Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

June 14, 2008

Ten Thousand Thanks

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Thank you ten thousand times.

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

            Love’s Omnipresence
   

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

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

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

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

   

   

                  by William Wordsworth (1770—1850)
   

                  The Daffodils
   

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

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

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

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

   

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10000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant: Hey Jack Kerouac

   

10000 Maniacs with Mary Ramsey: More Than This

   

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June 8, 2008

Posing Aemilia Lanyer (as Shakespeare; as his Dark Lady; and as she posed)

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Aemilia Lanyer (1569-1645), was born in London to Baptista Bassano and his possibly common-law wife Margaret Johnson. At age 23, the then Aemilia Bassano married her cousin Alphonso Lanyer, supposedly after becoming pregnant by Henry Carey, Lord Hudson. She had two children, a son Henry and a daughter Odillya, who died at 10 months of age, and “many miscarriages” as well. The reported miscarriages are are brought to bear, as she is considered a candidate to be the Dark Lady, or Dark Musical Lady, in William Shakespeare’s sonnets #127-154, and thus would have been prone to affairs, and maybe have shared one with the Bard. Note that if she had an extended affair with Shakespeare, five years her senior, or even if they enjoyed discussing poetics and culture together around the court, he would have had an influence on her, and vice versa.

Aemelia Lanyer's Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum title pageIn 1611, at age 42, Lanyer became the first woman to publish a book of poetry in English, Salue Deus Rex Judaeorum, or “Hail, God, King of the Jews.” Within that book is the first known country house poem, “The Description of Cooke-ham“. It predates Ben Jonson’s “To Penshurst“, Andrew Marvell’s “Upon Appleton House, to my Lord Fairfax“, and Robert Herrick’s “A Panegyric to Sir Lewis Pemberton“. Here is Emma Jones discussing Lanyer’s poem in the essay Renaissance ‘country house’ poetry as social criticism:

Her country house poem The Description of Cooke-ham gives us an account of the residence of Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland, in the absence of Lady Clifford, who is depicted as the ideal Renaissance woman—graceful, virtuous, honourable and beautiful. Lanyer describes the house and its surroundings while Lady Margaret is present, and while she is absent. While Lady Margaret was around, the flowers and trees:

Set forth their beauties then to welcome thee!
The very hills right humbly did descend,
When you to tread upon them did intend.
And as you set your feete, they still did rise,
Glad that they could receive so rich a prise.

Lanyer also may have been Jewish. If so, this would support the contention, being proffered by John Hudson, that she wrote the works we have always attributed to Shakespeare. The idea is that Shakespeare would not have had the requisite knowledge of Jewish lore, written into the plays, that a Jewish Bassano-Lanyer would; and that she agreed to be his ghostwriter, needing the cover of a man’s identity in order to have her work published and performed. Significantly, however, if she were no more Jewish than Shakespeare, the argument that he must not have written the plays, must apply to her as well on this score.

Here is Kari Boyd McBride‘s response to that assertion from her Biography of Aemilia Lanyer:

Lanyer’s father’s family, the Bassanos, were court musicians who had come to England from Venice at the end of Henry VIII’s reign. It has been argued that they were converted Jews (Lasocki and Prior; Rowse, “Revealed at Last,” and ensuing correspondence; Greer et al., s.v. “Aemilia Lanyer”), but Ruffatti has argued persuasively that the family was Christian.

Here is Michelle Powell-Smith discussing Lanyer’s possible Jewishness and the title of her landmark book, in Aemilia Lanyer: Redeeming Women Through Faith and Poetry:

It has been suggested that she was a converted Jew, largely on the basis of the title of her work. This, however, seems unlikely. Lanyer attributed the title of Salve Deus to a dream she’d had many years before its writing and internal clues in the poem, as well as Lanyer’s circle of acquaintances, lend far more certainty to the theory that Lanyer was actually a radical protestant. Susan Bertie, the Countess of Kent, was responsible for Lanyer’s education. Bertie had multiple connections to radical protestantism, including a close relationship with Anne Lock, who translated Calvin and Taffin into English.

Powell-Smith is there referring to the section of Lanyer’s book called “To the Doubtfull Reader“, wherein she writes:

Gentle Reader, if thou desire to be resolued, why I giue this Title, Salue Deus Rex Judaeorum, know for certaine, that it was deliuered vnto me in sleepe many yeares before I had any intent to write in this maner, and was quite out of my memory vntill I had written the Passion of Christ, when immediately it came into my remembrance, what I had dreamed long before; and thinking it a significant token, that I was appointed to performe that Worke, I gaue the very same words I receiued in sleepe as the fittest Title I could deuise for this Booke.

With this background, let’s look at John Hudson’s website, dedicated in large part to the ideas that Aemilia Lanyer is both The Dark Lady of his sonnets and the “Shakespeare” who wrote them as well: Did this black Jewish woman, Amelia Bassano (the first woman to publish a book of original poetry) write Shakespeare’s plays?. Linked from that site are the following two videos, here from YouTube:

   

Who Wrote Shakespeare?: The Dark Lady Discovery

   

Amilia Bassano Lanier as Shakespeare

   

Lanyer’s book came out five years before Shakespeare died, so we need to note, that if she used his name as a cover before this, then the book she got published under her own name, Salue Deus Rex Judaeorum, would have been written in a mature “Shakespearean” style, or at least worthy of publication by a mature ghostwriter for Shakespeare. It seems obvious to me that it isn’t. Here are two of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady sonnets:
   

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by William Shakespeare
   

#127
   

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name:
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame,
For since each hand hath put on nature’s power,   
Fairing the foul with art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.
Therefore my mistress’ eyes are raven black,
Her eyes so suited, and they mourners seem,
At such who not born fair no beauty lack,
Slandering creation with a false esteem,
    Yet so they mourn becoming of their woe,
    That every tongue says beauty should look so.

   

   
#130
   

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun,
Coral is far more red, than her lips red,
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun:
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head:
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks,
And in some perfumes is there more delight,
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know,
That music hath a far more pleasing sound:
I grant I never saw a goddess go,
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
    And yet by heaven I think my love as rare,
    As any she belied with false compare.

   

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Within Lanyer’s book is the title poem, the 1840-line “Salue Deus Rex Judaeorum” written in rime royal stanzas, ababbcc. That poem contains these significant sections: The Passion of Christ; Eue’s Apologie in Defence of Women; The Teares of the Daughters of Jerusalem; and The Salutation and Sorrow of the Virgin Marie. To begin the reading of her poetry, and to note Lanyer’s style, here is part of that last section:

   

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El Greco\'s Pieta

   

(lines 1009-1056 of the poem “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum“)

by Aemilia Lanyer

from The Salutation and Sorrow of the Virgin Marie

His woefull Mother wayting on her Sonne,
All comfortlesse in depth of sorow drowned;
Her griefes extreame, although but new begun,
To see his bleeding body oft shee swouned;
How could shee choose but thinke her selfe undone,
He dying, with whose glory shee was crowned?
        None ever lost so great a losse as shee,
        Beeing Sonne, and Father of Eternitie.

Her teares did wash away his pretious blood,
That sinners might not tread it under feet
To worship him, and that it did her good
Upon her knees, although in open street,
Knowing he was the Jessie floure and bud,
That must be gath’red when it smell’d most sweet:
        Her Sonne, her Husband, Father, Saviour, King,
        Whose death killd Death, and tooke away his sting.

Most blessed Virgin, in whose faultlesse fruit,
All Nations of the earth must needes rejoyce,
No Creature having sence though ne’r so brute,
But joyes and trembles when they heare his voyce;
His wisedome strikes the wisest persons mute,
Faire chosen vessell, happy in his choyce:
        Deere Mother of our Lord, whose reverend name,
        All people Blessed call, and spread thy fame.

For the Almightie magnified thee,
And looked downe upon thy meane estate;
Thy lowly mind, and unstain’d Chastitie,
Did pleade for Love at great Jehovaes gate,
Who sending swift-wing’d Gabriel unto thee,
His holy will and pleasure to relate;
        To thee most beauteous Queene of Woman-kind,
        The Angell did unfold his Makers mind.

He thus beganne, Haile Mary full of grace,
Thou freely art beloved of the Lord,
He is with thee, behold thy happy case;
What endlesse comfort did these words afford
To thee that saw’st an Angell in the place
Proclaime thy Virtues worth, and to record
        Thee blessed among women: that thy praise
        Should last so many worlds beyond thy daies.

Loe, this high message to thy troubled spirit,
He doth deliver in the plainest sence;
Sayes, Thou shouldst beare a Sonne that shal inherit
His Father Davids throne, free from offence,
Call’s him that Holy thing, by whose pure merit
We must be sav’d, tels what he is, of whence;
        His worth, his greatnesse, what his name must be,
        Who should be call’d the Sonne of the most High.

   

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To contrast the writing style of Shakespeare with Lanyer’s, notice her usage of the verb did to emphasize the principal verb to follow, as in “did wash away” and “did pleade for love” (above), instead of “washed away” and “pleaded for love” or “pled for love”. One reason for her to do this would be to keep the iambic meter. Another might be her bilingual Mediterranean ear for language making it sound okay. In the entirety of the 1840-line poem “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum“, she uses the word did 126 times; or 6.6% of her lines contain the word did. But, she is inconsistent, as the first occurrences are in lines 216-217:

Did worke Octaviaes wrongs, and his neglects.
What fruit did yeeld that faire forbidden tree,

So, subtracting out the first 215 lines, we have 1,625 lines beginning where her writing changed; and a recalculation shows that did is used in 7.8% of those lines, every 13 lines of iambic pentameter on average. Either way, rounding off, this is 6 times Shakespeare’s usage of the word in his sonnets. In his 154 sonnets, there are 2,156 lines, and only 26 occurrences of did, 1.2% of the lines, or once every 83 lines on average. Thus Lanyer and Shakespeare are poets with different poetic ears for whatever reason.

On the idea that Lanyer is Shakespeare’s Dark Lady, here is Peter Bassano, who is descended from her uncle Anthony, discussing this possibility in his article Emilia Bassano: Shakespeare’s Mistress?:

Despite an enormous age difference Emilia became Hunsdon’s mistress until 1592 when she became pregnant, she was hurriedly married off to poor old Alphonso Lanier. The son she bore was baptised Henry after his father and grand-father. Henry Lanier also became a musician joining the Kings Musick in 1629. It would take a constitutional historian to work out the hierarchy of this hapless young man’s claim to the English throne.

Here are Shakespeare’s own words on his adulterous lover, she is identified as dark in the extreme in Sonnet 127:

In the old age black was not counted fair,
Or if it were it bore not beauty’s name;
But now is black beauty’s successive heir,
And beauty slandered with a bastard shame:

The bastard shame according with Emilia’s unfortunate position in the days of life before birth control!

Let’s look at another of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady sonnets, and note that if Bassano is correct, his very great aunt Aemilia, posing as William Shakespeare, would have been writing about herself:

   

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#144
   

Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still,
The better angel is a man right fair:
The worser spirit a woman coloured ill.
To win me soon to hell my female evil,
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil:
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turned fiend,
Suspect I may, yet not directly tell,
But being both from me both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another’s hell.
    Yet this shall I ne’er know but live in doubt,   
    Till my bad angel fire my good one out.

   

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Let’s suppose that Lanyer wrote sonnet 144 instead of Shakespeare. This would mean that instead of a reading of how Eros leads us to both comfort and despair–sometimes into the arms of an evil woman, sometimes into a dilemma-filled love triangle–we would have The Dark Musical Lady herself speaking about the social predicament of women in early 17th-century England. The line, “The worser spirit a woman coloured ill,” would refer to the idea that woman are put down, colored in a derogatory manner, that they have “foul pride.” Her male side could be that she is writing under cover of the respected Will Shakespeare: “The better angel is a man right fair”. But would roles reverse, could “my angel be turned fiend”? She cannot know this until the dark woman comes out from under the mask of the fair man, “Till my bad angel fire my good one out.”

I cannot rectify the writing styles, however, and so cannot jump on the bandwagon to announce, as Dr A.L. Rowse did to Peter Bassano, “it is she!” But I can include below her famous “Eves Apologie” that turns the tables of the “female evil” on the “man right fair” in Eden, the paradise from which, I will point out, they were both expelled or “fired out” of as a couple. We will then finish with Lanyer’s short essay To the Virtuous Reader, which is also in her book, and another section of the title poem in Salue Deus Rex Judaeorum titled “The Teares of the Daughter of Jerusalem.”

Margaret Preston\'s Adam and Eve in the Garden of EdenBut first, how do we pose Aemilia Lanyer as we suppose from our perspectives? We pose her as a radical protestant, writing her fine religious poetry, and yet much of the information we have about her comes from “the astrologer Simon Forman whom Lanyer consulted about her husband’s prospects for promotion.” Apparently she consulted an astrologer. We pose her promiscuously, as at least rubbing elbows with William Shakespeare, with some imagined outside chance that she was his Dark Musical Lady; as having many miscarriages, and marrying one man after becoming pregnant by another, and yet: “Forman [himself] tried, unsuccessfully, to seduce Lanyer.” We pose her with gossip.

The way she posed herself can be seen in the positions she took within her remarkable accomplishments, that she published the first book by a woman, and in doing so circulated a book with the specific intent of showing that women are due considerable respect. She posed herself with gospel. She interpreted the same scripture being used by society to keep women down, and made her case that quite the opposite ought truthfully be done.

Her other significant literary first is her country house poem, “The Description of Cooke-ham“, written in tribute to Margaret Clifford, Countess of Cumberland. Above we quote the five lines Emma Jones cited in her essay Renaissance ‘country house’ poetry as social criticism. Jones then goes on to say:

A far more rational explanation would be that Lady Margaret resided at Cooke-ham during the summer months, and just after she left, autumn came upon the countryside. In order to flatter Lady Margaret, Lanyer implies that the countryside is mourning her departure, but in actual fact she sees the turn of the season, which is not affected by Lady Margaret. Just as in To Penshurst the lifestyle seemed too good to be true, in A Description of Cook-ham, the Lady of the house seems to be too close to perfection to be real. Perhaps Lanyer’s poem is a satirical take on the relationship between the poet and the patron.

Here are the eight lines that follow the five Emma Jones used:

The gentle Windes did take delight to bee
Among those woods that were so grac’d by thee.
And in sad murmure vtterd pleasing sound,
That Pleasure in that place might more abound:
The swelling Bankes deliuer’d all their pride,
When such a Phoenix once they had espide.
Each Arbor, Banke, each Seate, each stately Tree,
Thought themselues honor’d in supporting thee.

She is not flattering the Countess of Cumberland. She is giving all due respect to another woman, the considerable respect that a women is Biblically due, what Jesus gave, as she says: “All which is sufficient to inforce all good Christians and honourable minded men to speake reuerently of our sexe, and especially of all virtuous and good women.”
   

–Clattery MacHinery

   

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Paul Gustave Doré\'s Adam and Eve Expelled

   

(lines 761-832 of the poem “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum“)
   

by Aemilia Lanyer
   

from Eue’s Apologie in Defence of Women
   

Till now your indiscretion sets us free,
And makes our former fault much lesse appeare;
Our Mother Eve, who tasted of the Tree,
Giving to Adam what shee held most deare,
Was simply good, and had no powre to see,
The after-comming harme did not appeare:
        The subtile Serpent that our Sex betraide,
        Before our fall so sure a plot had laide.

That undiscerning Ignorance perceav’d
No guile, or craft that was by him intended;
For had she knowne, of what we were bereav’d,
To his request she had not condiscended.
But she (poore soule) by cunning was deceav’d,
No hurt therein her harmelesse Heart intended:
        For she alleadg’d Gods word, which he denies,
        That they should die, but even as Gods, be wise.

But surely Adam can not be excusde,
Her fault though great, yet hee was most too blame;
What Weaknesse offerd, Strength might have refusde,
Being Lord of all, the greater was his shame:
Although the Serpents craft had her abusde,
Gods holy word ought all his actions frame,
        For he was Lord and King of all the earth,
        Before poore Eve had either life or breath.

Who being fram’d by Gods eternall hand,
The perfect’st man that ever breath’d on earth;
And from Gods mouth receiv’d that strait command,
The breach whereof he knew was present death:
Yea having powre to rule both Sea and Land,
Yet with one Apple wonne to loose that breath
        Which God had breathed in his beauteous face,
        Bringing us all in danger and disgrace.

And then to lay the fault on Patience backe,
That we (poore women) must endure it all;
We know right well he did discretion lacke,
Beeing not perswaded thereunto at all;
If Eve did erre, it was for knowledge sake,
The fruit beeing faire perswaded him to fall:
        No subtill Serpents falshood did betray him,
        If he would eate it, who had powre to stay him?

Not Eve, whose fault was onely too much love,
Which made her give this present to her Deare,
That what shee tasted, he likewise might prove,
Whereby his knowledge might become more cleare;
He never sought her weakenesse to reprove,
With those sharpe words, which he of God did heare:
        Yet Men will boast of Knowledge, which he tooke
        From Eves faire hand, as from a learned Booke.

If any Evill did in her remaine,
Beeing made of him, he was the ground of all;
If one of many Worlds could lay a staine
Upon our Sexe, and worke so great a fall
To wretched Man, by Satans subtill traine;
What will so fowle a fault amongst you all?
        Her weakenesse did the Serpents words obay;
        But you in malice Gods deare Sonne betray.

Whom, if unjustly you condemne to die,
Her sinne was small, to what you doe commit;
All mortall sinnes that doe for vengeance crie,
Are not to be compared unto it:
If many worlds would altogether trie,
By all their sinnes the wrath of God to get;
        This sinne of yours, surmounts them all as farre
        As doth the Sunne, another little starre.   

Then let us have our Libertie againe,
And challendge to your selves no Sov’raigntie;
You came not in the world without our paine,
Make that a barre against your crueltie;
Your fault beeing greater, why should you disdaine
Our beeing your equals, free from tyranny?
        If one weake woman simply did offend,
        This sinne of yours, hath no excuse, nor end.

   

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from the book Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum
   

by Aemilia Lanyer
   

To the Vertvovs Reader
   

Often haue I heard that it is the property of some women, not only to emulate the virtues and perfections of the rest, but also by all their powers of ill speaking, to ecclipse the brightness of their deserved fame: now contrary to this custome, which men I hope uniustly lay to their charge, I haue written this small volume, or little booke, for the generall vse of all virtuous Ladies and Gentlewomen of this kingdome; and in commendation of some particular persons of our owne sexe, such as for the most part, are so well knowne to my selfe, and others, that I dare undertake Fame dares not to call any better. And this haue I done, to make knowne to the world, that all women deserue not to be blamed though some forgetting they are women themselues, and in danger to be condemned by the words of their owne mouthes, fall into so great an errour, as to speake vnaduisedly against the rest of their sexe; which if it be true, I am persuaded they can shew their owne imperfection in nothing more: and therefore could wish (for their owne ease, modesties, and credit) they would referre such points of folly, to be practised by euell disposed men, who forgetting they were borne of women, nourished of women, and that if it were not by the means of women, they would be quite extinguished out of the world: and a finall ende of them all, doe like Vipers deface the wombes wherein they were bred, onely to giue way and vtterance to their want of discretion and goodnesse. Such as these, were they that dishonoured Christ his Apostles and Prophets, putting them to shamefull deaths. Therefore, we are not to regard any imputations that they vndeseruedly lay upon us, no otherwise than to make vse of them to our owne benefits, as spurres to vertue, making vs flie all occasions that may colour their uniust speeches to passe currant. Especially considering that they haue tempted euen the patience of God himselfe, who gaue power to wise and virtuous women, to bring downe their pride and arrogancie. As was cruell Cesarus by the discreet counsell of noble Deborah, Iudge and Prophetesse of Israel: and resolution of Jael wife of Heber the Kenite: wicket Haman, by the diuine prayers and prudent proceedings of beautiful Hester: blasphemous Holofernes, by the inuincible courage, rare wisdome, and confident carriage of Iudeth: & the vniust Iudges, by the innocency of chast Susanna: with infinite others, which for breuitie sake I will omit. As also in respect it pleased our Lord and Sauiour Iesus Christ, without the assistance of man, beeing free from originall and all other sinnes, from the time of his conception, till the houre of his death, to be begotten of a woman, borne of a woman, nourished of a woman, obedient to a woman; and that he healed woman, pardoned women, comforted women: yea, euen when he was in his greatest agonie and bloodie sweat, going to be crucified, and also in the last houre of his death, tooke care to dispose of a woman: after his resurrection, appeared first to a woman, sent a woman to declare his most glorious resurrection to the rest of his Disciples. Many other examples I could alledge of diuers faithfull and virtuous women, who haue in all ages, not onely beene Confessors, but also indured most cruel martyrdome for their faith in Iesus Christ. All which is sufficient to inforce all good Christians and honourable minded men to speake reuerently of our sexe, and especially of all virtuous and good women. To the modest sensures of both which, I refer these my imperfect indeauours, knowing that according to their owne excellent dispositions, they will rather, cherish, nourish, and increase the least sparke of virtue where they find it, by their fauourable and beste interpretations, than quench it by wrong constructions. To whom I wish all increase of virtue, and desire their best opinions.

   

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Peter Paul Rubens\' Christ and Mary Magdeline

   

(lines 969-1008 of the poem “Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum“)
   

by Aemilia Lanyer
   

The Teares of the Daughter of Jerusalem
   

Thrice happy women that obtaind such grace
From him whose worth the world could not containe;
Immediately to turne about his face,
As not remembring his great griefe and paine,
To comfort you, whose teares powr’d forth apace
On Flora’s bankes, like shewers of Aprils raine:
        Your cries inforced mercie, grace, and love
        From him, whom greatest Princes could not moove:

To speake on word, nor once to lift his eyes
Unto proud Pilate, no nor Herod, king;
By all the Questions that they could devise,
Could make him answere to no manner of thing;
Yet these poore women, by their pitious cries
Did moove their Lord, their Lover, and their King,
        To take compassion, turne about, and speake
        To them whose hearts were ready now to breake.

Most blessed daughters of Jerusalem,
Who found such favour in your Saviors sight,
To turne his face when you did pitie him;
Your tearefull eyes, beheld his eies more bright;
Your Faith and Love unto such grace did clime,
To have reflection from this Heav’nly Light:
        Your Eagles eyes did gaze against this Sunne,
        Your hearts did thinke, he dead, the world were done.
   
When spightfull men with torments did oppresse
Th’afflicted body of this innocent Dove,
Poore women seeing how much they did transgresse,
By teares, by sighes, by cries intreat, nay prove,
What may be done among the thickest presse,
They labour still these tyrants hearts to move;
        In pitie and compassion to forbeare
        Their whipping, spurning, tearing of his haire.

But all in vaine, their malice hath no end,
Their hearts more hard than flint, or marble stone;
Now to his griefe, his greatnesse they attend,
When he (God knowes) had rather be alone;
They are his guard, yet seeke all meanes to offend:
Well may he grieve, well may he sigh and groane,
        Under the burthen of a heavy crosse,
        He faintly goes to make their gaine his losse.

   

______

 

______

 

March 10, 2008

Life and Death from Beijing: a Poetry Sequence by Luisetta Mudie and Dreamer Fei

~~~~~
 

execution-by-yues-minjun.jpg
 

Editor’s note:

The title of this post derives from one of the most important memoirs of the last century, Life and Death in Shanghai by Nien Cheng, which came out in 1987.   She recounts in that book her imprisonment by the Red Guard during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976). Politically speaking, her work represents what many of us would know about China during that time period.

Shortly after that book’s publication, the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 took place in Beijing, in which upwards of 3,000 protesters, were killed or injured on orders from the Chinese goverment.   These protesters, many of them students, were by and large calling for democracy.

Here we are, approximately two decades later again, and it is the year of the Beijing Olympic Games.   Before the world supports, boycotts, or protests these games, or decides which grounds they will do this on; as events surrounding these issues surface through the media, we in the West may want to take a look at the heart of China, via the heart of one Chinese man, a poet.   Media can blind us to a fact we well know, that a big part of China’s heart is in poetry, and we need this information.

Everything written below here is either written or translated by Luisetta Mudie, who begins with a letter to you, her reader.

–Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

 

 

 

~~~~~
 

 

luisetta-mudie.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Reader,

A journalist friend of mine who is also a poet recently went back to China after 18 years in the US.   He was on the Square the night of the Tiananmen massacre.   Below are some prose reflections on his trip, but also some poems of his and mine relating to Tiananmen, to China, and about his son, who holds his sense of the future.

the-goddess-of-democracy-in-tiananmen-square.jpgThe prose and the poems were written by him in Chinese and rendered by me in English.   There may be other poems written by me at the same time, or in answer to his poems, as we had an ongoing poetic dialogue.   Chronologically, the poem sequence came before the prose, and is the culmination of a three-year dialogue between us, in which the poet is trying to move beyond both the concrete horrors of his student past, and, crucially, the numinous might-have-beens which haunt his generation.

It took those of his generation far longer to give up their longing for the idealized figures common to passionate young souls than it did for most of us, because those figures were made godlike and ultimately untouchable by the massacre that followed their emergence on the Square.   This passion that should have carried them into human life was forced instead into a twilight world of denial and strange attraction by the deaths that night in Beijing, and the government’s largely successful attempts to rewrite history.

But if we have the inclination, a poetic bent towards shade as well as light, those too-good angelic figures will show their true nature, which is also daimonic, and lead us into realms proper to poetry.

He would rather use his pen-name, Dreamer Fei, to avoid being identified.

Warmly,

Luisetta Mudie
Radio Free Asia
RFA Unplugged
 

 

~~~~~
 

 
boydragonpapercut.jpg
 

~~~~~
 

by Dreamer Fei
 

The Road Home
 

The giant Boeing 747 whistles through the thick dark cloud and white smog above the city, and touches down in a drastic way, reminding me that I am home again, after 18 hours of flight and 18 years of nostalgia.

It is about an hour’s drive from the airport to my parents’ apartment.   My cousin wanted to pick me up at the airport and show off his new Toyota Camry, but I declined.   I want to relax on the long journey home to adjust to the reverse culture shock of re-entry.   I have been warned about it by many overseas Chinese.   I get a cab; it costs 10 bucks.   I doze off as it snakes through the city traffic.

I was born and grew up in China.   Even after 18 years in America, I still eat Chinese food at least once a day.   Reading Chinese books is one of my favorite pastimes.   China is remote for me, yet it has continued to haunt my dreams.

tiananmen-square-1989-379x278.jpgI was a college student in 1989 and an eyewitness to the shootings and killings that night along Changan Avenue.   I was almost shot when I tried to persuade the soldiers not to fire on us.   I fled the country shortly after the tragedy.   But the tear gas, tanks, and crushed bodies permeated my dreams.   In one scene, I try to hold a fellow student crushed by a tank, and realize his two legs are gone, with only blood gushing from his body.   Such scenes are rewound and played again, night after night.   No time for healing after such an event.

It has been 18 years since I set foot in my hometown.   The cab brakes a bit and I wake up.   We are on the freeway.   Surprisingly, it has 12 lanes and is as good as any interstate in the U.S., if not better.   It is even more surprising that, along the freeway, you can see signs for W-Mart, Cosco, McDonalds, KFC, and Domino’s Pizza as well as Starbucks Coffee and IKEA, not to mention a Mobil gas station every 10 miles.

Am I in China? Did I take the right flight? In the days that follow, there are even more surprises in store.
 

Day one:   Environment Day

The drum beats.   Firecrackers plus the loudspeakers are deafening.   In the unsettled dust and smoke caused by the fireworks, hundreds of retired women dance cheerfully.   The government is holding Environment Day celebrations in a local park.   Government officials take turns giving the usual long speeches, talking about how environment protection is vitally important.   Everyone is a bit bored until, at the end of the ceremony, environmental officials and local primary school students release several hundred doves into the air, in a “back to the wild” gesture.

These doves fly high in the foggy sky for about 10 minutes before landing next to a huge pigeon coop to get their food on a cart in a corner of the same park.   The cart is owned by a farmer who makes a living by hiring out his doves for exactly this sort of stunt around the area.

It would be unfair to say that local governments don’t take environmental issues seriously.   In some areas, protecting the environment is more than a public show or a ceremony, because officials could lose their jobs if an environmental disaster happens.   A big chemical group in my hometown, funded by the government, planned to spend three billion yuan (around US$40 million) to tackle air pollution problems by reducing chemical waste and planting trees.   The river in my hometown—a mid-size city—used to be dirty and filled with industrial waste and dead animals.   In my memory, the color of the river was the same black as Chinese calligrapher’s ink.

But now, the river glitters on a sunny day (not that you get very many of them) and there are many weeping willows along the banks.   Several public parks have been built along the river as well; you can even see water lilies in one while standing under the traditional Chinese pavilions.   Along the newly built main avenue in the south side of the city, there are lawns with green grass, where huge plastic elephants and giraffes stand.

The locals say these projects are all done for the sake of face and to show off to top officials and tourists.   But hey, trees and grass are good, a glittering river is better than a dark one, and the “face” of the city really looks better than before.
 

Day Two:   Where is my old neighborhood?

One of the things that surprises me the most, is that I get lost when trying to find my own home, even though my folks still live in the same neighborhood I grew up in.   Now, most of the shabby old shacks that the poorer residents used to live in have been demolished, and the area is filled with high-rise buildings and commercial complexes.   Many of my old neighbors live in two-, three- or even four-bedroomed apartments with hardwood floors and all the modern utilities like refrigerators and washing machines.   These were luxuries for most Chinese 20 years ago.

“Life is good!” my old classmate tells me.   He now works at a law firm and bought a big condo two years ago.   He couldn’t afford the half a million yuan (U.S.$60,000) condo on his own, but his parents and his wife’s parents helped with the downpayment.   “Property prices are skyrocketing now.   If we hadn’t bought it, pretty soon we wouldn’t have been able to afford it at all.   And without that condo, my wife wouldn’t marry me,” he jokes.   I can feel his confidence about his future, though; he makes around 5,000 RMB (US$600) per month now.   “The monthly mortgage payment will remain the same, but our income will grow steadily,” he says.

But not everyone is as lucky and confident as my old classmate.   One day, as I am buying a pot of tall bamboos for my father in a farmer’s market, the old saleswoman asks me why I am buying it.   I tell her that my parents have moved into a new apartment and need some plants there.   She says she envies them.   She tells me that she used to have an old-style house in the downtown area where everybody knew everybody.   Now she has moved to the outskirts of the city.   “I miss the old neighborhood.   Sometimes I go back to see the old neighbors who live in the high-rise buildings and chat with them.”   Tears start from her eyes.   I ask why she doesn’t return.   She says the compensation she received when her old home was demolished for development wasn’t enough to afford a place there.   I don’t know what to say to her.

This city used to have many state-owned enterprises (SOEs), but since the early 90s, most SOEs have gone bankrupt, and thousands of workers have lost their jobs, many forced into early retirement.   The city is clearly divided into haves and have-nots, and in recent years, the gap between them has widened.   When you go to a luxury store, you can see Burberry shirts and golf clubs at prices higher than in London or New York.   Mercedes and BMWs prowl the streets, but in the farmer’s market, customers are haggling over a penny.   There are restaurants where you can spend US$100 per person for a seafood buffet, but you can also have a feast for only US$1 in a roadside vendor’s stand.
 

Day three:   Is social harmony possible?

In front of the gates of the city government, hundreds of tricycle taxis stage a quiet demonstration; they have signs on their tricycles saying “Legalize the tricycle!” “we want to survive!” “We want to pay taxes!”.   Since the systemic reforms and privatisation of the SOEs, strikes and demonstrations like this have been happening quite often in this city.   Some unemployed workers have managed to get some compensation due to the attention paid to the strikes and demonstrations, but it is barely enough to get them by, meaning they won’t be starving, but not enough to support their family, or pay for their kids to go to school, or for medical expenses like the occasional hospital visit.   Thus, some of the unemployed workers have made new jobs for themselves by using tricycles to taxi people around the city.   This has found favor with other people on a low income, especially the elderly, because they are cheaper than the bus and more convenient.   But now the cab drivers have had their noses put out of joint, and have complained to the police.   Others complain that the city’s 3,000 tricyle rickshaws are blocking traffic in the downtown area.   The police are always fining them, but they carry on with their business afterwards.

“They shouldn’t be legalized.   Shame on the city for letting them loose!” said the driver of one cab I rode in.

“We should be legalized.   We need to eat! It is better than stealing!” a tricycle-man told me while I took a ride with him.

I found out later that this saga has already dragged on for more than a year.   “The city government has a dilemma,” an old classmate who works for the municipality told me.   “If we legalize the tricycles, then more tricyclers will come out to make money, and we will get more complaints from taxi drivers, and traffic will be worse; but at the same time, we are under pressure to find those unemployed workers jobs.   If we ban all the tricycles, they will come to us for jobs.   Now what we do, we keep our eyes half open on this issue, which means we do nothing at this point, we only contain the amount of tricycles.”

One sunny afternoon, I take a walk into a riverside park.   I see the big rally going on.   Hundreds of old men and women all wearing Mao suits are listening to an old man’s speech.   He says:   “Our representatives went to Beijing to petition and they handed over the paperwork.   Now they are back; let us welcome them!” People burst into applause, welcoming the petitioners home as heroes.   Later I found out that the man giving the speech was a former Party secretary at a big factory who led the workers and cadres to complain about corruption on the part of the factory manager and asked for more compensation.   It seems to me that they are able to take a swipe at social injustice, including Communist Party officials without fear.

This is a surprise for me.   As a young student, I always admired Hyde Park in London where people can voice whatever opinions they want, and here they are having a public rally on such a sensitive issue; in China!   Even though the mass media are tightly controlled, people really do have some personal freedom now.   They can talk about politics and even say “President Hu Jintao sucks” in a restaurant, teahouse or even in the office.   Nobody holds you responsible or reports you to the police for that, because people just don’t care much about politics any more.
 

Day four:   The way back

My cousin insists on driving me to airport.   He says:   “You are impressed by too many good things.   I will show you something on the way back.”   We take a detour instead of the highway.

The road is dusty and bumpy, and the buildings and factories are the old ones I recognize from 20 years ago.   They are exactly the same, which is a shock.   I just can’t piece the two pictures together.

Now I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly side of China.   I don’t know where it is heading.   China is changing drastically, and it’s impossible to say whether for the better or the worse.
 

 

~~~~~
 

 
chinesewritingzhonggong.jpg
 

~~~~~
 

 

Poem Sequence

 

 

June 4, 2006

by Dreamer Fei
 

Tomorrow we will rise like the sun
 

Your images have floated outside my window
in I don’t know how many dreams,
suspended in endless youth.

Hand in hand, you stand, staring.
I push open the window, call softly:
Are you hungry? Cold?
Eyes look back like dark tunnels,
unknowing. The mouths make no sound.

They follow me, these eyes,

as shade follows shadow—
without name.
 

I know I should find your graves;

pay my respects to your families.
My son bounces along beside me,

fists full of yellow flowers—

but I don’t know where to find them.

You seem to ask how I could have fallen so,
from the night we drank, smoked, and sang the same song,

hand-in-hand on the Square.
 

It is the years that have fallen, I reply,
garlanded in mourning flowers, now rotting.

Wait for me, I say, follow me!
We’ll go see the world
or maybe our families will intermarry.

You kept me company for years

until one day on the June grass
you sat down and said:
Tomorrow we will rise like the sun
and scatter warmth on the green earth.

Don’t forget to bring your child.

Bring the future

and we’ll set off together
on the long road home.
 

 

~~~~~

 

June 4, 2004

by Luisetta Mudie

for the survivors of Tiananmen Square
 

The Price of the Asking
 

First love: the quavering call
to the cosmos,
the soul in ashes shudders in desire,
yet still imprisoned
by grammar.

Fresh loves succeed, first love gone by.
It’s you, of course, and you too—
love as the answer!

Fresh loves mature, no longer enough.
We ask again, work, drink, smoke,
take the veils of flesh, or words.

And all the time the forgotten soul
is waiting, knowing that the first love
is always, always
a question

for which the price of the asking
is life’s deepest response,

the price of the answer
the soul’s great work,

the price of the loving
a self given up to the whole story.
 

 

fandian.jpg
 

~~~~~

 

February 13, 2005

by Dreamer Fei

to Christopher, at one year old
 

Midnight Sun
 

Nestled in the crook of my arm, you sleep,
Fingers hooked around my shirt-button.
I carry you like a stringed instrument,
whose milky chords permeate the night.

Since you were born, I have held
The light of your arriving cry that night
When your first ray of life broke through
Big snows and winter dark, guiding

My soul-ship in its wandering ways,
A song thrummed from a well-earthed string.
So many days and nights lie before you,
My son! Ready to ensnare your heart

As you grow through wind and storm,
A far cry from tonight’s soft moonlight. Here,
Now, I am mindful of your spring fragility:
That I will be gone before you fully bloom.

What dream will sustain you, or what path
Your feet will take, I cannot know.
Soon, all that time will be as tonight, when I
Stand at the doorway, watch you on the way

to your heart’s home.
 

 

~~~~~

 

July 2004

by Luisetta Mudie
 

I have followed you
 

delawarebeach.jpgTo a small island near the courtyards
of the Huangpu Military Academy
where the river sleeps its long siesta

Mud-sluggish down past Tiger’s Gate,
bathing the estuary in oblivion—memories
of shame and gunfire are left for humans

To where a northern township lies
battered in a sea of bitter dust, the earth
and its people tortured by history

Along the sand of a Delaware beach,
voice crackling across microwaves—the cry
of lonely ghosts swept away by the wind

Out on the dark wings of memory to a night
that changed the world’s dream forever,
leaving us to pick up lost echoes of love

With the hot closeness of words in the throat,
words fought for, bought and paid for, picked
up by the roadside and between train carriages

Into poems as unanswerable as the weather
at the rain-soaked borders of sea-country,
poems that promise the storm but can never hold it

And there I saw you first, still see you, happy
on a boat in yellow, fish held high in the sea-sway,
your brave and careful eyes asking one question. When?
 

 

~~~~~

 

2005

by Dreamer Fei
 

How I wish
 

I could rock you to sleep
like carrying a baby, telling stories
under unknown stars

I could guide and protect you
wipe away tears
bring back a smile

Or one Saturday at the piano
I could just hear you
then read you my poems
with the sun streaming through the window

We could stand, hands idly linking
in the front garden, watching the children
Or later, in the back, watch the sun sleep
and the night fall, and come gently to each
other in the flesh

We could explore the whole world then
sail the impossible blue

Later still, when the deadline is near,
we could say together in fragile voices
that we are not sure if there’s a paradise ahead of us
but didn’t we just live one on earth?

Strangely, it’s already enough, my love
with the present to share and a future out there
We have the dream fulfilled and beyond the dream’s scope
poetry, imagination and a growing passion

Now I know that a bittersweet teardrop
can serve to moisten a dry old heart

Dissolve me; make a better man
 

 

~~~~~

 

tiananmen-square-2004-640x215.jpg
 

~~~~~

January 28, 2008

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

~~~~~

 


   

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

~~~~~

 


   

by L. J. Bridgman (1857-1931)
 

On Knowing When to Stop
 

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Robert Browning (1812-1889)
 

The Pied Piper of Hamelin
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 
                                                                       

~~~~~

 


   

by H. C. Bunner (1855-1896)
 

Shake, Mulleary and Go-ethe
 

                        I

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

                        II

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

                    III

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

                        IV

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

                        V

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Phoebe Cary (1824-1871)
 

Reuben
 

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson, 1832-1898)
 

Jabberwocky
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by H. Cholmondeley-Pennell (1837-1915)
 

Lay of the Deserted Influenzaed
 

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Allan Cunningham (1784-1842)
 

John Grumlie
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Nathan Haskell Dole (1852-1935)
 

Our Native Birds
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Catherine Fanshawe (1765-1834)
 

Enigma on the Letter H
 

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Eugene Field (1850-1895)
 

Dutch Lullaby
 

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by J. W. Foley (1874-1939)
 

Nemesis
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)
 

The Meeting of the Clabberhuses
 

                            I

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

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

                            II

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

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

                            III

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by W. S. Gilbert (1836-1911)
 

Etiquette
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Wallace Irwin (1876-1959)
 

A Grain of Salt
 

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Ben King (1857-1894)
 

The Pessimist (The Sum of Life)
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Edward Lear (1812-1888)
 

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat
 

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Henry S. Leigh (1837-1883)
 

The Twins
 

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Charles Battell Loomis (1861-1911)
 

a fresh hack at an old knot
 

O-U-G-H
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by William Maginn (1793-1842)
 

The Irishman and the Lady
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Tom Masson (1866-1934)
 

The Kiss
 

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Thomas Moore (1779-1852)
 

If You Have Seen
 

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

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

A Great Fight
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by E. H. Palmer (1840-1882)
 

The Shipwreck
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by J. R. Planché (1796-1880)
 

Song
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by James Whitcomb Riley (1849-1916)
 

When the Frost Is on the Punkin
 

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Ernest Lawrence Thayer (1863-1940)
 

Casey at the Bat
 

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

by Paul West (1871-1918)
 

The Cumberbunce
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

Any One Will Do
 

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

The Bells
 

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

Homœopathic Soup
 

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

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

Love’s Moods and Senses
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

poet unknown
 

The Modern Hiawatha
 

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

 

~~~~~

 

poet unknown
 

Rural Raptures
 

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

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

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

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

 

~~~~~

 


   

~~~~~

 


   

~~~~~

June 20, 2007

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

_____

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

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

   
   

_____

#30


   

Lincoln
   

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

   
   

_____

#29

   

“Howdy, Honey, Howdy!”
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#28

   

The Colored Soldiers
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#27

   

A Letter
   

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

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

   
   

_____

#26


   

The Old Front Gate
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#25

   

Communion
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#24


   

The Voice of the Banjo
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#23

   

Puttin’ the Baby Away
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#22

   

The Deserted Plantation
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#21

   

Growin’ Gray
   

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#20

   

On the River
   

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#19


   

When Malindy Sings
   

    G’way an’ quit dat noise, Miss Lucy–
      Put dat music book away;
    What’s de use to keep on tryin’?
      Ef you practise twell you ‘re gray,
    You cain’t sta’t no notes a-flyin’
      Lak de ones dat rants and rings
    F’om de kitchen to be big woods
      When Malindy sings.

    You ain’t got de nachel o’gans
      Fu’ to make de soun’ come right,
    You ain’t got de tu’ns an’ twistin’s
      Fu’ to make it sweet an’ light.
    Tell you one thing now, Miss Lucy,
      An’ I ‘m tellin’ you fu’ true,
    When hit comes to raal right singin’,
      ‘T ain’t no easy thing to do.

    Easy ‘nough fu’ folks to hollah,
      Lookin’ at de lines an’ dots,
    When dey ain’t no one kin sence it,
      An’ de chune comes in, in spots;
    But fu’ real melojous music,
      Dat jes’ strikes yo’ hea’t and clings,
    Jes’ you stan’ an’ listen wif me
      When Malindy sings.

    Ain’t you nevah hyeahd Malindy?
      Blessed soul, tek up de cross!
    Look hyeah, ain’t you jokin’, honey?
      Well, you don’t know whut you los’.
    Y’ ought to hyeah dat gal a-wa’blin’,
      Robins, la’ks, an’ all dem things,
    Heish dey moufs an’ hides dey faces
      When Malindy sings.

    Fiddlin’ man jes’ stop his fiddlin’,
      Lay his fiddle on de she’f;
    Mockin’-bird quit tryin’ to whistle,
      ‘Cause he jes’ so shamed hisse’f.
    Folks a-playin’ on de banjo
      Draps dey fingahs on de strings–
    Bless yo’ soul–fu’gits to move em,
      When Malindy sings.

    She jes’ spreads huh mouf and hollahs,
      “Come to Jesus,” twell you hyeah
    Sinnahs’ tremblin’ steps and voices,
      Timid-lak a-drawin’ neah;
    Den she tu’ns to “Rock of Ages,”
      Simply to de cross she clings,
    An’ you fin’ yo’ teahs a-drappin’
      When Malindy sings.

    Who dat says dat humble praises
      Wif de Master nevah counts?
    Heish yo’ mouf, I hyeah dat music,
      Ez hit rises up an’ mounts–
    Floatin’ by de hills an’ valleys,
      Way above dis buryin’ sod,
    Ez hit makes its way in glory
      To de very gates of God!

    Oh, hit’s sweetah dan de music
      Of an edicated band;
    An’ hit’s dearah dan de battle’s
      Song o’ triumph in de lan’.
    It seems holier dan evenin’
      When de solemn chu’ch bell rings,
    Ez I sit an’ ca’mly listen
      While Malindy sings.

    Towsah, stop dat ba’kin’, hyeah me!
      Mandy, mek dat chile keep still;
    Don’t you hyeah de echoes callin’
      F’om de valley to de hill?
    Let me listen, I can hyeah it,
      Th’oo de bresh of angels’ wings,
    Sof an’ sweet, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,”
      Ez Malindy sings.

   
   

_____

#18

   

Dirge for a Soldier
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#17


   

When the Old Man Smokes
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#16

   

A Summer Pastoral
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#15


   

Weltschmertz
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#14

   

The Old Cabin
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#13

   

Slow Through the Dark
   

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

   
   

_____

#12

   

Farewell to Arcady
   

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#11

   

At Candle-Lightin’ Time
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#10


   

Chrismus on the Plantation
   

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

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

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

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

    “Look hyeah, Mastah, I ‘s been servin’ you’ fu’ lo! dese many yeahs,
    An’ now, sence we ‘s got freedom an’ you ‘s kind o’ po’, hit ‘pears
    Dat you want us all to leave you ’cause you don’t t’ink you can pay.
    Ef my membry has n’t fooled me, seem dat whut I hyead you say.

    “Er in othah wo’ds, you wants us to fu’git dat you ‘s been kin’,
    An’ ez soon ez you is he’pless, we ‘s to leave you hyeah behin’.
    Well, ef dat ‘s de way dis freedom ac’s on people, white er black,
    You kin jes’ tell Mistah Lincum fu’ to tek his freedom back.

    “We gwine wo’k dis ol’ plantation fu’ whatevah we kin git,
    Fu’ I know hit did suppo’t us, an’ de place kin do it yit.
    Now de land is yo’s, de hands is ouahs, an’ I reckon we ‘ll be brave,
    An’ we ‘ll bah ez much ez you do w’en we has to scrape an’ save.”

    Ol’ Mastah stood dah trimblin’, but a-smilin’ thoo his teahs,
    An’ den hit seemed jes’ nachul-like, de place fah rung wid cheahs,
    An’ soon ez dey was quiet, some one sta’ted sof an’ low:
    “Praise God,” an’ den we all jined in, “from whom all blessin’s flow!”

    Well, dey was n’t no use tryin’, ouah min’s was sot to stay,
    An’ po’ ol’ Mastah could n’t plead ner baig, ner drive us ‘way,
    An’ all at once, hit seemed to us, de day was bright agin,
    So evahone was gay dat night, an’ watched de Chrismus in.

   
   

_____

#9

   

She Told Her Beads
   

    She told her beads with down-cast eyes,
      Within the ancient chapel dim;
      And ever as her fingers slim
    Slipt o’er th’ insensate ivories,
    My rapt soul followed, spaniel-wise.
    Ah, many were the beads she wore;
      But as she told them o’er and o’er,
    They did not number all my sighs.
    My heart was filled with unvoiced cries
      And prayers and pleadings unexpressed;
      But while I burned with Love’s unrest,
    She told her beads with down-cast eyes.

   
   

_____

#8

   

The Haunted Oak
   

    Pray why are you so bare, so bare,
      Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;
    And why, when I go through the shade you throw,
      Runs a shudder over me?

    My leaves were green as the best, I trow,
      And sap ran free in my veins,
    But I saw in the moonlight dim and weird
      A guiltless victim’s pains.

    I bent me down to hear his sigh;
      I shook with his gurgling moan,
    And I trembled sore when they rode away,
      And left him here alone.

    They ‘d charged him with the old, old crime,
      And set him fast in jail:
    Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,
      And why does the night wind wail?

    He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,
      And he raised his hand to the sky;
    But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,
      And the steady tread drew nigh.

    Who is it rides by night, by night,
      Over the moonlit road?
    And what is the spur that keeps the pace,
      What is the galling goad?

    And now they beat at the prison door,
      “Ho, keeper, do not stay!
    We are friends of him whom you hold within,
      And we fain would take him away

    “From those who ride fast on our heels
      With mind to do him wrong;
    They have no care for his innocence,
      And the rope they bear is long.”

    They have fooled the jailer with lying words,
      They have fooled the man with lies;
    The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,
      And the great door open flies.

    Now they have taken him from the jail,
      And hard and fast they ride,
    And the leader laughs low down in his throat,
      As they halt my trunk beside.

    Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,
      And the doctor one of white,
    And the minister, with his oldest son,
      Was curiously bedight.

    Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?
      ‘Tis but a little space,
    And the time will come when these shall dread
      The mem’ry of your face.

    I feel the rope against my bark,
      And the weight of him in my grain,
    I feel in the throe of his final woe
      The touch of my own last pain.

    And never more shall leaves come forth
      On a bough that bears the ban;
    I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,
      From the curse of a guiltless man.

    And ever the judge rides by, rides by,
      And goes to hunt the deer,
    And ever another rides his soul
      In the guise of a mortal fear.

    And ever the man he rides me hard,
      And never a night stays he;
    For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,
      On the trunk of a haunted tree.

   
   

_____

#7

   

We Wear the Mask
   

    We wear the mask that grins and lies,
    It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes,–
    This debt we pay to human guile;
    With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,
    And mouth with myriad subtleties.

    Why should the world be over-wise,
    In counting all our tears and sighs?
    Nay, let them only see us, while
        We wear the mask.

    We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries
    To thee from tortured souls arise.
    We sing, but oh the clay is vile
    Beneath our feet, and long the mile;
    But let the world dream otherwise,
        We wear the mask!

   
   

_____

#6


   

When Dey ‘Listed Colored Soldiers
   

    Dey was talkin’ in de cabin, dey was talkin’ in de hall;
    But I listened kin’ o’ keerless, not a-t’inkin’ ’bout it all;
    An’ on Sunday, too, I noticed, dey was whisp’rin’ mighty much,
    Stan’in’ all erroun’ de roadside w’en dey let us out o’ chu’ch.
    But I did n’t t’ink erbout it ‘twell de middle of de week,
    An’ my ‘Lias come to see me, an’ somehow he could n’t speak.
    Den I seed all in a minute whut he ‘d come to see me for;–
    Dey had ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias gwine to wah.

    Oh, I hugged him, an’ I kissed him, an’ I baiged him not to go;
    But he tol’ me dat his conscience, hit was callin’ to him so,
    An’ he could n’t baih to lingah w’en he had a chanst to fight
    For de freedom dey had gin him an’ de glory of de right.
    So he kissed me, an’ he lef me, w’en I ‘d p’omised to be true;
    An’ dey put a knapsack on him, an’ a coat all colo’ed blue.
    So I gin him pap’s ol’ Bible f’om de bottom of de draw’,–
    W’en dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

    But I t’ought of all de weary miles dat he would have to tramp,
    An’ I could n’t be contented w’en dey tuk him to de camp.
    W’y my hea’t nigh broke wid grievin’ ‘twell I seed him on de street;
    Den I felt lak I could go an’ th’ow my body at his feet.
    For his buttons was a-shinin’, an’ his face was shinin’, too,
    An’ he looked so strong an’ mighty in his coat o’ sojer blue,
    Dat I hollahed, “Step up, manny,” dough my th’oat was so’ an’ raw,–
    W’en dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

    Ol’ Mis’ cried w’en mastah lef huh, young Miss mou’ned huh brothah Ned,
    An’ I did n’t know dey feelin’s is de ve’y wo’ds dey said
    W’en I tol’ ’em I was so’y. Dey had done gin up dey all;
    But dey only seemed mo’ proudah dat dey men had hyeahed de call.
    Bofe my mastahs went in gray suits, an’ I loved de Yankee blue,
    But I t’ought dat I could sorrer for de losin’ of ’em too;
    But I could n’t, for I did n’t know de ha’f o’ whut I saw,
    ‘Twell dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

    Mastah Jack come home all sickly; he was broke for life, dey said;
    An’ dey lef my po’ young mastah some’r’s on de roadside,–dead.
    W’en de women cried an’ mou’ned ’em, I could feel it thoo an’ thoo,
    For I had a loved un fightin’ in de way o’ dangah, too.
    Den dey tol’ me dey had laid him some’r’s way down souf to res’,
    Wid de flag dat he had fit for shinin’ daih acrost his breas’.
    Well, I cried, but den I reckon dat ‘s whut Gawd had called him for,
    W’en dey ‘listed colo’ed sojers an’ my ‘Lias went to wah.

   
   

_____

#5

   

The Sum
   

    A little dreaming by the way,
    A little toiling day by day;
    A little pain, a little strife,
    A little joy,–and that is life.

    A little short-lived summer’s morn,
    When joy seems all so newly born,
    When one day’s sky is blue above,
    And one bird sings,–and that is love.

    A little sickening of the years,
    The tribute of a few hot tears
    Two folded hands, the failing breath,
    And peace at last,–and that is death.

    Just dreaming, loving, dying so,
    The actors in the drama go–
    A flitting picture on a wall,
    Love, Death, the themes; but is that all?

   
   

_____

#4

   

A Spring Wooing
   

    Come on walkin’ wid me, Lucy; ‘t ain’t no time to mope erroun’
      Wen de sunshine ‘s shoutin’ glory in de sky,
    An’ de little Johnny-Jump-Ups ‘s jes’ a-springin’ f’om de groun’,
      Den a-lookin’ roun’ to ax each othah w’y.
    Don’ you hyeah dem cows a-mooin’? Dat ‘s dey howdy to de spring;
      Ain’ dey lookin’ most oncommon satisfied?
    Hit ‘s enough to mek a body want to spread dey mouf an’ sing
      Jes’ to see de critters all so spa’klin’-eyed.

    W’y dat squir’l dat jes’ run past us, ef I did n’ know his tricks,
      I could swaih he ‘d got ‘uligion jes’ to-day;
    An’ dem liza’ds slippin’ back an’ fofe ermong de stones an’ sticks
      Is a-wigglin’ ’cause dey feel so awful gay.
    Oh, I see yo’ eyes a-shinin’ dough you try to mek me b’lieve
      Dat you ain’ so monst’ous happy ’cause you come;
    But I tell you dis hyeah weathah meks it moughty ha’d to ‘ceive
      Ef a body’s soul ain’ blin’ an’ deef an’ dumb.

    Robin whistlin’ ovah yandah ez he buil’ his little nes’;
      Whut you reckon dat he sayin’ to his mate?
    He’s a-sayin’ dat he love huh in de wo’ds she know de bes’,
      An’ she lookin’ moughty pleased at whut he state.
    Now, Miss Lucy, dat ah robin sholy got his sheer o’ sense,
      An’ de hen-bird got huh mothah-wit fu’ true;
    So I t’ink ef you ‘ll ixcuse me, fu’ I do’ mean no erfence,
      Dey ‘s a lesson in dem birds fu’ me an’ you.

    I ‘s a-buil’in’ o’ my cabin, an’ I ‘s vines erbove de do’
      Fu’ to kin’ o’ gin it sheltah f’om de sun;
    Gwine to have a little kitchen wid a reg’lar wooden flo’,
      An’ dey ‘ll be a back verandy w’en hit ‘s done.
    I ‘s a-waitin’ fu’ you, Lucy, tek de ‘zample o’ de birds,
      Dat ‘s a-lovin’ an’ a-matin’ evahwhaih.
    I cain’ tell you dat I loves you in de robin’s music wo’ds,
      But my cabin ‘s talkin’ fu’ me ovah thaih!

   
   

_____

#3

   

A Negro Love Song
   

    Seen my lady home las’ night,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
    Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
    An’ a smile go flittin’ by–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Hyeahd de win’ blow thoo de pine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Mockin’-bird was singin’ fine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    An’ my hea’t was beatin’ so,
    When I reached my lady’s do’,
    Dat I could n’t ba’ to go–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Put my ahm aroun’ huh wais’,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Raised huh lips an’ took a tase,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Love me, honey, love me true?
    Love me well ez I love you?
    An’ she answe’d, “‘Cose I do”–
    Jump back, honey, jump back.

   
   

_____

#2


   

A Florida Night
   

    Win’ a-blowin’ gentle so de san’ lay low,
      San’ a little heavy f’om de rain,
    All de pa’ms a-wavin’ an’ a-weavin’ slow,
      Sighin’ lak a sinnah-soul in pain.
    Alligator grinnin’ by de ol’ lagoon,
    Mockin’-bird a-singin’ to be big full moon.
    ‘Skeeter go a-skimmin’ to his fightin’ chune
      (Lizy Ann’s a-waitin’ in de lane!).

    Moccasin a-sleepin’ in de cyprus swamp;
    Need n’t wake de gent’man, not fu’ me.
    Mule, you need n’t wake him w’en you switch an’ stomp,
      Fightin’ off a ‘skeeter er a flea.
    Florida is lovely, she’s de fines’ lan’
    Evah seed de sunlight f’om de Mastah’s han’,
    ‘Ceptin’ fu’ de varmints an’ huh fleas an’ san’
      An’ de nights w’en Lizy Ann ain’ free.

    Moon ‘s a-kinder shaddered on de melon patch;
      No one ain’t a-watchin’ ez I go.
    Climbin’ of de fence so ‘s not to click de latch
      Meks my gittin’ in a little slow.
    Watermelon smilin’ as it say, “I’ s free;”
    Alligator boomin’, but I let him be,
    Florida, oh, Florida ‘s de lan’ fu’ me–
      (Lizy Ann a-singin’ sweet an’ low).

   
   

_____

#1

   
   
Sympathy
   

    I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
      When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
    When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
    And the river flows like a stream of glass;
      When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
    And the faint perfume from its chalice steals–
    I know what the caged bird feels!

    I know why the caged bird beats his wing
      Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
    For he must fly back to his perch and cling
    When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
      And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
    And they pulse again with a keener sting–
    I know why he beats his wing!

    I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
      When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,–
    When he beats his bars and he would be free;
    It is not a carol of joy or glee,
      But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
    But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings–
    I know why the caged bird sings!

   
   

_____

_____

May 19, 2007

The Official Top 20 Countdown of the All Time Greatest Love Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar

_____

   
   

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) with a friend

I have been reading all the poems I can find by Paul Laurence Dunbar, in order to create another top 30 countdown. Yesterday, when I got down from the hundreds to 55 poems in order, I knew I did not want to lose any more of his love poems. So I take a break from that top 30, to bring you the very enjoyable top 20 love poems written by Dunbar. He only lived to be 33, so when he writes of how an old man may feel about love as well as he does a young couple, as if he carried all of this within him, some full and long happy love life, we can recognize a gift. But, just as tuberculosis beat him physically to a young death, it seems at least alcohol kept him from being the great lover to his bride, then Alice Moore (pictured below, not above).
   
   

_____

#20

from

1899

   
   
Then and Now
   
   
Then

    He loved her, and through many years,
    Had paid his fair devoted court,
    Until she wearied, and with sneers
    Turned all his ardent love to sport.

    That night within his chamber lone,
    He long sat writing by his bed
    A note in which his heart made moan
    For love; the morning found him dead.
   
   
Now

    Like him, a man of later day
    Was jilted by the maid he sought,
    And from her presence turned away,
    Consumed by burning, bitter thought.

    He sought his room to write–a curse
    Like him before and die, I ween.
    Ah no, he put his woes in verse,
    And sold them to a magazine.
   
   

_____

#19

from

1901

   
   
Anchored
   
   
    If thro’ the sea of night which here surrounds me,
      I could swim out beyond the farthest star,
    Break every barrier of circumstance that bounds me,
      And greet the Sun of sweeter life afar,

    Tho’ near you there is passion, grief, and sorrow,
      And out there rest and joy and peace and all,
    I should renounce that beckoning for to-morrow,
      I could not choose to go beyond your call.
   
   

_____

#18

from

1901

   
   
Suppose
   
   
    If ’twere fair to suppose
      That your heart were not taken,
    That the dew from the rose
      Petals still were not shaken,
    I should pluck you,
      Howe’er you should thorn me and scorn me,
    And wear you for life as the green of the bower.

    If ’twere fair to suppose
      That that road was for vagrants,
    That the wind and the rose,
      Counted all in their fragrance;
    Oh, my dear one,
      By love, I should take you and make you,
    The green of my life from the scintillant hour.
   
   

_____

#17

from

1899

   
   
Love
   
   
    A life was mine full of the close concern
      Of many-voiced affairs. The world sped fast;
      Behind me, ever rolled a pregnant past.
    A present came equipped with lore to learn.
    Art, science, letters, in their turn,
      Each one allured me with its treasures vast;
      And I staked all for wisdom, till at last
    Thou cam’st and taught my soul anew to yearn.
      I had not dreamed that I could turn away
    From all that men with brush and pen had wrought;
      But ever since that memorable day
    When to my heart the truth of love was brought,
      I have been wholly yielded to its sway,
    And had no room for any other thought.
   
   

_____

#16

from

1895

   
   
The Corn-Stalk Fiddle
   
   
    When the corn ‘s all cut and the bright stalks shine
      Like the burnished spears of a field of gold;
    When the field-mice rich on the nubbins dine,
      And the frost comes white and the wind blows cold;
    Then it’s heigho! fellows and hi-diddle-diddle,
    For the time is ripe for the corn-stalk fiddle.

    And you take a stalk that is straight and long,
      With an expert eye to its worthy points,
    And you think of the bubbling strains of song
      That are bound between its pithy joints–
    Then you cut out strings, with a bridge in the middle,
    With a corn-stalk bow for a corn-stalk fiddle.

    Then the strains that grow as you draw the bow
      O’er the yielding strings with a practised hand!
    And the music’s flow never loud but low
      Is the concert note of a fairy band.
    Oh, your dainty songs are a misty riddle
    To the simple sweets of the corn-stalk fiddle.

    When the eve comes on, and our work is done,
      And the sun drops down with a tender glance,
    With their hearts all prime for the harmless fun,
      Come the neighbor girls for the evening’s dance,
    And they wait for the well-known twist and twiddle–
    More time than tune–from the corn-stalk fiddle.

    Then brother Jabez takes the bow,
      While Ned stands off with Susan Bland,
    Then Henry stops by Milly Snow,
      And John takes Nellie Jones’s hand,
    While I pair off with Mandy Biddle,
    And scrape, scrape, scrape goes the corn-stalk fiddle.

    “Salute your partners,” comes the call,
      “All join hands and circle round,”
    “Grand train back,” and “Balance all,”
      Footsteps lightly spurn the ground.
    “Take your lady and balance down the middle”
    To the merry strains of the corn-stalk fiddle.

    So the night goes on and the dance is o’er,
      And the merry girls are homeward gone,
    But I see it all in my sleep once more,
      And I dream till the very break of dawn
    Of an impish dance on a red-hot griddle
    To the screech and scrape of a corn-stalk fiddle.
   
   

_____

#15

from

1895

   
   
After the Quarrel
   
   
    So we, who ‘ve supped the self-same cup,
      To-night must lay our friendship by;
    Your wrath has burned your judgment up,
      Hot breath has blown the ashes high.
    You say that you are wronged–ah, well,
      I count that friendship poor, at best
    A bauble, a mere bagatelle,
      That cannot stand so slight a test.

    I fain would still have been your friend,
      And talked and laughed and loved with you;
    But since it must, why, let it end;
      The false but dies, ‘t is not the true.
    So we are favored, you and I,
      Who only want the living truth.
    It was not good to nurse the lie;
      ‘T is well it died in harmless youth.

    I go from you to-night to sleep.
      Why, what’s the odds? why should I grieve?
    I have no fund of tears to weep
      For happenings that undeceive.
    The days shall come, the days shall go
      Just as they came and went before.
    The sun shall shine, the streams shall flow
      Though you and I are friends no more.

    And in the volume of my years,
      Where all my thoughts and acts shall be,
    The page whereon your name appears
      Shall be forever sealed to me.
    Not that I hate you over-much,
      ‘T is less of hate than love defied;
    Howe’er, our hands no more shall touch,
      We ‘ll go our ways, the world is wide.
   
   

_____

#14

from

1901

   
   
Diplomacy
   
   
    Tell your love where the roses blow,
      And the hearts of the lilies quiver,
    Not in the city’s gleam and glow,
      But down by a half-sunned river.
    Not in the crowded ball-room’s glare,
      That would be fatal, Marie, Marie,
    How can she answer you then and there?
      So come then and stroll with me, my dear,
      Down where the birds call, Marie, Marie.
   
   

_____

#13

from

1899

   
   
Dream Song II
   
   
    Pray, what can dreams avail
      To make love or to mar?
    The child within the cradle rail
      Lies dreaming of the star.
    But is the star by this beguiled
    To leave its place and seek the child?

    The poor plucked rose within its glass
      Still dreameth of the bee;
    But, tho’ the lagging moments pass,
      Her Love she may not see.
    If dream of child and flower fail,
    Why should a maiden’s dreams prevail?
   
   

_____

#12

from

1893

   
   
The Old Apple-Tree
   
   
    There’s a memory keeps a-runnin’
      Through my weary head to-night,
    An’ I see a picture dancin’
      In the fire-flames’ ruddy light;
    ‘Tis the picture of an orchard
      Wrapped in autumn’s purple haze,
    With the tender light about it
      That I loved in other days.
    An’ a-standin’ in a corner
      Once again I seem to see
    The verdant leaves an’ branches
      Of an old apple-tree.

    You perhaps would call it ugly,
      An’ I don’t know but it’s so,
    When you look the tree all over
      Unadorned by memory’s glow;
    For its boughs are gnarled an’ crooked,
      An’ its leaves are gettin’ thin,
    An’ the apples of its bearin’
      Would n’t fill so large a bin
    As they used to. But I tell you,
      When it comes to pleasin’ me,
    It’s the dearest in the orchard,–
      Is that old apple-tree.

    I would hide within its shelter,
      Settlin’ in some cosy nook,
    Where no calls nor threats could stir me
      From the pages o’ my book.
    Oh, that quiet, sweet seclusion
      In its fulness passeth words!
    It was deeper than the deepest
      That my sanctum now affords.
    Why, the jaybirds an’ the robins,
      They was hand in glove with me,
    As they winked at me an’ warbled
      In that old apple-tree.

    It was on its sturdy branches
      That in summers long ago
    I would tie my swing an’ dangle
      In contentment to an’ fro,
    Idly dreamin’ childish fancies,
      Buildin’ castles in the air,
    Makin’ o’ myself a hero
      Of romances rich an’ rare.
    I kin shet my eyes an’ see it
      Jest as plain as plain kin be,
    That same old swing a-danglin’
      To the old apple-tree.

    There’s a rustic seat beneath it
      That I never kin forget.
    It’s the place where me an’ Hallie–
      Little sweetheart–used to set,
    When we ‘d wander to the orchard
      So ‘s no listenin’ ones could hear
    As I whispered sugared nonsense
      Into her little willin’ ear.
    Now my gray old wife is Hallie,
      An’ I ‘m grayer still than she,
    But I ‘ll not forget our courtin’
      ‘Neath the old apple-tree.

    Life for us ain’t all been summer,
      But I guess we ‘we had our share
    Of its flittin’ joys an’ pleasures,
      An’ a sprinklin’ of its care.
    Oft the skies have smiled upon us;
      Then again we ‘ve seen ’em frown,
    Though our load was ne’er so heavy
      That we longed to lay it down.
    But when death does come a-callin’,
      This my last request shall be,–
    That they ‘ll bury me an’ Hallie
      ‘Neath the old apple tree.
   
   

_____

#11

from

1896

   
   
A Florida Night
   
   
    Win’ a-blowin’ gentle so de san’ lay low,
      San’ a little heavy f’om de rain,
    All de pa’ms a-wavin’ an’ a-weavin’ slow,
      Sighin’ lak a sinnah-soul in pain.
    Alligator grinnin’ by de ol’ lagoon,
    Mockin’-bird a-singin’ to be big full moon.
    ‘Skeeter go a-skimmin’ to his fightin’ chune
      (Lizy Ann’s a-waitin’ in de lane!).

    Moccasin a-sleepin’ in de cyprus swamp;
    Need n’t wake de gent’man, not fu’ me.
    Mule, you need n’t wake him w’en you switch an’ stomp,
      Fightin’ off a ‘skeeter er a flea.
    Florida is lovely, she’s de fines’ lan’
    Evah seed de sunlight f’om de Mastah’s han’,
    ‘Ceptin’ fu’ de varmints an’ huh fleas an’ san’
      An’ de nights w’en Lizy Ann ain’ free.

    Moon ‘s a-kinder shaddered on de melon patch;
      No one ain’t a-watchin’ ez I go.
    Climbin’ of de fence so ‘s not to click de latch
      Meks my gittin’ in a little slow.
    Watermelon smilin’ as it say, “I’ s free;”
    Alligator boomin’, but I let him be,
    Florida, oh, Florida ‘s de lan’ fu’ me–
      (Lizy Ann a-singin’ sweet an’ low).
   
   

_____

#10

from

1896, this cover 1905

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#9

from

1899

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

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

_____

#8

from

1901

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#7

from

1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#6

from

1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#5

from

1906

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#4

from

1921

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#3

from

1899

   
   
She Told Her Beads
   
   
    She told her beads with down-cast eyes,
      Within the ancient chapel dim;
      And ever as her fingers slim
    Slipt o’er th’ insensate ivories,
    My rapt soul followed, spaniel-wise.
    Ah, many were the beads she wore;
      But as she told them o’er and o’er,
    They did not number all my sighs.
    My heart was filled with unvoiced cries
      And prayers and pleadings unexpressed;
      But while I burned with Love’s unrest,
    She told her beads with down-cast eyes.
   
   

_____

#2

from

1901

   
   
A Spring Wooing
   
   
    Come on walkin’ wid me, Lucy; ‘t ain’t no time to mope erroun’
      Wen de sunshine ‘s shoutin’ glory in de sky,
    An’ de little Johnny-Jump-Ups ‘s jes’ a-springin’ f’om de groun’,
      Den a-lookin’ roun’ to ax each othah w’y.
    Don’ you hyeah dem cows a-mooin’? Dat ‘s dey howdy to de spring;
      Ain’ dey lookin’ most oncommon satisfied?
    Hit ‘s enough to mek a body want to spread dey mouf an’ sing
      Jes’ to see de critters all so spa’klin’-eyed.

    W’y dat squir’l dat jes’ run past us, ef I did n’ know his tricks,
      I could swaih he ‘d got ‘uligion jes’ to-day;
    An’ dem liza’ds slippin’ back an’ fofe ermong de stones an’ sticks
      Is a-wigglin’ ’cause dey feel so awful gay.
    Oh, I see yo’ eyes a-shinin’ dough you try to mek me b’lieve
      Dat you ain’ so monst’ous happy ’cause you come;
    But I tell you dis hyeah weathah meks it moughty ha’d to ‘ceive
      Ef a body’s soul ain’ blin’ an’ deef an’ dumb.

    Robin whistlin’ ovah yandah ez he buil’ his little nes’;
      Whut you reckon dat he sayin’ to his mate?
    He’s a-sayin’ dat he love huh in de wo’ds she know de bes’,
      An’ she lookin’ moughty pleased at whut he state.
    Now, Miss Lucy, dat ah robin sholy got his sheer o’ sense,
      An’ de hen-bird got huh mothah-wit fu’ true;
    So I t’ink ef you ‘ll ixcuse me, fu’ I do’ mean no erfence,
      Dey ‘s a lesson in dem birds fu’ me an’ you.

    I ‘s a-buil’in’ o’ my cabin, an’ I ‘s vines erbove de do’
      Fu’ to kin’ o’ gin it sheltah f’om de sun;
    Gwine to have a little kitchen wid a reg’lar wooden flo’,
      An’ dey ‘ll be a back verandy w’en hit ‘s done.
    I ‘s a-waitin’ fu’ you, Lucy, tek de ‘zample o’ de birds,
      Dat ‘s a-lovin’ an’ a-matin’ evahwhaih.
    I cain’ tell you dat I loves you in de robin’s music wo’ds,
      But my cabin ‘s talkin’ fu’ me ovah thaih!
   
   

_____

#1

from

1895

   
   
A Negro Love Song
   
   
    Seen my lady home las’ night,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hel’ huh han’ an’ sque’z it tight,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Hyeahd huh sigh a little sigh,
    Seen a light gleam f’om huh eye,
    An’ a smile go flittin’ by–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Hyeahd de win’ blow thoo de pine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Mockin’-bird was singin’ fine,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    An’ my hea’t was beatin’ so,
    When I reached my lady’s do’,
    Dat I could n’t ba’ to go–
      Jump back, honey, jump back.

    Put my ahm aroun’ huh wais’,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Raised huh lips an’ took a tase,
      Jump back, honey, jump back.
    Love me, honey, love me true?
    Love me well ez I love you?
    An’ she answe’d, “‘Cose I do”–
    Jump back, honey, jump back.
   
   

_____

   
   

Alice Moore Dunbar, Mrs. Paul L. Dunbar

_____

March 15, 2007

The Ella Wheeler Wilcox Top 30 Countdown

Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1919, was an American poet and mystic, one of the two poets I can find who was labelled as Poet Laureate of Humanity, the other being Rumi. As Rumi is today, she was known to be the most read poet in America in her time. There is much to find about her life and writings at Ella Wheeler Wilcox Society, where poems, photos, biographies and such have been brought together for perusal. Reading through her thousands of poems and revisions there, I have selected the top 30 Ella Wheeler Wilcox poems, and count them down for you below.
   
   

_____

#30

   
   
The Ship and the Boat
   
   
In the great ship Life we speed along,
    With sails and pennons spread.
And tethered, beside the great ship, glide
    The mystic boats for the dead.

Over the deck of the ship of Life
    Our loved and lost we lower.
And calm and steady, his small boat ready,
    Death silently sits at the oar.

He rows our dead away from our sight–
    Away from our hearing or ken.
We call and cry for a last good-bye,
    But they never come back again.

The ship of Life bounds on and on;
    The river of Time runs fast;
And yet more swift our dear dead drift
    For ever back into the Past.

We do not forget those loved and lost,
    But they fade away like a dream:
As we hurry along on the current strong
    Of Time’s great turbulent stream.

On and on, and ever away,
    Our sails are filled by the wind;
We see new places, we meet new faces,
    And the dead are far behind.

Their boats have drifted into the sea
    That laves God’s holy feet.
But the river’s course, too, seeks that source,
    So the ship and the boat shall meet.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#29

   
   
Bleak Weather
   
   
Dear Love, where the red lilies blossomed and grew
    The white snows are falling;
And all through the woods where I wandered with you
    The loud winds are calling;
And the robin that piped to us tune upon tune,
    ‘Neath the oak you remember,
O’er hilltop and forest has followed the June
    And left us December.
He has left like a friend who is true in the sun
    And false in the shadows;
He has found new delights in the land where he’s gone,
    Greener woodlands and meadows.
Let him go! what care we? let the snow shroud the lea,
    Let it drift on the heather;
We can sing through it all; I have you, you have me,
    And we’ll laugh at the weather.

The old year may die and a new year be born
    That is bleaker and colder:
It cannot dismay us: we dare it, we scorn,
    For our love makes us bolder.
Ah, Robin! sing loud on your far distant lea,
    You friend in fair weather!
But here is a song sung that’s fuller of glee
    By two warm hearts together.
   
   

_____

#28

   
   
Old and New
   
   
Long have the poets vaunted, in their lays,
Old times, old loves, old friendship, and old wine.
Why should the old monopolise all praise?
Then let the new claim mine.

Give me strong new friends, when the old prove weak,
Or fail me in my darkest hour of need;
Why perish with the ship that springs a leak,
Or lean upon a reed?

Give me new love, warm, palpitating, sweet,
When all the grace and beauty leaves the old;
When like a rose it withers at my feet,
Or like a hearth grows cold.

Give me new times, bright with a prosperous cheer,
In place of old, tear-blotted, burdened days;
I hold a sunlit present far more dear,
And worthy of my praise.

When the old creeds are threadbare, and worn through,
And all too narrow for the broadening soul,
Give me the fine, firm texture of the new,
Fair, beautiful and whole.
   
   

_____

#27

   
   
Worldly Wisdom
   
   
If it were in my dead Past’s power
    To let my Present bask
In some lost pleasure for an hour,
    This is the boon I’d ask:

Re-pedestal from out the dust
    Where long ago ’twas hurled,
My beautiful incautious trust
    In this unworthy world.

The symbol of my own soul’s truth–
    I saw it go with tears–
The sweet unwisdom of my youth–
    That vanished with the years.

Since knowledge brings us only grief,
    I would return again
To happy ignorance and belief
    In motives and in men.

For worldly wisdom learned in pain
    Is in itself a cross,
Significant mayhap of gain,
    Yet sign of saddest loss.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#26

   
   
Sunset
   
   
I saw the day lean o’er the world’s sharp edge
    And peer into night’s chasm dark and damp.
    High in his hand he held a blazing lamp,
Then dropped it and plunged headlong down the ledge.

With lurid splendor that swift paled to gray,
    I saw the dim skies suddenly flush bright.
    ‘Twas but the expiring glory of the light
Flung from the hand of the adventurous day.
   
   

_____

#25

   
   
Winter Rain
   
   
Falling upon the frozen world last night
    I heard the slow beat of the winter rain–
    Poor foolish drops, down-dripping all in vain;
The ice-bound Earth but mocked their puny might;
Far better had the fixedness of white
And uncomplaining snows–which make no sign,
But coldly smile, when pitying moonbeams shine–
Concealed its sorrow from all human sight.
Long, long ago, in blurred and burdened years,
    I learned the uselessness of uttered woe.
    Though sinewy Fate deals her most skilful blow,
I do not waste the gall now of my tears,
    But feed my pride upon its bitter, while
    I look straight in the world’s bold eyes, and smile.
   
   

_____

#24

   
   
A Revery in the Station-House
   
   
Last night I walked along the city street
And smiled at men; they saw the ancient sin
In my young eyes, and one said, “Come with me.”
I went with him, believing my poor purse
Would fatten with his gold. He brought me here
And turned the key upon me. In an hour,
I shall be called before the judge and fined,
Because I have solicited. How strange
And inexplicable a thing is law–
How curious its whys, and why-nots! I
Was young and innocent of evil thought
A few brief years ago. My brother’s friend,
A social favorite to whom all doors
Were open (and a church communicant),
Sought me, soliciting my faith and trust,
And brushed the dew of virtue from my lips;
Then left me to my solitary thoughts.
Death and misfortune entered on the scene;
I was thrown out to battle with the world,
And hide the anguish of a maid deflowered.

I left my first employer,–left because
He, too, solicited those favors that
No contract mentions, but which seem to be
Expected duties by unwritten law
In many business-houses. Soon I learned
That virtue is, indeed, its own reward.
And often finds no other. My poor wage
For honest labor and a decent life
Scarce kept me fed and sheltered. Everywhere
In office, boarding-house, and in church aisles
I met the eyes of men soliciting.
They supplemented pleading looks by words,
And laughed at all my scruples. Finally,
The one compelling lover had his way,
And when he wearied of me I began
The dreary treadmill of the city streets,
Soliciting whoever crossed my path
To take my favors and to give me gold.

Somehow, I cannot seem to understand
Why there is law to punish me for that,
And none to punish any of the men
Who have pursued me with soliciting
Right from the threshold of my childhood’s home
To this grim station-house.
                                          My case is called?
Well, lead the way, and I will follow you.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#23

   
   
A Morning Prayer
   
   
Let me to-day do something that shall take
    A little sadness from the world’s vast store,
And may I be so favored as to make
    Of joy’s too scanty sum a little more.

Let me not hurt, by any selfish deed
    Or thoughtless word, the heart of foe or friend,
Nor would I pass, unseeing, worthy need,
    Or sin by silence when I should defend.

However meager be my worldly wealth,
    Let me give something that shall aid my kind,
A word of courage or a thought of health,
    Dropped as I pass for troubled hearts to find.

Let me to-night look back across the span
    ‘Twixt dawn and dark, and to my conscience say
Because of some good act to beast or man
    “The world is better that I lived to-day.”
   
   

_____

#22

   
   
Disarmament
   
   
We have outgrown the helmet and cuirass,
The spear, the arrow, and the javelin.
These crude inventions of a cruder age,
When men killed men to show their love of God,
And he who slaughtered most was greatest king.
We have outgrown the need of war!
          Should men
Unite in this one thought, all war would end.

Disarm the world; and let all Nations meet
Like Men, not monsters, when disputes arise.
When crossed opinions tangle into snarls,
Let Courts untie them, and not armies cut.
When State discussions breed dissentions, let
Union and Arbitration supersede
The hell-created implements of War.
Disarm the world! and bid destructive thought
Slip like a serpent from the mortal mind
Down through the marshes of oblivion. Soon
A race of gods shall rise!    Disarm!    Disarm!
   
   

_____

#21

   
   
Moon and Sea
   
   
You are the moon, dear love, and I the sea:
The tide of hope swells high within my breast,
And hides the rough dark rockes of life’s unrest
When your fond eyes smile near in perigee.
But when that loving face is turned from me,
Low falls the tide, and the grim rocks appear,
And earth’s dim coast-line seems a thing to fear.
You are the moon, dear one, and I the sea.
   
   

_____

#20

   
   
Old Rhythm and Rhyme
   
   
They tell me new methods now govern the Muses,
The modes of expression have changed with the times;
That low is the rank of the poet who uses
    The old-fashioned verse with intentional rhymes.
And quite out of date, too, is rhythmical metre;
    The critics declare it an insult to art.
But oh! the sweet swing of it, oh! the clear ring of it,
    Oh! the great pulse of it, right from the heart,
                                    Art or no art.

I sat by the side of that old poet, Ocean,
    And counted the billows that broke on the rocks;
The tide lilted in with a rhythmical motion;
    The sea-gulls dipped downward in time-keeping flocks.

I watched while a giant wave gathered its forces,
    And then on the gray granite precipice burst;
And I knew as I counted, while other waves mounted,
    I knew the tenth billow would rhyme with the first.

Below in the village a church bell was chiming,
    And back in the woodland a little bird sang;
And, doubt it who will, yet those two sounds were rhyming,
    As out o’er the hill-tops they echoed and rang.
The Wind and the Trees fell to talking together;
    And nothing they said was didactic or terse;
But everything spoken was told in unbroken
    And a beautiful rhyming and rhythmical verse.

So rhythm I hail it, though critics assail it,
    And hold melting rhymes as an insult to art,
For oh! the sweet swing of it, oh! the dear ring of it,
    Oh! the strong pulse of it, right from the heart,
                                    Art or no art.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#19

   
   
Understanding
   
   
The snowdrops and the crocuses
Bloomed in the olden way:
The stately tulips followed on–
The pansies had their day;
The roses came–and yet the year
Brought neither June nor May.
And now the tiger lilies lift
Their freckled faces high;
And now the sun is blazing down
From out a cloudless sky–
And yet it is not Summertime,
Though Summer days drag by,

His dog looks up the lonely lane–
He knows the reason why.

   
   

_____

#18

   
   
To Another Woman’s Baby
   
   
I list your prattle, baby boy,
    And hear your pattering feet
With feelings more of pain than joy
    And thoughts of bitter-sweet.

While touching your soft hands in play
    Such passionate longings rise
For my wee boy who strayed away
    So soon to Paradise.

You win me with your infant art;
    But when our play is o’er,
The empty cradle in my heart
    Seems lonelier than before.

Sweet baby boy you do not guess
    How oft mine eyes are dim,
Or that my lingering caress
    Is sometimes meant for him.
   
   

_____

#17

   
   
March
   
   
Like some reformer, who with mien austere,
    Neglected dress and loud insistent tones,
    More rasping than the wrongs which she bemoans,
Walks through the land and wearies all who hear,
    While yet we know the need of such reform;
    So comes unlovely March, with wind and storm,
To break the spell of winter, and set free
    The poisoned brooks and crocus beds oppressed.
    Severe of face, gaunt-armed, and wildly dressed,
She is not fair nor beautiful to see.
    But merry April and sweet smiling May
    Come not till March has first prepared the way.
   
   

_____

#16

   
   
I Like Cigars
   
   
Beneath the stars,
Upon the waters blue.
To laugh and float
While rocks the boat
Upon the waves,–Don’t you?

To rest the oar
And float to shore,–
While soft the moonbeams shine,–
To laugh and joke,
And idly smoke;
I think is quite divine.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#15

   
   
The Mill
   
   
Something there is in the mill whistle blowing
Sets my blood flowing–
    Stirs me with life.
Gives me the feeling of being a part of it,
Hand of it, heart of it,
    Ready to plunge in the thick of the strife
    As a strong swimmer goes when the seas are rife.

Many have said there was pain in the call of it;
I get the thrall of it;
    Nerved and made strong,
My hand reaches out for the work that is waiting it;
    Loving, not hating it;
    Loving the noise, and the rush, and the throng,
    Loving the days as they hurry along.

Over the moil and the murk and the grime in it,
Something sublime in it,
    Calls to my soul.
Some things that speak of the ceaseless endeavor
For aye and forever,
    Moving the Universe on to its goal,
    And each of us parcel and part of the whole.

Oh, there is sorrow, injustice and wrong in it;
But there’s a song in it.
    All day I hear
Over the din and the discord, the thrill of it,
That’s the brave mill of it,
    Doing its work without worry or fear
    And breathing its message of strength in my ear.

Happy, I sing to it;
Smiling, I bring to it,
    Patience and love, for the tasks that lie near.
   
   

_____

#14

   
   
Last Love
   
   
The first flower of the spring is not so fair
Or bright, as one the ripe midsummer brings.
The first faint note the forest warbler sings
Is not as rich with feeling, or so rare
As when, full master of his art, the air
Drowns in the liquid sea of song he flings
Like silver spray from beak, and breast, and wings.
The artist’s earliest effort wrought with care,
The bard’s first ballad, written in his tears,
Set by his later toil seems poor and tame.
And into nothing dwindles at the test.
So with the passions of maturer years
Let those who will demand the first fond flame,
Give me the heart’s last love, for that is best.
   
   

_____

#13

   
   
The Doomed City’s Prayer
   
   
I heard a low sound, like a troubled soul praying:
    And the winds of the winter night brought it to me.
‘Twas the doomed city’s voice: “Oh, kind snow,” it was saying,
    “Come, cover my ruins, so ghastly to see.
I am robbed of my beauty, and shorn of my glory;
    And the strength that I boasted–where is it to-day?
I am down in the dust; and my pitiful story
    Make tearless eyes weep and unpious lips pray.

“I–I, who have reveled in pomp and in power,
    Am down on my knees, with my face in the dust;
But yesterday queen, with a queen’s royal dower,
    To-day I am glad of a crumb or a crust.
But yesterday reigning, a grand, mighty city,
    The pride of the Nation, the queen of the West;
To-day I am gazed at, an object of pity,
    A charity child, asking alms, at the best.

“My strength, and my pride, and my glory departed,
    My fair features scorched by the fire fiends breath,
Is it strange that I’m soul-sick and sorrowful hearted?
    Is it strange that my thoughts run on ruin and death?
Oh, white, fleecy clouds that are drooping above me,
    Hark, hark to my pleadings, and answer my sighs,
And let down the beautiful snow, if you love me,
    To cover my wounds from all pitying eyes.

“I am hurled from my throne, but not hurled down forever,
    I shall rise from the dust, I shall live down my woes–
But my heart lies to-day, like a dumb, frozen river;
    When to thaw out and flow again, God only knows.
Oh, sprites of the air! I beseech you to weave me
    A mantle of white snow, and beautiful rime
To cover my unsightly ruins; then leave me
    In the hands of the healer of all wounds–‘Old Time.'”
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#12

   
   
Hung
   
   
Nine o’clock, and the sun shines as yellow and warm
As though ’twere a fete day. I wish it would storm:
    Wish the thunder would crash,
    And the red lightning flash,
And lap the black clouds, with its serpentine tongue.
The day is too calm for a man to be hung.
    Hung!    Ugh, what a word!
The most heartless and horrible ear ever heard.

He has murdered, and plundered, and robbed, so “they say”;
Been the scourge of the country for many a day.
    He was lawless and wild;
    Man, woman or child
Met no mercy, no pity, if found in his path;
He was worse than a beast of the woods, in his wrath.
    And yet–to be hung,
    Oh, my God! to be swung
By the neck to and fro for the rabble to see–
    The thought sickens me.

Thirty minutes past nine. How the time hurries by,
But the half hour remains–at ten he will die.
    Die?    No!    He’ll be killed!
    For God never willed
Men should die in this way.
“Vengeance is mine,” He saith. “I will repay.”
    Yet what could be done
    With this wild, lawless one!
No prison could hold him, and so–he must swing.
    It’s a horrible thing!

Outcast, desperado, fiend, knave; all of these
And more. But call him whatever you please,
    I cannot forget
    He’s a mortal man yet:
That he once was a babe and was hushed into rest,
And fondled and pressed to a woman’s warm breast.
    Was sung to, and rocked,
    And when he first walked
With his weak little feet, he was petted and told
He was “mamma’s own pet, worth his whole weight in gold.”
    And this is the end
Of a God-given life.    Just think of it, friend!

Hark! hear you that chime?    ‘Tis the clock striking ten.
The dread weight falls down, with a sound like “Amen.”
Does murder pay murder? Do two wrongs make a right?
    Oh, that horrible sight!
I am shut in my room and have covered my face,
But the dread scene has followed me into this place.
    I see that strange thing,
    Like a clock pendulum, swing
To and fro, in the air, back and forth, to and fro.
    One moment ago
‘Twas a man in God’s image.    Now hide it, kind grave.
Oh, God what an end to the life that you gave!
   
   

_____

#11

   
   
Relics
   
   
This is her crochet-work, just as she left it,
The spool, with the needle caught into its side,
And the edging wound up in a    neat little bundle;
She had been knitting, the day that she died.

This is her dress, hanging here in the closet,
The last one she hung here; ’twill never be moved;
She wore it the morn of the day that she sickened,
And it constantly speaks of the maiden we loved.

This is her glove, lying here on the table,
Bearing the marks of her fingers, you see;
Just as she tossed it aside, I shall leave it;
It is more than a diamond, or topaz, to me.

This is the last book her eye ever glanced in,
The blue ribbon mark shows how far she had read.
That morn, she was better, she said, and was reading
Aloud; and at a dusk, the same day, she was dead.

This is a letter: begun, but not finished;
Her head ached, she said, and she laid it aside.
And these little relics, so sacredly guarded,
Are all that are left of the dear girl that died.
   
   

_____

#10

   
   
The Edict of the Sex
   
   
Two thousand years had passed since Christ was born,
When suddenly there rose a mighty host
Of women, sweeping to a central goal
As many rivers sweep on to the sea.
They came from mountains, valleys, and from coasts
And from all lands, all nations, and all ranks,
Speaking all languages, but thinking one.
And that one language–Peace.

                    “Listen,” they said,
And straightway was there silence on the earth,
For men were dumb with wonder and surprise.
“Listen, O mighty masters of the world,
And hear the edict of all womankind;
Since Christ His new commandment gave to men
‘Love one another,’ full two thousand years
Have passed away, yet earth is red with blood.
The strong male rulers of the world proclaim
Their weakness, when we ask that war shall cease.

Now will the poor weak women of the world
Proclaim their strength, and say that war shall end.
Hear, then, our edict: Never from this day
Will any woman on the crust of earth
Mother a warrior. We have sworn the oath
And will go barren to the waiting tomb
Rather than breed strong sons at war’s behest,
Or bring fair daughters into life, to bear
The pains of travail, for no end but war.
Ay! let the race die out for lack of babes:
Better a dying race than endless wars!
Better a silent world than noise of guns
And clash of armies.

                      “Long we asked for peace,
And oft you promised–but to fight again.
At last you told us, war must ever be
While men existed, laughing at our plea
For the disarmament of all mankind.
Then in our hearts flamed such a mad desire
For peace on earth, as lights the world at times
With some great conflagration; and it spread
From distant land to land, from sea to sea,
Until all women thought as with one mind
And spoke as with one voice; and now behold!
The great Crusading Syndicate of Peace,
Filling all space with one supreme resolve.
Give us, O men, your word that war shall end:
Disarm the world, and we will give you sons–
Sons to construct, and daughters to adorn
A beautiful new earth, where there shall be
Fewer and finer people, opulence
And opportunity and peace for all.
Until you promise peace no shrill birth-cry
Shall sound again upon the ageing earth.
We wait your answer.”
                    And the world was still
While men considered.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#9

   
   
The Old Wooden Cradle
   
   
Good-bye to the cradle, the dear wooden cradle
The rude hand of Progress has thrust it aside.
No more to its motion o’er sleep’s fairy ocean,
Our play-weary wayfarers peacefully glide.

No more by the rhythm of slow-moving rocker,
Their sweet dreamy fancies are fostered and fed;
No more to low singing the cradle goes swinging–
The child of this era is put into bed.

Good-bye to the cradle, the dear wooden cradle,
It lent to the twilight a strange, subtle charm;
When bees left the clover, when play-time was over,
How safe seemed this shelter from danger or harm.

How soft seemed the pillow, how distant the ceiling,
How weird were the voices that whispered around,
What dreams would come flocking, as rocking and rocking,
We floated away into slumber profound.

Good-bye to the cradle, the old wooden cradle,
The babe of to-day does not know it by sight.
When day leaves the border, with system and order,
The child goes to bed and we put out the light.

I bow to Progression and ask no concession,
Though strewn be her pathway with wrecks of the past;
So off with old lumber, that sweet ark of slumber,
The old wooden cradle, is ruthlessly cast.
   
   

_____

#8

   
   
Breaking the Day in Two
   
   
When from dawn till noon seems one long day,
    And from noon till night another,
Oh, then should a little boy come from play,
    And creep into the arms of his mother.
Snugly creep and fall asleep,
    O come, my baby, do;
Creep into my lap, and with a nap,
    We’ll break the day in two.

When the shadows slant for afternoon,
      When the midday meal is over;
When the winds have sung themselves into a swoon,
      And the bees drone in the clover.
    Then hie to me, hie, for a lullaby–
      Come, my baby, do;
    Creep into my lap, and with a nap
      We’ll break the day in two.

We’ll break it in two with a crooning song,
    With a soft and soothing number;
For the day has no right to be so long
    And keep my baby from slumber.
Then rock-a-by, rock, may white dreams flock
    Like angels over you;
Baby’s gone, and the deed is done
    We’ve broken the day in two.
   
   

_____

#7

   
   
Buried To-Day
   
   
Cold is the wind, that blows up from the river.
    Cold is the blast that sweeps over the plain.
In the bleak breath of the morning I shiver–
    Shiver and weep, in my desolate pain.
She was so fair–like the beautiful lily–
    Fair, oh too fair to be hidden away.
And the grave is so dark, and so damp, and so chilly,
    And she–oh my love!–will be buried to-day.

White is the snow that is heaped on the meadow,
    Whiter the face, in this desolate room.
Low in the valley lurk darkness and shadow–
    Low lies my heart, in its sorrow and gloom.
How the spades scrape, on the sods they are breaking,
    Breaking, and cutting the snowdrifts away.
How the men bend to the grave they are making,
    Where she–oh my love!–will be buried to-day.

Thick are the walls! but the bleak wind will enter,
    And chill her through all her long slumber, I know.
Rich are her robes! but the merciless Winter
    Will beat on her breast, with its tempests of snow.
Oh she was guarded, and shielded from sorrow–
    Kept from the shadows, and darkness, alway.
But she will lie, as the beggar to-morrow–
    My love–oh my love!–that is buried to-day.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#6

   
   
A Mirage
   
   
It was the crowded hour of the great city,
And through its long streets rushed
Trams, motor trucks, and automobiles,
And there was honk of horn, and clang of bell.
    Then suddenly the din seemed hushed.
The people paused a moment in their hurry.
      A curious spell
Fell over that loud scene, as down the street
A pair of pretty ponies drew a surrey;
And in it sat a lady with a bonnet–
A quaint affair with just one posy on it,
And narrow strings tied underneath her chin.
The man who drove the ponies seemed to be
A picture from old Godey’s Magazine,
Materialised. The city’s din
Died down, and voices of a village choir
Trailed on the air! A pastoral scene
With glimpses in the distance of the sea
Replaced tall city structures. Life was quiet,
And there was time for reverie and song.
The surrey passed from sight. A trolley gong
Clanged all the street again to noise and riot.
Tall city structures seemed to loom still higher
And shut the sunlight out. Intolerant,
Unbeautiful and loud-voiced vehicles
Proceeded on their way to rave and rant.
There was no peace in all the city’s mart
Save but for him who found it in his heart.
   
   

_____

#5

   
   
Divorced
   
   
Thinking of one thing all day long, at night
I fall asleep, brain weary and heart sore;
But only for a little while. At three,
Sometimes at two o’clock, I wake and lie,
Staring out into darkness; while my thoughts
Begin the weary tread-mill toil again,
From that white marriage morning of our youth
Down to this dreadful hour.

                                I see your face
Lit with the lovelight of the honeymoon;
I hear your voice, that lingered on my name
As if it loved each letter; and I feel
The clinging of your arms about my form,
Your kisses on my cheek–and long to break
The anguish of such memories with tears,
But cannot weep; the fountain has run dry.
We were so young, so happy, and so full
Of keen, sweet joy of life. I had no wish
Outside your pleasure; and you loved me so
That when I sometimes felt a woman’s need
For more serene expression of man’s love
(The need to rest in calm affection’s bay
And not sail ever on the stormy main),
Yet would I rouse myself to your desire;
Meet ardent kisses with kisses just as warm;
So nothing I could give should be denied.

And then our children came. Deep in my soul,
From the first hour of conscious motherhood,
I knew I should conserve myself for this
Most holy office; knew God meant it so.
Yet even then, I held your wishes first;
And by my double duties lost the bloom
And freshness of my beauty; and beheld
A look of disapproval in your eyes.
But with the coming of our precious child,
The lover’s smile, tinged with the father’s pride,
Returned again; and helped to make me strong;
And life was very sweet for both of us.

Another, and another birth, and twice
The little white hearse paused beside our door
And took away some portion of my youth
With my sweet babies. At the first you seemed
To suffer with me, standing very near;
But when I wept too long, you turned away.
And I was hurt, not realising then
My grief was selfish.    I could see the change
Which motherhood and sorrow made in me;
And when I saw the change that came to you,
Saw how your eyes looked past me when you talked,
And when I missed the love tone from your voice,
I did that foolish thing weak women do,
Complained, and cried, accused you of neglect,
And made myself obnoxious in your sight.

And often, after you had left my side,
Alone I stood before my mirror, mad
With anger at my pallid cheeks, my dull
Unlighted eyes, my shrunken mother-breasts,
And wept, and wept, and faded more and more.
How could I hope to win back wandering love,
And make new flames in dying embers leap
By such ungracious means?

                                And then She came,
Firm-bosomed, round of cheek, with such young eyes,
And all the ways of youth. I who had died
A thousand deaths in waiting the return
Of that old love-look to your face once more,
Died yet again and went straight into hell
When I beheld it come at her approach.

My God! My God! How have I borne it all!
Yet since she had the power to wake that look–
The power to sweep the ashes from your heart
Of burned-out love of me, and light new fires,
One thing remained for me–to let you go.
I had no wish to keep the empty frame
From which the priceless picture had been wrenched.
Nor do I blame you; it was not your fault:
You gave me all that most men can give–love
Of youth, of beauty, and of passion; and
I gave you full return; my womanhood
Matched well your manhood. Yet had you grown ill,
Or old, and unattractive from some cause
(Less close than was my service unto you),
I should have clung the tighter to you, dear;
And loved you, loved you, loved you more and more.

I grow so weary thinking of these things;
Day in, day out, and half the awful nights.
   
   

_____

#4

   
   
But One
   
   
The year has but one June, dear friend,
    The year has but one June;
And when that perfect month doth end,
The robin’s song, though loud, though long
    Seems never quite in tune.

The rose, though still its blushing face
    By bee and bird is seen,
May yet have lost that subtle grace–
That nameless spell the winds know well–
    Which makes its gardens queen.

Life’s perfect June, love’s red, red rose,
    Have burned and bloomed for me.
Though still youth’s summer sunlight glows;
Though thou art kind, dear friend, I find
    I have no heart for thee.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#3

   
   
The Dream-Town Show
   
   
There is an island in Slumber Sea
Where the drollest things are done,
And we will sail there if the winds are fair
Just after the set of the sun.
‘Tis the loveliest place in the whole wide world,
Or anyway, so it seems,
And the folks there play at the end of each day
In a curious show called Dreams.

We sail right into the evening skies,
And the very first thing we know,
We are there at the port and read for sport
Where the dream folks give their show.
And what do you think they did last night
When I crossed their harbor bars?
They hoisted a plank on a great cloud bank
And teetered among the stars.

And they sat on the moon and swung their feet
Like pendulums to and fro;
Down Slumber Sea is the sail for me,
And I wish you were ready to go.
For the dream folks there on this curious isle
Begin their performance at eight.
There are no encores, and they close their doors,
On everyone who is late.

The sun is sinking behind the hills,
The seven o’clock bells chime.
I know by the chart that we ought to start
If we would be there in time.
O fair is the trip down Slumber Sea,
Set sail and away we go:
The anchor is drawn, we are off and gone
To the wonderful Dream-town show.
   
   

_____

#2

   
   
Resigned
   
   
My babe was moaning in its sleep;
    I leaned and kissed it where it lay;
My pain was such I could not weep.
    Oh, would God take my child away?
He had so many ’round his throne–
If He took mine–I stood alone!

I held my child upon my knee;
    It looked up with its father’s eyes,
Who, ere the infant came to me,
    Had journeyed homeward to the skies.
But through those eyes, so sad and mild,
I found my husband, in my child.

It was such comfort, night and day,
    To watch its slumber–feel its breath–
And slow–so slow–it pined away,
    I heard not th’ approach of Death
Until he stood close at my side,
    And then my soul within me died.

I clasped my babe with sudden moan,
    I cried, “My sweet, thou shalt not go
To join the children ’round the Throne,
    For I have need of thee below.
If God takes thee, I am bereft–
No hope or joy or comfort left.”

My babe looked pleading in my face;
    It seemed my husband’s eyes instead,
And his voice sounded in the place,
    “I want my child in heaven,” it said.
The infant raised its little hands,
And seemed to reach toward heavenly lands.

The tears that had refused to flow,
    Came welling upward from my heart;
I sobbed, “My child, then thou may’st go,
    Thy angel father bids us part.
I know in all that heavenly place
He ne’er looked on so sweet a face.

“He does not even know thy name,
    And all these months, he’s longed for thee.
How could I so forget his claim–
    And strive to keep thee at my knee?
Go child–my child–and give him this–
In one the wife’s and mother’s kiss.”

My baby smiled, and seeming slept.
    Its hand grew cold within my own.
Not wholly sad the tears I wept,
    For though I was indeed alone,
My babe I knew was safe at rest
    Upon its angel father’s breast.
   
   

_____

   
   

_____

#1

   
   
Solitude
   
   
Laugh, and the world laughs with you;
    Weep, and you weep alone,
For the sad old earth must borrow its mirth,
    But has trouble enough of its own.
Sing, and the hills will answer;
    Sigh, it is lost on the air.
The echoes bound to a joyful sound,
    But are slow to voice your care.

Rejoice, and men will seek you;
    Grieve, and they turn and go.
They want full measure of all your pleasure,
    But they do not need your woe.
Be glad, and your friends are many;
    Be sad, and you lose them all.
There are none to decline your nectared wine,
    But alone you must drink life’s gall.

Feast, and your halls are crowded;
    Fast, and the world goes by.
Succeed and give, and it helps you live,
    But no man can help you die.
There is room in the halls of pleasure
    For a large and lordly train,
But one by one we must all file on
    Through the narrow aisles of pain.
   
   

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