Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

December 21, 2008

. . . and don’t forget these Christmas poems

 
 
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Anonymous
 

At the Last
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 
 
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by Andrew Lang (1844-1912)
 

Ballade of Christmas Ghosts
 

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
 

The Birth of Christ

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by Joe Cone (1869-?1925)
 

The Christmas Feeling
 

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

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

 

 
 
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by Margaret Deland (1857-1945)
 

The Christmas Silence
 

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
 

Church Decking at Christmas
 

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

 

 
 
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kenny-meadows-a-merry-christmas

 
 
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by William Barnes (1801-1886)
 

The Farmer’s Invitation
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by Alfred H. Domett
 

The First Roman Christmas
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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Anonymous
 

The Knighting of the Sirloin of Beef by Charles the Second
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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Anonymous
 

Madonna and Child
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863)
 

The Mahogany-Tree
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by M. Nightingale
 

Mary Had A Little Lamb
 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

The New-Years Gift
 

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

 

 
 
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by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

The New-Years Gift Sent to Sir Simeon Steward
 

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

 

 
 
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by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)
 

Saint Distaff’s Day, the Morrow After Twelfth Day
 

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

 

 
 
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Anonymous
 

Santa Claus
 

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

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

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

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

 

 
 
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by Edwin Lees
 

Signs of Christmas
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 
 
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by Charles Mackay (1814-1889)
 

Under the Holly-Bough
 

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

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

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

 

 
 
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masaccios-the-adoration-of-the-magi

 
 
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May 19, 2007

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

_____

   
   

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) with a friend

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

_____

#20

from

1899

   
   
Then and Now
   
   
Then

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

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

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

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

_____

#19

from

1901

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

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

_____

#18

from

1901

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

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

_____

#17

from

1899

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

_____

#16

from

1895

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#15

from

1895

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

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

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

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

_____

#14

from

1901

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

_____

#13

from

1899

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

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

_____

#12

from

1893

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#11

from

1896

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

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

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

_____

#10

from

1896, this cover 1905

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#9

from

1899

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

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

_____

#8

from

1901

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#7

from

1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#6

from

1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#5

from

1906

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#4

from

1921

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#3

from

1899

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

_____

#2

from

1901

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

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

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

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

_____

#1

from

1895

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

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

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

_____

   
   

Alice Moore Dunbar, Mrs. Paul L. Dunbar

_____

March 15, 2007

The Ella Wheeler Wilcox Top 30 Countdown

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

_____

#30

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#29

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

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

_____

#28

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#27

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

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

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#26

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

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

_____

#25

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

_____

#24

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#23

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

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

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

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

_____

#22

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

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

_____

#21

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

_____

#20

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

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

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#19

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

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

   
   

_____

#18

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

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

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

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

_____

#17

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

_____

#16

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#15

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#14

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

_____

#13

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

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#12

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#11

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#10

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

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#9

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#8

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

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

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

_____

#7

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#6

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

_____

#5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#4

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#3

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

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

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

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

_____

#2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

#1

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

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

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

_____

   
   

_____

November 23, 2006

Faith’s Review and Expectation by John Newton (Amazing Grace, that is)

   

   

originally a poem
   

written with William Cowper (1731-1800)
   

by Rev. John Newton (1725-1807)
   

Faith’s Review and Expectation
   

Amazing grace! (how sweet the sound)
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev’d;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believ’d!

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promis’d good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the vail,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who call’d me here below,
Will be for ever mine.
   

_____

   
Note: The video that was on YouTube of LeAnn Rimes singing “Amazing Grace” in a church, is no longer available. Here is a Google video that uses the song:
   

Duration 3:51

   

performed by LeAnn Rimes
   

Amazing Grace
   

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found.
I was blind, but now I see.

‘Twas grace that taught my heart to feel
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed.

When we’ve been dead ten thousand years,
Bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Then when we first begun.

Amazing grace, O how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I’m found.
I was blind, but now I see.
   

_____

   

Duration 6:00

   

in Cherokee
   

u ne la nv i u we tsi
i ga go yv he i
hna quo tso sv wi yu lo se
i ga gu yv ho nv
a se no i u ne tse i
i yu no du le nv
ta li ne dv tsi lu tsi li
u dv ne u ne tsv
e lo ni gv ni li squa di
ga lu tsv he i yu
ni ga di da ye di go i
a ni e lo hi gv
u na da nv ti a ne hv
do da ya nv hi li
tsa sv hna quo ni go hi lv
do hi wa ne he sdi
   

_____

Over Emily Dickinson’s for Thanksgiving: 16 Poems

   

Emily Dickinson
1830-1886

   

_____

   

A Bird came down the Walk
   

            A Bird came down the Walk–
            He did not know I saw–
            He bit an Angleworm in halves
            And ate the fellow, raw,

            And then he drank a Dew
            From a convenient Grass–
            And then hopped sidewise to the Wall
            To let a Beetle pass–

            He glanced with rapid eyes
            That hurried all around–
            They looked like frightened Beads, I thought–
            He stirred his Velvet Head

            Like one in danger, Cautious,
            I offered him a Crumb
            And he unrolled his feathers
            And rowed him softer home–

            Than Oars divide the Ocean,
            Too silver for a seam–
            Or Butterflies, off Banks of Noon
            Leap, plashless as they swim.
   

_____

   

God gave a Loaf to every Bird
   

            God gave a Loaf to every Bird–
            But just a Crumb–to Me–
            I dare not eat it–tho’ I starve–
            My poignant luxury–

            To own it–touch it–
            Prove the feat–that made the Pellet mine–
            Too happy–for my Sparrow’s chance–
            For Ampler Coveting–

            It might be Famine–all around–
            I could not miss an Ear–
            Such Plenty smiles upon my Board–
            My Garner shows so fair–

            I wonder how the Rich–may feel–
            An Indiaman–An Earl–
            I deem that I–with but a Crumb–
            Am Sovereign of them all–
   


   

_____

   

He ate and drank the precious Words
   

            He ate and drank the precious Words–
            His Spirit grew robust–
            He knew no more that he was poor,
            Nor that his frame was Dust–

            He danced along the dingy Days
            And this Bequest of Wings
            Was but a Book–What Liberty
            A loosened spirit brings–
   

_____

   

I bring an unaccustomed wine
   

            I bring an unaccustomed wine
            To lips long parching
            Next to mine,
            And summon them to drink;

            Crackling with fever, they Essay,
            I turn my brimming eyes away,
            And come next hour to look.

            The hands still hug the tardy glass–
            The lips I would have cooled, alas–
            Are so superfluous Cold–

            I would as soon attempt to warm
            The bosoms where the frost has lain
            Ages beneath the mould–

            Some other thirsty there may be
            To whom this would have pointed me
            Had it remained to speak–

            And so I always bear the cup
            If, haply, mine may be the drop
            Some pilgrim thirst to slake–

            If, haply, any say to me
            “Unto the little, unto me,”
            When I at last awake.
   


   

_____

   

I had been hungry, all the Years
   

            I had been hungry, all the Years–
            My Noon had Come–to dine–
            I, trembling, drew the Table near–
            And touched the Curious Wine–

            ‘Twas this on Tables I had seen–
            When turning, hungry, Home
            I looked in Windows, for the Wealth
            I could not hope–for Mine–

            I did not know the ample Bread–
            ‘Twas so unlike the Crumb
            The birds and I had often shared
            In Nature’s Dining-Room–

            The Plenty hurt me–’twas so new–
            Myself felt ill–and odd–
            As Berry–of A Mountain Bush
            Transplanted–to the Road–

            Nor was I hungry–so I found
            That Hunger–was a way
            Of Persons outside Windows–
            The Entering–takes away–
   

_____

   

I meant to have but modest needs
   

            I meant to have but modest needs–
            Such as Content–and Heaven–
            Within my income–these could lie
            And Life and I–keep even–

            But since the last–included both–
            It would suffice my Prayer
            But just for One–to stipulate–
            And Grace would grant the Pair–

            And so–upon this wise–I prayed–
            Great Spirit–Give to me
            A Heaven not so large as Yours,
            But large enough–for me–

            A Smile suffused Jehovah’s face–
            The Cherubim–withdrew–
            Grave Saints stole out to look at me–
            And showed their dimples–too–

            I left the Place, with all my might–
            I threw my Prayer away–
            The Quiet Ages picked it up–
            And Judgment–twinkled–too–
            Tat one so honest–be extant–
            It take the Tale for true–
            That “Whatsoever Ye shall ask–
            Itself be given You”–

            But I, grown shrewder–scan the Skies
            With a suspicious Air–
            As Children–swindled for the first
            All Swindlers–be–infer–

   

_____

   

I worked for chaff and earning Wheat
   

            I worked for chaff and earning Wheat
            Was haughty and betrayed.
            What right had Fields to arbitrate
            In matters ratified?

            I tasted Wheat and hated Chaff
            And thanked the ample friend–
            Wisdom is more becoming viewed
            At distance than at hand.
   

_____

   


   

It sifts from Leaden Sieves
   

            It sifts from Leaden Sieves–
            It powders all the Wood.
            It fills with Alabaster Wool
            The Wrinkles of the Road–

            It makes an Even Face
            Of Mountain and of Plain–
            Unbroken Forehead from the East
            Unto the East again–

            It reaches to the Fence–
            It wraps it Rail by Rail
            Till it is lost in Fleeces–
            It deals Celestial Veil

            To Stump and Stack–and Stem–
            A Summer’s empty Room–
            Acres of Joints where Harvests were,
            Recordless, but for them–

            It Ruffles Wrists of Posts
            As Ankles of a Queen–
            Then stills its Artisans–like Ghosts,
            Denying they have been–
   

_____

   

One Blessing had I than the rest
   

            One Blessing had I than the rest
            So larger to my Eyes
            That I stopped gauging–satisfied–
            For this enchanted size–

            It was the limit of my Dream–
            The focus of my Prayer–
            A perfect–paralyzing Bliss–
            Contented as Despair–

            I knew no more of Want–or Cold–
            Phantasms both become
            For this new Value in the Soul–
            Supremest Earthly Sum–

            The Heaven below the Heaven above–
            Obscured with ruddier Blue–
            Life’s Latitudes leant over–full–
            The Judgment perished–too–

            Why Bliss so scantily disburse–
            Why Paradise defer–
            Why Floods be served to Us–in Bowls–
            I speculate no more–
   

_____

   

   
One Day is there of the Series

   
            One Day is there of the Series
            Termed Thanksgiving Day.
            Celebrated part at Table
            Part in Memory.

            Neither Patriarch nor Pussy
            I dissect the Play
            Seems it to my Hooded thinking
            Reflex Holiday.

            Had there been no sharp Subtraction
            From the early Sum–
            Not an Acre or a Caption
            Where was once a Room–

            Not a Mention, whose small Pebble
            Wrinkled any Sea,
            Unto Such, were such Assembly
            ‘Twere Thanksgiving Day.
   

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Prayer is the little implement
   

            Prayer is the little implement
            Through which Men reach
            Where Presence–is denied them.
            They fling their Speech

            By means of it–in God’s Ear–
            If then He hear–
            This sums the Apparatus
            Comprised in Prayer–
   

_____

   

They won’t frown alway–some sweet Day
   

            They won’t frown alway–some sweet Day
            When I forget to tease–
            They’ll recollect how cold I looked
            And how I just said “Please.”

            Then They will hasten to the Door
            To call the little Girl
            Who cannot thank Them for the Ice
            That filled the lisping full.
   

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‘Twas just this time, last year, I died
   

            ‘Twas just this time, last year, I died.
            I know I heard the Corn,
            When I was carried by the Farms–
            It had the Tassels on–

            I thought how yellow it would look–
            When Richard went to mill–
            And then, I wanted to get out,
            But something held my will.

            I thought just how Red–Apples wedged
            The Stubble’s joints between–
            And the Carts stooping round the fields
            To take the Pumpkins in–

            I wondered which would miss me, least,
            And when Thanksgiving, came,
            If Father’d multiply the plates–
            To make an even Sum–

            And would it blur the Christmas glee
            My Stocking hang too high
            For any Santa Claus to reach
            The Altitude of me–

            But this sort, grieved myself,
            And so, I thought the other way,
            How just this time, some perfect year–
            Themself, should come to me–

            It was too late for man,
            But early yet for God;
            Creation impotent to help,
            But prayer remained our side.

            How excellent the heaven,
            When earth cannot be had;
            How hospitable, then, the face
            Of our old neighbor, God!
   

_____

   

Undue Significance a starving man attaches
   

            Undue Significance a starving man attaches
            To Food–
            Far off–He sighs–and therefore–Hopeless–
            And therefore–Good–

            Partaken–it relieves–indeed–
            But proves us
            That Spices fly
            In the Receipt–It was the Distance–
            Was Savory–
   

_____

   

Unto my Books–so good to turn
   

            Unto my Books–so good to turn–
            Far ends of tired Days–
            It half endears the Abstinence–
            And Pain–is missed–in Praise–

            As Flavors–cheer Retarded Guests
            With Banquettings to be–
            So Spices–stimulate the time
            Till my small Library–

            It may be Wilderness–without–
            Far feet of failing Men–
            But Holiday–excludes the night–
            And it is Bells–within–

            I thank these Kinsmen of the Shelf–
            Their Countenances Kid
            Enamor–in Prospective–
            And satisfy–obtained–
   

_____

   

Victory comes late
   

            Victory comes late–
            And is held low to freezing lips–
            Too rapt with frost
            To take it–
            How sweet it would have tasted–
            Just a Drop–
            Was God so economical?
            His Table’s spread too high for Us–
            Unless We dine on tiptoe–
            Crumbs–fit such little mouths–
            Cherries–suit Robbins–
            The Eagle’s Golden Breakfast strangles–Them–
            God keep His Oath to Sparrows–
            Who of little Love–know how to starve–
   

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November 11, 2006

September 30, 2006: Massacre. September 29, 1960: Tenzin Gyatsu’s prayer.

   


   

May I become at all times, both now and forever
A protector for those without protection
A guide for those have lost their way
A ship for those with oceans to cross
A bridge for those with rivers to cross
A sanctuary for those in danger
A lamp for those without light
A place of refuge for those who lack shelter
And a servant to all in need.

–Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama
   

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A Romanian ProTV station on a massacre of Tibetan refugees by Chinese soldiers on Nangapa pass in the Himilayas on Sept. 30, 2006. See more coverage and get involved in the struggle to free Tibet at Students for a Free Tibet and Tibet Will Be Free.
   

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from his website
   

a prayerby His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso The Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet
   

Words of Truth
   

Honoring and Invoking the Great Compassion
of the Three Jewels; the Buddha, the Teachings,
and the Spiritual Community

   

O Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and disciples
of the past, present, and future:
Having remarkable qualities
Immeasurably vast as the ocean,
Who regard all helpless sentient beings
as your only child;
Please consider the truth of my anguished pleas.

Buddha’s full teachings dispel the pain of worldly
existence and self-oriented peace;
May they flourish, spreading prosperity and happiness throughout this spacious world.
O holders of the Dharma: scholars
and realized practitioners;
May your ten fold virtuous practice prevail.

Humble sentient beings, tormented
by sufferings without cease,
Completely suppressed by seemingly endless
and terribly intense, negative deeds,
May all their fears from unbearable war, famine,
and disease be pacified,
To freely breathe an ocean of happiness and well-being.
And particularly the pious people
of the Land of Snows who, through various means,
Are mercilessly destroyed by barbaric hordes
on the side of darkness,
Kindly let the power of your compassion arise,
To quickly stem the flow of blood and tears.

Those unrelentingly cruel ones, objects of compassion,
Maddened by delusion’s evils,
wantonly destroy themselves and others;
May they achieve the eye of wisdom,
knowing what must be done and undone,
And abide in the glory of friendship and love.

May this heartfelt wish of total freedom for all Tibet,
Which has been awaited for a long time,
be spontaneously fulfilled;
Please grant soon the good fortune to enjoy
The happy celebration of spiritual with temporal rule.

O protector Chenrezig, compassionately care for
Those who have undergone myriad hardships,
Completely sacrificing their most cherished lives,
bodies, and wealth,
For the sake of the teachings, practitioners,
people, and nation.

Thus, the protector Chenrezig made vast prayers
Before the Buddhas and Bodhisativas
To fully embrace the Land of Snows;
May the good results of these prayers now quickly appear.
By the profound interdependence of emptiness
and relative forms,
Together with the force of great compassion
in the Three Jewels and their Words of Truth,
And through the power
of the infallible law of actions and their fruits,
May this truthful prayer be unhindered
and quickly fulfilled.
   

This prayer, Words of Truth, was composed by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet, on 29 September 1960 at his temporary headquarters in the Swarg Ashram at Dharamsala, Kangra District, Himachal State, India. This prayer for restoring peace, the Buddhist teachings, and the culture and self-determina-tion of the Tibetan people in their homeland was written after repeated requests by Tibetan government officials along with the unanimous consensus of the monastic and lay communities.
   

_____

   


   

_____

   


   

If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.
   

_____

October 3, 2006

Mark Doty Physically: "Heaven for Paul"

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a Margaretta Mitchell photograph

   

by Mark Doty
   

        Heaven for Paul
   

The flight attendant said:
We have a mechanical problem with the plane,
and we have contacted the FAA for advice,

and then: We will be making an emergency landing in Detroit,

and then: We will be landing at an air force base in Dayton,
because there is a long runway there, and because
there will be a lot of help on the ground.

Her voice broke slightly on the word help,
and she switched off the microphone, hung it back on its hook,
turned to face those of us seated near her,
and began to weep.

Could the message have been more clear?
Around us people began to cry themselves,
or to pray quietly, or to speak to those with whom
they were travelling, saying the things that people
would choose to say to one another before
an impending accident of uncertain proportions.

It was impossible to hear, really, the details
of their conversations–it would have been wrong to try–
but one understood the import of the tones of voice
everywhere around us, and we turned to each other,

as if there should have been some profound things to be imparted,
but what was to be said seemed so obvious and clear:
that we’d had a fine few years, that we were terrified
for the fate of our own bodies and each other’s,
and didn’t want to suffer, and could not imagine

the half-hour ahead of us. We were crying a little
and holding each other’s hands, on the armrest;
I was vaguely aware of a woman behind us, on the aisle,
who was startled at the sight of two men holding hands,

and I wondered how it could matter to her, now,
on the verge of this life–and then I wondered how it could matter to me,
that she was startled, when I flared on that same margin.

The flight attendant instructed us in how to brace
for a crash landing–to remove our glasses and shoes
and put our heads down, as we did long ago, in school,
in the old days of civil defence. We sat together, quietly.
And this is what amazed me: Paul,

who of the two of us is the more nervous,
the less steadily grounded in his own body,
became completely calm. Later he told me

how he visualised his own spirit
stepping from the flames, and visited,
in his picturing, each person he loved,
and made his contact and peace with each one,

and then imagined himself turning toward
what came next, an unseeable ahead.
                                                                                      For me,
it wasn’t like that at all. I had no internal composure,

and any ideas I’d ever entertained about dying
seemed merely that, speculations flown now
while my mind spiraled in a hopeless sorrowful motion,

sure I’d merely be that undulant fuel haze
in the air over the runway, hot chemical exhaust,
atomised, no idea what had happened to me,

what to do next, and how much of the next life
would I spend (as I have how much of this one?)
hanging around an airport. I thought of my dog,

and who’d care for him. No heaven for me,
only the unimaginable shape of not-myself–
and in the chaos of that expectation,

without compassion, unwilling,
I couldn’t think beyond my own dissolution.
What was the world without me to see it?

And while Paul grew increasingly radiant,

the flight attendant told us it was time to crouch
into the positions we had rehearsed,
the plane began to descend, wobbling,

and the tires screeched against the runway,
burning down all but a few feet of five miles of asphalt
before it rolled its way to a halt.

We looked around us, we let go
the long held breath, the sighs and exhalations,
Paul exhausted from the effort of transcendence,

myself too pleased to be breathing to be vexed
with my own failure, and we were still sitting and beginning to laugh
when the doors of the plane burst open,

and large uniformed firemen came rushing down the aisles,
shouting: Everybody off the plane, now, bring nothing with you,
leave the plane immediately

–because, as we’d learn in the basement
of the hangar where they’d brought us,
a line of tornadoes was scouring western Ohio,
approaching the runway we’d fled.

At this point it seemed plain: if God intervenes
in history, it’s either to torment us
or to make us laugh, or both, which is how

we faced the imminence of our deaths the second time.
I didn’t think once about my soul, as we waited in line,
filing into the hangar, down into the shelter

–where, after a long while, the National Guard would bring us
boxes and boxes of pizza, and much later, transport us, in buses,
to complimentary hotel rooms in Cincinnati.
   

_____

   

“Heaven for Paul” comes to you here, following a conversation with Mark Doty at this year’s Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. It is from his 2005 book School of the Arts, published by and available through HarperCollins Publishers.

Here is a link to his web site: Mark Doty
   

_____

   

I will keep exegesis to a minimum below. Instead, I want the poet to present the poem through his own speaking, through a spoken reading of “Heaven for Paul” that took place in 2004, before the book came out. First, though, we’ll look at an excerpt from an interview with Mark Doty found through the Audio page on his web site.

The idea in this presentation, then, is to first present “Heaven for Paul” as a poem to be read and valued off the page as above, however you had come to it; then to garner some ideas from listening to the poet, which I will take a brief tangent from; and then to listen to him read. Thus, we will have tarried with the poem and poet for a little extra time.

Here is the link to the the web page, where you can click onto a RealAudio broadcast of the interview:

Mark Doty on WBUR’s The Connection, in an interview with Dick Gordon, discussing SOURCE, Walt Whitman, and the complexities of writing about contemporary American life, recorded in March, 2003

At 6 minutes and 32 seconds into the interview, this conversation takes place:

Dick Gordon: Mark, when you compose your poetry, do you do it out loud?

Mark Doty: I begin scribbling in notebooks–makings of random notes on the computer screen–and very quickly I find myself mouthing those words, wanting to feel the language in the muscles of my jaw and in my tongue. And pretty soon, I am muttering to myself at my desk, and frequently taken for a person who’s a little too far gone into his inner life in public spaces.

DG: But, they’re written to be read out loud.

MD: They’re written to be heard. And even when we read a poem alone, I hope that what’s happening is that there’s a subtle kind of sounding going on, that we’re physically participating in those words, in the sonic texture of the verse. Poetry lives to be physical, to be in our bodies.

In an edited version of an address to the National Library of Australia’s literature conference, “Love and Desire”, published last week in The Age as The write of way with a reader, Dave Malouf writes the following:

When we speak of being unable to put a book down, it isn’t that we can’t wait to find out what happens next. It’s that we don’t want to give up the close and quite tender intimacy that has been established; we do not want to break the spell.

When Doty says “that we’re physically participating in those words, in the sonic texture of the verse” and that poetry “lives to be physical, to be in our bodies,” he is saying to me that there is to be a physical intimacy between the poet and the listener (or reader as it were) of the poem. In listening to the sound of Doty’s voice, even in conversation with Dick Gordon, what stands out is how he articulates his words beyond the syllable level into each letter, each “t”, each “n” that precedes a “d”, the whistling “‘s”–in physical enunciation.

This physicality shows thematically in Doty’s poetry as well. In “Heaven for Paul”, via the communication of crying, for instance–the stewardess wept, and the poem goes on, “people began to cry themselves.” There is the scene with “two men holding hands,” (each holding each, therefore), but also what ensued, that this “startled” a woman, how the speaker wondered “how it could matter to her” and then, on her reaction, “how it could matter to me” (each mattering to each, therefore)–a repeated and operant word of physicality being matter.

Doty becomes playful with taking us in and out of what we might think at first wouldn’t be, but then must be physical: disappearance from this world:

sure I’d merely be that undulant fuel haze
in the air over the runway, hot chemical exhaust,
atomised, no idea what had happened to me,

And doesn’t he bring Paul’s heaven and trancendence physically to Paul, and to us readers in such a way that we physically understand?

Here, from the Poem Present series is the Mark Doty poetry reading, in which “Heaven for Paul” begins just over 24 minutes in:

Podcast #38. Poetry reading by Mark Doty: A poetry reading by Mark Doty as part of the Poem Present series at The University of Chicago. © 2004 The University of Chicago (mp3)

It is a preview reading from his latest book School of the Arts.
   

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School of the Arts, at HarperCollins

   

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