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About this Poem 

“By the Stream” was published in Dunbar’s book Lyrics of Lowly Life (Dodd, Mead, and Company 1896).

By the Stream

By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed
      maidens pass,
And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.
And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,
And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

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

I had not known before
    Forever was so long a word.
The slow stroke of the clock of time
    I had not heard.

‘Tis hard to learn so late;
    It seems no sad heart really learns,
But hopes and trusts and doubts and fears,
    And bleeds and burns.

The night is not all

poem
This is the debt I pay
Just for one riotous day,
Years of regret and grief,
Sorrow without relief.

Pay it I will to the end—
Until the grave, my friend,
Gives me a true release—
Gives me the clasp of peace.

Slight was the thing I bought,
Small was the debt I thought,
Poor was the loan at best—
God! but the
poem
I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
   When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
   When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals—
I know what the caged bird