Poems from the Past in Honor of National Poetry Month: Dayton’s Own Paul Laurence Dunbar

Voices from the past speak to us through autograph albums, letters, and diaries. In honor of National Poetry Month, we’ll be sharing poems and sayings found in our collections.

In Honor of Spring 

Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar 

Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1872, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the first African American literary figures to garner critical acclaim on a national scale. Although he lived just thirty-three years, Dunbar’s contributions in a variety of genres left a legacy that would endure through the present day.

Here are two poems on spring written by Dunbar.

Spring Song 

A blue-bell springs upon the ledge,

A lark sits singing in the hedge;

Sweet perfumes scent the balmy air,

And life is brimming everywhere!

What lark and breeze and bluebird sing,

Is Spring, Spring, Spring!


No more the air is sharp and cold;

The planter wends across the wold,

And, glad, beneath the shining sky

We wander forth, my love and I.

And ever in our hearts doth ring

This song of Spring, Spring!


For life is life and love is love,

‘Twixt maid and man or dove and dove.

Life may be short, life may be long,

But love will come, and to its song

Shall this refrain for ever cling

Of Spring, Spring, Spring!

This poem appears in the following book: Lyrics of Lowly Life 


Spring Fever 

Grass commence a-comin’

Thoo de thawin’ groun’,

Evah bird dat whistles

Keepin’ noise erroun’;

Cain’t sleep in de mo’nin’,

Case befo’ it’s light

Bluebird an’ de robin

Done begun to fight.


Bluebird sass de robin,

Robin sass him back,

Den de bluebird scol’ him

‘Twell his face is black.

Would n’ min’ de quoilin’

All de mo’nin’ long,

‘Cept it wakes me early,

Case hit’s done in song.


Anybody wo’kin’

Wants to sleep ez late

Ez de folks’ll ‘low him,

An’ I wish to state

(Co’se dis ain’t to scattah,

But ‘twix’ me an’ you),

I could stan’ de bedclothes,

Kin’ o’ latah, too.


‘T ain’t my natchul feelin’,

Dis hyeah mopin’ spell.

I stan’s early risin’

Mos’ly moughty well;

But de ve’y minute,

I feel Ap’il’s heat,

Bless yo’ soul, de bedclothes

Nevah seemed so sweet.


Mastah, he’s a-scol’in’,

Case de han’s is slow,

All de hosses balkin’,

Jes’ cain’t mek ’em go.

Don’ know whut’s de mattah,

Hit’s a funny t’ing,

I ess’n hit’s de fevah

Dat you gits in de spring.

This poem appears in the following book: Joggin’ Erlong, When Malindy Sings, Lyrics of Love and Laughter 

To learn more about Paul Laurence Dunbar, visit https://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/


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