On An Old Book With Uncut Leaves
by Paul Lawrence Dunbar (1872 – 1906)
Emblem of blasted hope and lost desire,
No finger ever traced thy yellow page
Save Time’s. Thou hast not wrought to noble rage
The hearts thou wouldst have stirred. Not any fire
Save sad flames set to light a funeral pyre
Dost thou suggest. Nay,–impotent in age,
Unsought, thou holdst a corner of the stage
And ceasest even dumbly to aspire.
How different was the thought of him that writ.
What promised he to love of ease and wealth,
When men should read and kindle at his wit.
But here decay eats up the book by stealth,
While it, like some old maiden, solemnly,
Hugs its incongruous virginity
I wonder if you have to be a writer to understand the sadness of this poem? Only writers think about such things as whether the words they put forth are destined to languish, untouched and unbidden, between the pages of a fading dust jacket. Dunbar is one of the those writers who does everything well. He wrote beautiful classical poetry, he wrote free verse and he also wrote lyrics to songs and poems in the vernacular of his day. He just flat out wrote.
by Paul Lawrence Dunbar
Thou art the soul of a summer’s day,
Thou art the breath of the rose.
But the summer is fled
And the rose is dead;
Where are they gone, who knows?
Thou art the blood of my heart o’ hearts,
Thou art my soul’s repose
But my heart grows numb
And my soul is dumb;
Where art thou, love, who knows?
Thou art the hope of my after years —
Sun for my winter snows;
But the years go by
`Neath a clouded sky.
Where shall we meet, who knows?