The Paradox

The Paradox

Paul Laurence Dunbar

i am the mother of sorrows,
I am the ender of grief;
I am the bud and the blossom,
I am the late-falling leaf.

i am thy priest and thy poet,
I am thy serf and thy king;
I cure the tears of the heartsick,
When I come near they shall sing.

White are my hands as the snowdrop;
Swart are my fingers as clay;
Dark is my frown as the midnight,
Fair is my brow as the day.

Battle and war are my minions,
Doing my will as divine;
I am the calmer of passions,
Peace is a nursling of mine.

Speak to me gently or curse me,
Seek me or fly from my sight;
I am thy fool in the morning,
Thou art my slave in the night.

Down to the grave will I take thee,
Out from the noise of the strife;
Then shalt thou see me and know me—
Death, then, no longer, but life.

Then shalt thou sing at my coming,
Kiss me with passionate breath,
Clasp me and smile to have thought me
Aught save the foeman of Death.

Come to me, brother, when weary,
Come when thy lonely heart swells;
I’ll guide thy footsteps and lead thee
Down where the Dream Woman dwells.

Summary of The Paradox

  • Popularity of “The Paradox”: The poem ‘The Paradox’ was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, an African American poet. This interesting poetic piece was first published in 1899 in his collection, Lyrics of the Hearthside. Then, it appeared in various anthologies for students. Within the poem, there is a focus on the paradoxes that permeate our lives and the significance of our role in the world. The poet’s ability to showcase his imaginative potential is clear as he skillfully exhibits his distinctive individuality through the use of common paradoxes.
  • The Paradox” As a Representative of Paradoxes in Life: The poet personifies paradox, a literary device, that starts presenting itself as the mother of sorrows, ender of grief and a late falling leaf. Additionally, the text goes on to describe this individual as a priest, poet, serf, king, someone who sheds tears, experiences heartache, and possesses the gift of song. After saying this, the paradox takes account of its different qualities, such as having hands like a snowdrop, fingers like clay, and a fair brow.praises it The saying further emphasizes the ongoing nature of this battle, war, will, and passions, highlighting the power of your voice to shape your own destiny. You have the ability to pray for or curse it, to label it as foolish or sane, or to recognize the paradox and appreciate its unique qualities. In the end, it says that even if you are tired or sorrowful, it will guide you to the residence of a dream lady.
  • Major Themes in “The Paradox”: The beauty of paradox, its unique attributes and its quality of satisfying a person are three major thematic strands of this poem. The poet made use of personification to illustrate the paradoxical nature of the concept, emphasizing that it is the opposite of what one may think. This is the beauty of paradox. It has various attributes as it makes a person stupid or even anything It appears that individuals have the ability to adopt various attitudes in order to portray any desired appearance. Therefore, it is the quality of a paradox to lead you to your desired goal.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In The Paradox

literary devices contribute to the impressiveness of poems. Paul Laurence Dunbar also used some literary devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /ee/ in “Then shalt thou see me and know me” and “Speak to me gently or curse me” and again the sound of /ai/ in “Doing my will as divine”.
  2. Alliteration: The poem shows the use of alliteration in the shape of initial consonant sounds of the neighboring words, such as the sound of /f/ in “fly from” and the sound of /p/ in “I am thy priest and thy poet”.
  3. Anaphora: It means the repetition of the first part of the sentence in its next clause or in the next verse, such as the repetition of “I am…” in the first or the second stanza.
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ in “Down where the Dream Woman dwells” and “Battle and war are my minions” and the sound of /l/ “Come when thy lonely heart swells”.
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example,

Come when thy lonely heart swells;
I’ll guide thy footsteps and lead thee
Down where the Dream Woman dwells.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Paul Laurence Dunbar used imagery in this poem such as “Then shall thou sing at my coming”, “Clasp me and smile to have thought me”, and “Come to me, brother, when weary”.
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet used the extended metaphor of paradox to show its unique qualities.
  3. Personification: The poet has personified paradox in the poem, showing it as a long metaphor. He has shown it as if it has life and emotions of its own.
  4. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of symbols such as day, night and strife, and peace to show human life and its problems.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Paradox

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows very simple and colloquial diction with a serious and pleasant tone.
  2. Quatrain: A stanza of four lines borrowed from Persian poetry is a quatrain.
  3. Rhyme Scheme: The poem shows the ABAB rhyme scheme in all of its stanzas.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are eight stanzas with each having four verses.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “The Paradox” are appropriate to quote when consoling somebody.

Come to me, brother, when weary,
Come when thy lonely heart swells;
I’ll guide thy footsteps and lead thee
Down where the Dream Woman dwells.