A Warm Day in Winter


A Warm Day in Winter - (2011)     

Paul Laurence Dunbar

for medium voice and piano


“Sunshine on de medders,
Greenness on de way;
Dat ‘s de blessed reason
I sing all de day.”
Look hyeah! Whut you axin’?
Whut meks me so merry?
‘Spect to see me sighin’
W’en hit ‘s wa’m in Febawary?

‘Long de stake an’ rider
Seen a robin set;
W’y, hit ‘mence a-thawin’,
Groun’ is monst’ous wet.
Den you stan’ dah wond’rin’,
Lookin’ skeert an’ stary;
I’s a right to caper
W’en hit ‘s wa’m in Febawary.

Missis gone a-drivin’,
Mastah gone to shoot;
Ev’ry da’ky lazin
In de sun to boot.
Qua’tah’s moughty pleasant,
Hangin’ ‘roun’ my Mary;
Cou’tin’ boun’ to prospah
W’en hit ‘s wa’m in Febawary.

Cidah look so pu’ty
Po’in f’om de jug?
Don’ you see it’s happy?
Hyeah it laffin’—glug?
Now’s de time fu’ people
Fu’ to try an’ bury
All dey grief an’ sorer,
W’en hit ‘s wa’m in Febawary.

[ 4 pages, circa 3' 25" ]

Paul Laurence Dunbar


The text is found in Dunbar's collection, When Malindy Sings, published in 1896. For other settings to this American poet's standard and dialect poems, click here.



This has been a sunny and warmer day in winter, the sunlight streaming through our windows. Yet only a few days ago the river was iced up and below-freezing temperatures affirmed midwinter. By comparison this day has been "warm," and for this to celebrate the ongoing change of seasons and this fine day, singing Dunbar's meditation in dialect from another age proves the commonality of man's experiences. The delight of mispronunciation of the month, February, and other gems in this study in one of the many American dialects captures a culture as well as an age.


The four stanzas are treated in an AABA form with a short coda, but each strophe is also of two distinct characters moving from a more sedate, blue-note accompaniment to a more up tempo set of gestures as the poet rhetorically sets a scene and then converses with himself in each stanza, the third stanza being of calmer mood than the others.



The score for A Warm Day in Winter is available as a free PDF download, though any major commercial performance or recording of the work is prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the graphic below for this piano-vocal score.

A Warm Day in Winter