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The Passage

The Passage



Many a year is in its grave
Since I crossed this restless wave,
And the twilight, fair as ever,
Shines on ruin, rock, and river.


Then, in this same boat beside,
Sat two comrades, old and tried,
One with all a father's truth,
One with all the fire of youth.


One on earth in silence wrought,
And his grave in silence sought,
But the younger, brighter form
Passed in battle and in storm.


So, when e'er I cast mine eye,
Back upon the days gone by,


Saddening thoughts of friends come o'er me,
Friends who closed their course before me.


But what binds us friend to friend,
Save that soul with soul may blend,
Soul-like were those days of yore,
Let us walk in soul once more.


Take, oh boatman, thrice thy fee,
Take, I give it willingly;
For invisible to thee,
Spirits twain have crossed with me.

Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection, MSS 659, series 1, box 1, OHS. Quoted by permission. Martin and Hudson include this poem in the Paul Laurence Dunbar Reader and speculate that it may have been written sometime in 1890 or 1891, when Dunbar studied German in high school. Johann Ludwig Uhland (1787–1862) was a German poet who embraced folk materials in his writing.