Paul Laurence Dunbar

(1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)

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Life's Tragedy


It may be misery not to sing at all,
And to go silent through the brimming day;
It may be misery never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.

To sing the perfect song,
And by a half-tone lost the key,
There the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of Life's Tragedy.

To have come near to the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lies aside its vanity,
And gives, for thy trusting worship, truth.

This, this indeed is to be accursed,
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by what we have,
But by what kept us from that perfect thing.

Submitted: Friday, January 03, 2003

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Read poems about / on: grief, passion, sorrow, sad, truth, song, lost, life, love, joy, trust

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  • Gold Star - 14,237 Points Gangadharan Nair Pulingat (6/26/2014 10:14:00 AM)

    Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem read it in such happiness and feeling that I am reading a poem for worth feeling in holistic mentality and here the poet perfectly concludes that we count our joys not by what we have But by what kept us from the perfect thing......It is marvelous thought and high standard poem and liked it. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 519 Points Birgitta Abimbola Heikka (4/22/2014 9:06:00 PM)

    To come close to having something or to have had it and lose it, is life’s tragedy. Paul Dunbar really understood the human’s mind. (Report) Reply

  • Freshman - 1,391 Points Kevin Patrick (4/16/2014 11:06:00 PM)

    To have come near to the perfect love,
    Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
    But that which lies aside its vanity,
    And gives, for thy trusting worship, truth.

    Im glad that this was the poem of the day, it was a great gift to find (Report) Reply

  • Rookie - 393 Points Michelle Claus (4/16/2014 6:22:00 PM)

    Nice formal poem. The tragedy of which Mr. Dunbar speaks in this poem is half the story. The other half of the story is that we hope and strive to reach perfection, which gives our journey meaning and purpose. I wrote a poem about this titled An Attitude of Ending, which appears here on PoemHunter. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Eric Lein (4/16/2013 1:58:00 AM)

    I'm actually having trouble comprehending how outstanding this poem is! ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho (4/16/2012 3:03:00 AM)

    Let the poet take my pleasure and praise; his notes are high and logical. This poem, especially the first stanza, is a masterpiece of the month for me! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Emma_1221@list.ru Adamyan (4/16/2010 1:38:00 PM)

    and I don`t understand why so low votes. namely I put 10, because I think it`s a real poem, but not boring, just need to get the idea the author tried to deliver. i think he took farer about falling short. for sometimes 2+2 is not 4. in life it goes bit different way than in mathematics. bright and memorable work! (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Kevin Straw (4/16/2010 3:48:00 AM)

    The greatest tragedy is not to fall short of perfection but not to try for it.
    Should it not be: 'And by a half-tone lose the key.' (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Singatha Gcilitshana (4/16/2009 5:47:00 AM)

    Well i'm overwhelmed by the words on the poem, its more like the writer was emotionall, sad, and consend about what life has/have in these days.
    Knowing from experience i've gone through the same but i may have to say life has a destination no matter what.

    I am proud of this man. (Report) Reply

  • Rookie Eithne Queen of Celts (4/16/2008 2:27:00 AM)

    I have recently learned at school about Laurence Dunbar...what sensitive poem he writes, he, whose parents had been black slaves.He writes beautifully and i am proud of everything he did, how he rised up to the best forms of art, by himself. (Report) Reply

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