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Poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Lesson

  My cot was down by a cypress grove,
    And I sat by my window the whole night long,
  And heard well up from the deep dark wood
    A mocking-bird's passionate song.

  And I thought of myself so sad and lone,
    And my life's cold winter that knew no spring;
  Of my mind so weary and sick and wild,
    Of my heart too sad to sing.

  But e'en as I listened the mock-bird's song,
    A thought stole into my saddened heart,
  And I said, "I can cheer some other soul
    By a carol's simple art."

  For oft from the darkness of hearts and lives
    Come songs that brim with joy and light,
  As out of the gloom of the cypress grove
    The mocking-bird sings at night.

  So I sang a lay for a brother's ear
    In a strain to soothe his bleeding heart,
  And he smiled at the sound of my voice and lyre,
    Though mine was a feeble art.

  But at his smile I smiled in turn,
    And into my soul there came a ray:
  In trying to soothe another's woes
    Mine own had passed away.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar's other poems:
  1. The Master-Player
  2. Whittier
  3. The Poet and His Song
  4. Retort
  5. Accountability

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Rose Cooke The Lesson ("Flutter thy new wings lightly")

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