Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow (1905) is a collection of poems by African American author Paul Laurence Dunbar. Published while Dunbar was suffering from tuberculosis, alcoholism, and depression, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow builds on his reputation as an artist with a powerful vision of faith and perseverance who sought to capture and examine the diversity of the African American experience. In “The Place Where the Rainbow Ends,” Dunbar, perhaps reflecting on his proximity to death, provides a simple song with a cautionary, utopian vision of hope and happiness: “Oh, many have sought it, / And all would have bought it, / With the blood we so recklessly spend; / But none has uncovered, / The gold, nor discovered / The spot at the rainbow’s end.” Meditative and bittersweet, Dunbar rejects wealth and power as a means of achieving fulfillment, looking instead to establish an inner peace for himself that he might “find without motion, / The place where the rainbow ends,” a place “[w]here care shall be quiet, / And love shall run riot, / And [he] shall find wealth in [his] friends.” Whether a vision of heaven or of the possibility of peace on earth, this poem finds echoes across Dunbar’s penultimate volume. Nearing death at such a young age, he prepares himself to lose the life he had fought so hard to achieve, a life devoted to reaching the hearts and minds of others. As we all must, he ends on a question, opening himself to the unknown without losing hope for the possibility of peace and reunion to come: “Where shall we meet, who knows, who knows?” In the reader, his song carries on. With a beautifully designed cover and professionally typeset manuscript, this edition of Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow is a classic of African American literature reimagined for modern readers.