Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

May 22, 2013

Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa

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Art Judges Economy, Not Vice Versa
   
   

Pyramid of Capitalist SystemPart of the ideal in creating an economy is to figure out how to optimize growth and production and decrease scarcity, while at the same time distributing goods in beneficial ways. Furthermore, with the absence of tyranny, everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth. So any command aspects of the economy would only be to serve the greater good, as would any and all self-interest aspects.

What happens when some people, our infirm for instance, cannot participate in the machinery of the economic system? More generally, what happens with those who are unable, such that common interest collides with self interest? The idea is to return to the ideal and say that “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” That is where the re-creation or evolution of the economic system pivots, where at all times it is in service to a representative government, an ideal that should remain what we are continuously striving to perfect, no matter how entrenched our imperfect system gets.

Those unable or less able to participate in what has been set up to benefit us all, still should participate fully in the benefits. We just have a hard time getting a system going that works like that, as we continuously compromise ourselves to the imperfect system. There is no good reason, other than some ultimate benefit to everyone, that Bill Gates should have more money and access to the good life, than any other single one of us. He may be a good person, but he is not billions of times better as a person than someone who is unable to do works such as he has done. The bottom line, as it were, is that we would value each citizen equally and fully, and to be continuously questioning how we can change our economic system such that it serves each and all of us better.

The same thing that happens with those who are either unable or less able to participate in an economic system that pivots on self interest, is what happens with those attending to the arts and spiritual aspects of life. They are either sidelined or not in the game. The strength of an economy is measured by what the bean counters can attend to. Yet art and spirituality cannot be effectively measured this way. Where is the evidence that Frida Kahlo’s paintings are worthy of anything more or other than a place on a rich person’s wall? What The Water Gave Me, by Frida KahloThere may be none, but they are far more and otherwise worthy. That our bean-counting market system makes little or less room for the theologians and artists among us, does not mean that they should not be part of the “everyone” who “would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth,” or be the beneficiaries of what might be considered the charity of the more “fortunate”.

Nor does it mean that we should align with bean counters who only wonder if people would be more productive and earn more money if and how they are spiritual and enjoy which types of art. It is only one aspect of art, of Frida Kahlo’s works, that somehow they would make anyone a more productive employee. Art is not for the economy’s sake. Art is in no way in service to the market system. One of its functions is to be there to expose the economy for its faults. Who’s judging who? Art judges economy, not vice versa.

The manufacturing tycoon’s money is merely his, because the rest of us say he can have it, and only for as long as the rest of say he can have it. It may be a game of Monopoly we’ve decided to play, but Monopoly is only a game, and a person’s net value is not ultimately measured in how she plays such a game, or even her interest in it. Any money we say that the tycoon must give over to art or spirituality, that part that we say that he cannot have, is not his. That’s our money in a representative government—just as in a monarchy we would say he is rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.

We get the bean counters, who want artists and theologians to justify themselves to the economy, when their justification is to the greater citizenry, to humanity as a whole, to humanity through time, and any life or spirituality that may be transcendent of that. It is part of being human to create good art, bad art, and everything in between. It is a sick, lopsided society that, when the economy is failing, the artists and theologians are made to suffer disproportionately.

Yes, there is a case for bad art. For instance, Samina Malik, who was jailed in the UK for writing a bad poem, and then rightly let go. The creative process is so misunderstood, the political machinery in its ignorance had her incarcerated for a time.

Let’s look at another case of poetry, one that may or may not be good, depending on what you as an individual think of it. After then-poet laureate of New Jersey Amiri Baraka recited his poem Somebody Blew Up America, the state decided to no longer have a poet laureate, to completely do away with the position. The challenge to the political establishment was too great.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, BakuA benefit from art and spirituality is that they challenge the status quo of the money machine, which can lead to an industrial machine, a science machine, a technology machine, to the point of being a threat. Laws are created to prevent such threats, and artists and spiritual activists throughout time, up to and including today, are imprisoned, some tortured, and some even killed for their expressions.

Arts and humanities show us more of what it means to be human. At a basic level, an artist may simply be displaying what it is like to be another person. Culturally broader art steps outside the established modes of thinking and being, to display wider possibilities than are available in society. When it is not pointing directly to the outcomes of greed and the plight of those left outside the machinery, it can be bringing us beauty to consider, or even ugliness, other ways of seeing the world and our place in it, that are not part of the paradigm needed to produce goods and make profits.

I have news for you atheists: there may be a god. You don’t know. You have decided. That there is no room for god in commerce, is a great pull to atheism. Atheists have selected to believe that which is available within the limitations of commerce and industry. When we check out at a store, the cashier says, “Thank you” to us, not “Thank you and god bless”–heaven forbid. Or how about, “Thank you, you are loved”?

There are fully other sides to being human, than those fostered by the economy left to itself as a system, a system bent on growing and absorbing each of us. There are aspects to being human that an economy given full power would not allow us to participate in, or even hint at. Art so threatens. Spirituality brings morals and ethics that threaten. These parts of us are transcendent of the social and economic systems that we have chosen for ourselves.

We need to interject, to say that everyone gets to participate in art and spirituality, just as “everyone would get good food, a good place to stay, access to health care, access to the lands of the country, and so forth.” We are all not only above the law, but above the economy.
   

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February 22, 2010

V. Sundaram’s A Great Sant from Gujarat and Rajasthan (with rare translations of Dadu bhajans)

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by V. Sundaram
   

A Great Sant from Gujarat and Rajasthan
   

I have been inspired to write this article on Sant Dadu Dayal (1544—1603) of Gujarat and Rajasthan by seeing the entry on 22-2-2010 in the Sanatan Almanac (Hindu Calendar rooted in Sanatana Dharma) published by Sanatan Sanstha in Goa.  The entry on this date relates to ‘Dadu Dayal Jayanthi, Rajasthan, Gujarat’.

This great Hindu Calendar of Sanatan Sanstha is a veritable Hindu Encyclopedia.  It is a spiritual power station of our timeless Hindu tradition.  It is a storage warehouse of the most precious jewels of Hinduism.  It is a Hindu Library; a great Hindu Amphitheatre; a Hindu Museum; a Hindu Hall of Timeless Archives; a seat of Hindu Justice and above all a seat of Informal Hindu People’s Government.  This beautiful Hindu calendar rooted in Sanatana Dharma is now available in five languages–Marathi, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu and English.  I understand efforts are afoot to bring out this Hindu calendar in two more languages—Tamil and Malayalam.  It is absolutely necessary in the larger national interest of promotion of Hindu Unity and Hindu Solidarity to bring out this calendar in all the major languages of India without any further delay.  I offer my reverential salutations to Guruji H.H.Bhaktaraj Maharaj and his chosen disciple Guruji Dr.Jayant Balaji Athavale for giving us all the blessing of seeing and using this Hindu Calendar everyday.

Dadu Dayal Jayanthi falls today (22-2-2010).  Dadu Dayal (1544-1603) was a great saint from Gujarat who spent the best part of his spiritual life in Rajasthan.  Consequently he has thousands of devotees both in Gujarat and Rajasthan who worship him with great reverence and devotion.  “Dadu” means brother, and “Dayal” means “the compassionate one”.


   

Very few authentic details relating to the early life of Dadu Dayal ji Maharaj are available.  Born in Ahmedabad in 1544, he made Rajasthan his home.  Like Saint Kabir, Dadu came from one of the many lower artisan castes.  It is said that Dadu was a foster son of Lodhi Ram, a Naga Brahmin of Ahmedabad, who had found the infant floating on the waves of the Sabarmati river in 1545.  Dadu Dayal lived in the Jaipur region of Rajasthan, most probably as a pinjari, a cotton carder.  He married and had a family of two sons and two daughters.  He attained Samadhi in Naraina in Jaipur district in 1603.  Emperor Akbar is said to have been one of his followers. 

Dadu Dayal is one of the major representatives of the Nirguna Sant traditions in Northern India.  He gathered around himself a group of followers, which became known as the Dadu-panth in his own lifetime.  This organization has continued in Rajasthan to the present-day, and has been a major source of early manuscripts containing songs by the North Indian saints.

Dadu ji had 100 disciples who followed his teachings and attained salvation.  He instructed an additional 52 disciples to set up ashrams, known as ‘Thambas’ around the region to spread the Lord’s word.

Five thambas are considered sacred by the followers, namely, Naraina, Bhairanaji, Sambhar, Amer, and Karadala (Kalyanpura).  Followers of these thambas then spread and set up other places of worship.


   

Shri Dadu Dham Bhairana, which lies in the secluded hilly tract of Bichoon district in the Jaipur division of Rajasthan, has become a sacred place of pilgrimage for lakhs of devotees of Saint Dadu Dayal Ji Maharaj from Haryana.  The devotees come from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and other parts of the country.  They hold the place in reverence.  The remaining part of the story relating to the eternal importance of Bhairana in the life of Daduji Maharaj can now be told.

The ancient Bhairana hill, which is situated amidst exquisite natural surroundings, has been the hermitage of many saints and seers since times immemorial.  It is said that at the pressing solicitations of Uddhava Bhagat, a prominent resident of Bhairana, on one occasion Daduji Maharaj himself made a brief visit to Bhairana during which time he intuitively and instantly realised the spirit of the adorable sanctity of this ancient abode of saints.  Later at the time of his departure from the world in 1603, Daduji instructed his disciple-saints at Naraina thus: “After my demise, take my body to the Bhairana hill and then leave it there at the spot in its deep gorge.  Hence forward, it shall be known as our sanctum-sanctorum and it shall continue to be a place of worship for saints and sadhus for all times to come in the future as well.”

Accordingly, when Dadu Ji Maharaj breathed his last on in 1603, his body was taken in a palanquin from Naraina to Bhairana and placed there in its gorge by thousands of his disciple-saints.  When they were engaged in a discussion regarding the last rites to be performed, a supernatural incident is said to have occurred all of a sudden.  Tila Ji, a disciple-saint of Dadu Ji Maharaj, saw his guru standing at the gate of a cave near the hilltop.  He brought it to the notice of others too.  Instantly Daduji Maharaj spoke “Satya Ram” to all and then vanished into the cave.  According to the legend and tradition, the palanquin also disappeared and only some flowers were left there.  The devotees had to remain contented with performing the last rites with those flowers at that site where now stands a large memorial, which is sacred to the Dadu-panthis.

The place is now popularly known as Dadu Khol or Dadu Ganga where ashes of saints, sadhus and other devotees of the Dadu cult are scattered at this sacred spot very much like the immersion of the ashes of the Hindus in the River Ganga at Haridwar.

Shree Dadu Dayal Dham near Kankaria Lake in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India


   

Dadupanth even today is a strong movement in the States of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and the adjoining regions.  Daduji belongs to the lineage of Nirguna Sants like Kabir and Guru Nanak.

The Vaishnava Sant tradition developed in Maharashtra and it focused on devotion to a “Saguna” form of Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna.  Another Sant tradition developed in several parts of Northern India and more particularly in the Punjab which advocated devotion to a ‘Nirguna’ form of the Lord viewed as the ineffable absolute without shape or form, the source and support of the Cosmos, by Whose Grace beings are liberated from the cycle of birth and death.  Kabir, Guru Nanak, Meera Bai, Ravidas and Dadu Dayal belonged to this Nirguna Sant tradition.

Dadu Dayal was a great poet-mystic and spiritual Master of Divine Light, Sound, and Nirguna Bhakti from Rajasthan in the lineage of Guru Kabir.  Dadu alludes to the bliss of Sahaja in his songs.  Much of the imagery used in his songs is similar to that used by Kabir, and similar also to that used by the earlier Sahajiya Buddhists and Nath yogis.  Dadu’s compositions were recorded by his disciple Rajjab and are known as the Dadu Anubhav Vaani, a compilation of 5,000 verses.  His songs are in a Hindi dialect known as Braj Bhasa, being a mixture of Hindi and Rajasthani.  Janagopal another disciple of Dadu Dayal wrote the earliest biography of Dadu.

Translations of Dadu bhajans are quite rare in English.  Let me give an English translation of two of the verses of Sant Dadu Dayal titled ‘The Vision of the Beloved’ and ‘An Outer Guru That Is Not an Inner Guru, Not a Qualified Teacher’
   

I. The Vision of the Beloved
   

                One sits fearlessly by repeating God’s Name;
                the Negative Power can never consume him.
                When you ride the elephant, 0h Dadu,
                then dogs bark in vain.
                When love and devotion arise,
                one is firmly established in blissful meditation.
                With the grace of the Master,
                he then drinks the divine Nectar, 0h Dadu.
                By being dedicated to the Lord,
                millions of obstacles are removed.
                A tiny spark the size of a mustard seed
                burns a huge amount of wood, 0h Dadu.
                Impurities and blemishes of the mind
                are burnt up in the fire of separation.
                The separated lover will now see
                the vision of the Beloved, 0h Dadu.
   

II. An Outer Guru That Is Not an Inner Guru, Not a Qualified Teacher
   

                The whole world makes an outer display,
                whereas the practice of the Saint is within.
                This is the difference between the two;
                hence no accord is found between them.

                A new pot taken from the potter’s furnace
                may be decorated with many pictures outside;
                But of what use will it be to you,
                0h Dadu, without any contents?
                Such are the ones who make outer display of religiosity.

                From one who bears no outer religious symbols,
                but has unfathomable riches within,
                receive the wealth and keep it within
                your heart, 0h Dadu, and be obedient to such a Saint.

                There is a great difference between a Saint and a mimic,
                the two are as far apart as earth and sky.
                The Saint is absorbed in God, whereas
                the mimic pins his hopes on the world.

                The One alone dwells within my heart,
                Day and night I repeat His Name.
                The Name of God alone is true;
                keep that within your heart.
                Forsake all hypocrisies and cumbrous practices;
                this is the teaching of all Saints, 0h Dadu.
   

We can see the essence of similarity between the above verse and the following verse of Kabir titled ‘Weaving Your Name’.  Kabir too was a mystical poet like Sant Dadu Dayal.  Kabir belonged to the 15th century.  Both Kabir and Sant Dadu Dayal belonged to the Nirguna Sant Tradition.

                I weave your name on the loom of my mind,
                To make my garment when you come to me.
                My loom has ten thousand threads
                To make my garment when you come to me.
                The sun and moon watch while I weave your name;
                The sun and moon hear while I count your name.
                These are the wages I get by day and night
                To deposit in the lotus bank of my heart.

                I weave your name on the loom of my mind
                To clean and soften then thousand threads
                And to comb the twists and knots of my thoughts.
                No more shall I weave a garment of pain.
                For you have come to me, drawn by my weaving—
                My ceaselessly weaving your name
                On the loom of my mind.
   

I would also like to give another example from the same Nirguna Sant Tradition.  Ravidas was a Hindu cobbler of 15th century Varanasi.  He is remembered for his beautiful hymns and his gentle piety which drew many seeking souls to his shoe shop.  I am presenting below a poem by Sant Ravidas titled ‘The City of God’, Considered one of his most beautiful poems.

                Grieve Not is the name of my town.
                Pain and fear cannot enter there,
                Free from possessions, free from life’s taxes,
                Free from fear of disease and death,

                After much wandering I am coming back home
                Where turns not the wheel of time and change,
                And my Emperor rules, without a second or third,
                In Abadan, filled with love and wisdom.

                The citizens are rich in the wealth of the heart,
                And they live ever free in the City of God.
                Listen to Ravidas, just a cobbler:
                “All who live here are my true friends.”
   

Philosophy in India is essentially spiritual.  It is the intense spirituality of India, and not any great political structure or social organization that it has developed, that has enabled it to resist the ravages of time and the accidents of history.  External invasions and internal dissensions came very near crushing its civilization many times in its history.  The Greek and the Scythian, the Persian and the Mughal, the French and the English have by turn attempted to suppress it, and yet it has held its head high.  India has not been finally subdued and its old flame of spirit is still burning.  Throughout its life it has been living with one purpose.  In every age it has fought for truth and against error.  The saints and sages of India throughout its long and chequered history have striven for a socio-spiritual reformation of the country.  The idea of Plato that philosophers must be the rulers and directors of society has always been practiced in India.  The ultimate truths are truths of spirit, and in the light of them actual life has to be refined.

To conclude in the beautiful and sublime words of Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, another great philosopher-King of India:

From the beginning of her history India has adored and idealized, not soldiers and statesmen, not men of science and leaders of industry, not even poets and philosophers who influence the world by their deeds or by their words, but those rare and more chastened spirits whose greatness lies in what they are and not in what they do; men who have stamped INFINITY on the thought and life of the country, men who have added to the invisible forces of goodness in the world.  They are the saints and sages, the sants, the rishis and the maharishis of India.  To a world given over to the pursuit of power and pleasure, wealth and glory, they declare the resplendent splendour and transcendental reality of the unseen world and the eternal clarion call of the spiritual life.  Their self-possession and self-command, their strange, deep and subtle wisdom, their exquisite kindness and courtesy, their humility and gentleness of soul, their abounding humility, proclaim that the destiny of man is to know himself and thereby further the universal life of which he is an integral element.  This supreme ideal has dominated the Indian religious landscape for more than 50 centuries.

Sant Dadu Dayal Maharaj whose Jayanti falls today (22-2-2010) belongs legitimately to this continuous, ancient and unbroken Hindu Tradition.

   

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Born on 28th August 1942 at Tiruchirappalli, South India, V. Sundaram had his education in Simla and New Delhi.  He took his B.A. (Hon.) Degree in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi in 1961.  He also took his M.A. Degree in Economics, with specialization in Industrial Economics, from Delhi University in 1963.  He worked as Lecturer in Economics in Delhi University for two years till he joined the Indian Administrative Service (I.A.S.) in 1965.  He was allotted to Tamil Nadu Cadre and has served with distinction in several high positions in Tamil Nadu Government from 1966 to 1994.  He sought his voluntary retirement from the I.A.S. in 1994.

His record as Development Administrator in Tamil Nadu has been outstanding.  He was the first Chairman of Tuticorin Port Trust.  He was the architect responsible for undertaking and completing all the Port Works relating to the creation of breakwaters, the Oil Jetty and the Coal Jetty in Tuticorin Port.  On account of his dynamism and vision, Tuticorin Port was put on the Maritime Map of South East Asia.

In the field of Social Welfare, he has been devoted to the welfare and rehabilitation of the physically handicapped, particularly the patients suffering from leprosy.  As Director of Social Welfare, he established 10 Homes in Tamil Nadu for the rehabilitation of vagrant beggars afflicted with leprosy and leprosy patients languishing below the poverty line.

After coming out of the Government in April 1994 he has held several responsible positions both in the public and private sector.  He was Administrator of the World Bank assisted National Highways Project relating to four-laning of the National Highway from Cuttack to Kolkatta with Headquarters in Bhuvaneshwar.  He was Secretary-General of Hindustan Chamber of Commerce, Chennai for two years.

Till January 2010, he was working as Associate Editor of News Today (a daily in English from Chennai) and Malai Sudar (a daily in Tamil from Chennai).  As a fearless journalist, he has contributed, over a period of 5 years, more than 2500 articles in the field of economics, literature, art and culture, religion and philosophy, apart from politics and public affairs.  He is known for his forthright, hard-hitting and fearless journalism.  His watchwords are S G S T—Stern Grim Scorching Truth! He is known for his independence and courage of conviction.  His motto is: “without courage there can be no truth and without truth there is no other virtue”.

As a lover of books he has a large private library, full of rare and antiquarian books.  He has authored several books and monographs.

                a) Growth with Equity (1987)
                b) Essays and Reviews (1993)
                c) District Administration (1993)
                d) Essays in Welfare Administration (1993)
                e) Rama Setu—Historical Facts and Political Fiction (2007)
                f) Bandemataram Album (2007)
                g) Paramount cry for a Hindu Nation (2008)

Dr. ‘Indira’ Parthasarathy, the highly decorated and internationally known Tamil novelist and man of letters reviewed Shri Sundaram’s book Essays and Reviews, which was released in 1993:

What strikes me most after reading this modestly entitled book “Essays and Reviews,” is the immense versatility of the author.  He is totally at ease dealing with marbles as well as metaphysics.  This anthology features articles on wide-ranging subjects such as History, Biography, Literature, Social and Economic Development and also a few Autobiographical sketches.  The recurring theme in all these topics is what appears to me Sundaram’s nostalgia for the past and his anxiety about the future.  In short, he is obsessed with what he describes as “Madame Time”. . . . He is Proustean in his objective approach to the past, as golden moments gone for ever; Carlylian in glorifying heroes of a bygone era as men of nation’s destiny and Hegelian, in elevating history to replace God.  To him, it appears, history is the arbiter of all values and rightly so.  Sundaram is a poet at heart.  It is reflected in all his writings.  If poetry is a “Style in Thinking” as Eliot says, there is ample evidence in his anthology that Sundaram has his own distinctive and imaginative way in approaching his themes.  All the essays in the anthology announce the arrival of a multi-dimensional scholar and also a poet—Could this be a contradiction in terms—with an instinctive genius, for discovering the “astonishingness” in the most commonplace things which Mrs. Mathuram Bhoothilingam aptly describes as “The Spirit of Wonder.”

Dr. ‘Indira’ Parthasarathy gave this final literary verdict to Shri V. Sundaram’s book.  “In an era of ‘aesthetic abundance’ unfortunately ushered in by democracy and technological explosion, looking for needles in haystacks has become the full-time occupation of a Conservative reader, who still clings to the old-fashioned belief that quality is all.  I don’t feel ashamed to confess that I am a Conservative in regard to my reading habits and I am immensely happy, now that I have found a needle.”

V. Sundaram is a lover and keen student of Carnatic Music.  He is a trained Mridangam Player (a percussion instrument like the drums).  He has a rare and magnificent collection of rare audio voices of great statesmen and men of history, scholars, philosophers and poets of international fame.  A keen collector of South Indian art, he has donated several bronzes and other art objects to the Madras Museum.

V. Sundaram is married to Padma who comes from a family of distinguished Sanskrit scholars.  He hails from Ennappadam village near Palghat, Kerala.  His wife Padma Sundaram hails from Tondikulam Village, near Nurani Village near Palghat Town, Kerala.

Among many other things, V. Sundaram has been greatly influenced by the writings of Hans J. Morgenthau (1904-1980) and Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965).

He has kept the following quotation from the writings of Morganthau on his working table for guidance everyday:

To be able to work in the service of a great idea, on behalf of an important goal; to be able to commit every nerve, every muscle, and every drop of sweat to a work, to a great task; to grow with the work, to become greater oneself in the struggle with one’s betters’ and then to be able to say at the end: I die, but there remains something that is more important than my life and will last longer than my body: my work.  That is my hope, which is worthy of tremendous efforts, that is my goal, for which it is worth living and, if need be, dying.

The other quotation is from Sir Winston Churchill.  In order to stoutly defend the deathless cause of public interest, V. Sundaram sought voluntary retirement from the Indian Administrative Service (IAS) in 1994 at the age of 51.  At that time he quoted the following words of Sir Winston Churchill and told the Press that they were his sounding signals and guiding lights: “The only shield to a man’s honour and dignity is his conscience, the sincerity and the rectitude of his actions.  Armed with this shield, he shall always march amidst the ranks of honour, whichever way the fates might play.”

   

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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:
   

______

   

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.

   

______

   

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:

   

______

   

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.

   

______

   

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:

   

______

   

#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.

   

______

   

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

   

______

   

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.

   

______

   

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.

   

______

   

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.

   

______

 

______

 

November 11, 2007

A Selection of Kitten Verse by Oliver Herford

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Oliver Herford was born in Sheffield, England in 1863 and moved with his family to Chicago, Illinois when he was twelve, then onto Boston seven years later. After schooling back in England and then in Ohio, he moved to New York City with his wife Margaret Regan, where he became the writer, illustrator, and poet, known as the American Oscar Wilde.

Below is a selection of his kitten poems, accompanied by his illustrations for them. They are selected from The Kitten’s Garden of Verses (1911) and The Rubaiyat of a Persian Kitten (1904). Each light “Rubayait” kitten verse is accompanied by Edward Fitzgerald‘s English translation of Omar Khayyám‘s Rubayait.

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
Foreign Kittens
 
 
Kittens large and Kittens small,
Prowling on the Back Yard Wall,
Though your fur be rough and few,
I should like to play with you.
Though you roam the dangerous street,
And have curious things to eat,
Though you sleep in barn or loft,
With no cushions warm and soft,
Though you have to stay out-doors
When it’s cold or when it pours,
Though your fur is all askew–
How I’d like to play with you!

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
In Darkest Africa
 
 
At evening when the lamp is lit,
        The tired Human People sit
And doze, or turn with solemn looks
        The speckled pages of their books.

Then I, the Dangerous Kitten, prowl
        And in the Shadows softly growl,
And roam about the farthest floor
        Where Kitten never trod before.

And, crouching in the jungle damp,
        I watch the Human Hunter’s camp,
Ready to spring with fearful roar
        As soon as I shall hear them snore.

And then with stealthy tread I crawl
        Into the dark and trackless hall,
Where ‘neath the Hat-tree’s shadows deep
        Umbrellas fold their wings and sleep.

A cuckoo calls—and to their dens
        The People climb like frightened hens,
And I’m alone—and no one cares
        In Darkest Africa—down stairs.

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
I sometimes think the Pussy-Willows grey
Are Angel Kittens who have lost their way,
And every Bulrush on the river bank
A Cat-Tail from some lovely Cat astray.

 
Quatrain from original Rubaiyat

I sometimes think that never blows so red
The Rose as where some buried Caesar bled;
That every Hyacinth the Garden wears
Dropt in its Lap from some once lovely Head.

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
Strange—is it not?—that of the numbers who
Before me passed this Door of Darkness thro’,
Not one returns thro’ it again, altho’
Ofttimes I’ve waited for an hour or two.

 
Quatrain from original Rubaiyat

Strange, is it not? That of the myriads who
Before us pass’d the door of Darkness through,
Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
Which to discover me must travel too.

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
‘Tis but a Tent where takes his one Night’s Rest
A Rodent to the Realms of Death address’d
When Cook, arising, looks for him and then—
Baits, and prepares it for another Guest.

 
Quatrain from original Rubaiyat

‘Tis but a Tent where takes his one day’s rest
A Sultan to the realm of Death addrest;
The Sultan rises, and the dark Ferrash
Strikes, and prepares it for another Guest.

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
A moment’s Halt, a momentary Taste
Of Bitter, and amid the Trickling Waste
I wrought strange shapes from Mah to Mahi, yet
I know not what I wrote, nor why they chased.

 
Quatrain from original Rubaiyat

A Moment’s Halt—a momentary taste
Of Being from the Well amid the Waste—
And Lo!—the phantom Caravan has reach’d
The NOTHING it set out from—Oh, make haste!

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 
 
And fear not lest Existence shut the Door
On You and Me, to open it no more.
The Cream of Life from out your Bowl shall pour
Nine times—ere it lie broken on the floor.

 
Quatrain from original Rubaiyat

And fear not lest Existence closing your
Account, and mine, should know the like no more;
The Eternal Saki from that Bowl has pour’d
Millions of Bubbles like us, and will pour.

 
 

 
 

_____

 
 

 
 

 
 

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June 20, 2007

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

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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.

   
   

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#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.

   
   

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#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?”

   
   

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#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!

   
   

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#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.

   
   

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#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.

   
   

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#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.”

   
   

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#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.”

   
   

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#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!”

   
   

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#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.

   
   

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#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.

   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.'”
   
   

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#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!
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

_____

   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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.
   
   

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#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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