Poetry and Music for Summer

Oh, summer has clothed the earth In a cloak from the loom of the sun! And a mantle, too, of the skies’ soft blue, And a belt where the rivers run.

And now for the kiss of the wind, And the touch of the air’s soft hands, With the rest from strife and the heat of life, With the freedom of lakes and lands.

I envy the farmer’s boy Who sings as he follows the plow; While the shining green of the young blades lean To the breezes that cool his brow.

He sings to the dewy morn, No thought of another’s ear; But the song he sings is a chant for kings And the whole wide world to hear.

He sings of the joys of life, Of the pleasures of work and rest, From an o’erfull heart, without aim or art; ‘T is a song of the merriest.

O ye who toil in the town, And ye who moil in the mart, Hear the artless song, and your faith made strong Shall renew your joy of heart.

Oh, poor were the worth of the world If never a song were heard,— If the sting of grief had no relief, And never a heart were stirred.

So, long as the streams run down, And as long as the robins trill, Let us taunt old Care with a merry air, And sing in the face of ill.

“In Summer” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. Born in 1872, Dunbar began writing poetry as a child and his work had already been published by the time he reached age fourteen. The son of freed slaves from Kentucky, he became one of the first African American poets to gain national recognition. Though a good student, Dunbar was too poor to attend college and in 1892 he took a job as an elevator operator. In 1893, he began selling his first self-published book of poetry for one dollar to people who rode his elevator. When he moved to Chicago later that year he became friends with Frederick Douglass, who found him a job as a clerk. In just a few short years, Dunbar’s poetry began being published in national newspapers across the country.1

“Summer” by Frank Bridge. Bridge was an English composer, violinist, and conductor who wrote this and a number of other pieces during and after World War I. Summer premiered in March 1916 with Bridge conducting. Johannes Müller-Stosch directs this rendition which was performed in September 2012 by the Cole Conservatory Symphony Orchestra.2


1. More of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s biography can be found here. 2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Bridge

Alisa Williams is Spirituality Editor at SpectrumMagazine.org. Photo Credit: Simon Templar / FreeImages.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7540

i’m really enjoying thinking about this dunbar poem (i also enjoyed the principal oboe solo in the bridge piece)…my string quartet did a wedding at the zoo yesterday, and just looking at the carefully manicured, opulent grounds - replete with gorgeous, free ranging peacocks - made me think of the sentiment of this poem…we really should be singing our way through life’s cares…in fact i’m on my way to the zoo again today…i enjoyed myself so much yesterday…