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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

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The trees bend down along the stream,
   Where anchored swings my tiny boat.
The day is one to drowse and dream
   And list the thrush’s throttling note.
When music from his bosom bleeds
Among the river’s rustling reeds.

No ripple stirs the placid pool,
   When my adventurous

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              The oriole sings in the greening grove
                          As if he were half-way waiting,
                          The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
                          Timid and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
             And the nights smell warm and
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A hush is over all the teeming lists,
   And there is pause, a breath-space in the strife;
A spirit brave has passed beyond the mists
   And vapors that obscure the sun of life.
And Ethiopia, with bosom torn,
Laments the passing of her noblest born.

She weeps for him a mother's burning tears--
   She loved him