Documenting the American South Logo
Loading

POEMS ABOUT GOD:
Electronic Edition.

John Crowe Ransom, 1888-1974


Text scanned (OCR) by Lee Ann Morawski
Images scanned by Jill Kuhn
Text encoded by Jill Kuhn
First edition, 1999
ca. 170 K
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,
1999.

© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.


Call number PS3535 .A635 P6 1919 c.2 (Davis Library, UNC-CH)



        The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-CH digitization project, Documenting the American South.

Any hyphens occurring in line breaks have been removed, and the trailing part of a word has been joined to the preceding line.
All quotation marks and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as " and " respectively.
All single right and left quotation marks are encoded as ' and ' respectively.
Indentation in lines has not been preserved.
Running titles have not been preserved.
Spell-check and verification made against printed text using Author/Editor (SoftQuad) and Microsoft Word spell check programs.

Library of Congress Subject Headings, 21st edition, 1998

LC Subject Headings:


        



POEMS ABOUT GOD

BY

JOHN CROWE RANSOM
1st Lieut. Field Artillery, A. E. F.

NEW YORK
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
1919

        


>


Page verso

Copyright, 1919 BY
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
THE QUINN& BODEN CO. PRESS
RAHWAY, N. J.


Page iii

THESE POEMS ARE AFFECTIONATELY
DEDICATED TO
CHRISTOPHER MORLEY


Page v

INTRODUCTION

        MOST of these poems about God were complete a year ago, that is at about the time when the great upheaval going on in God's world engulfed our country too. Since then I have added a little only, and my experience has led me so wide that I can actually look back upon those antebellum accomplishments with the eye of the impartial spectator, or at most with a fatherly tenderness, no more. In this reviewing act I find myself thinking sometimes that the case about God may not be quite so desperate as the young poet chooses to believe. But it is not for that reason that I shall ever think of suppressing a single one of his poems. For I am deeply engaged by the downright evident honesty of the young man, though I may wonder at the source of his excitement; esteeming honesty more highly than those amiable Southern accents into which he seems detertermined not to lapse, and indeed more highly


Page vi

than anything else in the world. So that it is altogether as his apologist that I undertake this introduction.

        "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform," says the poet in an effort to render our hearts properly humble before him. And we remember the story of how a certain Samaritan woman was rebuked once for thinking that God was to be worshiped only in that mountain where her fathers had always worshiped him; the point of the story being that he can be found just as readily on one mountain as on another.

        The first three or four poems that I ever wrote (that was two years ago) were done in three or four different moods and with no systematic design. I was therefore duly surprised to notice that each of them made considerable use of the term God. I studied the matter a little, and came to the conclusion that this was the most poetic of all terms possible; was a term always being called into requisition during the great moments of the soul, now in tones of love, and now indignantly; and was the very last word that a man might say when standing in the presence


Page vii

of that ultimate mystery to which all our great experiences reduce.

        Wishing to make my poems as poetic as possible, I simply likened myself to a diligent apprentice and went to work to treat rather systematically a number of the occasions on which this term was in use with common American men. And since these occasions fairly crowded into mind even at the most casual inventory, I also likened myself to a sovereign and a chooser; and I very quickly ruled that I should consider only those situations as suitable in which I could imagine myself pronouncing the name God sincerely and spontaneously, never by that way of routine which is death to the aesthetic and religious emotions.

        I anticipate the objection that the name of God is frequently taken here in ways that are not the ways of the fathers. I reply in advance, There are many mountains; and probably every one of them is worthy of being charted on the true Chart of God's world.

        

JOHN CROWE RANSOM.

FRANCE,
May 13, 1918.
Page viii

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

        SOME of these poems were originally published in The Independent, The Liberator, Contemporary Verse, and the Philadelphia Evening Public Ledger. The author wishes to express his thanks to these periodicals for permission to reprint.


Page xi

CONTENTS


Page 1

POEMS ABOUT GOD


Page 3

THE SWIMMER


                        IN dog-days plowmen quit their toil,
                        And frog-ponds in the meadow boil,
                        And grasses on the upland broil,
                        And all the coiling things uncoil,
                        And eggs and meats and Christians spoil.


                        A mile away the valley breaks
                        (So all good valleys do) and makes
                        A cool green water for hot heads' sakes,
                        And sundry sullen dog-days' aches.


                        The swimmer's body is white and clean,
                        It is washed by a water of deepest green
                        The color of leaves in a starlight scene,
                        And it is as white as the stars between.


                        But the swimmer's soul is a thing possessed,
                        His soul is naked as his breast,
                        Remembers not its east and west,
                        And ponders this way, I have guessed:


Page 4


                        I have no home in the cruel heat
                        On alien soil that blisters feet.
                        This water is my native seat,
                        And more than ever cool and sweet,
                        So long by forfeiture escheat.


                        O my forgiving element!
                        I gash you to my heart's content
                        And never need be penitent,
                        So light you float me when breath is spent
                        And close again where my rude way went.


                        And now you close above my head,
                        And I lie low in a soft green bed
                        That dog-days never have visited.
                        "By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread:"
                        The garden's curse is at last unsaid


                        What do I need of senses five?
                        Why eat, or drink, or sweat, or wive?
                        What do we strive for when we strive?
                        What do we live for when alive?


                        And what if I do not rise again,
                        Never to goad a heated brain
                        To hotter excesses of joy and pain?


Page 5


                        Why should it be against the grain
                        To lie so cold and still and sane?


                        Water-bugs play shimmer-shimmer,
                        Naked body's just a glimmer,
                        Watch ticks every second grimmer:
                        Come to the top, O wicked swimmer!


Page 6

NOONDAY GRACE


                        MY good old father tucked his head,
                        (His face the color of gingerbread)
                        Over the table my mother had spread,
                        And folded his leathery hands and said:


                        "We thank thee, Lord, for this thy grace,
                        And all thy bounties to the race;
                        Turn not away from us thy face
                        Till we come to our final resting-place."


                        These were the words of the old elect,
                        Or others to the same effect.


                        I love my father's piety,
                        I know he's grateful as can be,
                        A man that's nearly seventy
                        And past his taste for cookery.
                        But I am not so old as he,
                        And when I see in front of me
                        Things that I like uncommonly,


Page 7


                        (Cornfield beans my specialty,
                        When every pod spills two or three),
                        Then I forget the thou and thee
                        And pray with total fervency:


                        Thank you, good Lord, for dinner-time!
                        Gladly I come from the sweat and grime
                        To play in your Christian pantomime.


                        I wash the black dust from my face,
                        I sit again in a Christian's place,
                        I hear the ancient Christian's grace.


                        My thanks for clean fresh napkin first,
                        With faint red stain where the fruit-jar burst.


                        Thanks for a platter with kind blue roses,
                        For mother's centerpiece and posies,
                        A touch of art right under our noses.


                        Mother, I'll thank you for tumbler now
                        Of morning's milk from our Jersey cow.


                        And father, thanks for a generous yam,
                        And a helping of home-cured country ham,
                        (He knows how fond of it I am.)


Page 8


                        For none can cure them as can he,
                        And he won't tell his recipe,
                        But God was behind it, it seems to me.


                        Thank God who made the garden grow,
                        Who took upon himself to know
                        That we loved vegetables so.
                        I served his plan with rake and hoe,
                        And mother, boiling, baking, slow
                        To her favorite tune of Old Black Joe,
                        Predestined many an age ago.


                        Pearly corn still on the cob,
                        My teeth are aching for that job.


                        Tomatoes, one would fill a dish,
                        Potatoes, mealy as one could wish.


                        Cornfield beans and cucumbers,
                        And yellow yams for sweeteners.


                        Pickles between for stepping-stones,
                        And plenty of cornmeal bread in pones.


                        Sunday the preacher droned a lot
                        About a certain whether or not:


Page 9


                        Is God the universal friend,
                        And if men pray can he attend
                        To each man's individual end?


                        They pray for individual things,
                        Give thanks for little happenings,
                        But isn't his sweep of mighty wings
                        Meant more for businesses of kings
                        Than pulling small men's petty strings?


                        He's infinite, and all of that,
                        The setting sun his habitat,
                        The heavens they hold by his fiat,
                        The glorious year that God begat;
                        And what is creeping man to that,
                        O preacher, valiant democrat?


                        "The greatest of all, his sympathy,
                        His kindness, reaching down to me."


                        Like mother, he finds it his greatest joy
                        To have big dinners for his boy.


                        She understands him like a book,
                        In fact, he helps my mother cook,
                        And slips to the dining-room door to look;


Page 10


                        And when we are at our noon-day meal,
                        He laughs to think how fine we feel.


                        An extra fork is by my plate,
                        I nearly noticed it too late!


                        Mother, you're keeping a secret back!
                        I see the pie-pan through the crack,
                        Incrusted thick in gold and black.


                        There's no telling what that secret pair
                        Have cooked for me in the kitchen there,


                        There's no telling what that pie can be,
                        But tell me that it's blackberry!


                        As long as I keep topside the sod,
                        I'll love you always, mother and God.


Page 11

THE INGRATE


                        BY night we looked across my field,
                        The tasseled corn was fine to see,
                        The moon was yellow on the rows
                        And seemed so wonderful to me,
                        That with an old provincial pride
                        I praised my moonlit Tennessee,
                        And thought my poor befriended man
                        Would never dare to disagree.


                        He was a frosty Russian man
                        And wore a bushy Russian beard;
                        He had two furtive faded eyes
                        That some old horror once had seared;
                        I wondered if they ever would
                        Forget the horrors they had feared;
                        Yet when I praised my pleasant field
                        This stupid fellow almost jeered.


                        "Your moon shines very well, my friend,
                        Your fields are good enough, I know;


Page 12


                        At home our fields in the winter-time
                        Were always white, and shining so!
                        Our nights went beautiful like day,
                        And bitter cold our winds would blow;
                        And I remember how it looked,
                        Dear God, my country of the snow!"


Page 13

SUNSET


                        I KNOW you are not cruel,
                        And you would not willingly hurt anything in the world.
                        There is kindness in your eyes,
                        There could not very well be more of it in eyes
                        Already brimful of the sky.
                        I thought you would some day begin to love me,
                        But now I doubt it badly;
                        It is no man-rival I am afraid of,
                        It is God.


                        The meadows are very wide and green,
                        And the big field of wheat is solid gold,
                        Or a little darker than gold.
                        Two people never sat like us by a fence of cedar rails
                        On a still evening
                        And looked at such fat fields.
                        To me it is beautiful enough,
                        I am stirred,


Page 14


                        I say grand and wonderful, and grow adjectival,
                        But to you
                        It is God.


                        Cropping the clover are several spotted cows.
                        They too are kind and gentle,
                        And they stop and look round at me now and then
                        As if they would say:
                        "How good of you to come to see us!
                        Please pardon us if we seem indifferent,
                        But we have not much time to talk with you now,
                        And really nothing to say."
                        Then they make their bow,
                        Still kind and calm,
                        And go their way again
                        Towards the sunset.
                        I suppose they are going to God.


                        Your eyes are not regarding me,
                        Nor the four-leaf clovers I picked for you,
                        (With a prayer and a gentle squeeze for each of them),
                        Nor are they fretting over dress, and shoes,
                        And image in the little glass,
                        Restlessly,
                        Like the eyes of other girls.


Page 15


                        You are looking away over yonder
                        To where the crooked rail-fence gets to the top
                        Of the yellow hill
                        And drops out of sight
                        Into space.
                        Is that infinity that catches it?
                        And do you catch it too in your thoughts?
                        I know that look;
                        I have not seen it on another girl;
                        And it terrifies me,
                        For I cannot tell what it means,
                        But I think
                        It has something to do with God.


                        We are a mile from home,
                        And soon it will be getting dark,
                        And the big farm-bell will be ringing out for supper.
                        We had better start for the house.
                        Rover!
                        O here he is, waiting.
                        He has chased the rabbits and run after the birds
                        A thousand miles or so,
                        And now he is hungry and tired.
                        But he is a southern gentleman


Page 16


                        And will not whimper once
                        Though you kept him waiting forever.
                        He knows his mistress' eyes as well as I,
                        And when to be silent and respectful.
                        I will try to be as patient as Rover,
                        And we will be comrades and wait,
                        Unquestioningly,
                        Till this lady we love
                        And her strange eyes
                        Come home from God.


Page 17

ONE WHO REJECTED CHRIST


                        THERE'S farmers and there's farmers,
                        There's many a field and field,
                        But none of the farmers round about
                        Can haul such harvest-wagons out
                        As I from an acre's yield.


                        There's plenty and plenty of farmers
                        That leave the ground by the fence,
                        Thinking it's nice if a patch of roses
                        Should scratch out the hay and tickle their noses
                        With nice little wild-rose scents.


                        I'm not like other farmers,
                        I make my farming pay;
                        I never go in for sentiment,
                        And seeing that roses yield no rent
                        I cut the stuff away.


                        A very good thing for farmers
                        If they would learn my way;
                        For crops are all that a good field grows,
                        And nothing is worse than a sniff of rose
                        In the good strong smell of hay.


Page 18

GRACE


                        WHO is it beams the merriest
                        At killing a man, the laughing one?
                        You are the one I nominate,
                        God of the rivers of Babylon.


                        A hundred times I've taken the mules
                        And started early through the lane,
                        And come to the broken gate and looked,
                        And there my partner was again,
                        Sitting on top of a sorrel horse
                        And picking the burrs from its matted mane,
                        Saying he thought he'd help me work
                        That field of corn before the rain;
                        And I never spoke of the dollar a day,
                        It's no use causing hired men pain,
                        But slipped it into his hand at dark
                        While he undid the coupling chain;
                        And whistled a gospel tune, and knew
                        He'd join in strong on the refrain.


Page 19


                        For I would pitch the treble high,
                        "Down at the cross where my Savior died,"
                        And then he rolled along the bass,
                        "There did I bury my sin and pride."


                        Sinful pride of a hired man!
                        Out of a hired woman born!
                        I'm thinking now how he was saved
                        One day while plowing in the corn.
                        We plowed that steamy morning through,
                        I with the mule whose side was torn,
                        And keeping an eye on the mule I saw
                        That the sun looked high and the man looked worn;
                        I would take him home to dinner with me,
                        And there! my father's dinner horn.


                        The sun blazed after dinner so
                        We sat a while by the maple trees,
                        Thinking of mother's pickles and pies
                        And smoking a friendly pipe at ease.
                        I broached a point of piety,
                        For pious men are quick to tease:
                        Was it really true John dipped his crowd
                        Down in the muddy Jordan's lees?


Page 20


                        And couldn't the Baptists backslide too
                        If only they went on Methodist sprees?
                        And finally back to the field we went,
                        The corn was well above my knees,
                        The weeds were more than ankle high,
                        And dangerous customers were these.
                        We went to work in the heat again,
                        I hoped we'd get a bit of breeze
                        And thought the hired man was used
                        To God's most blazing cruelties.


                        Sundays, the hired man would pray
                        To live in the sunshine of his face;
                        Now here was answer come complete,
                        Rather an overdose of grace!


                        He fell in the furrow, an honest place
                        And an easy place for a man to fall.
                        His horse went marching blindly on
                        In a beautiful dream of a great fat stall.
                        And God shone on in merry mood,
                        For it was a foolish kind of sprawl,
                        And I found a hulk of heaving meat
                        That wouldn't answer me at all
                        And a fresh breeze made the young corn dance
                        To a bright green, glorious carnival.


Page 21


                        And really, is it not a gift
                        To smile and be divinely gay,
                        To rise above a circumstance
                        And smile distressing scenes away?


                        But this was a thing that I had said,
                        I was so forward and untamed:
                        "I will not worship wickedness
                        Though it be God's--I am ashamed!
                        For all his mercies God be thanked
                        But for his tyrannies be blamed!
                        He shall not have my love alone,
                        With loathing too his name is named."


                        I caught him up with all my strength
                        And with a silly stumbling tread
                        I dragged him over the soft brown dirt
                        And dumped him down beside the shed.


                        I thought of the prayers the fool had prayed
                        To his God, and I was seeing red,
                        When all of a sudden he gave a heave
                        And then with shuddering--vomited!
                        And God, who had just received full thanks
                        For all his kindly daily bread,


Page 22


                        Now called it back again--perhaps
                        To see that his birds of the air were fed.
                        Not mother's dainty dinner now,
                        A rather horrible mess instead,
                        Yet all of it God required of him
                        Before the fool was duly dead.


                        Even of deaths there is a choice,
                        I've seen you give a good one, God,
                        But he in his vomit laid him down,
                        Denied the decency of blood.


                        If silence from the dead, I swore,
                        There shall be cursing from the quick!
                        But I began to vomit too,
                        Cursing and vomit ever so thick;
                        The dead lay down, and I did too,
                        Two ashy idiots: take your pick!
                        A little lower than angels he made us,
                        (Hear his excellent rhetoric),
                        A credit we were to him, half of us dead,
                        The other half of us lying sick.


                        The little clouds came Sunday-dressed
                        To do a holy reverence,


Page 23


                        The young corn smelled its sweetest too,
                        And made him goodly frankincense,
                        The thrushes offered music up,
                        Choired in the wood beyond the fence.


                        And while his praises filled the earth
                        A solitary crow sailed by,
                        And while the whole creation sang
                        He cawed--not knowing how to sigh.


Page 24

MOONLIGHT


                        HE feigned a fine indifference
                        To be so prodigal of light,
                        Knowing his piteous twisted things
                        Would lose the crooked marks of spite
                        When only moonbeams fit the dusk
                        And made his wicked world seem right.


                        But we forget so soon the shame,
                        Conceiving sweetness if we can
                        Heaven the citadel itself
                        Illumined on the lunar plan;
                        And I the chief of sinners, I
                        The middlemost Victorian!


                        Now I shall ride the misty lake
                        With my own love, and speak so low
                        That not a fishy thing shall hear
                        The secrets passing to and fro
                        Amid the moonlight poetries.
                        O moonshine, how unman us so?


Page 25

STREET LIGHT


                        THE shine of many city streets
                        Confuses any countryman;
                        It flickers here and flashes there,
                        It goes as soon as it began,
                        It beckons many ways at once
                        For him to follow if he can.


                        Under the lamp a woman stands,
                        The lamps are shining equal well,
                        But in her eyes are other lights,
                        And lights plus other lights will tell:
                        He loves the brightness of that street
                        Which is the shining street to hell.


                        There's light enough, and strong enough,
                        To lighten every pleasant park;
                        I'm sorry lights are held so cheap,
                        I'd rather there were not a spark
                        Than choose those shining ways for joy
                        And have them lead me into dark.


Page 26

DARKNESS


                        WHEN hurrying home on a rainy night
                        And hearing tree-tops rubbed and tossed,
                        And seeing never a friendly star
                        And feeling your way when paths are crossed:
                        Stop fast and turn three times around
                        And try the logic of the lost.


                        Where is the heavenly light you dreamed?
                        Where is your hearth and glowing ash?
                        Where is your love by the mellow moon?
                        Here is not even a lightning-flash,
                        And in a place no worse than this
                        Lost men shall wail and teeth shall gnash.


                        Lightning is quick and perilous,
                        The dawn comes on too slow and pale,
                        Your love brings only a yellow lamp,
                        Yet of these lights one shall avail:
                        The dark shall break for one of these,
                        I've never known this thing to fail.


Page 27

GEOMETRY


                        My window looks upon a wood
                        That stands as tangled as it stood
                        When God was centuries too young
                        To care how right he worked, or wrong,
                        His patterns in obedient trees,
                        Unprofited by the centuries
                        He still plants on as crazily
                        As in his drivelling infancy.


                        Poor little elms beneath the oak!
                        They thrash their arms around and poke
                        At tyrant throats, and try to stand
                        Straight up, like owners of the land;
                        For they expect the vainest things,
                        And even the boniest have their flings.


                        Hickory shoots unnumbered rise,
                        Sallow and wasting themselves in sighs,
                        Children begot at a criminal rate
                        In the sight of a God that is profligate.


Page 28


                        The oak-trees tower over all,
                        They seem to rise above the brawl,
                        They seem--but just observe the hoax,
                        They are obscured by other oaks!
                        They laugh the weaklings out of mind,
                        And fight forever with their kind.


                        For oaks are spindling too, and bent,
                        And only strong by accident;
                        And if there is a single tree
                        Of half the size it ought to be,
                        It need not give him thanks for that,
                        He did not plan its habitat.


                        When tree-tops go to pushing so,
                        There's every evil thing below;
                        There's clammy fungus everywhere,
                        And poison waving on the air,
                        A plague of insects from the pool
                        To sting some ever-trusting fool,
                        Serpents issuing from the foot
                        Of oak-trees rotten at the root,
                        Owls and frogs and whippoorwills,
                        Cackling of all sorts of ills.


Page 29


                        Imagine what a pretty thing
                        The slightest landscape-gardening
                        Had made of God's neglected wood!
                        I'm glad man has the hardihood
                        To tamper with creation's plan
                        And shape it worthier of man.
                        Imagine woods and sun-swept spaces,
                        Shadows and lights in proper places,
                        Trees just touching friendly-wise,
                        Bees and flowers and butterflies.


                        An easy thing to improve on God,
                        Simply the knowing of even from odd,
                        Simply to count and then dispose
                        In patterns everybody knows,
                        Simply to follow curve and line
                        In geometrical design.


                        Gardeners only cut their trees
                        For nobler regularities.
                        But from my window I have seen
                        The noblest patch of quivering green
                        Lashed till it never quivered again.
                        God had a fit of temper then,
                        And spat shrill wind and lightning out
                        At twinges of some godly gout.


Page 30


                        But as for me, I keep indoors
                        Whenever he starts his awful roars.
                        What can one hope of a crazy God
                        But lashings from an aimless rod?


Page 31

THE LOVER


                        I SAT in a friendly company
                        And wagged my wicked tongue so well,
                        My friends were listening close to hear
                        The wickedest tales that I could tell.
                        For many a fond youth waits, I said,
                        On many a worthless damozel;
                        But every trusting fool shall learn
                        To wish them heartily in hell.


                        And when your name was spoken too,
                        I did not change, I did not start,
                        And when they only praised and loved,
                        I still could play my secret part,
                        Cursing and lies upon my tongue,
                        And songs and shouting in my heart.


                        But when you came and looked at me,
                        You tried my poor pretence too much.
                        O love, do you know the secret now
                        Of one who would not tell nor touch?
                        Must I confess before the pack
                        Of babblers, idiots, and such?


Page 32


                        Do they not hear the burst of bells,
                        Pealing at every step you make?
                        Are not their eyelids winking too,
                        Feeling your sudden brightness break?
                        O too much glory shut with us!
                        O walls too narrow and opaque!
                        O come into the night with me
                        And let me speak, for Jesus' sake.


Page 33

DUMB-BELLS


                        DUMB-BELLS left, dumb-bells right,
                        Swing them hard, grip them tight!
                        Thirty fat men of the town
                        Must sweat their filthy paunches down.
                        Dripping sweat and pumping blood
                        They try to make themselves like God.


                        One and two, three and four,
                        Cleave the air and smite the floor!
                        Five and six, seven and eight,
                        Legs apart, shoulders straight!
                        Thirty fat men grunt and puff,
                        Thirty bellies plead, Enough!


                        Dumb-bells up, dumb-bells down,
                        Dumb-bells front, dumb-bells ground!
                        Thirty's God has just the girth
                        To pull the levers of the earth,
                        They made him sinewy and lean
                        And washed him glittering white and clean.


Page 34


                        Dumb-bells in, dumb-bells out,
                        Count by fours and face about!
                        Put by dumb-bells for to-day,
                        Wash the stinking sweat away
                        And go out clean. But come again;
                        Worship's every night at ten.


Page 35

OVERTURES


                        My dear and I, we disagreed
                        When we had been much time together.
                        For when will lovers learn to sail
                        From sailing always in good weather?


                        She said a hateful little word
                        Between the pages of the book.
                        I bubbled with a noble rage,
                        I bruised her with a dreadful look,


                        And thanked her kindly for the word
                        Of such a little silly thing;
                        Indeed I loved my poet then
                        Beyond my dear, or anything.


                        And she, the proud girl, swept away,
                        How swift and scornfully she went!
                        And I the frightened lover stayed,
                        And have not had one hour's content


Page 36


                        Until to-day; until I knew
                        That I was loved again, again;
                        Then hazard how this thing befel,
                        Brother of women and of men?


                        "Perhaps a gallant gentleman
                        Accomplished it, who saw you bleed;
                        Perhaps she wrote upon the book
                        A riddling thing that you could read;


                        "Perhaps she crept to you, and cried,
                        And took upon her all the blame."
                        O no, do proud girls creep and cry?
                        "Perhaps she whispered you your name."
                        


                        O no, she walked alone, and I
                        Was walking in the rainy wood,
                        And saw her drooping by the tree,
                        And saw my work of widowhood.


Page 37

UNDER THE LOCUSTS


                        WHAT do the old men say,
                        Sitting out of the sun?
                        Many strange and common things,
                        And so would any one.


                        Locust trees are sorry shade,
                        They are good enough;
                        Locust trees are sweet in spring
                        For trees so old and tough.


                        Dick's a sturdy little lad
                        Yonder throwing stones;
                        Agues and rheumatic pains
                        Will fiddle on his bones.


                        Grinny Bob is out again
                        Begging for a dime;
                        Niggers haven't any souls,
                        Grinning all the time.


Page 38


                        Jenny and Will go arm in arm.
                        He's a lucky fellow;
                        Jenny's checks are pink as rose,
                        Her mother's cheeks are yellow.


                        War is on, the paper says,
                        Wounds and enemies;
                        Now young gallivanting bucks
                        Will know what trouble is.


                        Parson's coming up the hill,
                        Meaning mighty well;
                        Thinks he's preached the doubters down.
                        And old men never tell.


Page 39

WORSHIP


                        I KNOW a quite religious man
                        Who utters praises when he can.


                        Now I find God in bard and book,
                        In school and temple, bird and brook.


                        But he says God is sweetest of all
                        Discovered in a drinking-hall.


                        For God requires no costly wine
                        But comes on the foam of a crockery stein.


                        And when that foam is on the lips,
                        Begin then God's good fellowships.


                        Cathedrals, synagogues, and kirks
                        May go to the devil, and all their works.


                        And as for Christian charity,
                        It's made out of hilarity.


Page 40


                        He gives the beggar all his dimes,
                        Forgives his brother seven times.


                        "I love the rain," says thirsty clod;
                        So this religious man of God.


                        For God has come, and is it odd
                        He praises all the works of God?


                        "For God has come, and there's no sorrow,"
                        He sings all night--will he sing to-morrow?


Page 41

THE CLOAK MODEL


                        "My son," the stranger thus began,
                        And drew me to the window side,
                        "Now here are beauties better than
                        You ever have dreamed, or ever can.
                        But yet beware!" he cried.


                        A tidy citizen was he
                        Although a dismal daffy one.
                        "See this one pose and pout for me
                        And march around magnificently.
                        But I'm immune, my son.


                        "Observe how ripe the lady's lips,
                        How Titianesque the mop of hair,
                        And where the great white shoulder dips
                        Beneath its gauzy half-eclipse,
                        You well may stare and stare.


                        "When I was young I said as you
                        Are saying in your sapphic youth,


Page 42


                        That ah! such lips were certain cue,
                        And look! her bosom's rhythm too,
                        It signified her truth;


                        "Her broad brow meant intelligence
                        And something better than a bone,
                        Her body's curves were spirit's tents,
                        Her fresh young skin was innocence
                        Instead of meat that shone.


                        "I wish the moralists would thresh
                        (Indeed the thing is very droll)
                        God's oldest joke, forever fresh:
                        The fact that in the finest flesh
                        There isn't any soul."


Page 43

BY THE RIVERSIDE


                        A GREAT green spread of meadow land,
                        (Must rest his weight on an ample base),
                        A secret water moving on,
                        A clean blue air for his breathing-space,
                        A pair of willows bending down
                        In double witness to his grace,
                        And on the rock his sinner sprawls
                        And looks the Strong One face to face.


                        The sinner's mocking tongue is dry,
                        Wonder is on that mighty jeerer,
                        He loves, and he never loved before,
                        He wants the glowing sky no nearer,
                        He likes the willows to be two,
                        He would not have the water clearer,
                        He thinks that God is perfect once:
                        Heaven, rejoice! a new God-fearer.


                        And now each quiet thing awakes
                        And dances madly, wavers, dips;
                        These are God's motions on the air,


Page 44


                        His Pulse for the sinner's finger-tips,
                        His arrows shot across the blue,
                        His love-words dropping from his lips,
                        And who ever heard such whisperings,
                        Who ever saw such fellowships?


Page 45

THE BACHELOR


                        THE wind went cold as the day went old,
                        And I went very sad,
                        Till I saw something by the road
                        That brought me round and glad.


                        The keen wind nipped me northerly
                        And bent me back almost,
                        And I was the worst discouraged man
                        Abroad on any boast,


                        The road was rocks and wilderness
                        And never a sign of a town,
                        It tapered up a wicked hill,
                        I tried to curse it down,


                        But like an undefeated man
                        I mounted, slow and hard:
                        And round the top was a little house
                        With a woman in the yard.


Page 46


                        She was a housewife in her yard,
                        Tending her husband's place;
                        The broom was busy in her hand,
                        The goodness in her face.


                        She brushed the yard, she brushed the step,
                        She made the leaves to spin,
                        Tidying up her husband's place
                        Outside as well as in.


                        I knew no woman and no house
                        And night was just ahead;
                        Yet I went cheerful down the hill
                        Rested and warmed and fed.


                        For some man had a woman there
                        To keep his board and bed;
                        "I have seen women by these bad roads,
                        Thank God for that," I said.


Page 47

ROSES


                        I ENTERED dutiful, God knows,
                        The room in which I was to sit
                        With dreary unbelieving books.
                        It was surprising, I suppose,
                        To find such happy change in it:
                        There stood a most celestial rose
                        And looked the flower that my love looks
                        Who, where she turns her smiling face
                        Makes heavy earth a hopeful place.


                        I blessed the heart that wished me well
                        When I had been bereft of much,
                        And brought such word of beauty back.
                        I went like one escaping hell
                        To drink its fragrance and to touch,
                        And stroked, O ludicrous to tell!
                        A horrid thing of bric-a-brac,
                        A make-believe, a mockery,
                        And nothing that a rose should be.


Page 48


                        Red real roses keep a thorn,
                        And save their loveliness a while
                        And in their perfect date unfold.
                        But you, beyond all women born,
                        Have spent so easily your smile,
                        That I am not the less forlorn
                        Nor these ironic walls less cold,
                        Because it smiles, the chilly rose,
                        As you are smiling, I suppose.


Page 49

NOVEMBER


                        THERE'S a patch of trees at the edge of the field,
                        And a brown little house that is kept so warm,
                        And a woman waiting by the hearth
                        Who still keeps most of a woman's charm.


                        She traffics in her woman's goods
                        And is my woman of affairs.
                        Yet not so fast, my moral men,
                        November's most poetic airs
                        Are heavy with old lovers' tales,
                        How hearths are holy with their prayers,
                        How women give their fragrance up
                        And give their love to the man that dares.
                        Now who goes heedless hearing that?
                        At last we trade, we laissez-faires.


                        O moralizers, it is hard
                        When I am not a candidate
                        For holy wedlock's offices,
                        That mother has picked me out a mate,


Page 50


                        And couldn't have made a sorrier choice
                        Than that same Smiley's daughter Kate,
                        Who prays for the sinners of the town
                        And never comes to meeting late,
                        Who sings soprano in the choir
                        And swallows Christian doctrine straight.
                        Of all the girls deliver me
                        From the girl you haven't the heart to hate!
                        Piety: O what a hideous thing!
                        And thirty-odd pounds she's underweight.


                        The winds of late November droop
                        (Poor little failures) very low,
                        As up and down the farm they pass,
                        Pass up and down, and to and fro,
                        And look for a home they are not to find,
                        For they were homeless years ago..


                        But years ago I knew a girl,
                        Beautiful, fit for a Grand Vizier's,
                        A girl with laughing on her lips
                        And in her eyes the quickest tears,
                        And low of speech, as when one finds
                        A mother cooing to her dears.
                        I took the note into my heart,
                        And so did other cavaliers.


Page 51


                        If God had heard my prayer then,
                        The good folk couldn't point and say
                        As mother says they're pointing now:
                        Behold, one stands in the sinners' way!
                        The stiffest sceptic bends his neck
                        And stands on no more vain parley
                        If such as she would have him come,
                        Worship with her in the Baptist way,
                        Accept the fables as he can,
                        A Jewish God, a Passion Play;
                        And such a lover never comes
                        To fondling dirty drabs for pay.
                        But God had another man for her,
                        He cannot answer all that pray.


                        November winds are weak and cold,
                        They lie at last beneath the blue
                        And sleep in the fields as cold as they.
                        I know but one good thing to do,
                        So hearken, all ye mutineers:
                        Every man to his rendezvous!


                        My woman waits by the hearth, I say,
                        And what is a scarlet woman to you?
                        Her sins are scarlet if you will,
                        Her lips are hardly of that hue,


Page 52


                        And many a time I've seen her sit
                        Beside the hearth an hour or two,
                        And set the pot upon the fire
                        And wait until she's spoken to.
                        A hateful owl is roosting near
                        Who mocks my woman, Hoo, Hoo, Hoo,
                        But the pot sings back just as shrill as it can,
                        And the angry fire-log crashes through;
                        And there the woman waits and I,
                        ponder the ways of God--and rue!


Page 53

A CHRISTMAS COLLOQUY


                        THE country farmer has his joys
                        Of little city girls and boys
                        When brother Thomas brings his brood
                        Of motherless brats in Christmas mood
                        To try our country air and food.
                        And O what splendid pies and cakes
                        Their pleased and pretty grandma makes!
                        And O what squeals and stomach-aches!


                        Poor Thomas shepherds him a flock
                        Of city souls as hard as rock,
                        And though they will not fill his larder
                        He only preaches Christ the harder.
                        But Ann, though seven years my niece,
                        Is still a pagan little piece,
                        And as she often hints to me
                        She hates the sound of piety.
                        Fair Inez is my ancient setter
                        Who lies by the fire when we will let her:
                        Alas, this amiable dog
                        Heard all the bitter dialogue
                        That passed between my niece and brother
                        Misunderstanding one another.


Page 54


                        ANN:
                        Father, what will there be for me
                        To-morrow on the Christmas tree?
                        Have you told Santa what to bring,
                        My pony, my doll, and everything?


                        THOMAS:
                        My daughter, Santa will know best
                        What to bring you, and what the rest.
                        But father and his little girl
                        And everybody in the world
                        Should dwell to-night on higher things,
                        For hark! the herald angel sings,
                        And in a manger poor and lowly
                        Lies little Jesus, high and holy.


                        ANN:
                        Father, don't talk of little Jesus,
                        You're only doing it to tease us,
                        It isn't nearly time for bed,
                        And I want to know what Santa said.


                        THOMAS:
                        Jesus is better than any toys
                        For little sinning girls and boys,
                        For Jesus saves, but sin destroys.


Page 55


                        And O, it gives him sad surprise,
                        There must be tears in Jesus' eyes,
                        When little girls with bad behavior
                        Forget to own their Lord and Savior.


                        ANN:
                        I didn't, you know it isn't true!
                        I say my prayers, I always do,
                        I know about Jesus very well,
                        And God the Father, Heaven, and Hell.
                        O please don't say it any more,
                        You've said it so many times before,
                        But tell me all about Santa instead,
                        And about the horns on his reindeer's head,
                        And what he will bring me on his sled.


                        THOMAS:
                        This night he was born on earth for us,
                        And can my daughter mock him thus,
                        And care more for her worldly pleasures
                        Than Jesus' love and heavenly treasures?
                        For Jesus didn't like to be
                        So crowned with thorns and nailed to tree,
                        But there was a sinful world to free,
                        And out he went to Gethsemane--


Page 56


                        ANN:
                        And left the twelve and went apart--
                        O father, I know it off by heart,
                        Please, father, please don't finish it out,
                        There's so much else to talk about!
                        I ask about Santa, and there you go,
                        And now you're spoiling my Christmas so,
                        And you are the wickedest man I know!


                        Disgraceful scenes require the curtain,
                        But lest the moral be uncertain,
                        I briefly bring the good report
                        That valiant Thomas held the fort,
                        And wicked Ann was quite defeated,
                        In vain denied, in vain entreated,
                        In vain she wailed, in vain she wept,
                        And said a briny prayer, and slept.
                        While Inez, who had been perplexed
                        To see good kinsfolk so much vexed,
                        When peace descended on the twain,
                        Lay down beside the fire again.


Page 57

THE POWER OF GOD


                        IF the power of God were mine, and the ample turn,
                        I never could dwell in my law, which is 'stablished and stern,


                        But my pity would plague me still! In the fare of my state
                        I would summon my ministers often to reprobate:


                        "Do ye see them walk on the unwaked streets of the town?
                        Are they not of my handmaidens, burdened and bending down?


                        "It is not yet day, and my tale of the stars not told,
                        But already they bear of their burdens, and tremble of cold.


                        "Do ye heed not her, ye stony and reconciled,
                        One gathering sticks for a fire, who is heavy with child?


Page 58


                        "And one was so heavy with sleep that she watched not, and slept
                        Till it nearly was dawn, and then she arose and wept.


                        "Previsal I made, and the burning of quenchless gold,
                        Yet still they bedevil my kingdom, the dark and the cold.


                        "There is labor appointed, I know not if it shall cease,
                        Yet anon cometh night, and my daughters shall lie in peace.


                        "What avoideth my glory of firmaments keeping the way,
                        If the poor soft flesh must trouble before the day?


                        "Or spectacular stars, as they race to encircuit the deep,
                        If my littlest people is driven, and needeth sleep?


                        "For my absolute heaven is high, and nothing dependeth,


Page 59


                        Yet it twitcheth my heart, when weeping of women ascendeth.


                        "Then arrange ye again how the people's task be done,
                        There shall no woman toil till they see my sign of the sun."


Page 60

THE RESURRECTION


                        LONG, long before men die I sometimes read
                        Their stoic backs as plain as graveyard stones,
                        An epitaph of poor dead men indeed.
                        I never pass those old and crooked bones,
                        Ridden far down with burden and with age,
                        Stopping the headlong highway till they lean
                        Aside in honor of my equipage,
                        But I am sick and shamed that Heaven has been
                        So clumsy with the inelastic clay!
                        "What pretty piece of hope then have you spun,
                        My old defeated traveler," I say,
                        "That keeps you marching on? For I have none.
                        I have looked often and I have not found
                        Old men bowed low who ever rose up sound."


Page 61

MEN


                        "How many goodly creatures are there here!"
                        Miranda doted on the sight of seamen,
                        The very casual adventurers
                        Who took a flood as quickly as a calm,
                        And kept their blue eyes blue to any weather.
                        This was the famous manliness of men;
                        And when she saw it on the dirty strangers,
                        She clapped her pretty hands in sudden joy:
                        "O brave new world!"


Page 62

THE CHRISTIAN


                        I HEARD a story of a sailing man.
                        He was a surly sort of mariner,
                        He used to swear at all the seven seas,
                        And rode them dauntless up and down the earth.


                        But when he sickened of the windy wash,
                        He took to wife a proper village woman
                        And put her in a precious little house;
                        And there he weathered many winter seasons,
                        Knocking the ashes neatly from his pipe
                        Upon the tended hearth.


                        And only when he went upon the moors,
                        And felt the sting and censure of the winds,
                        And tasted of the salt blown in from sea,
                        Then only would he curse the marriage morning,
                        And swear he'd not go skulking back again
                        To sit that hearth like any broken bitch
                        Whose running time was over.


Page 63

MORNING


                        THE skies were jaded, while the famous sun
                        Slack of his office to confute the fogs
                        Lay sick abed; but I, inured to duty,
                        Sat for my food. Three hours each day we souls,
                        Who might be angels but are fastened down
                        With bodies, most infuriating freight,
                        Sit fattening these frames and skeletons
                        With filthy food, which they must cast away
                        Before they feed again.


Page 64

APRIL


                        SAVOR of love is thick on the April air,
                        The blunted boughs dispose their lacy bloom,
                        And many sorry steeds dismissed to pasture
                        Toss their old forelocks, flourish heavy heels.
                        Where is there any unpersuaded poet
                        So angry still against the wrongs of winter
                        Which caused the dainty earth to droop and die,
                        So vengeant for his vine and summer song,
                        As to decline the good releasing thaw?
                        Poets have temperature and follow seasons,
                        And covenants go out at equinox.


                        The champions! For Heaven, riding high
                        Above the icy death, considered truly;
                        "My agate icy work, I thought it fair;
                        Yet I have lacked that pretty lift of praise
                        That mounted once from these emaciate minstrels.
                        They will not sing, and duty drops away
                        And I must turn and make a soft amend!"
                        At once he showered April down, until
                        The bleak twigs bloom again; and soon, I swear,
                        He shall receive his praise.


Page 65

WRESTLING


                        AT last came threshing-time, the manly season.
                        We kept the thresher thundering by daylight,
                        And rested all the sweeter after dark,
                        Telling of tales, and washing in the river.
                        But one there was, some twenty miles a stranger,
                        Who boasted that he was a mighty wrestler
                        And had not met that valiant pair of shoulders
                        That he could not put down.


                        We had a champion there. He looked and listened,
                        He measured off his man, he made his mind up,
                        And thus he brought great honor to his county:
                        "My friend, I've heard you bragging, heard you braying,
                        And now I say, for God's sake come and wrestle."
                        And thus appealed, the other came, for God's sake,
                        And they did wrestle.


Page 66


                        They sprang, they gripped, they strained and rocked and twisted,
                        They pounded much good sod to dust and powder,
                        They ripped the garments off each other vainly
                        And showed us many naked bulging muscles,
                        And still were even.


                        But while the tide of battle ran so equal,
                        I heard a sound, I took it for a voice,
                        I almost saw it, spitting out a passage
                        Between the haggard jaws of my poor hero,
                        The voice as of a man almost despairing,
                        Hoping again though all his hopes had failed:
                        "By God, I'll have you down in one more minute!"
                        And it was as he said; for in a minute
                        He had him down, by God.


Page 67

PRAYER


                        SHE would not keep at home, the foolish woman,
                        She would not mind her precious girls and boys,
                        She had to go, for it was Sunday morning,
                        Down the hot road and to the barren pew
                        And there abuse her superannuate knees
                        To make a prayer.


                        She had a huge petition on her bosom--
                        A heavy weight for such a lean old thing--
                        Her youngest boy made merry in the village
                        And had not entered into the communion;
                        And having labored with him long for nothing
                        She meant to ask of God to save him yet.
                        Thank God she asked that favor!


                        The manner of it echoes still in Heaven.
                        Before she dared to utter her desire
                        The strange old woman made approach to God
                        With many a low obeisance and abasement,
                        As having done so many things she ought not,


Page 68


                        And left undone so many things she ought,
                        And being altogether very wicked;
                        She testified she had not kept his temple,
                        Which was her heart, all swept and white and ready;
                        She testified it--O the shameless woman,
                        The spotless housekeeper!


                        Now God sat beaming on his burnished throne
                        And swept creation with appraising eye,
                        Finding, I fear, not all was free from blemish,
                        Yet keeping his magnificent composure;
                        But wearing certain necessary airs,
                        To suit with such incumbency of court,
                        He still at heart was quite a gentleman;
                        For when he saw that aged lady drooping
                        And wearying her bones with genuflections
                        For her unworthiness, he fell ashamed
                        To think how hard it went with holy women
                        To ease their poor predicaments by prayer:
                        There on his heaven, and heard of all the hosts,
                        He groaned, he made a mighty face so wry
                        That several seraphin forgot their harping
                        And scolded thus: "O what a wicked woman,
                        To shrew his splendid features out of shape!"


Page 69

FRIENDSHIP


                        I VIEWED him well, the visible fat fool,
                        And yet I took him in; for I contended,
                        Friends are not sent in order of our choosing,
                        They come unsuited like the gifts of God.
                        I would not do a perfidy to friendship,
                        I let him past the private inner gate
                        And made him be at home among my treasures
                        Like my true friend.


                        Now I am ground with a grim torture daily
                        That I have been befriended by a fool.
                        He forages at will upon my garden,
                        He noses all its pretty secrets out,
                        And still the fool finds nothing to his liking.
                        Meeting a modest velveteen affair,
                        Peevish he hangs his sad and silly head:
                        "Alas! such unsubstantial gaudy goods!"
                        Thus he meets pansies; meeting zinnias,
                        He nearly faints at such a rioting:
                        "Alas! what fruit will these red wantons bear?"


Page 70


                        And not a perfume spills upon the air
                        But his malicious nose suspects a poison,
                        As he goes browsing like an ancient ass,
                        An old distempered ass.


                        I'd almost rather be a friendless man
                        And have my house my own. The prying fool
                        Asks me the queerest idiotic questions:
                        "O friend, is this the harvest of your hands?
                        How will you stand before the lord of harvests?
                        These are the gardens of your idleness;
                        Where is the vineyard, friend?"


Page 71

THE FOUR ROSES


                        FOUR sisters sitting in one house,
                        I said, these roses on a stem
                        With bosoms bare. But wayfaring
                        I went and ravished one of them.


                        So one was taken. But the three,
                        They spread their petals just the same,
                        They turned no decent pale for grief,
                        They drew no fragrance back for shame.


                        The canker is on roses too!
                        I cried, and lifted up the rod
                        And scourged them bleeding to the ground.
                        All, all are sinners unto God.


Page 72

THE SCHOOL


                        I WAS not drowsy though the scholars droned.
                        Hearing the music that they made of Greek,
                        Whenever Helen's unforgotten face
                        Sent other young men whisking off to war;
                        Hearing much mention of the hecatombs,
                        And Pericles, and fishes that were purple,
                        Temples in white, and trees that they named olive;
                        And thinking always of proud Athens shining
                        Upon her hill, that slanted to her sea:


                        Equipped with Grecian thoughts, how could I live
                        Among my father's folk? My father's house
                        Was narrow and his fields were nauseous.
                        I kicked his clods for being common dirt,
                        Worthy a world which never could be Greek;
                        Cursed the paternity that planted me
                        One green leaf in a wilderness of autumn;
                        And wept, as fitting such a fruitful spirit
                        Sealed in a yellow tomb.


Page 73


                        The Lord preserves his saints for Christian uses.
                        He sent a pair of providential eyes.
                        They would have sat in any witless head,
                        Although I deemed them deep as classic seas,
                        As strange as any woman written smiling,
                        And much more near; the merest modern eyes,
                        The first my Athens faced; and yet her lamp,
                        It flickered rather low.


                        Then he commanded me to scrutiny
                        As to a fingered thing of no great matter,
                        A circumstantial sorry little coin.
                        A friendly thing, I owned, to lie so warm
                        Against the side of any friendless man;
                        And in the hand--O if the happy hand
                        Accommodate the cunning rounded scepter,
                        Then is dominion seated in that palm,
                        And coveting is seated in men's eyes.
                        Make haste, my hands, about your own inclosures!
                        And what were dead Greek empires to me then?
                        Dishonored, by Apollo, and forgot.


Page 74

SICKNESS


                        THE toughest carcass in the town
                        Fell sick at last and took to bed,
                        And on that bed God waited him
                        With cool, cool hands for his frantic head,
                        And while the fever did its dance
                        They talked, and a good thing was said:
                        "See, I am not that Scriptural!
                        A lesser, kinder God instead."


                        Fever must run its course, and God
                        Could not do much for the countryman.
                        At least he saved him certain dreams:
                        "I die! O save me if you can,
                        I am a bruised, a beaten slave,
                        I march in a blistering caravan,
                        They dash a stone upon my head--
                        Ah no, but that is God's white hand."


                        God plucked him back, and plucked him back,
                        And did his best to smoothe the pain.
                        The sick man said it was good to know
                        That God was true, if prayer was vain.


Page 75


                        "O God, I weary of this night,
                        When will you bring the dawn again?"
                        The night must run its course, but God
                        Was weary too with watching-strain.


                        A cluck of tuneless silly birds,
                        A guilty gray, and it was dawn.
                        The sick man thumped across the floor
                        And slid the curtain that was drawn:
                        "O pale wet dawn! O let it shine
                        Lustrous and gold on the good green lawn!
                        The lustre, Lord!" Alas, God knows
                        When sad conclusions are foregone.


                        The sick man leant upon his Lord,
                        On that imperfect break of day,
                        "Now, Lord, I die: is there no word,
                        No countervail that God can say?"
                        No word. But tight upon his arm,
                        Was God, and drew not once away
                        Until his punctual destiny.
                        To whom could God repair to pray?


                        Now God be thanked by dying men
                        Who comrades them in times like these,


Page 76


                        Who dreads to see the doom come down
                        On these black midnight canopies
                        And on this poisonous glare of dawns.
                        The whole world crumples in disease,
                        But God is pitying to the end,
                        And gives an office to my knees.

THE END