The Shadow of Dawn: Five Poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Song Cycle by Richard Thompson (b. 1954)

1. Dawn [sung text not yet checked]

An angel, robed in spotless white,
Bent down and kissed the sleeping Night.
Night woke to blush; the sprite was gone.
Men saw the blush and called it Dawn.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

2. Love's apotheosis [sung text not yet checked]

Love me. I care not what the circling years
      To me may do.
If, but in spite of time and tears,
      You prove but true.

Love me -- albeit grief shall dim mine eyes,
      And tears bedew,
I shall not e'en complain, for then my skies
      Shall still be blue.

Love me, and though the winter snow shall pile,
      And leave me chill,
Thy passion's warmth shall make for me, meanwhile,
      A sun-kissed hill.

And when the days have lengthened into years,
      And I grow old,
Oh, spite of pains and griefs and cares and fears,
      Grow thou not cold.

Then hand and hand we shall pass up the hill,
      I say not down;
That twain go up, of love, who 've loved their fill, -- 
      To gain love's crown.

Love me, and let my life take up thine own,
      As sun the dew.
Come, sit, my queen, for in my heart a throne
      Awaits for you!

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3. We wear the mask [sung text not yet checked]

We wear the mask that grins and lies,
It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,--
This debt we pay to human guile;
With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
And mouth with myriad subtleties.

Why should the world be over-wise,
In counting all our tears and sighs?
Nay, let them only see us, while
We wear the mask.

We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
To thee from tortured souls arise.
We sing, but oh the clay is vile
Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
But let the world dream otherwise,
We wear the mask!

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Available translations, adaptations or excerpts, and transliterations (if applicable):

  • GER German (Deutsch) (Walter A. Aue) , "Wir tragen die Maske", copyright © 2010, (re)printed on this website with kind permission

Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

4. One life [sung text not yet checked]

Oh, I am hurt to death, my Love;
The shafts of Fate have pierced my striving heart,
And I am sick and weary of
The endless pain and smart.
My soul is weary of the strife,
And chafes at life, and chafes at life.

Time mocks me with fair promises;
A blooming future grows a barren past,
Like rain my fair full-blossomed trees
Unburden in the blast.
The harvest fails on grain and tree,
Nor comes to me, nor comes to me.

The stream that bears my hopes abreast
Turns ever from my way its pregnant tide.
My laden boat, torn from its rest,
Drifts to the other side.
So all my hopes are set astray,
And drift away, and drift away.

The lark sings to me at the morn,
And near me wings her skyward-soaring flight;
But pleasure dies as soon as born,
The owl takes up the night,
And night seems long and doubly dark;
I miss the lark, I miss the lark.

Let others labor as they may,
I'll sing and sigh alone, and write my line.
Their fate is theirs, or grave or gay,
And mine shall still be mine.
I know the world holds joy and glee,
But not for me, -- 't is not for me.

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]

5. Sympathy [sung text not yet checked]

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 feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
    Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
    And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting --
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
    When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,--
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
    But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings --
I know why the caged bird sings!

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Researcher for this text: Emily Ezust [Administrator]
Total word count: 679