In this circa-1900 contribution to Poetic Justice, poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (pictured) was a black man with a sweet pen and an eye on who seemed to walk away the richer when misery struck.

Dunbar's second book, Majors and Minors received a favorable review in the Harper's Weekly in 1898 and "from that time his success was assured" (1). Dunbar did not live long; born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872, he died in 1906.

The Plutocrat hoards up his treasures of gold
And smiles in his power ands his pride,
While he seals up his coffers, withholds his great store
From the paupers who wail at his side.
He has laid his foundation, and built it on wealth
A tower that never will fall.
Then he scribbles a
will and he passes away,
And the
lawyer, he gathereth all

 

The farmer, he plants, and he tends, and he reaps

Paul Laurence Dunbar

And he garners his grain with a will.
Then he finds a good market for all he would sell,
And laughs at the wind growing chill.
For his pockets are full and his granaries too,
There's a plenty for kitchen and stall;
But he places a
mortgage - a small one, of course,
And the lawyer, he gathereth all

The miser goes ragged and lives on a crust,
Then childless and will-less, he dies;
When lo! from obscurity's corners remote
How his heirs and relations arise!
And they quibble and fight about reason and right,
And start up a terrible brawl.
But while they are spending their breath and their cash
And the lawyer, he gathereth all.

And so it goes on to the end of the tale
That rich men and farmers and fools
Will bury their hands in the depths of their chest
To play with the keen edge tools.
For one jolly wight looks on at the sight
And no tears for their follies lets fall.
And this song doth he sing as their tributes they bring,
"Oh, the lawyer he gathereth all!"

REFERENCES:

  • Cullen, Countee, Caroling Dusk: An Anthology of Verse by Negro Poets (New York: Harper & Bros. Publishers, 1927).
  • Duhaime, Lloyd, Poetic Justice: Law Poems
  • Dunbar's biography is at www.dunbarsite.org/biopld.asp.
  • The Song of the Gatherer by Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906).