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Under The Tree:
Electronic Edition.

Roberts, Elizabeth Madox, 1881-1941

Funding from the University of North Carolina Library supported the electronic publication of this title.

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First edition, 2004
ca. 60K
Academic Affairs Library, UNC-Chapel Hill
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill,

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Source Description:

(title page) Under The Tree
Elizabeth Madox Roberts
[viii], 1-87 p.
New York
B. W. Huebsch, Inc.

Call number PS3535.O172 U6 1922 (Davis Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)

        The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digitization project, Documenting the American South.
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Page [ii]

                         And over and over I tried to see
                         Some of us walking under the tree,
                         . . . . . . . .
                         And how it looks when I am there.
                         From On the Hill





Page verso


Page [v]

        TO MY FATHER

Page [vi]


        Certain of these poems have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, The University Record (the University of Chicago), Poetry, a Magazine of Verse, Child Life, and the Phoenix. The author thanks the editors of these journals for the privilege of reprinting.

Page [vii]


Page 1


                         I saw a shadow on the ground
                         And heard a bluejay going by;
                         A shadow went across the ground,
                         And I looked up and saw the sky.

                         It hung up on the poplar tree,
                         But while I looked it did not stay;
                         It gave a tiny sort of jerk
                         And moved a little bit away.

                         And farther on and farther on
                         It moved and never seemed to stop.
                         I think it must be tied with chains
                         And something pulls it from the top.

Page 2

                         It never has come down again,
                         And every time I look to see,
                         The sky is always slipping back
                         And getting far away from me.

Page 3


                         I went across the pasture lot
                         When not a one was watching me.
                         Away beyond the cattle barns
                         I climbed a little crooked tree.

                         And I could look down on the field
                         And see the corn and how it grows
                         Across the world and up and down
                         In very straight and even rows.

                         And far away and far away--
                         I wonder if the farmer man
                         Knows all about the corn and how
                         It comes together like a fan.

Page 4


                         When supper time is almost come,
                         But not quite here, I cannot wait,
                         And so I take my china mug
                         And go down by the milking gate.

                         The cow is always eating shucks
                         And spilling off the little silk.
                         Her purple eyes are big and soft--
                         She always smells like milk.

                         And Father takes my mug from me,
                         And then he makes the stream come out.
                         I see it going in my mug
                         And foaming all about.

Page 5

                         And when it's piling very high,
                         And when some little streams commence
                         To run and drip along the sides,
                         He hands it to me through the fence.

Page 6


                         When Mother or Father turns down the light,
                         I like to look into my pillow at night.

                         Some people call them dreams, but for me
                         They are things I look down in my pillow and see.

                         I saw some birds, as many as four,
                         That were all blue wings and nothing else more.

                         Without any head and without any feet,
                         Just blue wings flying over a street.

                         And almost every night I see
                         A little brown bowl that can talk to me,

Page 7

                         A nice little bowl that laughs and sings,
                         And ever so many other things.

                         Sometimes they are plainer than I can say,
                         And while I am waking they go away.

                         And when nobody is coming by,
                         I feel my pillow all over and try

                         And try to feel the pretty things,
                         The little brown bowl and the flying wings.

Page 8


                         And it was Sunday everywhere,
                         And Father pinned a rose on me
                         And said he guessed he'd better take
                         Me down to see Miss Kate-Marie.

                         And when I went it all turned out
                         To be a Sunday school, and there
                         Miss Kate-Marie was very good
                         And let me stand beside her chair.

                         Her hat was made of yellow lace;
                         Her dress was very soft and thin,
                         And when she talked her little tongue
                         Was always wriggling out and in.

Page 9

                         I liked to smell my pretty rose;
                         I liked to feel her silky dress.
                         She held a very little book
                         And asked the things for us to guess.

                         She asked about Who-made-y-God,
                         And never seemed to fuss or frown;
                         I liked to watch her little tongue
                         And see it wriggle up and down.

Page 10


                         The woodpecker pecked out a little round hole
                         And made him a house in the telephone pole.

                         One day when I watched he poked out his head,
                         And he had on a hood and a collar of red.

                         When the streams of rain pour out of the sky,
                         And the sparkles of lightning go flashing by,

                         And the big, big wheels of thunder roll,
                         He can snuggle back in the telephone pole.

Page 11


(A Song)

                         O little one away so far,
                         You cannot hear me when I sing.

                         You cannot tell me what you are,
                         I cannot tell you anything.

Page 12


                         All through the garden I went and went,
                         And I walked in under the butterbean tent.

                         The poles leaned up like a good tepee
                         And made a nice little house for me.

                         I had a hard brown clod for a seat,
                         And all outside was a cool green street.

                         A little green worm and a butterfly
                         And a cricket-like thing that could hop went by.

                         Hidden away there were flocks and flocks
                         Of bugs that could go like little clocks.

Page 13

                         Such a good day it was when I spent
                         A long, long while in the butterbean tent.

Page 14


                         Our brother Clarence goes to school.
                         He has a slate and a blue school-bag.
                         He has a book and a copybook
                         And a scholar's companion and a little slate rag.

                         He knows a boy named Joe B. Kirk,
                         And he learns about c-a-t cat,
                         And how to play one-two-sky-blue,
                         And how to make a football out of a hat.

                         We climb up on the fence and gate
                         And watch until he's small and dim,
                         Far up the street, and he looks back
                         To see if we keep on watching him.

Page 15


                         On Sunday morning, then he comes
                         To church, and everybody smells
                         The blacking and the toilet soap
                         And camphor balls from Mr. Wells.

                         He wears his whiskers in a bunch,
                         And wears his glasses on his head.
                         I mustn't call him Old Man Wells--
                         No matter--that's what Father said.

                         And when the little blacking smells
                         And camphor balls and soap begin,
                         I do not have to look to know
                         That Mr. Wells is coming in.

Page 16


                         Our brother says that Will was born
                         The very day that Dickie came;
                         When one is four the other is,
                         And all their birthdays are the same.

                         Their coats and waists are just alike;
                         They have their hats together, too.
                         They sleep together in one bed,
                         And Will can put on Dickie's shoe.

                         But they are not the same at all;
                         Two different boys they have to be,
                         For Dick can play in Mother's room
                         When Will is climbing in a tree.

Page 17

                         Or maybe Will is on the porch
                         To cry because he stubbed his toe,
                         And Dick is laughing by the gate
                         And watching ants go in a row.

Page 18


                         The church has pieces jutting out
                         Where corners of the walls begin.
                         I have one for my little house,
                         And I can feel myself go in.

                         I feel myself go in the bricks,
                         And I can see myself in there.
                         I'm always waiting all alone,
                         I'm sitting on a little chair.

                         And I am sitting very still,
                         And I am waiting on and on
                         For something that is never there,
                         For something that is gone.

Page 19


(A Song)

                         A little light is going by,
                         Is going up to see the sky,
                         A little light with wings.

                         I never could have thought of it,
                         To have a little bug all lit
                         And made to go on wings.

Page 20


                         When I was making myself a game
                         Up in the garden, a little rain came.

                         It fell down quick in a sort of rush,
                         And I crawled back under the snowball bush.

                         I could hear the big drops hit the ground
                         And see little puddles of dust fly round.

                         A chicken came till the rain was gone;
                         He had just a very few feathers on.

                         He shivered a little under his skin,
                         And then he shut his eyeballs in.

Page 21

                         Even after the rain had begun to hush
                         It kept on raining up in the bush.

                         One big flat drop came sliding down,
                         And a ladybug that was red and brown

                         Was up on a little stem waiting there,
                         And I got some rain in my hair.

Page 22


                         On Sunday when I go to church
                         I wear my dress that's trimmed with lace.
                         I sit beside my mother and
                         Am very quiet in my place.

                         When Dr. Brown is reading hymns
                         To make the people want to sing,
                         Or when he preaches loud and makes
                         The shivery bells begin to ring,

                         I watch the little pulpit house--
                         It isn't very tall or wide--
                         And then I wonder all about
                         The little ones that live inside.

Page 23

                         When Dr. Brown has preached enough,
                         And when he is about to stop,
                         He stands behind the little house
                         And shuts the Bible on the top.

                         I wonder if they sit inside,
                         And if they cook and walk up stairs.
                         I wonder if they have a cat
                         And say some kind of little prayers.

                         I wonder if they're ever scared
                         Because the bedroom lamp goes out,
                         And what their little dreams are like
                         And what they wonder all about.

Page 24


                         Mother said that we could go
                         Up on the hill where the strawberries grow.

                         And while I was there I looked all down,
                         Over the trees and over the town.

                         I saw the field where the big boys play,
                         And the roads that come from every way,

                         The courthouse place where the wagons stop,
                         And the bridge and the scales and the blacksmith shop.

                         The church steeple looked very tall and thin,
                         And I found the house that we live in.

Page 25

                         I saw it under the poplar tree,
                         And I bent my head and tried to see

                         Our house when the rain is over it,
                         And how it looks when the lamps are lit.

                         I saw the swing from up on the hill,
                         The ropes were hanging very still.

                         And over and over I tried to see
                         Some of us walking under the tree,

                         And the children playing everywhere,
                         And how it looks when I am there.

                         But Dickie said, "Come on, let's race";
                         And Will had found the strawberry place.

Page 26


                         Dick and Will and Charles and I
                         Were playing it was election day,
                         And I was running for president,
                         And Dick was a band that was going to play,

                         And Charles and Will were a street parade,
                         But Clarence came and said that he
                         Was going to run for president,
                         And I could run for school-trustee.

                         He made some flags for Charles and Will
                         And a badge to go on Dickie's coat.
                         He stood some cornstalks by the fence
                         And had them for the men that vote.

Page 27

                         Then he climbed on a box and made a speech
                         To the cornstalk men that were in a row.
                         It was all about the dem-o-crats,
                         And "I de-fy any man to show."

                         And "I de-fy any man to say."
                         And all about "It's a big disgrace."
                         He spoke his speech out very loud
                         And shook his fist in a cornstalk's face.

Page 28


                         When they said the time to hide was mine,
                         I hid back under a thick grape vine.

                         And while I was still for the time to pass,
                         A litle gray thing came out of the grass.

                         He hopped his way through the melon bed
                         And sat down close by a cabbage head.

                         He sat down close where I could see,
                         And his big still eyes looked hard at me,

                         His big eyes bursting out of the rim,
                         And I looked back very hard at him.

Page 29


                         And Dick said, "Look what I have found!"
                         And when we saw we danced around,
                         And made our feet just tip the ground.

                         We skipped our toes and sang, "Oh-lo.
                         Oh-who, oh-who, oh what do you know!
                         Oh-who, oh-hi, oh-loo, kee-lo!"

                         We clapped our hands and sang, "Oh-ee!"
                         It made us jump and laugh to see
                         The little new moon above the tree.

Page 30


                         We put more coal on the big red fire,
                         And while we are waiting for dinner to cook,
                         Our father comes and tells us about
                         A story that he has read in a book.

                         And Charles and Will and Dick and I
                         And all of us but Clarence are there.
                         And some of us sit on Father's legs,
                         But one has to sit on the little red chair.

                         And when we are sitting very still,
                         He sings us a song or tells a piece;
                         He sings Dan Tucker Went to Town,
                         Or he tells us about the golden fleece.

Page 31

                         He tells about the golden wool,
                         And some of it is about a boy
                         Named Jason, and about a ship,
                         And some is about a town called Troy.

                         And while he is telling or singing it through,
                         I stand by his arm, for that is my place.
                         And I push my fingers into his skin
                         To make little dents in his big rough face.

Page 32


                         If Bethlehem were here today,
                         Or this were very long ago,
                         There wouldn't be a winter time
                         Nor any cold or snow.

                         I'd run out through the garden gate,
                         And down along the pasture walk;
                         And off beside the cattle barns
                         I'd hear a kind of gentle talk.

                         I'd move the heavy iron chain
                         And pull away the wooden pin;
                         I'd push the door a little bit
                         And tiptoe very softly in.

Page 33

                         The pigeons and the yellow hens
                         And all the cows would stand away;
                         Their eyes would open wide to see
                         A lady in the manger hay,

                         If this were very long ago
                         And Bethlehem were here today.

                         And Mother held my hand and smiled--
                         I mean the lady would--and she
                         Would take the woolly blankets off
                         Her little boy so I could see.

                         His shut-up eyes would be asleep,
                         And he would look like our John,
                         And he would be all crumpled too,
                         And have a pinkish color on.

Page 34

                         I'd watch his breath go in and out.
                         His little clothes would all be white.
                         I'd slip my finger in his hand
                         To feel how he could hold it tight.

                         And she would smile and say, "Take care,"
                         The mother, Mary, would, "Take care";
                         And I would kiss his little hand
                         And touch his hair.

                         While Mary put the blankets back
                         The gentle talk would soon begin.
                         And when I'd tiptoe softly out
                         I'd meet the wise men going in.

Page 35


                         Before they come I hear their talk
                         And hear their feet go on the walk.

                         Some go fast and some go slow,
                         And some of them I almost know.

                         In mornings they are going down
                         To see somebody in the town.

                         Or Mrs. Warner hurries past;
                         She has to go and come back fast.

                         She walks by quick and will not stop,
                         To go to the church with the cross on top.

Page 36

                         I think she goes there every day
                         To take her rosary and pray.

                         And one of them is Mr. Jim--
                         And the big white dog that follows him.

                         And one is lame; that's Uncle Mells;
                         He takes off warts by mumbling words,
                         And he can lay on spells.

                         Or maybe night is almost come,
                         And Miss Jane Anne is going home.

                         And by her side walks Mr. Paul;
                         They go along with far-off looks
                         And hardly ever talk at all.

                         Or Murry's child comes up this way
                         To carry milk to poor Miss May

Page 37

                         That lives in Wells's other house,
                         Or Joe is driving home his cows.

                         And some go fast and some go slow,
                         And some of them I almost know.

                         I can feel them almost speak to me,
                         When they pass by our tree.

Page 38


                         The two little children that died long ago
                         Away in the woods on the top of a hill--
                         And a good little robin that knew all about it
                         Came with strawberry leaves in her bill,

                         To cover them up, and she kept very quiet
                         And brought the leaves one at a time, I think.
                         And some of the leaves would have little holes in them,
                         And some would be red and pink.

                         And these little Babes-in-the-Woods that were dead
                         Must have lain very still, and they heard all the talk
                         That the bees would be saying to more little bees,
                         And maybe they even could hear the ants walk.

Page 39

                         And they could look out through a crack in the leaves
                         And see little bushes and some of the sky.
                         They could see robin coming with leaves in her mouth,
                         And they watched for her when she went by.

Page 40


                         They had a picnic in the woods,
                         And Mother couldn't go that day,
                         But the twins and Brother and I could go;
                         We rode on the wagon full of hay.

                         There were more little girls than ten, I guess.
                         And the boy that is Joe B. Kirk was there.
                         He found a toad and a katydid,
                         And a little girl came whose name was Clare.

                         Miss Kate-Marie made us play a song
                         Called "Fare-you-well, says Johnny O'Brown."
                         You dance in a ring and sing it through,
                         And then some one kneels down.

Page 41

                         She kissed us all and Joe B. Kirk;
                         But Joe B. didn't mind a bit.
                         He walked around and swung his arms
                         And seemed to be very glad of it.

                         Then Mr. Jim said he would play,
                         But Miss Marie, she told him then,
                         It's a game for her and the little folks,
                         And he could go and fish with the men.

                         Mr. Wells was there and he had a rope
                         To tie to a limb and make it swing.
                         And Mrs. Wells, Mr. Wells's wife,
                         Gave me a peach and a chicken wing.

                         And I had a little cherry pie
                         And a piece of bread, and after we'd played
                         Two other songs, I had some cake
                         And another wing and some lemonade.

Page 42


                         I had a feeling in my neck,
                         And on the sides were two big bumps;
                         I couldn't swallow anything
                         At all because I had the mumps.

                         And Mother tied it with a piece,
                         And then she tied up Will and John,
                         And no one else but Dick was left
                         That didn't have a mump rag on.

                         He teased at us and laughed at us,
                         And said, whenever he went by,
                         It's vinegar and lemon drops
                         And pickles!" just to make us cry.

Page 43

                         But Tuesday Dick was very sad
                         And cried because his neck was sore,
                         And not a one said sour things
                         To anybody any more.

Page 44


                         Friday came and the circus was there,
                         And Mother said that the twins and I
                         And Charles and Clarence and all of us
                         Could go out and see the parade go by.

                         And there were wagons with pictures on,
                         And you never could guess what they had inside,
                         Nobody could guess, for the doors were shut,
                         And there was a dog that a monkey could ride.

                         A man on the top of a sort of cart
                         Was clapping his hands and making a talk.
                         And the elephant came--he can step pretty far--
                         It made us laugh to see him walk.

Page 45

                         Three beautiful ladies came riding by,
                         And each one had on a golden dress,
                         And each one had a golden whip.
                         They were queens of Sheba, I guess.

                         A big wild man was in a cage,
                         And he had some snakes going over his feet.
                         And somebody said "He eats them alive!"
                         But I didn't see him eat.

Page 46


                         Away beyond the Jarboe house
                         I saw a different kind of tree.
                         Its trunk was old and large and bent,
                         "And I could feel it look at me."

                         The road was going on and on
                         Beyond to reach some other place.
                         I saw a tree that looked at me,
                         And yet it did not have a face.

                         It looked at me with all its limbs;
                         It looked at me with all its bark.
                         The yellow wrinkles on its sides
                         Were bent and dark.

Page 47

                         And then I ran to get away,
                         But when I stopped to turn and see,
                         The tree was bending to the side
                         And leaning out to look at me.

Page 48


                         We stopped at the branch on the way to the hill.
                         We stopped at the water a while and played.
                         We hid our things by the osage tree
                         And took off our shoes and stockings to wade.

                         There is sand at the bottom that bites at your feet,
                         And there is a rock where the waterfall goes.
                         You can poke your foot in the foamy part
                         And feel how the water runs over your toes.

                         The little black spiders that walk on the top
                         Of the water are hard and stiff and cool.
                         And I saw some wiggletails going around,
                         And some slippery minnows that live in the pool.

Page 49

                         And where it is smooth there is moss on a stone,
                         And where it is shallow and almost dry
                         The rocks are broken and hot in the sun,
                         And a rough little water goes hurrying by.

Page 50


                         Dickie found a broken spade
                         And said he'd dig himself a well;
                         And then Charles took a piece of tin,
                         And I was digging with a shell.

                         Then Will said he would dig one too.
                         We shaped them out and made them wide,
                         And I dug up a piece of clod
                         That had a little worm inside.

                         We watched him pucker up himself
                         And stretch himself to walk away.
                         He tried to go inside the dirt,
                         But Dickie made him wait and stay.

Page 51

                         His shining skin was soft and wet.
                         I poked him once to see him squirm.
                         And then Will said, "I wonder if
                         He knows that he's a worm."

                         And then we sat back on our feet
                         And wondered for a little bit.
                         And we forgot to dig our wells
                         Awhile, and tried to answer it.

                         And while we tried to find it out,
                         He puckered in a little wad,
                         And then he stretched himself again
                         And went back home inside the clod.

Page 52


                         I looked for him everywhere
                         Because I wanted him to play;
                         And then I found him on his bed
                         Asleep, but it was day.

                         His eyes were shut behind the lids--
                         He couldn't lift them up to see.
                         And I looked at him very long,
                         And something in him looked at me.

                         And he was something like a cat
                         That is asleep, or like a dog;
                         Or like a thing that's in the woods
                         All day behind a log.

Page 53

                         "And then I was afraid of it,
                         Of something that was sleeping there.
                         I didn't even say his name,
                         But I came down the stair."

Page 54


(A Song)

                         A little bush
                         At the picnic place,
                         A little bush could talk to me.

                         I ran away
                         And hid myself,
                         And I found a bush that could talk to me,
                         A smooth little bush said a word to me.

Page 55


                         I liked to go to the branch today;
                         I liked to play with the wiggletails there.
                         And five little smells and one big smell
                         Were going round in the air.

                         One was the water, a little cold smell,
                         And one was mud and that was more,
                         And one was the smell of cool wet moss,
                         And one was some fennel up on the shore.

                         And the one big smell came out of the mint,
                         And one was something I couldn't tell.
                         And the five little ones and the big one
                         All went together very well.

Page 56


                         When I am playing by myself,
                         And all the boys are lost around,
                         Then I can hear the water go;
                         It makes a little talking sound.

                         Along the rocks below the tree,
                         I see it ripple up and wink;
                         And I can hear it saying on,
                         "And do you think? And do you think?"

                         A bug shoots by that snaps and ticks,
                         And a bird flies up beside the tree
                         To go into the sky to sing.
                         I hear it say, "Killdee, killdee!"

Page 57

                         Or else a yellow cow comes down
                         To splash a while and have a drink.
                         But when she goes I still can hear
                         The water say, "And do you think?"

Page 58


                         I saw a curly leaf and it was caught against the grassy side,
                         And it was tangled in the watery grasses where the branch is wide;
                         I had it for my little ark of rushes that must wait and hide.

                         I had it for my little Moses hidden where no one could see,
                         The little baby Moses that nobody knew about but me.

                         And I was hiding in the flags and I was waiting all the day,
                         And watching on the bank to see if Pharaoh's daughter came that way.

Page 59


                         When I can count the numbers far,
                         And know all the figures that there are,

                         Then I'll know everything, and I
                         Can know about the ground and sky,

                         And all the little bugs I see,
                         And I'll count the leaves on the silver-leaf tree,
                         And all the days that ever can be.

                         I'll know all the cows and sheep that pass,
                         And I'll know all the grass,

                         And all the places far away,
                         And I'll know everything some day.

Page 60


                         The light was burning very dim,
                         The little blaze was brown and red,
                         And I waked just in time to see
                         A panther going under the bed.

                         I saw him crowd his body down
                         To make it fit the little space.
                         I saw the streaks along his back,
                         And bloody bubbles on his face.

                         Long marks of light came out of my eyes
                         And went into the lamp--and there
                         Was Something waiting in the room--
                         I saw it sitting on a chair.

Page 61

                         Its only eye was shining red,
                         Its face was very long and gray,
                         Its two bent teeth were sticking out,
                         And all its jaw was torn away.

                         Its legs were flat against the chair,
                         Its arms were hanging like a swing.
                         It made its eye look into me,
                         But did not move or say a thing.

                         I tried to call and tried to scream,
                         But all my throat was shut and dry.
                         My little heart was jumping fast,
                         I couldn't talk or cry.

                         And when I'd look outside the bed
                         I'd see the panther going in.
                         The streaks were moving on his back,
                         The bubbles on his chin.

Page 62

                         I couldn't help it if they came,
                         I couldn't save myself at all,
                         And so I only waited there
                         And turned my face against the wall.

Page 63


                         The ants are walking under the ground,
                         And the pigeons are flying over the steeple,
                         And in between are the people.

Page 64


                         When Grandmother comes to our house,
                         She sits in the chair and sews away.
                         She cuts some pieces just alike
                         And makes a quilt all day.

                         I watch her bite the little thread,
                         Or stick the needle in and out,
                         And then she remembers her grandmother's house,
                         And what her grandmother told about,

                         And how a very long ago--
                         She tells it while she cuts and strips--
                         We used to live in Mary-land,
                         And there was a water with ships.

Page 65

                         But that was long before her day,
                         She says, and so I like to stand
                         Beside her chair, and then I ask,
                         "Please tell about in Mary-land."

Page 66


                         When it was Grandmother Barbara's day,
                         We lived on a hill, and down below,
                         Beyond the pasture and the trees,
                         A river used to go.

                         The water was very wide and blue
                         And deep, and my! it was a sight
                         To see the ships go up and down,
                         And all the sails were white.

                         And Grandmother Barbara used to wait
                         Beside the window or the door.
                         She never was too tired of it.
                         To watch the river any more.

Page 67

                         And we could hardly see across,
                         And the water was blue, as blue as the sky,
                         And all day long and all day long
                         We watched the little ships go by.

Page 68


                         It happened at Grandmother Polly's house,
                         And there was a bonnet put away
                         For Polly to wear when she went to church.
                         She would not wear it every day.

                         It had some little flowers on,
                         And it was standing on its head
                         In a bonnet box where it was safe,
                         Away up stairs on the company's bed.

                         And Grandmother Polly was going to church,
                         And she sent her Alice up the stair--
                         Alice was black--she was Evaline's child--
                         She waited on Polly and combed her hair.

Page 69

                         And Alice said, "Oh, lawsie me!"
                         And then she cried and came running down.
                         And everyone went to see, and the cat
                         Had five little cats in the bonnet crown.

Page 70


                         As I came home through Howard's lane,
                         The trees were bending down with rain.

                         A still mist went across their tops,
                         And my coat was powdered gray with drops.

                         Then I looked in the woods to see
                         The limbs of the white birch tree.

                         It made a bright spot in the air,
                         And I thought the sun was shining there.

Page 71


(A Song)

                         When I lay down
                         In a clover place,
                         With eyelids closed,
                         In a clover place,
                         A little wind came to my face.

                         One gentle wind
                         Blew on my mouth,
                         And I said, "It will quiver by.
                         What little wind now can it be?"
                         And I lay still
                         Where the clovers were.

                         But when I raised my lids to see,
                         Then it was a butterfly.

Page 72


                         He said his legs were stiff and sore
                         For he had gone some twenty-eight miles,
                         And he'd walked through by watergaps
                         And fences and gates and stiles.

                         He said he'd been by Logan's woods,
                         And up by Walton's branch and Simms,
                         And there were sticktights on his clothes
                         And little dusts of seeds and stems.

                         And then he sat down on the steps,
                         And he said the miles were on his feet.
                         For some of that land was tangled brush,
                         And some was plowed for wheat.

Page 73

                         The rabbits were thick where he had been,
                         And he said he'd found some ripe papaws.
                         He'd rested under a white oak tree,
                         And for his dinner he ate red haws.

                         Then I sat by him on the step
                         To see the things that he had seen.
                         And I could smell the shocks and clods,
                         And the land where he had been.

Page 74


                         He holds his songbook very low,
                         And then he stretches down his face,
                         And Mother said, "You mustn't watch,
                         He's only singing bass."

                         He makes his voice go walking down,
                         Or else he hurries twice as fast
                         As all the rest, but even then
                         He finishes the song the last.

                         And when I see him singing there,
                         I wonder if he knows it all
                         About Leviticus and Shem
                         And Deuteronomy and Saul.

Page 75


                         When Grandmother Polly had married and gone,
                         But before her father had given her Clem,
                         Or Joe, or Sandy, or Evaline--
                         Before he had given her any of them,

                         She used to live in a far-away place,
                         In a little cabin that was her home,
                         And all around were bushes and trees,
                         And the wolves could come.

                         At night they ran down out of the rocks
                         And bristled up their trembly fur.
                         They came and howled by Polly's door
                         And showed their little white teeth at her.

Page 76


                         We like to listen to her dress,
                         It makes a whisper by her feet.
                         Her little pointed shoes are gray;
                         She hardly lets them touch the street.

                         Sometimes she has a crumpled fan.
                         Her hat is silvered on the crown.
                         And there are roses by the brim
                         That nod and tremble up and down.

                         She comes along the pavement walk,
                         And in a moment she is gone.
                         She hardly ever looks at us,
                         But once she smiled and looked at John.

Page 77

                         And so we run to see her pass
                         And watch her through the fence, and I
                         Can hear the others whispering,
                         "Miss Josephine is going by."

Page 78


                         I've been along the quarry road,
                         And I have watched men digging wells,
                         And everywhere it was the same--
                         The stones were full of little shells.

                         And they are packed away in rock;
                         They're under sand and under clay;
                         And some one said that they were left
                         When the ocean went away.

                         I saw them in the stones that make
                         A church, and in a bridge.
                         They're hidden in the solid rock
                         But they show along the edge.

Page 79

                         You see them in foundation stones;
                         They show in creeks and waterfalls;
                         And once I saw them on the jail--
                         More little shells in walls.

                         We walk on them when we walk on roads;
                         And they're packed under all the hills.
                         Suppose the sea should come back here
                         And gather up its shells.

Page 80


                         His bridle hung around the post.
                         The sun and the leaves made spots come down;
                         I looked close at him through the fence;
                         The post was drab and he was brown.

                         His nose was long and hard and still,
                         And on his lip were specks like chalk.
                         But once he opened up his eyes,
                         And he began to talk.

                         He didn't talk out with his mouth;
                         He didn't talk with words or noise.
                         The talk was there along his nose;
                         It seemed and then it was.

Page 81

                         He said the day was hot and slow,
                         And he said he didn't like the flies;
                         They made him have to shake his skin,
                         And they got drowned in his eyes.

                         He said that drab was just about
                         The same as brown, but he was not
                         A post, he said, to hold a fence.
                         "I'm horse," he said, "that's what!"

                         And then he shut his eyes again.
                         As still as they had been before.
                         He said for me to run along
                         And not to bother him any more.

Page 82


                         We had to wait for the heat to pass,
                         And I was lying on the grass,

                         While Mother sat outside the door,
                         And I saw how many stars there were.

                         Beyond the tree, beyond the air,
                         And more and more were always there.

                         So many that I think they must
                         Be sprinkled on the sky like dust.

                         A dust is coming through the sky!
                         And I felt myself begin to cry.

Page 83

                         So many of them and so small,
                         Suppose I cannot know them all.

Page 84


                         One day they came; I heard their feet.
                         They made a tapping on the street.

                         And as they passed before our trees,
                         Their shawls blew out in curves like threes,
                         And bent again in twos and L's;

                         The wind blew on their rosaries
                         And made them ring like little bells.

Page 85


                         My heart is beating up and down,
                         Is walking like some heavy feet.
                         My heart is going every day,
                         And I can hear it jump and beat.

                         At night before I go to sleep,
                         I feel it beating in my head;
                         I hear it jumping in my neck
                         And in the pillow on my bed.

                         And then I make some little words
                         To go along and say with it--
                         The men are sailing home from Troy,
                         And all the lamps are lit.

                         The men are sailing home from Troy,
                         And all the lamps are lit.

Page 86


                         The night was coming very fast;
                         It reached the gate as I ran past.

                         The pigeons had gone to the tower of the church
                         And all the hens were on their perch,

                         Up in the barn, and I thought I heard
                         A piece of a little purring word.

                         I stopped inside, waiting and staying,
                         To try to hear what the hens were saying.

                         They were asking something, that was plain,
                         Asking it over and over again.

Page 87

                         One of them moved and turned around,
                         Her feathers made a ruffled sound,
                         A ruffled sound, like a bushful of birds,
                         And she said her little asking words.
                         She pushed her head close into her wing,
                         But nothing answered anything.

The End of Under the Tree



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