Thursday, April 13, 2006

Duke Altum's Poem of the Week #29

Best wishes to everyone for a blessed Holy Week... and to that end, here is a powerful poem that looks forward to the glorious resurrection of Christ, and with the eyes of faith wide open, hopes for our participation in that Great and Final Victory!

It's interesting to note that Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), a son of two slaves from Dayton, OH, was the first African-American poet to gain any kind of recognition for his gifts on a national stage. He was praised by the likes of Mark Twain, William Dean Howells and Frederic Douglas. His work appeared regularly in such prominent publications as The New York Times and Harper's Weekly, and he produced several collections of poems and short stories, as well as a novel, before his life was tragically cut short by tuberculosis at only 33 years of age. Dunbar is the originator of that oft-quoted, famous lament for the oppressed, "I know why the caged bird sings!"



An Easter Ode

To the cold, dark grave they go
Silently and sad and slow,
From the light of happy skies
And the glance of mortal eyes.
In their beds the violets spring,
And the brook flows murmuring;
But at eve the violets die,
And the brook in the sand runs dry.

In the rosy, blushing morn,
See, the smiling babe is born;
For a day it lives, and then
Breathes its short life out again.
And anon gaunt-visaged Death,
With his keen and icy breath,
Bloweth out the vital fire
In the hoary-headed sire.

Heeding not the children's wail,
Fathers droop and mothers fail;
Sinking sadly from each other,
Sister parts from loving brother.
All the land is filled with wailing,
Sounds of mourning garments trailing,
With their sad portent imbued,
Making melody subdued.

But in all this depth of woe
This consoling truth we know:
There will come a time of rain,
And the brook will flow again;
Where the violet fell, 'twill grow,
When the sun has chased the snow.
See in this the lesson plain,
Mortal man shall rise again.

Well the prophecy was kept;
Christ "first fruit of them that slept"
Rose with vic'try-circled brow;
So, believing one, shalt thou.
Ah! but there shall come a day
When, unhampered by this clay,
Souls shall rise to life newborn
On that resurrection morn.


Mutt Ploughman said...

Great poem for Easter, Duke. How can you not feel the hope of this powerful message?

Where did you track this down? Interesting source yet again. This series has had a such a great diversity to it. Superb editing/selections!

Duke Altum said...

Mutt, I had heard of Dunbar before, but I came across this quite by accident, when I was looking for something else... then I realized well, what could be more appropriate for the POTW last week???

Dunbar is quite the interesting figure. He wrote prolifically and was widely praised for his work (as my post said), at a time when not many black writers were even recognized as such, let alone praised. With poetry collections titled Lyrics of a Lowly Life, Majors and Minors, and Poems of Cabin and Field, a short story collection called Folks from Dixie and a novel called The Uncalled, you can tell he was an interesting writer, especially when you consider the time in our nation's history.

Thanks for your continued patronage of the series... it's been great fun to put together and keep going, like a signal fire...