- 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.
- Flesch–Kincaid Level: 6.5
- Word Count: 156
Dunbar, P. (1913). The River of Ruin. Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved September 24, 2023, from
Dunbar, Paul Laurence. "The River of Ruin." Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow. Lit2Go Edition. 1913. Web. <>. September 24, 2023.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, "The River of Ruin," Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow, Lit2Go Edition, (1913), accessed September 24, 2023,.
Along by the river of ruin
They dally—the thoughtless ones,
They dance and they dream
By the side of the stream,
As long as the river runs.
It seems all so pleasant and cheery—
No thought of the morrow is theirs,
And their faces are bright
With the sun of delight,
And they dream of no night–brooding cares.
The women wear garlanded tresses,
The men have rings on their hands,
And they sing in their glee,
For they think they are free—
They that know not the treacherous sands.
Ah, but this be a venturesome journey,
Forever those sands are ashift,
And a step to one side
Means a grasp of the tide,
And the current is fearful and swift.
For once in the river of ruin,
What boots it, to do or to dare,
For down we must go
In the turbulent flow,
To the desolate sea of Despair.