Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)
A Lost Dream
AH, I have changed, I do not know
Why lonely hours affect me so.
In days of yore, this were not wont,
No loneliness my soul could daunt.
For me too serious for my age,
The weighty tome of hoary sage,
Until with puzzled heart astir,
One God-giv'n night, I dreamed of her.
I loved no woman, hardly knew
More of the sex that strong men woo
Than cloistered monk within his cell;
But now the dream is lost, and hell
Holds me her captive tight and fast
Who prays and struggles for the past.
No living maid has charmed my eyes,
But now, my soul is wonder-wise.
For I have dreamed of her and seen
Her red-brown tresses, ruddy sheen,
Have known her sweetness, lip to lip,
The joy of her companionship.
When days were bleak and winds were rude,
She shared my smiling solitude,
And all the bare hills walked with me
To hearken winter's melody.
And when the spring came o'er the land
We fared together hand in hand
Beneath the linden's leafy screen
That waved above us faintly green.
In summer, by the river-side,
Our souls were kindred with the tide
That floated onward to the sea
As we swept toward Eternity.
The bird's call and the water's drone
Were all for us and us alone.
The water-fall that sang all night
Was her companion, my delight,
And e'en the squirrel, as he sped
Along the branches overhead,
Half kindly and half envious,
Would chatter at the joy of us.
'Twas but a dream, her face, her hair,
The spring-time sweet, the winter bare,
The summer when the woods we ranged, —
'Twas but a dream, but all is changed.
Yes, all is changed and all has fled,
The dream is broken, shattered, dead.
And yet, sometimes, I pray to know
How just a dream could hold me so.
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