Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

December 16, 2016

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Treason

It’s beginning to look a lot like treason
Everywhere you go;
Consider the CIA views on election day;
The e-mail hacks were Russian we now know.
It’s beginning to look a lot like treason;
Trump owes Russia more
Than he pays on his income tax, the robbers from Goldman Sachs
At the White House door.

He called upon Vlad to do something quite bad
For his own political gain;
Scandals to spike for Donald and Mike
At the expense of Clinton and Kaine;
The President and Congress waiting for a judgment day.

It’s beginning to look a lot like treason
Everywhere you go;
There’s a Benedict Arnold air, with G-People out to snare,
Conspirators whose motives go too low.
It’s beginning to look a lot like treason;
Soon arrests will start,
And the thing that will make them sing are the deals the Feds will bring
That show Trump’s part!

~~

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.

 

 
 
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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.

 

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

 
 
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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.

 

 
 
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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.

 

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

 
 
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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.

 

 
 
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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.

 

 
 
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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!

   
   

_____

_____

December 21, 2006

Christmastime at Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s

 
 
angel-divider
 
 

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
(February 27, 1807 – March 24, 1882)

 
 
angel-divider
 
 
Aftermath
 
 
When the summer fields are mown,
When the birds are fledged and flown,
        And the dry leaves strew the path;
With the falling of the snow,
With the cawing of the crow,
Once again the fields we mow
        And gather in the aftermath.

Not the sweet, new grass with flowers
Is this harvesting of ours;
        Not the upland clover bloom;
But the rowen mired with weeds,
Tangled tufts from marsh and meads,
Where the poppy drops its seeds
        In the silence and the gloom.
 
 
Completing Tales of a Wayside Inn, on his sixty-sixth birthday, February 27, 1873, may have inspired Longfellow to write this poem. That third part of Tales was included in the volume named after the poem, in which the poem was placed last, the last of the third flight of his Birds of Passage.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
The Children’s Hours
 
 
Between the dark and the daylight,
        When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
        That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
        The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
        And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
        Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
        And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
        Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
        To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
        A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
        They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
        O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
        They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
        Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
        In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, o blue-eyed banditti,
        Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
        Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
        And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
        In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
        Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
        And moulder in dust away!
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

click picture for song in wma format

 
 
Christmas Bells
 
 
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
                    And wild and sweet
                    The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
                    Had rolled along
                    The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till, ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
                    A voice, a chime,
                    A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
                    And with the sound
                    The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
                    And made forlorn
                    The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said:
                    “For hate is strong,
                    And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead; nor doth he sleep!
                    The Wrong shall fail,
                    The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men!”
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
The Cross of Snow
 
 
In the long, sleepless watches of the night,
        A gentle face–the face of one long dead–
        Looks at me from the wall, where round its head
        The night-lamp casts a halo of pale light.
Here in this room she died; and soul more white
        Never through martyrdom of fire was led
        To its repose; nor can in books be read
        The legend of a life more benedight.
There is a mountain in the distant West
        That, sun-defying, in its deep ravines
        Displays a cross of snow upon its side.
Such is the cross I wear upon my breast
        These eighteen years, through all the changing scenes
        And seasons, changeless since the day she died.
 
 

 
 
“‘Looking over one day,’ says Mr. Longfellow’s biographer, ‘an illustrated book of Western scenery, his attention was arrested by a picture of that mysterious mountain upon whose lonely, lofty breast the snow lies in long furrows that make a rude but wonderfully clear image of a vast cross. At night, as he looked upon the pictured countenance that hung upon his chamber wall, his thoughts framed themselves into the verses that follow [–above, that is]. He put them away in his portfolio, where they were found after his death.”
 
 
angel-divider
 
 
a Fragment
 
 
December 18, 1847
 
 
Soft through the silent air descend the feathery snow-flakes;
White are the distant hills, white are the neighboring fields;
Only the marshes are brown, and the river rolling among them
Weareth the leaden hue seen in the eyes of the blind.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
written on the back of a note from a Mr. Summer, and dated:“September 28, 1841. Half past 3 o’clock, morning. Now to bed”
 
 
Excelsior
 
 
The shades of night were falling fast,
As through an Alpine village passed
A youth, who bore, ‘mid snow and ice,
A banner with the strange device,
                            Excelsior!

His brow was sad; his eye beneath,
Flashed like a falchion from its sheath,
And like a silver clarion rung
The accents of that unknown tongue,
                            Excelsior!

In happy homes he saw the light
Of household fires gleam warm and bright;
Above, the spectral glaciers shone,
And from his lips escaped a groan,
                            Excelsior!

“Try not the Pass!” the old man said:
“Dark lowers the tempest overhead,
The roaring torrent is deep and wide!
And loud that clarion voice replied,
                            Excelsior!

“Oh stay,” the maiden said, “and rest
Thy weary head upon this breast!”
A tear stood in his bright blue eye,
But still he answered, with a sigh,
                            Excelsior!

“Beware the pine-tree’s withered branch!
Beware the awful avalanche!”
This was the peasant’s last Good-night,
A voice replied, far up the height,
                                Excelsior!

At break of day, as heavenward
The pious monks of Saint Bernard
Uttered the oft-repeated prayer,
A voice cried through the startled air,
                            Excelsior!

A traveller, by the faithful hound,
Half-buried in the snow was found,
Still grasping in his hand of ice
That banner with the strange device,
                            Excelsior!

There in the twilight cold and gray,
Lifeless, but beautiful, he lay,
And from the sky, serene and far,
A voice fell, like a falling star,
                            Excelsior!
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
The Good Part
 
 
that shall not be taken away
 
 
She dwells by Great Kenhawa’s side,
        In valleys green and cool;
And all her hope and all her pride
        Are in the village school.

Her soul, like the transparent air
        That robes the hills above,
Though not of earth, encircles there
        All things with arms of love.

And thus she walks among her girls
        With praise and mild rebukes;
Subduing e’en rude village churls
        By her angelic looks.

She reads to them at eventide
        Of One who came to save;
To cast the captive’s chains aside
        And liberate the slave.

And oft the blessed time foretells
        When all men shall be free;
And musical, as silver bells,
        Their falling chains shall be.

And following her beloved Lord,
        In decent poverty,
She makes her life one sweet record
        And deed of charity.

For she was rich, and gave up all
        To break the iron bands
Of those who waited in her hall,
        And labored in her lands.

Long since beyond the Southern Sea
        Their outbound sails have sped,
While she, in meek humility,
        Now earns her daily bread.

It is their prayers, which never cease,
        That clothe her with such grace;
Their blessing is the light of peace
        That shines upon her face.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
translated by Longfellow from the Spanish
 
 
by Francisco de Aldana (1537-1578)
 
 
The Image of God (La Imagen de Dios)
 
 
O Lord! who seest, from yon starry height,
        Centred in one the future and the past,
        Fashioned in thine own image, see how fast
        The world obscures in me what once was bright!
Eternal Sun! the warmth which thou hast given,
        To cheer life’s flowery April, fast decays;
        Yet in the hoary winter of my days,
        Forever green shall be my trust in Heaven.
Celestial King! O let thy presence pass
        Before my spirit, and an image fair
        Shall meet that look of mercy from on high,
As the reflected image in a glass
        Doth meet the look of him who seeks it there,
        And owes its being to the gazer’s eye.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
The Meeting
 
 
After so long an absence
        At last we meet again:
Does the meeting give us pleasure,
        Or does it give us pain?

The tree of life has been shaken,
        And but few of us linger now,
Like the Prophet’s two or three berries
        In the top of the uppermost bough.

We cordially greet each other
        In the old, familiar tone;
And we think, though we do not say it,
        How old and gray he is grown!

We speak of a Merry Christmas
        And many a Happy New Year
But each in his heart is thinking
        Of those that are not here.

We speak of friends and their fortunes,
        And of what they did and said,
Till the dead alone seem living,
        And the living alone seem dead.

And at last we hardly distinguish
        Between the ghosts and the guests;
And a mist and shadow of sadness
        Steals over our merriest jests.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
published in the Knickerbocker as The Fifth Psalm
 
 
also called An Autumnal Chant in Longfellow’s diary
 
 
Midnight Mass for the Dying Year
 
 
Yes, the Year is growing old,
        And his eye is pale and bleared!
Death, with frosty hand and cold,
        Plucks the old man by the beard,
                            Sorely, sorely!

The leaves are falling, falling,
        Solemnly and slow;
Caw! caw! the rooks are calling,
        It is a sound of woe,
                            A sound of woe!

Through woods and mountain passes
        The winds, like anthems, roll;
They are chanting solemn masses,
        Singing, “Pray for this poor soul,
                            Pray, pray!”

And the hooded clouds, like friars,
        Tell their beads in drops of rain,
And patter their doleful prayers;
        But their prayers are all in vain,
                            All in vain!

There he stands in the foul weather,
        The foolish, fond Old Year,
Crowned with wild flowers and with heather,
                Like weak, despised Lear,
                            A king, a king!

Then comes the summer-like day,
        Bids the old man rejoice!
His joy! his last!        Oh, the man gray
        Loveth that ever-soft voice,
                            Gentle and low.

To the crimson woods he saith,
        To the voice gentle and low
Of the soft air, like a daughter’s breath,
        “Pray do not mock me so!
                            Do not laugh at me!”

And now the sweet day is dead;
        Cold in his arms it lies;
No stain from its breath is spread
        Over the glassy skies,
                            No mist or stain!

Then, too, the Old Year dieth,
        And the forests utter a moan,
Like the voice of one who crieth
        In the wilderness alone,
                            “Vex not his ghost!”

Then comes, with an awful roar,
        Gathering and sounding on,
The storm-wind from Labrador,
        The wind Euroclydon,
                                The storm-wind!

Howl! howl! and from the forest
        Sweep the red leaves away!
Would, the sins that thou abhorrest,
        O soul! could thus decay,
                            And be swept away!

For there shall come a mightier blast,
        There shall be a darker day;
And the stars, from heaven down-cast
        Like red leaves be swept away!
                            Kyrie, eleyson!
                            Christe, eleyson!
 
 
angel-divider
 
 
Snow-Flakes
 
 
Out of the bosom of the Air,
        Out of the cloud-folds of her garments shaken,
Over the woodlands brown and bare,
        Over the harvest-fields forsaken,
                Silent, and soft, and slow
                Descends the snow.

Even as our cloudy fancies take
        Suddenly shape in some divine expression,
Even as the troubled heart doth make
        In the white countenance confession,
                The troubled sky reveals
                The grief it feels.

This is the poem of the air,
        Slowly in silent syllables recorded;
This is the secret of despair,
        Long in its cloudy bosom hoarded,
                Now whispered and revealed
                To wood and field.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
The Three Kings
 
 
Three Kings came riding from far away,
        Melchior and Gaspar and Baltasar;
Three Wise Men out of the East were they,
And they travelled by night and they slept by day,
        For their guide was a beautiful, wonderful star.

The star was so beautiful, large, and clear,
        That all the other stars of the sky
Became a white mist in the atmosphere,
And by this they knew that the coming was near
        Of the Prince foretold in the prophecy.

Three caskets they bore on their saddle-bows,
        Three caskets of gold with golden keys;
Their robes were of crimson silk with rows
Of bells and pomegranates and furbelows,
        Their turbans like blossoming almond-trees.

And so the Three Kings rode into the West,
        Through the dusk of night, over hill and dell,
And sometimes they nodded with beard on breast
And sometimes talked, as they paused to rest,
        With the people they met at some wayside well.

“Of the child that is born,” said Baltasar,
        “Good people, I pray you, tell us the news;
For we in the East have seen his star,
And have ridden fast, and have ridden far,
        To find and worship the King of the Jews.”

And the people answered, “You ask in vain;
        We know of no king but Herod the Great!”
They thought the Wise Men were men insane,
As they spurred their horses across the plain,
        Like riders in haste, and who cannot wait.

And when they came to Jerusalem,
        Herod the Great, who had heard this thing,
Sent for the Wise Men and questioned them;
And said, “Go down unto Bethlehem,
        And bring me tidings of this new king.”

So they rode away; and the star stood still,
        The only one in the gray of morn
Yes, it stopped, it stood still of its own free will,
Right over Bethlehem on the hill,
        The city of David where Christ was born.

And the Three Kings rode through the gate and the guard,
        Through the silent street, till their horses turned
And neighed as they entered the great inn-yard;
But the windows were closed, and the doors were barred,
        And only a light in the stable burned.

And cradled there in the scented hay,
        In the air made sweet by the breath of kine,
The little child in the manger lay,
The child, that would be king one day
        Of a kingdom not human but divine.

His mother Mary of Nazareth
        Sat watching beside his place of rest,
Watching the even flow of his breath,
For the joy of life and the terror of death
        Were mingled together in her breast.

They laid their offerings at his feet:
        The gold was their tribute to a King,
The frankincense, with its odor sweet,
Was for the Priest, the Paraclete,
        The myrrh for the body’s burying.

And the mother wondered and bowed her head,
        And sat as still as a statue of stone;
Her heart was troubled yet comforted,
Remembering what the Angel had said
        Of an endless reign and of David’s throne.

Then the Kings rode out of the city gate,
        With a clatter of hoofs in proud array;
But they went not back to Herod the Great,
For they knew his malice and feared his hate,
        And returned to their homes by another way.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
The Wind Over the Chimney
 
 
See, the fire is sinking low,
Dusky red the embers glow,
        While above them still I cower,
While a moment more I linger,
Though the clock, with lifted finger,
        Points beyond the midnight hour.

Sings the blackened log a tune
Learned in some forgotten June
        From a school-boy at his play,
When they both were young together,
Heart of youth and summer weather
        Making all their holiday.

And the night-wind rising, hark!
How above there in the dark,
        In the midnight and the snow,
Ever wilder, fiercer, grander,
Like the trumpets of Iskander,
        All the noisy chimneys blow!

Every quivering tongue of flame
Seems to murmur some great name,
        Seems to say to me, “Aspire!”
But the night-wind answers, “Hollow
Are the visions that you follow,
        Into darkness sinks your fire!”

Then the flicker of the blaze
Gleams on volumes of old days,
        Written by masters of the art,
Loud through whose majestic pages
Rolls the melody of ages,
        Throb the harp-strings of the heart.

And again the tongues of flame
Start exulting and exclaim:
        “These are prophets, bards, and seers;
In the horoscope of nations,
Like ascendant constellations,
        They control the coming years.”

But the night-wind cries: “Despair!
Those who walk with feet of air
        Leave no long-enduring marks;
At God’s forges incandescent
Mighty hammers beat incessant,
        These are but the flying sparks.

“Dust are all the hands that wrought;
Books are sepulchres of thought;
        The dead laurels of the dead
Rustle for a moment only,
Like the withered leaves in lonely
        Churchyards at some passing tread.”

Suddenly the flame sinks down;
Sink the rumors of renown;
        And alone the night-wind drear
Clamors louder, wilder, vaguer,–
“‘T is the brand of Meleager
        Dying on the hearth-stone here!”

And I answer,–“Though it be,
Why should that discomfort me?
        No endeavor is in vain;
Its reward is in the doing,
And the rapture of pursuing
        Is the prize the vanquished gain.”
 
 
angel-divider 
 

 
 
written in Longfellow’s college years, before he was 19
 
 
Woods in Winter
 
 
When winter winds are piercing chill,
        And through the hawthorn blows the gale,
With solemn feet I tread the hill,
        That overbrows the lonely vale.

O’er the bare upland, and away
        Through the long reach of desert woods,
The embracing sunbeams chastely play,
        And gladden these deep solitudes.

Where, twisted round the barren oak,
        The summer vine in beauty clung,
And summer winds the stillness broke,
        The crystal icicle is hung.

Where, from their frozen urns, mute springs
        Pour out the river’s gradual tide,
Shrilly the skater’s iron rings,
        And voices fill the woodland side.

Alas! how changed from the fair scene,
        When birds sang out their mellow lay,
And winds were soft, and woods were green,
        And the song ceased not with the day!

But still wild music is abroad,
        Pale, desert woods! within your crowd;
And gathering winds, in hoarse accord,
        Amid the vocal reeds pipe loud.

Chill airs and wintry winds!        my ear
        Has grown familiar with your song;
I hear it in the opening year,
        I listen, and it cheers me long.
 
 
angel-divider
 
 

 
 
angel-divider

November 11, 2006

Verse for Veterans: First Foe to Flanders Fields

   


   

by Richard Lovelace (1618-1658)
   

To Lucasta, Going to the Wars
   

Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
      That from the nunnery
Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
      To war and arms I fly.

True, a new mistress now I chase,
      The first foe in the field;
And with a stronger faith embrace
      A sword, a horse, a shield.

Yet this inconstancy is such
      As thou too shalt adore;
I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
      Loved I not Honor more.
   

_____

   


   

at sea in the First Dutch War (1665) the night before an engagement
   

by Charles Sackville, 6th Earl of Dorset (1638-1706)
   

Song, Written at Sea
   

To all you ladies now at land
            We men at sea indite;
But first would have you understand
            How hard it is to write:
The Muses now, and Neptune too,
We must implore to write to you–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

For though the Muses should prove kind,
            And fill our empty brain,
Yet if rough Neptune rouse the wind
            To wave the azure main,
Our paper, pen, and ink, and we,
Roll up and down our ships at sea–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

Then if we write not by each post,
            Think not we are unkind;
Nor yet conclude our ships are lost
            By Dutchmen or by wind:
Our tears we’ll send a speedier way,
The tide shall bring them twice a day–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

The King with wonder and surprise
            Will swear the seas grow bold,
Because the tides will higher rise
            Than e’er they did of old:
But let him know it is our tears
Bring floods of grief to Whitehall stairs–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

Should foggy Opdam chance to know
            Our sad and dismal story,
The Dutch would scorn so weak a foe,
            And quit their fort at Goree:
For what resistance can they find
From men who’ve left their hearts behind?–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

Let wind and weather do its worst,
            Be you to us but kind;
Let Dutchmen vapor, Spaniards curse,
            No sorrow we shall find:
‘Tis then no matter how things go,
Or who’s our friend, or who’s our foe–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

To pass our tedious hours away
            We throw a merry main,
Or else at serious ombre play:
            But why should we in vain
Each other’s ruin thus pursue?
We were undone when we left you–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

But now our fears tempestuous grow
            And cast our hopes away;
Whilst you, regardless of our woe,
            Sit careless at a play:
Perhaps permit some happier man
To kiss your hand, or flirt your fan–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

When any mournful tune you hear,
            That dies in every note
As if it sighed with each man’s care
            For being so remote,
Think then how often love we’ve made
To you, when all those tunes were played–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

In justice you cannot refuse
            To think of our distress,
When we for hopes of honor lose
            Our certain happiness:
All those designs are but to prove
Ourselves more worthy of your love–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.

And now we’ve told you all our loves,
            And likewise all our fears,
In hopes this declaration moves
            Some pity for our tears:
Let’s hear of no inconstancy–
We have too much of that at sea–
                      With a fa, la, la, la, la.
   

_____

   


   

by Robert Burns (1759-1796)
   

My Bonnie Mary
   

Go fetch to me a pint o’ wine,
And fill it in a silver tassie,
That I may drink, before I go,
A service to my bonnie lassie.
The boat rocks at the pier o’ Leith,
Fu’ loud the wind blaws frae the ferry,
The ship rides by the Berwick-law,
And I maun leave my bonnie Mary.

The trumpets sound, the banners fly,
The glittering spears are ranked ready;
The shouts o’ war are heard afar,
The battle closes thick and bloody;
But it’s no the roar o’ sea or shore
Wad mak me langer wish to tarry;
Nor shout o’ war that’s heard afar–
It’s leaving thee, my bonnie Mary!
   


   

_____

   


   

by William Cowper (1731-1808)
   

The Nightingale and Glow-Worm
   

A nightingale, that all day long
Had cheered the village with his song,
Nor yet at eve his note suspended,
Nor yet when eventide was ended,
Began to feel, as well he might,
The keen demands of appetite;
When, looking eagerly around,
He spied far off, upon the ground,
A something shining in the dark,
And knew the glow-worm by his spark;
So, stooping down from hawthorn top,
He thought to put him in his crop.
The worm, aware of his intent,
Harangued him thus, right eloquent:
“Did you admire my lamp,” quoth he,
“As much as I your minstrelsy,
You would abhor to do me wrong,
As much as I to spoil your song;
For ’twas the self-same Power Divine
Taught you to sing, and me to shine;
That you with music, I with light,
Might beautify and cheer the night.”
The songster heard his short oration,
And warbling out his approbation,
Released him, as my story tells,
And found a supper somewhere else.
Hence jarring sectaries may learn
Their real interest to discern;
That brother should not war with brother,
And worry and devour each other;
But sing and shine by sweet consent,
Till life’s poor transient night is spent,
Respecting in each other’s case
The gifts of nature and of grace.
Those Christians best deserve the name
Who studiously make peace their aim;
Peace both the duty and the prize
Of him that creeps and him that flies.
   

_____

   


   

by Edmund Hamilton Sears (1810-1876)
   

It Came upon the Midnight Clear
   

It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, good will to men
From heaven’s all-gracious King”–
The world in solemn stillness lay
To hear the angels sing.

Still through the cloven skies they come
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel-sounds
The blessed angels sing.

But with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;–
Oh, hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing!

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing;–
Oh, rest beside the weary road
And hear the angels sing!

For lo! the days are hastening on
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever circling years
Comes round the age of gold;
When Peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
   


   

_____

   

by Louise Driscoll (1875-1957)
   

The Highway
   

All day long on the highway
The King’s fleet couriers ride;
You may hear the tread of their horses sped
Over the country side.
They ride for life and they ride for death
And they override who tarrieth.
With show of color and flush of pride
They stir the dust on the highway.

Let them ride on the highway wide.
Love walks in little paths aside.

All day long on the highway
Is a tramp of an army’s feet;
You may see them go in a marshaled row
With the tale of their arms complete:
They march for war and they march for peace,
For the lust of gold and fame’s increase,

For victories sadder than defeat
They raise the dust on the highway.

All the armies of earth defied,
Love dwells in little paths aside.

All day long on the highway
Rushes an eager band,
With straining eyes for a worthless prize
That slips from the grasp like sand.
And men leave blood where their feet have stood
And bow them down unto brass and wood–
Idols fashioned by their own hand–
Blind in the dust of the highway.

Power and gold and fame denied,
Love laughs glad in the paths aside.

   

_____

   


   

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae (1872-1918)
   

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
   


   


   

_____

September 3, 2006

The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time

_______

   

Below are the Top 20 poems by Australian poet Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson (Barty to his friends, by the way), who lived from 1864 into 1941. They are arranged from number 20 down to number 1, placed in order by my preference after reading the 222 Paterson poems found on the web. The poems are ordered this way, for one so that a reader being introduced to his poetry, will read his excellent work, and want to read more as the poems get ever better.

Paterson is a rather fun poet in his approach to his subject matter and language. Yet, he does not shy away from serious and the most grim subjects. They seem to be the main ingredient of what made him a writer. On the other hand, he apparently poured a cup of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow into his recipe, and has what New Englanders may find as a Robert Frost flavor, in the way he introduces the reader to his environment, but also by his rhyming and some meter–and note the unspoken end of his 1902 “The Road to Gundagai” (#4 below) as the road he will travel. Yet, he may be more similar to another New England writer, Jack Kerouac, in that both clearly saw a road less travelled to communicate, both had a restlessness and fearlessness against the status quo, and an urgency to drive both culture and society.

After the top poem, comes the song lyric Waltzing Matilda (Carrying a Swag), with its own webography. Who cannot love that song. Be sure to click into the links, including a couple renditions of the song.

As you read through the 20 poems, when a title to one is hyperlinked, it is because I found a discussion, essay, or other relevant work online that relates to Paterson’s poem.

Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson links:

Wikipedia: Banjo Paterson

The University of Queensland, Australia: The Works of Banjo Paterson

Middlemiss: Australian Authors: A. B. (“Banjo”) Paterson (1864-1941)

Project Gutenberg: Paterson, A. B. (Andrew Barton), 1864-1941

Whitewolf: Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

Australian Dictionary of Biography: Paterson, Andrew Barton (Banjo) (1864-1941)

Google search A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

Blog search A.B. “Banjo” Paterson
   

_______

   

The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time

   

_______

   


   

#20

   

from The Bulletin, April 8, 1893
   

        Behind the Scenes
   

The actor struts his little hour,
Between the limelight and the band;
The public feel the actor’s power,
Yet nothing do they understand

Of all the touches here and there
That make or mar the actor’s part,
They never see, beneath the glare,
The artist striving after art.

To them it seems a labour slight
Where nought of study intervenes;
You see it in another light
When once you’ve been behind the scenes.

For though the actor at his best
Is, like a poet, born not made,
He still must study with a zest
And practise hard to learn his trade.

So, whether on the actor’s form
The stately robes of Hamlet sit,
Or as Macbeth he rave and storm,
Or plays burlesque to please the pit,

‘Tis each and all a work of art,
That constant care and practice means–
The actor who creates a part
Has done his work behind the scenes.
   

_______

   

#19

   

from Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        On the Trek
   

Oh, the weary, weary journey on the trek, day after day,
    With sun above and silent veldt below;
And our hearts keep turning homeward to the youngsters far away,
    And the homestead where the climbing roses grow.
Shall we see the flats grow golden with the ripening of the grain?
    Shall we hear the parrots calling on the bough?
Ah! the weary months of marching ere we hear them call again,
    For we’re going on a long job now.

In the drowsy days on escort, riding slowly half asleep,
    With the endless line of waggons stretching back,
While the khaki soldiers travel like a mob of travelling sheep,
    Plodding silent on the never-ending track,
While the constant snap and sniping of the foe you never see
    Makes you wonder will your turn come–when and how?
As the Mauser ball hums past you like a vicious kind of bee–
    Oh! we’re going on a long job now.

When the dash and the excitement and the novelty are dead,
    And you’ve seen a load of wounded once or twice,
Or you’ve watched your old mate dying–with the vultures overhead,
    Well, you wonder if the war is worth the price.
And down along Monaro now they’re starting out to shear,
    I can picture the excitement and the row;
But they’ll miss me on the Lachlan when they call the roll this year,
    For we’re going on a long job now.
   

_______

   

#18

   

from The Australasian Pastoralists’ Review, September 15, 1896,
&
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        With the Cattle
   

The drought is down on field and flock,
    The river-bed is dry;
And we must shift the starving stock
    Before the cattle die.
We muster up with weary hearts
    At breaking of the day,
And turn our heads to foreign parts,
    To take the stock away.
            And it’s hunt ’em up and dog ’em,
            And it’s get the whip and flog ’em,
For it’s weary work is droving when they’re dying every day;
            By stock-routes bare and eaten,
            On dusty roads and beaten,
With half a chance to save their lives we take the stock away.

We cannot use the whip for shame
    On beasts that crawl along;
We have to drop the weak and lame,
    And try to save the strong;
The wrath of God is on the track,
    The drought fiend holds his sway,
With blows and cries and stockwhip crack
    We take the stock away.
            As they fall we leave them lying,
            With the crows to watch them dying,
Grim sextons of the Overland that fasten on their prey;
            By the fiery dust-storm drifting,
            And the mocking mirage shifting,
In heat and drought and hopeless pain we take the stock away.

In dull despair the days go by
    With never hope of change,
But every stage we draw more nigh
    Towards the mountain range;
And some may live to climb the pass,
    And reach the great plateau,
And revel in the mountain grass,
    By streamlets fed with snow.
            As the mountain wind is blowing
            It starts the cattle lowing,
And calling to each other down the dusty long array;
            And there speaks a grizzled drover:
            ‘Well, thank God, the worst is over,
The creatures smell the mountain grass that’s twenty miles away.’

They press towards the mountain grass,
    They look with eager eyes
Along the rugged stony pass,
    That slopes towards the skies;
Their feet may bleed from rocks and stones,
    But though the blood-drop starts,
They struggle on with stifled groans,
    For hope is in their hearts.
            And the cattle that are leading,
            Though their feet are worn and bleeding,
Are breaking to a kind of run–pull up, and let them go!
            For the mountain wind is blowing,
            And the mountain grass is growing,
They settle down by running streams ice-cold with melted snow.

              .            .            .            .            .

The days are done of heat and drought
    Upon the stricken plain;
The wind has shifted right about,
    And brought the welcome rain;
The river runs with sullen roar,
    All flecked with yellow foam,
And we must take the road once more,
    To bring the cattle home.
            And it’s ‘Lads! we’ll raise a chorus,
            There’s a pleasant trip before us.’
And the horses bound beneath us as we start them down the track;
            And the drovers canter, singing,
            Through the sweet green grasses springing,
Towards the far-off mountain-land, to bring the cattle back.

Are these the beasts we brought away
    That move so lively now?
They scatter off like flying spray
    Across the mountain’s brow;
And dashing down the rugged range
    We hear the stockwhip crack,
Good faith, it is a welcome change
    To bring such cattle back.
            And it’s ‘Steady down the lead there!’
            And it’s ‘Let ’em stop and feed there!’
For they’re wild as mountain eagles and their sides are all afoam;
            But they’re settling down already,
            And they’ll travel nice and steady,
With cheery call and jest and song we fetch the cattle home.

We have to watch them close at night
    For fear they’ll make a rush,
And break away in headlong flight
    Across the open bush;
And by the camp-fire’s cheery blaze,
    With mellow voice and strong,
We hear the lonely watchman raise
    The Overlander’s song:
            ‘Oh! it’s when we’re done with roving,
            With the camping and the droving,
It’s homeward down the Bland we’ll go, and never more we’ll roam;’
            While the stars shine out above us,
            Like the eyes of those who love us–
The eyes of those who watch and wait to greet the cattle home.

The plains are all awave with grass,
    The skies are deepest blue;
And leisurely the cattle pass
    And feed the long day through;
But when we sight the station gate,
    We make the stockwhips crack,
A welcome sound to those who wait
    To greet the cattle back:
            And through the twilight falling
            We hear their voices calling,
As the cattle splash across the ford and churn it into foam;
            And the children run to meet us,
            And our wives and sweethearts greet us,
Their heroes from the Overland who brought the cattle home.
   

_______

   

#17

   

from The Bulletin, May 19, 1900
&
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        There’s Another Blessed Horse Fell Down
   

When you’re lying in your hammock, sleeping soft and sleeping sound,
    Without a care or trouble on your mind,
And there’s nothing to disturb you but the engines going round,
    And you’re dreaming of the girl you left behind;
In the middle of your joys you’ll be wakened by a noise,
    And a clatter on the deck above your crown,
And you’ll hear the corporal shout as he turns the picket out,
    ‘There’s another blessed horse fell down.’

You can see ’em in the morning, when you’re cleaning out the stall,
    A-leaning on the railings nearly dead,
And you reckon by the evening they’ll be pretty sure to fall,
    And you curse them as you tumble into bed.
Oh, you’ll hear it pretty soon, ‘Pass the word for Denny Moon,
    There’s a horse here throwing handsprings like a clown;
And it’s ‘Shove the others back or he’ll cripple half the pack,
    There’s another blessed horse fell down.’

And when the war is over and the fighting all is done,
    And you’re all at home with medals on your chest,
And you’ve learnt to sleep so soundly that the firing of a gun
    At your bedside wouldn’t rob you of your rest;
As you lie in slumber deep, if your wife walks in her sleep,
    And tumbles down the stairs and breaks her crown,
Oh, it won’t awaken you, for you’ll say, ‘It’s nothing new,
    It’s another blessed horse fell down.’
   

_______

   

#16

   

from The Bulletin, January 26, 1895
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Johnson’s Antidote
   

Down along the Snakebite River, where the overlanders camp,
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp;
Where the station-cook in terror, nearly every time he bakes,
Mixes up among the doughboys half-a-dozen poison-snakes:
Where the wily free-selector walks in armour-plated pants,
And defies the stings of scorpions, and the bites of bull-dog ants:
Where the adder and the viper tear each other by the throat,
There it was that William Johnson sought his snake-bite antidote.

Johnson was a free-selector, and his brain went rather queer,
For the constant sight of serpents filled him with a deadly fear;
So he tramped his free-selection, morning, afternoon, and night,
Seeking for some great specific that would cure the serpent’s bite.
Till King Billy, of the Mooki, chieftain of the flour-bag head,
Told him, ‘Spos’n snake bite pfeller, pfeller mostly drop down dead;
Spos’n snake bite old goanna, then you watch a while you see,
Old goanna cure himself with eating little pfeller tree.’
‘That’s the cure,’ said William Johnson, ‘point me out this plant sublime,’
But King Billy, feeling lazy, said he’d go another time.
Thus it came to pass that Johnson, having got the tale by rote,
Followed every stray goanna, seeking for the antidote.

              .            .            .            .            .

Loafing once beside the river, while he thought his heart would break,
There he saw a big goanna fighting with a tiger-snake,
In and out they rolled and wriggled, bit each other, heart and soul,
Till the valiant old goanna swallowed his opponent whole.
Breathless, Johnson sat and watched him, saw him struggle up the bank,
Saw him nibbling at the branches of some bushes, green and rank;
Saw him, happy and contented, lick his lips, as off he crept,
While the bulging in his stomach showed where his opponent slept.
Then a cheer of exultation burst aloud from Johnson’s throat;
‘Luck at last,’ said he, ‘I’ve struck it! ’tis the famous antidote.’

‘Here it is, the Grand Elixir, greatest blessing ever known,
Twenty thousand men in India die each year of snakes alone.
Think of all the foreign nations, negro, chow, and blackamoor,
Saved from sudden expiration, by my wondrous snakebite cure.
It will bring me fame and fortune!      In the happy days to be,
Men of every clime and nation will be round to gaze on me–
Scientific men in thousands, men of mark and men of note,
Rushing down the Mooki River, after Johnson’s antidote.
It will cure Delirium Tremens, when the patient’s eyeballs stare
At imaginary spiders, snakes which really are not there.
When he thinks he sees them wriggle, when he thinks he sees them bloat,
It will cure him just to think of Johnson’s Snakebite Antidote.’

Then he rushed to the museum, found a scientific man–
‘Trot me out a deadly serpent, just the deadliest you can;
I intend to let him bite me, all the risk I will endure,
Just to prove the sterling value of my wondrous snakebite cure.
Even though an adder bit me, back to life again I’d float;
Snakes are out of date, I tell you, since I’ve found the antidote.’

Said the scientific person, ‘If you really want to die,
Go ahead–but, if you’re doubtful, let your sheep-dog have a try.
Get a pair of dogs and try it, let the snake give both a nip;
Give your dog the snakebite mixture, let the other fellow rip;
If he dies and yours survives him, then it proves the thing is good.
Will you fetch your dog and try it?’      Johnson rather thought he would.
So he went and fetched his canine, hauled him forward by the throat.
‘Stump, old man,’ says he, ‘we’ll show them we’ve the genwine antidote.’

Both the dogs were duly loaded with the poison-gland’s contents;
Johnson gave his dog the mixture, then sat down to wait events.
‘Mark,’ he said, ‘in twenty minutes Stump’ll be a-rushing round,
While the other wretched creature lies a corpse upon the ground.’
But, alas for William Johnson! ere they’d watched a half-hour’s spell
Stumpy was as dead as mutton, t’other dog was live and well.
And the scientific person hurried off with utmost speed,
Tested Johnson’s drug and found it was a deadly poison-weed;
Half a tumbler killed an emu, half a spoonful killed a goat,
All the snakes on earth were harmless to that awful antidote.

              .            .            .            .            .

Down along the Mooki River, on the overlanders’ camp,
Where the serpents are in millions, all of the most deadly stamp,
Wanders, daily, William Johnson, down among those poisonous hordes,
Shooting every stray goanna, calls them ‘black and yaller frauds’.
And King Billy, of the Mooki, cadging for the cast-off coat,
Somehow seems to dodge the subject of the snake-bite antidote.
   

_______

   

#15

   

from The Sydney Mail, December 24, 1900
&
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        Santa Claus
   

Halt!      Who goes there?      The sentry’s call
Rose on the midnight air
Above the noises of the camp,
The roll of wheels, the horses’ tramp.
The challenge echoed over all–
Halt!      Who goes there?

A quaint old figure clothed in white,
He bore a staff of pine,
An ivy-wreath was on his head.
‘Advance, oh friend,’ the sentry said,
Advance, for this is Christmas night,
And give the countersign.’

‘No sign nor countersign have I,
Through many lands I roam
The whole world over far and wide,
To exiles all at Christmastide,
From those who love them tenderly
I bring a thought of home.

‘From English brook and Scottish burn,
From cold Canadian snows,
From those far lands ye hold most dear
I bring you all a greeting here,
A frond of a New Zealand fern,
A bloom of English rose.

‘From faithful wife and loving lass
I bring a wish divine,
For Christmas blessings on your head.’
‘I wish you well,’ the sentry said,
But here, alas! you may not pass
Without the countersign.’

He vanished–and the sentry’s tramp
Re-echoed down the line.
It was not till the morning light
The soldiers knew that in the night
Old Santa Claus had come to camp
Without the countersign.
   

_______

   

#14

   

from The Bulletin, September 21, 1889
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        How M’Ginnis Went Missing
   

Let us cease our idle chatter,
    Let the tears bedew our cheek,
For a man from Tallangatta
    Has been missing for a week.

Where the roaring flooded Murray
    Covered all the lower land,
There he started in a hurry,
    With a bottle in his hand.

And his fate is hid for ever,
    But the public seem to think
That he slumbered by the river,
    ‘Neath the influence of drink.

And they scarcely seem to wonder
    That the river, wide and deep,
Never woke him with its thunder,
    Never stirred him in his sleep.

As the crashing logs came sweeping,
    And their tumult filled the air,
Then M’Ginnis murmured, sleeping,
    ”Tis a wake in ould Kildare.’

So the river rose and found him
    Sleeping softly by the stream,
And the cruel waters drowned him
    Ere he wakened from his dream.

And the blossom-tufted wattle,
    Blooming brightly on the lea,
Saw M’Ginnis and the bottle
    Going drifting out to sea.

_______

   


   

#13

   

The N.S.W. Bookstall Co. Souvenir, 1901,
& from
Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        Song of the Federation
   

As the nations sat together, grimly waiting–
    The fierce old nations battle-scarred–
Grown grey in their lusting and their hating,
    Ever armed and ever ready keeping guard,
Through the tumult of their warlike preparation
    And the half-stilled clamour of the drums
Came a voice crying, ‘Lo! a new-made nation,
    To her place in the sisterhood she comes!’

And she came–she was beautiful as morning,
    With the bloom of the roses in her mouth,
Like a young queen lavishly adorning
    Her charms with the splendours of the South.
And the fierce old nations, looking on her,
    Said, ‘Nay, surely she were quickly overthrown,
Hath she strength for the burden laid upon her,
    Hath she power to protect and guard her own?

Then she spoke, and her voice was clear and ringing
    In the ears of the nations old and gray,
Saying, ‘Hark, and ye shall hear my children singing
    Their war-song in countries far away.
They are strangers to the tumult of the battle,
    They are few but their hearts are very strong,
‘Twas but yesterday they called unto the cattle,
    But they now sing Australia’s marching song.’
   

                        Song of the Australians in Action

              For the honour of Australia, our mother,
                Side by side with our kin from over sea,
              We have fought and we have tested one another,
                And enrolled among the brotherhood are we.

              There was never post of danger but we sought it
                In the fighting, through the fire, and through the flood.
              There was never prize so costly but we bought it,
                Though we paid for its purchase with our blood.

              Was there any road too rough for us to travel?
                Was there any path too far for us to tread?
              You can track us by the blood drops on the gravel
                On the roads that we milestoned with our dead!

              And for you, oh our young and anxious mother,
                O’er your great gains keeping watch and ward,
              Neither fearing nor despising any other,
                We will hold your possessions with the sword.

                            .            .            .            .            .

Then they passed to the place of world-long sleeping,
    The grey-clad figures with their dead,
To the sound of their women softly weeping
    And the Dead March moaning at their head:
And the Nations, as the grim procession ended,
    Whispered, ‘Child!      But ye have seen the price we pay,
From War may we ever be defended,
    Kneel ye down, new-made Sister–Let us Pray!’
   

_______

   

#12

   

from The Sydney Mail, February 26, 1887
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Over the Range
   

Little bush maiden, wondering-eyed,
    Playing alone in the creek-bed dry,
In the small green flat on every side
    Walled in by the Moonbi ranges high;
Tell us the tale of your lonely life,
    ‘Mid the great grey forests that know no change.
‘I never have left my home,’ she said,
    ‘I have never been over the Moonbi Range.

‘Father and mother are both long dead,
    And I live with granny in yon wee place.’
‘Where are your father and mother?’ we said.
    She puzzled awhile with thoughtful face,
Then a light came into the shy brown eye,
    And she smiled, for she thought the question strange
On a thing so certain–‘When people die
    They go to the country over the range.’

‘And what is this country like, my lass?’
    ‘There are blossoming trees and pretty flowers,
And shining creeks where the golden grass
    Is fresh and sweet from the summer showers.
They never need work, nor want, nor weep;
    No troubles can come their hearts to estrange.
Some summer night I shall fall asleep,
    And wake in the country over the range.’

Child, you are wise in your simple trust,
    For the wisest man knows no more than you
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust:
    Our views by a range are bounded too;
But we know that God hath this gift in store,
    That when we come to the final change,
We shall meet with our loved ones gone before
    To the beautiful country over the range.
   

_______

   


   

#11

   

from The Animals Noah Forgot, 1933
   

        Old Man Platypus
   

Far from the trouble and toil of town,
Where the reed beds sweep and shiver,
Look at a fragment of velvet brown–
Old Man Platypus drifting down,
Drifting along the river.

And he plays and dives in the river bends
In a style that is most elusive;
With few relations and fewer friends,
For Old Man Platypus descends
From a family most exclusive.

He shares his burrow beneath the bank
With his wife and his son and daughter
At the roots of the reeds and the grasses rank;
And the bubbles show where our hero sank
To its entrance under water.

Safe in their burrow below the falls
They live in a world of wonder,
Where no one visits and no one calls,
They sleep like little brown billiard balls
With their beaks tucked neatly under.

And he talks in a deep unfriendly growl
As he goes on his journey lonely;
For he’s no relation to fish nor fowl,
Nor to bird nor beast, nor to horned owl;
In fact, he’s the one and only!
   

_______

   


   

#10

   

Open letter to the troops, 1915
   

        “We’re All Australians Now”
   

Australia takes her pen in hand
To write a line to you,
To let you fellows understand
How proud we are of you.

From shearing shed and cattle run,
From Broome to Hobson’s Bay,
Each native-born Australian son
Stands straighter up today.

The man who used to “hump his drum”,
On far-out Queensland runs
Is fighting side by side with some
Tasmanian farmer’s sons.

The fisher-boys dropped sail and oar
To grimly stand the test,
Along that storm-swept Turkish shore,
With miners from the west.

The old state jealousies of yore
Are dead as Pharaoh’s sow,
We’re not State children any more–
We’re all Australians now!

Our six-starred flag that used to fly
Half-shyly to the breeze,
Unknown where older nations ply
Their trade on foreign seas,

Flies out to meet the morning blue
With Vict’ry at the prow;
For that’s the flag the Sydney flew,
The wide seas know it now!

The mettle that a race can show
Is proved with shot and steel,
And now we know what nations know
And feel what nations feel.

The honoured graves beneath the crest
Of Gaba Tepe hill
May hold our bravest and our best,
But we have brave men still.

With all our petty quarrels done,
Dissensions overthrown,
We have, through what you boys have done,
A history of our own.

Our old world diff’rences are dead,
Like weeds beneath the plough,
For English, Scotch, and Irish-bred,
They’re all Australians now!

So now we’ll toast the Third Brigade
That led Australia’s van,
For never shall their glory fade
In minds Australian.

Fight on, fight on, unflinchingly,
Till right and justice reign.
Fight on, fight on, till Victory
Shall send you home again.

And with Australia’s flag shall fly
A spray of wattle-bough
To symbolise our unity–
We’re all Australians now.
   

_______

   

#9

   

from The Lone Hand, August 1, 1914
&
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, 1917
   

        Sunrise on the Coast
   

Grey dawn on the sand-hills–the night wind has drifted
    All night from the rollers a scent of the sea;
With the dawn the grey fog his battalions has lifted,
    At the call of the morning they scatter and flee.

Like mariners calling the roll of their number
    The sea-fowl put out to the infinite deep.
And far over-head–sinking softly to slumber–
    Worn out by their watching, the stars fall asleep.

To eastward, where resteth the dome of the skies on
    The sea-line, stirs softly the curtain of night;
And far from behind the enshrouded horizon
    Comes the voice of a God saying “Let there be light.”

And lo, there is light!      Evanescent and tender,
    It glows ruby-red where ’twas now ashen-grey;
And purple and scarlet and gold in its splendour–
    Behold, ’tis that marvel, the birth of a day!
   

_______

   

#8

   

from The Kia-Ora Cooee, May 1918
   

        Moving On
   

In this war we’re always moving,
Moving on;
When we make a friend another friend has gone;
Should a woman’s kindly face
Make us welcome for a space,
Then it’s boot and saddle, boys, we’re
Moving on.

In the hospitals they’re moving,
Moving on;
They’re here today, tomorrow they are gone;
When the bravest and the best
Of the boys you know “go west”,
Then you’re choking down your tears and
Moving on.
   

_______

   

#7

   

from The Bulletin, 26 February 1887
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

‘Richard Bennison, a jockey, aged 14, while riding William Tell in his training, was thrown and killed. The horse is luckily uninjured.’
        –Melbourne Wire.

   

        Only a Jockey
   

Out in the grey cheerless chill of the morning light,
    Out on the track where the night shades still lurk;
Ere the first gleam of the sungod’s returning light,
    Round come the race-horses early at work.

Reefing and pulling and racing so readily,
    Close sit the jockey-boys holding them hard,
‘Steady the stallion there–canter him steadily,
    Don’t let him gallop so much as a yard.’

Fiercely he fights while the others run wide of him,
    Reefs at the bit that would hold him in thrall,
Plunges and bucks till the boy that’s astride of him
    Goes to the ground with a terrible fall.

‘Stop him there!      Block him there!      Drive him in carefully,
    Lead him about till he’s quiet and cool.
Sound as a bell! though he’s blown himself fearfully,
    Now let us pick up this poor little fool.

‘Stunned?      Oh, by Jove, I’m afraid it’s a case with him;
    Ride for the doctor! keep bathing his head!
Send for a cart to go down to our place with him’–
    No use!      One long sigh and the little chap’s dead.

Only a jockey-boy, foul-mouthed and bad you see,
    Ignorant, heathenish, gone to his rest.
Parson or Presbyter, Pharisee, Sadducee,
    What did you do for him?–bad was the best.

Negroes and foreigners, all have a claim on you;
    Yearly you send your well-advertised hoard,
But the poor jockey-boy–shame on you, shame on you,
    ‘Feed ye, my little ones’–what said the Lord?

Him ye held less than the outer barbarian,
    Left him to die in his ignorant sin;
Have you no principles, humanitarian?
    Have you no precept–‘go gather them in?’

              .            .            .            .            .

Knew he God’s name?      In his brutal profanity,
    That name was an oath–out of many but one–
What did he get from our famed Christianity?
    Where has his soul–if he had any–gone?

Fourteen years old, and what was he taught of it?
    What did he know of God’s infinite grace?
Draw the dark curtain of shame o’er the thought of it,
    Draw the shroud over the jockey-boy’s face.

_______

   


   

#6

   

from The Bulletin, January 13, 1894
&
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, 1917
   

Brumby is the Aboriginal word for a wild horse.      At a recent trial a N.S.W. Supreme Court Judge, hearing of Brumby horses, asked: “Who is Brumby, and where is his Run?”
   

        Brumby’s Run
   

It lies beyond the Western Pines
    Towards the sinking sun,
And not a survey mark defines
    The bounds of “Brumby’s Run”.

On odds and ends of mountain land,
    On tracks of range and rock
Where no one else can make a stand,
    Old Brumby rears his stock.

A wild, unhandled lot they are
    Of every shape and breed.
They venture out ‘neath moon and star
    Along the flats to feed;

But when the dawn makes pink the sky
    And steals along the plain,
The Brumby horses turn and fly
    Towards the hills again.

The traveller by the mountain-track
    May hear their hoof-beats pass,
And catch a glimpse of brown and black
    Dim shadows on the grass.

The eager stockhorse pricks his ears
    And lifts his head on high
In wild excitement when he hears
    The Brumby mob go by.

Old Brumby asks no price or fee
    O’er all his wide domains:
The man who yards his stock is free
    To keep them for his pains.

So, off to scour the mountain-side
    With eager eyes aglow,
To strongholds where the wild mobs hide
    The gully-rakers go.

A rush of horses through the trees,
    A red shirt making play;
A sound of stockwhips on the breeze,
    They vanish far away!

              .            .            .            .            .

Ah, me! before our day is done
    We long with bitter pain
To ride once more on Brumby’s Run
    And yard his mob again.
   

_______

   


   

#5

   

from The Sydney Mail, July 22, 1893
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Black Swans
   

As I lie at rest on a patch of clover
In the Western Park when the day is done,
I watch as the wild black swans fly over
With their phalanx turned to the sinking sun;
And I hear the clang of their leader crying
To a lagging mate in the rearward flying,
And they fade away in the darkness dying,
Where the stars are mustering one by one.

Oh! ye wild black swans, ’twere a world of wonder
For a while to join in your westward flight,
With the stars above and the dim earth under,
Through the cooling air of the glorious night.
As we swept along on our pinions winging,
We should catch the chime of a church-bell ringing,
Or the distant note of a torrent singing,
Or the far-off flash of a station light.

From the northern lakes with the reeds and rushes,
Where the hills are clothed with a purple haze,
Where the bell-birds chime and the songs of thrushes
Make music sweet in the jungle maze,
They will hold their course to the westward ever,
Till they reach the banks of the old grey river,
Where the waters wash, and the reed-beds quiver
In the burning heat of the summer days.

Oh! ye strange wild birds, will ye bear a greeting
To the folk that live in that western land?
Then for every sweep of your pinions beating,
Ye shall bear a wish to the sunburnt band,
To the stalwart men who are stoutly fighting
With the heat and drought and the dust-storm smiting,
Yet whose life somehow has a strange inviting,
When once to the work they have put their hand.

Facing it yet!      Oh, my friend stout-hearted,
What does it matter for rain or shine,
For the hopes deferred and the gain departed?
Nothing could conquer that heart of thine.
And thy health and strength are beyond confessing
As the only joys that are worth possessing.
May the days to come be as rich in blessing
As the days we spent in the auld lang syne.

I would fain go back to the old grey river,
To the old bush days when our hearts were light,
But, alas! those days they have fled for ever,
They are like the swans that have swept from sight.
And I know full well that the strangers’ faces
Would meet us now in our dearest places;
For our day is dead and has left no traces
But the thoughts that live in my mind to-night.

There are folk long dead, and our hearts would sicken–
We would grieve for them with a bitter pain,
If the past could live and the dead could quicken,
We then might turn to that life again.
But on lonely nights we would hear them calling,
We should hear their steps on the pathways falling,
We should loathe the life with a hate appalling
In our lonely rides by the ridge and plain.

              .            .            .            .            .

In the silent park is a scent of clover,
And the distant roar of the town is dead,
And I hear once more as the swans fly over
Their far-off clamour from overhead.
They are flying west, by their instinct guided,
And for man likewise is his fate decided,
And griefs apportioned and joys divided
By a mighty power with a purpose dread.
   

_______

   

#4

   

from Rio Grande’s Last Race and Other Verses, 1902
   

        The Road to Gundagai
   

The mountain road goes up and down,
From Gundagai to Tumut Town.

And branching off there runs a track,
Across the foothills grim and black,

Across the plains and ranges grey
To Sydney city far away.

              .            .            .            .            .

It came by chance one day that I
From Tumut rode to Gundagai.

And reached about the evening tide
The crossing where the roads divide;

And, waiting at the crossing place,
I saw a maiden fair of face,

With eyes of deepest violet blue,
And cheeks to match the rose in hue–

The fairest maids Australia knows
Are bred among the mountain snows.

Then, fearing I might go astray,
I asked if she could show the way.

Her voice might well a man bewitch–
Its tones so supple, deep, and rich.

‘The tracks are clear,’ she made reply,
‘And this goes down to Sydney town,
And that one goes to Gundagai.’

Then slowly, looking coyly back,
She went along the Sydney track.

And I for one was well content
To go the road the lady went;

But round the turn a swain she met–
The kiss she gave him haunts me yet!

              .            .            .            .            .

I turned and travelled with a sigh
The lonely road to Gundagai.
   

_______

   

#3

   

from The Sydney Mail, March 19, 1887
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Lost
   

‘He ought to be home,’ said the old man, ‘without there’s something amiss.
He only went to the Two-mile–he ought to be back by this.
He would ride the Reckless filly, he would have his wilful way;
And, here, he’s not back at sundown–and what will his mother say?

‘He was always his mother’s idol, since ever his father died;
And there isn’t a horse on the station that he isn’t game to ride.
But that Reckless mare is vicious, and if once she gets away
He hasn’t got strength to hold her–and what will his mother say?’

The old man walked to the sliprail, and peered up the dark’ning track,
And looked and longed for the rider that would never more come back;
And the mother came and clutched him, with sudden, spasmodic fright:
‘What has become of my Willie?–why isn’t he home to-night?’

Away in the gloomy ranges, at the foot of an ironbark,
The bonnie, winsome laddie was lying stiff and stark;
For the Reckless mare had smashed him against a leaning limb,
And his comely face was battered, and his merry eyes were dim.

And the thoroughbred chestnut filly, the saddle beneath her flanks,
Was away like fire through the ranges to join the wild mob’s ranks;
And a broken-hearted woman and an old man worn and grey
Were searching all night in the ranges till the sunrise brought the day.

And the mother kept feebly calling, with a hope that would not die,
‘Willie! where are you, Willie?’      But how can the dead reply;
And hope died out with the daylight, and the darkness brought despair,
God pity the stricken mother, and answer the widow’s prayer!

Though far and wide they sought him, they found not where he fell;
For the ranges held him precious, and guarded their treasure well.
The wattle blooms above him, and the blue bells blow close by,
And the brown bees buzz the secret, and the wild birds sing reply.

But the mother pined and faded, and cried, and took no rest,
And rode each day to the ranges on her hopeless, weary quest.
Seeking her loved one ever, she faded and pined away,
But with strength of her great affection she still sought every day.

‘I know that sooner or later I shall find my boy,’ she said.
But she came not home one evening, and they found her lying dead,
And stamped on the poor pale features, as the spirit homeward pass’d,
Was an angel smile of gladness–she had found the boy at last.
   

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#2

   

from The Bulletin, December 21, 1889
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        Clancy of the Overflow
   

I had written him a letter which I had, for want of better
    Knowledge, sent to where I met him down the Lachlan, years ago,
He was shearing when I knew him, so I sent the letter to him,
    Just ‘on spec’, addressed as follows, ‘Clancy, of The Overflow’.

And an answer came directed in a writing unexpected,
    (And I think the same was written with a thumb-nail dipped in tar)
‘Twas his shearing mate who wrote it, and verbatim I will quote it:
    ‘Clancy’s gone to Queensland droving, and we don’t know where he are.’

              .            .            .            .            .

In my wild erratic fancy visions come to me of Clancy
    Gone a-droving ‘down the Cooper’ where the Western drovers go;
As the stock are slowly stringing, Clancy rides behind them singing,
    For the drover’s life has pleasures that the townsfolk never know.

And the bush hath friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him
    In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended,
    And at night the wond’rous glory of the everlasting stars.

              .            .            .            .            .

I am sitting in my dingy little office, where a stingy
    Ray of sunlight struggles feebly down between the houses tall,
And the foetid air and gritty of the dusty, dirty city
    Through the open window floating, spreads its foulness over all

And in place of lowing cattle, I can hear the fiendish rattle
    Of the tramways and the ‘buses making hurry down the street,
And the language uninviting of the gutter children fighting,
    Comes fitfully and faintly through the ceaseless tramp of feet.

And the hurrying people daunt me, and their pallid faces haunt me
    As they shoulder one another in their rush and nervous haste,
With their eager eyes and greedy, and their stunted forms and weedy,
    For townsfolk have no time to grow, they have no time to waste.

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
    Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal–
    But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of ‘The Overflow’.
   

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#1

   

from The Bulletin, April 26, 1890,
&
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses, October 20, 1895
   

        The Man from Snowy River
   

There was movement at the station, for the word had passed around
    That the colt from old Regret had got away,
And had joined the wild bush horses–he was worth a thousand pound,
    So all the cracks had gathered to the fray.
All the tried and noted riders from the stations near and far
    Had mustered at the homestead overnight,
For the bushmen love hard riding where the wild bush horses are,
    And the stock-horse snuffs the battle with delight.

There was Harrison, who made his pile when Pardon won the cup,
    The old man with his hair as white as snow;
But few could ride beside him when his blood was fairly up–
    He would go wherever horse and man could go.
And Clancy of the Overflow came down to lend a hand,
    No better horseman ever held the reins;
For never horse could throw him while the saddle-girths would stand,
    He learnt to ride while droving on the plains.

And one was there, a stripling on a small and weedy beast,
    He was something like a racehorse undersized,
With a touch of Timor pony–three parts thoroughbred at least–
    And such as are by mountain horsemen prized.
He was hard and tough and wiry–just the sort that won’t say die–
    There was courage in his quick impatient tread;
And he bore the badge of gameness in his bright and fiery eye,
    And the proud and lofty carriage of his head.

But still so slight and weedy, one would doubt his power to stay,
    And the old man said, ‘That horse will never do
For a long and tiring gallop–lad, you’d better stop away,
    Those hills are far too rough for such as you.’
So he waited sad and wistful–only Clancy stood his friend–
    ‘I think we ought to let him come,’ he said;
‘I warrant he’ll be with us when he’s wanted at the end,
    For both his horse and he are mountain bred.

‘He hails from Snowy River, up by Kosciusko’s side,
    Where the hills are twice as steep and twice as rough,
Where a horse’s hoofs strike firelight from the flint stones every stride,
    The man that holds his own is good enough.
And the Snowy River riders on the mountains make their home,
    Where the river runs those giant hills between;
I have seen full many horsemen since I first commenced to roam,
    But nowhere yet such horsemen have I seen.’

So he went–they found the horses by the big mimosa clump–
    They raced away towards the mountain’s brow,
And the old man gave his orders, ‘Boys, go at them from the jump,
    No use to try for fancy riding now.
And, Clancy, you must wheel them, try and wheel them to the right.
    Ride boldly, lad, and never fear the spills,
For never yet was rider that could keep the mob in sight,
    If once they gain the shelter of those hills.’

So Clancy rode to wheel them–he was racing on the wing
    Where the best and boldest riders take their place,
And he raced his stock-horse past them, and he made the ranges ring
    With the stockwhip, as he met them face to face.
Then they halted for a moment, while he swung the dreaded lash,
    But they saw their well-loved mountain full in view,
And they charged beneath the stockwhip with a sharp and sudden dash,
    And off into the mountain scrub they flew.

Then fast the horsemen followed, where the gorges deep and black
    Resounded to the thunder of their tread,
And the stockwhips woke the echoes, and they fiercely answered back
    From cliffs and crags that beetled overhead.
And upward, ever upward, the wild horses held their way,
    Where mountain ash and kurrajong grew wide;
And the old man muttered fiercely, ‘We may bid the mob good day,
    NO man can hold them down the other side.’

When they reached the mountain’s summit, even Clancy took a pull,
    It well might make the boldest hold their breath,
The wild hop scrub grew thickly, and the hidden ground was full
    Of wombat holes, and any slip was death.
But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,
    And he swung his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,
And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,
    While the others stood and watched in very fear.

He sent the flint stones flying, but the pony kept his feet,
    He cleared the fallen timber in his stride,
And the man from Snowy River never shifted in his seat–
    It was grand to see that mountain horseman ride.
Through the stringy barks and saplings, on the rough and broken ground,
    Down the hillside at a racing pace he went;
And he never drew the bridle till he landed safe and sound,
    At the bottom of that terrible descent.

He was right among the horses as they climbed the further hill,
    And the watchers on the mountain standing mute,
Saw him ply the stockwhip fiercely, he was right among them still,
    As he raced across the clearing in pursuit.
Then they lost him for a moment, where two mountain gullies met
    In the ranges, but a final glimpse reveals
On a dim and distant hillside the wild horses racing yet,
    With the man from Snowy River at their heels.

And he ran them single-handed till their sides were white with foam.
    He followed like a bloodhound on their track,
Till they halted cowed and beaten, then he turned their heads for home,
    And alone and unassisted brought them back.
But his hardy mountain pony he could scarcely raise a trot,
    He was blood from hip to shoulder from the spur;
But his pluck was still undaunted, and his courage fiery hot,
    For never yet was mountain horse a cur.

And down by Kosciusko, where the pine-clad ridges raise
    Their torn and rugged battlements on high,
Where the air is clear as crystal, and the white stars fairly blaze
    At midnight in the cold and frosty sky,
And where around the Overflow the reedbeds sweep and sway
    To the breezes, and the rolling plains are wide,
The man from Snowy River is a household word to-day,
    And the stockmen tell the story of his ride.
   

   


   

   


   

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____________

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A song as an addendum

(Be sure to explore the links that follow)
   


   


   

Published as sheet music in 1903
& from
Saltbush Bill, J.P., and Other Verses, 1917
   

        Waltzing Matilda (Carrying a Swag)
   

Oh! there once was a swagman camped in the Billabong,
    Under the shade of a Coolabah tree;
And he sang as he looked at his old billy boiling,
    “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”

            Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda, my darling,
              Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
            Waltzing Matilda and leading a water-bag–
              Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?

Down came a jumbuck to drink at the water-hole,
    Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him in glee;
And he sang as he put him away in his tucker-bag,
    “You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me!”

Down came the Squatter a-riding his thorough-bred;
    Down came Policemen–one, two, and three.
“Whose is the jumbuck you’ve got in the tucker-bag?
    You’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me.”

But the swagman, he up and he jumped in the water-hole,
    Drowning himself by the Coolabah tree;
And his ghost may be heard as it sings in the Billabong,
    “Who’ll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?”

   

   

Christine MacPherson transcription

   

Waltzing Matilda links:

        National Library of Australia: Waltzing Matilda–the original manuscript

        National Library of Australia: Who’ll come a waltzing Matilda with me?

        Roger Clarke’s Waltzing Matilda Home-Page

        John Williamson’s rendition of the original song (ra)

        panopticist: Best “Waltzing Matilda” Ever

        Join Rolf Harris’ rendition (mp3)

        National Geographic: Australia’s Bard
   

another John Williamson rendition

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(Click for wallpaper-sized photo)

   

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