Ere Sleep Comes Down


Poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar
Medium voice and piano


Sidney Outlaw, baritone
Philip Hayden, piano

jump-back-honey-thumbnail   a-summers-night-thumbnail

little-brown-baby-thumbnail   song-of-summer-thumbnail

accountability-thumbnail   ere-sleep-comes-down-thumbnail


(See full song text below)


Image: Dis am de pick ob dat roost in the public domain


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Poetry by Paul Laurence Dunbar


Jump Back, Honey
(originally titled A Negro Love Song)

Seen my lady home las’ night,
          Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
          Jump back, honey, jump back.
Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
An’ a smile go flittin’ by —
          Jump back, honey, jump back.

Hyeahd de win’ blow thoo de pine,
          Jump back, honey, jump back.
Mockin’-bird was singin’ fine,
          Jump back, honey, jump back.
An’ my hea’t was beatin’ so,
When I reached my lady’s do’,
Dat I could n’t ba’ to go —
          Jump back, honey, jump back.

Put my ahm aroun’ huh wais’,
          Jump back, honey, jump back.
Raised huh lips an’ took a tase,
          Jump back, honey, jump back.
Love me, honey, love me true?
Love me well ez I love you?
An’ she answe’d, ” ‘Cose I do” —
          Jump back, honey, jump back.


A Summer’s Night

The night is dewy as a maiden’s mouth,
The skies are bright as are a maiden’s eyes,
Soft as a maiden’s breath the wind that flies
Up from the perfumed bosom of the South.
Like sentinels, the pines stand in the park;
And hither hastening, like rakes that roam,
With lamps to light their wayward footsteps home,
The fireflies come stagg’ring down the dark.


Little Brown Baby

Little brown baby wif spa’klin’ eyes,
          Come to yo’ pappy an’ set on his knee.
What you been doin’, suh — makin’ san’ pies?
          Look at dat bib — you’s ez du’ty ez me.
Look at dat mouf — dat’s merlasses, I bet;
          Come hyeah, Maria, an’ wipe off his han’s.
Bees gwine to ketch you an’ eat you up yit,
          Bein’ so sticky an sweet — goodness lan’s!

Little brown baby wif spa’klin’ eyes,
          Who’s pappy’s darlin’ an’ who’s pappy’s chile?
Who is it all de day nevah once tries
          Fu’ to be cross, er once loses dat smile?
Whah did you git dem teef? My, you’s a scamp!
          Whah did dat dimple come f’om in yo’ chin?
Pappy do’ know you — I b’lieves you’s a tramp;
          Mammy, dis hyeah’s some ol’ straggler got in!

Let’s th’ow him outen de do’ in de san’,
          We do’ want stragglers a-layin’ ‘roun’ hyeah;
Let’s gin him ‘way to de big buggah-man;
          I know he’s hidin’ erroun’ hyeah right neah.
Buggah-man, buggah-man, come in de do’,
          Hyeah’s a bad boy you kin have fu’ to eat.
Mammy an’ pappy do’ want him no mo’,
          Swaller him down f’om his haid to his feet!

Dah, now, I t’ought dat you’d hug me up close.
          Go back, ol’ buggah, you sha’n’t have dis boy.
He ain’t no tramp, ner no straggler, of co’se;
          He’s pappy’s pa’dner an’ playmate an’ joy.
Come to you’ pallet now — go to yo’ res’;
          Wisht you could allus know ease an’ cleah skies;
Wisht you could stay jes’ a chile on my breas’ —
          Little brown baby wif spa’klin’ eyes!


Song of Summer

Dis is gospel weathah sho’—
Hills is sawt o’ hazy.
Meddahs level ez a flo’
Callin’ to de lazy.
Sky all white wif streaks o’ blue,
Sunshine softly gleamin’,
D’ain’t no wuk hit’s right to do,
Nothin’ ’s right but dreamin’.

Dreamin’ by de rivah side
Wif de watahs glist’nin’,
Feelin’ good an’ satisfied
Ez you lay a–list’nin’
To the little nakid boys
Splashin’ in de watah,
Hollerin’ fu’ to spress deir joys
Jes’ lak youngsters ought to.

Squir’l a–tippin’ on his toes,
So ’s to hide an’ view you;
Whole flocks o’ camp–meetin’ crows
Shoutin’ hallelujah.
Peckahwood erpon de tree
Tappin’ lak a hammah;
Jaybird chattin’ wif a bee,
Tryin’ to teach him grammah.

Breeze is blowin’ wif perfume,
Jes’ enough to tease you;
Hollyhocks is all in bloom,
Smellin’ fu’ to please you.
Go ‘way, folks, an’ let me ‘lone,
Times is gettin’ dearah—
Summah’s settin’ on de th’one,
An’ I ‘m a–layin’ neah huh!



Folks ain’t got no right to censuah othah folks about dey habits;
Him dat giv’ de squir’ls de bushtails made de bobtails fu’ de rabbits.
Him dat built de gread big mountains hollered out de little valleys,
Him dat made de streets an’ driveways wasn’t shamed to make de alleys.

We is all constructed diff’ent, d’ain’t no two of us de same;
We cain’t he’p ouah likes an’ dislikes, ef we’se bad we ain’t to blame.
Ef we’se good, we need n’t show off, case you bet it ain’t ouah doin’
We gits into su’ttain channels dat we jes’ cain’t he’p pu’suin’.

But we all fits into places dat no othah ones could fill,
An’ we does the things we has to, big er little, good er ill.
John cain’t tek de place o’ Henry, Su an’ Sally ain’t alike;
Bass ain’t nuthin’ like a suckah, chub ain’t nuthin’ like a pike.

When you come to think about it, how it’s all planned out it’s splendid.
Nuthin’s done er evah happens, ‘dout hit’s somefin’ dat’s intended;
Don’t keer whut you does, you has to, an’ hit sholy beats de dickens,–
Viney, go put on de kittle, I got one o’ mastah’s chickens.


Ere Sleep Comes Down
(stanzas 1, 4, & 6; stanzas 2, 3, & 5 omitted)

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
Which all the day with ceaseless care have sought
The magic gold which from the seeker flies;
Ere dreams put on the gown and cap of thought,
And make the waking world a world of lies,—
Of lies most palpable, uncouth, forlorn,
That say life’s full of aches and tears and sighs,—
Oh, how with more than dreams the soul is torn,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes,
Where ranges forth the spirit far and free?
Through what strange realms and unfamiliar skies
Tends her far course to lands of mystery?
To lands unspeakable—beyond surmise,
Where shapes unknowable to being spring,
Till, faint of wing, the Fancy fails and dies
Much wearied with the spirit’s journeying,
Ere sleep comes down to soothe the weary eyes.

When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes,
The last dear sleep whose soft embrace is balm,
And whom sad sorrow teaches us to prize
For kissing all our passions into calm,
Ah, then, no more we heed the sad world’s cries,
Or seek to probe th’ eternal mystery,
Or fret our souls at long–withheld replies,
At glooms through which our visions cannot see,
When sleep comes down to seal the weary eyes.

Additional information

Score Type

PDF Download, Physical Score

Clef Type

Bass Clef, Treble Clef

Set or Individual Song Type

A Summer’s Night, Accountability, Complete Set, Ere Sleep Comes Down, Jump Back, Honey, Little Brown Baby, Song of Summer

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