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Paul Laurence Dunbar - The Poet and His Song

                THE POET AND HIS SONG

                        Alice M. Dunbar

                OUR notions upon the subject of Biography," says
                   Carlyle, "may perhaps appear extravagant; but
                   if an individual is really of consequence enough
                   to have his life and character for public remem-
                   brance, we have always been of opinion that the
                   public ought to be made acquainted with all the
                   inward springs and relations of his character.
                   How did the world and the man's life, from his par-
ticular position, represent themselves to his mind? How did co-
existing circumstances modify him from without; how did he modify
these from within? With what endeavors and what efficacy rule
over them; with what resistance and what suffering sink under them?
* * * Few individuals, indeed, can deserve such a study; and
many lives will be written, and, for the gratification of innocent
curiosity, ought to be written, and read and forgotten, which are not,
in this sense, biographies."
    Thus Carlyle. It would seem then, that if one must write about
a poet, the world would wish to know how and in what manner the
great phenomena of Nature impressed him, for Nature is the mother
of all poets and there can be no true poetry unless inspired deeply
by the external world which men do not touch. If the poet was an
urban child, if the wonder of star-filled nights, the mystery of the
sea, the beauty of sunrise and sunset, the freshness of dewy morns,
and the warm scent of the upturned sod filled him with no rapture,
then he was no true poet, howsoever he rhymed. So if one wishes
to get a correct idea of any poet whatever, he must delve beneath the
mere sordid facts of life and its happenings; of so many volumes
published in such and such a time; of the influence upon him of this
or that author or school of poetry; of the friends who took up his time,
or gave him inspiration, and, above all, one must see what the love of
Nature has done for the poet.
    Mere looking into the printed words may not always do this.
Who knows what heart-full of suggestion may lie in one expression?
Who can tell in how much one word may be, as Higginson has ex-


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Reverdy C. Ransom Collection

Paul Laurence Dunbar - The Poet and His Song


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