Lyrics of Lowly Life

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

"The Lesson"

Additional Information
  • Year Published: 1913
  • Language: English
  • Country of Origin: United States of America
  • Source: Dunbar, P.L. (1913). The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company.
  • Readability:
    • Flesch–Kincaid Level: 6.5
  • Word Count: 208
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Keywords: friendship, life, loss
  • ✎ Cite This
  • Share |


My cot was down by a cypress grove,
And I sat by my window the whole night long,
And heard well up from the deep dark wood
A mocking–bird’s passionate song.

And I thought of myself so sad and lone,
And my life’s cold winter that knew no spring;
Of my mind so weary and sick and wild,
Of my heart too sad to sing.

But e’en as I listened the mock–bird’s song,
A thought stole into my saddened heart,
And I said, “I can cheer some other soul
By a carol’s simple art.”

For oft from the darkness of hearts and lives
Come songs that brim with joy and light,
As out of the gloom of the cypress grove
The mocking–bird sings at night.

So I sang a lay for a brother’s ear
In a strain to soothe his bleeding heart,
And he smiled at the sound of my voice and lyre,
Though mine was a feeble art.

But at his smile I smiled in turn,
And into my soul there came a ray:
In trying to soothe another’s woes
Mine own had passed away.