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

  • Joseph Dela Sulh (losembe) (3/24/2019 2:14:00 PM)

    G o o d p i e c e o f w o r k (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • (2/22/2018 7:35:00 AM)

    This poem is my life right now, I am planning to preform this poem competitively for Alpha Phi Alpha! (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (2/12/2018 5:28:00 PM)

    Awesome (Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (3/12/2017 8:49:00 AM)

    I like this poem. (Report)Reply

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

    This is my favoruate poem. (Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • (4/2/2015 9:50:00 PM)

    So accurate it's scary. (Report)Reply

    9 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Elisha Wall (1/19/2015 1:27:00 PM)

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

    7 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (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

    6 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • 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

    7 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • 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

    5 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • 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

    10 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2014 8:12:00 AM)

    This is a master piece (Report)Reply

    8 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2014 8:12:00 AM)

    This is a master piece (Report)Reply

    6 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • Kathleen Reguindin (4/16/2013 6:56:00 PM)

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

    10 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2013 3:25:00 PM)

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

    10 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2013 1:58:00 AM)

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

    12 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2013 12:52:00 AM)

    Though sullen but poetic (Report)Reply

    8 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2012 3:04:00 AM)

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

    12 person liked.
    8 person did not like.
  • (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

    14 person liked.
    9 person did not like.
  • (4/16/2010 2:59:00 PM)

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

    16 person liked.
    9 person did not like.
Read all 31 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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