Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896) is a collection of poems by African American author Paul Laurence Dunbar. Published while Dunbar was at a turning point in his career as one of the nation's leading black poets, Lyrics of Lowly Life combined his hugely successful volumes Oak and Ivy (1892) and Majors and Minors (1896), establishing his reputation as an artist with a powerful vision of faith and perseverance who sought to capture and examine the diversity of the African American experience. In "The Poet and His Song," Dunbar compares the art of poetry to tilling the soil, a slow and painstaking process requiring full commitment, body and soul, to the task at hand: "My days are never days of ease; / I till my ground and prune my trees. / When ripened gold is all the plain, / I put my sickle to the grain. / I labor hard, and toil and sweat, / While others dream within the dell; / But even while my brow is wet, / I sing my song, and all is well." For Dunbar, the reward is the song itself, both an act of labor and a celebration of life, emphasizing the role of the poet as not just a dreamer, but a doer. Throughout this collection, Dunbar explores the role of the poet in society, grounding each poem within his identity as a black man in America. In "Frederick Douglass," an elegy written for the occasion of the great man's passing, Dunbar makes clear the consequences of pride and defiance in a nation built by slaves: "He dared the lightning in the lightning's track, / And answered thunder with his thunder back." With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Paul Laurence Dunbar's Lyrics of Lowly Life is a classic of African American literature reimagined for modern readers.
Author: Paul Laurence Dunbar
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