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Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar


A Banjo Song


  Oh, dere 's lots o' keer an' trouble
    In dis world to swaller down;
  An' ol' Sorrer 's purty lively
    In her way o' gittin' roun'.
  Yet dere's times when I furgit em,--
    Aches an' pains an' troubles all,--
  An' it's when I tek at ebenin'
    My ol' banjo f'om de wall.

  'Bout de time dat night is fallin'
    An' my daily wu'k is done,
  An' above de shady hilltops
    I kin see de settin' sun;
  When de quiet, restful shadders
    Is beginnin' jes' to fall,--
  Den I take de little banjo
    F'om its place upon de wall.

  Den my fam'ly gadders roun' me
    In de fadin' o' de light,
  Ez I strike de strings to try 'em
    Ef dey all is tuned er-right.
  An' it seems we 're so nigh heaben
    We kin hyeah de angels sing
  When de music o' dat banjo
    Sets my cabin all er-ring.

  An' my wife an' all de othahs,--
    Male an' female, small an' big,--
  Even up to gray-haired granny,
    Seem jes' boun' to do a jig;
  'Twell I change de style o' music,
    Change de movement an' de time,
  An' de ringin' little banjo
    Plays an ol' hea't-feelin' hime.

  An' somehow my th'oat gits choky,
    An' a lump keeps tryin' to rise
  Lak it wan'ed to ketch de water
    Dat was flowin' to my eyes;
  An' I feel dat I could sorter
    Knock de socks clean off o' sin
  Ez I hyeah my po' ol' granny
    Wif huh tremblin' voice jine in.

  Den we all th'ow in our voices
    Fu' to he'p de chune out too,
  Lak a big camp-meetin' choiry
    Tryin' to sing a mou'nah th'oo.
  An' our th'oahts let out de music,
    Sweet an' solemn, loud an' free,
  'Twell de raftahs o' my cabin
    Echo wif de melody.

  Oh, de music o' de banjo,
    Quick an' deb'lish, solemn, slow,
  Is de greates' joy an' solace
    Dat a weary slave kin know!
  So jes' let me hyeah it ringin',
    Dough de chune be po' an' rough,
  It's a pleasure; an' de pleasures
    O' dis life is few enough.

  Now, de blessed little angels
    Up in heaben, we are told,
  Don't do nothin' all dere lifetime
    'Ceptin' play on ha'ps o' gold.
  Now I think heaben 'd be mo' homelike
    Ef we 'd hyeah some music fall
  F'om a real ol'-fashioned banjo,
    Like dat one upon de wall.



Paul Laurence Dunbar


Paul Laurence Dunbar's other poems:
  1. The Rising of the Storm
  2. An Ante-Bellum Sermon
  3. Whittier
  4. Unexpressed
  5. Frederick Douglass


Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • James Johnson A Banjo Song ("W'en de banjos wuz a-ringin'")

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