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  Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)

                      Lager Beer

    I lafs und sings, und shumps aroundt.
                    Und somedimes acd so gueer.
    You ask me vot der matter ish?
                    I'm filled mit lager peer.

    I hugs mine child, und giss mine vife.
                    Oh, my dey was so dear;
    Bot dot ish ven, you know, mire friend,
                    I'm filled mit lager peer.

    Eleetion gomes, I makes mire speech,
                    Mine het it vas so glear:
    De beoples laf, und say ha, ha,
                    He's filled mit lager peer.

    De oder night I got me mad,
                    De beoples run mit fear.
    De bleeceman gome und took me down
                    All filled mit lager peer.

    Next day I gomes pefore de judge,
                    Says he, "Eh heh, you're here!"
    I gives you yust five-fifty-five
                    For trinking lager peer.

    I took mine bocket book qvick oud,
                    So poor I don't abbear;
    Mine money all vas gone, mine friend
                    Vas gone in lager peer.

    Und den dey dakes me off to shail,
                    To work mine sendence glear,
    Und dere I shwears no more to be
                    Filled oup mit lager peer.

    Und from dot day I drinks no more,
                    Yah, dat is very gueer,
    But den I found de tevil lifed
                    In dot same lager peer.


Paul Laurence Dunbar was America's first professional black literary man (Braxton, ix). Considered primarily as a black dialect poet by his contemporary critics, he is perhaps better known today for his "more traditional poem" We Wear the Mask as well as for writing the poem that inspired the title to Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. His poetry covers a wide range of topics and styles, as illustrated by the above poem that humorously reflects a German-American dialetic.

The above poem originally appeared in the Dayton, Ohio Tattler on December 13, 1890, attributed to Pffenberger Deutzelheim. It can be found, for example, in:

  • Dunbar, Paul Laurence. The Collected Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Joanne M. Braxton, ed. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1993.