Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872 - 1906) (pictured) composed poems in standard English and Negro dialect. At the turn of the last century, he was considered by critics to be the America's first great Negro poet, and it was his dialect poems that were the most popular and highly praised. Today, one hundred years later, he is still considered to be America's first great Negro poet but on the strength of his standard English poems. A controversial figure before and after his death from tuberculosis at the age of only thirty-three, he was derided by some as an exploiter of racism for personal material gain while hailed by others as a fierce opponent of and spokesman against the evils of racism. Reference to this and additional biographical information may be found here: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/paul-laurence-dunbar.
"Beyond the Years" is obviously one of Dunbar's standard English poems; however, the theme is one commonly used in traditional Negro verse and song. Dunbar employs a unique rhyme and refrain scheme in the three septets--a form reminiscent of but not the same as the many traditional septet forms (follow this link http://www.thepoetsgarret.com/septet.html for a summary of those forms). The rhythm, in feet, is: 4-4-2-4-2-4-2, with the last line forming a refrain out of the first three words of the first line. The rhyme scheme--aababab, ccbcbcb, ddbdbdb--uses the "b" rhyme to tie together the three numbered parts of the poem.