Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 – 1906
By the stream I dream in calm delight, and watch as in a glass,
How the clouds like crowds of snowy-hued and white-robed
And the water into ripples breaks and sparkles as it spreads,
Like a host of armored knights with silver helmets on their heads.
And I deem the stream an emblem fit of human life may go,
For I find a mind may sparkle much and yet but shallows show,
And a soul may glow with myriad lights and wondrous mysteries,
When it only lies a dormant thing and mirrors what it sees.
Paul Dunbar was one of the first African-American poets to gain widespread recognition. Which, unfortunately, didn’t mean he was included in my schooling. (Of course as a young scientist I didn’t have time for reading poetry, other than the poetry of differential equations, calculus and physical chemistry.) It’s been a real pleasure to discover his poetry. This poem and more can be found poets.org.