Dedicated to the memory of Paul Laurence Dunbar

Oh, Poet of our Race,
We reverence thy name
As thy hist’ry we retrace,
Which enfolds thy widespread fame.
We loved thee, yea, too well,
But He dids’t love thee more
And called thee up with Him to dwell
On that Celestial shore.
Thy sorrows here on earth,
Yea, more than thou coulds’t bear,
Burdened thee from birth
E’en in their visions fair.
And thou, adored of men,
Whose bed might been of flowers,
With mighty stroke of pen
Expressed thy sad, sad hours.

Thou hast been called above,
Where all is peace and rest,
To dwell in boundless love,
Eternally and blest.
And, yet, thou still dost linger near,
For thy words, as sweetest flowers,
Do grow in beauty ’round us here
To cheer us in saddest hours.
Thy thoughts in rapture seem to soar
So far, yea, far above,
And shower a heavy downpour
Of sparkling, glittering love.
Thou, with stroke of mighty pen,
Hast told of joy and mirth,
And read the hearts and souls of men
As cradled from their birth.
The language of the flowers,
Thou hast read them all,
And e’en the little brook
Responded to thy call.
All Nature hast communed
And lingered, yea, with thee,
Their secrets were entombed
But thou hast made them free.
Oh, Poet of our Race,
Thou dost soar above;
No paths wilt thou retrace
But those of peace and love.
Thy pilgrimage is done,
Thy toils on earth are o’er,
Thy victor’s crown is won,
Thou’lt rest forever more.

This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 11, 2024, by the Academy of American Poets.