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Paul Laurence Dunbar


Continuing on with my writer’s block, under whose pretext I’m procrastinating, here is a poem written by a very ingenious poet. I would speak much more highly of Paul Dunbar if i knew him personally. I dont. I have read his poems and they are rather outstanding. So here’s one of them that struck me for what it says.

 

Life’s Tragedy

It may be misery not to sing at all,
And to go silent through the brimming day;
It may be misery never to be loved,
But deeper griefs than these beset the way.

To sing the perfect song,
And by a half-tone lost the key,
There the potent sorrow, there the grief,
The pale, sad staring of life’s tragedy.

To have come near to the perfect love,
Not the hot passion of untempered youth,
But that which lies aside its vanity,
And gives, for thy trusting worship, truth.

This, this indeed is to be accursed,
For if we mortals love, or if we sing,
We count our joys not by what we have,
But by what kept us from that perfect thing.

 ———————————————————————————–

Is it so? If there is a tragedy in life, is it that we did not have a perfect… thing? He doesn’t outright say that life’s tragedy is that we are not perfect. That would’ve been easy to refute. Rather, we missed what could be perfect. Damn depressing if you ask me. You could argue that being content/happy/other-similar-emotions is what counts.. and i guess that’s true too. Could-have-beens are too painful and perhaps useless to delve upon. (Like i believe what i just said :P). Still could-have-beens really could have been. Oh wait, thats why the poem is titled life’s tragedy. Luckily, I still have most of my imperfect life ahead of me, shall try and get that perfect thing one way or another. Wish you all something perfect too.

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Comments on: "Paul Laurence Dunbar" (4)

  1. I think the point he’s trying to make is that instead of being happy with what we do have, we instead choose to look at what else would have made it even better, or perfect.

    The tragedy isn’t the fact that we don’t have perfection; the tragedy is the fact that we choose to ignore what we have.

  2. Hmm.. thats one way to look at it. The last stanza does seem to say that we measure happiness by whats lacking.

    But this is what i was referring too:
    [i]To sing the perfect song,
    And by a half-tone lost the key,
    There the potent sorrow, there the grief,
    The pale, sad staring of life’s tragedy. [/i]

    I feel now that worse could happen with life… like advisor getting funky ideas :D.
    Thanks for reading the post actually :).

  3. Right, but that’s only the prelude to his overall point, which is:

    We count our joys not by what we have,
    But by what kept us from that perfect thing.

    Which means we’d happier if we just counted what we do have, instead of brooding over what kept us from being perfect.

  4. Hmm.. that’s a good point.
    Reading it again i feel that that’s what he might have meant. Probably i was in a very pessimistic state while i intepreted it :P.

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