Skip to main content
By Paul Laurence Dunbar

I am the mother of sorrows,

   I am the ender of grief;

I am the bud and the blossom,

   I am the late-falling leaf.


I am thy priest and thy poet,

   I am thy serf and thy king;

I cure the tears of the heartsick,

   When I come near they shall sing.


White are my hands as the snowdrop;

   Swart are my fingers as clay;

Dark is my frown as the midnight,

   Fair is my brow as the day.


Battle and war are my minions,

   Doing my will as divine;

I am the calmer of passions,

   Peace is a nursling of mine.


Speak to me gently or curse me,

   Seek me or fly from my sight;

I am thy fool in the morning,

   Thou art my slave in the night.


Down to the grave will I take thee,

   Out from the noise of the strife;

Then shalt thou see me and know me—

   Death, then, no longer, but life.


Then shalt thou sing at my coming,

   Kiss me with passionate breath,

Clasp me and smile to have thought me

   Aught save the foeman of Death.


Come to me, brother, when weary,

   Come when thy lonely heart swells;

I’ll guide thy footsteps and lead thee

   Down where the Dream Woman dwells.


Source: African-American Poetry of the Nineteenth Century: An Anthology (University of Illinois Press, 1992)

  • Social Commentaries

Poet Bio

Paul Laurence Dunbar
The son of former slaves, Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American poet to reach a wide audience, publishing prolifically before his early death. His use of both dialect and standard English to portray his culture’s folkways, joys, and travails distinguishes him from other writers of the time. He also spoke out against racism and injustice in essays that appeared in the Atlantic Monthly, the Saturday Evening Post, and other mainstream publications.

More By This Poet

More Poems about Social Commentaries

Browse poems about Social Commentaries