A Banjo Song

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A Banjo Song  (1913) 
by Paul Laurence Dunbar
In the 1913 collection of his work, The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

            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.