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About this Poem 

“Compensation” was originally published in Dunbar’s 1905 collection Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow.

Compensation

Because I had loved so deeply,
Because I had loved so long,
God in His great compassion
Gave me the gift of song.

Because I have loved so vainly,
And sung with such faltering breath,
The Master in infinite mercy
Offers the boon of Death.

This poem is in the public domain. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2014.

This poem is in the public domain. This poem appeared in Poem-a-Day on July 26, 2014.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar, born in 1872 and the author of numerous collections of poetry and prose, was one of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition.

by this poet

poem
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
   I look far out into the pregnant night,
Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
   And catch the gleaming of a random light,
That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul's deep hurt are glassing;
   For I would hail and check
poem
Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah, 
   Frost a-comin' in de night, 
Hicka' nuts an' wa'nuts fallin', 
   Possum keepin' out o' sight. 
Tu'key struttin' in de ba'nya'd, 
   Nary a step so proud ez his; 
Keep on struttin', Mistah Tu'key, 
   Yo' do' know whut time it is. 


Cidah press commence a-squeakin' 
   Eatin'
poem

I was not; now I am—a few days hence
I shall not be; I fain would look before
And after, but can neither do; some Power
Or lack of power says “no” to all I would.
I stand upon a wide and sunless plain,
Nor chart nor steel to guide my steps aright.
Whene’er, o’ercoming fear, I dare to