Advancing in Poetry Advancing in Poetry    

Lesson 14: The Seedling

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Performer: Librivox - Titus E. Garnett

As a quiet little seedling

Lay within its darksome bed,

To itself it fell a-talking,

And this is what it said:

"I am not so very robust,

But I'll do the best I can;"

And the seedling from that moment

Its work of life began.

So it pushed a little leaflet

Up into the light of day,

To examine the surroundings

And show the rest the way.

The leaflet liked the prospect,

So it called its brother, Stem;

Then two other leaflets heard it,

And quickly followed them.

To be sure, the haste and hurry

Made the seedling sweat and pant;

But almost before it knew it

It found itself a plant.

The sunshine poured upon it,

And the clouds they gave a shower;

And the little plant kept growing

Till it found itself a flower.

Little folks, be like the seedling,

Always do the best you can;

Every child must share life's labor

Just as well as every man.

And the sun and showers will help you

Through the lonesome, struggling hours,

Till you raise to light and beauty

Virtue's fair, unfading flowers.

    Advancing in Poetry Advancing in Poetry    

Lesson 14: The Seedling

by Paul Laurence Dunbar

Performer: Librivox - Titus E. Garnett


Study the poem for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read or listen to the poem.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Read about the poet.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.


Paul Laurence Dunbar's 'The Seedling,' describes how a tiny, powerless seedling strives to become stronger (a plant) and more beautiful (a flower). Dunbar encourages every child to try their very best and conveys that persevering through both the good times and bad times will lead people to strength and beauty, just like the little seedling.


  1. Paul Laurence Dunbar was born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio.
  2. Zoom in and find Dunbar's state of birth, Ohio (OH), on the map of the United States.
  3. Dunbar's parents were slaves in Kentucky before being emancipated after the American Civil War. Find Kentucky (KY) on the map of the United States.
  4. Dunbar started writing poetry as a child and published his first poem at the age of 16.
  5. Dunbar was editor of his high school newspaper and president of its literary society.
  6. Dunbar was a novelist (wrote books), playwright (wrote plays), and lyricist (wrote words to songs) in addition to being a poet.
  7. Dunbar was the first black American poet to attain widespread international recognition.
  8. Dunbar died of tuberculosis in Dayton, Ohio at the age of 33.


Activity 1: Recite Poem Information

Recite the title of the poem and the name of the poet.

Activity 2: Study the Poem Picture

Study the poem picture and describe how it relates to the poem.

Activity 3: Recite the Poem

Practice reciting the poem aloud.

Activity 4: Complete Book Activities   

  • Click the crayon above, and complete pages 87-92 of 'Elementary Poetry 4: Advancing in Poetry.'


  1. 'Paul Laurence Dunbar.' Wikipedia. n.p.