If I had known
Two years ago how drear this life should be,
And crowd upon itself all-strangely sad,
Mayhap another song would burst from out my lips,
Overflowing with the happiness of future hopes;
Mayhap another throb than that of joy.
Have stirred my soul into its inmost depths
I had no thought of violets of late,
The wild, shy kind that spring beneath your feet
In wistful April days, when lovers mate
And wander through the fields in raptures sweet.
The thought of violets meant florists’ shops,
And bows and pins, and perfumed papers fine;
And garish lights, and mincing little fops
And cabarets and songs, and deadening wine.
So far from sweet real things my thoughts had strayed,
I had forgot wide fields, and clear brown streams;
The perfect loveliness that God has made,—
Wild violets shy and Heaven-mounting dreams.
And now—unwittingly, you’ve made me dream
Of violets, and my soul’s forgotten gleam.
Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson was born on July 19, 1875 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She graduated from Straight University in New Orleans and worked as an elementary teacher. She was an activist for civil rights and women's suffrage, as well as a poet, journalist, short-story writer, and playwright. Her works include Violets and Other Tales (Monthly Review, 1895) and The Goodness of St. Rocque and Other Stories (Dodd, Mead and Company, 1899). She married Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1898, though they later separated.