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By Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

An idle lingerer on the wayside’s road,

  He gathers up his work and yawns away;

  A little longer, ere the tiresome load

  Shall be reduced to ashes or to clay.


  No matter if the world has marched along,

  And scorned his slowness as it quickly passed;

  No matter, if amid the busy throng,

  He greets some face, infantile at the last.


  His mission? Well, there is but one,

  And if it is a mission he knows it, nay,

  To be a happy idler, to lounge and sun,

  And dreaming, pass his long-drawn days away.


  So dreams he on, his happy life to pass

  Content, without ambitions painful sighs,

  Until the sands run down into the glass;

  He smiles—content—unmoved and dies.


  And yet, with all the pity that you feel

  For this poor mothling of that flame, the world;

  Are you the better for your desperate deal,

  When you, like him, into infinitude are hurled?


Source: Violets and Other Tales (1895)

  • Arts & Sciences
  • Living
  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson
Poet, essayist, diarist, and activist Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to mixed-race parents. Her African American, Anglo, Native American, and Creole heritage contributed to her complex understandings of gender, race, and ethnicity, subjects she often addressed in her work. Her first book, Violets and Other Tales (1895), was published when she was just 20. One of the few female African American diarists of the early 20th century, she portrays the complicated reality of African American women and intellectuals, addressing topics such as racism, oppression, family, work, and sexuality. In 1898 she married the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; they separated in 1902, and Dunbar-Nelson married twice more.

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