July 19, 2011

Birth of Alice Ruth Moore

Alice Ruth Moore was born on July 19, 1875 in New Orleans; the city would later become the setting of many of her local color prose writings. In 1895, at age 20, she published her first book, Violets And Other Tales. The book included both prose and poetry. Writing, however, did not provide enough income and she took jobs as a teacher, stenographer, journalist, typist, and parole officer.

One of the most significant events in her life was her marriage to Paul Laurence Dunbar in 1898, though the marriage was short (she left him in 1902) and unhappy. Even so, she continued using his name, even after her third marriage, when she became professionally known as Alice Dunbar Nelson.

From her first book, this poem is titled "If I Had Known":

  If I had known
Two years ago how drear this life should be,
And crowd upon itself all strangely sad,
Mayhap another song would burst from out my lips,
Overflowing with the happiness of future hopes;
Mayhap another throb than that of joy.
Have stirred my soul into its inmost depths,
           If I had known.

  If I had known,
Two years ago the impotence of love,
The vainness of a kiss, how barren a caress,
Mayhap my soul to higher things have soarn,
Nor clung to earthly loves and tender dreams,
But ever up aloft into the blue empyrean,
And there to master all the world of mind,
            If I had known.


  1. She was a published author before knowing Paul Dunbar. Was this poem an inference to her dissatisfaction in her marriage to him?

  2. The poem was published three years before her marriage to Paul Laurence Dunbar so it's likely not a reference to that relationship.


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