Ships that Pass in the Night

By Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906 Paul Laurence Dunbar
Out in the sky the great dark clouds are massing;
      I look far out into the pregnant night,
Where I can hear a solemn booming gun
      And catch the gleaming of a random light,
That tells me that the ship I seek is passing, passing.

My tearful eyes my soul's deep hurt are glassing;
      For I would hail and check that ship of ships.
I stretch my hands imploring, cry aloud,
      My voice falls dead a foot from mine own lips,
And but its ghost doth reach that vessel, passing, passing.

O Earth, O Sky, O Ocean, both surpassing,
      O heart of mine, O soul that dreads the dark!
Is there no hope for me? Is there no way
      That I may sight and check that speeding bark
Which out of sight and sound is passing, passing?

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Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar 1872–1906

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Subjects Living, Disappointment & Failure, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Race & Ethnicity, Nature

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Refrain, Metaphor

 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, Disappointment & Failure, History & Politics, Social Commentaries, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Race & Ethnicity, Nature

SCHOOL / PERIOD Modern

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Refrain, Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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