An Easter Ode
by PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR (1872-1906)
To the cold, dark grave they go
Silently and sad and slow,
From the light of happy skies
And the glance of mortal eyes.
In their beds the violets spring,
And the brook flows murmuring;
But at eve the violets die,
And the brook in the sand runs dry.
In the rosy, blushing morn,
See, the smiling babe is born;
For a day it lives, and then
Breathes its short life out again.
And anon gaunt-visaged Death,
With his keen and icy breath,
Bloweth out the vital fire
In the hoary-headed sire.
Heeding not the children’s wail,
Fathers droop and mothers fail;
Sinking sadly from each other,
Sister parts from loving brother.
All the land is filled with wailing,
Sounds of mourning garments trailing,
With their sad portent imbued,
Making melody subdued.
But in all this depth of woe
This consoling truth we know:
There will come a time of rain,
And the brook will flow again;
Where the violet fell, ’twill grow,
When the sun has chased the snow.
See in this the lesson plain,
Mortal man shall rise again.
Well the prophecy was kept;
Christ “first fruit of them that slept”
Rose with vic’try-circled brow;
So, believing one, shalt thou.
Ah! but there shall come a day
When, unhampered by this clay,
Souls shall rise to life newborn
On that resurrection morn.
“At the opening of the World’s Columbian Exposition an opportunity came for young Dunbar to go to Chicago. At first he hesitated, not wishing to leave his mother alone. Mrs. Dunbar, feeling that the fair would be an education in itself for her boy, insisted upon his going. When all was in readiness, and the hour had come to say good-bye, he leaned on the mantelpiece and sobbed like a child…. His mother, choking down her own tears, talked to her son, and finally overcame his mood. He went to Chicago, and … was given a position by Hon. Fred Douglass, then in charge of the exhibit from Hayti [sic]. For this work Mr. Douglass paid Paul Dunbar $5.00 a week, out of his own pocket…. from The Life And Works Of Paul Laurence Dunbar, by P. L. Dunbar and Lyda Keck Wiggins (1907)