I’ve come across another beautiful poem to offer you for Valentine’s Day: this one, from the turn of the 20th century. Its author is Paul Laurence Dunbar, 18721906, one of the first African-American poets to gain national recognition.

According to the information about him that I found on

“Despite being a fine student, Dunbar was financially unable to attend college and took a job as an elevator operator. In 1892, a former teacher invited him to read his poems at a meeting of the Western Association of Writers; his work impressed his audience to such a degree that the popular poet James Whitcomb Riley wrote him a letter of encouragement. In 1893, Dunbar self-published a collection called Oak and Ivy. To help pay the publishing costs, he sold the book for a dollar to people riding in his elevator.”

Thanks to that teacher, and to his talent, Dunbar’s work was given its chance at immortality: he died at the age of thirty-three.

Here is his beautiful, lyrical poem, “Invitation to Love”:

INVITATION TO LOVE, by Paul Laurence Dunbar150px-Pauldunbar


Come when the nights are bright with stars

Or come when the moon is mellow;

Come when the sun his golden bars

Drops on the hay-field yellow.

Come in the twilight soft and gray,

Come in the night or come in the day,

Come, O love, whene’er you may,

And you are welcome, welcome.


You are sweet, O Love, dear Love,

You are soft as the nesting dove.

Come to my heart and bring it to rest

As the bird flies home to its welcome nest.


Come when my heart is full of grief

Or when my heart is merry;

Come with the falling of the leaf

Or with the redd’ning cherry.

Come when the year’s first blossom blows,

Come when the summer gleams and glows,

Come with the winter’s drifting snows,

And you are welcome, welcome.





  1. There is a high school named after Dunbar in Chicago, near where I grew up. I think our school played against theirs in team sports, though not entirely sure. What is sure is that we read him in high school. Glad to see him in Michelle’s journal…

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