The Old Front Gate

Original Text: 
The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar (New York: Dodd, Mead, and Co., 1913), Facsimile in The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, ed. Joanne M. Braxton (Charlottesville and London: University Press of Virginia, 1993), p. 199. PS 1556 AI 1993 Robarts Library.
2  Dey keep on a-gittin' tall;
3But de folks don' seem to see
4  Dat dey's growin' up at all,
5'Twell dey fin' out some fine day
6  Dat de gals has 'menced to grow,
7W'en dey notice as dey pass
8  Dat de front gate's saggin' low.
9W'en de hinges creak an' cry,
10  An' de bahs go slantin' down,
11You kin reckon dat hit's time
12  Fu' to cas' yo' eye erroun',
13'Cause daih ain't no 'sputin' dis,
14  Hit's de trues' sign to show
15Dat daih's cou'tin goin' on
16  W'en de ol' front gate sags low.
17Oh, you grumble an' complain,
18  An' you prop dat gate up right;
19But you notice right nex' day
20  Dat hit's in de same ol' plight.
21So you fin' dat hit's a rule,
22  An' daih ain' no use to blow,
23W'en de gals is growin' up,
24  Dat de front gate will sag low.
25Den you t'ink o' yo' young days,
26  W'en you cou'ted Sally Jane,
27An' you so't o' feel ashamed
28  Fu' to grumble an' complain,
29'Cause yo' ricerlection says,
30  An' you know hits wo'ds is so,
31Dat huh pappy had a time
32  Wid his front gate saggin' low.
33So you jes' looks on an' smiles
34  At 'em leanin' on de gate,
35Tryin' to t'ink whut he kin say
36  Fu' to keep him daih so late,
37But you lets dat gate erlone,
38  Fu' yo' 'sperunce goes to show,
39'Twell de gals is ma'ied off,
40  It gwine keep on saggin' low.


1] Dialect verse, easier to understand if spoken:

"When there's children in the house,
They keep on a-getting tall;
But the folks don't seem to see
That they's growing up at all,
Until they find out some fine day
That the girls has commenced to grow,
When they notice as they pass
That the front gate's sagging low." Back to Line

Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Ian Lancashire
RPO Edition: 
RPO 1998.