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The Seedling
Paul Laurence Dunbar


As a quiet little seedling
Lay within its darksome bed,
To itself it fell a-talking,
And this is what it said:

"I am not so very robust,
But I 'll do the best I can;"
And the seedling from that moment
Its work of life began.

So it pushed a little leaflet
Up into the light of day,
To examine the surroundings
And show the rest the way.

The leaflet liked the prospect,
So it called its brother, Stem;
Then two other leaflets heard it,
And quickly followed them.

To be sure, the haste and hurry
Made the seedling sweat and pant;
But almost before it knew it
It found itself a plant.

The sunshine poured upon it,
And the clouds they gave a shower;
And the little plant kept growing
Till it found itself a flower.

Little folks, be like the seedling,
Always do the best you can;
Every child must share life's labor
Just as well as every man.

And the sun and showers will help you
Through the lonesome, struggling hours,
Till you raise to light and beauty
Virtue's fair, unfading flowers.

This poem is in the public domain.

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) was from Ohio. He wrote his first poem at the age of six, was editor of his high school newspaper, and published his first book at twenty. His writing attracted attention from the very beginning, and Paul became well-known in both America and around the world. Like James Whitcomb Riley, who was a fan of his young contemporary's work, Paul wrote many of his poems in dialect. Besides a dozen books of poetry, Paul wrote four short story collections, five novels, a play, and the first  Broadway musical ever written and performed by African-Americans. A tremendously successful poet whose work was being published in all the major literary publications of his day, Paul's life was cut tragically short by tuberculosis.



Post New Comment:
Janice Galt:
This poem and the comments it inspired have added to the joy of this warm, greening morning here in Wisconsin. Thank you, Jayne, and all the commenters!
Posted 05/31/2023 11:04 AM
I really enjoy how the poem focuses on the fact that growth happens piece by piece. You don't make all your life changes or pass through life's stages all at once.
Posted 05/27/2023 11:16 PM
I appreciate the idea of plant and human alike trying to be the best they can. The sunshine poured upon it is a wonderful line.
Posted 05/27/2023 01:29 PM
Love this poem!!!
Posted 05/27/2023 11:07 AM
Ditto to Michaels comment. However, its not too late to think in this way as an adult when meeting new challenges.
Posted 05/27/2023 11:06 AM
Totally masterful example of cadence, rhyme, and life-lesson. Thank you, Jayne, not only for the poem itself, but also for the valuable historical background.
Posted 05/27/2023 09:12 AM
Darrell Arnold:
What an excellent children's book this would make! A story kids would find fascinating in rhymes they could understand, with a lesson they could grasp. I would love to have read this to my own daughters. Truly wonderful!
Posted 05/27/2023 08:15 AM
Larry Schug:
I can picture a child sitting on Dunbar's lap hearing this read to her or him and what comfort it must have brought. I think one of those children is me.
Posted 05/27/2023 07:45 AM

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