The Old Front Gate

By Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906 Paul Laurence Dunbar
W'en daih's chillun in de house,
   Dey keep on a-gittin' tall;
But de folks don' seem to see
   Dat dey's growin' up at all,
'Twell dey fin' out some fine day
   Dat de gals has 'menced to grow,
W'en dey notice as dey pass
   Dat de front gate's saggin' low.

W'en de hinges creak an' cry,
   An' de bahs go slantin' down,
You kin reckon dat hit's time
   Fu' to cas' yo' eye erroun',
'Cause daih ain't no 'sputin' dis,
   Hit's de trues' sign to show
Dat daih's cou'tin goin' on
   W'en de ol' front gate sags low.

Oh, you grumble an' complain,
   An' you prop dat gate up right;
But you notice right nex' day
   Dat hit's in de same ol' plight.
So you fin' dat hit's a rule,
   An' daih ain' no use to blow,
W'en de gals is growin' up,
   Dat de front gate will sag low.

Den you t'ink o' yo' young days,
   W'en you cou'ted Sally Jane,
An' you so't o' feel ashamed
   Fu' to grumble an' complain,
'Cause yo' ricerlection says,
   An' you know hits wo'ds is so,
Dat huh pappy had a time
   Wid his front gate saggin' low.

So you jes' looks on an' smiles
   At 'em leanin' on de gate,
Tryin' to t'ink whut he kin say
   Fu' to keep him daih so late,
But you lets dat gate erlone,
   Fu' yo' 'sperunce goes to show,
'Twell de gals is ma'ied off,
   It gwine keep on saggin' low.

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Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Living, Love, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Home Life, Relationships, Coming of Age, Realistic & Complicated

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 Living, Love, Social Commentaries, Race & Ethnicity, Growing Old, Time & Brevity, Home Life, Relationships, Coming of Age, Realistic & Complicated

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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