Summer in the South

  • The Oriole sings in the greening grove
  • As if he were half-way waiting,
  • The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
  • Timid, and hesitating.
  • The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
  • And the nights smell warm and piney,
  • The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
  • Are yellow-green and tiny.
  • Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
  • Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
  • The sky smiles down with a dazzling blue
  • And the woods run mad with riot.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872­–1906) was one of the most notable American poets of the late 19th Century. Dunbar was the son of former Kentucky slaves. His father, after escaping from slavery, served in the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War. His mother, who supported the family by working as a washerwoman, loved poetry and encouraged her children’s education. At Dayton High School in Ohio, where Dunbar was the only African­-American student, he distinguished himself as a member of the debating society, editor of the school paper, and president of the school’s literary society. A superb writer, Dunbar authored 12 books of poetry, 4 collections of short stories, a play, and 5 novels before he died at the age of 33.

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