Paul Laurence Dunbar

(1872-1906 / Ohio / United States)

Weltschmertz - Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar

You ask why I am sad to-day,
I have no cares, no griefs, you say?
Ah, yes, 't is true, I have no grief--
But--is there not the falling leaf?

The bare tree there is mourning left
With all of autumn's gray bereft;
It is not what has happened me,
Think of the bare, dismantled tree.

The birds go South along the sky,
I hear their lingering, long good-bye.
Who goes reluctant from my breast?
And yet--the lone and wind-swept nest.

The mourning, pale-flowered hearse goes by,
Why does a tear come to my eye?
Is it the March rain blowing wild?
I have no dead, I know no child.

I am no widow by the bier
Of him I held supremely dear.
I have not seen the choicest one
Sink down as sinks the westering sun.

Faith unto faith have I beheld,
For me, few solemn notes have swelled;
Love bekoned me out to the dawn,
And happily I followed on.

And yet my heart goes out to them
Whose sorrow is their diadem;
The falling leaf, the crying bird,
The voice to be, all lost, unheard--

Not mine, not mine, and yet too much
The thrilling power of human touch,
While all the world looks on and scorns
I wear another's crown of thorns.

Count me a priest who understands
The glorious pain of nail-pierced hands;
Count me a comrade of the thief
Hot driven into late belief.

Oh, mother's tear, oh, father's sigh,
Oh, mourning sweetheart's last good-bye,
I yet have known no mourning save
Beside some brother's brother's grave.

Comments about Weltschmertz by Paul Laurence Dunbar

  • Kamiel Choi (10/4/2017 2:14:00 AM)

    Linguistically this is not really interesting. It has rhythm but the rhyme is sometimes far-fetched (bier-dear) . A very different league than Yeats or Shelley! (Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Susan Williams (4/9/2016 7:12:00 PM)

    I am stymied by my search for the word I should use to describe this poem. Beautiful- -no, not exactly, though it has so many lines of such exquisite beauty. Sad- - -no, not exactly, though it mourns for loss- -be it a tree for its leaves, a season for its birds, a mother for her child., yet there is an aspect beyond personal sadness. I think that the word I could use to describe this poem is compassion, involvement in the world, an intense involvement, that reminds me that no man is an island.... so this is a beautiful, sad, compassionate love poem. [love for our fellow man, love for our fellow creatures]. (Report)Reply

    18 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Melvina Germain (7/13/2015 7:37:00 AM)

    Sad and heartfelt...Love it..... (Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    2 person did not like.
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Poem Submitted: Friday, April 2, 2010

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