Paul Laurence Dunbar

(1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)

Life's Tragedy - Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar

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.


Comments about Life's Tragedy by Paul Laurence Dunbar

  • Joshua Guillory Joshua Guillory (4/9/2016 12:26:00 AM)

    Douglass was right about you,
    You had the best of cadence!
    Great job! Peace and Love :) (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • sachin kumar (10/13/2015 4:34:00 AM)

    This is my favoruate poem. (Report) Reply

  • Crystal Pierce Crystal Pierce (4/2/2015 9:50:00 PM)

    So accurate it's scary. (Report) Reply

  • Elisha Wall Elisha Wall (1/19/2015 1:27:00 PM)

    This is a profound piece by a true poet. (Report) Reply

  • 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

  • Birgitta Abimbola Heikka 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

  • 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

  • Michelle Claus 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

  • Ambitious Blessing (4/16/2014 8:12:00 AM)

    This is a master piece (Report) Reply

  • Ambitious Blessing (4/16/2014 8:12:00 AM)

    This is a master piece (Report) Reply

  • Kathleen Reguindin Kathleen Reguindin (4/16/2013 6:56:00 PM)

    Beautiful poem, so touching and so true! (Report) Reply

  • Licio Marfisi (4/16/2013 3:25:00 PM)

    Excellent work...great balance. (Report) Reply

  • Eric Lein (4/16/2013 1:58:00 AM)

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

  • Meshack Bankole (4/16/2013 12:52:00 AM)

    Though sullen but poetic (Report) Reply

  • Tshifhiwa Given Mukwevho (4/16/2012 3:04:00 AM)

    master piece of the month, for me and to me! (Report) Reply

  • 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

  • Paige S (4/16/2010 2:59:00 PM)

    Now this is lovely! ! ! ! (Report) Reply

  • Emma Adamyan Emma 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

  • Kevin Straw 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

  • Ramesh T A Ramesh T A (4/16/2010 1:50:00 AM)

    Interesting analogy between music and love is well expressed by the poet! (Report) Reply

Read all 28 comments »




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



Poem Submitted: Friday, January 3, 2003



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