G’way an’ quit dat noise, Miss Lucy–
Put dat music book away;
What’s de use to keep on tryin’?
Ef you practise twell you’re gray,
You cain’t sta’t no notes a-flyin’
Lak de ones dat rants and rings
F’om de kitchen to de big woods
When Malindy sings.

You ain’t got de nachel o’gans
Fu’ to make de soun’ come right,
You ain’t got de tu’ns an’ twistin’s
Fu’ to make it sweet an’ light.
Tell you one thing now, Miss Lucy,
An’ I ‘m tellin’ you fu’ true,
When hit comes to raal right singin’,
‘T ain’t no easy thing to do.

Easy ‘nough fu’ folks to hollah,
Lookin’ at de lines an’ dots,
When dey ain’t no one kin sence it,
An’ de chune comes in, in spots;
But fu’ real malojous music,
Dat jes’ strikes yo’ hea’t and clings,
Jes’ you stan’ an’ listen wif me
When Malindy sings.

Ain’t you nevah hyeahd Malindy?
Blessed soul, tek up de cross!
Look hyeah, ain’t you jokin’, honey?
Well, you don’t know whut you los’.
Y’ ought to hyeah dat gal a-wa’blin’,
Robins, la’ks, an’ all dem things,
Heish dey moufs an’ hides dey face.
When Malindy sings.

Fiddlin’ man jes’ stop his fiddlin’,
Lay his fiddle on de she’f;
Mockin’-bird quit tryin’ to whistle,
‘Cause he jes’ so shamed hisse’f.
Folks a-playin’ on de banjo
Draps dey fingahs on de strings–
Bless yo’ soul–fu’gits to move ’em,
When Malindy sings.

She jes’ spreads huh mouf and hollahs,
“Come to Jesus,” twell you hyeah
Sinnahs’ tremblin’ steps and voices,
Timid-lak a-drawin’ neah;
Den she tu’ns to “Rock of Ages,”
Simply to de cross she clings,
An’ you fin’ yo’ teahs a-drappin’
When Malindy sings.

Who dat says dat humble praises
Wif de Master nevah counts?
Heish yo’ mouf, I hyeah dat music,
Ez hit rises up an’ mounts–
Floatin’ by de hills an’ valleys,
Way above dis buryin’ sod,
Ez hit makes its way in glory
To de very gates of God!

Oh, hit’s sweetah dan de music
Of an edicated band;
An’ hit’s dearah dan de battle’s
Song o’ triumph in de lan’.
It seems holier dan evenin’
When de solemn chu’ch bell rings,
Ez I sit an’ ca’mly listen
While Malindy sings.

Towsah, stop dat ba’kin’, hyeah me!
Mandy, mek dat chile keep still;
Don’t you hyeah de echoes callin’
F’om de valley to de hill?
Let me listen, I can hyeah it,
Th’oo de bresh of angel’s wings,
Sof’ an’ sweet, “Swing Low,
Sweet Chariot,”
Ez Malindy sings.

Analysis, meaning and summary of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem When Malindy Sings


  1. oumar diouck says:

    I have had unexpected feeling of belonging not to a race, but to an artistically gifted african american community when, ten years ago, i discovered every detail of the black genius so much beautifuly painted all along this poem. thank you PAUL.

  2. Carol Kasten says:

    I truly enjoy poems like this one and others, but when I was in Jr. High, MANY years ago, we read a poem out of our Literature book, and it had a sentence in it that i remember and it went, “Seen you down at church last night, nevermind Miss Lucy; What i mean oh dat alright, nevermind Miss Lucy….Anyway, could you help me locate that poem? Miss Malindy is pretty close,and i love this one too, but I am looking for this other one in particular. Thank you for your help.

  3. Rasheeda K. Ali says:

    This is one of Mr. Dunbar’s favorite pieces. I’ve imagined that Malindy must have had a voice that captured the essence and quality of Mahalia, Patty, Aretha, Gladys, Yolanda, Mary J., Beyonce, Fantasia, Alicia, Celine, Dolly, Barbara Streisand, Whitney and Billie Holiday all rolled up into one! This girl, Malindy was simply awesome as a songbird. She probably could also have “STOPPED TRAFFIC” with her voice in song. Afterall, Mr. Dunbar tells us in this poem that even the Mockingbirds quit trying to whistle, ’cause they were so ashamed of themselves … when Malindy sang.
    Although it’s written in dialect, it’s fairly easy to read and the message is clear. You will know early in this piece, what happens When Malindy Sings!
    Thank you, Mr. Dunbar for your great works and contributions!

  4. Doral Kemper says:

    Dunbar catches much of the spirit that bursts from the hearts of many African American singers as they bear their testimonies in song. Their sincerity is matched by their spine tingling tonal quality. Dunbar had obviously heard Malindy sing and shares the experience with us.
    Thanks Paul, wherever you are.

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