Poetry Sunday: In August

Paul Laurence Dunbar lived from 1872 until 1906. He was the first really influential African-American poet and playwright in American literature. He enjoyed his greatest popularity in the early 20th century. During those same years, he suffered several illnesses, including recurring bouts of pneumonia which left him with a persistent cough. Unfortunately, he used alcohol as a self-medication to combat the cough, but this caused further deterioration of his physical condition and he died much too soon at the age of thirty-three.

His poem In August speaks of lazy days spent fishing and reading "easily digested books." Somewhat poignantly, in view of what happened to him, he also writes of taking along "one little flask" and of getting his bottle "(on the sly)." 

I like the rhythm of this poem and the images it evokes of hot and dry August days. Just like the ones we are having now.


by Paul Laurence Dunbar
When August days are hot an' dry,
When burning copper is the sky,
I 'd rather fish than feast or fly
In airy realms serene and high.
I 'd take a suit not made for looks,
Some easily digested books,
Some flies, some lines, some bait, some hooks,
Then would I seek the bays and brooks.
I would eschew mine every task,
In Nature's smiles my soul should bask,
And I methinks no more could ask,
Except—perhaps—one little flask.
In case of accident, you know,
Or should the wind come on to blow,
Or I be chilled or capsized, so,
A flask would be the only go.
Then could I spend a happy time,—
A bit of sport, a bit of rhyme
(A bit of lemon, or of lime,
To make my bottle's contents prime).
When August days are hot an' dry,
I won't sit by an' sigh or die,
I 'll get my bottle (on the sly)
And go ahead, and fish, and lie! 


  1. "...I 'd rather fish than feast or fly
    In airy realms serene and high."

    I like that.


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