Paul Laurence Dunbar

(1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)

The Lesson


MY cot was down by a cypress grove,
And I sat by my window the whole night long,
And heard well up from the deep dark wood
A mocking-bird's passionate song.
And I thought of myself so sad and lone,
And my life's cold winter that knew no spring;
Of my mind so weary and sick and wild,
Of my heart too sad to sing.
But e'en as I listened the mock-bird's song,
A thought stole into my saddened heart,
And I said, 'I can cheer some other soul
By a carol's simple art.'
For oft from the darkness of hearts and lives
Come songs that brim with joy and light,
As out of the gloom of the cypress grove
The mocking-bird sings at night.
So I sang a lay for a brother's ear
In a strain to soothe his bleeding heart,
And he smiled at the sound of my voice and lyre,
Though mine was a feeble art.
But at his smile I smiled in turn,
And into my soul there came a ray:
In trying to soothe another's woes
Mine own had passed away.

Submitted: Friday, April 02, 2010

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