Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Christian Soldier

Long since, in sore distress I heard one pray:
"Lord, who prevailest with resistless might,
Ever from war and strife keep me away;
My battles fight!"

I know not if I play the Pharisee,
And if my brother after all be right;
But mine shall be the warrior's plea to Thee-
Strength for the fight.

I do not ask that Thou shalt front the fray
and drive the warring foeman from my sight;
I only ask, O Lord, by night, by day,
Strength for the fight.

When foes upon me press, let me not quail,
Nor think to turn me into coward flight.
I only ask, to make mine arms prevail,
Strength for the fight.

And when, at eventide, the fray is done,
My soul to Death's bedchamber do Thou light,
And grant me, be the field or lost or won,
Rest from the fight.

-Paul Laurence Dunbar


Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first Black American to gain national eminence as a poet. Born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio, he was the son of ex-slaves and classmate to Orville Wright of aviation fame. Although he lived to be only 33 years old, Dunbar was prolific, writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs and essays as well as the poetry for which he became well known. He was popular with black and white readers of his day, and his works are celebrated today by scholars and school children alike. His style encompasses two distinct voices -- the standard English of the classical poet and the evocative dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America. He was gifted in poetry -- the way that Mark Twain was in prose -- in using dialect to convey character.

(information obtained from the University of Dayton's website about Dunbar)

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