A Thanksgiving Poem

Paul Laurence Dunbar - 1872-1906

The sun hath shed its kindly light,
   Our harvesting is gladly o’er
Our fields have felt no killing blight,
   Our bins are filled with goodly store.

From pestilence, fire, flood, and sword
   We have been spared by thy decree,
And now with humble hearts, O Lord,
   We come to pay our thanks to thee.

We feel that had our merits been
   The measure of thy gifts to us,
We erring children, born of sin,
   Might not now be rejoicing thus.

No deed of our hath brought us grace;
   When thou were nigh our sight was dull,
We hid in trembling from thy face,
   But thou, O God, wert merciful.

Thy mighty hand o’er all the land
   Hath still been open to bestow
Those blessings which our wants demand
   From heaven, whence all blessings flow.

Thou hast, with ever watchful eye,
   Looked down on us with holy care,
And from thy storehouse in the sky
   Hast scattered plenty everywhere.

Then lift we up our songs of praise
   To thee, O Father, good and kind;
To thee we consecrate our days;
   Be thine the temple of each mind.

With incense sweet our thanks ascend;
   Before thy works our powers pall;
Though we should strive years without end,
   We could not thank thee for them all.

More by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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 over-wise, 
In counting all our tears and sighs? 
Nay, let them only see us, while 
     We wear the mask.

We smile, but oh 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!

Sympathy

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;
   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats its wing
   Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
   And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting—
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
   When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
   But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings—
I know why the caged bird sings!

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.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f'om huh eye,
An' a smile go flittin' by--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Hyeahd de win' blow thoo de pine,
    Jump back, honey, jump back,
Mockin'-bird was singin' fine,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
An' my hea't was beatin' so,
When I reached my lady's do',
Dat I couldn't ba' to go--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

Put my ahm aroun' huh wais',
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an' took a tase,
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well ez I love you?
An' she answe'd, "'Cose I do"--
    Jump back, honey, jump back.