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October Again

Thurs, October 5th, 2006

 Another favorite October poem is by Paul Laurence Dunbar, published 110 years ago in Lyrics of Lowly Life. Dunbar was the first widely recognized African-American poet, and had an elegant as well as versatile writing style. There is a brief biography on him at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Laurence_Dunbar) and an extensive collection of materials at Wright State University (http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/) in Dayton, Ohio, where he was born and is buried (though he went to university at Howard). Dunbar could write poignant or entertaining verse in both formal english and in dialect. Much of the verse written in dialect is tough going for modern readers, though it contains some of his best insights. This poem is allegorical, where Helen Hunt Jackson's October is observational, but both catch the transitional month beautifully. Dunbar's poem also shares elements of voice with Muriel Stuart, another of my favorites, whom we will talk about in the not too distant future...  --Steve 


OCTOBER is the treasurer of the year,
     And all the months pay bounty to her store:
The fields and orchards still their tribute bear,
     And fill her brimming coffers more and more.
But she, with youthful lavishness,
     Spends all her wealth in gaudy dress,
And decks herself in garments bold
     Of scarlet, purple, red, and gold.

She heedeth not how swift the hours fly,
     But smiles and sings her happy life along;
She only sees above a shining sky;
     She only hears the breezes' voice in song.
Her garments trail the woodland through,
     And gather pearls of early dew
That sparkle till the roguish Sun
     Creeps up and steals them every one.

But what cares she that jewels should be lost,
     When all of Nature's bounteous wealth is hers?
Though princely fortunes may have been their cost,
     Not one regret her calm demeanor stirs.
Whole-hearted, happy, careless, free,
     She lives her life out joyously,
Nor cares when Frost stalks o'er her way
     And turns her auburn locks to gray.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

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