By Teja Seelam, Jermaine Phua, Jacob Liston, Alan Wang, and Benjamin Kim
"Worn Out" by Paul Laurence Dunbar
You bid me hold my peace And dry my fruitless tears, Forgetting that I bear A pain beyond my years. You say that I should smile And drive the gloom away; I would, but sun and smiles Have left my life's dark day. All time seems cold and void, And naught but tears remain; Life's music beats for me A melancholy strain. I used at first to hope, But hope is past and, gone; And now without a ray My cheerless life drags on. Like to an ash-stained hearth When all its fires are spent; Like to an autumn wood By
storm winds rudely shent,-- So sadly goes my heart, Unclothed of hope and peace; It asks not joy again, But only seeks release.
Analysis of Poem
This poem portrays the theme of discrimination and their feeling towards this. After reading this poem, it sounds like it was written in the shoes of a slave or a man who has faced a lot of discrimination, like during the time of slavery. They also have little to no hope that someone will stop this any time sooner. The tone of the poem sounds cheerless and miserable, like being alive is a hindrance and there is nothing good about it but misery. He also seems worn out and tired of his life but there is nothing he can do about this but hope for a miracle to happen. This can be related to the slaves during the time when slavery was allowed in America. They feel like everyday is just another miserable day. The poem also shows the acceptance to the fact that he will be discriminated when he says “my cheerless life drags on” . In the poem, the author connects the lives of the discriminated to everyday things. For example, when he says “Like to an ash-stained hearth. When all its fires are spent”, means that his life is like the ashes left from a fireplace, all burnt out and left with nothing, not even hope. Overall, the poem is trying to show the feelings of a man who is worn out of discrimination, has a miserable life and wishes that one day, he will be treated normally like everyone else.
Bio of Author
Born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872, Paul was the first African American to support himself through his writings while displaying great versatility as a writer throughout his short career of 33 years. His mother and father were both former slaves and his father had escaped slavery and served in the Massachusetts infantry during the civil war. His father left the family, leaving Paul’s mother to provide for the family by being a washerwomen. One of the people she worked for were the famous Wright brothers. Even though they were poor, Paul’s mother always encouraged her kids to read, inspiring Paul to write and read poetry at a young age. Dunbar had 2 different writing styles, one being formal, elegant and serious while the other is a rural african dialect. During his lifetime, Dunbar has published 7 volumes of poetry, 4 novels, and 4 volumes of short stories. In most of his writings, he is criticized for not bad mouthing the whites about their racial discrimination and stereotyping towards the black. Instead, he tries to write towards the the positive aspects by praising the blacks.