Paul Laurence Dunbar1872-1906:He was the first African-American poet to make aliving from writing. Hewrote his first poem atage six and gave his firstpublic recital at age nine.
IoneAh, yes, ‘t is sweet still to remember, Though ‘t were less painful to forget;For while my heart glows like an ember, Mine eyes with sorrow’s drops are wet, And, oh, my heart is aching yet.It is a law of mortal pain That old wounds, long accounted well, Beneath the memory’s potent spell,Will wake to life and bleed again.So ‘t is with me; it might be better If I should turn no look behind, --If I could curb my heart and fetter, From reminiscent gaze my mind, Or let my soul go blind – go blind!But would I do it if I could? Nay! Ease at such a price were spurned; For, since my love was once returned,All that I suffer seemth good.I know, I know it is the fashion, When love has left some heart distressed,To weight the air with wordful passion;But I am glad that in my breast I ever held so dear a guest.Love does not come at every nod, Or every voice that calleth “hasten;”. . .
UnexpressedDeep in my heart that aches with the repression, And strives with plentitude of bitter pain,There lives a thought that clamors for expression, And spends its undelivered force in vain.What boasts it that some other may have thought it? The right of thoughts’ expression is divine;The price of pain I pay for it has bought it, I care not who lays claim to it – ‘t is mine!And yet not mine until it be delivered; The manner of its birth shall prove the test.Alas, alas, my rock of pride is shivered – I beat my brow – the thought still unexpressed.
LongingIf you could sit with me beside the sea to-day,And whisper with me sweetest dreamings o’er and o’er;I think I should not find the clouds so dim and gray,And not so loud the waves complaining at the shore.If you could sit with me upon the shore to-day,And hold my hand in yours as in the days of old,I think I should not mind the chill baptismal spray,Nor find my hand and heart and all the world so cold.If you could walk with me upon the sand to-day,And tell me that my longing love had won your own,I think all my sad thoughts would then be put away,And I could give back laughter the Ocean’s moan!
Ere Sleep Comes Down to Soothe the Weary EyesEre sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, Which all the day with ceaseless care have soughtThe magic gold which from the seeker flies; Ere dreams put on the gown and cap of thought,And make the waking world a world of lies, -- Of lies most palpable, uncouth, forlorn,That say life’s full of aches and tears and sighs, -- Oh, how with more than dreams the soul is torn,Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes, What phantoms fill the dimly lighted room;What ghostly shades in awe-creating guide Are bodies forth within the teeming gloom.What echoes faint of sad and soul-sick cries, And pangs of vague inexplicable painThat pay the spirit’s ceaseless enterprise,. . .
Robert Frost1874-1963Using traditional verseforms, he wrote aboutsearching and often aboutdark mediations onuniversal themes. His workis infused with layers ofambiguity and irony.
Fire and IceSome say the world will end in fire,Some say in ice.From what I’ve tasted of desireI hold with those who favor fire.But if it had to perish twice,I think I know enough of hateTo know that for destruction iceIs also greatAnd would suffice.
Stopping By Woods on a Snowy EveningWhose woods these are I think I know.His house is in the village, though;He will not see me stopping hereTo watch his woods fill up with snow.My little horse must think it queerTo stop without a farmhouse nearBetween the woods and frozen lakeThe darkest evening of the year.He gives his harness bells a shakeTo ask if there is some mistake,The only other sound’s the sweepOf easy wind and downy flake.The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,But I have promises to keep,And miles to go before I sleep,And miles to go before I sleep.
NovemberWe saw leaves go to glory,then almost migratorygo part way down the lane,and then to end the storyget beaten down and pastedin one wild day of rain.We heard “’Tis over” roaring.A year of leaves was wasted.Oh, we make a boast of storing,of saving and of keeping,but only by ignoringthe waste of moments sleeping,the waste of pleasure weeping,by denying and ignoringthe waste of nations warring.
My November GuestMy sorrow, when she’s here with me, thinks these dark days of autumn rainAre beautiful as days can be;She loves the bare, withered tree; She walks the sodden pasture lane.Her pleasure will not let me stay, She talks and I am fain to list;She’s glad the birds are gone away,She’s glad her simple worsted grey Is silver now with clinging mist.The desolate, deserted trees, The faded earth, the heavy sky,The beauties she so truly sees,She thinks I have no eye for these, And vexes me for reason why.Now yesterday I learned to know The love of bare November daysBefore the coming of the snow,But it were vain to tell her so, And they are better for her praise.
Langston Hughes1902-1967He lived with hisgrandmother inLawrence, Kansas, until hewas thirteen. He wasnamed class poet of hiseighth-grade class. Heused the rhythms ofAfrican-Americanmusic, particularly bluesand jazz in his poems.
SilenceI catch the patternOf your silenceBefore you speak.I do not needTo hear a word.In your silenceEvery tone I seekIs heard.
RefugeeLoneliness terrific beats on my heart,Bending the bitter broken boughs of pain.Stunned by the onslaught that tears the sky apartI stand with unprotected head against the rain.Loneliness terrific turns to panic and to fear.I hear my footsteps on the stairs of yesteryear,Where are you? Oh, where are you?Once so dear.
GirlShe lived in sinful happinessAnd died in pain.She danced in sunshineAnd laughed in rain.She went one summer morningWhen flowers spread the plain,But she told everybodyShe was coming back again.Folks made a coffinAnd hid her deep in earth.Seems like she said:My bodyBrings new birth.For sure there grew flowersAnd tall young treesAnd sturdy weeds and grassesTo sway in the breeze.And sure she livedIn growing thingsWith no painTo laugh in sunshineAnd dance in rain.
Love Song for AntoniaIf I should singAll of my songs for youAnd you would not listen to them,If I should buildAll of my dream houses for youAnd you would never live in them,If I should giveAll of my hopes to youAnd you would laugh and say: I do not care,Still I would give you my loveWhich is more than my songs,More than any houses of dreams,Or dreams of houses—I would still give you my loveThough you never looked at me.
Troubled WomanShe standsIn the quiet darkness,This troubled womanBowed byWeariness and painLike anAutumn flowerIn the frozen rain,Like aWind-blown autumn flowerThat never lifts its headAgain.
Edna Millay1892-1950She was the first woman toreceive the Pulitzer Prizefor poetry. She rankstoday as a major figure intwentieth centuryAmerican literature.
EbbI know what my heart is like Since your love died;It is like a hollow ledgeHolding a little pool Left there by the tide, A little tepid pool,Drying inward from the edge.
Two Sonnets in MemoryIIWhere can the heart be hidden in the groundAnd be at peace, and be at peace forever,Under the world, untroubled by the soundOf mortal tears, that cease from pouring never?Well for the heart, by stern compassion harried,If death be deeper than the churchmen say, --Gone from this world indeed what’s graveward carried,And laid to rest indeed what’s laid away.Anguish enough while yet the indignant breatherHave blood to spurt upon the oppressor’s hand;Who would eternal be, and hand in etherA stuffless ghost above his struggling land,Retching in vain to render up the groanThat is not there, being aching dust’s alone?
Pity Me Not Because the Light of DayPity me not because the light of dayAt close of day no longer walks the sky;Pity me not for the beauties passed awayFrom field and thicket as the year goes by;Pity me not the waning of the moon,Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,And you no longer look with love on me.This have I known always: Love is no moreThan the wide blossom which the wind assails,Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales;Pity me that the heart is slow to learnWhat the swift mind beholds at every turn.
The DreamLove, if I weep it will not matter, And if you laugh I shall not care;Foolish am I to think about it, But it is good to feel you there.Love, in my sleep I dreamed of waking, -- White and awful the moonlight reachedOver the floor, and somewhere, somewhere There was a shutter loose, -- it screeched!Swung in the wind, -- and not wind blowing! – I was afraid, and turned to you,Put out my hand to you for comfort, -- And you were gone! Cold, cold as dew,Under my hand the moonlight lay! Love, if you laugh I shall not care,But if I weep it will not matter, -- Ah, it is good to feel you there!
Sylvia Plath1932-1963She published her firstpoem at eight years old.She was described assensitive, intelligent, and aperfectionist. Shecommitted suicide at theage of thirty.
PheasantYou said you would kill it this morning.Do not kill it. It startles me still,The jut of that odd, dark head, pacingThrough the uncut grass on the elm’s hill.It is something to own a pheasant,Or just to be visited at all.I am not mystical: it isn’tAs if I thought it had a spirit.It is simply in its element.That gives it a kingliness, a right.The print of its big foot last winter,The tail-track, on the snow in our court—The wonder of it, in that pallor,Through crosshatch of sparrow and starling.Is it its rareness, then? It is rare.But a dozen would be worth having,A hundred, on that hill – green and red,Crossing and recrossing: a fine thing!
StillbornThese poems do not live: it’s a sad diagnosis.They grew their toes and fingers well enough,Their little foreheads bulged with concentration.If they missed out on walking about like peopleIt wasn’t for any lack of mother-love.O I cannot understand what happened to them!They are proper in shape and number and every part.They sit so nicely in the pickling fluid!They smile and smile and smile and smile at me.And still the lungs won’t fill and the heart won’t start.They are not pigs, they are not even fish,Though they have a piggy and a fishy air –It would be better if they were alive, and that’s what they were.But they are dead, and their mother near dead with distraction,And they stupidly stare and do not speak of her.
Sheep in FogThe hills step off into whiteness.People or starsRegard me sadly, I disappoint them.The train leaves a line of breath.O slowHorse the color of rust,Hooves, dolorous bells –All morning theMorning has been blackening,A flower left out.My bones hold a stillness, the farFields melt my heart.They threatenTo let me through to a heavenStarless and fatherless, a dark water.
Carl Sandburg1878-1967His works portray hisconcern for the difficultiesof the American worker.His goal was to writesimple poems with whichpeople could identify.
To a Dead ManOver the dead line we have called to youTo come across with a word to us,Some beaten whisper of what happensWhere you are over the dead lineDeaf to our calls and voiceless.The flickering shadows have not answeredNor your lips sent a signalWhether to love talks and roses growAnd the sun breaks at morningSplattering the sea with crimson.
Under the Harvest Moon Under the harvest moon,When the soft silverDrips shimmeringOver the garden nights,Death, the gray mocker,Comes and whispers to youAs a beautiful friendWho remembers. Under the summer rosesWhen the flagrant crimsonLurks in the duskOf the wild red leaves,Love, with little hands,Comes and touches youWith a thousand memories,And asks youBeautiful, unanswerable questions.
Monotone The monotone of the rain is beautiful,And the sudden rise and slow relapseOf the long multitudinous rain. The sun on the hills is beautifulOr a captured sunset sea-flung,Bannered with fire and gold. A face I know is beautiful –With fire and gold of sky and sea,And the peace of long warm rain.
The Road and the EndI shall foot itdown the roadway in the dusk,Where shapes of hunger wanderAnd the fugitives of pain go by.I shall foot itIn the silence of the morning,See the night slur into dawn,Hear the slow great winds ariseWhere tall trees flank the wayAnd shoulder toward the sky.The broken boulders by the roadShall not commemorate my ruin.Regret shall be the gravel under foot.I shall watch forSlim birds swift of wingThat go where wind and ranks of thunderDrive the wild processionals of rain.The dust of the traveled roadShall touch my hands and face.
Wallace Stevens1897-1955He is best known for hispoem “TheSnowman”, of which acommentator once said, itis “the best short poem inthe English language”.
The Snow ManOne must have a mind of winterTo regard the frost and the boughsOf the pine-trees crusted with snow;And have been cold a long timeTo behold the junipers shagged with ice,The spruces rough in the distant glitterOf the January sun; and not to thinkOf any misery in the sound of the wind,In the sound of a few leaves,Which is the sound of the landFull of the same windThat is blowing in the same bare placeFor the listener, who listens in the snow,And, nothing himself, beholdsNothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
She’s Just a MemoryBut that’s not whatI want her to beShe meant the world to meBut now she’s just a memory.Day after DayNight after NightI think of herRemembering the timesWe spent together andHoping someday I’ll see her again.
A Quiet Normal LifeHis place, as he sat and as he thought, was notIn anything that he constructed, so frail,So barely lit, so shadowed over and naught,As, for example, a world in which, like snow,He became an inhabitant, obedientTo gallant notions on the part of the cold.It was here. This was the setting and the timeOf year. Here in his house and in his room,In his chair, the most tranquil thought grew peakedAnd the oldest and the warmest heart was cutBy gallant notions on the part of night –Both late and alone, above the crickets’ chords,Babbling, each one, the uniqueness of its sound.There was no fury in transcendent forms.But his actual candle blazed with artifice.
Gray RoomAlthough you sit in a room that is gray,Except for the silverOf the straw-paper,And pickAt your pale white gown;Or lift on the green beadsOf your necklace,To let it fall;Or gaze at your green fanPrinted with the red branches of a red willow;Or, with one finger,Move the leaf in the bowl –The leaf that has fallen from the branches of the forsythiaBeside you...What is all this?I know how furiously your heart is beating.
Themes in 1900’s Poetry: • Relationships • Individual Identity • Social Consciousness • The Working Class • Life and Death