Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

November 29, 2009

All-World Wrestling Poetry—a collection of 52 wrestling poems

Filed under: 17th century poetry, 17th century poets, 18th century philosophers, 18th century poetry, 19th century poetry, 19th century poets, 20th century poetry, 20th century poets, 21 century poetry, 21st century poets, Abe Lincoln, Abraham Lincoln, aging, Alfred Noyes, Allah, amateur wrestling, American poets, Ancient Greek poetry, Andy Jones, angel, animal poetry, Anonymous, Antaeus, art, aspiration, Athena, athletes, athletics, automobile accidents, award, Babilu, bear wrestling, black ice, bodies, Canadian poets, Catherine Edmunds, Charles Wesley, coaching, Cole VanOhlen, college recruiting, college wrestling, collegiate wrestling, control, corn, Creative Commons, culture, dance, David Hernandez, dead poets, death, death poetry, Dennis Riley, Der Schauende, dialect poetry, dog poetry, dogs, Don Schaeffer, Drax Ireland, Edmund Waller, Emily Dickinson, Enceladus, English poets, Euphronios, European poetry, European poets, Facebook, failing, fasting, female wrestling, folkstyle wrestling, freestyle wrestling, G.C. Smith, gay poetry, Gilbert Pye, God, Goddess Athena, Granby roll, grappling, Greco-Roman wrestling, Harold Von Schmidt, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Heracles, Herakles, Hercules, Hiawatha, high school wrestling, Homer, human contact, humorous poetry, hunger, husking, Iliad, illustrations, illustrators, intimacy, Islam, Israel, Jack Armstrong, Jacob, Jakobs Kampf mit dem Engel, Jane M'Lean, Jayson Iwen, Jean Starr Untermeyer, Jeff Kass, John D. Berry, John Jeffire, John S. Taylor, John Timpane, Judy Swann, Julius Caeser, Justin Bowser, Kimberly Dark, Lincoln, Lori Desrosiers, losing, maize, martial arts, MassWrestling.com, Michael D. Snediker, Mondamin, Muhammad, Muhammad Afzal Mirza, Muhammad Amir Sheikh, Muslim, narrative, narrative poetry, Nestor, occasional poetry, Olympic Games, Olympic wrestling, Olympics, online poetry, online poetry writing, painting, Pamela Uschuk, Patroclus, pinning, poems, poetry, poetry forums, poetry translation, poetry workshops, poetry writing, poets, practice, preparation, prize, Prophet Muhammad, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rakana, Rane Arroyo, religion, religious poetry, Rembrandt, Rembrandt van Rijn, revenge, reversal, Rilke, Robin Hood, Robyn Hode, Rukana, Rukhana, Rus Bowden, Scottish poetry, sexuality, Sir Walter Scott, sports poetry, sports recruiting, Steve Meador, Steve Parker, Steven Woods, students, Sumo, Sumo wrestling, Susan Kelly-Dewitt, Susie DeFord, Tabitha Wilson, take down, Terreson, The Iliad, The Song of Hiawatha, touch, William Ernest Henley, women wrestling, wrestling, wrestling coach, wrestling poetry — Clattery MacHinery @ 9:06 pm

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Dreier Carr's High School Folkstyle Wrestling at the 2006 Glenn Invite

   

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The poems in this collection are on wrestling—the collegiate and amateur styles—but also how we wrestle with life, where we find wrestling in our lives, plus our gods, prophets and heroes past, those who have wrestled the classic bouts. It is modern and boundary-busting, and at the same time about tradition, a duality significant to both the poetry and wrestling communities. It is not about professional wrestling. Although that would make a wonderful project on its own, there is not enough poetry about amateur wrestling, the collegiate, Olympic, and folk styles.

The rest of this intro will be of interest to you if you would like to use any of the artwork or poetry yourself, and if you are interested in why such a collection came together—maybe for the first time. If not, then scan down to below Catherine Edmunds‘ 2009 drawing called “Greek wrestlers,” and begin reading. If you are looking for a particular poet’s work, or to see if it is included, simply click “Ctrl-F” on your keyboard. Here is a list of the living contributing poets you will find:

        Rane Arroyo
        John D. Berry
        Rus Bowden
        Kimberly Dark
        Susie DeFord
        Lori Desrosiers
        Susan Kelly-DeWitt
        David Hernandez
        Drax Ireland
        Jayson Iwen
        John Jeffire
        Andy Jones
        Jeff Kass
        Steve Meador
        Muhammad Afzal Mirza
        Steve Parker
        Gilbert Pye
        Don Schaeffer
        Muhammad Amir Sheikh
        Michael D. Snediker
        G.C. Smith
        Judy Swann
        Terreson
        John Timpane
        Pamela Uschuk

In lieu of bios, links to the contributors’ web sites are provided from their names. If you would like to reach them, most of the time you will find contact information there. If not, e-mail me (lowelldude@aol.com), and I will try to connect you.

The works in this collection fall under Creative Commons—Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported. This way, as you share these poems, the poets’ names remains attached, so that they continue to get credit for their work as it is passed around. In the spirit of this, each piece of artwork used below has just beneath it, as part of the image, an attribution that includes what the work is, who made it, and when. This Creative Commons agreement also protects the artists and poets from someone else making money from their works, while cutting them out. You’ll need permission for such a commercial venture. It allows, however, for you to feel free to share the works, to keep the poems handy and pass them around, and speak them at events. If you have sought these poems out for noncommercial use, wonderful!, please write the poet a thank you, but the answer is already yes.

A few years back, when I was blogging daily at Bud Bloom, November arrived, and the poetry posting necessarily slowed down, as wrestling season was about to begin. My son Dan was wrestling in college at the time, and I was a moderating contributor at MassWrestling.com, working on a comprehensive directory of all collegiate wrestlers from Massachusetts, in order that wrestlers, their family, and friends, could see how their high school wrestlers were faring in college, even if they were still active. Part of this, was to create a comprehensive list of wrestling colleges around the country, which was shared with other wrestling forums in other states. I made a brief post on the poetry blog called Wrestling With Poetry in November. I wanted to include wrestling poetry in that blog, and found some in a translation of Homer’s Iliad, but had difficulty finding it elsewhere. Since creating that blog post, I then noticed that many others who go online in search for “wrestling poetry”, come up with my post. And I always felt that that post was not allowing the searchers to find the jackpot they were looking for. Thus, there is demand, but short supply. This blog post is a wrestling poetry jackpot.

Back in July, I made a call for submissions of new and recent wrestling poems, by posting at over 20 wrestling forums, over 20 poetry forums, and to over 2500 members of Facebook. The response has been remarkable, as you can read for yourself below. And a high percentage of these gifted poets, have been or still are wrestlers or members of the wrestling community themselves. With these poems by living poets, I have merged classics. Included also are fresh translations of classic poems, and renditions of scriptural texts.

My thanks go to all the contributors listed above. Each have been a pleasure to work with. My thanks also to those who have guided this project with ideas, such as Joyce Nower, who turned me onto Emily Dickinson’s many wrestling poems, and Dennis Greene, who reminded me of the classic wrestling scene in Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha.” Thanks also to you for finding these poems, for shaking hands with them, and taking the time to read them, even to grapple with them when you hear the metaphoric whistle. It’s your match now, your time to enter the ring.

C.

   

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Catherine Edmunds' Greek Wrestlers, 2009

   

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by Jeff Kass

    White Plains High and Yale University wrestler, 1980-85
    WPHS coach, 1988-90

   
All wrestlers practice failing

   
        We need to know what to do
        when we’re getting cranked.

        Inevitably, we will be on our backs.

        Somebody will be tougher, somebody will be quicker, somebody
        will be strong enough to knock us flat.  It’s called looking at the lights
        as if when we’re horizontal and helpless, we’re also gazing at paradise.

        All I know is it’s hot down there.  It stinks.  The friction of your head rubbing
        against the mat could start a bonfire.  The guy who’s decking you is breathing
        in your ear, a rush of panting grunts.  His sweat drips in your hair and your
        girlfriend is watching from the bleachers as his muscles glisten and you are
        buried.  Your teammates are groaning and urging you to keep fighting
        but secretly they doubt you won’t surrender and the referee is cutting
        the air at smaller and flatter angles to signal the shrinking breadth
        between the mat and your shoulders and he poises to slap, he poises
        to slap and that is why every day in practice we must drill and rehearse
        for failure.

        It’s called bridging.  Make your neck a great spoon stirring the soup
        of your head.  Stir it left.  Stir it right.  Hold it.  Hold it.  He will be a ten-
        ton slab trying to break you flat—you must resist, your neck must insist
        no, with your neck no, with your neck no, you must train your neck
        to insist NO.

   
Previously published in Anderbo

   

   

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by Terreson

   
Antaeus’s Son to His Father’s Killer

   
        Here we are, my mercenary Greek,
        back at the same crossroads
        where you bested my father.
        The ground when you pinned him down
        is what defeated you in
        hold after hold or until
        you found the way to filet his strength,
        the way a fisherman’s instinct
        cleans flesh from the bone of earth.

        That’s when you bettered him, pressing him, his feet loose,
        to your chest, enjoying his death.

        But I am not like him whose daughters
        are my mother (earth, air, fire, and water).
        I am the inbred, an avatar
        thread through elements, and whose
        original sin is my source of strength.

        Come to me please, Herakles.
        I wish to press you to my chest
        and see your eyes bulge out when you meet
        my father’s face in each hero’s moment
        defining his one hero’s defeat.

        Revenge is such a useless emotion.
        I don’t want your death; just your lost look
        in the echo of my father’s eyes on the mat.

   

   

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by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Artists wrestled here!
        Lo, a tint Cashmere!
        Lo, a Rose!
        Student of the Year!
        For the easel here
        Say Repose!

   

                110

   

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by Gilbert Pye

   
The Ballad of Rukhana

   
        Many people challenged Muhammad at wrestling
        (they didn’t realise he was divine;
        they thought he was an ordinary bloke).

        He pummelled skull, scapula and spine,
        ripped ligament from bone, loved pestling
        puny wrong-believing bodies until they broke.

        One day Rukhana, hideous, colossal, hairy,
        strongest of the Arabs, challenges Muhammad to a bout.
        Muhammad accepts.  Bets are placed.

        The outcome is never in doubt
        (insh’allah); at first both men are wary,
        looking each other over, tense, the taste

        of raw testosterone on their lips;
        then, exponent of the sacred art,
        Muhammad makes his move, nostrils aglow

        with the smell of Rukhana’s skin and heart:
        charge, grapple, throw,
        and the infidel describes a glorious ellipse

        through the air and falls to earth like a kite
        when the wind ceases suddenly as if by decree.
        Muhammad prostrates himself before Allah, Allah

        nods at Muhammad evasively;
        Rukhana and his corner exhibit that pallor
        you see on the face of the better man having lost a fight.

        The crowd go wild, beating their chests, cheering,
        ululating, howling, miming the winning move, bearing
        the victor aloft, cavorting through the souk

        in a tumult of piety and teeth, secretly tearing
        up their betting slips.  Look!
        Allah winks and fades.  He’s disappearing!

   

   

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by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Because I could not stop for Death—
        He kindly stopped for me—
        The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
        And Immortality.

        We slowly drove—He knew no haste
        And I had put away
        My labor and my leisure too,
        For His Civility—

        We passed the School, where Children strove
        At Recess—in the Ring—
        We passed the Fields of Gazing Grain—
        We passed the Setting Sun—

        Or rather—He passed Us—
        The Dews drew quivering and chill—
        For only Gossamer, my Gown—
        My Tippet—only Tulle—

        We paused before a House that seemed
        A Swelling of the Ground—
        The Roof was scarcely visible—
        The Cornice—in the Ground—

        Since then—’tis Centuries—and yet
        Feels shorter than the Day
        I first surmised the Horses’ Heads
        Were toward Eternity—

   

                712

   

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Rembrandt van Rijn's Jakobs Kampf mit dem Engel, 1660

   

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by John Timpane

   
Beholder

a translation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Der Schauende”

   
        I tell the storm is coming on:
        My anxious windows bear the beat
        Of branches after tedious days.
        I hear the distant things say truths
        That without friend I do not bear
        And without sister cannot love.

        There goes the all-reshaper storm,
        Through the forest, through all time
        And everything is ageless now:
        The landscape, like a verse from Psalms
        Is purpose, heft, eternity.

        Since what we wrestle with is small
        And what contends against us great,
        Let the great storm subdue us, more
        As all things in the world do; then
        We would be distant, never named.

        Our victory is in the small,
        And when we win, the smaller we.
        The Endless, the Superlative
        Does not consent to bend to us.

        The Angel of the Testament
        Came to the wrestlers.  Metal match:
        When their contending tendons stretched
        It felt beneath his fingers like
        The strings of deepening melody.

        The man this Angel overcame
        (He often won without a fight)
        Retired upright and energized,
        Made great by that hard hand, which shaped
        Him new, as if to recreate.
        The vanquished finds a victory
        Not tempting. How he grows is to
        Be pinned by ever-greater gods.

   

   
by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

   
Der Schauende

   
        Ich sehe den Bäumen die Stürme an,
        die aus laugewordenen Tagen
        an meine ängstlichen Fenster schlagen,
        und höre die Fernen Dinge sagen,
        die ich nicht ohne Freund ertragen,
        nicht ohne Schwester lieben kann.

        Da geht der Sturm, ein Umgestalter,
        geht durch den Wald und durch die Zeit,
        und alles ist wie ohne Alter:
        die Landschaft, wie ein Vers im Psalter,
        ist Ernst und Wucht und Ewigkeit.

        Wie ist das klein, womit wir ringen,
        was mit uns ringt, wie ist das groß;
        ließen wir, ähnlicher den Dingen,
        uns so vom großen Sturm bezwingen,—
        wir würden weit und namenlos.

        Was wir besiegen, ist das Kleine,
        und der Erfolg selbst macht uns klein.
        Das Ewige und Ungemeine
        will nicht von uns gebogen sein.
        Das ist der Engel, der den Ringern
        des Alten Testaments erschien:
        wenn seiner Widersacher Sehnen
        im Kampfe sich metallen dehnen,
        fühlt er sie unter seinen Fingern
        wie Saiten tiefer Melodien.

        Wen dieser Engel überwand,
        welcher so oft auf Kampf verzichtet,
        der geht gerecht und aufgerichtet
        und groß aus jener harten Hand,
        die sich, wie formend, an ihn schmiegte.
        Die Siege laden ihn nicht ein.
        Sein Wachstum ist:  der Tiefbesiegte
        von immer Größerem zu sein.

   

   

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for the people of Whitefish, Montana

   
by Pamela Uschuk

   
Black Ice

   
        I

        How easy it is to slip.
        Slowing for a switchback’s glazed curve, I
        catch the radio’s news:
                                                    a school bus carrying wrestlers
        from Browning to Whitefish
        over this same unrelenting glare
        has slammed into a tanker
        jacknifed across both lanes.  Then flames
        killing nine in the quick cold.

        Along the polished carbon dip
        and swell of the Blackfoot River, I drive
        over ice so darkly transparent
        the pavement is a well
        whose varnished shaft pulls me sliding,
        an awkward creature
        away from home.

        What needs our sorrow?
        Or passed between the stunned drivers
        when the bus brakes locked
        in that short skid?
        During the first thoughtless seconds, boys
                                                                  becoming men
        dragged friends from the sudden fire, then
        watched, helpless as rocks dislodged by current,
        those they couldn’t reach, their screams lost to
        wind biting across the dreaming world.

        II

        To drive far in this weather—
        the afternoon half-blasted by wind gray as old wood—
        invites hypnotic dreams.
                                                      I recall checking
        the rearview mirror to see
        your farewell shiver, then shrink in silver light.  Love,
        how often we’re forced apart.
        Nothing is so visible as this ice,
        black-humored, a stoic beyond desire.

        III

        There is nothing I can offer
        those boys as healing as their daring, their hearts.
        Tomorrow, I teach poetry in a high school
        not far away.  I slow
        cursing these roads hunched spinal
        with no shoulders for escape.
        Listening to the tick of studden tires on ice,
        I know how fragile the traction
        holding us, what suffering
        edges induce.

        In the furrowed rush of black water
        Frost-grained waves
        grind back into themselves,
        intent on motion to avoid the final freeze across.
        Smoothing rocks, crisp hulls of caddis,
        stone flies, last summer’s storm-rendered windfall,
        the river carves its deeper trough
        widening its embrace.

        IV

        Like a snow bank bursting, snow buntings startle
        from my tires, threading
        the river’s rough hem.
        I envy the birds’ close escape
        as they ascend—
                                         moth fluttery, sudden confetti
        folding black on white
        above the snow-flocked highway—
                                                                 safe to the wild shore.

        Below the indifferent grade
        the current endures.  In dim light
        its dark arms turn from themselves, deceptive
        as the familiar lover.
        I can almost hear water’s porcelain stampede
        against an iced log above rocks
        that bump gratefully inside the swirl
        or hold their own.

        Only the small ceremonies
        of comfort and soaring can cure.
        Unable to build roads for safety, I will
        each speeding log truck, each
        oil tanker back-skidding
        to stay in its narrow lane,
                                                     to grip what can’t be held.
        I wonder what job is worth
        these long winter drives, clinging to slick surfaces
        unpredictable as the metereology of the heart.

        Even though my eyes burn
        tired of the constant play of gray light
        across black ice, there is no time to rest.
                                                       I drive through
        this wilderness against the curve of pavement
        following the river and its restless strain.

   
Previously published in Poetry Magazine and by Wings Press in her book Scattered Risks

   

   

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Harold Von Schmidt's There Was a Man--Abe Lincoln Licks Jack Armstrong, for Esquire, 1949

   

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by John Jeffire

    1995 NAIA national collegiate coach of the year

   
Coach Talks to the Wrestling Team the Day
Before the Eastside Match

   
   
Wrestling room air thick
as an amazonian afternoon
stinkheavy with years
of sweat that not even buckets of
uncut bleach can defeat.
I was still three pounds over
my weight class before practice
and I’m grateful
for more sprints back and forth
from padded wall to padded wall
wading through 90 degree fog
in two t-shirts and three sweatshirts
and two pairs of longjohns
under my sweatpants
sweating, sweating, ounce by ounce
closer to weight, but coach
calls us in and orders us
to take a knee.
His right ear a piece
of popcorn flesh glued
to the side of his head
his eyebrows rubbed off from
years of skullgrinding
his nose crooked as
a broken arm of lightning
his knees crisscrossed
by crazed scartissue worms
he walks like
a wheelchair is days away
but somehow he wrestles us like
a landmine eating handgrenades
exploding our bodies
across the mildewed mats.
We love him
like a father
especially those of us
who have no fathers.
He speaks.
We listen.
The coach from State, he begins,
is gonna be at the match tomorrow.
He’s recruiting Hendry from Eastside,
none a you dumbasses, but he’s
an old pal a mine.

I look over at LaDuke who
looks at Brophy who looks
at Washington the heavyweight . . .
we hate Hendry
defending state champ who stole
Kraznicki’s girlfriend last summer
at our town’s Dairy Queen
none of us could ever beat him
but we can take Eastside as a team.
Now, any a you jokers
ever think about college?

Sweat drips down my nose
onto the rubber mat.
I look over at LaDuke who
looks at Brophy who looks
at Washington the heavyweight . . .
none of us has thought of college.
LaDuke, who has failed Freshman English
twice and lives in the metal shop, though,
says, Yeah, I thought about it,
and even coach knows he’s lying.
Yeah?  Coach says. So what exactly
you want to study, LaDuke?

Sweat drips down his nose.
He thinks.
He answers,
I dunno, maybe buildin’ stuff.
Something like a smile
creases Coach’s scarred mouth.
We smile, waiting for the verdict.
Building stuff, huh? asks Coach
then he shows us that ragged row
of chipped crocodile teeth.
We laugh on cue
not really sure what is so funny.
Cut the crap, says Coach
and the mice and roaches in this decayed
corner of the school take cover.
What about you, Camel Jockey?
I am Camel Jockey.
I was still three pounds over
before practice and somewhere
in the frozen air above our town
21 pounds of me has been stolen
since season began in November.
I am sick of cutting weight
but I’m so close now
and tomorrow we can take Eastside.
You got some A’s, didn’t you? Coach asks.
True, I got some A’s but
my parents own a bar where
I cook Italian sausage sandwiches
and butter garlic bread in front
of a 700 degree oven after practice
still dressed in sweat clothes
trying to drain off those last few ounces
wishing I could just lick the grease
off the prep counter or sneak a few
slices of Genoa salami and not be overweight
but I’m ranked in the district
at 112 pounds and the team
needs the points
if we’re gonna take leagues in two weeks.
You’re smart enough, Camel, and you could be
tough enough with a few more ass whuppins,

says Coach, so whattaya think?
I can talk to the coach at State,
see what he thinks a you tomorrow.

I look over at LaDuke who
looks at Brophy who looks
at Washington the heavyweight . . .
sweat drips down my nose
and my mouth is coated in cotton
and if I’m lucky, really lucky
I only have another pound to lose
and maybe if we stop all this talk
about college and start running again
I can eat half an orange
and drink a cup of milk after work tonight
before drifting off to sleep.

   

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by Kimberly Dark

   
Contact

   
        In pairs, they fall together again and again,
        shoulder to shoulder, neck to neck,
        heads close, they take on each others weight
        with pleasure.

        It looks like pleasure, an intimate pleasure,
        an embrace—until the feet dig in and
        the choreographed tussle begins.
        It looks like pleasure
        and so it must be
        for what would hold them,
        hour after hour,
        in these forms of embrace,
        bodily pressure, contact—
        if not pleasure.

        The environment is daunting, after all.
        The grunts and shuffling feet,
        yells of coaches create a noise
        that even in its power
        cannot rise above the hot stench
        of bodies, struggling.
        A steamy-loud-funk escapes the room
        and they are all writhing in the midst of it—
        creating a steamy hot punk funk
        109-summer-degrees outside
        and inside, the steam rises from their bodies.

        This is how young men must touch each other—
        hug, hold one another’s bodies—
        without provoking disdain
        without fear of abuse
        without loss, loss, loss,
        loss of everything

        Summer wrestling camp,
        the south gym at Fresno State University
        is a giant room with hardwood floors
        big blue mats hauled in two days ago
        to cushion prancing feet and falls,
        to guard the flesh and bones of boy’s tumbles,
        shield knees from harm.

        The door between the sunny day
        and the stench of wrestlers
        seems an easily passable
        portal between worlds.
        The gym is dark and slightly cooler
        than the noon-time brightness
        and yet within each wrestler,
        a sun glows
        drenching his clothes and skin
        with sweat.

        At the call of the coaches they
        “BREAK! Give me 5 sit-ups!”
        Then they’re back at it again
        falling together, shoulder to shoulder,
        enacting the forms of contact
        common to the sport—
        the rituals of contact within
        the tightly controlled container
        of combat and propriety.
        Intimate propriety; their suns shine
        making the paint want to peel
        in the stench.
        They fall together again and again
        constrained by the form as they
        make vital, human contact.

   

   

_____

   

   
by John D. Berry

    martial artist, Berkeley CA

   
Contest
   
   
Stillness,
Before beginning,
Focus narrows,
To target,
Sounds diminish,
Without silence.
   
The movie runs,
In your head,
Which moves,
Counter moves,
How victory,
Will come.
   
Move,
No thought,
No mind,
Breathe,
The referee’s signal,
It begins.

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        The Drop, that wrestles in the Sea—
        Forgets her own locality—
        As I—toward Thee—

        She knows herself an incense small—
        Yet small—she sighs—if All—is All—
        How larger—be?

        The Ocean—smiles—at her Conceit—
        But she, forgetting Amphitrite—
        Pleads—“Me”?

   

                284

   

_____

   

Granby Roll from TheMat.com's Coaches Corner

   

_____

   

   
by Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

   
Enceladus

   
        In the Black Country, from a little window,
        Before I slept, across the haggard wastes
        Of dust and ashes, I saw Titanic shafts
        Like shadowy columns of wan-hope arise
        To waste, on the blear sky, their slow sad wreaths
        Of smoke, their infinitely sad slow prayers.
        Then, as night deepened, the blast-furnaces,
        Red smears upon the sulphurous blackness, turned
        All that sad region to a City of Dis,
        Where naked, sweating giants all night long
        Bowed their strong necks, melted flesh, blood and bone,
        To brim the dry ducts of the gods of gloom
        With terrible rivers, branches of living gold.

        O, like some tragic gesture of great souls
        In agony, those awful columns towered
        Against the clouds, that city of ash and slag
        Assumed the grandeur of some direr Thebes
        Arising to the death-chant of those gods,
        A dreadful Order climbing from the dark
        Of Chaos and Corruption, threatening to take
        Heaven with its vast slow storm.
                                                              I slept, and dreamed.
        And like the slow beats of some Titan heart
        Buried beneath immeasurable woes,
        The forging-hammers thudded through the dream:

        Huge on a fallen tree,
        Lost in the darkness of primeval woods,
        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        The naked giant, brooded all alone.
        Born of the lower earth, he knew not how,
        Born of the mire and clay, he knew not when,
        Brought forth in darkness, and he knew not why!

        Thus, like a wind, went by a thousand years.

        Anhungered, yet no comrade of the wolf,
        And cold, but with no power upon the sun,
        A master of this world that mastered him!

        Thus, like a cloud, went by a thousand years.

        Who chained this other giant in his heart
        That heaved and burned like Etna?  Heavily
        He bent his brows and wondered and was dumb.

        And, like one wave, a thousand years went by.

        He raised his matted head and scanned the stars.
        He stood erect!  He lifted his uncouth arms!
        With inarticulate sounds his uncouth lips
        Wrestled and strove—I am full-fed, and yet
        I hunger!
        Who set this fiercer famine in my maw?

        Can I eat moons, gorge on the Milky Way,
        Swill sunsets down, or sup the wash of the dawn
        Out of the rolling swine-troughs of the sea?
        Can I drink oceans, lie beneath the mountains,
        And nuzzle their heavy boulders like a cub
        Sucking the dark teats of the tigress?  Who,
        Who set this deeper hunger in my heart?

        And the dark forest echoed—Who?  Ah, who?

        “I hunger!”
        And the night-wind answered him,
        “Hunt, then, for food.”

        “I hunger!”
        And the sleek gorged lioness
        Drew nigh him, dripping freshly from the kill,
        Redder her lolling tongue, whiter her fangs,
        And gazed with ignorant eyes of golden flame.

        “I hunger!”
        Like a breaking sea his cry
        Swept through the night.  Against his swarthy knees
        She rubbed the red wet velvet of her ears
        With mellow thunders of unweeting bliss,
        Purring—Ah, seek, and you shall find.
        Ah, seek, and you shall slaughter, gorge, ah seek,
        Seek, seek, you shall feed full, ah seek, ah seek.

        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        Bewildered like a desert-pilgrim, saw
        A rosy City, opening in the clouds,
        The hunger-born mirage of his own heart,
        Far, far above the world, a home of gods,
        Where One, a goddess, veiled in the sleek waves
        Of her deep hair, yet glimmering golden through,
        Lifted, with radiant arms, ambrosial food
        For hunger such as this!  Up the dark hills,
        He rushed, a thunder-cloud,
        Urged by the famine of his heart.  He stood
        High on the topmost crags, he hailed the gods
        In thunder, and the clouds re-echoed it!

        He hailed the gods!
        And like a sea of thunder round their thrones
        Washing, a midnight sea, his earth-born voice
        Besieged the halls of heaven!  He hailed the gods!
        They laughed, he heard them laugh!
        With echo and re-echo, far and wide,
        A golden sea of mockery, they laughed!

        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        Laid hold upon the rosy Gates of Heaven,
        And shook them with gigantic sooty hands,
        Asking he knew not what, but not for alms;
        And the Gates, opened as in jest;
        And, like a sooty jest, he stumbled in.

        Round him the gods, the young and scornful gods,
        Clustered and laughed to mark the ravaged face,
        The brutal brows, the deep and dog-like eyes,
        The blunt black nails, and back with burdens bowed.
        And, when they laughed, he snarled with uncouth lips
        And made them laugh again.
                                                           “Whence comest thou?”
        He could not speak!
        How should he speak whose heart within him heaved
        And burned like Etna?  Through his mouth there came
        A sound of ice-bergs in a frozen sea
        Of tears, a sullen region of black ice
        Rending and breaking, very far away.
        They laughed!
        He stared at them, bewildered, and they laughed
        Again, “Whence comest thou?”

        He could not speak!
        But through his mouth a moan of midnight woods,
        Where wild beasts lay in wait to slaughter and gorge,
        A moan of forest-caverns where the wolf
        Brought forth her litter, a moan of the wild earth
        In travail with strange shapes of mire and clay,
        Creatures of clay, clay images of the gods,
        That hungered like the gods, the most high gods,
        But found no food, and perished like the beasts.

        And the gods laughed,—
        Art thou, then, such a god?  And, like a leaf
        Unfolding in dark woods, in his deep brain
        A sudden memory woke; and like an ape
        He nodded, and all heaven with laughter rocked,
        While Artemis cried out with scornful lips,—
        Perchance He is the Maker of you all!

        Then, piteously outstretching calloused hands,
        He sank upon his knees, his huge gnarled knees,
        And echoed, falteringly, with slow harsh tongue,—
        Perchance, perchance, the Maker of you all.

        They wept with laughter!  And Aphrodite, she,
        With keener mockery than white Artemis
        Who smiled aloof, drew nigh him unabashed
        In all her blinding beauty.  Carelessly,
        As o’er the brute brows of a stallèd ox
        Across that sooty muzzle and brawny breast,
        Contemptuously, she swept her golden hair
        In one deep wave, a many-millioned scourge
        Intolerable and beautiful as fire;
        Then turned and left him, reeling, gasping, dumb,
        While heaven re-echoed and re-echoed, See,
        Perchance, perchance, the Maker of us all!

        Enceladus, earth-born Enceladus,
        Rose to his feet, and with one terrible cry
        “I hunger,” rushed upon the scornful gods
        And strove to seize and hold them with his hands,
        And still the laughter deepened as they rolled
        Their clouds around them, baffling him.  But once,
        Once with a shout, in his gigantic arms
        He crushed a slippery splendour on his breast
        And felt on his harsh skin the cool smooth peaks
        Of Aphrodite’s bosom.  One black hand
        Slid down the naked snow of her long side
        And bruised it where he held her.  Then, like snow
        Vanishing in a furnace, out of his arms
        The splendour suddenly melted, and a roll
        Of thunder split the dream, and headlong down
        He fell, from heaven to earth; while, overhead
        The young and scornful gods—he heard them laugh!—
        Toppled the crags down after him.  He lay
        Supine.  They plucked up Etna by the roots
        And buried him beneath it.  His broad breast
        Heaved, like that other giant in his heart,
        And through the crater burst his fiery breath,
        But could not burst his bonds.  And so he lay
        Breathing in agony thrice a thousand years.

        Then came a Voice, he knew not whence, “Arise,
        Enceladus!”  And from his heart a crag
        Fell, and one arm was free, and one thought free,
        And suddenly he awoke, and stood upright,
        Shaking the mountains from him like a dream;
        And the tremendous light and awful truth
        Smote, like the dawn, upon his blinded eyes,
        That out of his first wonder at the world,
        Out of his own heart’s deep humility,
        And simple worship, he had fashioned gods
        Of cloud, and heaven out of a hollow shell.
        And groping now no more in the empty space
        Outward, but inward in his own deep heart,
        He suddenly felt the secret gates of heaven
        Open, and from the infinite heavens of hope
        Inward, a voice, from the innermost courts of Love,
        Rang—Thou shall have none other gods but Me.

        Enceladus, the foul Enceladus,
        When the clear light out of that inward heaven
        Whose gates are only inward in the soul,
        Showed him that one true Kingdom, said,
                                                                     “I will stretch
        My hands out once again.  And, as the God
        That made me is the Heart within my heart,
        So shall my heart be to this dust and earth
        A god and a creator.  I will strive
        With mountains, fires and seas, wrestle and strive,
        Fashion and make, and that which I have made
        In anguish I shall love as God loves me.”

        In the Black Country, from a little window,
        Waking at dawn, I saw those giant Shafts
        —O great dark word out of our elder speech,
        Long since the poor man’s kingly heritage—
        The Shapings, the dim Sceptres of Creation,
        The Shafts like columns of wan-hope arise
        To waste, on the blear sky, their slow sad wreaths
        Of smoke, their infinitely sad slow prayers.
        Then, as the dawn crimsoned, the sordid clouds,
        The puddling furnaces, the mounds of slag,
        The cinders, and the sand-beds and the rows
        Of wretched roofs, assumed a majesty
        Beyond all majesties of earth or air;
        Beauty beyond all beauty, as of a child
        In rags, upraised thro’ the still gold of heaven,
        With wasted arms and hungering eyes, to bring
        The armoured seraphim down upon their knees
        And teach eternal God humility;
        The solemn beauty of the unfulfilled
        Moving towards fulfilment on a height
        Beyond all heights; the dreadful beauty of hope;
        The naked wrestler struggling from the rock
        Under the sculptor’s chisel; the rough mass
        Of clay more glorious for the poor blind face
        And bosom that half emerge into the light,
        More glorious and august, even in defeat,
        Than that too cold dominion God foreswore
        To bear this passionate universal load,
        This Calvary of Creation, with mankind.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Andy Jones

   
First Dance

   
        Your new wife and her relatives,
        now your in-laws,
        had never seen you dance before the big day,
        and wondered how,
        with all this bulky, residual muscle,
        you knew how to move so well, so expressively.
        As your coach and mentor,
        I had been invited to help welcome you to adulthood,
        And I knew.

        First you and your partner start in a neutral position,
        facing each other,
        sizing each other up,
        neither one yet in control.
        Soon, if it’s a slow song,
        you may take a head and shoulder lead,
        so that you start ear to ear,
        and her head may drop to your chest,
        but ironically she has the advantage here,
        for this is her arena,
        so she is in command.

        When the music changes,
        when the pace quickens,
        and adrenaline can be called upon,
        there is a reversal.
        You feel uplifted, and centered, and calm.
        Now the hips come into play,
        and your hips are well-trained.
        you start hips down so as to create an angle,
        and then spin her so as to drive strong across her hips,
        and before she knows it,
        you have impressed her with a hip lock,
        followed by a hip heist and hip pop.
        Such dexterity and vigor!

        When the time is right,
        you pull her near,
        inside to your arms like a lock
        so that all of her is adjacent to all of you,
        and your staggered stance realigns her rhythm to yours.
        Now you dictate the action,
        and she circles to your trail leg.
        You are feeling it now, sensing satisfaction and victory.
        You step and slide,
        and then one step back, and then circle.
        Your every move had been practiced, horizontally,
        as I stood over you with a whistle.

        Your new bride, she loves it!
        She is walking her fingers forward!
        You are a flanker!
        You are a double top stretcher!
        Inspired, she kicks up her heel to her butt
        and eliminates all the daylight between the two of you.
        She hopes to keep up with your energy,
        sees you as so graceful and authoritative here,
        just as you always hoped to be on the mat.
        And you realize, as you try to keep your hip on top,
        that this moment here,
        a moment when you are so strong, flexible, and smooth,
        without a referee ever to stop you,
        this might be your absolute last moment of control.

   

   

_____

   

Two Children Wrestling, Roman Marble Sculpture, 1st Century AD, Barakat Gallery

   

_____

   

   
a traditional ballad

   
A Gest of Robyn Hode

The Second Fytte (verses 134-143)

   
        He bare a launsgay in his honde,
            And a man ledde his male,
        And reden with a lyght songe
            Unto Bernysdale.

        But as he went at a brydge ther was a wrastelyng,
            And there taryed was he,
        And there was all the best yemen
            Of all the west countree.

        A full fayre game there was up set,
            A whyte bulle up i-pyght,
        A grete courser, with sadle and brydil,
            With golde burnyssht full bryght.

        A payre of gloves, a rede golde rynge,
            A pype of wyne, in fay;
        What man that bereth hym best i-wys
            The pryce shall bere away.

        There was a yoman in that place,
            And best worthy was he,
        And for he was ferre and frembde bested,
            Slayne he shulde have be.

        The knight had ruthe of this yoman,
            In placë where that he stode;
        He sayde that yoman shulde have no harme,
            For love of Robyn Hode.

        The knyght presed in to the place,
            An hundreth folowed hym free,
        With bowes bent and arowes sharpe,
            For to shende that companye.

        They shulderd all and made hym rome,
            To wete what he wolde say;
        He took the yeman bi the hande,
            And gave hym al the play.

        He gave hym five marke for his wyne,
            There it lay on the molde,
        And bad it shulde be set a broche,
            Drynkë who so wolde.

        Thus longe taried this gentyll knyght,
            Tyll that play was done;
        So long abode Robyn fastinge
            Thre hourës after the none.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Jean Starr Untermeyer (1886-1970)

   
Growing Pains

   
        From the bloodless battle,
        From wrestling with memories—those athletic ghosts,
        From an aching reach for Beauty,
        Speech has burst forth.
        Not for Art’s sake,
        But to rid me of an ancient sorrow—
        Not mine alone and yet so wholly mine.
        I have left no songs for an idle lute,
        No pretty tunes of coddled ills,
        But the bare chart of my growing pains.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        How dare the robins sing,
             When men and women hear
        Who since they went to their account
              Have settled with the year!—
        Paid all that life had earned
              In one consummate bill,
        And now, what life or death can do
              Is immaterial.
        Insulting is the sun
              To him whose mortal light
        Beguiled of immortality
              Bequeaths him to the night.
        Extinct be every hum
              In deference to him
        Whose garden wrestles with the dew,
              At daybreak overcome!

   

                1724

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        I think the Hemlock likes to stand
        Upon a Marge of Snow—
        It suits his own Austerity—
        And satisfies an awe

        That men, must slake in Wilderness—
        And in the Desert—cloy—
        An instinct for the Hoar, the Bald—
        Lapland’s—necessity—

        The Hemlock’s nature thrives—on cold—
        The Gnash of Northern winds
        Is sweetest nutriment—to him—
        His best Norwegian Wines—

        To satin Races—he is nought—
        But Children on the Don,
        Beneath his Tabernacles, play,
        And Dnieper Wrestlers, run.

   

                525

   

_____

   

   
from a hospital bed

   
to Robert Thomas Hamilton Bruce

   
by William Ernest Henley (1849-1903)

   
Invictus

   
        Out of the night that covers me,
              Black as the pit from pole to pole,
        I thank whatever gods may be
              For my unconquerable soul.

        In the fell clutch of circumstance
              I have not winced nor cried aloud.
        Under the bludgeonings of chance
              My head is bloody, but unbowed.

        Beyond this place of wrath and tears
              Looms but the horror of the shade,
        And yet the menace of the years
              Finds and shall find me unafraid.

        It matters not how strait the gate,
              How charged with punishments the scroll,
        I am the master of my fate:
              I am the captain of my soul.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Rus Bowden

        a Dracut High School and Bridgewater State College wrestling dad

   
Jacob the Leg Puller

   
        It was late.  With the tribute to his brother
        being herded on its way,
        Jacob, exhausted, decided to stay at camp.

        Unable to sleep, a bit later he rose, took his
        two wives, two maids, eleven children
        and all that he owned, and escorted them

        across the shallow of the rivulet that rises
        and flows:  the Jaboc River.
        With family and belongings well on ahead,

        Jacob returned to camp to be by himself.
        This man appeared and they
        wrestled all night until the twilight of morning.

        When the man realized that he could not win,
        he wrenched Jacob’s hip
        at the socket, popping it out of joint.

        The match continued.
        The man said:  “Let go, morning is here.”
        Jacob replied:  “I won’t let you go unless

        “you give me the award.”
        His opponent said:  “What is your name?”
        “Jacob,” came the reply.  The man spoke:

        “Your name is no longer Jacob the leg puller,
        but Israel the god wrestler.
        You have wrestled divinity as well as humanity

        “and you are the winner.”
        Jacob asked him, “What is your name?”
        He said, “Never mind my name,” and bowed and left.

        Jacob christened that place “Peni-el” saying,
        “Face the divine and live.”
        He limped out of Penuel.  The sun was rising.

   

   

_____

   

by John S. Taylor in 1841

   
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel

   
        Now, by that touch, Mysterious man! I know
        Thy nature’s more than human!—Let thee go!
        Not till thou bless me.  If, through all the night,
        My daring, struggling limbs increas’d in might;
        If thou thy strength attempered e’en to mine,
        If thus resisting I o’ermastered thine;
        Then wilt thou too, my daring speech approve,
        For all thy wrestling was but tender love!
        My name is Jacob—thou hast made me bold,
        Thine arms that have repell’d me, must enfold!
        Thou shalt, Oh Wondrous Stranger! e’er we part—
        Stamp thine eternal blessing on my heart!

        Thy name no more is Jacob!  Thou hast seen
        By faith’s keen vision, what thy trials mean!
        Thy name is Israel!  Knighted Prince of God!
        For thou with him the wrestling ring hast trod!
        Nay–cease!  Ask not for my peculiar name,
        Enough to know ’twill put thy foes to shame:
        Take this white stone—’tis deeply graven there,
        With thine, a token of prevailing prayer!
        Forth to thy work—thy darkest dangers brave,
        My name goes with thee, and ’tis strong to save!

   
Previously published in Jacob wrestling with the angel [sermons]

   

   

_____

   

Bibi Saint-Pol's 2007 photo of Euphronios' Heracles wrestling Antaeus, 515-510 BC

   

_____

   

by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

   
The Lady of the Lake

Canto Fifth (The Combat)

   
        XXIII.

        Now, clear the ring! for, hand to hand,
        The manly wrestlers take their stand.
        Two o’er the rest superior rose,
        And proud demanded mightier foes,—
        Nor called in vain, for Douglas came.—
        For life is Hugh of Larbert lame;
        Scarce better John of Alloa’s fare,
        Whom senseless home his comrades bare.
        Prize of the wrestling match, the King
        To Douglas gave a golden ring,
        While coldly glanced his eye of blue,
        As frozen drop of wintry dew.
        Douglas would speak, but in his breast
        His struggling soul his words suppressed;
        Indignant then he turned him where
        Their arms the brawny yeomen bare,
        To hurl the massive bar in air.
        When each his utmost strength had shown,
        The Douglas rent an earth-fast stone
        From its deep bed, then heaved it high,
        And sent the fragment through the sky
        A rood beyond the farthest mark;
        And still in Stirling’s royal park,
        The gray-haired sires, who know the past,
        To strangers point the Douglas cast,
        And moralize on the decay
        Of Scottish strength in modern day.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Steve Parker

    martial artist and sometime wrestler

   
Lights fall from the Old Man of the Sea

   
        we hold until I am exhausted

        he is a trickling thing of sand
        a scintilla that drains back into the beach

        a shock of trees
        released by strong winds
        he is a fish, a slither
        an eel that flits away
        then has me pinned

        he is all around me
        he clenches, shoves my face
        towards his
        buried down there
        beneath our grinding feet
        iron-eyed our faces

        stare it out underground
        through lock and tremor
        we are two seismic prayers
        to a god divided

        he is a lion he is my mother he is the flicker of songbirds falling
        as black snow in early evening my fingers are wings are poems
        within his smoke we fold back to embrace
        count five sudden things of magic
        stamp and hold tight

        lion mother phantom
        my lost brother
        whistles hard in the waves

        old father in the fallen leaves offshore

        we walk into the sea
        each carrying the other
        light as children who cannot return
        rise only as the tide
        sends up her drowned lanterns

        each with his heart of red sand
        catching, holding

        our breath beyond reach

   

   

_____

   

   
by G.C. Smith

   
Lightweight

   
        At two hundred and twenty today
        this unHogan Hulk knew another time
        way back in the way back when
        he wrestled at a paltry ninety-eight

        Tough monkey that he was at fourteen
        he practiced hard each and every day
        and once a week eliminated all comers
        except that damn hardened skinny senior

        He never made it to interschool competition
        the skinny bastard senior saw to that
        but, still, he got a lot from trying
        before he switched off to other things

        Looking back some fifty seven years
        it’s nigh impossible to recollect
        that wiry freckled fourteen year old
        taking on all comers at a lightweight ninety-eight

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        A little East of Jordan,
        Evangelists record,
        A Gymnast and an Angel
        Did wrestle long and hard—

        Till morning touching mountain—
        And Jacob, waxing strong,
        The Angel begged permission
        To Breakfast—to return—

        Not so, said cunning Jacob!
        “I will not let thee go
        Except thou bless me”—Stranger!
        The which acceded to—

        Light swung the silver fleeces
        “Peniel” Hills beyond,
        And the bewildered Gymnast
        Found he had worsted God!

   

                59

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Longing is like the Seed
        That wrestles in the Ground,
        Believing if it intercede
        It shall at length be found.

        The Hour, and the Clime—
        Each Circumstance unknown,
        What Constancy must be achieved
        Before it see the Sun!

   

                1255

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Musicians wrestle everywhere—
        All day—among the crowded air
              I hear the silver strife—
        And—walking—long before the morn—
        Such transport breaks upon the town
              I think it that “New Life”!

        If is not Bird—it has no nest—
        Nor “Band”—in brass and scarlet—drest—
              Nor Tamborin—nor Man—
        It is not Hymn from pulpit read—
        The “Morning Stars” the Treble led
              On Time’s first Afternoon!

        Some—say—it is “the Spheres”—at play!
        Some say that bright Majority
              Of vanished Dames—and Men!
        Some—think it service in the place
        Where we—with late—celestial face—
              Please God—shall Ascertain!

   

                157

   

_____

   

Rus Bowden's Goddess Athena versus Emily Dickinson, 2009

   

_____

   

   
by Steve Meador

    Defiance OH High School and Defiance College wrestler, 1969-1974

   
Muster

   
        The prairie meets the mountains at a place
        where the journey ends for the meek or weak.
        Here, cougar cunning versus buffalo strength
        versus diamondback lightning, and survival
        is measured in the ability to circle and strike,
        grip and twist, lunge and sprawl, stand or fall.
        It’s a lonely place where a man crawls inward,
        communes with a creature that will lead or carry
        him to the peak.  The only sounds are a chinook
        gathering strength as it blows from the fringes,
        sink it Sink it Sink It Sink IT SINK IT!
        On your toes.  Drive Drive DRIVEDRIVEDRIVE!

        and a clap of thunder that slaps against the hardpan.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Rane Arroyo

   
My Wrestler

   
        My ex-lover was a wrestler,
        liked the strain of power against
        the rumors:  two men.  There was
        a gain in him showing me the basic
        positions and me only pinning him
        once.  Maybe he let me.  The girls
        wanted him, wanted to haunt him,
        but he’d kiss me in the gym and
        no one dared to mess with him,
        the message clear:  in America,
        we have free will.  I think of
        Whitman’s brief reference to
        shirtless wrestlers, but closer
        to home, my lover would go
        to his opponent and there was
        an art to his rage.  And I felt like
        the lover in The Great White Hope:
        all sidelines, unsure how this became
        my life, that I was courageous too,
        in my own way, as I screamed,
        flip him now!  Nothing like having
        to fail in front of your boyfriend when
        the world hated us.  The future will
        not understand how important that
        he and I wrestled angels with moral
        messages because we made each
        other pure.  He’d kissed me to piss off
        people and I kissed him back because
        he was sweaty, tired, and proud of
        me for being proud of him.  He had
        never lost a match, but then he lost me.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Don Schaeffer

   
Passion Fruits

   
        While others
        built with wood
        I was making toys of cardboard tubes
        and paper clips,

        blonde shickza
        taking me to her bedroom
        and making me late
        for fourth period math class,

        and teacher thinking I went
        to the devil,
        wrestling match adventure,
        the best experiences

        were in the games.
        When the others were
        risking everything,
        close to death

        in the throws of passion,
        I didn’t dare
        go after
        the sweetest fruits.

   
Previously seen at Don Schaeffer’s Poems

   

   

_____

   

   
by Judy Swann

    an Ithaca High School wrestling mom

   
Pin

   
        I am fourteen years old
        muscles held together with skin and grit
        goaty, an ephebe, tufty hair above my lip
        for one eighth of one inch the red slow twitch
        of blood pricks my lats in a thousand points
        and I my body, its dozen senses, am my body
        upright levator scapulae
        sucking the muscles of my tongue
        and measuring you
        brachioradialis
        plectrum—
        I am hundreds of muscles.

        My eyes are muscles that see
        you shoot before your breath burns
        across my lynx ears.
        I am on you, nociceptor, know me.

        Lacrimae, lacrimae I press you back.
        I am all muscle and you
        are finished.

        Ref slaps the mat.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Judy Swann

    an Ithaca High School wrestling mom

   
Pinned

   
        Its medal is the oldest trophy
        awarded in Western athletics.
        Its communion attracts few females.
        Still it’s not like joining the Marines,
        not like the feuds of pushtunwali
        where a man seals clan triumph
        by drinking the guy’s blood.
        But it does man you up
        and despite its claim to being a team
        sport, it is not.
        The ferrety mass of your opponent
        the slug of his sweat on your throat
        that last inch
        is you losing, not your yelling coach or
        the guy next weight up, it’s all you
        when you lose.

   

   

_____

   

Dennis Riley's Eva the Pit Bull Wrestling Susie DeFord's Legs, 2008

   

_____

   

   
for Eva

   
by Susie DeFord

   
Powerboat Pit Bull

   
        Cartoon paws spread web-wide, wiggle
        a little two-step upon arrival.  A brindle-
        brown wild tigress, snakeskin sheen,
        slithering along the walls of Brooklyn

                  buildings.  Nosing my knees, knocking
                  legs out beneath or hammerhead sharking
                  shins shiny amethyst wine.  Street thugs
                  saunter and say, “Hey, nice Pit.”  Tail

        between legs, Cowardly Lion, eyes wide,
        ears perked, city construction sounds
        and strangers scary.  You powerboat-pull
        me, pavement water-skier, into Lucy’s lair.

                  She’s your best girl, block buddy, partner
        in grime.  You rocket launch upstairs amidst
                  laughing doorman Rudolpho’s stares, drag
        me tripping upwards along.  Release the beast,
                  Lucy’s out, it’s on!  Attempts to extinguish

        exuberance, but you’re gone.  You pounce,
                  pitching paws, and prancing like a boxer.
        I’m the gong, match marker, stopper, clocker.

        Lucy flings into the ring with a facebuster,

                            your muscles bulge a moonsault.  Pause

                  downward  dog, then in again Banana Split

                            and Peekout scouting your next move.  Gong

        song, Luchadoras leap into the elevator,

        endorphins emanating, meek from misbehaving,
        both sit solemnly, silly silent grins, bout breathless.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        The pretty Rain from those sweet Eaves
        Her unintending Eyes—
        Took her own Heart, including ours,
        By innocent Surprise—

        The wrestle in her simple Throat
        To hold the feeling down
        That vanquished her—defeated Feat—
        Was Fervor’s sudden Crown—

   

                1426

   

_____

   

   
by Drax Ireland

   
from the Funeral Games in Honour of Patroclus, after Homer, The Iliad, Book XXIII

   
The Prizegiving

   
        ‘Noëmon friend of Antilochos
        lead the mare away’
        as Menelaus himself took the glittering cauldron.
        Fourth, as driven, Meriones carried off the two talents’ weight of gold.
        Only the two handed jar was left.
        Achilles carried it through the Argives to Nestor,

        standing there he spoke;—

        ‘Elder, in memory of Patrokulus, a treasure for you to lay away,
        He is gone from the Argives for evermore
        this prize mine to give for the giving
        for you will not fight with fists or wrestle with limbs
        nor stand with the spear throwers
        nor race fleet footed
        as age claims her due’

        Speaking thus he placed it in Nestor’s hands
        who answered with joy

        ‘Yes youth you speak truth
        my limbs betray me as do my feet
        my friend
        my arms swing ponderous
        I wish for youth and strength within me
        as it was with Amaryngkeus and the Epeians at Bouprasion,
        the sons kings’ funeral games
        I was alone among the Epeians
        and the Pylians and the brave Aitolians
        Klytomedes, the son of Enops fell to my fists
        Angkaios of Pleuron I wrestled to the floor
        I outran the fast Iphiklos
        Polydoros and Phyleus watched my spear fly away
        only the chariot of the sons of Aktor defeated me
        crowd crossing champions chasing the prize
        the twins of Aktor, as one held the reins loose the other lashed the horses

        But this all in the past . . .

        An Elder must make way for youth
        I embrace my aging, an old hero among the young
        Enough of me, more to the contest in honour of your friend
        I take this prize with joy and a happy heart
        to be remembered, a kindness,
        I am not forgotten the honour due to me among the Achaians
        for this may the gods grant you great happiness.’

   

   

_____

   

   
for Adam

   
by David Hernandez

   
Proof

   
        Once he wrestled a bear, he said,
        in a bar off-campus with eyes
        glossy from lager, he wrestled
        a bear.  Claws and all, black fur
        and the salmon of its muscles
        leaping under the black fur.
        Wrestled and won, he said,
        the bear pinned and snorting,
        pinned and one hundred pounds
        heavier, with claws, with claws
        and teeth, the electric blue current
        of animal instinct.  I was gullible
        once, under kindergarten lights
        with glitter and paste, building
        a galaxy.  A boy stole my stars
        once, a bigger boy I wrestled
        under the night of blackboard.
        Wrestled and lost, pinned
        and weeping with my back
        to the carpet, with the fireflies
        of glitter dazzling on my skin.
        To the man who said he wrestled
        a bear, wrestled and won, I said,
        You’re full of bear shit.  But
        a scar is proof and so began
        the slow striptease of a pant leg
        rolled to his knee.  There, he said.
        And his story sparkled on his flesh.

   
Previously published in Gulf Coast, Summer/Fall 2006

   

   

_____

   

   
by Muhammad Afzal Mirza and Muhammad Amir Sheikh

   
from the biographies of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him

   
Rakana vs. Prophet Muhammad

   
        While preaching in Mecca,
        Prophet Muhammad encountered
        Rakana, a famous wrestler there.
        A discussion started

        and the wrestler challenged him saying,
        “If you defeat me in a wrestling match,
        I will accept Islam.”
        They wrestled and the Prophet defeated him.

        Being a good wrestler, Rakana could not
        accept this defeat and challenged
        for another match, losing a second time.
        Rakana requested a third match.

        After this defeat, he honored
        his word and accepted Islam.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Lori Desrosiers

   
Real Wrestling

   
        Weighed in, lots drawn,
        smelling of puke and sweat,
        chewing on black mouth guards,
        the one in the yellow shorts
        vs. the one in the blue shorts.
        Referee in black socks
        and black plimsolls
        blows his whistle.
        Men fall together, splat!
        Tangle of legs, arms,
        swish of dripping sweat,
        meat against mat,
        a mass of bone and tendons,
        faces contorted in pain.
        The mat chairman amasses points
        judge verifies the fall, the touche.
        The referee calls it:
        Yellow shorts, black and blue,
        the victor by nine points.

   

   

_____

   

Greco-Roman Wrestler Steven Woods, 2004 Armed Forces Championships

   

_____

   

   
by Jeff Kass

    White Plains High and Yale University wrestler, 1980-85
    WPHS coach, 1988-90

   
Reversal

   
        You can’t execute a successful Granby Roll
        if you can’t believe you can be a wrecking ball
        and bounce

        Pop your hips toward the sky
        make your body an A-frame
        post your weight on your left hand

        Ready yourself for your quake
        hop your left foot in front
        of your right, now blow
        your house from its moorings,
        duck your head and make your
        break violent

        The Granby Roll will not work
        if you don’t have faith in your
        own momentum, you cannot quit
        halfway, your naked shoulders
        exposed to the mat’s cold mercy

        You must believe you can ravage
        your own symmetry and survive

        Now try it from standing up
        you are human, tall on two legs
        and you can dive and spin
        from upright too

        It’s hop, hop, go

        Don’t let your fear of falling
        failure, falling, failure, don’t
        let fear of falling fail you,
        failure fall you, dive,
        dive—trust your dive,
        and roll.

   
Previously published in The Ann Arbor Chronicle

   

   

_____

   

   
by Jane M’Lean (no bio)

   
Slogan

   
        Don’t prate about what is your right,
        But bare your fists and show your might;
        Life is another man to fight
        Catch as catch can.

        Don’t talk of Life as scurvy Fate,
        Who gave you favors just too late,
        Or Luck who threw you smiles for bait
        Before he ran.

        Don’t whine and wish that you were dead,
        But wrestle for your daily bread,
        And afterward let it be said
        “He was a man.”

   
found in the book It Can Be Done: Poems of Inspiration collected by Joseph Morris and St. Clair Adams

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Some we see no more, Tenements of Wonder
        Occupy to us though perhaps to them
        Simpler are the Days than the Supposition
        Leave us to presume

        That oblique Belief which we call Conjecture
        Grapples with a Theme stubborn as Sublime
        Able as the Dust to equip its feature
        Adequate as Drums
        To enlist the Tomb.

   

                1221

   

_____

   

   
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

   
The Song of Hiawatha

Chapter 5, Hiawatha’s Fasting

   
        You shall hear how Hiawatha
        Prayed and fasted in the forest,
        Not for greater skill in hunting,
        Not for greater craft in fishing,
        Not for triumphs in the battle,
        And renown among the warriors,
        But for profit of the people,
        For advantage of the nations.

        First he built a lodge for fasting,
        Built a wigwam in the forest,
        By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
        In the blithe and pleasant Spring-time,
        In the Moon of Leaves he built it,
        And, with dreams and visions many,
        Seven whole days and nights he fasted.

        On the first day of his fasting
        Through the leafy woods he wandered;
        Saw the deer start from the thicket,
        Saw the rabbit in his burrow,
        Heard the pheasant, Bena, drumming,
        Heard the squirrel, Adjidaumo,
        Rattling in his hoard of acorns,
        Saw the pigeon, the Omeme,
        Building nests among the pinetrees,
        And in flocks the wild-goose, Wawa,
        Flying to the fen-lands northward,
        Whirring, wailing far above him.
        “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
        “Must our lives depend on these things?”

        On the next day of his fasting
        By the river’s brink he wandered,
        Through the Muskoday, the meadow,
        Saw the wild rice, Mahnomonee,
        Saw the blueberry, Meenahga,
        And the strawberry, Odahmin,
        And the gooseberry, Shahbomin,
        And the grape-vine, the Bemahgut,
        Trailing o’er the alder-branches,
        Filling all the air with fragrance!
        “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
        “Must our lives depend on these things?”

        On the third day of his fasting
        By the lake he sat and pondered,
        By the still, transparent water;
        Saw the sturgeon, Nahma, leaping,
        Scattering drops like beads of wampum,
        Saw the yellow perch, the Sahwa,
        Like a sunbeam in the water,
        Saw the pike, the Maskenozha,
        And the herring, Okahahwis,
        And the Shawgashee, the crawfish!
        “Master of Life!” he cried, desponding,
        “Must our lives depend on these things?”

        On the fourth day of his fasting
        In his lodge he lay exhausted;
        From his couch of leaves and branches
        Gazing with half-open eyelids,
        Full of shadowy dreams and visions,
        On the dizzy, swimming landscape,
        On the gleaming of the water,
        On the splendor of the sunset.

        And he saw a youth approaching,
        Dressed in garments green and yellow,
        Coming through the purple twilight,
        Through the splendor of the sunset;
        Plumes of green bent o’er his forehead,
        And his hair was soft and golden.

        Standing at the open doorway,
        Long he looked at Hiawatha,
        Looked with pity and compassion
        On his wasted form and features,
        And, in accents like the sighing
        Of the South-Wind in the tree-tops,
        Said he, “O my Hiawatha!
        All your prayers are heard in heaven,
        For you pray not like the others;
        Not for greater skill in hunting,
        Not for greater craft in fishing,
        Not for triumph in the battle,
        Nor renown among the warriors,
        But for profit of the people,
        For advantage of the nations.

        “From the Master of Life descending,
        I, the friend of man, Mondamin,
        Come to warn you and instruct you,
        How by struggle and by labor
        You shall gain what you have prayed for.
        Rise up from your bed of branches,
        Rise, O youth, and wrestle with me!”

        Faint with famine, Hiawatha
        Started from his bed of branches,
        From the twilight of his wigwam
        Forth into the flush of sunset
        Came, and wrestled with Mondamin;
        At his touch he felt new courage
        Throbbing in his brain and bosom,
        Felt new life and hope and vigor
        Run through every nerve and fibre.

        So they wrestled there together
        In the glory of the sunset,
        And the more they strove and struggled,
        Stronger still grew Hiawatha;
        Till the darkness fell around them,
        And the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        From her nest among the pine-trees,
        Gave a cry of lamentation,
        Gave a scream of pain and famine.

        “‘T is enough!” then said Mondamin,
        Smiling upon Hiawatha,
        “But tomorrow, when the sun sets,
        I will come again to try you.”
        And he vanished, and was seen not;
        Whether sinking as the rain sinks,
        Whether rising as the mists rise,
        Hiawatha saw not, knew not,
        Only saw that he had vanished,
        Leaving him alone and fainting,
        With the misty lake below him,
        And the reeling stars above him.

        On the morrow and the next day,
        When the sun through heaven descending,
        Like a red and burning cinder
        From the hearth of the Great Spirit,
        Fell into the western waters,
        Came Mondamin for the trial,
        For the strife with Hiawatha;
        Came as silent as the dew comes,
        From the empty air appearing,
        Into empty air returning,
        Taking shape when earth it touches,
        But invisible to all men
        In its coming and its going.

        Thrice they wrestled there together
        In the glory of the sunset,
        Till the darkness fell around them,
        Till the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        From her nest among the pine-trees,
        Uttered her loud cry of famine,
        And Mondamin paused to listen.

        Tall and beautiful he stood there,
        In his garments green and yellow;
        To and fro his plumes above him,
        Waved and nodded with his breathing,
        And the sweat of the encounter
        Stood like drops of dew upon him.

        And he cried, “O Hiawatha!
        Bravely have you wrestled with me,
        Thrice have wrestled stoutly with me,
        And the Master of Life, who sees us,
        He will give to you the triumph!”

        Then he smiled, and said:  “To-morrow
        Is the last day of your conflict,
        Is the last day of your fasting.
        You will conquer and o’ercome me;
        Make a bed for me to lie in,
        Where the rain may fall upon me,
        Where the sun may come and warm me;
        Strip these garments, green and yellow,
        Strip this nodding plumage from me,
        Lay me in the earth, and make it
        Soft and loose and light above me.

        “Let no hand disturb my slumber,
        Let no weed nor worm molest me,
        Let not Kahgahgee, the raven,
        Come to haunt me and molest me,
        Only come yourself to watch me,
        Till I wake, and start, and quicken,
        Till I leap into the sunshine”

        And thus saying, he departed;
        Peacefully slept Hiawatha,
        But he heard the Wawonaissa,
        Heard the whippoorwill complaining,
        Perched upon his lonely wigwam;
        Heard the rushing Sebowisha,
        Heard the rivulet rippling near him,
        Talking to the darksome forest;
        Heard the sighing of the branches,
        As they lifted and subsided
        At the passing of the night-wind,
        Heard them, as one hears in slumber
        Far-off murmurs, dreamy whispers:
        Peacefully slept Hiawatha.

        On the morrow came Nokomis,
        On the seventh day of his fasting,
        Came with food for Hiawatha,
        Came imploring and bewailing,
        Lest his hunger should o’ercome him,
        Lest his fasting should be fatal.

        But he tasted not, and touched not,
        Only said to her, “Nokomis,
        Wait until the sun is setting,
        Till the darkness falls around us,
        Till the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        Crying from the desolate marshes,
        Tells us that the day is ended.”

        Homeward weeping went Nokomis,
        Sorrowing for her Hiawatha,
        Fearing lest his strength should fail him,
        Lest his fasting should be fatal.
        He meanwhile sat weary waiting
        For the coming of Mondamin,
        Till the shadows, pointing eastward,
        Lengthened over field and forest,
        Till the sun dropped from the heaven,
        Floating on the waters westward,
        As a red leaf in the Autumn
        Falls and floats upon the water,
        Falls and sinks into its bosom.

        And behold! the young Mondamin,
        With his soft and shining tresses,
        With his garments green and yellow,
        With his long and glossy plumage,
        Stood and beckoned at the doorway.
        And as one in slumber walking,
        Pale and haggard, but undaunted,
        From the wigwam Hiawatha
        Came and wrestled with Mondamin.

        Round about him spun the landscape,
        Sky and forest reeled together,
        And his strong heart leaped within him,
        As the sturgeon leaps and struggles
        In a net to break its meshes.
        Like a ring of fire around him
        Blazed and flared the red horizon,
        And a hundred suns seemed looking
        At the combat of the wrestlers.

        Suddenly upon the greensward
        All alone stood Hiawatha,
        Panting with his wild exertion,
        Palpitating with the struggle;
        And before him breathless, lifeless,
        Lay the youth, with hair dishevelled,
        Plumage torn, and garments tattered,
        Dead he lay there in the sunset.

        And victorious Hiawatha
        Made the grave as he commanded,
        Stripped the garments from Mondamin,
        Stripped his tattered plumage from him,
        Laid him in the earth, and made it
        Soft and loose and light above him;
        And the heron, the Shuh-shuh-gah,
        From the melancholy moorlands,
        Gave a cry of lamentation,
        Gave a cry of pain and anguish!

        Homeward then went Hiawatha
        To the lodge of old Nokomis,
        And the seven days of his fasting
        Were accomplished and completed.
        But the place was not forgotten
        Where he wrestled with Mondamin;
        Nor forgotten nor neglected
        Was the grave where lay Mondamin,
        Sleeping in the rain and sunshine,
        Where his scattered plumes and garments
        Faded in the rain and sunshine.

        Day by day did Hiawatha
        Go to wait and watch beside it;
        Kept the dark mould soft above it,
        Kept it clean from weeds and insects,
        Drove away, with scoffs and shoutings,
        Kahgahgee, the king of ravens.

        Till at length a small green feather
        From the earth shot slowly upward,
        Then another and another,
        And before the Summer ended
        Stood the maize in all its beauty,
        With its shining robes about it,
        And its long, soft, yellow tresses;
        And in rapture Hiawatha
        Cried aloud, “It is Mondamin!
        Yes, the friend of man, Mondamin!”

        Then he called to old Nokomis
        And Iagoo, the great boaster,
        Showed them where the maize was growing,
        Told them of his wondrous vision,
        Of his wrestling and his triumph,
        Of this new gift to the nations,
        Which should be their food forever.

        And still later, when the Autumn
        Changed the long, green leaves to yellow,
        And the soft and juicy kernels
        Grew like wampum hard and yellow,
        Then the ripened ears he gathered,
        Stripped the withered husks from off them,
        As he once had stripped the wrestler,
        Gave the first Feast of Mondamin,
        And made known unto the people
        This new gift of the Great Spirit.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Still own thee—still thou art
        What surgeons call alive—
        Though slipping—slipping I perceive
        To thy reportless Grave—

        Which question shall I clutch—
        What answer wrest from thee
        Before thou dost exude away
        In the recallless sea?

   

                1633

   

_____

   

   
by Susan Kelly-DeWitt

   
Sumo

   
        Five crabs apiece, dinner after,
        then the obligatory zzzzzzzzz’s.
        Fat chance blubber

        can work itself off with this
        routine.  They squat on the dohyo
        inside “the snake’s eye”

        the Shinto priest has blessed:
        550 pounds of meat.  Tough
        disciplined blimps

        with hearts like venous seeds.
        The gods themselves may touch
        down among them tonight.

   

   

_____

   

Sumo Wrestler Throwing a Foreigner at Yokohama, Color Woodblock, 1861

   

_____

   

   
by Jeff Kass

    White Plains High and Yale University wrestler, 1980-85
    WPHS coach, 1988-90

   
Takedown

   
        When you step to the mat
        you will face an opponent
        the same weight

        You will hurt him
        or he will hurt you

        At the referee’s whistle
        you will fight from neutral

        Shuffle step, shuffle step, circle, circle, feint

        Let your legs be lampposts with panther feet

        You are a surfer on soil
        solid and liquid and solid
        again and in between teetering a clean
        green line on a carpenter’s level

        Circle, shuffle, circle, shuffle

        Knees bent, get low, lower, head up
        you are rolling shoulder grunt
        and crackling bolt from skull
        to toe, you cannot be thrown,
        but you will throw

        This is how you take a wrestler down
        you circle and feint, shuffle and feint
        grip and twist, the rhythm of your body
        a sacred hiss and you must dizzy his

        You must live for the split-second
        bulwark crack—you are one
        juggernaut knife and you will
        not be denied, you will penetrate
        low and drive

        you are a merciless thief
        and you will steal
        his ground

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        ‘Tis so appalling—it exhilarates—
        So over Horror, it half Captivates—
        The Soul stares after it, secure—
        A Sepulchre, fears frost, no more—

        To scan a Ghost, is faint—
        But grappling, conquers it—
        How easy, Torment, now—
        Suspense kept sawing so—

        The Truth, is Bald, and Cold—
        But that will hold—
        If any are not sure—
        We show them—prayer—
        But we, who know,
        Stop hoping, now—

        Looking at Death, is Dying—
        Just let go the Breath—
        And not the pillow at your Cheek
        So Slumbereth—

        Others, Can wrestle—
        Yours, is done—
        And so of Woe, bleak dreaded—come,
        It sets the Fright at liberty—
        And Terror’s free—
        Gay, Ghastly, Holiday!

   

                281

   

_____

   

   
by Edmund Waller (1606-87)

   
To Zelinda

   
        Fairest piece of well-form’d earth!
        Urge not thus your haughty birth;
        The power which you have o’er us lies
        Not in your race, but in your eyes.
        ‘None but a prince!’—Alas! that voice
        Confines you to a narrow choice.
        Should you no honey vow to taste,
        But what the master-bees have placed
        In compass of their cells, how small
        A portion to your share would fall!
        Nor all appear, among those few,
        Worthy the stock from whence they grew.
        The sap which at the root is bred
        In trees, through all the boughs is spread;
        But virtues which in parents shine,
        Make not like progress through the line.
        ‘Tis not from whom, but where, we live;
        The place does oft those graces give.
        Great Julius, on the mountains bred,
        A flock perhaps, or herd, had led.
        He that the world subdued, had been
        But the best wrestler on the green.
        ‘Tis art and knowledge which draw forth
        The hidden seeds of native worth;
        They blow those sparks, and make them rise
        Into such flames as touch the skies.
        To the old heroes hence was given
        A pedigree which reached to heaven;
        Of mortal seed they were not held,
        Which other mortals so excell’d.
        And beauty, too, in such excess
        As yours, Zelinda! claims no less.
        Smile but on me, and you shall scorn,
        Henceforth, to be of princes born.
        I can describe, the shady grove
        Where your loved mother slept with Jove;
        And yet excuse the faultless dame,
        Caught with her spouse’s shape and name.
        Thy matchless form will credit bring
        To all the wonders I shall sing.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        ‘Twas Crisis—All the length had passed—
        That dull—benumbing time
        There is in Fever or Event—
        And now the Chance had come—

        The instant holding in its claw
        The privilege to live
        Or warrant to report the Soul
        The other side the Grave.

        The Muscles grappled as with leads
        That would not let the Will—
        The Spirit shook the Adamant—
        But could not make it feel.

        The Second poised—debated—shot—
        Another had begun—
        And simultaneously, a Soul
        Escaped the House unseen—

   

                948

   

_____

   

   
by Emily Dickinson (1830-86)

   
        Two swimmers wrestled on the spar—
        Until the morning sun—
        When One—turned smiling to the land—
        Oh God! the Other One!

        The stray ships—passing—
        Spied a face—
        Upon the waters borne—
        With eyes in death—still begging raised—
        And hands—beseeching—thrown!

   

                201

   

_____

   

by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

   
Wrestling Jacob

   
        Come, O, thou Traveller unknown,
             Whom still I hold, but cannot see!
        My company before is gone,
             And I am left alone with thee:
        With thee all night I mean to stay,
        And wrestle till the break of day.

        I need not tell thee who I am,
             My sin and misery declare:
        Thyself hast call’d me by my name;
             Look on thy hands and read it there;
        But who, I ask thee, who art thou?
        Tell me thy name, and tell me now.

        In vain thou strugglest to get free,
             I never will unloose my hold:
        Art thou the Man that died for me?
             The secret of thy love unfold:
        Wrestling, I will not let thee go,
        Till I thy name, thy nature know.

        Wilt thou not yet to me reveal
             thy new, unutterable name?
        Tell me, I still beseech thee, tell;
             To know it now resolv’d I am:
        Wrestling I will not let thee go,
        Till I thy name, thy nature know.

        What though my shrinking flesh complain,
             And murmur to contend so long?
        I rise superior to my pain;
             When I am weak then am I strong:
        And when my all of strength shall fail,
        I shall with the God-man prevail.

        Yield to me now for I am weak;
             But confident in self-despair!
        Speak to my heart, in blessings speak;
             Be conquer’d by my instant prayer;
        Speak, or thou never hence shalt move,
        And tell me if thy name be Love.

        ‘Tis Love! ’tis Love!  Thou died’st for me;
             I hear thy whisper in my heart;
        The morning breaks, the shadows flee,
             Pure, universal Love thou art:
        To me, to all, thy bowels move,
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        My prayer hath power with God; the grace
             Unspeakable I now receive;
        Through faith I see thee face to face;
             I see thee face to face, and live:
        In vain I have not wept and strove;
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        I know thee, Saviour, who thou art,
             Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend,
        Nor wilt thou with the night depart,
             But stay and love me to the end:
        Thy mercies never shall remove;
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        The Sun of Righteousness on me
             Hath rose, with healing in his wings;
        Wither’d my nature’s strength; from thee
             My soul its life and succour brings;
        My help is all laid up above;
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

        Contented now upon my thigh
             I halt till life’s short journey end;
        All helplessness, all weakness, I
             On thee alone for strength depend;
        Nor have I power from thee to move;
        thy nature and thy name is Love.

        Lame as I am, I take the prey;
             Hell, earth, and sin with ease o’ercome;
        I leap for joy, pursue my way,
             And, as a bounding hart fly home,
        Through all eternity to prove
        Thy nature and thy name is Love.

   

   

_____

   

   
by Michael D. Snediker

   
Wrestling Song

   
        Our spandex clung like denouement
        to limbs as fast as lariats,
        lassoed and whipped Kabuki acts
        from bodies cool and pale as Noh.

        You wooed me into a dragon-screw,
        then suplexed hard against the mat;
        pescadoed putti bullied and booed,
        your belly locked into my back.

        The putti flocked, and tried to track
        which body clung to this or that,
        which unitarded shoulders shrugged
        trapezii from singlet-straps,

        which hamstring sprung, and elbow blocked
        and ankle pressed a signet’s wax—
        velocity spun our flanks so fast
        we blurred before we’d yet begun.

        A fan in the corner turned its head,
        and in its croon, remembered air;
        while we, in swandives flung, forgot,
        and firebirds of bruises bloomed.

   

   

_____

   

Tabitha Wilson USAF's Cole VanOhlen vs Justin Bowser, 2009 NCWA Championships

   

_____

   

   
by Jayson Iwen

   
Wrestling with Gods

from Six Trips in Two Directions

   
        I’m in a walled garden full of ornamental trees

        A man steps into the blue moonlight from a bluer shadow

        I’ve been waiting for you a long time

        It begins to snow

        Who are you running from

        I listen for my pursuer

        It’s silent but for my own breathing

        What’s in the briefcase

        I don’t know what to say

        Shall we take a look

        I hand him the briefcase, and he opens it

        Ah, my manuscript

        Thank you

        I beg your pardon, I blurt

        I’m sitting at a desk, in a motel right now, copying this dialogue word for word from the manuscript you just gave me

        And this is what I say next

        You see, I made you come here alone

        I made you hand it over

        I even made it snow

        And you

        He points at me

        Made it all possible

        Without even knowing it

        Though, of course, you had your suspicions

        And that’s why you got the job

        I even know what you’re thinking now

        He crouches down and plucks a pebble from the grass, then steps forward and holds it before my eyes

        Here’s your stone, a stone so heavy it breaks my heart at the thought of it, a stone so heavy the whole of creation rises from the depression it has made in time, a stone so heavy with sickness I cannot lift it one moment more or I shall perish

        He tosses it over the garden wall

        ‘Abdu Manaf was the strongest man among the Quraysh, and one day he met the apostle in one of the passes of Mecca alone: “Rukana,” said he, “why won’t you fear God and accept my preaching?”‘

        That simple

        But here’s the real kicker

        There’s an infinite chain of sets of god

        Each self-conscious set containing the previous set within it

        And each emergently conscious one becoming aware of the next larger set

        Becoming it

        For example, one is thinking both of us right now as our story rolls through its mind

        And as long as it holds us, whether we are conscious of it or not, we are part of its infinity

        As the heart of all layers is the utmost layer

        ‘”If I knew that what you say is true I would follow you,” he said’

        You see, common consciousness now is realizing you’re a character in other people’s dreams

        But you’re going a step further

        Listen carefully to who it is you talk to when you’re alone

        The schizophrenic may be the human to the limit

        Will we find who we are talking to one day and see that there is no longer a future, perhaps when we are all together, at the beginning and end of time

        Will we decide to begin again

        ‘The apostle then asked him if he would recognize that he spoke the truth if he threw him, and when he said Yes they began to wrestle, and when the apostle got a firm grip of him he threw him to the ground, he being unable to offer any effective resistance’

        When the whole speaks to the individual

        When I speak to You

        And now you ask

        You want me to worship you

        No, I couldn’t love someone who didn’t consider me their equal

        Besides, I contain only one more than you

        Now that I’m aware of you, what am I supposed to do

        ‘”Do it again, Muhammad,” he said, and he did it again’

        Wrestle me

        Wrestle you

        Yes

        That’s ridiculous

        Every threshold is

        ‘”This is extraordinary,” he said, “can you really throw me”‘

        What are you doing

        He kneels down, turtling himself before me, and I hear his whisper in my ear

        You must make me submit

        But you’ve just submitted

        I’m different than preceding gods that charged like mad bulls

        ‘With their elbows against their elbows, dealt they, knees against knees, head against head, and chest against chest, one another their blows’

        I’m a bit more subtle than that

        As long as I breathe you will breathe my air

        ‘That same night he sent his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, across the ford of the Jabbok’

        I’ll just walk away

        You can’t

        I turn to the wall, but it’s risen to the stars

        It glorifies the next greater god to grapple with you

        By contrasting itself with you, it reminds itself what it is

        The cold and night make a silver bouquet of my sigh

        Alright

        ‘Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak’

        The voices of my teachers return to me

        You must close the distance between yourself and your opponent so he cannot strike you

        Don’t leave gaps so he can slip an arm or leg in

        If one is flexible enough to do so, one can break holds that strength alone cannot

        Hold him closer than a lover

        ‘When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket, and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him’

        With your right hand grab his collar and with your left hand his belt

        And lift

        Creating just enough space to slide your right foot between his armpit and his thigh

        We’re enlightened through such struggle with the other

        For example, ‘jihad’ is properly defined as an all-encompassing engagement of one’s self with one’s world

        Between one and one’s limitations

        ‘Then the man said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking”‘

        What you call yourself is this conversation between ‘You’ and ‘I’

        Just between you and I

        Move so you are standing on his thighs with both feet

        Through the narrative generated by such struggle is vision most viscerally achieved

        And through the physicality of figuration most effectively transmitted

        ‘But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me”‘

        Now use both hands to hoist up on his collar, while thrusting your feet between his legs to the ground, assuming the ‘back mount’ position

        When I enter a classroom, I don’t see Protestants, Catholics, Sunnis, Shias, Hindus, Buddhists, Maronites, Druze, Agnostics, or Atheists

        I see gods sitting in the desks, filling the room with anxious radiance

        Lay your right arm over his right shoulder and under his chin, with the inside of your arm touching the tender of his neck

        ‘So he said to him, “What is your name?” and he said, “Jacob”‘

        What can I say to keep this uneasy host from tearing the world apart

        I am mortal, and have but this short day of mine with which to grapple

        Grab your left bicep with your right hand and place the back of your left hand behind his head with the palm facing you

        ‘Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed”‘

        And make a fist

        Each grapples with me in turn and only through flexibility do I survive their superhuman embrace

        Once the fist is made, do the following things to create pressure on the arteries at the sides of his neck

        Bend your left palm away from you

        Flex your biceps

        Squeeze your right forearm toward your right shoulder

        And hold it

        Though the Earth may tremble

        Take these snowflakes, each as similar and as different as the memory of your first kiss recalled at different moments in your life

        I catch one on my tongue and it melts from staggering diversity of design into the unity of water, and diffuses into my bloodstream across the membrane of my parched throat

        It is no longer the blood of a single man

        It is the blood of the universe

        When reading, you think you are merely having a conversation with a writer from elsewhere in spacetime, unpresent and undead

        We drink it endlessly

        As we drink in the sight of our lovers with our eyes

        But you and the text have become part of a greater consciousness, speaking to itself, working something out in its mind

        The sky dripping with what has ever evaporated

        With what has ever condensed from confusion to exhaustion

        What has ever left a stain behind

        As the unconscious ancients were right to assume the voice of conscience they heard was the voice of a god

        What we in the privileged present call consciousness

        You drink the blood of all life

        Of the exhalation we inhabit

        Of earth and stars and endless space

        As knowable as time alone allows

        Wrestling with a god was wrestling with a new form of consciousness that was overcoming you—a new level emerging—and if you lost, you remained in that god’s service—and if you won, you looked down at your feared, beloved, defeated god, lying, panting, on the ground, and for the first time you spoke to yourself—in shock you asked

        What now

        And the voice that answered from then on was your own

        He lies on the torn grass breathing laboriously

        So I’ve defeated you, I say

        Yes

        I was once in your place

        Now we must both move on

        Now you must do what I did then

        First close your eyes

        Now listen carefully to my voice

        Sol sinks below the Earth

        I’m in perfect darkness

        I realize everything I’ve seen has been summoned by voices

        And a new one is articulating a darkness about me

        I touch my eyes

        They’re closed

        I open them

        I’m standing alone on an empty plain, beneath a single burning star

        I raise my hand to my lips

        They’re moving

   
Previously published by Emergency Press

   

   

_____

   

   
by Lori Desrosiers

   
Wrestling with the Poem

   
        We pose opposite one another
        like Hercules and the Cretan Bull,
        but the mad beast gets away from me again,
        terrorizing the lands beyond my desk,
        here in Massachusetts, not in Greece.
        Some days I try to sneak up on him, guerilla style,
        but he dances away,
        snorting at my inadequacies.
        Despite my study of poetics,
        my piece of paper on the wall,
        the innocuous M.F.A.,
        a two year’s journey into conversation,
        followed by workshops with the best of poets,
        a foray into teaching is inspiring,
        a few good sparks, perhaps a flame,
        the match continues.
        We fall together.
        When I find a hold,
        the poem slithers out, that oily boy.
        So, I look for a new move,
        try a poem a day, a practice,
        in thirty days a few good possibilities.
        Now there are thirty new bulls
        wrestling me to the ground.

   

   

_____

   

 Jgremillot's Bassin d'Encelade, at Versailles Castle, Sculpted by Gaspard Marsy 1675-1677, photo 2005

   

_____

December 21, 2008

. . . and don’t forget these Christmas poems

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

lj-bridgmans-on-the-way-to-christmas-eve-service-in-norway

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

Anonymous
 

At the Last
 

      The stream is calmest when it nears the tide,
      And flowers are sweetest at eventide,
      The birds most musical at close of day,
      The saints divinest when they pass away.

      Morning is holy, but a holier charm
      Lies folded in evening’s robe of balm;
      And weary men must ever love her best.
      For morning calls to toil, but night to rest.

      She comes from heaven and on her wings doth bear
      A holy fragrance, like the breath of prayer;
      Footsteps of angels follow in her trace,
      To shut the weary eyes of Day in peace.

      All things are hushed before her, as she throws
      O’er earth and sky her mantle of repose;
      There is a calmer beauty, and a power
      That Morning knows not, in the Evening’s hour.

      Until the evening we must weep and toil—
      Plough life’s stern furrow, dig the woody soil,
      Tread with sad feet the rough and thorny way,
      And bear the heat and burden of the day.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

lj-bridgmans-a-christmas-bonfire-in-russia

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
 

Ballade of Christmas Ghosts
 

      Between the moonlight and the fire
      In winter twilights long ago,
      What ghosts we raised for your desire,
      To make your merry blood run slow!
      How old, how grave, how wise we grow!
      No Christmas ghost can make us chill,
      Save those that troop in mournful row,
      The ghosts we all can raise at will!

      The beasts can talk in barn and byre
      On Christmas Eve, old legends know.
      As year by year the years retire,
      We men fall silent then I trow,
      Such sights hath memory to show,
      Such voices from the silence thrill,
      Such shapes return with Christmas snow,—
      The ghosts we all can raise at will.

      Oh, children of the village choir,
      Your carols on the midnight throw,
      Oh, bright across the mist and mire,
      Ye ruddy hearths of Christmas glow!
      Beat back the dread, beat down the woe,
      Let’s cheerily descend the hill;
      Be welcome all, to come or go,
      The ghosts we all can raise at will.

      Friend, sursum corda, soon or slow
      We part, like guests who’ve joyed their fill;
      Forget them not, nor mourn them so,
      The ghosts we all can raise at will.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

c-mullers-the-holy-night

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
 

The Birth of Christ

      The time draws near the birth of Christ;
        The moon is hid—the night is still;
        The Christmas bells from hill to hill
      Answer each other in the mist.

      Four voices of four hamlets round,
        From far and near, on mead and moor,
        Swell out and fail, as if a door
      Were shut between me and the sound.

      Each voice four changes on the wind,
        That now dilate and now decrease,
        Peace and good-will, good-will and peace,
      Peace and good-will to all mankind.

      Rise, happy morn! rise, holy morn!
        Draw forth the cheerful day from night;
        O Father! touch the east, and light
      The light that shone when hope was born!

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

christmas-in-naples-an-italian-presipio

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Joe Cone (1869-?1925)
 

The Christmas Feeling
 

      I like the Christmas Feeling that is filling all the air,
      That fills the streets and busy stores, and scatters everywhere;
      I like the easy manner of the people on the street,
      The bundle-laden people, and the shop-girls smiling sweet.
      There’s a glow of warmth and splendor in the windows everywhere,
      There’s a glow in people’s faces which has lately stolen there;
      And everywhere the bells ring out with merry peal and chime,
      Which makes me like the Feeling of the happy Christmas time.

      I like the Christmas Feeling; there is nothing can compare
      With the free and kindly spirit that is spreading everywhere;
      And every heart for once is full of good old Christmas cheer.
      I like to Feel the presents as they reach me day by day;
      The presence of the presents drives my loneliness away.
      To Feel that I’m remembered is a Feeling most sublime,
      The Feeling of the Feeling of the happy Christmas time.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

the-nativity-from-add-ms-32454-in-the-british-museum-french-15th-century

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

 

by Margaret Deland (1857-1945)
 

The Christmas Silence
 

      Hushed are the pigeons cooing low
        On dusty rafters of the loft;
        And mild-eyed oxen, breathing soft,
      Sleep on the fragrant hay below.

      Dim shadows in the corner hide;
        The glimmering lantern’s rays are shed
        Where one young lamb just lifts his head,
      Then huddles ‘gainst his mother’s side.
     
      Strange silence tingles in the air;
        Through the half-open door a bar
        Of light from one low-hanging star
      Touches a baby’s radiant hair.

      No sound: the mother, kneeling, lays
        Her cheek against the little face.
        Oh human love! Oh heavenly grace!
      ‘Tis yet in silence that she prays!

      Ages of silence end to-night;
        Then to the long-expectant earth
        Glad angels come to greet His birth
      In burst of music, love, and light!

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

lj-bridgmans-christmas-festivity-in-seville

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
 

Church Decking at Christmas
 

      Would that our scrupulous sires had dared to leave
        Less scanty measure of those graceful rites
        And usages, whose due return invites
      A stir of mind too natural to deceive;
      Giving the memory help when she could weave
        A crown for Hope!—I dread the boasted lights
        That all too often are but fiery blights,
      Killing the bud o’er which in vain we grieve.
      Go, seek, when Christmas snows discomfort bring,
        The counter Spirit found in some gay church
        Green with fresh holly, every pew a perch
      In which the linnet or the thrush might sing,
        Merry and loud, and safe from prying search,
      Strains offered only to the genial spring.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

kenny-meadows-a-merry-christmas

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by William Barnes (1801-1886)
 

The Farmer’s Invitation
 

      Come down to-marra night; an’ mind
      Don’t leave thy fiddle-bag behind.
      We’ll shiake a lag, an’ drink a cup
      O’ yal to kip wold Chris’mas up.

      An’ let thy sister tiake thy yarm,
      The wa’k woont do ‘er any harm:
      Ther’s noo dirt now to spwile her frock
      Var ‘t a-vroze so hard ‘s a rock.

      Ther bent noo stranngers that ‘ull come,
      But only a vew naighbors: zome
      Vrom Stowe, an’ Combe; an’ two ar dree
      Vrom uncles up at Rookery.

      An’ thee woot vind a ruozy fiace,
      An’ pair ov eyes so black as sloos,
      The pirtiest oones in al the pliace.
      I’m sure I needen tell thee whose.

      We got a back-bran’, dree girt logs
      So much as dree ov us can car:
      We’ll put ’em up athirt the dogs,
      An’ miake a vier to the bar.

      An’ ev’ry oone wull tell his tiale,
      An’ ev’ry oone wull zing his zong,
      An’ ev’ry oone wull drink his yal,
      To love an’ frien’ship al night long.

      We’ll snap the tongs, we’ll have a bal,
      We’ll shiake the house, we’ll rise the ruf,
      We’ll romp an’ miake the maidens squal,
      A catchen o’m at bline-man’s buff.

      Zoo come to marra night, an’ mind
      Don’t leave thy fiddle-bag behind.
      We’ll shiake a lag, an’ drink a cup
      O’ yal to kip wold Chris’mas up.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

ara-coelis-the-bambino

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Alfred H. Domett
 

The First Roman Christmas
 

      It was the calm and silent night!
        Seven hundred years and fifty-three
      Had Rome been growing up to might,
        And now was queen of land and sea.
      No sound was heard of clashing wars,
        Peace brooded o’er the hushed domain;
      Apollo, Pallas, Jove, and Mars
        Held undisturbed their ancient reign,
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

      ‘Twas in the calm and silent night!
        The senator of haughty Rome
      Impatient urged his chariot’s flight,
        From lonely revel rolling home.
      Triumphal arches, gleaming, swell
        His breast with thoughts of boundless sway;
      What recked the Roman what befell
        A paltry province far away
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago?

      Within that province far away
        Went plodding home a weary boor;
      A streak of light before him lay,
        Fallen through a half-shut stable-door,
      Across his path. He passed; for naught
        Told what was going on within.
      How keen the stars! his only thought;
        The air how calm, and cold, and thin!
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

      O strange indifference! Low and high
        Drowsed over common joys and cares;
      The earth was still, but knew not why;
        The world was listening unawares.
      How calm a moment may precede
        One that shall thrill the world forever!
      To that still moment none would heed,
        Man’s doom was linked, no more to sever,
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

      It is the calm and solemn night!
        A thousand bells ring out and throw
      Their joyous peals abroad, and smite
        The darkness, charmed, and holy now!
      The night that erst no name had worn,
        To it a happy name is given;
      For in that stable lay, new-born,
        The peaceful Prince of earth and heaven,
            In the solemn midnight
              Centuries ago.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

john-gilberts-knighting-the-loin-of-beef

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

Anonymous
 

The Knighting of the Sirloin of Beef by Charles the Second
 

      The Second Charles of England
        Rode forth one Christmas tide,
      To hunt a gallant stag of ten,
        Of Chingford woods the pride.

      The winds blew keen, the snow fell fast,
        And made for earth a pall,
      As tired steeds and wearied men
        Returned to Friday Hall.

      The blazing logs, piled on the dogs,
        Were pleasant to behold!
      And grateful was the steaming feast
        To hungry men and cold.

      With right good-will all took their fill,
        And soon each found relief;
      Whilst Charles his royal trencher piled
        From one huge loin of beef.

      Quoth Charles, “Odd’s fish! a noble dish!
        Ay, noble made by me!
      By kingly right, I dub thee knight—
        Sir Loin henceforward be!”

      And never was a royal jest
        Received with such acclaim:
      And never knight than good Sir Loin
        More worthy of the name.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

gentile-da-fabrianos-the-adoration-of-the-magi

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

Anonymous
 

Madonna and Child
 

                  This endris night
                  I saw a sight,
                    A star as bright as day;
                  And ever among
                  A maiden sung,
                    Lullay, by by, lullay.

      This lovely lady sat and sang, and to her child she said,—
      “My son, my brother, my father dear, why liest thou thus in hayd?
                  My sweet bird,
                  Thus it is betide
                    Though thou be king veray;
                  But, nevertheless,
                  I will not cease
                    To sing, by by, lullay.”

      The child then spake; in his talking he to his mother said,—
      “I bekid am king, in crib though I be laid;
                  For angels bright
                  Down to me light,
                    Thou knowest it is no nay,
                  And of that sight
                  Thou mayest be light
                    To sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Now, sweet Son, since thou art king, why art thou laid in stall?
      Why not thou ordain thy bedding in some great kingès hall?
                  Methinketh it is right
                  That king or knight
                    Should be in good array;
                  And them among
                  It were no wrong
                    To sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Mary, mother, I am thy child, though I be laid in stall,
      Lords and dukes shall worship me and so shall kingès all.
                  Ye shall well see
                  That kingès three
                    Shall come on the twelfth day;
                  For this behest
                  Give me thy breast
                    And sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Now tell me, sweet Son, I thee pray, thou art my love and dear,
      How should I keep thee to thy pay and make thee glad of cheer?
                  For all thy will
                  I would fulfil
                    Thou weet’st full well in fay,
                  And for all this
                  I will thee kiss,
                    And sing, by by, lullay.”

      “My dear mother, when time it be, take thou me up aloft,
      And set me upon thy knee and handle me full soft.
                  And in thy arm
                  Thou wilt me warm,
                    And keep me night and day;
                  If I weep
                  And may not sleep
                    Thou sing, by by, lullay.”

      “Now, sweet Son, since it is so, all things are at thy will,
      I pray thee grant to me a boon if it be right and skill,
                  That child or man,
                  That will or can,
                    Be merry upon my day;
                  To bliss them bring,
                  And I shall sing,
                    Lullay, by by, lullay.”

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

joseph-kellner-egraving-the-german-christmas-tree-in-the-eighteenth-century

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
 

The Mahogany-Tree
 

      Christmas is here;
      Winds whistle shrill,
      Icy and chill,
      Little care we;
      Little we fear
      Weather without,
      Sheltered about
      The Mahogany-Tree.

      Once on the boughs
      Birds of rare plume
      Sang in its bloom;
      Night-birds are we;
      Here we carouse,
      Singing, like them,
      Perched round the stem
      Of the jolly old tree.

      Here let us sport,
      Boys, as we sit—
      Laughter and wit
      Flashing so free.
      Life is but short—
      When we are gone,
      Let them sing on,
      Round the old tree.

      Evenings we knew,
      Happy as this;
      Faces we miss,
      Pleasant to see.
      Kind hearts and true,
      Gentle and just,
      Peace to your dust!
      We sing round the tree.

      Care like a dun,
      Lurks at the gate;
      Let the dog wait;
      Happy we’ll be!
      Drink, every one;
      Pile up the coals;
      Fill the red bowls,
      Round the old tree!

      Drain we the cup.—
      Friend, art afraid?
      Spirits are laid
      In the Red Sea.
      Mantle it up;
      Empty it yet;
      Let us forget,
      Round the old tree!

      Sorrows begone!
      Life and its ills,
      Duns and their bills,
      Bid we to flee.
      Come with the dawn,
      Blue-devil sprite;
      Leave us to-night,
      Round the old tree!

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

correggios-the-virgin-adoring-the-infant-child

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by M. Nightingale
 

Mary Had A Little Lamb
 

      The Blessed Mary had a lamb,
      It too was white as snow,
      Far whiter than I ever am—
      Always and always so.

      She found it lying in the stall
      Wherefrom the oxen fed,
      With hay for bedding, hay for shawl,
      And hay beneath its head.

      She followed near it every day
      In all the paths it trod,
      She knew her lamb could never stray
      (It was the Lamb of God).

      And when the cloud of angels came
      And hid It from her sight,
      Its heart was near her all the same
      Because her own was white.

      So when she slept white lilies screened
      Her sleep from all alarms,
      Till from His Throne her white lamb leaned
      And waked her in His Arms.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

harrison-s-morris-the-yule-log-glow

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

The New-Years Gift
 

      Let others look for pearl and gold
      Tissues, or tabbies manifold;
      One only lock of that sweet hay
      Whereon the Blessed Baby lay,
      Or one poor swaddling-clout, shall be
      The richest New-Year’s gift to me.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

blindmans-buff

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

The New-Years Gift Sent to Sir Simeon Steward
 

      No news of navies burnt at sea,
      No noise of late-spawned Tityries,
      No closet plot or open vent
      That frights men with a Parliament:
      No new device or late-found trick,
      To read by the stars the kingdom’s sick;
      No gin to catch the State, or wring
      The free-born nostrils of the king,
      We send to you, but here a jolly
      Verse crowned with ivy and with holly;
      That tells of winter’s tales and mirth
      That milkmaids make about the hearth,
      Of Christmas sports, the wassail-bowl,
      That’s tost up after fox-i’-th’-hole;
      Of Blindman-buff, and of the care
      That young men have to shoe the mare;
      Of Twelve-tide cake, of peas and beans,
      Wherewith ye make those merry scenes,
      When as ye choose your king and queen,
      And cry out: Hey, for our town green!
      Of ash-heaps, in the which ye use
      Husbands and wives by streaks to choose;
      Of crackling laurel, which foresounds
      A plenteous harvest to your grounds;
      Of these and such like things, for shift,
      We send instead of New-Year’s gift:
      Read then, and when your faces shine
      With buxom meat and cap’ring wine,
      Remember us in cups full-crowned,
      And let our city-health go round,
      Quite through the young maids and the men
      To the ninth number, if not ten;
      Until the fired chestnuts leap
      For joy to see the fruits ye reap
      From the plump chalice and the cup
      That tempts till it be tosséd up.
      Then, as ye sit about your embers,
      Call not to mind those fled Decembers;
      But think on these that are to appear
      As daughters to the instant year;
      Sit crowned with rose-buds, and carouse,
      Till Liber Pater twirls the house
      About your ears; and lay upon
      The year, your cares, that’s fled and gone.
      And let the russet swains the plough
      And harrow hang up resting now;
      And to the bagpipe all address
      Till sleep takes place of weariness;
      And thus, throughout, with Christmas plays
      Frolic the full twelve holydays.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

ferdinand-waldmullers-christmas-morning-in-lower-austria

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

Saint Distaff’s Day, the Morrow After Twelfth Day
 

      Partly work and partly play
      Ye must on St. Distaff’s day;
      From the plough soon free your team,
      Then come home and fodder them;
      If the maids a-spinning go,
      Burn the flax and fire the tow;
      Scorch their plackets, but beware
      That ye singe no maiden-hair;
      Bring in pails of water then,
      Let the maids bewash the men;
      Give St. Distaff all the right,
      Then bid Christmas sport good-night,
      And next morrow every one
      To his own vocation.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

john-gilberts-christmas-for-ever

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

Anonymous
 

Santa Claus
 

      He comes in the night! He comes in the night!
        He softly, silently comes;
      While the little brown heads on the pillows so white
        Are dreaming of bugles and drums.
      He cuts through the snow like a ship through the foam,
        While the white flakes around him whirl;
      Who tells him I know not, but he findeth the home
        Of each good little boy and girl.

      His sleigh it is long, and deep, and wide;
        It will carry a host of things,
      While dozens of drums hang over the side,
        With the sticks sticking under the strings:
      And yet not the sound of a drum is heard,
        Not a bugle blast is blown,
      As he mounts to the chimney-top like a bird,
        And drops to the hearth like a stone.

      The little red stockings he silently fills,
        Till the stockings will hold no more;
      The bright little sleds for the great snow hills
        Are quickly set down on the floor.
      Then Santa Claus mounts to the roof like a bird,
        And glides to his seat in the sleigh;
      Not the sound of a bugle or drum is heard
        As he noiselessly gallops away.

      He rides to the East, and he rides to the West,
        Of his goodies he touches not one;
      He eateth the crumbs of the Christmas feast
        When the dear little folks are done.
      Old Santa Claus doeth all that he can;
        This beautiful mission is his;
      Then, children, be good to the little old man,
        When you find who the little man is.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

hm-pagets-bringing-in-the-yule-log

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Edwin Lees
 

Signs of Christmas
 

      When on the barn’s thatch’d roof is seen
      The moss in tufts of liveliest green;
      When Roger to the wood pile goes,
      And, as he turns, his fingers blows;
      When all around is cold and drear,
      Be sure that Christmas-tide is near.

      When up the garden walk in vain
      We seek for Flora’s lovely train;
      When the sweet hawthorn bower is bare,
      And bleak and cheerless is the air;
      When all seems desolate around,
      Christmas advances o’er the ground.

      When Tom at eve comes home from plough,
      And brings the mistletoe’s green bough,
      With milk-white berries spotted o’er,
      And shakes it the sly maids before,
      Then hangs the trophy up on high,
      Be sure that Christmas-tide is nigh.

      When Hal, the woodman, in his clogs,
      Bears home the huge unwieldly logs,
      That, hissing on the smould’ring fire,
      Flame out at last a quiv’ring spire;
      When in his hat the holly stands,
      Old Christmas musters up his bands.

      When cluster’d round the fire at night,
      Old William talks of ghost and sprite,
      And, as a distant out-house gate
      Slams by the wind, they fearful wait,
      While some each shadowy nook explore,
      Then Christmas pauses at the door.

      When Dick comes shiv’ring from the yard,
      And says the pond is frozen hard,
      While from his hat, all white with snow,
      The moisture, trickling, drops below,
      While carols sound, the night to cheer,
      Then Christmas and his train are here.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

madonna-enthroned-with-saints-and-angels-pesellino

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 

by Charles Mackay (1814-1889)
 

Under the Holly-Bough
 

      Ye who have scorned each other,
      Or injured friend or brother,
        In this fast-fading year;
      Ye who, by word or deed,
      Have made a kind heart bleed,
        Come gather here!
      Let sinned against and sinning
      Forget their strife’s beginning,
        And join in friendship now.
      Be links no longer broken,
      Be sweet forgiveness spoken
        Under the Holly-Bough.

      Ye who have loved each other,
      Sister and friend and brother,
        In this fast-fading year:
      Mother and sire and child,
      Young man and maiden mild,
        Come gather here;
      And let your heart grow fonder,
      As memory shall ponder
        Each past unbroken vow;
      Old loves and younger wooing
      Are sweet in the renewing
        Under the Holly-Bough.

      Ye who have nourished sadness,
      Estranged from hope and gladness
        In this fast-fading year;
      Ye with o’erburdened mind,
      Made aliens from your kind,
        Come gather here.
      Let not the useless sorrow
      Pursue you night and morrow,
        If e’er you hoped, hope now.
      Take heart,—uncloud your faces,
      And join in our embraces
        Under the Holly-Bough.

 

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

masaccios-the-adoration-of-the-magi

 
 
angel-divider

June 14, 2008

Ten Thousand Thanks

_____

   

   

Thank you ten thousand times.

Just a few hours ago, the most popular post yet here at Clattery MacHinery on Poetry, Alley War Poetry, received its 10,000th hit. That’s a lot of readers for a poetry blog post.

I’ve had ten thousand thoughts come and go, about how good or how bad it may be; ten thousand hopes that the people portrayed or cited in the article are happy with their portrayals, and that it adds to their lives or legacies; ten thousand concerns that the article does not disappoint the seeker or surfer who just might be reading at that moment, and once in a while I read along to be sure, thankful that the embedded videos of Marvelous Marvin Hagler vs. Tommy Hearns, Brian Turner, and Carl Jung, still play.

There are posts on sports blogs and local sports forums that reach 10,000 in a relative snap. And what’s nine months worth of ten thousand hits to a sports star or rock star–other than one night’s work at a stadium? Or the tens of millions who have watched Marvelous Marvin Hagler or Tommy Hearns on a screen?

If I had a dollar for each click into Alley War Poetry, I would have $10,000. If I had a nickel for each, I would have $500. But I don’t. I have these ten thousand thanks tonight. Thank you, ten thousand times.

To celebrate, I have selected two songs to embed, each of which has sold many more than ten thousand records, and two poems that have been read from many more than ten thousand books. Enjoy. And again, ten thousand thanks.

   

_____

   

            by “silver-tongued” Joshua Sylvester (1563—1618)
   

            Love’s Omnipresence
   

            Were I as base as is the lowly plain,
            And you, my Love, as high as heaven above,
            Yet should the thoughts of me your humble swain
            Ascend to heaven, in honour of my Love.

            Were I as high as heaven above the plain,
            And you, my Love, as humble and as low
            As are the deepest bottoms of the main,
            Whereso’er you were, with you my love should go.

            Were you the earth, dear Love, and I the skies,
            My love should shine on you like to the sun,
            And look upon you with ten thousand eyes
            Till heaven wax’d blind, and till the world were done.

            Whereso’er I am, below, or else above you,
            Whereso’er you are, my heart shall truly love you.

   

   

                  by William Wordsworth (1770—1850)
   

                  The Daffodils
   

                  I wander’d lonely as a cloud
                  That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
                  When all at once I saw a crowd,
                  A host of golden daffodils,
                  Beside the lake, beneath the trees
                  Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

                  Continuous as the stars that shine
                  And twinkle on the milky way,
                  They stretch’d in never-ending line
                  Along the margin of a bay:
                  Ten thousand saw I at a glance
                  Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

                  The waves beside them danced, but they
                  Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:—
                  A Poet could not but be gay
                  In such a jocund company!
                  I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
                  What wealth the show to me had brought;

                  For oft, when on my couch I lie
                  In vacant or in pensive mood,
                  They flash upon that inward eye
                  Which is the bliss of solitude;
                  And then my heart with pleasure fills,
                  And dances with the daffodils.

   

_____

   

10000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant: Hey Jack Kerouac

   

10000 Maniacs with Mary Ramsey: More Than This

   

_____

   

   

_____

   

February 8, 2008

The Long Abandon’d Hill, for Frank Wilson as he retires

~~~~~

 


   

It is not quite right to say that Frank Wilson, books editor at The Philadelphia Inquirer, is retiring today. It is better to say that The Inquirer is retiring.

In parts of the world where there is tyrannical rule, our journalists and poets are politically silenced as threats, because they start the fight; they bring to the people’s consciousnesses new and great directions for all; they cannot find it within themselves not to do this. And often these persecuted journalists and poets are the self-same. In this sense, at points of liberation, the seed of poetry is the seed of the journalism. Frank is just this kind of poet/journalist. Only we find him, not in Iraq or Burma, or even within some persecuted diaspora or trapped people, but as everyone’s brother, in the City of Brotherly Love.

While others were still looking for good poetry exclusively in book stores, print periodicals, and English departments, Frank has been seeking and finding it online, as it is written.    He brings to the fore fresh talent, and knows there are new channels to explore for this. All barriers may be broken, including whether someone has graduated 8th grade yet. If it’s good, it’s good. He’s at what we think of as retirement age, and he still looks for news ways to write his own book reviews. He’s cutting edge. He takes ancient wisdom and merges it with creative discovery. He’s even taken a good old newspaper, and brought the Books department into this 21st century we are all forming and adjusting to.

It seems newspapers do not know what to do with the web. Poets, on the other hand, do. We write and publish on it, and look for ways we can use our creativity through it. The web makes poetry thrive and live. Frank senses these developments like a poet does, and blazes them.    He is a leader for online poetry, selecting the finest to bring to wide readership.

The Philadelphia Inquirer is cutting back, though, while Frank is thriving. I wanted management there to be smart, recognize what they had, and open the vault for a new paycheck for Frank. But, maybe the Inquirer is just too old. Maybe it is time for the good old newspaper to retire from Frank Wilson.    Yes, let him find something else to take the old newspaper’s position. Frank has not retired, he has been unleashed–or, better yet, “untied”.
 

Reading Jack’s words after all these years, remembering how much they meant to me once, how I was sure I wouldn’t don any gray flannel suit and trudge to an office day in, day out, and knowing full well that tomorrow morning and the day after and after I’ll tie my tie and sit down at my desk yet again, well, it makes me wonder if I can still, even at this late date, salvage me some authenticity. Yeah, reading Jack has reminded me that living means more than just making a living, and that it’s always easier to get along by going along. As Ray confesses, “I had no guts anyway . . . .”
                                                                        –Frank Wilson, from Jack Kerouac’s sound of America
 

Below are seven retirement poems, the last being Cowper’s, that I have spent the evening preparing to untie, for Frank Wilson.
 


   

 

 

~~~~~

 

by Hezekiah Salem (Philip Morin Freneau, 1752-1832)
 

On Retirement
 

A hermit’s house beside a stream
    With forests planted round,
Whatever it to you may seem
More real happiness I deem
    Than if I were a monarch crown’d

A cottage I could call my own,
    Remote from domes of care;
A little garden walled with stone,
The wall with ivy overgrown,
    A limpid fountain near.

Would more substantial joys afford,
    More real bliss impart
Than all the wealth that misers hoard,
Than vanquish’d worlds, or worlds restored–
    Mere cankers of the heart!

Vain, foolish man! how vast thy pride,
    How little can your wants supply!–
‘Tis surely wrong to grasp so wide–
You act as if you only had
    To vanquish–not to die!

 

 

~~~~~

 

by William Ladd (1755-1786)
 

Retirement
 

    Hail, sweet retirement, hail!
Best state of man below,
To smooth the tide of passions frail,
And bear the soul away from scenery of wo.
    When, retired from busy noise,
Vexing cares and troubled joys,
To a mild serener air,
In the country we repair:
Calm enjoy the rural scene,
Sportive o’er the meadows green:
When the sun’s enlivening ray
Speaks the genial month of May,
Lo! his amorous, wanton beams
Dance on yonder crystal streams;
In soft dalliance pass the hours,
Kissing dew-drops from the flowers,
While soft music through the grove,
Sweetly tunes the soul to love.
And the hills harmonious round
Echo with responsive sound;
There the turtle-dove alone,
Makes his soft, melodious moan;
While from yonder bough ‘t is heard,
Sweetly chirps the yellow-bird:
There the linnet’s downy throat
Warbles the responsive note;
And to all the neighboring groves,
Robin Redbreast tells his loves.
    There, Amanda, we might walk,
And of soft endearments talk;
Or anon we’d listen, love,
To the gently cooing dove.
In some sweet, embowering shade,
Some fair seat by nature made,
I my love would gently place,
On the tender woven grass:
Seated by thy lovely side,
Oh, how great would be my pride!
While my soul should fix on thine,
Oh the joy to call thee mine!
    For why should doves have more delight,
Than we, my sweet Amanda, might?
And why should larks and linnets be
More happy, lovely maid, than we?
    There the pride of genius blooms,
There sweet contemplation comes:
There is science, heavenly fair,
Sweet philosophy is there;
With each author valued most,
Ancient glory, modern boast.
There the mind may revel o’er
Doughty deeds of days of yore;
How the mighty warriors stood,
How the field was dyed in blood,
How the shores were heap’d with dead,
And the rivers stream’d with red;
While the heroes’ souls on flame
Urged them on to deathless fame.
Or we view a different age
Pictured in the historic page–
Kings, descending from a throne;
Tyrants, making kingdoms groan,
With each care to state allied,
And all the scenery of pride.
Or perhaps we’ll study o’er
Books of philosophic lore;
Read what Socrates has thought,
And how godlike Plato wrote;
View the earth with Bacon’s eyes;
Or, with Newton, read the skies;
See each planetary ball,
One great sun attracting all:
All by gravitation held,
Self-attracted, self-propelled:
We shall cheat away old time,
Passing moments so sublime.
    Hail, sweet retirement, hail!
Best state of man below,
To smooth the tide of passions frail,
And bear the soul away from scenery of wo.

 

 

~~~~~

 

an ode
 

by Thomas Warton (1687-1745)
 

Retirement
 

On beds of daisies idly laid,
The willow waving o’er my head,
Now morning, on the bending stem,
Hangs the round and glittering gem,
Lull’d by the lapse of yonder spring,
Of nature’s various charms I sing:
Ambition, pride, and pomp, adieu,
For what has joy to do with you?

Joy, rose-lipt dryad, loves to dwell
In sunny field or mossy cell;
Delights on echoing hills to hear
The reaper’s song, or lowing steer;
Or view, with tenfold plenty spread,
The crowded corn-field, blooming mead;
While beauty, health, and innocence,
Transport the eye, the soul, the sense.

Not frescoed roofs, not beds if state,
Not guards that round a monarch wait;
Not crowds of flatterers can scare,
From loftiest courts intruding Care.
Midst odours, splendours, banquets, wine,
While minstrels sound, while tapers shine,
In sable stole sad Care will come,
And darken the sad drawing-room.

Nymphs of the groves, in green array’d,
Conduct me to your thickest shade;
Deep in the bosom of the vale,
Where haunts the lonesome nightingale;
Where Contemplation, maid divine,
Leans against some aged pine,
Wrapt in solemn thought profound,
Here eyes fix’t stedfast on the ground.

Oh, virtue’s nurse, retired queen,
By saints alone and hermits seen,
Beyond vain mortal wishes wise,
Teach me St. James’s to despise;
For what are crowded courts, but schools
For fops, or hospitals for fools;
Where slaves and madmen, young and old,
Meet to adore some calf of gold?

 

 

~~~~~

 

Villula, . . .
Me tibi, et hos unâ mecum, et quos semper amavi,
Commendo.
 

by W.R. Whatton (1790-1835)
 

To Retirement
 

Know’st thou the vale where the silver-stream’d fountain
    Reflects the sweet image of Peace as it flows,
Where the pine-tree and birch at the foot of the mountain
    Conceal in its bosom the myrtle and rose?

Where the wood-thrush and blackbird in wild notes are wooing
    The care that engrosses each mate’s anxious breast;
And the ringdove and turtle so tenderly cooing,
    Are grateful to Nature for being so blest!

Know’st thou the cottage where innocent pleasure
    Enlivens the circle round Virtue’s fair shrine,
Where the bright star of hope sheds its ray without measure,
    And Health and Contentment together entwine?

‘Tis there I’d retire from the world’s vain commotion,
    And calmly enjoy the sweet hope of release:
As the fisher’s frail bark on the storm-troubled ocean
    Views gladly the port where her dangers will cease.

‘This there the fond dreams of my infancy courting,
    I’d trace the gay visions of Mem’ry so bright,
And dwell on the scenes where so wantonly sporting
    Have fled the swift minutes of boyish delight.

 

 

~~~~~

 

by James Beattie (1735-1803)
 

Retirement
 

                    Shook from the purple wings of even
                        When dews impearl the grove,
                    And from the dark’ning verge of heaven
                        Beams the sweet star of Love;
                    Laid on a daisy-sprinkled green,
                        Beside a plaintive stream,
                    A meek-ey’d youth of serious mien
                        Indulg’d this solemn theme.

Ye cliffs, in hoary grandeur pil’d
    High o’er the glimmering dale!
Ye groves, along whose windings wild
    Soft sighs the sadd’ning gale!
Where oft lone Melancholy strays,
    By wilder’d Fancy sway’d,
What time the wan moon’s yellow rays
    Gleam thro’ the chequer’d shade!

To you, ye wastes, whose artless charms
    Ne’er drew Ambition’s eye,
‘Scap’d a tumultuos world’s alarms,
    To your retreats I fly:
Deep in your soft sequester’d bower,
    Let me my woes resign;
Where Solitude, mild modest power,
    Leans on her ivy’d shrine.

How shall I woo thee, matchless fair
    Thy heavenly smile how win!
Thy smile, that smoothes the brow of Care,
    And stills the storm within!
O wilt thou to thy favourite grove
    Thine ardent votary bring,
And bless his hours, and bid them move
    Serene on silent wing!

Oft let Rememberance soothe his mind
    With dreams of former days,
When soft on Leisure’s lap reclin’d,
    He caroll’d sprightly lays:
Bless’d days! when Fancy smile’d at Care,
    When Pleasure toy’d with Truth,
Nor Envy, with malignant glare,
    Had harm’d his simple youth.

‘Twas then, O Solitude! to thee
    His early vows were paid,
From heart sincere, and warm, and free,
    Devoted to the shade.
Ah! why did Fate his steps decoy
    In thorny paths to roam,
Remote from all congenial joy!
    O take thy wanderer home!

Henceforth thy awful haunts be mine!
    The long abandon’d hill;
The hollow cliff, whose waving pine
    O’erhangs the darksome rill;
Whence the scar’d owl, on pinions grey,
    Breaks from the rustling boughs,
And down the lone vale sails away
    To shades of deep repose.

O while to thee the woodland pours
    It’s wildly warbling song,
And fragrant from the waste of flowers
    The Zephyr breathes along;
Let no rude sound invade from far,
    No vagrant foot be nigh,
No ray from Grandeur’s gilded car
    Flash on the startled eye!

Yet if some pilgrim, ‘mid the glade,
    Thy hallow’d bowers explore,
O guard from harm his hoary head,
    And listen to his lore!
For he of joys divine shall tell,
    That wean from earthly woe,
And triumph o’er the mighty spell
    That chains the heart below.

For me no more the path invites
    Ambition loves to tread;
No more I climb those toilsome heights,
    By guileful Hope misled:
Leaps my fond flutt’ring heart no more
    To Mirth’s enlivening strain;
For present pleasure soon is o’er,
    And all the past is vain!

 

 

~~~~~

 

by Richard Garnett (1835-1906)
 

Garibaldi’s Retirement
 

Not that three armies thou didst overthrow,
    Not that three cities oped their gates to thee,
    I praise thee, Chief, not for this royalty
Decked with new crowns, that utterly laid low:
For nothing of all thou didst forsake to go
    And tend thy vines amid the Etrurian Sea,
    Not even that thou didst this–though history
Retread two thousand selfish years to show
Another Cincinnatus!    Rather for this,
    The having lived such life, that even this deed
Of stress heroic natural seems as is
    Calm night, when glorious day it doth succeed;
And we, forewarned by surest auguries,
    The amazing act with no amazement read.

 

 

~~~~~

 

. . . studiis florens ignobilis otî.
                                  Virg. Geor. lib. 4.
 

by William Cowper (1731-1800)
 

Retirement
 

Hackney’d in business, wearied at that oar,
Which thousands, once fast chain’d to, quit no more,
But which, when life at ebb runs weak and low,
All wish, or seem to wish, they could forego;
The statesman, lawyer, merchant, man of trade,
Pants for the refuge of some rural shade,
Where, all his long anxieties forgot
Amid the charms of a sequester’d spot,
Or recollected only to gild o’er,
And add a smile to what was sweet before,
He may possess the joys he thinks he sees,
Lay his old age upon the lap of Ease,
Improve the remnant of his wasted span,
And, having liv’d a trifler, die a man.
Thus Conscience pleads her cause within the breast,
Though long rebell’d against, not yet suppress’d,
And calls a creature form’d for God alone,
For Heav’n’s high putposes, and not his own,
Calls him away from selfish ends and aims,
From what debilitates and what inflames,
From cities humming with a restless crowd,
Sordid as active, ignorant as loud,
Whose highest praise is that they live in vain,
The dupes of pleasure, or the slaves of gain,
Where works of man are cluster’d close around,
And works of God are hardly to be found,
To regions where, in spite of sin and wo,
Traces of Eden are still seen below,
Where mountain, river, forest, field, and grove,
Remind him of his Maker’s pow’r and love.
‘Tis well if, look’d for at so late a day,
In the last scene of such a senseless play,
True wisdom will attend his feeble call,
And grace his action ere the curtain fall.
Souls, that have long despised their heav’nly birth
Their wishes all impregnated with earth,
For threescore years employ’d with ceaseless care
in catching smoke and feeding upon air,
Conversant only with the ways of men,
Rarely redeem the short remaining ten.
Invet’rate habits choke th’unfruitful heart,
Their fibres penetrate its tend’rest part,
And, draining its nutritious pow’rs to feed
Their noxious growth, starve ev’ry better seed.
    Happy, if full of days–but happier far,
If, ere we yet discern life’s ev’ning star,
Sick of the service of a world, that feeds
Its patient drudges with dry chaff and weeds,
We can escape from Custom’s idiot sway,
To serve the Sov’reign we were born t’obey.
Then sweet to muse upon his skill display’d
(infinite skill) in all that he has made!
To trace in Nature’s most minute design
The signature and stamp of pow’r divine,
Contrivance intricate, express’d with ease,
Where unassisted sight no beauty sees,
The shapely limb and lubricated joint
Within the small dimensions of a point,
Muscle and nerve miraculously spun,
His mighty work, who speaks, and it is done,
Th’invisible in things scarce, seen reveal’d,
To whom an atom is an ample field;
To wonder at a thousand insect forms,
These hatch’d, and those resuscitated worms,
New life ordain’d and brighter scenes to share,
Once prone on earth, now bouyant upon air,
Whose shape would make them, had they bulk and size,
More hideous foes than fancy can devise;
With helmet-heads and dragon-scales adorn’d,
The mighty myriads, now securely scorn’d,
Would mock the majesty of man’s high birth,
Despise his bulwarks, and unpeopled earth.
Then with a glance of fancy to survey,
far as the faculty can stretch away,
Ten thousand rivers pour’d at his command
From urns, that never fail, through ev’ry land;
These like a deluge with impetuous force,
Those winding modestly a silent course;
The cloud-surmounting Alps, the fruitful vales;
Seas, on which ev’ry nation spreads her sails;
The sun, a world whence other worlds drink light
The crescent moon, the diadem of night;
Stars countless, each in his appointed place,
Fast anchor’d in the deep abyss of space–
At such a sight to catch the poet’s flame,
And with the rapture like his own exclaim,
These are thy glorious works, thou source of good,
How dimly seen, how faintly understood!
Thine, and upheld by thy paternal care,
This universal frame, thus wondrous fair;
Thy pow’r divine, and bounty beyond thought
Ador’d and prais’d in all that thou hast wrought.
Absorb’d in that immensity I see,
I shrink abas’d, and yet aspire to thee;
Instruct me, guide me to that heav’nly day
Thy words more clearly than thy works display.
That, while thy truths my grosser thoughts refine,
I may resemble thee, and call thee mine.
    O, blest proficiency! surpassing all,
That men erroneously their glory call,
The recompense that arts or arms can yield,
The bar, the senate, or the tented field.
Compar’d with this sublimest life below,
Ye kings and rulers, what have courts to show?
Thus studied, us’d and consecrated thus,
On earth what is, seems form’d indeed for us:
Not as the plaything of a froward child,
Fretful unless diverted and beguil’d,
Much less to feed and fan the fatal fires
Of pride, ambition, or impure desires,
But as a scale, by which the soul ascends
From mighty means to more important ends
Securely, though by steps but rarely trod,
Mounts from inferiour being up to God,
And sees, by no fallacious light or dim,
Earth made for man, and man himself for him.
    Not that I mean t’approve, or would enforce,
A superstitious and monastick course:
Truth is not local, God alike pervades
And fills the world of traffick and the shades,
And may be fear’d amidst the busiest scenes,
Or scorn’d where business never intervenes.
But ’tis not easy with a mind like ours,
Conscious of weakness in its noblest pow’rs,
And in a world where, other ills apart,
The roving eye misleads the careless heart,
To limit Thought, by nature prone to stray
Wherever freakish Fancy points the way;
To bid the pleadings of Self-love be still,
Resign our own and seek our Maker’s will;
To spread the page of Scripture, and compare
Our conduct with the laws engraven there;
To measure all that passes in the breast,
Faithfully, fairly, by the sacred test:
To dive into the secret deeps within,
To spare no passion and no fav’rite sin,
And search the themes, important above all,
Ourselves, and our recov’ry from our fall.
But leisure, silence, and a mind releas’d
From anxious thoughts how wealth may be increas’d,
How to secure, in some propitious hour,
The point of int’rest or the post of pow’r,
A soul serene, and equally retir’d
From objects too much dreaded or desir’d,
Safe from the clamours of perverse dispute,
At least are friendly to the great pursuit.
    Op’ning the map of God’s extensive plan,
We find a little isle, this life of man;
Eternity’s unknown expanse appears
Circling around and limiting his years.
The busy race examine and explore
Each creek and cavern of the dang’rous shore,
With care collect what in their eyes excels,
Some shining pebbles, and some weeds and shells;
Thus laden, dream that they are rich and great,
And happiest he that groans beneath his weight.
The waves o’ertake them in their serious play,
And ev’ry hour sweeps multitudes away;
They shriek and sink, survivors start and weep,
Pursue their sport, and follow to the deep.
A few forsake the throng; with lifted eyes
Ask wealth of Heaven, and gain a real prize,
Truth, wisdom, grace, and peace like that above,
Seal’d with his signet whom they serve and love;
Scorn’d by the rest, with patient hope they wait
A kind release from their imperfect state,
And unregretted are soon snatch’d away
From scenes of sorrow into glorious day.
    Nor these alone prefer a life recluse,
Who seek retirement for its proper use;
The love of change, that lives in ev’ry breast,
Genius, and temper, and desire of rest,
Discordant motives in one centre meet,
And each inclines its vot’ry to retreat.
Some minds by nature are averse to noise,
And hate the tumult half the world enjoys,
The lure of av’rice, or the pompous prize
That courts display before ambitious eyes;
The fruits that hang on pleasure’s flow’ry stem,
Whate’er enchants them, are no snares to them.
To them the deep recess of dusky groves,
Or forest, where the deer securely roves,
The fall of waters, and the song of birds,
And hills that echo to the distant herds,
Are luxuries excelling all the glare
The world can boast, and her chief fav’rites share.
With eager step, and carelessly array’d,
For such a cause the poet seeks the shade,
From all he sees he catches new delight,
Pleas’d Fancy claps her pinions at the sight,
The rising or the setting orb of day,
The clouds that flit, or slowly float away,
Nature in all the various shapes she wears,
Frowning in storms, or breathing gentle airs,
The snowy robe her wintry state assumes,
Her summer heats, her fruits, and her perfumes,
All, all alike transport the glowing bard,
Success in rhyme his glory and reward.
O Nature! whose Elysian scenes disclose
His bright perfections at whose word they rose,
Next to that power who form’d thee, and sustains,
Be thou the great inspirer of my strains.
Still, as I touch the lyre, do thou expand
Thy genuine charms, and guide an artless hand,
That I may catch a fire but rarely known,
Give useful light, though I should miss renown.
And, poring on thy page, whose ev’ry line
Bears proof of an intelligence divine,
May feel a heart enrich’d by what it pays,
That builds its glory on its Maker’s praise.
Woe to the man whose wit disclaims its use,
Glitt’ring in vain, or only to seduce,
Who studies nature with a wanton eye,
Admires the work, but slips the lesson by;
His hours of leisure and recess employs
In drawing pictures of forbidden joys,
Retires to blazon his own worthless name,
Or shoot the careless with a surer aim.
    The lover too shuns business and alarms,
Tender idolater of absent charms.
Saints offer nothing in their warmest pray’rs
That he devotes not with a zeal like theirs;
‘Tis consecration of his heart, soul, time,
And every thought that wanders is a crime.
In sighs he worships his supremely fair,
And weeps a sad libation in despair;
Adores a creature, and, devout in vain,
Wins in return an answer of disdain.
As woodbine weds the plant within her reach,
Rough elm, or smooth-grain’d ash, or glossy beech
In spiral rings ascends the trunk, and lays
Her golden tassels on the leafy sprays,
But does a mischief while she lends a grace,
Strait’ning its growth by such a strict embrace;
So love, that clings around the noblest minds,
Forbids th’advancement of the soul he binds;
The suitor’s air, indeed, he soon improves,
And forms it to the taste of her he loves,
Teaches his eyes a language, and no less
Refines his speech, and fashions his address;
But farewell promises of happier fruits,
Manly designs, and learning’s grave pursuits;
Girt with a chain he cannot wish to break,
His only bliss is sorrow for her sake;
Who will may pant for glory and excel,
Her smile his aim, all higher aims farewell!
Thyrsis, Alexis, or whatever name
May least offend against so pure a flame,
Though sage advice of friends the most sincere
Sounds harshly in so delicate an snare,
And lovers, of all creatures, tame or wild,
Can least brook management, however mild,
Yet let a poet (poetry disarms
The fiercest animals with magick charms)
Risk an intrusion on thy pensive mood,
And woo and win thee to thy proper good.
Pastoral images and still retreats,
Umbrageous walks and solitary seats,
Sweet birds in concert with harmonious streams,
Soft airs, nocturnal vigils, and day-dreams,
Are all enchantments in a case like thine,
Conspire against thy peace with one design,
Soothe thee to make thee but a surer prey,
And feed the fire that wastes thy pow’rs away.
Up–God has form’d thee with a wiser view,
Not to be led in chains, but to subdue;
Calls thee to cope with enemies, and first
Points out a conflict with thyself, the worst.
Woman, indeed, a gift he would bestow
When he design’d a Paradise below,
The richest earthly boon his hands afford,
Deserves to be beloved, but not adored.
Post away swiftly to more active scenes,
Collect the scatter’d truth that study gleans,
Mix with the world, but with its wiser part,
No longer give an image all thine heart;
Its empire is not hers, nor is it thine,
‘Tis God’s just claim, prerogative divine.
    Virtuous and faithful HEBERDEN, whose skill
Attempts no task it cannot well fulfil,
Gives melancholy up to Nature’s care,
And sends the patient into purer air.
Look where he comes–in this embow’r’d alcove
Stand close conceal’d, and see a statue move:
Lips busy, and eyes fix’d, foot falling slow,
Arms hanging idly down, hands clasp’d below,
Interpret to the marking eye distress,
Such as its symptoms can alone express.
That tongue is silent now; that silent tongue
Could argue once, could jest, or join the song,
Could give advice, could censure or commend,
Or charm the sorrows of a drooping friend.
Renounc’d alike its office and its sport,
Its brisker and its graver strains fall short;
Both fail beneath a fever’s secret sway,
And like a summer brook are past away.
This is a sight for Pity to peruse,
Till she resembles faintly what she views,
Till sympathy contract a kindred pain,
Pierc’d with the woes that she laments in vain.
This, of all maladies that man infest,
Claims most compassion, and receives the least;
Job felt it, when he groan’d beneath the rod
And the barb’d arrows of a frowning God;
And such emollients as his friends could spare,
Friends such as his for modern Jobs prepare.
Blest, rather curst, with hearts that never feel,
Kept snug in caskets of close-hammer’d steel,
With mouths made only to grin wide and eat,
And minds that deem derided pain a treat,
With limbs of British oak, and nerves of wire,
And wit that puppet prompters might inspire,
Their sov’reign nostrum is a clumsy joke
On pangs enforc’d with God’s severest stroke.
But with a soul, that ever felt the sting
Of sorrow, sorrow is a sacred thing:
Not to molest, or irritate, or raise
A laugh at his expense, is slender praise;
He that has not usurp’d the name of man
Does all, and deems too little all, he can,
T’assuage the throbbings of the fester’d part,
And staunch the bleedings of a broken heart.
‘Tis not, as heads that never ache suppose,
Forg’ry of fancy, and a dream of woes;
Man is a harp, whose chords elude the sight,
Each yielding harmony disposed aright;
The screws revers’d (a task which, if he please,
God in a moment executes with ease),
Ten thousand thousand strings at once go loose,
Lost, till he tune them, all their pow’r and use.
Then neither heathy wilds, nor scenes as fair
As ever recompens’d the peasant’s care,
Nor soft declivities with tufted hills,
Nor view of waters turning busy mills,
Parks in which Art preceptress Nature weds,
Nor gardens interspers’d with flow’ry beds,
Nor gales, that catch the scent of blooming groves,
And waft it to the mourner as he roves,
Can call up life into his faded eye,
That passes all he sees unheeded by;
No wounds like those a wounded spirit feels,
No cure for such, till God, who makes them, heals.
And thou, sad suff’rer under nameless ill
That yields not to the touch of human skill,
Improve the kind occasion, understand
A Father’s frown, and kiss his chast’ning hand.
To thee the dayspring, and the blaze of noon,
The purple ev’ning and resplendent moon,
The stars that, sprinkled o’er the vault of night,
Seem drops descending in a show’r of light,
Shine not, or undesir’d and hated shine,
Seen through the medium of a cloud like thine:
Yet seek him, in his favour life is found,
All bliss beside a shadow or a sound:
Then heav’n, eclips’d so long, and this dull earth,
Shall seem to start into a second birth;
Nature, assuming a more lovely face,
Borr’wing a beauty from the works of grace,
Shall be despis’d and overlook’d no more,
Shall fill thee with delight unfelt before,
Impart to things inanimate a voice,
And bid her mountains and her hills rejoice;
The sound shall run along the winding vales,
And thou enjoy an Eden ere it fails.
    Ye groves (the statesman at his desk exclaims,
Sick of a thousand disappointed aims),
My patrimonial treasure and my pride,
Beneath your shades your grey possessor hide,
Receive me, languishing for that repose
The servant of the public never knows.
Ye saw me once (ah, those regretted days,
When boyish innocence was all my praise!)
Hour after hour delightfully allot
To studies then familiar, since forgot,
And cultivate a taste for ancient song,
Catching its ardour as I mus’d along;
Nor seldom, as propitious Heav’n might send,
What once I valu’d and could boast, a friend,
Were witnesses how cordially I press’d
His undissembling virtue to my breast;
Receive me now, not incorrupt as then,
Nor guiltless of corrupting other men,
But vers’d in arts, that, while they seem to stay
A falling empire, hasten its decay.
To the fair haven of my native home,
The wreck of what I was, fatigued I come;
For once I can approve the patriot’s voice,
And make the course he recommends my choice:
We meet at last in one sincere desire,
His wish and mine both prompt me to retire.
‘Tis done–he steps into the welcome chaise,
Lolls at his ease behind four handsome bays,
That whirl away from business and debate
The disencumber’d Atlas of the state.
Ask not the boy, who, when the breeze of morn
First shakes the glitt’ring drops from ev’ry thorn,
Unfolds his flock, then under bank or bush
Sits linking cherry-stones, or platting rush,
How fair is freedom?–he was always free:
To carve his rustick name upon a tree,
To snare the mole, or with ill-fashion’d hook
To draw th’incautious minnow from the brook,
Are life’s prime pleasures in his simple view,
His flock the chief concern he ever knew;
She shines but little in his heedless eyes,
The good we never miss we rarely prize:
But ask the noble drudge in state affairs,
Escaped from office and its constant cares,
What charms he sees in Freedom’s smile express’d,
In Freedom lost so long, now repossess’d;
The tongue whose strains were cogent as commands,
Rever’d at home, and felt in foreign lands,
Shall own itself a stamm’rer in that cause,
Or plead its silence as its best applause.
He knows indeed that, whether dress’d or rude,
Wild without art, or artfully subdued,
Nature in ev’ry form inspires delight,
But never mark’d her with so just a sight.
Her hedge-row shrubs, a variegated store,
With woodbine and wild roses mantled o’er,
Green balks and furrow’d lands, the stream, that spreads
Its cooling vapour o’er the dewy meads,
Downs, that almost escape th’inquiring eye,
That melt and fade into the distant sky,
Beauties he lately slighted as he pass’d,
Seem all created since he travell’d last.
Master of all th’enjoyments he design’d,
No rough annoyance rankling in his mind,
What early philosophick hours he keeps,
How regular his meals, how sound he sleeps!
Not sounder he, that on the mainmast head,
While morning kindles with a windy red,
Begins a long look-out for distant land,
Nor quits till ev’ning watch his giddy stand,
Then, swift descending with a seaman’s haste,
Slips to his hammock, and forgets the blast.
He chooses company, but not the squire’s,
Whose wit is rudeness, whose good-breeding tires,
Nor yet the parson’s, who would gladly come,
Obsequious when abroad, though proud at home;
Nor can he much affect the neighb’ring peer,
Whose toe of emulation treads too near;
But wisely seeks a more convenient friend,
With whom, dismissing forms, he may unbend.
A man, whom marks of condescending grace
Teach, while they flatter him, his proper place;
Who comes when call’d, and at a word withdraws,
Speaks with reserve, and listens with applause;
Some plain mechanick, who, without pretence
To birth or wit, nor gives nor takes offence;
On whom he rest well-pleas’d his weary pow’rs,
And talks and laughs away his vacant hours.
The tide of life, swift always in its course,
May run in cities with a brisker force,
But nowhere with a current so serene,
Or half so clear, as in the rural scene.
Yet how fallacious is all earthly bliss,
What obvious truths the wisest heads may miss;
Some pleasures live a month, and some a year,
But short the date of all we gather here;
No happiness is felt, except the true,
That does not charm thee more for being new.
This observation, as it chanc’d, not made,
Or, if the thought occurr’d, not duly weigh’d,
He sighs–for after all by slow degrees
The spot he lov’d has lost the power to please;
To cross his ambling pony day by day
Seems at the best but dreaming life away;
The prospect, such as might enchant despair,
He views it not, or sees no beauty there;
With aching heart, and discontented looks,
Returns at noon to billiards or to books,
But feels, while grasping at his faded joys,
A secret thirst of his renounc’d employs.
He chides the tardiness of ev’ry post,
Pants to be told of battles won or lost,
Blames his own indolence, observes, though late,
‘Tis criminal to leave a sinking state,
Flies to the levee, and, receiv’d with grace,
Kneels, kisses hands, and shines again in place.
    Suburban villas, highway-side retreats,
That dread th’encroachment of our growing streets,
Tight boxes neatly sash’d, and in a blaze
With all a July sun’s collected rays,
Delight the citizen, who, gasping there,
Breathes clouds of dust, and calls it country air.
O sweet retirement! who would balk the thought,
That could afford retirement, or could not?
‘Tis such an easy walk, so smooth and straight,
The second milestone fronts the garden gate;
A step if fair, and if a show’r approach,
They find safe shelter in the next stage-coach.
There, prison’d in a parlour snug and small,
Like bottled wasps upon a southern wall,
The man of business and his friends compress’d,
Forget their labours, and yet find no rest;
But still ’tis rural–trees are to be seen
From every window, and the fields are green;
Ducks paddle in the pond before the door,
And what could a remoter scene show more?
A sense of elegance we rarely find
The portion of a mean or vulgar mind,
And ignorance of better things makes man,
Who cannot much, rejoice in what he can;
And he, that deems his leisure well bestow’d,
In contemplation of a turnpike-road,
Is occupied as well, employs his hours
As wisely, and as much improves his pow’rs,
As he, that slumbers in pavilions grac’d
With all the charms of an accomplish’d taste.
Yet hence, alas! insolvencies; and hence
Th’unpitied victim of ill-judg’d expense,
From all his wearisome engagements freed,
Shakes hands with business and retires indeed.
    Your prudent grand-mammas, ye modern belles,
Content with Bristol, Bath, and Tunbridge-wells,
When health requir’d it would consent to roam,
Else more attach’d to pleasures found at home;
But now alike, gay widow, virgin, wife,
Ingenious to diversify dull life,
In coaches, chaises, caravans, and hoys,
Fly to the coast for daily, nightly joys;
And all, impatient of dry land, agree
With one consent to rush into the sea.
Ocean exhibits, fathomless and broad,
Much of the pow’r and majesty of God.
He swathes about the swelling of the deep,
That shines and rests, as infants smile and sleep;
Vast as it is, it answers as it flows
The breathings of the lightest air that blows;
Curling and whit’ning over all the waste,
The rising waves obey th’increasing blast,
Abrupt and horrid as the tempest roars,
Thunder and flash upon the steadfast shores,
Till he, that rides the whirlwind, checks the rein,
Then all the world of waters sleeps again.
Nereids or Dryads, as the fashion leads,
Now in the floods, now panting in the meads,
Vot’ries of Pleasure still, where’er she dwells,
Near barren rocks, in palaces, or cells,
O grant a poet leave to recommend
(A poet fond of Nature, and your friend)
Her slighted works to your admiring view;
Her works must needs excel, who fashion’d you.
Would ye, when rambling in your morning ride,
With some unmeaning coxcomb at your side,
Condemn the prattler for his idle pains,
To waste unheard the musick of his strains,
And, deaf to all th’impertinence of tongue,
That, while it courts, affronts and does you wrong,
Mark well the finish’d plan without a fault,
The seas globose and huge, th’o’erarching vault,
Earth’s millions daily fed, a world employ’d
In gath’ring plenty yet to be enjoy’d,
Till gratitude grew vocal in the praise
Of God, beneficent in all his ways;
Grac’d with such wisdom, how would beauty shine!
Ye want but that to seem indeed divine.
    Anticipated rents, and bills unpaid,
Force many a shining youth into the shade,
Not to redeem his time, but his estate,
And play the fool, but at a cheaper rate.
There, hid in loath’d obscurity, remov’d
From pleasures left, but never more belov’d,
He just endures, and with a sickly spleen
Sighs o’er the beauties of the charming scene.
Nature indeed looks prettily in rhyme;
Streams tinkle sweetly in poetick chime:
The warblings of the blackbird, clear and strong,
Are musical enough in Thomson’s song;
And Cobham’s groves, and Windsor’s green retreats,
When Pope describes them, have a thousand sweets;
He likes the country, but in truth must own,
Most likes it, when he studies it in town.
    Poor Jack–no matter who–for when I blame,
I pity, and must therefore sink the name,
Lived in his saddle, lov’d the chase, the course,
And always, ere he mounted, kiss’d his horse.
The estate, his sires had own’d in ancient years,
Was quickly distanc’d, match’d against a peer’s.
Jack vanish’d, was regretted and forgot;
‘Tis wild good-nature’s never-failing lot.
At length, when all had long suppos’d him dead,
By cold submersion, razor, rope, or lead,
My lord, alighting at his usual place,
The Crown, took notice of an ostler’s face.
Jack knew his friend, but hop’d in that disguise
He might escape the most observing eyes,
And whistling, as if unconcern’d and gay,
Curried his nag, and look’d another way;
Convinc’d at last, upon a nearer view,
‘Twas he, the same, the very Jack he knew,
O’erwhelm’d at once with wonder, grief, and joy,
He press’d him much to quit his base employ;
His countenance, his purse, his heart, his hand,
Influence and pow’r, were all at his command:
Peers are not always gen’rous as well-bred,
But Granby was, meant truly what he said.
Jack bow’d, and was obliged–confess’d ’twas strange,
That so retir’d he should not wish a change,
But knew no medium between guzzling beer,
And his old stint–three thousand pounds a year.
    Thus some retire to nourish hopeless wo;
Some seeking happiness not found below;
Some to comply with humour and a mind
To social scenes by nature disinclin’d;
Some sway’d by fashion, some by deep disgust;
Some self-impoverish’d, and because they must;
But few, that court Retirement, are aware
Of half the toils they must encounter there.
    Lucrative offices are seldom lost
For want of powers proportion’d to the post:
Give e’en a dunce th’employment he desires,
And he soon finds the talents it requires;
A business with an income at its heels
Furnishes always oil for its own wheels.
But in his arduous enterprise to close
His active years with indolent repose,
He finds the labours of that state exceed
His utmost faculties, severe indeed.
‘Tis easy to resign a toilsome place,
But not to manage leisure with a grace;
Absence of occupation is not rest,
A mind quite vacant is a mind distress’d,
The vet’ran steed, excus’d his task at length,
In kind compassion of his failing strength,
And turn’d into the park or mead to graze,
Exempt from future service all his days,
There feels a pleasure perfect in its kind,
Ranges at liberty, and snuffs the wind:
But when his lord would quit the busy road,
To taste a joy like that he has bestow’d,
He proves, less happy than his favour’d brute,
A life of ease a difficult pursuit.
Thought, to the man that never thinks, may seem
As natural as when asleep to dream:
But reveries (for human minds will act),
Specious in show, impossible in fact,
Those flimsy webs, that break as soon as wrought,
Attain not to the dignity of thought:
Nor yet the swarms that occupy the brain,
Where dreams of dress, intrigue, and pleasure reign;
Nor such as useless conversation breeds,
Or lust engenders, and indulgence feeds.
Whence, and what are we? to what end ordain’d?
What means the drama by the world sustain’d?
Business or vain amusement, care or mirth,
Divide the frail inhabitants of earth.
Is duty a mere sport, or an employ?
Life an entrusted talent, or a toy?
Is there, as reason, conscience, Scripture, say,
Cause to provide for a great future day,
When, earth’s assign’d duration at an end,
Man shall be summon’d, and the dead attend?
The trumpet–will it sound, the curtain rise,
And shew th’august tribunal of the skies,
Where no prevarication shall avail,
Where eloquence and artifice shall fail,
The pride of arrogant distinctions fall,
And conscience and our conduct judge us all?
Pardon me, ye that give the midnight oil
To learned cares or philosophick toil;
Though I revere your honourable names,
Your useful labours, and important aims,
And hold the world indebted to your aid,
Enrich’d with the discoveries ye have made;
Yet let me stand excused, if I esteem
A mind employ’d on so sublime a theme,
Pushing her bold inquiry to the date
And outline of the present transient state,
And, after poising her advent’rous wings,
Settling at last upon eternal things,
Far more intelligent, and better taught
The strenuous use of profitable thought,
Than ye, when happiest, and enlighten’d most,
And highest in renown, can justly boast.
    A mind unnerv’d, or indispos’d to bear
The weight of subjects worthiest of her care,
Whatever hopes a change of scene inspires,
Must change her nature, or in vain retires.
An idler is a watch, that wants both hands,
As useless if it goes, as when it stands.
Books therefore, not the scandal of the shelves,
In which lewd sensualists print out themselves;
Nor those, in which the stage gives vice a blow,
With what success let modern manners shew;
Nor his, who, for the bane of thousands born,
Built God a church, and laugh’d his Word to scorn,
Skilful alike to seem devout and just,
And stab religion with a sly side-thrust;
Nor those of learn’d philologists, who chase
A panting syllable through time and space,
Start it at home, and hunt it in the dark,
To Gaul, to Greece, and into Noah’s ark;
But such as Learning without false pretence,
The friend of Truth, th’associate of sound Sense,
And such as, in the zeal of good design,
Strong judgment lab’ring in the Scripture mine,
All such as manly and great souls produce,
Worthy to live, and of eternal use:
Behold in these what leisure hours demand,
Amusement and true knowledge hand in hand.
Luxury gives the mind a childish cast,
And, while she polishes, perverts the taste;
Habits of close attention, thinking heads,
Become more rare as dissipation spreads,
Till authors hear at length one general cry,
Tickle and entertain us, or we die.
The loud demand, from year to year the same,
Beggars Invention, and makes Fancy lame;
Till farce itself, most mournfully jejune,
Calls for the kind assistance of a tune;
And novels (witness every month’s review)
Belie their name, and offer nothing new.
The mind, relaxing into needful sport,
Should turn to writers of an abler sort,
Whose wit well manag’d, and whose classick style,
Give truth a lustre, and make wisdom smile.
Friends (for I cannot stint, as some have done,
Too rigid in my view, that name to one;
Though one, I grant it, in the gen’rous breast
Will stand advanc’d a step above the rest;
Flowers by that name promiscuously we call,
But one, the rose, the regent of them all)–
Friends, not adopted with a schoolboy’s haste,
But chosen with a nice discerning taste,
Well born, well disciplin’d, who, plac’d apart
From vulgar minds, have honour much at heart,
And, tho’ the world may think th’ingredients odd,
The love of virtue, and the fear of God!
    Such friends prevent what else would soon succeed,
A temper rustick as the life we lead,
And keep the polish of the manners clean,
As theirs who bustle in the busiest scene;
For solitude, however some may rave,
Seeming a sanctuary, proves a grave,
A sepulchre, in which the living lie,
Where all good qualities grow sick and die.
I praise the Frenchman*, his remark was shrewd,
How sweet, how passing sweet is solitude!
But grant me still a friend in my retreat,
Whom I may whisper–solitude is sweet.
Yet neither these delights, nor aught beside,
That appetite can ask, or wealth provide,
Can save us always from a tedious day,
Or shine the dulness of still life away;
Divine communion, carefully enjoy’d,
Or sought with energy, must fill the void.
Oh, sacred art, to which alone life owes
Its happiest seasons, and a peaceful close,
Scorn’d in a world, indebted to that scorn
For evils daily felt and hardly borne,
Not knowing thee, we reap with bleeding hands,
Flow’rs of rank odour upon thorny lands,
And, while Experience cautions us in vain,
Grasp seeming happiness, and find it pain.
Despondence, self-deserted in her grief,
Lost by abandoning her own relief,
Murmuring and ungrateful Discontent,
That scorns afflictions mercifully meant,
Those humours, tart as wines upon the fret,
Which idleness and weariness beget;
These, and a thousand plagues, that haunt the breast,
Fond of the phantom of an earthly rest,
Divine communion chases, as the day
Drives to their dens th’obedient beasts of prey.
See Judah’s promis’d king bereft of all,
Driv’n out an exile from the face of Saul,
To distant caves the lonely wand’rer flies,
To seek that peace a tyrant’s frown denies.
Hear the sweet accents of his tuneful voice,
Hear him o’erwhelm’d with sorrow, yet rejoice;
No womanish or wailing grief has part,
No, not a moment, in his royal heart;
‘Tis manly musick, such as martyrs make,
Suff’ring with gladness for a Saviour’s sake.
His soul exults, hope animates his lays,
The sense of mercy kindles into praise,
And wilds, familiar with a lion’s roar,
Ring with ecstatick sounds unheard before;
‘Tis love like his that can alone defeat
The foes of man, or make a desert sweet.
    Religion does not censure or exclude
Unnumber’d pleasures harmlessly pursued;
To study culture, and with artful toil
To meliorate and tame the stubborn soil;
To give dissimilar yet fruitful lands
The grain, or herb, or plant that each demands;
To cherish virtue in an humble state,
And share the joys your bounty may create;
To mark the matchless workings of the pow’r
That shuts within its seed the future flow’r,
Bids these in elegance of form excel,
In colour these, and those delight the smell,
Sends Nature forth the daughter of the skies,
To dance on earth, and charm all human eyes;
To teach the canvas innocent deceit,
Or lay the landscape on the snowy sheet–
These, these are arts pursued without a crime,
That leave no stain upon the wing of Time.
    Me poetry (or, rather, notes that aim
Feebly and vainly at poetick fame)
Employs, shut out from more important views,
Fast by the banks of the slow-winding Ouse;
Content if thus sequester’d I may raise
A monitor’s though not a poet’s praise,
And while I teach an art too little known,
To close life wisely, may not waste my own.
 

 

*Bruyère

 

 

~~~~~

 

Click this picture of Frank Wilson to go to his blog post called “Well, here they are . . .”


   

 

 

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Click this picture of Frank Wilson to go to his blog post called “Why I decided . . .”


   

 

 

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January 28, 2008

Lite Verse with No Cholesterol or Trans Fat, by 33 Already Dead Poets, 6 Unknown Anyway

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The following poems are selected from the 1920 collection The Book of Humorous Verse, edited by Carolyn Wells (1862-1942).    Each poet is represented only once, and in alphabetical order. However, links are provided so that you can investigate each one.
 

~~~~~

 


   

by L. J. Bridgman (1857-1931)
 

On Knowing When to Stop
 

The woodchuck told it all about.
    “I’m going to build a dwelling
Six stories high, up to the sky!”
    He never tired of telling.

He dug the cellar smooth and well
    But made no more advances;
That lovely hole so pleased his soul
    And satisfied his fancies.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Robert Browning (1812-1889)
 

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
 

    Hamelin Town’s in Brunswick,
By famous Hanover City;
    The river Weser, deep and wide,
    Washes its wall on the southern side;
    A pleasanter spot you never spied;
But when begins my ditty,
    Almost five hundred years ago,
    To see the townsfolk suffer so
        From vermin was a pity.

        Rats!
They fought the dogs, and killed the cats,
    And bit the babies in the cradles,
And ate the cheeses out of the vats,
    And licked the soup from the cook’s own ladles,
    Split open the kegs of salted sprats,
    Made nests inside men’s Sunday hats,
    And even spoiled the women’s chats,
        By drowning their speaking
        With shrieking and squeaking
    In fifty different sharps and flats.

    At last the people in a body
        To the Town Hall came flocking:
    “Tis clear,” cried they, “our Mayor’s a noddy;
        And as for our Corporation—shocking
    To think we buy gowns lined with ermine
    For dolts that can’t or won’t determine
    What’s best to rid us of our vermin!
    You hope, because you’re old and obese,
    To find in the furry civic robe ease?
    Rouse up, Sirs! Give your brains a racking
    To find the remedy we’re lacking,
    Or, sure as fate, we’ll send you packing!”
At this the Mayor and Corporation
Quaked with a mighty consternation.

    An hour they sate in council,
        At length the Mayor broke silence:
    “For a guilder I’d my ermine gown sell!
        I wish I were a mile hence!
    It’s easy to bid one rack one’s brain—
    I’m sure my poor head aches again
    I’ve scratched it so, and all in vain.
    Oh, for a trap, a trap, a trap!”

Just as he said this, what should hap
At the chamber door but a gentle tap?
“Bless us,” cried the Mayor, “what’s that?”
(With the Corporation as he sat,
Looking little though wondrous fat;
Nor brighter was his eye, nor moister,
Than a too-long-opened oyster,
Save when at noon his paunch grew mutinous
For a plate of turtle green and glutinous),
“Only a scraping of shoes on the mat?
Anything like the sound of a rat
Makes my heart go pit-a-pat!”

“Come in!”—the Mayor cried, looking bigger:
And in did come the strangest figure.
His queer long coat from heel to head
Was half of yellow and half of red;
And he himself was tall and thin,
With sharp blue eyes, each like a pin,
And light loose hair, yet swarthy skin,
No tuft on cheek nor beard on chin,
But lips where smiles went out and in;
There was no guessing his kith and kin:
And nobody could enough admire
The tall man and his quaint attire.
Quoth one: “It’s as my great grandsire,
Starting up at the Trump of Doom’s tone,
Had walked this way from his painted tombstone!”

He advanced to the council-table;
And, “Please your honours,” said he, “I’m able,
By means of a secret charm, to draw
All creatures living beneath the sun,
That creep or swim or fly or run,
After me so as you never saw!
And I chiefly use my charm
On creatures that do people harm,
The mole and toad and newt and viper;
And people call me the Pied Piper.”
(And here they noticed round his neck
A scarf of red and yellow stripe,
To match with his coat of the selfsame cheque;
And at the scarf’s end hung a pipe;
And his fingers, they noticed, were ever straying
As if impatient to be playing
Upon this pipe, as low it dangled
Over his vesture so old-fangled.)
“Yet,” said he, “poor piper as I am,
In Tartary I freed the Cham,
Last June, from his huge swarms of gnats;
I eased in Asia the Nizam
Of a monstrous brood of vampyre bats:
And as for what your brain bewilders,
If I can rid your town of rats,
Will you give me a thousand guilders?”
“One? fifty thousand!” was the exclamation
Of the astonished Mayor and Corporation.

Into the street the Piper stept,
    Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
    In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the house the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
    Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
    Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step by step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser
Wherein all plunged and perished
—Save one, who, stout as Julius Cæsar,
Swam across and lived to carry
(As he the manuscript he cherished)
To Rat-land home his commentary,
Which was, “At the first shrill notes of the pipe,
I heard a sound as of scraping tripe,
And putting apples wondrous ripe,
Into a cider-press’s gripe:
And a moving away of pickle-tub boards,
And a leaving ajar of conserve cupboards,
And a drawing the corks of train-oil-flasks,
And a breaking the hoops of butter-casks:

And it seemed as if a voice
(Sweeter far than by harp or by psaltery
Is breathed) called out, Oh rats, rejoice!
The world is grown to one vast drysaltery!
So munch on, crunch on, take your nuncheon,
Breakfast, supper, dinner, luncheon!
And just as a bulky sugar puncheon,
All ready staved, like a great sun shone
Glorious scarce an inch before me,
Just as methought it said, Come, bore me!
—I found the Weser rolling o’er me.”

You should have heard the Hamelin people
Ringing the bells till they rocked the steeple.
“Go,” cried the Mayor, “and get long poles!
Poke out the nests and block up the holes!
Consult with carpenters and builders,
And leave in our town not even a trace
Of the rats!”—when suddenly, up the face
Of the piper perked in the market-place,
With a “First, if you please, my thousand guilders!”

A thousand guilders! The Mayor looked blue;
So did the Corporation too.
For council dinners made rare havock
With Claret, Moselle, Vin-de-Grave, Hock;
And half the money would replenish
Their cellar’s biggest butt with Rhenish.
To pay this sum to a wandering fellow
With a gipsy coat of red and yellow!
“Beside,” quoth the Mayor with a knowing wink,
“Our business was done at the river’s brink;
We saw with our eyes the vermin sink,
And what’s dead can’t come to life, I think.
So, friend, we’re not the folks to shrink
From the duty of giving you something to drink,
And a matter of money to put in your poke;
But as for the guilders, what we spoke
Of them, as you very well know, was in joke;
Beside, our losses have made us thrifty:
A thousand guilders! Come, take fifty!”

The Piper’s face fell, and he cried,
“No trifling! I can’t wait, beside!
I’ve promised to visit by dinner time
Bagdad, and accept the prime
Of the Head Cook’s pottage, all he’s rich in,
For having left in the Caliph’s kitchen,
Of a nest of scorpions no survivor:
With him I proved no bargain-driver,
With you, don’t think I’ll bate a stiver!
And folks who put me in a passion
May find me pipe after another fashion.”

“How?” cried the Mayor, “d’ye think I’ll brook
Being worse treated than a Cook?
Insulted by a lazy ribald
With idle pipe and vesture piebald?
You threaten us, fellow? Do your worst,
Blow your pipe there till you burst!”

Once more he stept into the street;
And to his lips again
Laid his long pipe of smooth straight cane;
And ere he blew three notes (such sweet
Soft notes as yet musician’s cunning
    Never gave the enraptured air),
There was a rustling, that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling,
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering,
Out came the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.

The Mayor was dumb, and the Council stood
As if they were changed into blocks of wood,
Unable to move a step, or cry
To the children merrily skipping by,
And could only follow with the eye

That joyous crowd at the Piper’s back.
But how the Mayor was on the rack,
And the wretched Council’s bosoms beat,
As the Piper turned from the High Street
To where the Weser rolled its waters
Right in the way of their sons and daughters!
However he turned from South to West,
And to Koppelberg Hill his steps addressed,
And after him the children pressed;
Great was the joy in every breast.
“He never can cross that mighty top!
    He’s forced to let the piping drop,
And we shall see our children stop!”
When, lo, as they reached the mountain’s side,
A wondrous portal opened wide,
As if a cavern were suddenly hollowed;
And the Piper advanced and the children followed,
And when all were in to the very last,
The door in the mountain-side shut fast.
Did I say—all? No! one was lame,
And could not dance the whole of the way;
And in after years, if you would blame
His sadness, he was used to say,—
“It’s dull in our town since my playmates left;
I can’t forget that I’m bereft
Of all the pleasant sights they see,
Which the Piper also promised me;
For he led us, he said, to a joyous land,
Joining the town and just at hand,
Where waters gushed and fruit-trees grew,
And flowers put forth a fairer hue,
And everything was strange and new;
The sparrows were brighter than peacocks here,
And their dogs outran our fallow deer,
And honey-bees had lost their stings;
And horses were born with eagle’s wings;
And just as I became assured
My lame foot would be speedily cured,
The music stopped, and I stood still,
And found myself outside the Hill,
Left alone against my will,
To go now limping as before,
And never hear of that country more!”

Alas, alas, for Hamelin!
    There came into many a burgher’s pate
    A text which says, that Heaven’s Gate
    Opes to the Rich at as easy rate
As the needle’s eye takes a camel in!
The Mayor sent East, West, North, and South,
To offer the Piper by word of mouth,
    Wherever it was men’s lot to find him,
Silver and gold to his heart’s content,
If he’d only return the way he went,
    And bring the children all behind him.
But when they saw ’twas a lost endeavour,
And Piper and dancers were gone for ever,
They made a decree that lawyers never
    Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
    “And so long after what happened here
    On the twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six:”
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the Children’s last retreat,
They called it the Pied Piper’s Street—
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labour.
Nor suffered they hostelry or tavern
    To shock with mirth a street so solemn;
But opposite the place of the cavern
    They wrote the story on a column.
And on the great Church Window painted
The same, to make the world acquainted
How their children were stolen away,
And there it stands to this very day.
And I must not omit to say
That in Transylvania there’s a tribe
Of alien people that ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress,
On which their neighbours lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterraneous prison,
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago in a mighty band
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick Land,
But how or why, they don’t understand.

So, Willy, let me and you be wipers
Of scores out with all men—especially pipers;
And, whether they pipe us free from rats or from mice,
If we’ve promised them aught, let us keep our promise.
 

 
                                                                       

~~~~~

 


   

by H. C. Bunner (1855-1896)
 

Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe
 

                        I

I have a bookcase, which is what
Many much better men have not.
There are no books inside, for books,
I am afraid, might spoil its looks.
But I’ve three busts, all second-hand,
Upon the top. You understand
I could not put them underneath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                        II

Shake was a dramatist of note;
He lived by writing things to quote,
He long ago put on his shroud:
Some of his works are rather loud.
His bald-spot’s dusty, I suppose.
I know there’s dust upon his nose.
I’ll have to give each nose a sheath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                    III

Mulleary’s line was quite the same;
He has more hair, but far less fame.
I would not from that fame retrench—
But he is foreign, being French.
Yet high his haughty head he heaves,
The only one done up in leaves,
They’re rather limited on wreath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                        IV

Go-ethe wrote in the German tongue:
He must have learned it very young.
His nose is quite a butt for scoff,
Although an inch of it is off.
He did quite nicely for the Dutch;
But here he doesn’t count for much.
They all are off their native heath—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.

                        V

They sit there, on their chests, as bland
As if they were not second-hand.
I do not know of what they think,
Nor why they never frown or wink,
But why from smiling they refrain
I think I clearly can explain:
They none of them could show much teeth—
Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Phoebe Cary (1824-1871)
 

Reuben
 

That very time I saw, (but thou couldst not),
Walking between the garden and the barn,
Reuben, all armed; a certain aim he took
At a young chicken, standing by a post,
And loosed his bullet smartly from his gun,
As he would kill a hundred thousand hens.
But I might see young Reuben’s fiery shot
Lodged in the chaste board of the garden fence,
And the domesticated fowl passed on
In henly meditation, bullet free.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson, 1832-1898)
 

Jabberwocky
 

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
    And the mome raths outgrabe.

“Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
    The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
    The frumious Bandersnatch!”

He took his vorpal sword in hand:
    Long time the manxome foe he sought.
So rested he by the Tumtum tree,
    And stood awhile in thought.

And as in uffish thought he stood,
    The Jabberwock with eyes of flame,
Came whiffling through the tulgey wood,
    And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two! And through, and through
    The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
    He went galumphing back.

“And hast thou slain the Jabberwock?
    Come to my arms, my beamish boy!
Oh, frabjous day! Callooh! callay!”
    He chortled in his joy.

‘Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
    Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves
    And the mome raths outgrabe.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by H. Cholmondeley-Pennell (1837-1915)
 

Lay of the Deserted Influenzaed
 

Doe, doe!
    I shall dever see her bore!
Dever bore our feet shall rove
    The beadows as of yore!
Dever bore with byrtle boughs
    Her tresses shall I twide—
Dever bore her bellow voice
    Bake bellody with bide!
Dever shall we lidger bore,
    Abid the flow’rs at dood,
Dever shall we gaze at dight
    Upon the tedtder bood!
        Ho, doe, doe!
    Those berry tibes have flowd,
Ad I shall dever see her bore,
    By beautiful! by owd!
        Ho, doe, doe!
    I shall dever see her bore,
She will forget be id a bonth,
    (Bost probably before)—
She will forget the byrtle boughs,
    The flow’rs we plucked at dood,
Our beetigs by the tedtder stars.
    Our gazigs at the bood.
Ad I shall dever see agaid
    The Lily and the Rose;
The dabask cheek! the sdowy brow!
    The perfect bouth ad dose!
        Ho, doe, doe!
    Those berry tibes have flowd—
Ad I shall dever see her bore,
    By beautiful! by owd!!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Allan Cunningham (1784-1842)
 

John Grumlie
 

John Grumlie swore by the light o’ the moon
    And the green leaves on the tree,
That he could do more work in a day
    Than his wife could do in three.
His wife rose up in the morning
    Wi’ cares and troubles enow—
John Grumlie bide at hame, John,
    And I’ll go haud the plow.

First ye maun dress your children fair,
    And put them a’ in their gear;
And ye maun turn the malt, John,
    Or else ye’ll spoil the beer;
And ye maun reel the tweel, John,
    That I span yesterday;
And ye maun ca’ in the hens, John,
    Else they’ll all lay away.

O he did dress his children fair,
    And put them a’ in their gear;
But he forgot to turn the malt,
    And so he spoil’d the beer:
And he sang loud as he reeled the tweel
    That his wife span yesterday;
But he forgot to put up the hens,
    And the hens all layed away.

The hawket crummie loot down nae milk;
    He kirned, nor butter gat;
And a’ gade wrang, and nought gade right;
    He danced with rage, and grat;
Then up he ran to the head o’ the knowe
    Wi’ mony a wave and shout—
She heard him as she heard him not,
    And steered the stots about.

John Grumlie’s wife cam hame at e’en,
    A weary wife and sad,
And burst into a laughter loud,
    And laughed as she’d been mad:
While John Grumlie swore by the light o’ the moon
    And the green leaves on the tree,
If my wife should na win a penny a day
    She’s aye have her will for me.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Nathan Haskell Dole (1852-1935)
 

Our Native Birds
 

Alone I sit at eventide;
    The twilight glory pales,
And o’er the meadows far and wide
    I hear the bobolinks—
    (We have no nightingales!)

Song-sparrows warble on the tree,
    I hear the purling brook,
And from the old manse on the lea
    Flies slow the cawing crow—
    (In England ’twere a rook!)

The last faint golden beams of day
    Still glow on cottage panes,
And on their lingering homeward way
    Walk weary laboring men—
    (Alas! we have no swains!)

From farmyards, down fair rural glades
    Come sounds of tinkling bells,
And songs of merry brown milkmaids
    Sweeter than catbird’s strains—
    (I should say Philomel’s!)

I could sit here till morning came,
    All through the night hours dark,
Until I saw the sun’s bright flame
    And heard the oriole—
    (Alas! we have no lark!)

We have no leas, no larks, no rooks,
    No swains, no nightingales,
No singing milkmaids (save in books)
    The poet does his best:—
    It is the rhyme that fails.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Catherine Fanshawe (1765-1834)
 

Enigma on the Letter H
 

‘Twas whispered in heaven, ’twas muttered in hell,
And echo caught faintly the sound as it fell;
On the confines of earth ’twas permitted to rest,
And the depths of the ocean its presence confessed;
‘Twill be found in the sphere when ’tis riven asunder,
Be seen in the lightning, and heard in the thunder.
‘Twas allotted to man with his earliest breath,
It assists at his birth and attends him in death,
Presides o’er his happiness, honor, and health,
Is the prop of his house and the end of his wealth,
In the heaps of the miser is hoarded with care,
But is sure to be lost in his prodigal heir.
It begins every hope, every wish it must bound,
It prays with the hermit, with monarchs is crowned;
Without it the soldier, the sailor, may roam,
But woe to the wretch who expels it from home.
In the whisper of conscience ’tis sure to be found,
Nor e’en in the whirlwind of passion is drowned;
‘Twill soften the heart, but, though deaf to the ear,
It will make it acutely and instantly hear;
But, in short, let it rest like a delicate flower;
Oh, breathe on it softly, it dies in an hour.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Eugene Field (1850-1895)
 

Dutch Lullaby
 

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
    Sailed off in a wooden shoe,—
Sailed on a river of misty light
    Into a sea of dew.
“Where are you going, and what do you wish?”
    The old moon asked the three.
“We have come to fish for the herring-fish
    That live in this beautiful sea;
    Nets of silver and gold have we,”
            Said Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.

The old moon laughed and sung a song,
    As they rocked in the wooden shoe;
And the wind that sped them all night long
    Ruffled the waves of dew;
The little stars were the herring-fish
    That lived in the beautiful sea.
“Now cast your nets wherever you wish,
    But never afeard are we!”
    So cried the stars to the fishermen three,
            Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.

All night long their nets they threw
    For the fish in the twinkling foam,
Then down from the sky came the wooden shoe,
    Bringing the fishermen home;
‘Twas all so pretty a sail, it seemed
    As if it could not be;
And some folk thought ’twas a dream they’d dreamed
    Of sailing that beautiful sea;
    But I shall name you the fishermen three:
            Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.

Wynken and Blynken are two little eyes,
    And Nod is a little head,
And the wooden shoe that sailed the skies
    Is a wee one’s trundle-bed;
So shut your eyes while Mother sings
    Of wonderful sights that be,
And you shall see the beautiful things
    As you rock on the misty sea
    Where the old shoe rocked the fishermen three,
            Wynken,
            Blynken,
            And Nod.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by J. W. Foley (1874-1939)
 

Nemesis
 

The man who invented the women’s waists that button down behind,
And the man who invented the cans with keys and the strips that will never wind,
Were put to sea in a leaky boat and with never a bite to eat
But a couple of dozen of patent cans in which was their only meat.

And they sailed and sailed o’er the ocean wide and never they had a taste
Of aught to eat, for the cans stayed shut, and a peek-a-boo shirtwaist
Was all they had to bale the brine that came in the leaky boat;
And their tongues were thick and their throats were dry, and they barely kept afloat.

They came at last to an island fair, and a man stood on the shore.
So they flew a signal of distress and their hopes rose high once more,
And they called to him to fetch a boat, for their craft was sinking fast,
And a couple of hours at best they knew was all their boat would last.

So he called to them a cheery call and he said he would make haste,
But first he must go back to his wife and button up her waist,
Which would only take him an hour or so and then he would fetch a boat.
And the man who invented the backstairs waist, he groaned in his swollen throat.

The hours passed by on leaden wings and they saw another man
In the window of a bungalow, and he held a tin meat can
In his bleeding hands, and they called to him, not once but twice and thrice,
And he said: “Just wait till I open this and I’ll be there in a trice!”

And the man who invented the patent cans he knew what the promise meant,
So he leaped in air with a horrid cry and into the sea he went,
And the bubbles rose where he sank and sank and a groan choked in the throat
Of the man who invented the backstairs waist and he sank with the leaky boat!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)
 

The Meeting of the Clabberhuses
 

                            I

He was the Chairman of the Guild
    Of Early Pleiocene Patriarchs;
He was chief Mentor of the Lodge
    Of the Oracular Oligarchs;
He was the Lord High Autocrat
    And Vizier of the Sons of Light,
And Sultan and Grand Mandarin
    Of the Millennial Men of Might.

He was Grand Totem and High Priest
    Of the Independent Potentates;
Grand Mogul of the Galaxy
    Of the Illustrious Stay-out-lates;
The President of the Dandydudes,
    The Treasurer of the Sons of Glee;
The Leader of the Clubtown Band
    And Architects of Melody.

                            II

She was Grand Worthy Prophetess
    Of the Illustrious Maids of Mark;
Of Vestals of the Third Degree
    She was Most Potent Matriarch;
She was High Priestess of the Shrine
    Of Clubtown’s Culture Coterie,
And First Vice-President of the League
    Of the illustrious G. A. B.

She was the First Dame of the Club
    For teaching Patagonians Greek;
She was Chief Clerk and Auditor
    Of Clubtown’s Anti-Bachelor Clique;
She was High Treasurer of the Fund
    For Borrioboolighalians,
And the Fund for Sending Browning’s Poems
    To Native-born Australians.

                            III

Once to a crowded social fête
    Both these much-titled people came,
And each perceived, when introduced,
    They had the selfsame name.
Their hostess said, when first they met:
    “Permit me now to introduce
My good friend Mr. Clabberhuse
    To Mrs. Clabberhuse.”

“‘Tis very strange,” said she to him,
    “Such an unusual name!—
A name so very seldom heard,
    That we should bear the same.”
“Indeed, ’tis wonderful,” said he,
    “And I’m surprised the more,
Because I never heard the name
    Outside my home before.

“But now I come to look at you,”
    Said he, “upon my life,
If I am not indeed deceived,
    You are—you are—my wife.”
She gazed into his searching face
    And seemed to look him through;
“Indeed,” said she, “it seems to me
    You are my husband, too.

“I’ve been so busy with my clubs
    And in my various spheres
I have not seen you now,” she said,
    “For over fourteen years.”
“That’s just the way it’s been with me,
    These clubs demand a sight”—
And then they both politely bowed,
    And sweetly said “Good night.”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
 

Etiquette
 

The Ballyshannon foundered off the coast of Cariboo,
And down in fathoms many went the captain and the crew;
Down went the owners—greedy men whom hope of gain allured:
Oh, dry the starting tear, for they were heavily insured.

Besides the captain and the mate, the owners and the crew,
The passengers were also drowned excepting only two:
Young Peter Gray, who tasted teas for Baker, Croop, and Co.,
And Somers, who from Eastern shores imported indigo.

These passengers, by reason of their clinging to a mast,
Upon a desert island were eventually cast.
They hunted for their meals, as Alexander Selkirk used,
But they couldn’t chat together—they had not been introduced.

For Peter Gray, and Somers, too, though certainly in trade,
Were properly particular about the friends they made;
And somehow thus they settled it, without a word of mouth,
That Gray should take the northern half, while Somers took the south.

On Peter’s portion oysters grew—a delicacy rare,
But oysters were a delicacy Peter couldn’t bear.
On Somer’s side was turtle, on the shingle lying thick,
Which Somers couldn’t eat, because it always made him sick.

Gray gnashed his teeth with envy as he saw a mighty store
Of turtle unmolested on his fellow-creature’s shore.
The oysters at his feet aside impatiently he shoved,
For turtle and his mother were the only things he loved.

And Somers sighed in sorrow as he settled in the south,
For the thought of Peter’s oysters brought the water to his mouth.
He longed to lay him down upon the shelly bed, and stuff:
He had often eaten oysters, but had never had enough.

How they wished an introduction to each other they had had
When on board the Ballyshannon! And it drove them nearly mad
To think how very friendly with each other they might get,
If it wasn’t for the arbitrary rule of etiquette!

One day, when out a-hunting for the mus ridiculus,
Gray overheard his fellow-man soliloquising thus:
“I wonder how the playmates of my youth are getting on,
M’Connell, S. B. Walters, Paddy Byles, and Robinson?”

These simple words made Peter as delighted as could be;
Old chummies at the Charterhouse were Robinson and he.
He walked straight up to Somers, then he turned extremely red,
Hesitated, hummed and hawed a bit, then cleared his throat, and said:

“I beg your pardon—pray forgive me if I seem too bold,
But you have breathed a name I knew familiarly of old.
You spoke aloud of Robinson—I happened to be by.
You know him?” “Yes, extremely well.” “Allow me, so do I.”

It was enough: they felt they could more pleasantly get on,
For (ah, the magic of the fact!) they each knew Robinson!
And Mr. Somers’ turtle was at Peter’s service quite,
And Mr. Somers punished Peter’s oyster-beds all night.

They soon became like brothers from community of wrongs;
They wrote each other little odes and sang each other songs;
They told each other anecdotes disparaging their wives;
On several occasions, too, they saved each other’s lives.

They felt quite melancholy when they parted for the night,
And got up in the morning soon as ever it was light;
Each other’s pleasant company they reckoned so upon,
And all because it happened that they both knew Robinson!

They lived for many years on that inhospitable shore,
And day by day they learned to love each other more and more.
At last, to their astonishment, on getting up one day,
They saw a frigate anchored in the offing of the bay.

To Peter an idea occurred. “Suppose we cross the main?
So good an opportunity may not be found again.”
And Somers thought a minute, then ejaculated, “Done!
I wonder how my business in the City’s getting on?”

“But stay,” said Mr. Peter; “when in England, as you know,
I earned a living tasting teas for Baker, Croop, and Co.,
I may be superseded—my employers think me dead!”
“Then come with me,” said Somers, “and taste indigo instead.”

But all their plans were scattered in a moment when they found
The vessel was a convict ship from Portland outward bound;
When a boat came off to fetch them, though they felt it very kind,
To go on board they firmly but respectfully declined.

As both the happy settlers roared with laughter at the joke,
They recognized a gentlemanly fellow pulling stroke:
‘Twas Robinson—a convict, in an unbecoming frock!
Condemned to seven years for misappropriating stock!!!

They laughed no more, for Somers thought he had been rather rash
In knowing one whose friend had misappropriated cash;
And Peter thought a foolish tack he must have gone upon
In making the acquaintance of a friend of Robinson.

At first they didn’t quarrel very openly, I’ve heard;
They nodded when they met, and now and then exchanged a word:
The word grew rare, and rarer still the nodding of the head.
And when they meet each other now, they cut each other dead.

To allocate the island they agreed by word of mouth,
And Peter takes the north again, and Somers takes the south;
And Peter has the oysters, which he hates, in layers thick,
And Somers has the turtle—turtle always makes him sick.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Wallace Irwin (1876-1959)
 

A Grain of Salt
 

Of all the wimming doubly blest
The sailor’s wife’s the happiest,
For all she does is stay to home
And knit and darn—and let ‘im roam.

Of all the husbands on the earth
The sailor has the finest berth,
For in ‘is cabin he can sit
And sail and sail—and let ‘er knit.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Ben King (1857-1894)
 

The Pessimist (The Sum of Life)
 

Nothing to do but work,
    Nothing to eat but food,
Nothing to wear but clothes,
    To keep one from going nude.

Nothing to breathe but air,
    Quick as a flash ‘t is gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
    Nowhere to stand but on.

Nothing to comb but hair,
    Nowhere to sleep but in bed,
Nothing to weep but tears,
    Nothing to bury but dead.

Nothing to sing but songs,
    Ah, well, alas! alack!
Nowhere to go but out,
    Nowhere to come but back.

Nothing to see but sights,
    Nothing to quench but thirst,
Nothing to have but what we’ve got
    Thus through life we are cursed.

Nothing to strike but a gait;
    Everything moves that goes.
Nothing at all but common sense
    Can ever withstand these woes.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Edward Lear (1812-1888)
 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat went to sea
    In a beautiful pea-green boat:
They took some honey, and plenty of money
    Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
    And sang to a small guitar,
“Oh, lovely Pussy, oh, Pussy, my love,
    What a beautiful Pussy you are,
                You are,
                You are!
    What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

Pussy said to the Owl, “You elegant fowl,
    How charmingly sweet you sing!
Oh, let us be married; too long we have tarried:
    But what shall we do for a ring?”
They sailed away for a year and a day,
    To the land where the bong-tree grows;
And there in the wood a Piggy-wig stood,
    With a ring at the end of his nose,
                His nose,
                His nose,
    With a ring at the end of his nose.

“Dear Pig, are you willing to sell for one shilling
    Your ring?” Said the Piggy, “I will.”
So they took it away and were married next day
    By the Turkey who lives on the hill.
They dined on mince and slices of quince,
    Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
    They danced by the light of the moon,
                The moon,
                The moon,
    They danced by the light of the moon.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Henry S. Leigh (1837-1883)
 

The Twins
 

In form and feature, face and limb,
    I grew so like my brother,
That folks got taking me for him,
    And each for one another.
It puzzled all our kith and kin,
    It reach’d an awful pitch;
For one of us was born a twin,
    Yet not a soul knew which.

One day (to make the matter worse),
    Before our names were fix’d,
As we were being wash’d by nurse
    We got completely mix’d;
And thus, you see, by Fate’s decree,
    (Or rather nurse’s whim),
My brother John got christen’d me,
    And I got christen’d him.

This fatal likeness even dogg’d
    My footsteps when at school,
And I was always getting flogg’d,
    For John turned out a fool.
I put this question hopelessly
    To every one I knew—
What would you do, if you were me,
    To prove that you were you?

Our close resemblance turn’d the tide
    Of my domestic life;
For somehow my intended bride
    Became my brother’s wife.
In short, year after year the same
    Absurd mistakes went on;
And when I died—the neighbors came
    And buried brother John!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Charles Battell Loomis (1861-1911)
 

a fresh hack at an old knot
 

O-U-G-H
 

I’m taught p-l-o-u-g-h
    S’all be pronouncé “plow.”
“Zat’s easy w’en you know,” I say,
    “Mon Anglais, I’ll get through!”

My teacher say zat in zat case,
    O-u-g-h is “oo.”
And zen I laugh and say to him,
    “Zees Anglais make me cough.”

He say “Not ‘coo,’ but in zat word,
    O-u-g-h is ‘off,'”
Oh, Sacre bleu! such varied sounds
    Of words makes me hiccough!

He say, “Again mon frien’ ees wrong;
    O-u-g-h is ‘up’
In hiccough.” Zen I cry, “No more,
    You make my t’roat feel rough.”

“Non, non!” he cry, “you are not right;
    O-u-g-h is ‘uff.'”
I say, “I try to spik your words,
    I cannot spik zem though!”

“In time you’ll learn, but now you’re wrong!
    O-u-g-h is ‘owe.'”
“I’ll try no more, I s’all go mad,
    I’ll drown me in ze lough!”

“But ere you drown yourself,” said he,
    “O-u-g-h is ‘ock.'”
He taught no more, I held him fast,
    And killed him wiz a rough.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by William Maginn (1793-1842)
 

The Irishman and the Lady
 

    There was a lady liv’d at Leith,
        A lady very stylish, man;
    And yet, in spite of all her teeth,
        She fell in love with an Irishman—
            A nasty, ugly Irishman,
            A wild, tremendous Irishman,
A tearing, swearing, thumping, bumping, ranting, roaring Irishman.

    His face was no ways beautiful,
        For with small-pox ’twas scarr’d across;
    And the shoulders of the ugly dog
        Were almost double a yard across.
            Oh, the lump of an Irishman,
            The whiskey-devouring Irishman,
The great he-rogue with his wonderful brogue—the fighting, rioting
            Irishman!

    One of his eyes was bottle-green,
        And the other eye was out, my dear;
    And the calves of his wicked-looking legs
        Were more than two feet about, my dear.
            Oh, the great big Irishman,
            The rattling, battling Irishman—
The stamping, ramping, swaggering, staggering, leathering swash of an
            Irishman!

    He took so much of Lundy-foot
        That he used to snort and snuffle—O!
    And in shape and size the fellow’s neck
        Was as bad as the neck of a buffalo.
            Oh, the horrible Irishman,
            The thundering, blundering Irishman—
The slashing, dashing, smashing, lashing, thrashing, hashing Irishman!

    His name was a terrible name, indeed,
        Being Timothy Thady Mulligan;
    And whenever he emptied his tumbler of punch
        He’d not rest till he fill’d it full again.
            The boosing, bruising Irishman,
            The ‘toxicated Irishman—
The whiskey, frisky, rummy, gummy, brandy, no dandy Irishman!

    This was the lad the lady lov’d,
        Like all the girls of quality;
    And he broke the skulls of the men of Leith,
        Just by the way of jollity.
            Oh, the leathering Irishman,
            The barbarous, savage Irishman—
The hearts of the maids, and the gentlemen’s heads, were bothered, I’m
            sure, by this Irishman!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Tom Masson (1866-1934)
 

The Kiss
 

“What other men have dared, I dare,”
    He said. “I’m daring, too:
And tho’ they told me to beware,
    One kiss I’ll take from you.

“Did I say one? Forgive me, dear;
    That was a grave mistake,
For when I’ve taken one, I fear,
    One hundred more I’ll take.

“‘Tis sweet one kiss from you to win,
    But to stop there? Oh, no!
One kiss is only to begin;
    There is no end, you know.”

The maiden rose from where she sat
    And gently raised her head:
“No man has ever talked like that—
    You may begin,” she said.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
 

If You Have Seen
 

Good reader! if you e’er have seen,
    When Phœbus hastens to his pillow,
The mermaids, with their tresses green,
    Dancing upon the western billow:
If you have seen, at twilight dim,
When the lone spirit’s vesper hymn
    Floats wild along the winding shore:
If you have seen, through mist of eve,
The fairy train their ringlets weave,
Glancing along the spangled green;—
    If you have seen all this and more,
God bless me! what a deal you’ve seen!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Robert Henry Newell, a.k.a. Orpheus C. Kerr, (1836-1901)
 

A Great Fight
 

“There was a man in Arkansaw
    As let his passions rise,
And not unfrequently picked out
    Some other varmint’s eyes.

“His name was Tuscaloosa Sam
    And often he would say,
‘There’s not a cuss in Arkansaw
    I can’t whip any day.’

“One morn, a stranger passin’ by,
    Heard Sammy talkin’ so,
And down he scrambled from his hoss,
    And off his coat did go.

“He sorter kinder shut one eye,
    And spit into his hand,
And put his ugly head one side,
    And twitched his trowsers’ band.

“‘My boy,’ says he, ‘it’s my belief,
    Whomever you may be,
That I kin make you screech, and smell
    Pertiklor agony.’

“I’m thar,’ said Tuscaloosa Sam,
    And chucked his hat away;
‘I’m thar,’ says he, and buttoned up
    As far as buttons may.

“He thundered on the stranger’s mug,
    The stranger pounded he;
And oh! the way them critters fit
    Was beautiful to see.

“They clinched like two rampageous bears,
    And then went down a bit;
They swore a stream of six-inch oaths
    And fit, and fit, and fit.

“When Sam would try to work away,
    And on his pegs to git,
The stranger’d pull him back; and so,
    They fit, and fit, and fit!

“Then like a pair of lobsters, both
    Upon the ground were knit,
And yet the varmints used their teeth,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!

“The sun of noon was high above,
    And hot enough to split,
But only riled the fellers more,
    That fit, and fit, and fit!!!

“The stranger snapped at Samy’s nose,
    And shortened it a bit;
And then they both swore awful hard,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!!!

“The mud it flew, the sky grew dark,
    And all the litenins lit;
But still them critters rolled about,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!

“First Sam on top, then t’other chap;
    When one would make a hit,
The other’d smell the grass; and so
    They fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!

“The night came on, the stars shone out
    As bright as wimmen’s wit;
And still them fellers swore and gouged,
    And fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!!

“The neighbours heard the noise they made,
    And thought an earthquake lit;
Yet all the while ’twas him and Sam
    As fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!!!

“For miles around the noise was heard;
    Folks couldn’t sleep a bit,
Because them two rantankerous chaps
    Still fit, and fit, and fit!!!!!!!!!

“But jist at cock-crow, suddenly,
    There came an awful pause,
And I and my old man run out
    To ascertain the cause.

“The sun was rising in the yeast,
    And lit the hull concern;
But not a sign of either chap
    Was found at any turn.

“Yet, in the region where they fit,
    We found, to our surprise,
One pint of buttons, two big knives,
    Some whiskers, and four, eyes!”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by E. H. Palmer (1840-1882)
 

The Shipwreck
 

Upon the poop the captain stands,
    As starboard as may be;
And pipes on deck the topsail hands
To reef the topsail-gallant strands
    Across the briny sea.

“Ho! splice the anchor under-weigh!”
    The captain loudly cried;
“Ho! lubbers brave, belay! belay!
For we must luff for Falmouth Bay
    Before to-morrow’s tide.”

The good ship was a racing yawl,
    A spare-rigged schooner sloop,
Athwart the bows the taffrails all
In grummets gay appeared to fall,
    To deck the mainsail poop.

But ere they made the Foreland Light,
    And Deal was left behind,
The wind it blew great gales that night,
And blew the doughty captain tight,
    Full three sheets in the wind.

And right across the tiller head
    The horse it ran apace,
Whereon a traveller hitched and sped
Along the jib and vanished
    To heave the trysail brace.

What ship could live in such a sea?
    What vessel bear the shock?
“Ho! starboard port your helm-a-lee!
Ho! reef the maintop-gallant-tree,
    With many a running block!”

And right upon the Scilly Isles
    The ship had run aground;
When lo! the stalwart Captain Giles
Mounts up upon the gaff and smiles,
    And slews the compass round.

“Saved! saved!” with joy the sailors cry,
    And scandalize the skiff;
As taut and hoisted high and dry
They see the ship unstoppered lie
    Upon the sea-girt cliff.

And since that day in Falmouth Bay,
    As herring-fishers trawl,
The younkers hear the boatswains say
How Captain Giles that awful day
    Preserved the sinking yawl.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by J. R. Planché (1796-1880)
 

Song
 

Three score and ten by common calculation
    The years of man amount to; but we’ll say
He turns four-score, yet, in my estimation,
    In all those years he has not lived a day.

Out of the eighty you must first remember
    The hours of night you pass asleep in bed;
And, counting from December to December,
    Just half your life you’ll find you have been dead.

To forty years at once by this reduction
    We come; and sure, the first five from your birth,
While cutting teeth and living upon suction,
    You’re not alive to what this life is worth.

From thirty-five next take for education
    Fifteen at least at college and at school;
When, notwithstanding all your application,
    The chances are you may turn out a fool.

Still twenty we have left us to dispose of,
    But during them your fortune you’ve to make;
And granting, with the luck of some one knows of,
    ‘Tis made in ten—that’s ten from life to take.

Out of the ten yet left you must allow for
    The time for shaving, tooth and other aches,
Say four—and that leaves, six, too short, I vow, for
    Regretting past and making fresh mistakes.

Meanwhile each hour dispels some fond illusion;
    Until at length, sans eyes, sans teeth, you may
Have scarcely sense to come to this conclusion—
    You’ve reached four-score, but haven’t lived a day!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
 

When the Frost Is on the Punkin
 

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens,
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bare-headed, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ hearty-like about the atmosphere,
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossoms on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetisin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty rustle of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermons to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover overhead!—
O, it sets my heart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940)
 

Casey at the Bat
 

It looked extremely rocky for the Mudville nine that day,
The score stood four to six with but an inning left to play.
And so, when Cooney died at first, and Burrows did the same,
A pallor wreathed the features of the patrons of the game.
A straggling few got up to go, leaving there the rest,
With that hope which springs eternal within the human breast.
For they thought if only Casey could get a whack at that,
They’d put up even money with Casey at the bat.
But Flynn preceded Casey, and likewise so did Blake,
And the former was a pudding and the latter was a fake;
So on that stricken multitude a death-like silence sat,
For there seemed but little chance of Casey’s getting to the bat.
But Flynn let drive a single to the wonderment of all,
And the much despisèd Blakey tore the cover off the ball,
And when the dust had lifted and they saw what had occurred,
There was Blakey safe on second, and Flynn a-hugging third.
Then from the gladdened multitude went up a joyous yell,
It bounded from the mountain top and rattled in the dell,
It struck upon the hillside, and rebounded on the flat,
For Casey, mighty Casey, was advancing to the bat.
There was ease in Casey’s manner as he stepped into his place,
There was pride in Casey’s bearing and a smile on Casey’s face,
And when responding to the cheers he lightly doffed his hat,
No stranger in the crowd could doubt, ’twas Casey at the bat.
Ten thousand eyes were on him as he rubbed his hands with dirt,
Five thousand tongues applauded as he wiped them on his shirt;
And while the writhing pitcher ground the ball into his hip—
Defiance gleamed from Casey’s eye—a sneer curled Casey’s lip.
And now the leather-covered sphere came hurtling through the air,
And Casey stood a-watching it in haughty grandeur there;
Close by the sturdy batsman the ball unheeded sped—
“That hain’t my style,” said Casey—“Strike one,” the Umpire said.
From the bleachers black with people there rose a sullen roar,
Like the beating of the storm waves on a stern and distant shore,
“Kill him! kill the Umpire!” shouted some one from the stand—
And it’s likely they’d have done it had not Casey raised his hand.
With a smile of Christian charity great Casey’s visage shone,
He stilled the rising tumult and he bade the game go on;
He signalled to the pitcher and again the spheroid flew,
But Casey still ignored it and the Umpire said “Strike two.”
“Fraud!” yelled the maddened thousands, and the echo answered “Fraud,”
But one scornful look from Casey and the audience was awed;
They saw his face grow stern and cold; they saw his muscles strain,
And they knew that Casey would not let that ball go by again.
The sneer is gone from Casey’s lip; his teeth are clenched with hate,
He pounds with cruel violence his bat upon the plate;
And now the pitcher holds the ball, and now he lets it go,
And now the air is shattered by the force of Casey’s blow.
Oh! somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright,
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
But there is no joy in Mudville—mighty Casey has “Struck Out.”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Paul West (1871-1918)
 

The Cumberbunce
 

I strolled beside the shining sea,
I was as lonely as could be;
No one to cheer me in my walk
But stones and sand, which cannot talk—
Sand and stones and bits of shell,
Which never have a thing to tell.

But as I sauntered by the tide
I saw a something at my side,
A something green, and blue, and pink,
And brown, and purple, too, I think.
I would not say how large it was;
I would not venture that, because
It took me rather by surprise,
And I have not the best of eyes.

Should you compare it to a cat,
I’d say it was as large as that;
Or should you ask me if the thing
Was smaller than a sparrow’s wing,
I should be apt to think you knew,
And simply answer, “Very true!”

Well, as I looked upon the thing,
It murmured, “Please, sir, can I sing?”
And then I knew its name at once—
It plainly was a Cumberbunce.

You are amazed that I could tell
The creature’s name so quickly? Well,
I knew it was not a paper-doll,
A pencil or a parasol,
A tennis-racket or a cheese,
And, as it was not one of these,
And I am not a perfect dunce—
It had to be a Cumberbunce!

With pleading voice and tearful eye
It seemed as though about to cry.
It looked so pitiful and sad
It made me feel extremely bad.
My heart was softened to the thing
That asked me if it, please, could sing.
Its little hand I longed to shake,
But, oh, it had no hand to take!
I bent and drew the creature near,
And whispered in its pale blue ear,
“What! Sing, my Cumberbunce? You can!
Sing on, sing loudly, little man!”

The Cumberbunce, without ado,
Gazed sadly on the ocean blue,
And, lifting up its little head,
In tones of awful longing, said:

        “Oh, I would sing of mackerel skies,
            And why the sea is wet,
        Of jelly-fish and conger-eels,
            And things that I forget.
        And I would hum a plaintive tune
            Of why the waves are hot
        As water boiling on a stove,
            Excepting that they’re not!

        “And I would sing of hooks and eyes,
            And why the sea is slant,
        And gayly tips the little ships,
            Excepting that I can’t!
        I never sang a single song,
            I never hummed a note.
        There is in me no melody,
            No music in my throat.

        “So that is why I do not sing
        Of sharks, or whales, or anything!”

I looked in innocent surprise,
My wonder showing in my eyes,
“Then why, O, Cumberbunce,” I cried,
“Did you come walking at my side
And ask me if you, please, might sing,
When you could not warble anything?”

“I did not ask permission, sir,
I really did not, I aver.
You, sir, misunderstood me, quite.
I did not ask you if I might.
Had you correctly understood,
You’d know I asked you if I could.
So, as I cannot sing a song,
Your answer, it is plain, was wrong.
The fact I could not sing I knew,
But wanted your opinion, too.”

    A voice came softly o’er the lea.
    “Farewell! my mate is calling me!”

I saw the creature disappear,
Its voice, in parting, smote my ear—
“I thought all people understood
The difference ‘twixt ‘might’ and ‘could’!”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

Any One Will Do
 

A maiden once, of certain age,
To catch a husband did engage;
But, having passed the prime of life
In striving to become a wife
Without success, she thought it time
To mend the follies of her prime.

Departing from the usual course
Of paint and such like for resource,
With all her might this ancient maid
Beneath an oak-tree knelt and prayed;
Unconscious that a grave old owl
Was perched above—the mousing fowl!

“Oh, give! a husband give!” she cried,
“While yet I may become a bride;
Soon will my day of grace be o’er,
And then, like many maids before,
I’ll die without an early Jove,
And none to meet me there above!

“Oh, ’tis a fate too hard to bear!
Then answer this my humble prayer,
And oh, a husband give to me!”
Just then the owl from out the tree,
In deep bass tones cried, “Who—who—who!”
“Who, Lord? And dost Thou ask me who?
Why, any one, good Lord, will do.”
 

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

The Bells
 

Oh, it’s H-A-P-P-Y I am, and it’s F-R-double-E,
And it’s G-L-O-R-Y to know that I’m S-A-V-E-D.
Once I was B-O-U-N-D by the chains of S-I-N
And it’s L-U-C-K-Y I am that all is well again.

Oh, the bells of Hell go ting-a-ling-a-ling
    For you, but not for me.
The bells of Heaven go sing-a-ling-a-ling
    For there I soon shall be.
Oh, Death, where is thy sting-a-ling-a-ling
    Oh, Grave, thy victorie-e.
No Ting-a-ling-a-ling, no sting-a-ling-a-ling
    But sing-a-ling-a-ling for me.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

Homœopathic Soup
 

    Take a robin’s leg
(Mind, the drumstick merely);
    Put it in a tub
Filled with water nearly;
    Set it out of doors,
In a place that’s shady;
    Let it stand a week
(Three days if for a lady);
    Drop a spoonful of it
In a five-pail kettle,
    Which may be made of tin
Or any baser metal;
    Fill the kettle up,
Set it on a boiling,
    Strain the liquor well,
To prevent its oiling;
    One atom add of salt,
For the thickening one rice kernel,
    And use to light the fire
“The Homœopathic Journal.”
    Let the liquor boil
Half an hour, no longer,
    (If ’tis for a man
Of course you’ll make it stronger).
    Should you now desire
That the soup be flavoury,
    Stir it once around,
With a stalk of savoury.
    When the broth is made,
Nothing can excell it:
    Then three times a day
Let the patient smell it.
    If he chance to die,
Say ’twas Nature did it:
    If he chance to live,
Give the soup the credit.
 

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

Love’s Moods and Senses
 

Sally Salter, she was a young lady who taught,
And her friend Charley Church was a preacher who praught!
Though his enemies called him a screecher who scraught.

His heart when he saw her kept sinking and sunk,
And his eye, meeting hers, began winking and wunk;
While she in her turn fell to thinking, and thunk.

He hastened to woo her, and sweetly he wooed,
For his love grew until to a mountain it grewed,
And what he was longing to do then he doed.

In secret he wanted to speak, and he spoke,
To seek with his lips what his heart long had soke;
So he managed to let the truth leak, and it loke.

He asked her to ride to the church, and they rode,
They so sweetly did glide, that they both thought they glode,
And they came to the place to be tied, and were tode.

Then, “homeward” he said, “let us drive” and they drove,
And soon as they wished to arrive, they arrove;
For whatever he couldn’t contrive she controve.

The kiss he was dying to steal, then he stole:
At the feet where he wanted to kneel, then he knole,
And said, “I feel better than ever I fole.”

So they to each other kept clinging, and clung;
While time his swift circuit was winging, and wung;
And this was the thing he was bringing, and brung:

The man Sally wanted to catch, and had caught—
That she wanted from others to snatch, and had snaught—
Was the one that she now liked to scratch and she scraught.

And Charley’s warm love began freezing and froze,
While he took to teasing, and cruelly toze
The girl he had wished to be squeezing and squoze.

“Wretch!” he cried, when she threatened to leave him, and left,
“How could you deceive me, as you have deceft?”
And she answered, “I promised to cleave, and I’ve cleft!”
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

The Modern Hiawatha
 

He killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside;
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That’s why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside.
Why he turned them inside outside.
 

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

Rural Raptures
 

‘Tis sweet at dewy eve to rove
    When softly sighs the western breeze,
And wandering ‘mid the starlit grove
    To take a pinch of snuff and sneeze.

‘Tis sweet to see in daisied field
    The flocks and herds their pleasure take;
But sweeter are the joys they yield
    In tender chop and juicy steak.

‘Tis sweet to hear the murmurous sound
    That from the vocal woods doth rise,
To mark the pigeons wheeling round,
    And think how nice they’d be in pies.

When nightingales pour from their throats
    Their gushing melody, ’tis sweet;
Yet sweeter ’tis to catch the notes
    That issue from Threadneedle Street.
 

 

~~~~~

 


   

~~~~~

 


   

~~~~~

June 20, 2007

The Long-Awaited, Unabating, Top 30 All-Time Greatest Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

_____

Below is a countdown of the top 30 poems written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, who was born in Dayton, Ohio in 1872, and died there in 1906. The poems included here are very enjoyable and speak very well to the world, some through dialect. They show Dunbar to be unique, important, and universal by way of expressing specifics from culture he encountered, was taught, and lived.

To find more about, and read more Dunbar, you can click into the pages of the Wright State University Libraries: Paul Laurence Dunbar Digital Collection.

   
   

_____

#30


   

Lincoln
   

    Hurt was the nation with a mighty wound,
    And all her ways were filled with clam’rous sound.
    Wailed loud the South with unremitting grief,
    And wept the North that could not find relief.
    Then madness joined its harshest tone to strife:
    A minor note swelled in the song of life.
    ‘Till, stirring with the love that filled his breast,
    But still, unflinching at the right’s behest,
    Grave Lincoln came, strong handed, from afar,
    The mighty Homer of the lyre of war.
    ‘T was he who bade the raging tempest cease,
    Wrenched from his harp the harmony of peace,
    Muted the strings, that made the discord,–Wrong,
    And gave his spirit up in thund’rous song.
    Oh mighty Master of the mighty lyre,
    Earth heard and trembled at thy strains of fire:
    Earth learned of thee what Heav’n already knew,
    And wrote thee down among her treasured few.

   
   

_____

#29

   

“Howdy, Honey, Howdy!”
   

    Do’ a-stan’in’ on a jar, fiah a-shinin’ thoo,
    Ol’ folks drowsin’ ‘roun’ de place, wide awake is Lou,
    W’en I tap, she answeh, an’ I see huh ‘mence to grin,
    “Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

    Den I step erpon de log layin’ at de do’,
    Bless de Lawd, huh mammy an’ huh pap’s done ‘menced to sno’,
    Now’s de time, ef evah, ef I’s gwine to try an’ win,
    “Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

    No use playin’ on de aidge, trimblin’ on de brink,
    Wen a body love a gal, tell huh whut he t’ink;
    W’en huh hea’t is open fu’ de love you gwine to gin,
    Pull yo’se’f togethah, suh, an’ step right in.

    Sweetes’ imbitation dat a body evah hyeahed,
    Sweetah den de music of a lovesick mockin’-bird,
    Comin’ f’om de gal you loves bettah den yo’ kin,
    “Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

    At de gate o’ heaven w’en de storm o’ life is pas’,
    ‘Spec’ I ‘ll be a-stan’in’, ‘twell de Mastah say at las’,
    “Hyeah he stan’ all weary, but he winned his fight wid sin.
    Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

   
   

_____

#28

   

The Colored Soldiers
   

    If the muse were mine to tempt it
      And my feeble voice were strong,
    If my tongue were trained to measures,
      I would sing a stirring song.
    I would sing a song heroic
      Of those noble sons of Ham,
    Of the gallant colored soldiers
      Who fought for Uncle Sam!

    In the early days you scorned them,
      And with many a flip and flout
    Said “These battles are the white man’s,
      And the whites will fight them out.”
    Up the hills you fought and faltered,
      In the vales you strove and bled,
    While your ears still heard the thunder
      Of the foes’ advancing tread.

    Then distress fell on the nation,
      And the flag was drooping low;
    Should the dust pollute your banner?
      No! the nation shouted, No!
    So when War, in savage triumph,
      Spread abroad his funeral pall–
    Then you called the colored soldiers,
      And they answered to your call.

    And like hounds unleashed and eager
      For the life blood of the prey,
    Sprung they forth and bore them bravely
      In the thickest of the fray.
    And where’er the fight was hottest,
      Where the bullets fastest fell,
    There they pressed unblanched and fearless
      At the very mouth of hell.

    Ah, they rallied to the standard
      To uphold it by their might;
    None were stronger in the labors,
      None were braver in the fight.
    From the blazing breach of Wagner
      To the plains of Olustee,
    They were foremost in the fight
      Of the battles of the free.

    And at Pillow! God have mercy
      On the deeds committed there,
    And the souls of those poor victims
      Sent to Thee without a prayer.
    Let the fulness of Thy pity
      O’er the hot wrought spirits sway
    Of the gallant colored soldiers
      Who fell fighting on that day!

    Yes, the Blacks enjoy their freedom,
      And they won it dearly, too;
    For the life blood of their thousands
      Did the southern fields bedew.
    In the darkness of their bondage,
      In the depths of slavery’s night,
    Their muskets flashed the dawning,
      And they fought their way to light.

    They were comrades then and brothers,
      Are they more or less to-day?
    They were good to stop a bullet
      And to front the fearful fray.
    They were citizens and soldiers,
      When rebellion raised its head;
    And the traits that made them worthy,–
      Ah! those virtues are not dead.

    They have shared your nightly vigils,
      They have shared your daily toil;
    And their blood with yours commingling
      Has enriched the Southern soil.

    They have slept and marched and suffered
      ‘Neath the same dark skies as you,
    They have met as fierce a foeman,
      And have been as brave and true.

    And their deeds shall find a record
      In the registry of Fame;
    For their blood has cleansed completely
      Every blot of Slavery’s shame.
    So all honor and all glory
      To those noble sons of Ham–
    The gallant colored soldiers
      Who fought for Uncle Sam!

   
   

_____

#27

   

A Letter
   

    Dear Miss Lucy: I been t’inkin’ dat I ‘d write you long fo’ dis,
    But dis writin’ ‘s mighty tejous, an’ you know jes’ how it is.
    But I ‘s got a little lesure, so I teks my pen in han’
    Fu’ to let you know my feelin’s since I retched dis furrin’ lan’.
    I ‘s right well, I ‘s glad to tell you (dough dis climate ain’t to blame),
    An’ I hopes w’en dese lines reach you, dat dey ‘ll fin’ yo’ se’f de same.
    Cose I ‘se feelin kin’ o’ homesick–dat ‘s ez nachul ez kin be,
    Wen a feller ‘s mo’n th’ee thousand miles across dat awful sea.
    (Don’t you let nobidy fool you ’bout de ocean bein’ gran’;
    If you want to see de billers, you jes’ view dem f’om de lan’.)
    ‘Bout de people? We been t’inkin’ dat all white folks was alak;
    But dese Englishmen is diffunt, an’ dey ‘s curus fu’ a fac’.
    Fust, dey’s heavier an’ redder in dey make-up an’ dey looks,
    An’ dey don’t put salt nor pepper in a blessed t’ing dey cooks!
    Wen dey gin you good ol’ tu’nips, ca’ots, pa’snips, beets, an’ sich,
    Ef dey ain’t some one to tell you, you cain’t ‘stinguish which is which.
    Wen I t’ought I ‘s eatin’ chicken–you may b’lieve dis hyeah ‘s a lie–
    But de waiter beat me down dat I was eatin’ rabbit pie.
    An’ dey ‘d t’ink dat you was crazy–jes’ a reg’lar ravin’ loon,
    Ef you ‘d speak erbout a ‘possum or a piece o’ good ol’ coon.
    O, hit’s mighty nice, dis trav’lin’, an’ I ‘s kin’ o’ glad I come.
    But, I reckon, now I ‘s willin’ fu’ to tek my way back home.
    I done see de Crystal Palace, an’ I ‘s hyeahd dey string-band play,
    But I has n’t seen no banjos layin’ nowhahs roun’ dis way.
    Jes’ gin ol’ Jim Bowles a banjo, an’ he ‘d not go very fu’,
    ‘Fo’ he ‘d outplayed all dese fiddlers, wif dey flourish and dey stir.
    Evahbiddy dat I ‘s met wif has been monst’ous kin an’ good;
    But I t’ink I ‘d lak it better to be down in Jones’s wood,
    Where we ust to have sich frolics, Lucy, you an’ me an’ Nelse,
    Dough my appetite ‘ud call me, ef dey was n’t nuffin else.
    I ‘d jes’ lak to have some sweet-pertaters roasted in de skin;
    I ‘s a-longin’ fu’ my chittlin’s an’ my mustard greens ergin;
    I ‘s a-wishin’ fu’ some buttermilk, an’ co’n braid, good an’ brown,
    An’ a drap o’ good ol’ bourbon fu’ to wash my feelin’s down!
    An’ I ‘s comin’ back to see you jes’ as ehly as I kin,
    So you better not go spa’kin’ wif dat wuffless scoun’el Quin!
    Well, I reckon, I mus’ close now; write ez soon’s dis reaches you;
    Gi’ my love to Sister Mandy an’ to Uncle Isham, too.
    Tell de folks I sen’ ’em howdy; gin a kiss to pap an’ mam;
    Closin’ I is, deah Miss Lucy, Still Yo’ Own True-Lovin’ Sam.

    P. S. Ef you cain’t mek out dis letter, lay it by erpon de she’f,
        An’ when I git home, I ‘ll read it, darlin’, to you my own se’f.

   
   

_____

#26


   

The Old Front Gate
   

    W’en daih ‘s chillun in de house,
      Dey keep on a-gittin’ tall;
    But de folks don’ seem to see
      Dat dey ‘s growin’ up at all,
    ‘Twell dey fin’ out some fine day
      Dat de gals has ‘menced to grow,
    Wen dey notice as dey pass
      Dat de front gate ‘s saggin’ low.

    Wen de hinges creak an’ cry,
      An’ de bahs go slantin’ down,
    You kin reckon dat hit’s time
      Fu’ to cas’ yo’ eye erroun’,
    ‘Cause daih ain’t no ‘sputin’ dis,
      Hit’s de trues’ sign to show
    Dat daih ‘s cou’tin’ goin’ on
      Wen de ol’ front gate sags low.

    Oh, you grumble an’ complain,
      An’ you prop dat gate up right;
    But you notice right nex’ day
      Dat hit’s in de same ol’ plight.
    So you fin’ dat hit’s a rule,
      An’ daih ain’ no use to blow,
    W’en de gals is growin’ up,
      Dat de front gate will sag low.

    Den you t’ink o’ yo’ young days,
      W’en you cou’ted Sally Jane,
    An’ you so’t o’ feel ashamed
      Fu’ to grumble an’ complain,
    ‘Cause yo’ ricerlection says,
      An’ you know hits wo’ds is so,
    Dat huh pappy had a time
      Wid his front gate saggin’ low.

    So you jes’ looks on an’ smiles
      At ’em leanin’ on de gate,
    Tryin’ to t’ink whut he kin say
      Fu’ to keep him daih so late,
    But you lets dat gate erlone,
      Fu’ yo’ ‘sperunce goes to show,
    ‘Twell de gals is ma’ied off,
      It gwine keep on saggin’ low.

   
   

_____

#25

   

Communion
   

    In the silence of my heart,
      I will spend an hour with thee,
    When my love shall rend apart
      All the veil of mystery:

    All that dim and misty veil
      That shut in between our souls
    When Death cried, “Ho, maiden, hail!”
      And your barque sped on the shoals.

    On the shoals? Nay, wrongly said.
      On the breeze of Death that sweeps
    Far from life, thy soul has sped
      Out into unsounded deeps.

    I shall take an hour and come
      Sailing, darling, to thy side.
    Wind nor sea may keep me from
      Soft communings with my bride.

    I shall rest my head on thee
      As I did long days of yore,
    When a calm, untroubled sea
      Rocked thy vessel at the shore.

    I shall take thy hand in mine,
      And live o’er the olden days
    When thy smile to me was wine,–
      Golden wine thy word of praise,

    For the carols I had wrought
      In my soul’s simplicity;
    For the petty beads of thought
      Which thine eyes alone could see.

    Ah, those eyes, love-blind, but keen
      For my welfare and my weal!
    Tho’ the grave-door shut between,
      Still their love-lights o’er me steal.

    I can see thee thro’ my tears,
      As thro’ rain we see the sun.
    What tho’ cold and cooling years
      Shall their bitter courses run,–

    I shall see thee still and be
      Thy true lover evermore,
    And thy face shall be to me
      Dear and helpful as before.

    Death may vaunt and Death may boast,
      But we laugh his pow’r to scorn;
    He is but a slave at most,–
      Night that heralds coming morn.

    I shall spend an hour with thee
      Day by day, my little bride.
    True love laughs at mystery,
      Crying, “Doors of Death, fly wide.”

   
   

_____

#24


   

The Voice of the Banjo
   

    In a small and lonely cabin out of noisy traffic’s way,
    Sat an old man, bent and feeble, dusk of face, and hair of gray,
    And beside him on the table, battered, old, and worn as he,
    Lay a banjo, droning forth this reminiscent melody:

    “Night is closing in upon us, friend of mine, but don’t be sad;
    Let us think of all the pleasures and the joys that we have had.
    Let us keep a merry visage, and be happy till the last,
    Let the future still be sweetened with the honey of the past.

    “For I speak to you of summer nights upon the yellow sand,
    When the Southern moon was sailing high and silvering all the land;
    And if love tales were not sacred, there’s a tale that I could tell
    Of your many nightly wanderings with a dusk and lovely belle.

    “And I speak to you of care-free songs when labour’s hour was o’er,
    And a woman waiting for your step outside the cabin door,
    And of something roly-poly that you took upon your lap,
    While you listened for the stumbling, hesitating words, ‘Pap, pap.’

    “I could tell you of a ‘possum hunt across the wooded grounds,
    I could call to mind the sweetness of the baying of the hounds,
    You could lift me up and smelling of the timber that ‘s in me,
    Build again a whole green forest with the mem’ry of a tree.

    “So the future cannot hurt us while we keep the past in mind,
    What care I for trembling fingers,–what care you that you are blind?
    Time may leave us poor and stranded, circumstance may make us bend;
    But they ‘ll only find us mellower, won’t they, comrade?–in the end.”

   
   

_____

#23

   

Puttin’ the Baby Away
   

    Eight of ’em hyeah all tol’ an’ yet
    Dese eyes o’ mine is wringin’ wet;
    My haht’s a-achin’ ha’d an’ so’,
    De way hit nevah ached befo’;
    My soul’s a-pleadin’, “Lawd, give back
    Dis little lonesome baby black,
    Dis one, dis las’ po’ he’pless one
    Whose little race was too soon run.”

    Po’ Little Jim, des fo’ yeahs ol’
    A-layin’ down so still an’ col’.
    Somehow hit don’ seem ha’dly faih,
    To have my baby lyin’ daih
    Wi’dout a smile upon his face,
    Wi’dout a look erbout de place;
    He ust to be so full o’ fun
    Hit don’ seem right dat all’s done, done.

    Des eight in all but I don’ caih,
    Dey wa’nt a single one to spaih;
    De worl’ was big, so was my haht,
    An’ dis hyeah baby owned hit’s paht;
    De house was po’, dey clothes was rough,
    But daih was meat an’ meal enough;
    An’ daih was room fu’ little Jim;
    Oh! Lawd, what made you call fu’ him?.

    It do seem monst’ous ha’d to-day,
    To lay dis baby boy away;
    I’d learned to love his teasin’ smile,
    He mought o’ des been lef’ erwhile;
    You wouldn’t t’ought wid all de folks,
    Dat’s roun’ hyeah mixin’ teahs an’ jokes,
    De Lawd u’d had de time to see
    Dis chile an’ tek him ‘way f’om me.

    But let it go, I reckon Jim,
    ‘Ll des go right straight up to Him
    Dat took him f’om his mammy’s nest
    An’ lef dis achin’ in my breas’,
    An’ lookin’ in dat fathah’s face
    An’ ‘memberin’ dis lone sorrerin’ place,
    He’ll say, “Good Lawd, you ought to had
    Do sumpin’ fu’ to comfo’t dad!”

   
   

_____

#22

   

The Deserted Plantation
   

    Oh, de grubbin’-hoe ‘s a-rustin’ in de co’nah,
      An’ de plow ‘s a-tumblin’ down in de fiel’,
    While de whippo’will ‘s a-wailin’ lak a mou’nah
      When his stubbo’n hea’t is tryin’ ha’d to yiel’.

    In de furrers whah de co’n was allus wavin’,
      Now de weeds is growin’ green an’ rank an’ tall;
    An’ de swallers roun’ de whole place is a-bravin’
      Lak dey thought deir folks had allus owned it all.

    An’ de big house stan’s all quiet lak an’ solemn,
      Not a blessed soul in pa’lor, po’ch, er lawn;
    Not a guest, ner not a ca’iage lef’ to haul ’em,
      Fu’ de ones dat tu’ned de latch-string out air gone.

    An’ de banjo’s voice is silent in de qua’ters,
      D’ ain’t a hymn ner co’n-song ringin’ in de air;
    But de murmur of a branch’s passin’ waters
      Is de only soun’ dat breks de stillness dere.

    Whah ‘s de da’kies, dem dat used to be a-dancin’
      Evry night befo’ de ole cabin do’?
    Whah ‘s de chillun, dem dat used to be a-prancin’
      Er a-rollin’ in de san’ er on de flo’?

    Whah ‘s ole Uncle Mordecai an’ Uncle Aaron?
      Whah ‘s Aunt Doshy, Sam, an’ Kit, an’ all de res’?
    Whah ‘s ole Tom de da’ky fiddlah, how ‘s he farin’?
      Whah ‘s de gals dat used to sing an’ dance de bes’?

    Gone! not one o’ dem is lef’ to tell de story;
      Dey have lef’ de deah ole place to fall away.
    Could n’t one o’ dem dat seed it in its glory
      Stay to watch it in de hour of decay?

    Dey have lef’ de ole plantation to de swallers,
      But it hol’s in me a lover till de las’;
    Fu’ I fin’ hyeah in de memory dat follers
      All dat loved me an’ dat I loved in de pas’.

    So I’ll stay an’ watch de deah ole place an’ tend it
      Ez I used to in de happy days gone by.
    ‘Twell de othah Mastah thinks it’s time to end it,
      An’ calls me to my qua’ters in de sky.

   
   

_____

#21

   

Growin’ Gray
   

    Hello, ole man, you ‘re a-gittin’ gray,
    An’ it beats ole Ned to see the way
    ‘At the crow’s feet’s a-getherin’ aroun’ yore eyes;
    Tho’ it ought n’t to cause me no su’prise,
    Fur there ‘s many a sun ‘at you ‘ve seen rise
    An’ many a one you ‘ve seen go down
    Sence yore step was light an’ yore hair was brown,
    An’ storms an’ snows have had their way–
    Hello, ole man, you ‘re a-gittin’ gray.

    Hello, ole man, you ‘re a-gittin’ gray,
    An’ the youthful pranks ‘at you used to play
    Are dreams of a far past long ago
    That lie in a heart where the fires burn low–
    That has lost the flame though it kept the glow,
    An’ spite of drivin’ snow an’ storm,
    Beats bravely on forever warm.
    December holds the place of May–
    Hello, ole man, you ‘re a-gittin’ gray.

    Hello, ole man, you ‘re a-gittin’ gray–
    Who cares what the carpin’ youngsters say?
    For, after all, when the tale is told,
    Love proves if a man is young or old!
    Old age can’t make the heart grow cold
    When it does the will of an honest mind;
    When it beats with love fur all mankind;
    Then the night but leads to a fairer day–
    Hello, ole man, you ‘re a-gittin’ gray!

   
   

_____

#20

   

On the River
   

    The sun is low,
    The waters flow,
    My boat is dancing to and fro.
    The eve is still,
    Yet from the hill
    The killdeer echoes loud and shrill.

    The paddles plash,
    The wavelets dash,
    We see the summer lightning flash;
    While now and then,
    In marsh and fen
    Too muddy for the feet of men,

    Where neither bird
    Nor beast has stirred,
    The spotted bullfrog’s croak is heard.
    The wind is high,
    The grasses sigh,
    The sluggish stream goes sobbing by.

    And far away
    The dying day
    Has cast its last effulgent ray;
    While on the land
    The shadows stand
    Proclaiming that the eve’s at hand.

   
   

_____

#19


   

When Malindy Sings
   

    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 be 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 melojous 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 faces
      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 angels’ wings,
    Sof an’ sweet, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”
      Ez Malindy sings.

   
   

_____

#18

   

Dirge for a Soldier
   

    In the east the morning comes,
    Hear the rollin’ of the drums
        On the hill.
    But the heart that beat as they beat
    In the battle’s raging day heat
        Lieth still.
    Unto him the night has come,
    Though they roll the morning drum.

    What is in the bugle’s blast?
    It is: “Victory at last!
        Now for rest.”
    But, my comrades, come behold him,
    Where our colors now enfold him,
        And his breast
    Bares no more to meet the blade,
    But lies covered in the shade.

    What a stir there is to-day!
    They are laying him away
        Where he fell.
    There the flag goes draped before him;
    Now they pile the grave sod o’er him
        With a knell.
    And he answers to his name
    In the higher ranks of fame.

    There’s a woman left to mourn
    For the child that she has borne
        In travail.
    But her heart beats high and higher,
    With the patriot mother’s fire,
        At the tale.
    She has borne and lost a son,
    But her work and his are done.

    Fling the flag out, let it wave;
    They ‘re returning from the grave–
        “Double quick!”
    And the cymbals now are crashing,
    Bright his comrades’ eyes are flashing
        From the thick
    Battle-ranks which knew him brave,
    No tears for a hero’s grave.

    In the east the morning comes,
    Hear the rattle of the drums
        Far away.
    Now no time for grief’s pursuing,
    Other work is for the doing,
        Here to-day.
    He is sleeping, let him rest
    With the flag across his breast.

   
   

_____

#17


   

When the Old Man Smokes
   

    In the forenoon’s restful quiet,
      When the boys are off at school,
    When the window lights are shaded
      And the chimney-corner cool,
    Then the old man seeks his armchair,
      Lights his pipe and settles back;
    Falls a-dreaming as he draws it
      Till the smoke-wreaths gather black.

    And the tear-drops come a-trickling
      Down his cheeks, a silver flow–
    Smoke or memories you wonder,
      But you never ask him,–no;
    For there ‘s something almost sacred
      To the other family folks
    In those moods of silent dreaming
      When the old man smokes.

    Ah, perhaps he sits there dreaming
      Of the love of other days
    And of how he used to lead her
    Through the merry dance’s maze;
    How he called her “little princess,”
      And, to please her, used to twine
    Tender wreaths to crown her tresses,
      From the “matrimony vine.”

    Then before his mental vision
      Comes, perhaps, a sadder day,
    When they left his little princess
      Sleeping with her fellow clay.
    How his young heart throbbed, and pained him!
      Why, the memory of it chokes!
    Is it of these things he ‘s thinking
      When the old man smokes?

    But some brighter thoughts possess him,
      For the tears are dried the while.
    And the old, worn face is wrinkled
      In a reminiscent smile,
    From the middle of the forehead
      To the feebly trembling lip,
    At some ancient prank remembered
      Or some long unheard-of quip.

    Then the lips relax their tension
      And the pipe begins to slide,
    Till in little clouds of ashes,
      It falls softly at his side;
    And his head bends low and lower
      Till his chin lies on his breast,
    And he sits in peaceful slumber
      Like a little child at rest.

    Dear old man, there ‘s something sad’ning,
      In these dreamy moods of yours,
    Since the present proves so fleeting,
      All the past for you endures.
    Weeping at forgotten sorrows,
      Smiling at forgotten jokes;
    Life epitomized in minutes,
      When the old man smokes.

   
   

_____

#16

   

A Summer Pastoral
   

    It’s hot to-day. The bees is buzzin’
      Kinder don’t-keer-like aroun’
    An’ fur off the warm air dances
      O’er the parchin’ roofs in town.
    In the brook the cows is standin’;
      Childern hidin’ in the hay;
    Can’t keep none of ’em a workin’,
      ‘Cause it’s hot to-day.

    It’s hot to-day. The sun is blazin’
      Like a great big ball o’ fire;
    Seems as ef instead o’ settin’
      It keeps mountin’ higher an’ higher.
    I’m as triflin’ as the children,
      Though I blame them lots an’ scold;
    I keep slippin’ to the spring-house,
      Where the milk is rich an’ cold.

    The very air within its shadder
      Smells o’ cool an’ restful things,
    An’ a roguish little robin
      Sits above the place an’ sings.
    I don’t mean to be a shirkin’,
      But I linger by the way
    Longer, mebbe, than is needful,
    ‘Cause it’s hot to-day.

    It’s hot to-day. The horses stumble
      Half asleep across the fiel’s;
    An’ a host o’ teasin’ fancies
      O’er my burnin’ senses steals,–
    Dreams o’ cool rooms, curtains lowered,
      An’ a sofy’s temptin’ look;
    Patter o’ composin’ raindrops
      Or the ripple of a brook.

    I strike a stump! That wakes me sudden;
      Dreams all vanish into air.
    Lordy! how I chew my whiskers;
      ‘Twouldn’t do fur me to swear.
    But I have to be so keerful
      ‘Bout my thoughts an’ what I say;
    Somethin’ might slip out unheeded,
      ‘Cause it’s hot to-day.

    Git up, there, Suke! you, Sal, git over!
      Sakes alive! how I do sweat.
    Every stitch that I’ve got on me,
    Bet a cent, is wringin’ wet.
    If this keeps up, I’ll lose my temper.
      Gee there, Sal, you lazy brute!
    Wonder who on airth this weather
      Could ‘a’ be’n got up to suit?

    You, Sam, go bring a tin o’ water;
      Dash it all, don’t be so slow!
    ‘Pears as ef you tuk an hour
      ‘Tween each step to stop an’ blow.
    Think I want to stand a meltin’
      Out here in this b’ilin’ sun,
    While you stop to think about it?
      Lift them feet o’ your’n an’ run.

    It ain’t no use; I’m plumb fetaggled.
      Come an’ put this team away.
    I won’t plow another furrer;
      It’s too mortal hot to-day.
    I ain’t weak, nor I ain’t lazy,
      But I’ll stand this half day’s loss
    ‘Fore I let the devil make me
      Lose my patience an’ git cross.

   
   

_____

#15


   

Weltschmertz
   

    You ask why I am sad to-day,
    I have no cares, no griefs, you say?
    Ah, yes, ‘t is true, I have no grief–
    But–is there not the falling leaf?

    The bare tree there is mourning left
    With all of autumn’s gray bereft;
    It is not what has happened me,
    Think of the bare, dismantled tree.

    The birds go South along the sky,
    I hear their lingering, long good-bye.
    Who goes reluctant from my breast?
    And yet–the lone and wind-swept nest.

    The mourning, pale-flowered hearse goes by,
    Why does a tear come to my eye?
    Is it the March rain blowing wild?
    I have no dead, I know no child.

    I am no widow by the bier
    Of him I held supremely dear.
    I have not seen the choicest one
    Sink down as sinks the westering sun.

    Faith unto faith have I beheld,
    For me, few solemn notes have swelled;
    Love bekoned me out to the dawn,
    And happily I followed on.

    And yet my heart goes out to them
    Whose sorrow is their diadem;
    The falling leaf, the crying bird,
    The voice to be, all lost, unheard–

    Not mine, not mine, and yet too much
    The thrilling power of human touch,
    While all the world looks on and scorns
    I wear another’s crown of thorns.

    Count me a priest who understands
    The glorious pain of nail-pierced hands;
    Count me a comrade of the thief
    Hot driven into late belief.

    Oh, mother’s tear, oh, father’s sigh,
    Oh, mourning sweetheart’s last good-bye,
    I yet have known no mourning save
    Beside some brother’s brother’s grave.

   
   

_____

#14

   

The Old Cabin
   

    In de dead of night I sometimes,
      Git to t’inkin’ of de pas’
    An’ de days w’en slavery helt me
      In my mis’ry–ha’d an’ fas’.
    Dough de time was mighty tryin’,
      In dese houahs somehow hit seem
    Dat a brightah light come slippin’
      Thoo de kivahs of my dream.

    An’ my min’ fu’gits de whuppins
      Draps de feah o’ block an’ lash
    An’ flies straight to somep’n’ joyful
      In a secon’s lightnin’ flash.
    Den hit seems I see a vision
      Of a dearah long ago
    Of de childern tumblin’ roun’ me
      By my rough ol’ cabin do’.

    Talk about yo’ go’geous mansions
      An’ yo’ big house great an’ gran’,
    Des bring up de fines’ palace
      Dat you know in all de lan’.
    But dey’s somep’n’ dearah to me,
      Somep’n’ faihah to my eyes
    In dat cabin, less you bring me
      To yo’ mansion in de skies.

    I kin see de light a-shinin’
      Thoo de chinks atween de logs,
    I kin hyeah de way-off bayin’
      Of my mastah’s huntin’ dogs,
    An’ de neighin’ of de hosses
      Stampin’ on de ol’ bahn flo’,
    But above dese soun’s de laughin’
      At my deah ol’ cabin do’.

    We would gethah daih at evenin’,
      All my frien’s ‘ud come erroun’
    An’ hit wan’t no time, twell, bless you,
      You could hyeah de banjo’s soun’.
    You could see de dahkies dancin’
      Pigeon wing an’ heel an’ toe–
    Joyous times I tell you people
      Roun’ dat same ol’ cabin do’.

    But at times my t’oughts gits saddah,
      Ez I riccolec’ de folks,
    An’ dey frolickin’ an’ talkin’
      Wid dey laughin’ an dey jokes.
    An’ hit hu’ts me w’en I membahs
      Dat I’ll nevah see no mo’
    Dem ah faces gethered smilin’
      Roun’ dat po’ ol’ cabin do’.

   
   

_____

#13

   

Slow Through the Dark
   

    Slow moves the pageant of a climbing race;
      Their footsteps drag far, far below the height,
      And, unprevailing by their utmost might,
    Seem faltering downward from each hard won place.
    No strange, swift-sprung exception we; we trace
      A devious way thro’ dim, uncertain light,–
      Our hope, through the long vistaed years, a sight
    Of that our Captain’s soul sees face to face.
      Who, faithless, faltering that the road is steep,
    Now raiseth up his drear insistent cry?
      Who stoppeth here to spend a while in sleep
    Or curseth that the storm obscures the sky?
      Heed not the darkness round you, dull and deep;
    The clouds grow thickest when the summit’s nigh.

   
   

_____

#12

   

Farewell to Arcady
   

    With sombre mien, the Evening gray
    Comes nagging at the heels of Day,
    And driven faster and still faster
    Before the dusky-mantled Master,
    The light fades from her fearful eyes,
    She hastens, stumbles, falls, and dies.

    Beside me Amaryllis weeps;
    The swelling tears obscure the deeps
    Of her dark eyes, as, mistily,
    The rushing rain conceals the sea.
    Here, lay my tuneless reed away,–
    I have no heart to tempt a lay.

    I scent the perfume of the rose
    Which by my crystal fountain grows.
    In this sad time, are roses blowing?
    And thou, my fountain, art thou flowing,

    While I who watched thy waters spring
    Am all too sad to smile or sing?
    Nay, give me back my pipe again,
    It yet shall breathe this single strain:
            Farewell to Arcady!

   
   

_____

#11

   

At Candle-Lightin’ Time
   

    When I come in f’om de co’n-fiel’ aftah wo’kin’ ha’d all day,
    It ‘s amazin’ nice to fin’ my suppah all erpon de way;
    An’ it ‘s nice to smell de coffee bubblin’ ovah in de pot,
    An’ it ‘s fine to see de meat a-sizzlin’ teasin’-lak an’ hot.

    But when suppah-time is ovah, an’ de t’ings is cleahed away;
    Den de happy hours dat foller are de sweetes’ of de day.
    When my co’ncob pipe is sta’ted, an’ de smoke is drawin’ prime,
    My ole ‘ooman says, “I reckon, Ike, it ‘s candle-lightin’ time.”

    Den de chillun snuggle up to me, an’ all commence to call,
    “Oh, say, daddy, now it ‘s time to mek de shadders on de wall.”
    So I puts my han’s togethah–evah daddy knows de way,–
    An’ de chillun snuggle closer roun’ ez I begin to say:–

    “Fus’ thing, hyeah come Mistah Rabbit; don’ you see him wo’k his eahs?
    Huh, uh! dis mus’ be a donkey,–look, how innercent he ‘pears!
    Dah ‘s de ole black swan a-swimmin’–ain’t she got a’ awful neck?
    Who ‘s dis feller dat ‘s a-comin’? Why, dat ‘s ole dog Tray, I ‘spec’!”

    Dat ‘s de way I run on, tryin’ fu’ to please ’em all I can;
    Den I hollahs, “Now be keerful–dis hyeah las’ ‘s de buga-man!”
    An’ dey runs an’ hides dey faces; dey ain’t skeered–dey ‘s lettin’ on:
    But de play ain’t raaly ovah twell dat buga-man is gone.

    So I jes’ teks up my banjo, an’ I plays a little chune,
    An’ you see dem haids come peepin’ out to listen mighty soon.
    Den my wife says, “Sich a pappy fu’ to give you sich a fright!
    Jes, you go to baid, an’ leave him: say yo’ prayers an’ say good-night.”

   
   

_____

#10


   

Chrismus on the Plantation
   

    It was Chrismus Eve, I mind hit fu’ a mighty gloomy day–
    Bofe de weathah an’ de people–not a one of us was gay;
    Cose you ‘ll t’ink dat ‘s mighty funny ‘twell I try to mek hit cleah,
    Fu’ a da’ky ‘s allus happy when de holidays is neah.

    But we wasn’t, fu’ dat mo’nin’ Mastah ‘d tol’ us we mus’ go,
    He ‘d been payin’ us sence freedom, but he couldn’t pay no mo’;’
    He wa’n’t nevah used to plannin’ ‘fo’ he got so po’ an’ ol’,
    So he gwine to give up tryin’, an’ de homestead mus’ be sol’.

    I kin see him stan’in’ now erpon de step ez cleah ez day,
    Wid de win’ a-kind o’ fondlin’ thoo his haih all thin an’ gray;
    An’ I ‘membah how he trimbled when he said, “It’s ha ‘d fu’ me,
    Not to mek yo’ Chrismus brightah, but I ‘low it wa’n’t to be.”

    All de women was a-cryin’, an’ de men, too, on de sly,
    An’ I noticed somep’n shinin’ even in ol’ Mastah’s eye.
    But we all stood still to listen ez ol’ Ben come f’om de crowd
    An’ spoke up, a-try’n’ to steady down his voice and mek it loud:–

    “Look hyeah, Mastah, I ‘s been servin’ you’ fu’ lo! dese many yeahs,
    An’ now, sence we ‘s got freedom an’ you ‘s kind o’ po’, hit ‘pears
    Dat you want us all to leave you ’cause you don’t t’ink you can pay.
    Ef my membry has n’t fooled me, seem dat whut I hyead you say.

    “Er in othah wo’ds, you wants us to fu’git dat you ‘s been kin’,
    An’ ez soon ez you is he’pless, we ‘s to leave you hyeah behin’.
    Well, ef dat ‘s de way dis freedom ac’s on people, white er black,
    You kin jes’ tell Mistah Lincum fu’ to tek his freedom back.

    “We gwine wo’k dis ol’ plantation fu’ whatevah we kin git,
    Fu’ I know hit did suppo’t us, an’ de place kin do it yit.
    Now de land is yo’s, de hands is ouahs, an’ I reckon we ‘ll be brave,
    An’ we ‘ll bah ez much ez you do w’en we has to scrape an’ save.”

    Ol’ Mastah stood dah trimblin’, but a-smilin’ thoo his teahs,
    An’ den hit seemed jes’ nachul-like, de place fah rung wid cheahs,
    An’ soon ez dey was quiet, some one sta’ted sof an’ low:
    “Praise God,” an’ den we all jined in, “from whom all blessin’s flow!”

    Well, dey was n’t no use tryin’, ouah min’s was sot to stay,
    An’ po’ ol’ Mastah could n’t plead ner baig, ner drive us ‘way,
    An’ all at once, hit seemed to us, de day was bright agin,
    So evahone was gay dat night, an’ watched de Chrismus in.

   
   

_____

#9

   

She Told Her Beads
   

    She told her beads with down-cast eyes,
      Within the ancient chapel dim;
      And ever as her fingers slim
    Slipt o’er th’ insensate ivories,
    My rapt soul followed, spaniel-wise.
    Ah, many were the beads she wore;
      But as she told them o’er and o’er,
    They did not number all my sighs.
    My heart was filled with unvoiced cries
      And prayers and pleadings unexpressed;
      But while I burned with Love’s unrest,
    She told her beads with down-cast eyes.

   
   

_____

#8

   

The Haunted Oak
   

    Pray why are you so bare, so bare,
      Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;
    And why, when I go through the shade you throw,
      Runs a shudder over me?

    My leaves were green as the best, I trow,
      And sap ran free in my veins,
    But I saw in the moonlight dim and weird
      A guiltless victim’s pains.

    I bent me down to hear his sigh;
      I shook with his gurgling moan,
    And I trembled sore when they rode away,
      And left him here alone.

    They ‘d charged him with the old, old crime,
      And set him fast in jail:
    Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,
      And why does the night wind wail?

    He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,
      And he raised his hand to the sky;
    But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,
      And the steady tread drew nigh.

    Who is it rides by night, by night,
      Over the moonlit road?
    And what is the spur that keeps the pace,
      What is the galling goad?

    And now they beat at the prison door,
      “Ho, keeper, do not stay!
    We are friends of him whom you hold within,
      And we fain would take him away

    “From those who ride fast on our heels
      With mind to do him wrong;
    They have no care for his innocence,
      And the rope they bear is long.”

    They have fooled the jailer with lying words,
      They have fooled the man with lies;
    The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,
      And the great door open flies.

    Now they have taken him from the jail,
      And hard and fast they ride,
    And the leader laughs low down in his throat,
      As they halt my trunk beside.

    Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,
      And the doctor one of white,
    And the minister, with his oldest son,
      Was curiously bedight.

    Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?
      ‘Tis but a little space,
    And the time will come when these shall dread
      The mem’ry of your face.

    I feel the rope against my bark,
      And the weight of him in my grain,
    I feel in the throe of his final woe
      The touch of my own last pain.

    And never more shall leaves come forth
      On a bough that bears the ban;
    I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,
      From the curse of a guiltless man.

    And ever the judge rides by, rides by,
      And goes to hunt the deer,
    And ever another rides his soul
      In the guise of a mortal fear.

    And ever the man he rides me hard,
      And never a night stays he;
    For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,
      On the trunk of a haunted tree.

   
   

_____

#7

   

We Wear the Mask
   

    We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.

    Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
        We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
        We wear the mask!

   
   

_____

#6


   

When Dey ‘Listed Colored Soldiers
   

    Dey was talkin’ in de cabin, dey was talkin’ in de hall;
    But I listened kin’ o’ keerless, not a-t’inkin’ ’bout it all;
    An’ on Sunday, too, I noticed, dey was whisp’rin’ mighty much,
    Stan’in’ all erroun’ de roadside w’en dey let us out o’ chu’ch.
    But I did n’t t’ink erbout it ‘twell de middle of de week,
    An’ my ‘Lias come to see me, an’ somehow he could n’t speak.
    Den I seed all in a minute whut he ‘d come to see me for;–
    Dey had ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias gwine to wah.

    Oh, I hugged him, an’ I kissed him, an’ I baiged him not to go;
    But he tol’ me dat his conscience, hit was callin’ to him so,
    An’ he could n’t baih to lingah w’en he had a chanst to fight
    For de freedom dey had gin him an’ de glory of de right.
    So he kissed me, an’ he lef me, w’en I ‘d p’omised to be true;
    An’ dey put a knapsack on him, an’ a coat all colo’ed blue.
    So I gin him pap’s ol’ Bible f’om de bottom of de draw’,–
    W’en dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

    But I t’ought of all de weary miles dat he would have to tramp,
    An’ I could n’t be contented w’en dey tuk him to de camp.
    W’y my hea’t nigh broke wid grievin’ ‘twell I seed him on de street;
    Den I felt lak I could go an’ th’ow my body at his feet.
    For his buttons was a-shinin’, an’ his face was shinin’, too,
    An’ he looked so strong an’ mighty in his coat o’ sojer blue,
    Dat I hollahed, “Step up, manny,” dough my th’oat was so’ an’ raw,–
    W’en dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

    Ol’ Mis’ cried w’en mastah lef huh, young Miss mou’ned huh brothah Ned,
    An’ I did n’t know dey feelin’s is de ve’y wo’ds dey said
    W’en I tol’ ’em I was so’y. Dey had done gin up dey all;
    But dey only seemed mo’ proudah dat dey men had hyeahed de call.
    Bofe my mastahs went in gray suits, an’ I loved de Yankee blue,
    But I t’ought dat I could sorrer for de losin’ of ’em too;
    But I could n’t, for I did n’t know de ha’f o’ whut I saw,
    ‘Twell dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

    Mastah Jack come home all sickly; he was broke for life, dey said;
    An’ dey lef my po’ young mastah some’r’s on de roadside,–dead.
    W’en de women cried an’ mou’ned ’em, I could feel it thoo an’ thoo,
    For I had a loved un fightin’ in de way o’ dangah, too.
    Den dey tol’ me dey had laid him some’r’s way down souf to res’,
    Wid de flag dat he had fit for shinin’ daih acrost his breas’.
    Well, I cried, but den I reckon dat ‘s whut Gawd had called him for,
    W’en dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

   
   

_____

#5

   

The Sum
   

    A little dreaming by the way,
    A little toiling day by day;
    A little pain, a little strife,
    A little joy,–and that is life.

    A little short-lived summer’s morn,
    When joy seems all so newly born,
    When one day’s sky is blue above,
    And one bird sings,–and that is love.

    A little sickening of the years,
    The tribute of a few hot tears
    Two folded hands, the failing breath,
    And peace at last,–and that is death.

    Just dreaming, loving, dying so,
    The actors in the drama go–
    A flitting picture on a wall,
    Love, Death, the themes; but is that all?

   
   

_____

#4

   

A Spring Wooing
   

    Come on walkin’ wid me, Lucy; ‘t ain’t no time to mope erroun’
      Wen de sunshine ‘s shoutin’ glory in de sky,
    An’ de little Johnny-Jump-Ups ‘s jes’ a-springin’ f’om de groun’,
      Den a-lookin’ roun’ to ax each othah w’y.
    Don’ you hyeah dem cows a-mooin’? Dat ‘s dey howdy to de spring;
      Ain’ dey lookin’ most oncommon satisfied?
    Hit ‘s enough to mek a body want to spread dey mouf an’ sing
      Jes’ to see de critters all so spa’klin’-eyed.

    W’y dat squir’l dat jes’ run past us, ef I did n’ know his tricks,
      I could swaih he ‘d got ‘uligion jes’ to-day;
    An’ dem liza’ds slippin’ back an’ fofe ermong de stones an’ sticks
      Is a-wigglin’ ’cause dey feel so awful gay.
    Oh, I see yo’ eyes a-shinin’ dough you try to mek me b’lieve
      Dat you ain’ so monst’ous happy ’cause you come;
    But I tell you dis hyeah weathah meks it moughty ha’d to ‘ceive
      Ef a body’s soul ain’ blin’ an’ deef an’ dumb.

    Robin whistlin’ ovah yandah ez he buil’ his little nes’;
      Whut you reckon dat he sayin’ to his mate?
    He’s a-sayin’ dat he love huh in de wo’ds she know de bes’,
      An’ she lookin’ moughty pleased at whut he state.
    Now, Miss Lucy, dat ah robin sholy got his sheer o’ sense,
      An’ de hen-bird got huh mothah-wit fu’ true;
    So I t’ink ef you ‘ll ixcuse me, fu’ I do’ mean no erfence,
      Dey ‘s a lesson in dem birds fu’ me an’ you.

    I ‘s a-buil’in’ o’ my cabin, an’ I ‘s vines erbove de do’
      Fu’ to kin’ o’ gin it sheltah f’om de sun;
    Gwine to have a little kitchen wid a reg’lar wooden flo’,
      An’ dey ‘ll be a back verandy w’en hit ‘s done.
    I ‘s a-waitin’ fu’ you, Lucy, tek de ‘zample o’ de birds,
      Dat ‘s a-lovin’ an’ a-matin’ evahwhaih.
    I cain’ tell you dat I loves you in de robin’s music wo’ds,
      But my cabin ‘s talkin’ fu’ me ovah thaih!

   
   

_____

#3

   

A Negro Love Song
   

    Seen my lady home las’ night,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
    Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
    An’ a smile go flittin’ by–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Hyeahd de win’ blow thoo de pine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Mockin’-bird was singin’ fine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    An’ my hea’t was beatin’ so,
    When I reached my lady’s do’,
    Dat I could n’t ba’ to go–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Put my ahm aroun’ huh wais’,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Raised huh lips an’ took a tase,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Love me, honey, love me true?
    Love me well ez I love you?
    An’ she answe’d, “‘Cose I do”–
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

   
   

_____

#2


   

A Florida Night
   

    Win’ a-blowin’ gentle so de san’ lay low,
      San’ a little heavy f’om de rain,
    All de pa’ms a-wavin’ an’ a-weavin’ slow,
      Sighin’ lak a sinnah-soul in pain.
    Alligator grinnin’ by de ol’ lagoon,
    Mockin’-bird a-singin’ to be big full moon.
    ‘Skeeter go a-skimmin’ to his fightin’ chune
      (Lizy Ann’s a-waitin’ in de lane!).

    Moccasin a-sleepin’ in de cyprus swamp;
    Need n’t wake de gent’man, not fu’ me.
    Mule, you need n’t wake him w’en you switch an’ stomp,
      Fightin’ off a ‘skeeter er a flea.
    Florida is lovely, she’s de fines’ lan’
    Evah seed de sunlight f’om de Mastah’s han’,
    ‘Ceptin’ fu’ de varmints an’ huh fleas an’ san’
      An’ de nights w’en Lizy Ann ain’ free.

    Moon ‘s a-kinder shaddered on de melon patch;
      No one ain’t a-watchin’ ez I go.
    Climbin’ of de fence so ‘s not to click de latch
      Meks my gittin’ in a little slow.
    Watermelon smilin’ as it say, “I’ s free;”
    Alligator boomin’, but I let him be,
    Florida, oh, Florida ‘s de lan’ fu’ me–
      (Lizy Ann a-singin’ sweet an’ low).

   
   

_____

#1

   
   
Sympathy
   

    I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
      When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
    When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
    And the river flows like a stream of glass;
      When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
    And the faint perfume from its chalice steals–
    I know what the caged bird feels!

    I know why the caged bird beats his wing
      Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
    For he must fly back to his perch and cling
    When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
      And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
    And they pulse again with a keener sting–
    I know why he beats his wing!

    I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
      When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
    When he beats his bars and he would be free;
    It is not a carol of joy or glee,
      But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
    But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings–
    I know why the caged bird sings!

   
   

_____

_____

May 19, 2007

The Official Top 20 Countdown of the All Time Greatest Love Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

_____

   
   

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) with a friend

I have been reading all the poems I can find by Paul Laurence Dunbar, in order to create another top 30 countdown. Yesterday, when I got down from the hundreds to 55 poems in order, I knew I did not want to lose any more of his love poems. So I take a break from that top 30, to bring you the very enjoyable top 20 love poems written by Dunbar. He only lived to be 33, so when he writes of how an old man may feel about love as well as he does a young couple, as if he carried all of this within him, some full and long happy love life, we can recognize a gift. But, just as tuberculosis beat him physically to a young death, it seems at least alcohol kept him from being the great lover to his bride, then Alice Moore (pictured below, not above).
   
   

_____

#20

from

1899

   
   
Then and Now
   
   
Then

    He loved her, and through many years,
    Had paid his fair devoted court,
    Until she wearied, and with sneers
    Turned all his ardent love to sport.

    That night within his chamber lone,
    He long sat writing by his bed
    A note in which his heart made moan
    For love; the morning found him dead.
   
   
Now

    Like him, a man of later day
    Was jilted by the maid he sought,
    And from her presence turned away,
    Consumed by burning, bitter thought.

    He sought his room to write–a curse
    Like him before and die, I ween.
    Ah no, he put his woes in verse,
    And sold them to a magazine.
   
   

_____

#19

from

1901

   
   
Anchored
   
   
    If thro’ the sea of night which here surrounds me,
      I could swim out beyond the farthest star,
    Break every barrier of circumstance that bounds me,
      And greet the Sun of sweeter life afar,

    Tho’ near you there is passion, grief, and sorrow,
      And out there rest and joy and peace and all,
    I should renounce that beckoning for to-morrow,
      I could not choose to go beyond your call.
   
   

_____

#18

from

1901

   
   
Suppose
   
   
    If ’twere fair to suppose
      That your heart were not taken,
    That the dew from the rose
      Petals still were not shaken,
    I should pluck you,
      Howe’er you should thorn me and scorn me,
    And wear you for life as the green of the bower.

    If ’twere fair to suppose
      That that road was for vagrants,
    That the wind and the rose,
      Counted all in their fragrance;
    Oh, my dear one,
      By love, I should take you and make you,
    The green of my life from the scintillant hour.
   
   

_____

#17

from

1899

   
   
Love
   
   
    A life was mine full of the close concern
      Of many-voiced affairs. The world sped fast;
      Behind me, ever rolled a pregnant past.
    A present came equipped with lore to learn.
    Art, science, letters, in their turn,
      Each one allured me with its treasures vast;
      And I staked all for wisdom, till at last
    Thou cam’st and taught my soul anew to yearn.
      I had not dreamed that I could turn away
    From all that men with brush and pen had wrought;
      But ever since that memorable day
    When to my heart the truth of love was brought,
      I have been wholly yielded to its sway,
    And had no room for any other thought.
   
   

_____

#16

from

1895

   
   
The Corn-Stalk Fiddle
   
   
    When the corn ‘s all cut and the bright stalks shine
      Like the burnished spears of a field of gold;
    When the field-mice rich on the nubbins dine,
      And the frost comes white and the wind blows cold;
    Then it’s heigho! fellows and hi-diddle-diddle,
    For the time is ripe for the corn-stalk fiddle.

    And you take a stalk that is straight and long,
      With an expert eye to its worthy points,
    And you think of the bubbling strains of song
      That are bound between its pithy joints–
    Then you cut out strings, with a bridge in the middle,
    With a corn-stalk bow for a corn-stalk fiddle.

    Then the strains that grow as you draw the bow
      O’er the yielding strings with a practised hand!
    And the music’s flow never loud but low
      Is the concert note of a fairy band.
    Oh, your dainty songs are a misty riddle
    To the simple sweets of the corn-stalk fiddle.

    When the eve comes on, and our work is done,
      And the sun drops down with a tender glance,
    With their hearts all prime for the harmless fun,
      Come the neighbor girls for the evening’s dance,
    And they wait for the well-known twist and twiddle–
    More time than tune–from the corn-stalk fiddle.

    Then brother Jabez takes the bow,
      While Ned stands off with Susan Bland,
    Then Henry stops by Milly Snow,
      And John takes Nellie Jones’s hand,
    While I pair off with Mandy Biddle,
    And scrape, scrape, scrape goes the corn-stalk fiddle.

    “Salute your partners,” comes the call,
      “All join hands and circle round,”
    “Grand train back,” and “Balance all,”
      Footsteps lightly spurn the ground.
    “Take your lady and balance down the middle”
    To the merry strains of the corn-stalk fiddle.

    So the night goes on and the dance is o’er,
      And the merry girls are homeward gone,
    But I see it all in my sleep once more,
      And I dream till the very break of dawn
    Of an impish dance on a red-hot griddle
    To the screech and scrape of a corn-stalk fiddle.
   
   

_____

#15

from

1895

   
   
After the Quarrel
   
   
    So we, who ‘ve supped the self-same cup,
      To-night must lay our friendship by;
    Your wrath has burned your judgment up,
      Hot breath has blown the ashes high.
    You say that you are wronged–ah, well,
      I count that friendship poor, at best
    A bauble, a mere bagatelle,
      That cannot stand so slight a test.

    I fain would still have been your friend,
      And talked and laughed and loved with you;
    But since it must, why, let it end;
      The false but dies, ‘t is not the true.
    So we are favored, you and I,
      Who only want the living truth.
    It was not good to nurse the lie;
      ‘T is well it died in harmless youth.

    I go from you to-night to sleep.
      Why, what’s the odds? why should I grieve?
    I have no fund of tears to weep
      For happenings that undeceive.
    The days shall come, the days shall go
      Just as they came and went before.
    The sun shall shine, the streams shall flow
      Though you and I are friends no more.

    And in the volume of my years,
      Where all my thoughts and acts shall be,
    The page whereon your name appears
      Shall be forever sealed to me.
    Not that I hate you over-much,
      ‘T is less of hate than love defied;
    Howe’er, our hands no more shall touch,
      We ‘ll go our ways, the world is wide.
   
   

_____

#14

from

1901

   
   
Diplomacy
   
   
    Tell your love where the roses blow,
      And the hearts of the lilies quiver,
    Not in the city’s gleam and glow,
      But down by a half-sunned river.
    Not in the crowded ball-room’s glare,
      That would be fatal, Marie, Marie,
    How can she answer you then and there?
      So come then and stroll with me, my dear,
      Down where the birds call, Marie, Marie.
   
   

_____

#13

from

1899

   
   
Dream Song II
   
   
    Pray, what can dreams avail
      To make love or to mar?
    The child within the cradle rail
      Lies dreaming of the star.
    But is the star by this beguiled
    To leave its place and seek the child?

    The poor plucked rose within its glass
      Still dreameth of the bee;
    But, tho’ the lagging moments pass,
      Her Love she may not see.
    If dream of child and flower fail,
    Why should a maiden’s dreams prevail?
   
   

_____

#12

from

1893

   
   
The Old Apple-Tree
   
   
    There’s a memory keeps a-runnin’
      Through my weary head to-night,
    An’ I see a picture dancin’
      In the fire-flames’ ruddy light;
    ‘Tis the picture of an orchard
      Wrapped in autumn’s purple haze,
    With the tender light about it
      That I loved in other days.
    An’ a-standin’ in a corner
      Once again I seem to see
    The verdant leaves an’ branches
      Of an old apple-tree.

    You perhaps would call it ugly,
      An’ I don’t know but it’s so,
    When you look the tree all over
      Unadorned by memory’s glow;
    For its boughs are gnarled an’ crooked,
      An’ its leaves are gettin’ thin,
    An’ the apples of its bearin’
      Would n’t fill so large a bin
    As they used to. But I tell you,
      When it comes to pleasin’ me,
    It’s the dearest in the orchard,–
      Is that old apple-tree.

    I would hide within its shelter,
      Settlin’ in some cosy nook,
    Where no calls nor threats could stir me
      From the pages o’ my book.
    Oh, that quiet, sweet seclusion
      In its fulness passeth words!
    It was deeper than the deepest
      That my sanctum now affords.
    Why, the jaybirds an’ the robins,
      They was hand in glove with me,
    As they winked at me an’ warbled
      In that old apple-tree.

    It was on its sturdy branches
      That in summers long ago
    I would tie my swing an’ dangle
      In contentment to an’ fro,
    Idly dreamin’ childish fancies,
      Buildin’ castles in the air,
    Makin’ o’ myself a hero
      Of romances rich an’ rare.
    I kin shet my eyes an’ see it
      Jest as plain as plain kin be,
    That same old swing a-danglin’
      To the old apple-tree.

    There’s a rustic seat beneath it
      That I never kin forget.
    It’s the place where me an’ Hallie–
      Little sweetheart–used to set,
    When we ‘d wander to the orchard
      So ‘s no listenin’ ones could hear
    As I whispered sugared nonsense
      Into her little willin’ ear.
    Now my gray old wife is Hallie,
      An’ I ‘m grayer still than she,
    But I ‘ll not forget our courtin’
      ‘Neath the old apple-tree.

    Life for us ain’t all been summer,
      But I guess we ‘we had our share
    Of its flittin’ joys an’ pleasures,
      An’ a sprinklin’ of its care.
    Oft the skies have smiled upon us;
      Then again we ‘ve seen ’em frown,
    Though our load was ne’er so heavy
      That we longed to lay it down.
    But when death does come a-callin’,
      This my last request shall be,–
    That they ‘ll bury me an’ Hallie
      ‘Neath the old apple tree.
   
   

_____

#11

from

1896

   
   
A Florida Night
   
   
    Win’ a-blowin’ gentle so de san’ lay low,
      San’ a little heavy f’om de rain,
    All de pa’ms a-wavin’ an’ a-weavin’ slow,
      Sighin’ lak a sinnah-soul in pain.
    Alligator grinnin’ by de ol’ lagoon,
    Mockin’-bird a-singin’ to be big full moon.
    ‘Skeeter go a-skimmin’ to his fightin’ chune
      (Lizy Ann’s a-waitin’ in de lane!).

    Moccasin a-sleepin’ in de cyprus swamp;
    Need n’t wake de gent’man, not fu’ me.
    Mule, you need n’t wake him w’en you switch an’ stomp,
      Fightin’ off a ‘skeeter er a flea.
    Florida is lovely, she’s de fines’ lan’
    Evah seed de sunlight f’om de Mastah’s han’,
    ‘Ceptin’ fu’ de varmints an’ huh fleas an’ san’
      An’ de nights w’en Lizy Ann ain’ free.

    Moon ‘s a-kinder shaddered on de melon patch;
      No one ain’t a-watchin’ ez I go.
    Climbin’ of de fence so ‘s not to click de latch
      Meks my gittin’ in a little slow.
    Watermelon smilin’ as it say, “I’ s free;”
    Alligator boomin’, but I let him be,
    Florida, oh, Florida ‘s de lan’ fu’ me–
      (Lizy Ann a-singin’ sweet an’ low).
   
   

_____

#10

from

1896, this cover 1905

   
   
“Howdy, Honey, Howdy!”
   
   
    Do’ a-stan’in’ on a jar, fiah a-shinin’ thoo,
    Ol’ folks drowsin’ ‘roun’ de place, wide awake is Lou,
    W’en I tap, she answeh, an’ I see huh ‘mence to grin,
    “Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

    Den I step erpon de log layin’ at de do’,
    Bless de Lawd, huh mammy an’ huh pap’s done ‘menced to sno’,
    Now’s de time, ef evah, ef I’s gwine to try an’ win,
    “Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

    No use playin’ on de aidge, trimblin’ on de brink,
    Wen a body love a gal, tell huh whut he t’ink;
    W’en huh hea’t is open fu’ de love you gwine to gin,
    Pull yo’se’f togethah, suh, an’ step right in.

    Sweetes’ imbitation dat a body evah hyeahed,
    Sweetah den de music of a lovesick mockin’-bird,
    Comin’ f’om de gal you loves bettah den yo’ kin,
    “Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”

    At de gate o’ heaven w’en de storm o’ life is pas’,
    ‘Spec’ I ‘ll be a-stan’in’, ‘twell de Mastah say at las’,
    “Hyeah he stan’ all weary, but he winned his fight wid sin.
    Howdy, honey, howdy, won’t you step right in?”
   
   

_____

#9

from

1899

   
   
A Letter
   
   
    Dear Miss Lucy: I been t’inkin’ dat I ‘d write you long fo’ dis,
    But dis writin’ ‘s mighty tejous, an’ you know jes’ how it is.
    But I ‘s got a little lesure, so I teks my pen in han’
    Fu’ to let you know my feelin’s since I retched dis furrin’ lan’.
    I ‘s right well, I ‘s glad to tell you (dough dis climate ain’t to blame),
    An’ I hopes w’en dese lines reach you, dat dey ‘ll fin’ yo’ se’f de same.
    Cose I ‘se feelin kin’ o’ homesick–dat ‘s ez nachul ez kin be,
    Wen a feller ‘s mo’n th’ee thousand miles across dat awful sea.
    (Don’t you let nobidy fool you ’bout de ocean bein’ gran’;
    If you want to see de billers, you jes’ view dem f’om de lan’.)
    ‘Bout de people? We been t’inkin’ dat all white folks was alak;
    But dese Englishmen is diffunt, an’ dey ‘s curus fu’ a fac’.
    Fust, dey’s heavier an’ redder in dey make-up an’ dey looks,
    An’ dey don’t put salt nor pepper in a blessed t’ing dey cooks!
    Wen dey gin you good ol’ tu’nips, ca’ots, pa’snips, beets, an’ sich,
    Ef dey ain’t some one to tell you, you cain’t ‘stinguish which is which.
    Wen I t’ought I ‘s eatin’ chicken–you may b’lieve dis hyeah ‘s a lie–
    But de waiter beat me down dat I was eatin’ rabbit pie.
    An’ dey ‘d t’ink dat you was crazy–jes’ a reg’lar ravin’ loon,
    Ef you ‘d speak erbout a ‘possum or a piece o’ good ol’ coon.
    O, hit’s mighty nice, dis trav’lin’, an’ I ‘s kin’ o’ glad I come.
    But, I reckon, now I ‘s willin’ fu’ to tek my way back home.
    I done see de Crystal Palace, an’ I ‘s hyeahd dey string-band play,
    But I has n’t seen no banjos layin’ nowhahs roun’ dis way.
    Jes’ gin ol’ Jim Bowles a banjo, an’ he ‘d not go very fu’,
    ‘Fo’ he ‘d outplayed all dese fiddlers, wif dey flourish and dey stir.
    Evahbiddy dat I ‘s met wif has been monst’ous kin an’ good;
    But I t’ink I ‘d lak it better to be down in Jones’s wood,
    Where we ust to have sich frolics, Lucy, you an’ me an’ Nelse,
    Dough my appetite ‘ud call me, ef dey was n’t nuffin else.
    I ‘d jes’ lak to have some sweet-pertaters roasted in de skin;
    I ‘s a-longin’ fu’ my chittlin’s an’ my mustard greens ergin;
    I ‘s a-wishin’ fu’ some buttermilk, an’ co’n braid, good an’ brown,
    An’ a drap o’ good ol’ bourbon fu’ to wash my feelin’s down!
    An’ I ‘s comin’ back to see you jes’ as ehly as I kin,
    So you better not go spa’kin’ wif dat wuffless scoun’el Quin!
    Well, I reckon, I mus’ close now; write ez soon’s dis reaches you;
    Gi’ my love to Sister Mandy an’ to Uncle Isham, too.
    Tell de folks I sen’ ’em howdy; gin a kiss to pap an’ mam;
    Closin’ I is, deah Miss Lucy, Still Yo’ Own True-Lovin’ Sam.

    P. S. Ef you cain’t mek out dis letter, lay it by erpon de she’f,
          An’ when I git home, I ‘ll read it, darlin’, to you my own se’f.
   
   

_____

#8

from

1901

   
   
The Old Front Gate
   
   
    W’en daih ‘s chillun in de house,
      Dey keep on a-gittin’ tall;
    But de folks don’ seem to see
      Dat dey ‘s growin’ up at all,
    ‘Twell dey fin’ out some fine day
      Dat de gals has ‘menced to grow,
    Wen dey notice as dey pass
      Dat de front gate ‘s saggin’ low.

    Wen de hinges creak an’ cry,
      An’ de bahs go slantin’ down,
    You kin reckon dat hit’s time
      Fu’ to cas’ yo’ eye erroun’,
    ‘Cause daih ain’t no ‘sputin’ dis,
      Hit’s de trues’ sign to show
    Dat daih ‘s cou’tin’ goin’ on
      Wen de ol’ front gate sags low.

    Oh, you grumble an’ complain,
      An’ you prop dat gate up right;
    But you notice right nex’ day
      Dat hit’s in de same ol’ plight.
    So you fin’ dat hit’s a rule,
      An’ daih ain’ no use to blow,
    W’en de gals is growin’ up,
      Dat de front gate will sag low.

    Den you t’ink o’ yo’ young days,
      W’en you cou’ted Sally Jane,
    An’ you so’t o’ feel ashamed
      Fu’ to grumble an’ complain,
    ‘Cause yo’ ricerlection says,
      An’ you know hits wo’ds is so,
    Dat huh pappy had a time
      Wid his front gate saggin’ low.

    So you jes’ looks on an’ smiles
      At ’em leanin’ on de gate,
    Tryin’ to t’ink whut he kin say
      Fu’ to keep him daih so late,
    But you lets dat gate erlone,
      Fu’ yo’ ‘sperunce goes to show,
    ‘Twell de gals is ma’ied off,
      It gwine keep on saggin’ low.
   
   

_____

#7

from

1899

   
   
Communion
   
   
    In the silence of my heart,
      I will spend an hour with thee,
    When my love shall rend apart
      All the veil of mystery:

    All that dim and misty veil
      That shut in between our souls
    When Death cried, “Ho, maiden, hail!”
      And your barque sped on the shoals.

    On the shoals? Nay, wrongly said.
      On the breeze of Death that sweeps
    Far from life, thy soul has sped
      Out into unsounded deeps.

    I shall take an hour and come
      Sailing, darling, to thy side.
    Wind nor sea may keep me from
      Soft communings with my bride.

    I shall rest my head on thee
      As I did long days of yore,
    When a calm, untroubled sea
      Rocked thy vessel at the shore.

    I shall take thy hand in mine,
      And live o’er the olden days
    When thy smile to me was wine,–
      Golden wine thy word of praise,

    For the carols I had wrought
      In my soul’s simplicity;
    For the petty beads of thought
      Which thine eyes alone could see.

    Ah, those eyes, love-blind, but keen
      For my welfare and my weal!
    Tho’ the grave-door shut between,
      Still their love-lights o’er me steal.

    I can see thee thro’ my tears,
      As thro’ rain we see the sun.
    What tho’ cold and cooling years
      Shall their bitter courses run,–

    I shall see thee still and be
      Thy true lover evermore,
    And thy face shall be to me
      Dear and helpful as before.

    Death may vaunt and Death may boast,
      But we laugh his pow’r to scorn;
    He is but a slave at most,–
      Night that heralds coming morn.

    I shall spend an hour with thee
      Day by day, my little bride.
    True love laughs at mystery,
      Crying, “Doors of Death, fly wide.”

   
   

_____

#6

from

1899

   
   
When the Old Man Smokes
   
   
    In the forenoon’s restful quiet,
      When the boys are off at school,
    When the window lights are shaded
      And the chimney-corner cool,
    Then the old man seeks his armchair,
      Lights his pipe and settles back;
    Falls a-dreaming as he draws it
      Till the smoke-wreaths gather black.

    And the tear-drops come a-trickling
      Down his cheeks, a silver flow–
    Smoke or memories you wonder,
      But you never ask him,–no;
    For there ‘s something almost sacred
      To the other family folks
    In those moods of silent dreaming
      When the old man smokes.

    Ah, perhaps he sits there dreaming
      Of the love of other days
    And of how he used to lead her
    Through the merry dance’s maze;
    How he called her “little princess,”
      And, to please her, used to twine
    Tender wreaths to crown her tresses,
      From the “matrimony vine.”

    Then before his mental vision
      Comes, perhaps, a sadder day,
    When they left his little princess
      Sleeping with her fellow clay.
    How his young heart throbbed, and pained him!
      Why, the memory of it chokes!
    Is it of these things he ‘s thinking
      When the old man smokes?

    But some brighter thoughts possess him,
      For the tears are dried the while.
    And the old, worn face is wrinkled
      In a reminiscent smile,
    From the middle of the forehead
      To the feebly trembling lip,
    At some ancient prank remembered
      Or some long unheard-of quip.

    Then the lips relax their tension
      And the pipe begins to slide,
    Till in little clouds of ashes,
      It falls softly at his side;
    And his head bends low and lower
      Till his chin lies on his breast,
    And he sits in peaceful slumber
      Like a little child at rest.

    Dear old man, there ‘s something sad’ning,
      In these dreamy moods of yours,
    Since the present proves so fleeting,
      All the past for you endures.
    Weeping at forgotten sorrows,
      Smiling at forgotten jokes;
    Life epitomized in minutes,
      When the old man smokes.
   
   

_____

#5

from

1906

   
   
The Voice of the Banjo
   
   
    In a small and lonely cabin out of noisy traffic’s way,
    Sat an old man, bent and feeble, dusk of face, and hair of gray,
    And beside him on the table, battered, old, and worn as he,
    Lay a banjo, droning forth this reminiscent melody:

    “Night is closing in upon us, friend of mine, but don’t be sad;
    Let us think of all the pleasures and the joys that we have had.
    Let us keep a merry visage, and be happy till the last,
    Let the future still be sweetened with the honey of the past.

    “For I speak to you of summer nights upon the yellow sand,
    When the Southern moon was sailing high and silvering all the land;
    And if love tales were not sacred, there’s a tale that I could tell
    Of your many nightly wanderings with a dusk and lovely belle.

    “And I speak to you of care-free songs when labour’s hour was o’er,
    And a woman waiting for your step outside the cabin door,
    And of something roly-poly that you took upon your lap,
    While you listened for the stumbling, hesitating words, ‘Pap, pap.’

    “I could tell you of a ‘possum hunt across the wooded grounds,
    I could call to mind the sweetness of the baying of the hounds,
    You could lift me up and smelling of the timber that ‘s in me,
    Build again a whole green forest with the mem’ry of a tree.

    “So the future cannot hurt us while we keep the past in mind,
    What care I for trembling fingers,–what care you that you are blind?
    Time may leave us poor and stranded, circumstance may make us bend;
    But they ‘ll only find us mellower, won’t they, comrade?–in the end.”
   
   

_____

#4

from

1921

   
   
Weltschmertz
   
   
    You ask why I am sad to-day,
    I have no cares, no griefs, you say?
    Ah, yes, ‘t is true, I have no grief–
    But–is there not the falling leaf?

    The bare tree there is mourning left
    With all of autumn’s gray bereft;
    It is not what has happened me,
    Think of the bare, dismantled tree.

    The birds go South along the sky,
    I hear their lingering, long good-bye.
    Who goes reluctant from my breast?
    And yet–the lone and wind-swept nest.

    The mourning, pale-flowered hearse goes by,
    Why does a tear come to my eye?
    Is it the March rain blowing wild?
    I have no dead, I know no child.

    I am no widow by the bier
    Of him I held supremely dear.
    I have not seen the choicest one
    Sink down as sinks the westering sun.

    Faith unto faith have I beheld,
    For me, few solemn notes have swelled;
    Love bekoned me out to the dawn,
    And happily I followed on.

    And yet my heart goes out to them
    Whose sorrow is their diadem;
    The falling leaf, the crying bird,
    The voice to be, all lost, unheard–

    Not mine, not mine, and yet too much
    The thrilling power of human touch,
    While all the world looks on and scorns
    I wear another’s crown of thorns.

    Count me a priest who understands
    The glorious pain of nail-pierced hands;
    Count me a comrade of the thief
    Hot driven into late belief.

    Oh, mother’s tear, oh, father’s sigh,
    Oh, mourning sweetheart’s last good-bye,
    I yet have known no mourning save
    Beside some brother’s brother’s grave.
   
   

_____

#3

from

1899

   
   
She Told Her Beads
   
   
    She told her beads with down-cast eyes,
      Within the ancient chapel dim;
      And ever as her fingers slim
    Slipt o’er th’ insensate ivories,
    My rapt soul followed, spaniel-wise.
    Ah, many were the beads she wore;
      But as she told them o’er and o’er,
    They did not number all my sighs.
    My heart was filled with unvoiced cries
      And prayers and pleadings unexpressed;
      But while I burned with Love’s unrest,
    She told her beads with down-cast eyes.
   
   

_____

#2

from

1901

   
   
A Spring Wooing
   
   
    Come on walkin’ wid me, Lucy; ‘t ain’t no time to mope erroun’
      Wen de sunshine ‘s shoutin’ glory in de sky,
    An’ de little Johnny-Jump-Ups ‘s jes’ a-springin’ f’om de groun’,
      Den a-lookin’ roun’ to ax each othah w’y.
    Don’ you hyeah dem cows a-mooin’? Dat ‘s dey howdy to de spring;
      Ain’ dey lookin’ most oncommon satisfied?
    Hit ‘s enough to mek a body want to spread dey mouf an’ sing
      Jes’ to see de critters all so spa’klin’-eyed.

    W’y dat squir’l dat jes’ run past us, ef I did n’ know his tricks,
      I could swaih he ‘d got ‘uligion jes’ to-day;
    An’ dem liza’ds slippin’ back an’ fofe ermong de stones an’ sticks
      Is a-wigglin’ ’cause dey feel so awful gay.
    Oh, I see yo’ eyes a-shinin’ dough you try to mek me b’lieve
      Dat you ain’ so monst’ous happy ’cause you come;
    But I tell you dis hyeah weathah meks it moughty ha’d to ‘ceive
      Ef a body’s soul ain’ blin’ an’ deef an’ dumb.

    Robin whistlin’ ovah yandah ez he buil’ his little nes’;
      Whut you reckon dat he sayin’ to his mate?
    He’s a-sayin’ dat he love huh in de wo’ds she know de bes’,
      An’ she lookin’ moughty pleased at whut he state.
    Now, Miss Lucy, dat ah robin sholy got his sheer o’ sense,
      An’ de hen-bird got huh mothah-wit fu’ true;
    So I t’ink ef you ‘ll ixcuse me, fu’ I do’ mean no erfence,
      Dey ‘s a lesson in dem birds fu’ me an’ you.

    I ‘s a-buil’in’ o’ my cabin, an’ I ‘s vines erbove de do’
      Fu’ to kin’ o’ gin it sheltah f’om de sun;
    Gwine to have a little kitchen wid a reg’lar wooden flo’,
      An’ dey ‘ll be a back verandy w’en hit ‘s done.
    I ‘s a-waitin’ fu’ you, Lucy, tek de ‘zample o’ de birds,
      Dat ‘s a-lovin’ an’ a-matin’ evahwhaih.
    I cain’ tell you dat I loves you in de robin’s music wo’ds,
      But my cabin ‘s talkin’ fu’ me ovah thaih!
   
   

_____

#1

from

1895

   
   
A Negro Love Song
   
   
    Seen my lady home las’ night,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
    Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
    An’ a smile go flittin’ by–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Hyeahd de win’ blow thoo de pine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Mockin’-bird was singin’ fine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    An’ my hea’t was beatin’ so,
    When I reached my lady’s do’,
    Dat I could n’t ba’ to go–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Put my ahm aroun’ huh wais’,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Raised huh lips an’ took a tase,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Love me, honey, love me true?
    Love me well ez I love you?
    An’ she answe’d, “‘Cose I do”–
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
   
   

_____

   
   

Alice Moore Dunbar, Mrs. Paul L. Dunbar

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