Clattery MacHinery on Poetry

February 22, 2010

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

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by V. Sundaram
   

A Great Sant from Gujarat and Rajasthan
   

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

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

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


   

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

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

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

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


   

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

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

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

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

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


   

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

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

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

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

I. The Vision of the Beloved
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   

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June 20, 2007

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

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

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

   
   

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#30


   

Lincoln
   

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

   
   

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#29

   

“Howdy, Honey, Howdy!”
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

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#28

   

The Colored Soldiers
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

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#27

   

A Letter
   

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

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

   
   

_____

#26


   

The Old Front Gate
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#25

   

Communion
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#24


   

The Voice of the Banjo
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#23

   

Puttin’ the Baby Away
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#22

   

The Deserted Plantation
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#21

   

Growin’ Gray
   

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#20

   

On the River
   

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#19


   

When Malindy Sings
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#18

   

Dirge for a Soldier
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#17


   

When the Old Man Smokes
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#16

   

A Summer Pastoral
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#15


   

Weltschmertz
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#14

   

The Old Cabin
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#13

   

Slow Through the Dark
   

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

   
   

_____

#12

   

Farewell to Arcady
   

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#11

   

At Candle-Lightin’ Time
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#10


   

Chrismus on the Plantation
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#9

   

She Told Her Beads
   

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

   
   

_____

#8

   

The Haunted Oak
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#7

   

We Wear the Mask
   

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#6


   

When Dey ‘Listed Colored Soldiers
   

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#5

   

The Sum
   

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#4

   

A Spring Wooing
   

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#3

   

A Negro Love Song
   

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#2


   

A Florida Night
   

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#1

   
   
Sympathy
   

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

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

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

   
   

_____

_____

May 19, 2007

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

_____

   
   

Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) with a friend

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

_____

#20

from

1899

   
   
Then and Now
   
   
Then

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

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

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

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

_____

#19

from

1901

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

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

_____

#18

from

1901

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

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

_____

#17

from

1899

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

_____

#16

from

1895

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#15

from

1895

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

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

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

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

_____

#14

from

1901

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

_____

#13

from

1899

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

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

_____

#12

from

1893

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#11

from

1896

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

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

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

_____

#10

from

1896, this cover 1905

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#9

from

1899

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

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

_____

#8

from

1901

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#7

from

1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   
   

_____

#6

from

1899

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#5

from

1906

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#4

from

1921

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_____

#3

from

1899

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

_____

#2

from

1901

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

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

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

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

_____

#1

from

1895

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

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

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

_____

   
   

Alice Moore Dunbar, Mrs. Paul L. Dunbar

_____

October 16, 2006

The Gifts of Donald Hall: "Retriever"

_____

   

by Donald Hall
   

Retriever
   

            Two days after Jane died
            I walked with our dog Gus
            on New Canada Road
            under birchy green
            April shadows, talking
            urgently, trying
            to make him understand.
            A quick mink scooted past
            into fern, and Gus
            disappeared in pursuit.
            The damp air grew chill
            as I whistled and called
            until twilight. I thought
            he tried to follow her
            into the dark. After an hour
            I gave up and walked home
            to find him on the porch,
            alert, pleased to see me,
            curious over my absence.
            But Gus hadn’t found her
            deep in the woods; he hadn’t
            brought her back
            as a branch in his teeth.
   

   

   

   

His poem brought to you through the poet laureate’s gracious consent

   

_____

   


   

Donald Hall, our United States Poet Laureate, read from his book White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006 for an hour this afternoon at the First Congregational Church in Pelham New Hampshire. He sat at a table as he does now, and read his poems of love, death, New Hampshire, and more, without great animation in body language, but with his kind and aging New England voice. The focus in listening, then, goes onto his words, being sure to make them out, but also on his intonations.

Eric Clapton noted that when Aretha Franklin sings, never is a note simply sung and held for its time. The soul of her singing comes through in how she bends and gives character and feeling to each note, such import to each. In this sense too, Donald Hall is a soul poet. Never is a stressed syllable simply read as a stressed syllable. Each is spoken to hold the accentuated note and meaning out into the room as a gift to the listener, presented with such suspense imparting the emotion and character of his words in their contexts.

With the first poems Hall read, the chant of the song within the poem could be heard, the soul of each stressed syllable revealing the meter of his freest verse poems. It was during these first minutes that he read the poem “White Apple” which contains the line, “white apples and the taste of stone”, the title of his latest book. That line came to him years after he first had the dream of the poem, and brought the poem together and to completion. In this and other senses, he is also a mystic poet, and thus the chant of his song-poems. But then, shouldn’t a poet who writes at once in a word about love, death, and his home, be naturally rooted in the mystic?

For the next minutes, it was as if he warmed to the occasion, and he read poems to make the audience laugh and feel at home with him. His delivery became more animated in his facial expression and tone of voice. The chant receded to the yarn of conversation, and yet the soul still alive within each stressed syllable. It was during this time, that he read his poem “Mount Kearsage” that begins:

            Great blue mountain! Ghost.
            I look at you
            from the front porch of the farmhouse
            where I watched you all summer
            as a boy.

and the poem “Great Day on the Cows’ House” with the first-stanza lines

            Now she stretches her wrinkly neck, her turnip eye
            rolls in her skull, she sucks up breath,
            and stretching her long mouth mid-chew she expels:

            mm-mmm-mmmmm-mmmmmmmm-ugghwanchhh.

Mid-poem there he interjected that friends tell him that last line is his best line of poetry.

The soulful singing of his poetry, the down home mysticism, the friendship with the audience well-established, all came to bear as he directed his audience’s hearts to his Jane Kenyon poems, of which “Retriever” above is one. The moments were naturally riveting, a great time in literature. Donald Hall’s Jane poems are as important to the poetry canon as Chopin’s Nocturnes are to piano music. There is a wholesome life, yet very mortal captivation to them.

After the reading, came the questions from the audience, and in response to one, he mentioned Thomas Hardy. In Claire Tomalin’s biography of Hardy, Thomas Hardy: The Time-Torn Man, to be published by Viking on October 19, she writes of his wife Emma dying:

She did not complain or ask for the doctor to be sent for, but she did ask Dolly to fetch her husband. Dolly ran down to the master in his study, where he was making an early start on his day’s work. He told her to straighten her collar–she wore a blue dress with a white collar when she was working–then he climbed the narrow stairs to his wife’s room and went up to the bed. He spoke her name: “Em, Em–don’t you know me?” But she was already unconscious, and within minutes she had stopped breathing. Emma Hardy was dead.

This is the moment when Thomas Hardy became a great poet.

And then:

Filled with sorrow and remorse for their estrangement, he had her body brought down and placed in the coffin at the foot of his bed, where it remained for three days and nights until the funeral. The gesture would have been remarkable in a lover who could not bear to be parted from the body of his mistress, but for an elderly husband who had for years been on bad terms with his wife it seems almost monstrously unconventional, until you realise that he was thinking of his situation quite differently. He had become a lover in mourning.

The parallel between Hall and Hardy is unmistakable in the great poetry that followed their wives’ deaths. Furthermore, Hall noted that he was born following the winds the same year Hardy died in January (and here I note almost nine months later on September 20, 1928). Indeed, he looked to Hardy’s Emma poems in writing his own Jane poems.

The differences are striking, however. Whereas Thomas Hardy was estranged from Emma Hardy while in the same house, Donald Hall was in a loving and close relationship with Jane Kenyon. Jane had great love poetry written about her by a soulful poet, who loved her as she lived, and gave tribute to this love after her death.

Hall’s and Kenyon’s separation was in that their offices were as far apart as they could physically be in that same house: poetic solitude, distance for the sake of the creativity they had in their separate rooms–a creativity they could then share when not writing. Hall noted that where there were two in solitude, now there is one, and that being one in solitude is the worse. He spends his days writing letters, trying to write poetry, and taking walks and naps from time to time.

   

   


   

_____

   

Donald Hall: Deciding to become a poet

(Duration 5:03)

   

Using your RealPlayer, here is Donald Hall at the 2005 National Book Festival:

Donald Hall: Book Fest 05 Web Cast

(Duration 36:35)

   

Also at The Library of Congress site, is an excellent webography of Hall, with links to readings and interviews:

Donald Hall: Online Resources

   

_____

   

Click on the picture of the book, to see a list of Donald Hall’s works at the Houghtin Mifflin Books site:


   

_____

   


   

The history of one’s poetry is the history of gifts.

–Donald Hall, October 15, 2006

   

_____

September 3, 2006

The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time

_______

   

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

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

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

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

Andrew Barton “Banjo” Paterson links:

Wikipedia: Banjo Paterson

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

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

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

Whitewolf: Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson

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

Google search A.B. “Banjo” Paterson

Blog search A.B. “Banjo” Paterson
   

_______

   

The Top 20 Greatest Banjo Paterson Poems of All Time

   

_______

   


   

#20

   

from The Bulletin, April 8, 1893
   

        Behind the Scenes
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

   

#19

   

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

        On the Trek
   

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

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

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

_______

   

#18

   

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

        With the Cattle
   

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

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

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

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

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

_______

   

#17

   

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

        There’s Another Blessed Horse Fell Down
   

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

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

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

_______

   

#16

   

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

        Johnson’s Antidote
   

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

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

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

_______

   

#15

   

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

        Santa Claus
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

   

#14

   

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

        How M’Ginnis Went Missing
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

   


   

#13

   

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

        Song of the Federation
   

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

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

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

                        Song of the Australians in Action

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

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

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

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

                            .            .            .            .            .

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

_______

   

#12

   

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

        Over the Range
   

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

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

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

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

_______

   


   

#11

   

from The Animals Noah Forgot, 1933
   

        Old Man Platypus
   

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

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

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

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

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

_______

   


   

#10

   

Open letter to the troops, 1915
   

        “We’re All Australians Now”
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

   

#9

   

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

        Sunrise on the Coast
   

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

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

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

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

_______

   

#8

   

from The Kia-Ora Cooee, May 1918
   

        Moving On
   

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

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

_______

   

#7

   

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

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

   

        Only a Jockey
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

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

_______

   


   

#6

   

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

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

        Brumby’s Run
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

_______

   


   

#5

   

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

        Black Swans
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

_______

   

#4

   

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

        The Road to Gundagai
   

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

_______

   

#3

   

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

        Lost
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_______

   


   

#2

   

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

        Clancy of the Overflow
   

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

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

              .            .            .            .            .

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

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

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

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

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#1

   

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

        The Man from Snowy River
   

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   


   

   


   

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A song as an addendum

(Be sure to explore the links that follow)
   


   


   

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

        Waltzing Matilda (Carrying a Swag)
   

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

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

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

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

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

   

   

Christine MacPherson transcription

   

Waltzing Matilda links:

        National Library of Australia: Waltzing Matilda–the original manuscript

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

        Roger Clarke’s Waltzing Matilda Home-Page

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

        panopticist: Best “Waltzing Matilda” Ever

        Join Rolf Harris’ rendition (mp3)

        National Geographic: Australia’s Bard
   

another John Williamson rendition

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(Click for wallpaper-sized photo)

   

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