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Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Mystery

I was not; now I am—a few days hence

I shall not be; I fain would look before

And after, but can neither do; some Power

Or lack of power says "no" to all I would.

I stand upon a wide and sunless plain,

Nor chart nor steel to guide my steps aright.

Whene'er, o'ercoming fear, I dare to move,

I grope without direction and by chance.

Some feign to hear a voice and feel a hand

That draws them ever upward thro' the gloom.

But I—I hear no voice and touch no hand,

Tho' oft thro' silence infinite I list,

And strain my hearing to supernal sounds;

Tho' oft thro' fateful darkness do I reach,

And stretch my hand to find that other hand.

I question of th' eternal bending skies

That seem to neighbor with the novice earth;

But they roll on, and daily shut their eyes

On me, as I one day shall do on them,

And tell me not the secret that I ask.