In the 1913 collection of his work, The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar
186216A Banjo SongPaul Laurence Dunbar1913
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A BANJO SONG
Oh, dere 's lots o' keer an' trouble
In dis world to swaller down;
An' ol' Sorrer 's purty lively
In her way o' gittin' roun'.
Yet dere's times when I furgit em,—
Aches an' pains an' troubles all,—
An' it's when I tek at ebenin'
My ol' banjo f'om de wall.
'Bout de time dat night is fallin'
An' my daily wu'k is done,
An' above de shady hilltops
I kin see de settin' sun;
When de quiet, restful shadders
Is beginnin' jes' to fall,—
Den I take de little banjo
F'om its place upon de wall.
Den my fam'ly gadders roun' me
In de fadin' o' de light,
Ez I strike de strings to try 'em
Ef dey all is tuned er-right.
An' it seems we 're so nigh heaben
We kin hyeah de angels sing
When de music o' dat banjo
Sets my cabin all er-ring.
An' my wife an' all de othahs,—
Male an' female, small an' big,—
Even up to gray-haired granny,
Seem jes' boun' to do a jig;
'Twell I change de style o' music,
Change de movement an' de time,
An' de ringin' little banjo
Plays an ol' hea't-feelin' hime.
An' somehow my th'oat gits choky,
An' a lump keeps tryin' to rise
Lak it wan'ed to ketch de water
Dat was flowin' to my eyes;
An' I feel dat I could sorter
Knock de socks clean off o' sin
Ez I hyeah my po' ol' granny
Wif huh tremblin' voice jine in.
Den we all th'ow in our voices
Fu' to he'p de chune out too,
Lak a big camp-meetin' choiry
Tryin' to sing a mou'nah th'oo.
An' our th'oahts let out de music,
Sweet an' solemn, loud an' free,
'Twell de raftahs o' my cabin
Echo wif de melody.
Oh, de music o' de banjo,
Quick an' deb'lish, solemn, slow,
Is de greates' joy an' solace
Dat a weary slave kin know!
So jes' let me hyeah it ringin',
Dough de chune be po' an' rough,
It's a pleasure; an' de pleasures
O' dis life is few enough.
Now, de blessed little angels
Up in heaben, we are told,
Don't do nothin' all dere lifetime
'Ceptin' play on ha'ps o' gold.
Now I think heaben 'd be mo' homelike
Ef we 'd hyeah some music fall
F'om a real ol'-fashioned banjo,
Like dat one upon de wall.
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.