This is the first of March, but if this were a leap year it would be February 29. I found a new poet today that I am excited to share with all my readers. I realize some of you may all ready know him. But he may be new to others as he was to me. The date is important because this should have been part of Black History Month. I was just a little late with my discovery.
Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872 to freed Kentucky slaves. This man became a published poet at fourteen years of age. After he grew up, he became an elevator operator. His first published book was called, Oak and Ivy. It was published in 1893. He would sell it to people who rode his elevator. He moved to Chicago and became good friends with Fredrick Douglass. Mr. Dunbar became an internationally known poet and toured around the world. He is most noted for his dialect poems. This poem in particular caught my eye because it contains a very famous line that I never where it came from.
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing,
I look far out into the pregnant night,
Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
And catch the gleaming of a random light,
That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.
My tearful eyes my soul’s deep hurt are glassing;
For I would hail and check that ship of ships.
I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,
My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,
And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.
O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,
O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!
Is there no hope for me? Is there no way
That I may sight and check that speeding bark
Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?
—Excerpted from Ships That Pass in the Night by Paul Laurence Dunbar