- 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: 232
Dunbar, P. (1913). On the Sea Wall. Lyrics of the Hearthside (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved June 21, 2021, from
Dunbar, Paul Laurence. "On the Sea Wall." Lyrics of the Hearthside. Lit2Go Edition. 1913. Web. <>. June 21, 2021.
Paul Laurence Dunbar, "On the Sea Wall," Lyrics of the Hearthside, Lit2Go Edition, (1913), accessed June 21, 2021,.
I sit upon the old sea wall,
And watch the shimmering sea,
Where soft and white the moonbeams fall,
Till, in a fantasy,
Some pure white maiden’s funeral pall
The strange light seems to me.
The waters break upon the shore
And shiver at my feet,
While I dream old dreams o’er and o’er,
And dim old scenes repeat;
Tho’ all have dreamed the same before,
They still seem new and sweet.
The waves still sing the same old song
That knew an elder time;
The breakers’ beat is not more strong,
Their music more sublime;
And poets thro’ the ages long
Have set these notes to rhyme.
But this shall not deter my lyre,
Nor check my simple strain;
If I have not the old–time fire,
I know the ancient pain:
The hurt of unfulfilled desire,—
The ember quenched by rain.
I know the softly shining sea
That rolls this gentle swell
Has snarled and licked its tongues at me
And bared its fangs as well;
That ‘neath its smile so heavenly,
There lurks the scowl of hell!
But what of that? I strike my string
(For songs in youth are sweet);
I ‘ll wait and hear the waters bring
Their loud resounding beat;
Then, in her own bold numbers sing
The Ocean’s dear deceit!