The Lawyers' Ways

By Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906 Paul Laurence Dunbar
I've been list'nin' to them lawyers
      In the court house up the street,
An' I've come to the conclusion
      That I'm most completely beat.
Fust one feller riz to argy,
      An' he boldly waded in
As he dressed the tremblin' pris'ner
      In a coat o' deep-dyed sin.

Why, he painted him all over
      In a hue o' blackest crime,
An' he smeared his reputation
      With the thickest kind o' grime,
Tell I found myself a-wond'rin',
      In a misty way and dim,
How the Lord had come to fashion
      Sich an awful man as him.

Then the other lawyer started,
      An' with brimmin', tearful eyes,
Said his client was a martyr
      That was brought to sacrifice.
An' he give to that same pris'ner
      Every blessed human grace,
Tell I saw the light o' virtue
      Fairly shinin' from his face.

Then I own 'at I was puzzled
      How sich things could rightly be;
An' this aggervatin' question
      Seems to keep a-puzzlin' me.
So, will some one please inform me,
      An' this mystery unroll—
How an angel an' a devil
      Can persess the self-same soul?

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Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Crime & Punishment, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Paul  Laurence Dunbar

Biography

Paul Laurence Dunbar was one the first influential black poets in American literature. He enjoyed his greatest popularity in the early twentieth century following the publication of dialectic verse in collections such as Majors and Minors and Lyrics of Lowly Life. But the dialectic poems constitute only a small portion of Dunbar's canon, which is replete with novels, short stories, essays, and many poems in standard English. In . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Crime & Punishment, Social Commentaries, Humor & Satire

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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