“Morning Song of Love” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Darling, my darling, my heart is on the wing,
It flies to thee this morning like a bird,
Like happy birds in springtime my spirits soar and sing,
The same sweet song thine ears have often heard.

The sun is in my window, the shadow on the lea,
The wind is moving in the branches green,
And all my life, my darling, is turning unto thee,
And kneeling at thy feet, my own, my queen.

The golden bells are ringing across the distant hill,
Their merry peals come to me soft and clear,
But in my heart’s deep chapel all incense-filled and still
A sweeter bell is sounding for thee, dear.

The bell of love invites thee to come and seek the shrine
Whose altar is erected unto thee,
The offerings, the sacrifice, the prayers, the chants are thine,
And I, my love, thy humble priest will be.

“The Glory of the Day Was In Her Face” by James Weldon Johnson


The glory of the day was in her face,
The beauty of the night was in her eyes.
And over all her loveliness, the grace
Of Morning blushing in the early skies.

And in her voice, the calling of the dove;
Like music of a sweet, melodious part.
And in her smile, the breaking light of love;
And all the gentle virtues in her heart.

And now the glorious day, the beauteous night,
The birds that signal to their mates at dawn,
To my dull ears, to my tear-blinded sight
Are one with all the dead, since she is gone.

“A Negro Love Song” by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 – 1906)


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 could n’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.

“A Song for Myself” by Melvin B. Tolson (1898 – 1966)


                                               I judge
My soul
                                               Eagle
                                               Nor mole:
                                               A man
                                               Is what
                                               He saves
                                               From rot.

Continue reading “A Song for Myself” by Melvin B. Tolson (1898 – 1966)

“A Mathematical Problem in Verse” by Benjamin Banneker


A COOPER and Vintner sat down for a talk,

Both being so groggy, that neither could walk,

Says Cooper to Vintner, “I’m the first of my trade,

There’s no kind of vessel, but what I have made,

And of any shpe, Sir, -just what you will,-

And of any size, Sir, -from a ton to a gill!”

“Then,” says the Vintner, “you’re the man for me,-

Make me a vessel, if we can agree.

The top and the bottom diameter define,

To bear that proportion as fifteen to nine,

Thirty-five inches are just what I crave,

No more and no less, in the depth, will I have;

Just thirty-nine gallons this vessel must hold,-

Then I will reward you with silver or gold,-

Give me your promise, my honest old friend?”

“I’ll make it tomorrow, that you may depend!”

So the next day the Cooper his work to discharge,

Soon made the new vessel, but made it too large;-

He took out some staves, which made it too small,

And then cursed the vessel, the Vintner and all.

He beat on his breast, “By the Powers!” – he swore,

He never would work at his trade any more.

Now my worthy friend, find out, if you can,

The vessel’s dimensions and comfort the man!*

* The greater diameter would be 24.7460 inches, the lesser 14.8476.

“Georgia Dusk” by Jean Toomer (1894 – 1967)


The sky, lazily disdaining to pursue

   The setting sun, too indolent to hold
   A lengthened tournament for flashing gold,
Passively darkens for night’s barbecue,
A feast of moon and men and barking hounds,
   An orgy for some genius of the South
   With blood-hot eyes and cane-lipped scented mouth,
Surprised in making folk-songs from soul sounds.
The sawmill blows its whistle, buzz-saws stop,
   And silence breaks the bud of knoll and hill,
   Soft settling pollen where plowed lands fulfill
Their early promise of a bumper crop.
Smoke from the pyramidal sawdust pile
   Curls up, blue ghosts of trees, tarrying low
   Where only chips and stumps are left to show
The solid proof of former domicile.
Meanwhile, the men, with vestiges of pomp,
   Race memories of king and caravan,
   High-priests, an ostrich, and a juju-man,
Go singing through the footpaths of the swamp.
Their voices rise . . the pine trees are guitars,
   Strumming, pine-needles fall like sheets of rain . .
   Their voices rise . . the chorus of the cane
Is caroling a vesper to the stars . .
O singers, resinous and soft your songs
   Above the sacred whisper of the pines,
   Give virgin lips to cornfield concubines,
Bring dreams of Christ to dusky cane-lipped throngs.

“A Golden Day” by Paul Laurence Dunbar


I Found you and I lost you,
All on a gleaming day.
The day was filled with sunshine,
And the land was full of May.

A golden bird was singing
Its melody divine,
I found you and I loved you,
And all the world was mine.

I found you and I lost you,
All on a golden day,
But when I dream of you, dear,
It is always brimming May.