poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this Poem 

“Compensation” was originally published in Dunbar’s 1905 collection Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow.

Compensation

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 - 1906

Because I had loved so deeply,
Because I had loved so long,
God in His great compassion
Gave me the gift of song.

Because I have loved so vainly,
And sung with such faltering breath,
The Master in infinite mercy
Offers the boon of Death.

This poem is in the public domain. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2014.

This poem is in the public domain. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2014.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

One of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition, Paul Laurence Dunbar is the author of many books of poetry

by this poet

poem
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
poem
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
poem
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