Monday, January 27, 2014

Of Nature's Banjoists and Balladeers

This morning the minstrels deliver snow-song...again:)

Open up our eyes, Oh Maestro, open up our sluggish ear
For the piping song of nature spills into the atmosphere
‘Twould be a sin of grossest greed to blind and deafly pass
Without acknowledgement or heed, the reed that tunes the grass

The choristers of clover-mead and snow-swept solitude
The minstrels clad in sultan-thread attuning winter’s wood
The wild-bloom choir, the vesper fire, the hazy noon refrain
Of locust drone or wild-wind moan or silver-throated rain

How rare the aria  that wafts on midnight’s ether realm
The cockcrow canticle on soft and purple-misted helm
From barren branch to leaf-lace lilt; majestic madrigal
‘ere nature dons the dappled kilt of summer-song and fall

Where is the violin that vexes poplar tress and pine?
The timbrel and the tambourine attuning fair and fine
Her midnight, morning, noon alloy with stunning melody
Filling the air with giddy joy where else sorrow would be?

Oh Maestro of ten thousand, thousand orchestral designs
Dare I to breathe obliviously love’s beauty-blended lines?
Dare I to tread in blind, deaf greed this scope of snow and sand
Without acknowledgement or heed, the reed in Heaven’s Hand?

© Janet Martin

This poem was inspired by the poem below...
I have felt the 'rush' he speaks of. Have you?

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer delivers a daily highlight (aka poem) to my in-box faithfully!
This morning was one of those poems that immediately had to be re-read!
…and I thought oh yes, I know that wild and wondrous feeling…
F'om a real ol'-fashioned banjo, 
Like dat one upon de wall.

A Banjo Song
Paul Laurence Dunbar
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 poem is in the public domain.

Purchase a framed print of this poem.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was from Ohio. He wrote his first poem at the age of six, was editor of his high school newspaper, and published his first book at twenty. His writing attracted attention from the very beginning, and Paul became well-known in both America and around the world. Like James Whitcomb Riley, who was a fan of his young contemporary's work, Paul wrote many of his poems in dialect. Besides a dozen books of poetry, Paul wrote four short story collections, five novels, a play, and the first  Broadway musical ever written and performed by African-Americans. A tremendously successful poet whose work was being published in all the major literary publications of his day, Paul's life was cut tragically short by tuberculosis.


  1. Thanks so much for the mention of Paul Lawrence Dunbar. I have a book of poetry by him, and think he is amazing. Good inspiration here, Janet.

  2. Hi Sara, He is so good; (new to me). I'll be keeping my eyes open for a book as well.


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