Rondeaux – Paul Lawrence Dunbar


Not they who soar, but they who plod
Their rugged way unhelped to God
Are heroes, they who higher fare
And flying fan the upper air
Miss all the toil that hugs the sod.
‘Tis they whose backs have felt the rod,
Whose souls to sorrow have been bare,
Can smile upon defeated care,
         Not they who soar.

High up there are no thorns to prod
Nor boulders hiding ‘neath the clod
To him the keenness of the share,
For flight is ever free and rare–
But heroes they, the soil who’ve trod
         Not they who soar.


‘Twixt smile and tear so wags the world–
Today on happy pinions whirled,
We tempt the blue and spirit–gay
We neighbor with the stars–today
We seek the heavens planet-pearled.

Tomorrow, ah, our wings are furled,
And Heaven seems oh so far away–
We lift our voices up to pray
        ‘Twixt smile and tear.

And then in eddies swiftly swirled–
Poor straws upon the current twirled,
We cling, and lose and wage the fray;
Not where we will, but where we may
We lodge, on some far shore wave hurled.
         ‘Twixt smile and fear.

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