The Second Book of Modern Verse

Part 3 out of 5

And of bills of the hungry fledglings,
And the bright travel of sun-drunk insects,
Morning's business is afoot: Earth is busied with a million mouths!

Where goes eaten grass and thrush-snapped dragonfly?
Creation eats itself, to spawn in swarming sun-rays . . .
Bull and cricket go to it: life lives on life . . .
But O, ye flame-daubed irises, and ye hosts of gnats,
Like a well of light moving in morning's light,
What is this garmented animal that comes eating and drinking among you?
What is this upright one, with spade and with shears?

He is the visible and the invisible,
Behind his mouth and his eyes are other mouth and eyes . . .
Thirster after visions
He sees the flowers to their roots and the Earth back through its silent ages:
He parts the sky with his gaze:
He flings a magic on the hills, clothing them with Upanishad music,
Peopling the valley with dreamed images that vanished in Greece
millenniums back;
And in the actual morning, out of longing, shapes on the hills
To-morrow's golden grandeur . . .

O ye million hungerers and ye sun-rays
Ye are the many mothers of this invisible god,
This Earth's star and sun that rises singing and toiling among you,
This that is I, in joy, in the garden,
Singing to you, ye morning-glories,
Calling to you, ye swinging spears of the larkspur.

Patterns. [Amy Lowell]

I walk down the garden paths,
And all the daffodils
Are blowing, and the bright blue squills.
I walk down the patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
With my powdered hair and jewelled fan,
I too am a rare
Pattern. As I wander down
The garden paths.

My dress is richly figured,
And the train
Makes a pink and silver stain
On the gravel, and the thrift
Of the borders.
Just a plate of current fashion,
Tripping by in high-heeled, ribboned shoes.
Not a softness anywhere about me,
Only whalebone and brocade.
And I sink on a seat in the shade
Of a lime tree. For my passion
Wars against the stiff brocade.
The daffodils and squills
Flutter in the breeze
As they please.
And I weep;
For the lime tree is in blossom
And one small flower has dropped upon my bosom.

And the plashing of waterdrops
In the marble fountain
Comes down the garden-paths.
The dripping never stops.
Underneath my stiffened gown
Is the softness of a woman bathing in a marble basin,
A basin in the midst of hedges grown
So thick, she cannot see her lover hiding,
But she guesses he is near,
And the sliding of the water
Seems the stroking of a dear
Hand upon her.
What is Summer in a fine brocaded gown!
I should like to see it lying in a heap upon the ground.
All the pink and silver crumpled up on the ground.

I would be the pink and silver as I ran along the paths,
And he would stumble after,
Bewildered by my laughter.
I should see the sun flashing from his sword-hilt and the buckles
on his shoes.
I would choose
To lead him in a maze along the patterned paths,
A bright and laughing maze for my heavy-booted lover,
Till he caught me in the shade,
And the buttons of his waistcoat bruised my body as he clasped me,
Aching, melting, unafraid.
With the shadows of the leaves and the sundrops,
And the plopping of the waterdrops,
All about us in the open afternoon --
I am very like to swoon
With the weight of this brocade,
For the sun sifts through the shade.

Underneath the fallen blossom
In my bosom,
Is a letter I have hid.
It was brought to me this morning by a rider from the Duke.
"Madam, we regret to inform you that Lord Hartwell
Died in action Thursday se'nnight."
As I read it in the white, morning sunlight,
The letters squirmed like snakes.
"Any answer, Madam," said my footman.
"No," I told him.
"See that the messenger takes some refreshment.
No, no answer."
And I walked into the garden,
Up and down the patterned paths,
In my stiff, correct brocade.
The blue and yellow flowers stood up proudly in the sun,
Each one.
I stood upright too,
Held rigid to the pattern
By the stiffness of my gown.
Up and down I walked,
Up and down.

In a month he would have been my husband.
In a month, here, underneath this lime,
We would have broke the pattern;
He for me, and I for him,
He as Colonel, I as Lady,
On this shady seat.
He had a whim
That sunlight carried blessing.
And I answered, "It shall be as you have said."
Now he is dead.

In Summer and in Winter I shall walk
Up and down
The patterned garden-paths
In my stiff, brocaded gown.
The squills and daffodils
Will give place to pillared roses, and to asters, and to snow.
I shall go
Up and down
In my gown.
Gorgeously arrayed,
Boned and stayed.
And the softness of my body will be guarded from embrace
By each button, hook, and lace.
For the man who should loose me is dead,
Fighting with the Duke in Flanders,
In a pattern called a war.
Christ! What are patterns for?

Richard Cory. [Edwin Arlington Robinson]

Whenever Richard Cory went down town,
We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed,
And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
"Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich, -- yes, richer than a king, --
And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light,
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.

Of One Self-Slain. [Charles Hanson Towne]

When he went blundering back to God,
His songs half written, his work half done,
Who knows what paths his bruised feet trod,
What hills of peace or pain he won?

I hope God smiled and took his hand,
And said, "Poor truant, passionate fool!
Life's book is hard to understand:
Why couldst thou not remain at school?"

The Silent Folk. [Charles Wharton Stork]

Oh, praise me not the silent folk;
To me they only seem
Like leafless, bird-abandoned oak
And muffled, frozen stream.

I want the leaves to talk and tell
The joy that's in the tree,
And water-nymphs to weave a spell
Of pixie melody.

Your silent folk may be sincere,
But still, when all is said,
We have to grant they're rather drear, --
And maybe, too, they're dead.

Convention. [Agnes Lee]

The snow is lying very deep.
My house is sheltered from the blast.
I hear each muffled step outside,
I hear each voice go past.

But I'll not venture in the drift
Out of this bright security,
Till enough footsteps come and go
To make a path for me.

Mad Blake. [William Rose Benet]

Blake saw a treeful of angels at Peckham Rye,
And his hands could lay hold on the tiger's terrible heart.
Blake knew how deep is Hell, and Heaven how high,
And could build the universe from one tiny part.
Blake heard the asides of God, as with furrowed brow
He sifts the star-streams between the Then and the Now,
In vast infant sagacity brooding, an infant's grace
Shining serene on his simple, benignant face.

Blake was mad, they say, -- and Space's Pandora-box
Loosed its wonders upon him -- devils, but angels indeed.
I, they say, am sane, but no key of mine unlocks
One lock of one gate wherethrough Heaven's glory is freed.
And I stand and I hold my breath, daylong, yearlong,
Out of comfort and easy dreaming evermore starting awake, --
Yearning beyond all sanity for some echo of that Song
Of Songs that was sung to the soul of the madman, Blake!

The Name. [Anna Hempstead Branch]

When I come back from secret dreams
In gardens deep and fair,
How very curious it seems --
This mortal name I bear.

For by this name I make their bread
And trim the household light
And sun the linen for the bed
And close the door at night.

I wonder who myself may be,
And whence it was I came --
Before the Church had laid on me
This frail and earthly name.

My sponsors spake unto the Lord
And three things promised they,
Upon my soul with one accord
Their easy vows did lay.

My ancient spirit heard them not.
I think it was not there.
But in a place they had forgot
It drank a starrier air.

Yes, in a silent place and deep --
There did it dance and run,
And sometimes it lay down to sleep
Or sprang into the sun.

The Priest saw not my aureole shine!
My sweet wings saw not he!
He graved me with a solemn sign
And laid a name on me.

Now by this name I stitch and mend,
The daughter of my home,
By this name do I save and spend
And when they call, I come.

But oh, that Name, that other Name,
More secret and more mine!
It burns as does the angelic flame
Before the midmost shrine.

Before my soul to earth was brought
Into God's heart it came,
He wrote a meaning in my thought
And gave to me a Name.

By this Name do I ride the air
And dance from star to star,
And I behold all things are fair,
For I see them as they are.

I plunge into the deepest seas,
In flames I, laughing, burn.
In roseate clouds I take my ease
Nor to the earth return.

It is my beauteous Name -- my own --
That I have never heard.
God keeps it for Himself alone,
That strange and lovely word.

God keeps it for Himself -- but yet
You are His voice, and so
In your heart He is calling me,
And unto you I go.

Love, by this Name I sing, and breathe
A fresh, mysterious air.
By this I innocently wreathe
New garlands for my hair.

By this Name I am born anew
More beautiful, more bright.
More roseate than angelic dew,
Apparelled in delight.

I'll sing and stitch and make the bread
In the wonder of my Name,
And sun the linen for the bed
And tend the fireside flame.

By this Name do I answer yes --
Word beautiful and true.
By this I'll sew the bridal dress
I shall put on for you.

Songs of an Empty House. [Marguerite Wilkinson]


Before I die I may be great,
The chanting guest of kings,
A queen in wonderlands of song
Where every blossom sings.
I may put on a golden gown
And walk in sunny light,
Carrying in my hair the day,
And in my eyes the night.

It may be men will honor me --
The wistful ones and wise,
Who know the ruth of victory,
The joy of sacrifice.
I may be rich, I may be gay,
But all the crowns grow old --
The laurel withers and the bay
And dully rusts the gold.

Before I die I may break bread
With many queens and kings --
Oh, take the golden gown away,
For there are other things --
And I shall miss the love of babes
With flesh of rose and pearl,
The dewy eyes, the budded lips --
A boy, a little girl.

The End

My father got me strong and straight and slim,
And I give thanks to him;
My mother bore me glad and sound and sweet, --
I kiss her feet.

But now, with me, their generation fails,
And nevermore avails
To cast through me the ancient mould again,
Such women and men.

I have no son, whose life of flesh and fire
Sprang from my splendid sire,
No daughter for whose soul my mother's flesh
Wrought raiment fresh.

Life's venerable rhythms like a flood
Beat in my brain and blood,
Crying from all the generations past,
"Is this the last?"

And I make answer to my haughty dead,
Who made me, heart and head,
"Even the sunbeams falter, flicker and bend --
I am the end."

The Hill Wife. [Robert Frost]


(Her Word)

One ought not to have to care
So much as you and I
Care when the birds come round the house
To seem to say good-bye;

Or care so much when they come back
With whatever it is they sing;
The truth being we are as much
Too glad for the one thing

As we are too sad for the other here --
With birds that fill their breasts
But with each other and themselves
And their built or driven nests.

House Fear

Always -- I tell you this they learned --
Always at night when they returned
To the lonely house from far away,
To lamps unlighted and fire gone gray,
They learned to rattle the lock and key
To give whatever might chance to be
Warning and time to be off in flight:
And preferring the out- to the in-door night,
They learned to leave the house-door wide
Until they had lit the lamp inside.

The Oft-Repeated Dream

She had no saying dark enough
For the dark pine that kept
Forever trying the window-latch
Of the room where they slept.

The tireless but ineffectual hands
That with every futile pass
Made the great tree seem as a little bird
Before the mystery of glass!

It never had been inside the room,
And only one of the two
Was afraid in an oft-repeated dream
Of what the tree might do.

The Impulse

It was too lonely for her there,
And too wild,
And since there were but two of them,
And no child,

And work was little in the house,
She was free,
And followed where he furrowed field,
Or felled tree.

She rested on a log and tossed
The fresh chips,
With a song only to herself
On her lips.

And once she went to break a bough
Of black alder.
She strayed so far she scarcely heard
When he called her --

And didn't answer -- didn't speak --
Or return.
She stood, and then she ran and hid
In the fern.

He never found her, though he looked
And he asked at her mother's house
Was she there.

Sudden and swift and light as that
The ties gave,
And he learned of finalities
Besides the grave.

A Love Song. [Theodosia Garrison]

My love it should be silent, being deep --
And being very peaceful should be still --
Still as the utmost depths of ocean keep --
Serenely silent as some mighty hill.

Yet is my love so great it needs must fill
With very joy the inmost heart of me,
The joy of dancing branches on the hill
The joy of leaping waves upon the sea.

Envoi. [Josephine Preston Peabody]

Beloved, till the day break,
Leave wide the little door;
And bless, to lack and longing,
Our brimming more-and-more.

Is love a scanted portion,
That we should hoard thereof? --
Oh, call unto the deserts,
Beloved and my Love!

Our Little House. [Thomas Walsh]

Our little house upon the hill
In winter time is strangely still;
The roof tree, bare of leaves, stands high,
A candelabrum for the sky,
And down below the lamplights glow,
And ours makes answer o'er the snow.

Our little house upon the hill
In summer time strange voices fill;
With ceaseless rustle of the leaves,
And birds that twitter in the eaves,
And all the vines entangled so
The village lights no longer show.

Our little house upon the hill
Is just the house of Jack and Jill,
And whether showing or unseen,
Hid behind its leafy screen;
There's a star that points it out
When the lamp lights are in doubt.

The Homeland. [Dana Burnet]

My land was the west land; my home was on the hill,
I never think of my land but it makes my heart to thrill;
I never smell the west wind that blows the golden skies,
But old desire is in my feet and dreams are in my eyes.

My home crowned the high land; it had a stately grace.
I never think of my land but I see my mother's face;
I never smell the west wind that blows the silver ships
But old delight is in my heart and mirth is on my lips.

My land was a high land; my home was near the skies.
I never think of my land but a light is in my eyes;
I never smell the west wind that blows the summer rain --
But I am at my mother's knee, a little lad again.

Cradle Song. [Josephine Preston Peabody]


Lord Gabriel, wilt thou not rejoice
When at last a little boy's
Cheek lies heavy as a rose
And his eyelids close?

Gabriel, when that hush may be,
This sweet hand all heedfully
I'll undo for thee alone,
From his mother's own.

Then the far blue highway paven
With the burning stars of heaven,
He shall gladden with the sweet
Hasting of his feet: --

Feet so brightly bare and cool,
Leaping, as from pool to pool;
From a little laughing boy
Splashing rainbow joy!

Gabriel, wilt thou understand
How to keep this hovering hand? --
Never shut, as in a bond,
From the bright beyond? --

Nay, but though it cling and close
Tightly as a climbing rose,
Clasp it only so, -- aright,
Lest his heart take fright.

(~Dormi, dormi, tu.
The dusk is hung with blue.~)


Lord Michael, wilt not thou rejoice
When at last a little boy's
Heart, a shut-in murmuring bee,
Turns him unto thee?

Wilt thou heed thine armor well, --
To take his hand from Gabriel,
So his radiant cup of dream
May not spill a gleam?

He will take thy heart in thrall,
Telling o'er thy breastplate, all
Colors, in his bubbling speech,
With his hand to each.

(~Dormi, dormi, tu.
Sapphire is the blue,
Pearl and beryl, they are called,
Crysoprase and emerald,
Sard and amethyst
Numbered so, and kissed.~)

Ah, but find some angel-word
For thy sharp, subduing sword!
Yea, Lord Michael, make no doubt
He will find it out:

(~Dormi, dormi, tu!
His eyes will look at you.~)


Last, a little morning space,
Lead him to that leafy place
Where Our Lady sits awake,
For all mothers' sake.

Bosomed with the Blessed One,
He shall mind her of her Son,
Once so folded from all harms
In her shrining arms.

(~In her veil of blue,
Dormi, dormi, tu.~)

So; -- and fare thee well.
Softly, -- Gabriel . . .
When the first faint red shall come,
Bid the Day-star lead him home,
For the bright world's sake,
To my heart, awake.

Slumber Song. [Louis V. Ledoux]

Drowsily come the sheep
From the place where the pastures be,
By a dusty lane
To the fold again,
First one, and then two, and three:
First one, then two, by the paths of sleep
Drowsily come the sheep.

Drowsily come the sheep,
And the shepherd is singing low:
After eight comes nine
In the endless line,
They come, and then in they go.
First eight, then nine, by the paths of sleep
Drowsily come the sheep.

Drowsily come the sheep
And they pass through the sheepfold door;
After one comes two,
After one comes two,
Comes two and then three and four.
First one, then two, by the paths of sleep,
Drowsily come the sheep.

Ballad of a Child. [John G. Neihardt]

Yearly thrilled the plum tree
With the mother-mood;
Every June the rose stock
Bore her wonder-child:
Every year the wheatlands
Reared a golden brood:
World of praying Rachaels,
Heard and reconciled!

"Poet," said the plum tree's
Singing white and green,
"What avails your mooning,
Can you fashion plums?"
"Dreamer," crooned the wheatland's
Rippling vocal sheen,
"See my golden children
Marching as with drums!"

"By a god begotten,"
Hymned the sunning vine,
"In my lyric children
Purple music flows!"
"Singer," breathed the rose bush,
"Are they not divine?"
"Have you any daughters
Mighty as a rose?"

~Happy, happy mothers!
Cruel, cruel words!
Mine are ghostly children,
Haunting all the ways;
Latent in the plum bloom,
Calling through the birds,
Romping with the wheat brood
In their shadow plays!

Gotten out of star-glint,
Mothered of the Moon;
Nurtured with the rose scent,
Wild elusive throng!
Something of the vine's dream
Crept into a tune;
Something of the wheat-drone
Echoed in a song.~

Once again the white fires
Smoked among the plums;
Once again the world-joy
Burst the crimson bud;
Golden-bannered wheat broods
Marched to fairy drums;
Once again the vineyard
Felt the Bacchic blood.

"Lo, he comes, -- the dreamer" --
Crooned the whitened boughs,
"Quick with vernal love-fires --
Oh, at last he knows!
See the bursting plum bloom
There above his brows!"
"Boaster!" breathed the rose bush,
"'Tis a budding rose!"

Droned the glinting acres,
"In his soul, mayhap,
Something like a wheat-dream
Quickens into shape!"
Sang the sunning vineyard,
"Lo, the lyric sap
Sets his heart a-throbbing
Like a purple grape!"

~Mother of the wheatlands,
Mother of the plums,
Mother of the vineyard --
All that loves and grows --
Such a living glory
To the dreamer comes,
Mystic as a wheat-song,
Mighty as a rose!

Star-glint, moon-glow,
Gathered in a mesh!
Spring-hope, white fire
By a kiss beguiled!
Something of the world-joy
Dreaming into flesh!
Bird-song, vine-thrill
Quickened to a child!~

Ambition. [Aline Kilmer]

Kenton and Deborah, Michael and Rose,
These are fine children as all the world knows,
But into my arms in my dreams every night
Come Peter and Christopher, Faith and Delight.

Kenton is tropical, Rose is pure white,
Deborah shines like a star in the night;
Michael's round eyes are as blue as the sea,
And nothing on earth could be dearer to me.

But where is the baby with Faith can compare?
What is the colour of Peterkin's hair?
Who can make Christopher clear to my sight,
Or show me the eyes of my daughter Delight?

When people inquire I always just state:
"I have four nice children and hope to have eight.
Though the first four are pretty and certain to please,
Who knows but the rest may be nicer than these?"

The Gift. [Louis V. Ledoux]

Let others give you wealth and love,
And guard you while you live;
I cannot set my gift above
The gifts that others give.

And yet the gift I give is good:
In one man's eyes to see
The worship of your maidenhood
While children climb your knee.

The Ancient Beautiful Things. [Fannie Stearns Davis]

I am all alone in the room.
The evening stretches before me
Like a road all delicate gloom
Till it reaches the midnight's gate.
And I hear his step on the path,
And his questioning whistle, low
At the door as I hurry to meet him.

He will ask, "Are the doors all locked?
Is the fire made safe on the hearth?
And she -- is she sound asleep?"

I shall say, "Yes, the doors are locked,
And the ashes are white as the frost:
Only a few red eyes
To stare at the empty room.
And she is all sound asleep,
Up there where the silence sings,
And the curtains stir in the cold."

He will ask, "And what did you do
While I have been gone so long?
So long! Four hours or five!"

I shall say, "There was nothing I did. --
I mended that sleeve of your coat.
And I made her a little white hood
Of the furry pieces I found
Up in the garret to-day.
She shall wear it to play in the snow,
Like a little white bear, -- and shall laugh,
And tumble, and crystals of stars
Shall shine on her cheeks and hair.
-- It was nothing I did. -- I thought
You would never come home again!"

Then he will laugh out, low,
Being fond of my folly, perhaps;
And softly and hand in hand
We shall creep upstairs in the dusk
To look at her, lying asleep:
Our little gold bird in her nest:
The wonderful bird who flew in
At the window our Life flung wide.
(How should we have chosen her,
Had we seen them all in a row,
The unborn vague little souls,
All wings and tremulous hands?
How should we have chosen her,
Made like a star to shine,
Made like a bird to fly,
Out of a drop of our blood,
And earth, and fire, and God?)

Then we shall go to sleep,
Glad. --
O God, did you know
When you moulded men out of clay,
Urging them up and up
Through the endless circles of change,
Travail and turmoil and death,
Many would curse you down,
Many would live all gray
With their faces flat like a mask:
But there would be some, O God,
Crying to you each night,
"I am so glad! so glad!
I am so rich and gay!
How shall I thank you, God?"

Was that one thing you knew
When you smiled and found it was good:
The curious teeming earth
That grew like a child at your hand?
Ah, you might smile, for that! --
-- I am all alone in the room.
The books and the pictures peer,
Dumb old friends, from the dark.
The wind goes high on the hills,
And my fire leaps out, being proud.
The terrier, down on the hearth,
Twitches and barks in his sleep,
Soft little foolish barks,
More like a dream than a dog . . .

I will mend the sleeve of that coat,
All ragged, -- and make her the hood
Furry, and white, for the snow.
She shall tumble and laugh . . .
Oh, I think
Though a thousand rivers of grief
Flood over my head, -- though a hill
Of horror lie on my breast, --
Something will sing, "Be glad!
You have had all your heart's desire:
The unknown things that you asked
When you lay awake in the nights,
Alone, and searching the dark
For the secret wonder of life.
You have had them (can you forget?):
The ancient beautiful things!" . . .

How long he is gone. And yet
It is only an hour or two. . . .

Oh, I am so happy. My eyes
Are troubled with tears.
Did you know,
O God, they would be like this,
Your ancient beautiful things?
~Are there more? Are there more, -- out there? --
O God, are there always more?~

Mater Dolorosa. [Louis V. Ledoux]

O clinging hands, and eyes where sleep has set
Her seal of peace, go not from me so soon.
O little feet, take not the pathway yet,
The dust of other feet with tears is wet,
And sorrow wanders there with slow regret;
O eager feet, take not the path so soon.

Take it not yet, for death is at the end,
And kingly death will wait until you come.
Full soon the feet of youth will turn the bend,
The eyes will see where followed footsteps wend.
Go not so soon, though death be found a friend;
For kingly death will wait until you come.

Prevision. [Aline Kilmer]

I know you are too dear to stay;
You are so exquisitely sweet:
My lonely house will thrill some day
To echoes of your eager feet.

I hold your words within my heart,
So few, so infinitely dear;
Watching your fluttering hands I start
At the corroding touch of fear.

A faint, unearthly music rings
From you to Heaven -- it is not far!
A mist about your beauty clings
Like a thin cloud before a star.

My heart shall keep the child I knew,
When you are really gone from me,
And spend its life remembering you
As shells remember the lost sea.

"A Wind Rose in the Night". [Aline Kilmer]

A wind rose in the night,
(She had always feared it so!)
Sorrow plucked at my heart
And I could not help but go.

Softly I went and stood
By her door at the end of the hall.
Dazed with grief I watched
The candles flaring and tall.

The wind was wailing aloud:
I thought how she would have cried
For my warm familiar arms
And the sense of me by her side.

The candles flickered and leapt,
The shadows jumped on the wall.
She lay before me small and still
And did not care at all.

How much of Godhood. [Louis Untermeyer]

How much of Godhood did it take --
What purging epochs had to pass,
Ere I was fit for leaf and lake
And worthy of the patient grass?

What mighty travails must have been,
What ages must have moulded me,
Ere I was raised and made akin
To dawn, the daisy and the sea.

In what great struggles was I felled,
In what old lives I labored long,
Ere I was given a world that held
A meadow, butterflies and Song?

But oh, what cleansings and what fears,
What countless raisings from the dead,
Ere I could see Her, touched with tears,
Pillow the little weary head.

The First Food. [George Sterling]

Mother, in some sad evening long ago,
From thy young breast my groping lips were taken,
Their hunger stilled, so soon again to waken,
But nevermore that holy food to know.

Ah! nevermore! for all the child might crave!
Ah! nevermore! through years unkind and dreary!
Often of other fare my lips are weary,
Unwearied once of what thy bosom gave.

(Poor wordless mouth that could not speak thy name!
At what unhappy revels has it eaten
The viands that no memory can sweeten, --
The banquet found eternally the same!)

Then fell a shadow first on thee and me,
And tendrils broke that held us two how dearly!
Once infinitely thine, then hourly, yearly,
Less thine, as less the worthy thine to be.

(O mouth that yet should kiss the mouth of Sin!
Were lies so sweet, now bitter to remember?
Slow sinks the flame unfaithful to an ember;
New beauty fades and passion's wine is thin.)

How poor an end of that solicitude
And all the love I had not from another!
Peace to thine unforgetting heart, O Mother,
Who gav'st the dear and unremembered food!

The Monk in the Kitchen. [Anna Hempstead Branch]


Order is a lovely thing;
On disarray it lays its wing,
Teaching simplicity to sing.
It has a meek and lowly grace,
Quiet as a nun's face.
Lo -- I will have thee in this place!
Tranquil well of deep delight,
Transparent as the water, bright --
All things that shine through thee appear
As stones through water, sweetly clear.
Thou clarity,
That with angelic charity
Revealest beauty where thou art,
Spread thyself like a clean pool.
Then all the things that in thee are
Shall seem more spiritual and fair,
Reflections from serener air --
Sunken shapes of many a star
In the high heavens set afar.


Ye stolid, homely, visible things,
Above you all brood glorious wings
Of your deep entities, set high,
Like slow moons in a hidden sky.
But you, their likenesses, are spent
Upon another element.
Truly ye are but seemings --
The shadowy cast-off gleamings
Of bright solidities. Ye seem
Soft as water, vague as dream;
Image, cast in a shifting stream.


What are ye?
I know not.
Brazen pan and iron pot,
Yellow brick and grey flag-stone
That my feet have trod upon --
Ye seem to me
Vessels of bright mystery.
For ye do bear a shape, and so
Though ye were made by man, I know
An inner Spirit also made
And ye his breathings have obeyed.


Shape the strong and awful Spirit,
Laid his ancient hand on you.
He waste chaos doth inherit;
He can alter and subdue.
Verily, he doth lift up
Matter, like a sacred cup.
Into deep substance he reached, and lo
Where ye were not, ye were; and so
Out of useless nothing, ye
Groaned and laughed and came to be.
And I use you, as I can,
Wonderful uses, made for man,
Iron pot and brazen pan.


What are ye?
I know not;
Nor what I really do
When I move and govern you.
There is no small work unto God.
He requires of us greatness;
Of his least creature
A high angelic nature,
Stature superb and bright completeness.
He sets to us no humble duty.
Each act that he would have us do
Is haloed round with strangest beauty.
Terrific deeds and cosmic tasks
Of his plainest child he asks.
When I polish the brazen pan
I hear a creature laugh afar
In the gardens of a star,
And from his burning presence run
Flaming wheels of many a sun.
Whoever makes a thing more bright,
He is an angel of all light.
When I cleanse this earthen floor
My spirit leaps to see
Bright garments trailing over it.
Wonderful lustres cover it,
A cleanness made by me.
Purger of all men's thoughts and ways,
With labor do I sound Thy praise,
My work is done for Thee.
Whoever makes a thing more bright,
He is an angel of all light.
Therefore let me spread abroad
The beautiful cleanness of my God.


One time in the cool of dawn
Angels came and worked with me.
The air was soft with many a wing.
They laughed amid my solitude
And cast bright looks on everything.
Sweetly of me did they ask
That they might do my common task.
And all were beautiful -- but one
With garments whiter than the sun
Had such a face
Of deep, remembered grace,
That when I saw I cried -- "Thou art
The great Blood-Brother of my heart.
Where have I seen thee?" -- And he said,
"When we are dancing 'round God's throne,
How often thou art there.
Beauties from thy hands have flown
Like white doves wheeling in mid-air.
Nay -- thy soul remembers not?
Work on, and cleanse thy iron pot."


What are we? I know not.

A Saint's Hours. [Sarah N. Cleghorn]

In the still cold before the sun
(Her Matins) Her brothers and her sisters small
She woke, and washed and dressed each one.

And through the morning hours all
(Prime) Singing above her broom she stood
And swept the house from hall to hall.

Then out she ran with tidings good
(Tierce) Across the field and down the lane,
To share them with the neighborhood.

Four miles she walked, and home again,
(Sexts) To sit through half the afternoon
And hear a feeble crone complain.

But when she saw the frosty moon
(Nones) And lakes of shadow on the hill,
Her maiden dreams grew bright as noon.

She threw her pitying apron frill
(Vespers) Over a little trembling mouse
When the sleek cat yawned on the sill.

In the late hours and drowsy house,
(Evensong) At last, too tired, beside her bed
She fell asleep -- her prayers half said.

A Lady. [Amy Lowell]

You are beautiful and faded
Like an old opera tune
Played upon a harpsichord;
Or like the sun-flooded silks
Of an eighteenth-century boudoir.
In your eyes
Smoulder the fallen roses of out-lived minutes,
And the perfume of your soul
Is vague and suffusing,
With the pungence of sealed spice-jars.
Your half-tones delight me,
And I grow mad with gazing
At your blent colours.

My vigour is a new-minted penny,
Which I cast at your feet.
Gather it up from the dust,
That its sparkle may amuse you.

The Child in Me. [May Riley Smith]

She follows me about my House of Life
(This happy little ghost of my dead Youth!)
She has no part in Time's relentless strife
She keeps her old simplicity and truth --
And laughs at grim Mortality,
This deathless Child that stays with me --
(This happy little ghost of my dead Youth!)

My House of Life is weather-stained with years --
(O Child in Me, I wonder why you stay.)
Its windows are bedimmed with rain of tears,
The walls have lost their rose, its thatch is gray.
One after one its guests depart,
So dull a host is my old heart.
(O Child in Me, I wonder why you stay!)

For jealous Age, whose face I would forget,
Pulls the bright flowers you bring me from my hair
And powders it with snow; and yet -- and yet
I love your dancing feet and jocund air.
I have no taste for caps of lace
To tie about my faded face --
I love to wear your flowers in my hair.

O Child in Me, leave not my House of Clay
Until we pass together through the Door,
When lights are out, and Life has gone away
And we depart to come again no more.
We comrades who have travelled far
Will hail the Twilight and the Star,
And smiling, pass together through the Door!

The Son. [Ridgely Torrence]

I heard an old farm-wife,
Selling some barley,
Mingle her life with life
And the name "Charley".

Saying, "The crop's all in,
We're about through now;
Long nights will soon begin,
We're just us two now.

Twelve bushels at sixty cents,
It's all I carried --
He sickened making fence;
He was to be married --

It feels like frost was near --
His hair was curly.
The spring was late that year,
But the harvest early."

Muy Vieja Mexicana. [Alice Corbin]

I've seen her pass with eyes upon the road --
An old bent woman in a bronze-black shawl,
With skin as dried and wrinkled as a mummy's,
As brown as a cigar-box, and her voice
Like the low vibrant strings of a guitar.
And I have fancied from the girls about
What she was at their age, what they will be
When they are old as she. But now she sits
And smokes away each night till dawn comes round,
Thinking, beside the pinyons' flame, of days
Long past and gone, when she was young -- content
To be no longer young, her epic done:

For a woman has work and much to do,
And it's good at the last to know it's through,
And still have time to sit alone,
To have some time you can call your own.
It's good at the last to know your mind
And travel the paths that you traveled blind,
To see each turn and even make
Trips in the byways you did not take --
But that, `por Dios', is over and done,
It's pleasanter now in the way we've come;
It's good to smoke and none to say
What's to be done on the coming day,
No mouths to feed or coat to mend,
And none to call till the last long end.
Though one have sons and friends of one's own,
It's better at last to live alone.
For a man must think of food to buy,
And a woman's thoughts may be wild and high;
But when she is young she must curb her pride,
And her heart is tamed for the child at her side.
But when she is old her thoughts may go
Wherever they will, and none to know.
And night is the time to think and dream,
And not to get up with the dawn's first gleam;
Night is the time to laugh or weep,
And when dawn comes it is time to sleep . . .

When it's all over and there's none to care,
I mean to be like her and take my share
Of comfort when the long day's done,
And smoke away the nights, and see the sun
Far off, a shrivelled orange in a sky gone black,
Through eyes that open inward and look back.

Hrolf's Thrall, His Song. [Willard Wattles]

There be five things to a man's desire:
Kine flesh, roof-tree, his own fire,
Clean cup of sweet wine from goat's hide,
And through dark night one to lie beside.

Four things poor and homely be:
Hearth-fire, white cheese, own roof-tree,
True mead slow brewed with brown malt;
But a good woman is savour and salt.

Plow, shove deep through gray loam;
Hack, sword, hack for straw-thatch home;
Guard, buckler, guard both beast and human --
God, send true man his true woman!

The Interpreter. [Orrick Johns]

In the very early morning when the light was low
She got all together and she went like snow,
Like snow in the springtime on a sunny hill,
And we were only frightened and can't think still.

We can't think quite that the katydids and frogs
And the little crying chickens and the little grunting hogs,
And the other living things that she spoke for to us
Have nothing more to tell her since it happened thus.

She never is around for any one to touch,
But of ecstasy and longing she too knew much,
And always when any one has time to call his own
She will come and be beside him as quiet as a stone.

Old King Cole. [Edwin Arlington Robinson]

In Tilbury Town did Old King Cole
A wise old age anticipate,
Desiring, with his pipe and bowl,
No Khan's extravagant estate.
No crown annoyed his honest head,
No fiddlers three were called or needed;
For two disastrous heirs instead
Made music more than ever three did.

Bereft of her with whom his life
Was harmony without a flaw,
He took no other for a wife,
Nor sighed for any that he saw;
And if he doubted his two sons,
And heirs, Alexis and Evander,
He might have been as doubtful once
Of Robert Burns and Alexander.

Alexis, in his early youth,
Began to steal -- from old and young.
Likewise Evander, and the truth
Was like a bad taste on his tongue.
Born thieves and liars, their affair
Seemed only to be tarred with evil --
The most insufferable pair
Of scamps that ever cheered the devil.

The world went on, their fame went on,
And they went on -- from bad to worse;
Till, goaded hot with nothing done,
And each accoutred with a curse,
The friends of Old King Cole, by twos,
And fours, and sevens, and elevens,
Pronounced unalterable views
Of doings that were not of heaven's.

And having learned again whereby
Their baleful zeal had come about,
King Cole met many a wrathful eye
So kindly that its wrath went out --
Or partly out. Say what they would,
He seemed the more to court their candor;
But never told what kind of good
Was in Alexis and Evander.

And Old King Cole, with many a puff
That haloed his urbanity,
Would smoke till he had smoked enough,
And listen most attentively.
He beamed as with an inward light
That had the Lord's assurance in it;
And once a man was there all night,
Expecting something every minute.

But whether from too little thought,
Or too much fealty to the bowl,
A dim reward was all he got
For sitting up with Old King Cole.
"Though mine," the father mused aloud,
"Are not the sons I would have chosen,
Shall I, less evilly endowed,
By their infirmity be frozen?

"They'll have a bad end, I'll agree,
But I was never born to groan;
For I can see what I can see,
And I'm accordingly alone.
With open heart and open door,
I love my friends, I like my neighbors;
But if I try to tell you more,
Your doubts will overmatch my labors.

"This pipe would never make me calm,
This bowl my grief would never drown.
For grief like mine there is no balm
In Gilead, or in Tilbury Town.
And if I see what I can see,
I know not any way to blind it;
Nor more if any way may be
For you to grope or fly to find it.

"There may be room for ruin yet,
And ashes for a wasted love;
Or, like One whom you may forget,
I may have meat you know not of.
And if I'd rather live than weep
Meanwhile, do you find that surprising?
Why, bless my soul, the man's asleep!
That's good. The sun will soon be rising."

Spoon River Anthology. [Edgar Lee Masters]

Washington McNeely

Rich, honored by my fellow citizens,
The father of many children, born of a noble mother,
All raised there
In the great mansion-house, at the edge of town.
Note the cedar tree on the lawn!
I sent all the boys to Ann Arbor, all of the girls to Rockford,
The while my life went on, getting more riches and honors --
Resting under my cedar tree at evening.
The years went on.
I sent the girls to Europe;
I dowered them when married.
I gave the boys money to start in business.
They were strong children, promising as apples
Before the bitten places show.
But John fled the country in disgrace.
Jenny died in child-birth --
I sat under my cedar tree.
Harry killed himself after a debauch,
Susan was divorced --
I sat under my cedar tree.
Paul was invalided from over study,
Mary became a recluse at home for love of a man --
I sat under my cedar tree.
All were gone, or broken-winged or devoured by life --
I sat under my cedar tree.
My mate, the mother of them, was taken --
I sat under my cedar tree,
Till ninety years were tolled.
O maternal Earth, which rocks the fallen leaf to sleep!

Harmon Whitney

Out of the lights and roar of cities,
Drifting down like a spark in Spoon River,
Burnt out with the fire of drink, and broken,
The paramour of a woman I took in self-contempt,
But to hide a wounded pride as well.
To be judged and loathed by a village of little minds --
I, gifted with tongues and wisdom,
Sunk here to the dust of the justice court,
A picker of rags in the rubbage of spites and wrongs, --
I, whom fortune smiled on! I in a village,
Spouting to gaping yokels pages of verse,
Out of the lore of golden years,
Or raising a laugh with a flash of filthy wit
When they brought the drinks to kindle my dying mind.
To be judged by you,
The soul of me hidden from you,
With its wound gangrened
By love for a wife who made the wound,
With her cold white bosom, treasonous, pure and hard,
Relentless to the last, when the touch of her hand
At any time, might have cured me of the typhus,
Caught in the jungle of life where many are lost.
And only to think that my soul could not react,
As Byron's did, in song, in something noble,
But turned on itself like a tortured snake --
Judge me this way, O world!

Thomas Trevelyan

Reading in Ovid the sorrowful story of Itys,
Son of the love of Tereus and Procne, slain
For the guilty passion of Tereus for Philomela,
The flesh of him served to Tereus by Procne,
And the wrath of Tereus, the murderess pursuing
Till the gods made Philomela a nightingale,
Lute of the rising moon, and Procne a swallow!
Oh livers and artists of Hellas centuries gone,
Sealing in little thuribles dreams and wisdom,
Incense beyond all price, forever fragrant,
A breath whereof makes clear the eyes of the soul!
How I inhaled its sweetness here in Spoon River!
The thurible opening when I had lived and learned
How all of us kill the children of love, and all of us,
Knowing not what we do, devour their flesh;
And all of us change to singers, although it be
But once in our lives, or change -- alas -- to swallows,
To twitter amid cold winds and falling leaves!

Alexander Throckmorton

In youth my wings were strong and tireless,
But I did not know the mountains.
In age I knew the mountains
But my weary wings could not follow my vision --
Genius is wisdom and youth.

Rutherford McDowell

They brought me ambrotypes
Of the old pioneers to enlarge.
And sometimes one sat for me --
Some one who was in being
When giant hands from the womb of the world
Tore the republic.
What was it in their eyes? --
For I could never fathom
That mystical pathos of drooped eyelids,
And the serene sorrow of their eyes.
It was like a pool of water,
Amid oak trees at the edge of a forest,
Where the leaves fall,
As you hear the crow of a cock
Where the third generation lives, and the strong men
From a far-off farm-house, seen near the hills
And the strong women are gone and forgotten.
And these grand-children and great grand-children
Of the pioneers!
Truly did my camera record their faces, too,
With so much of the old strength gone,
And the old faith gone,
And the old mastery of life gone,
And the old courage gone,
Which labors and loves and suffers and sings
Under the sun!

William H. Herndon

There by the window in the old house
Perched on the bluff, overlooking miles of valley,
My days of labor closed, sitting out life's decline,
Day by day did I look in my memory,
As one who gazes in an enchantress' crystal globe,
And I saw the figures of the past,
As if in a pageant glassed by a shining dream,
Move through the incredible sphere of time.
And I saw a man arise from the soil like a fabled giant
And throw himself over a deathless destiny,
Master of great armies, head of the republic,
Bringing together into a dithyramb of recreative song
The epic hopes of a people;
At the same time Vulcan of sovereign fires,
Where imperishable shields and swords were beaten out
From spirits tempered in heaven.
Look in the crystal! See how he hastens on
To the place where his path comes up to the path
Of a child of Plutarch and Shakespeare.
O Lincoln, actor indeed, playing well your part,
And Booth, who strode in a mimic play within the play,
Often and often I saw you,
As the cawing crows winged their way to the wood
Over my house-top at solemn sunsets,
There by my window,

Anne Rutledge

Out of me unworthy and unknown
The vibrations of deathless music:
"With malice toward none, with charity for all."
Out of me the forgiveness of millions toward millions,
And the beneficent face of a nation
Shining with justice and truth.
I am Anne Rutledge who sleep beneath these weeds,
Beloved in life of Abraham Lincoln,
Wedded to him, not through union,
But through separation.
Bloom forever, O Republic,
From the dust of my bosom!

Lincoln. [John Gould Fletcher]


Like a gaunt, scraggly pine
Which lifts its head above the mournful sandhills;
And patiently, through dull years of bitter silence,
Untended and uncared for, starts to grow.

Ungainly, labouring, huge,
The wind of the north has twisted and gnarled its branches;
Yet in the heat of midsummer days, when thunderclouds ring the horizon,
A nation of men shall rest beneath its shade.
And it shall protect them all,
Hold everyone safe there, watching aloof in silence;
Until at last one mad stray bolt from the zenith
Shall strike it in an instant down to earth.


There was a darkness in this man; an immense and hollow darkness,
Of which we may not speak, nor share with him, nor enter;
A darkness through which strong roots stretched downwards into the earth
Towards old things:

Towards the herdman-kings who walked the earth and spoke with God,
Towards the wanderers who sought for they knew not what, and found their goal
at last;
Towards the men who waited, only waited patiently when all seemed lost,
Many bitter winters of defeat;

Down to the granite of patience
These roots swept, knotted fibrous roots, prying, piercing, seeking,
And drew from the living rock and the living waters about it
The red sap to carry upwards to the sun.

Not proud, but humble,
Only to serve and pass on, to endure to the end through service;
For the ax is laid at the roots of the trees, and all that bring not forth
good fruit
Shall be cut down on the day to come and cast into the fire.


There is a silence abroad in the land to-day,
And in the hearts of men, a deep and anxious silence;
And, because we are still at last, those bronze lips slowly open,
Those hollow and weary eyes take on a gleam of light.

Slowly a patient, firm-syllabled voice cuts through the endless silence
Like labouring oxen that drag a plow through the chaos of rude clay-fields:
"I went forward as the light goes forward in early spring,
But there were also many things which I left behind.

"Tombs that were quiet;
One, of a mother, whose brief light went out in the darkness,
One, of a loved one, the snow on whose grave is long falling,
One, only of a child, but it was mine.

"Have you forgot your graves? Go, question them in anguish,
Listen long to their unstirred lips. From your hostages to silence,
Learn there is no life without death, no dawn without sun-setting,
No victory but to him who has given all."


The clamour of cannon dies down, the furnace-mouth of the battle is silent.
The midwinter sun dips and descends, the earth takes on afresh
its bright colours.
But he whom we mocked and obeyed not, he whom we scorned and mistrusted,
He has descended, like a god, to his rest.

Over the uproar of cities,
Over the million intricate threads of life wavering and crossing,
In the midst of problems we know not, tangling, perplexing, ensnaring,
Rises one white tomb alone.

Beam over it, stars,
Wrap it round, stripes -- stripes red for the pain that he bore for you --
Enfold it forever, O flag, rent, soiled, but repaired through your anguish;
Long as you keep him there safe, the nations shall bow to your law.

Strew over him flowers:
Blue forget-me-nots from the north, and the bright pink arbutus
From the east, and from the west rich orange blossom,
And from the heart of the land take the passion-flower;

Rayed, violet, dim,
With the nails that pierced, the cross that he bore and the circlet,
And beside it there lay also one lonely snow-white magnolia,
Bitter for remembrance of the healing which has passed.

Abraham Lincoln walks at Midnight. [Vachel Lindsay]

(In Springfield, Illinois)

It is portentous, and a thing of state
That here at midnight, in our little town
A mourning figure walks, and will not rest,
Near the old court-house pacing up and down,

Or by his homestead, or in shadowed yards
He lingers where his children used to play,
Or through the market, on the well-worn stones
He stalks until the dawn-stars burn away.

A bronzed, lank man! His suit of ancient black,
A famous high top-hat and plain worn shawl
Make him the quaint great figure that men love,
The prairie-lawyer, master of us all.

He cannot sleep upon his hillside now.
He is among us: -- as in times before!
And we who toss and lie awake for long
Breathe deep, and start, to see him pass the door.

His head is bowed. He thinks on men and kings.
Yea, when the sick world cries, how can he sleep?
Too many peasants fight, they know not why,
Too many homesteads in black terror weep.

The sins of all the war-lords burn his heart.
He sees the dreadnaughts scouring every main.
He carries on his shawl-wrapped shoulders now
The bitterness, the folly and the pain.

He cannot rest until a spirit-dawn
Shall come; -- the shining hope of Europe free:
The league of sober folk, the Workers' Earth,
Bringing long peace to Cornland, Alp and Sea.

It breaks his heart that kings must murder still,
That all his hours of travail here for men
Seem yet in vain. And who will bring white peace
That he may sleep upon his hill again?

Prayer during Battle. [Hermann Hagedorn]

Lord, in this hour of tumult,
Lord, in this night of fears,
Keep open, oh, keep open
My eyes, my ears.

Not blindly, not in hatred,
Lord, let me do my part.
Keep open, oh, keep open
My mind, my heart!

Prayer of a Soldier in France. [Joyce Kilmer]

My shoulders ache beneath my pack
(Lie easier, Cross, upon His back).

I march with feet that burn and smart
(Tread, Holy Feet, upon my heart).

Men shout at me who may not speak
(They scourged Thy back and smote Thy cheek).

I may not lift a hand to clear
My eyes of salty drops that sear.

(Then shall my fickle soul forget
Thy Agony of Bloody Sweat?)

My rifle hand is stiff and numb
(From Thy pierced palm red rivers come).

Lord, Thou didst suffer more for me
Than all the hosts of land and sea.

So let me render back again
This millionth of Thy gift. Amen.

The White Comrade. [Robert Haven Schauffler]

Under our curtain of fire,
Over the clotted clods,
We charged, to be withered, to reel


Back to Full Books