June 27, 2013 marks the 141st anniversary of the birth of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906), a poet, novelist, and playwright—and the first African American writer to gain national prominence. Born in Dayton, Ohio, the son of ex-slaves, Dunbar lived only to age thirty-three, but in his short life created a large body of work—writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs, essays, and poetry. Maya Angelou took the title of her book I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings after a line from Dunbar’s poem “Sympathy.”

The just-released Silver Birch Press SUMMER ANTHOLOGY features three summer-themed poems by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Find the book at

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Oh, summer has clothed the earth
In a cloak from the loom of the sun!
And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue,
And a belt where the rivers run.
And now for the kiss of the wind,
And the touch of the air’s soft hands,
With the rest from strife and the heat of life,
With the freedom of lakes and lands.
I envy the farmer’s boy
Who sings as he follows the plow;
While the shining green of the young blades lean
To the breezes that cool his brow.
He sings to the dewy morn,
No thought of another’s ear;
But the song he sings is a chant for kings
And the whole wide world to hear.
He sings of the joys of life,
Of the pleasures of work and rest,
From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art;
’Tis a song of the merriest.
O ye who toil in the town,
And ye who moil in the mart,
Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong
Shall renew your joy of heart.
Oh, poor were the worth of the world
If never a song were heard —
If the sting of grief had no relief,
And never a heart were stirred.
So, long as the streams run down,
And as long as the robins trill,
Let us taunt old Care with a merry air,
And sing in the face of ill.