously plain;
‘I draw it, redraw it, and draw it again.’
While the songs and the sermon unheeded go by,–
All on account of a sparkling eye.

Oh, dear little conjurer, give o’er your wiles,
It is easy for you, you’re all blushes and smiles:
But, love of my heart, I am sorely perplexed;
I am smiling one minute and sighing the next;
And if it goes on, I ‘ll drop hackle and flail,
And go to the parson and tell him my tale.
I warrant he ‘ll find me a cure for the sigh
That you ‘re aye bringing forth with the glance of your eye.

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