Caring medicos! (A funny story)
Santa took his elderly father to a nursing home to check it out. He sat his father down on a sofa in the main aisleway and went to talk with the administrators.
Santa`s father started to tilt slowly toward the left.
A Doctor came by and said, 'Let me help you.'
The Doc piled several pillows on the left side of Santa`s father so he would stay upright. Santa`s father started to tilt slowly to the right. An orderly noticed and put several more pillows on his right side to keep him upright. Santa`s father started to lean forward when a nurse came by and piled several pillows in front of him. About this time, Santa returned. Santa, 'Well, Dad, isn`t this a nice place.'
Santa`s father replied, 'I guess it`s ok, but they won`t let me fart.'
- quotes about Santa Claus
- quotes about old age
- quotes about elders
- quotes about nurses
- quotes about doctors
- quotes about home
- quotes about seasons
- quotes about dance
- quotes about time
The Nursing Home
The Nursing Home
by James Alexandros Papastamos
Imprisoned by such hands of time
That rape, incest, and so infect
The body, mind, perhaps the soul
Of those whose crime was age…at best
Each wrinkle drew to map their world
When they were young, its mountains rose
But seas would drown in shallow pools
Of joy, reflection, guilt, remorse
Though age, itself, is not so bad
The windows come to those who’ve seen
The best of all and worse to come
May those who’ve aged live on…in dreams
In nursing homes that foster such
Nursing Home Blue
Nursing Home Blues
I sent mother to a nursing home, she didn´t want
to go but I ignored her wishes, we often do that
when concerning old people, we say it is for their
own good, but the truth is I didn´t know what
else to do. Mother became quite rebellious they
called me from the home she was throwing food
about and demanded, when she evacuated, that
an assistant come and dry her bum.
Wanted to go home, there was no home she had
lived in a rented flat and someone else lived there.
When she knew she she felt betrayed, her silence
was damning. She stopped eating, gaunt, a skeleton
before death came as a relief. Now that I´m old too
families telling me I should not ride on my scooter
in case I might fall off…like should I care.
The moat in my eyes never bring me no sleep
They just strap me inside with the demons I keep
Gotta leave me alone gotta let it be lone
Tired of living, too tired to die
Makes the sharks keep swimming when he dont know why
Gotta get the lean fin
Only thin that he wears
Nursing me to the movie that he shows
Nursing me to the bureau and the ?
Nursing me cant you leave me alone?
Nursing me in a nursing home
Sleeping and working and an old man
Come just to profit my feet with a broken old hose
Stop riding those rails
Stop setting those sails
He likes (boom boogie ? ? )
Hes got an old trombone
While hes laughing at the fires with a broken beat phone
Got a troubled soul
But hes not that cold
Ive been nursed ten years in a nursing home!
Stinking on water I could use me food
He needed big fat gravy on the wake of pot roast
Got a fire inside
Its gonna burn him alive
Talking and struggle till the roof is blown
Got a bed and three squares in a nursing home
Gonna say bye-bye
Hes gonna walk on by
With A Sitting On The 'Left' Side
Anything that deals,
With that which should be rightfully done...
Is regarded by many,
To be antics of those liberal.
With a sitting on the 'left' side.
Leaving those feeling entitled and self righteous,
To do whatever it is they choose as liked.
Wherever for them there is an advantage.
With a preference to view themselves,
Conservatively fixed with sights on the right...
And blinded by the self servicing.
OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others' uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self,
As when you paint your portrait for a friend,
Who keeps it in a drawer and looks at it
Long after he has ceased to love you, just
To hold together what he was and is.
I, writing thus, am still what men call young;
I have not so far left the coasts of life
To travel inland, that I cannot hear
That murmur of the outer Infinite
Which unweaned babies smile at in their sleep
When wondered at for smiling; not so far,
But still I catch my mother at her post
Beside the nursery-door, with finger up,
'Hush, hush–here's too much noise!' while her sweet eyes
Leap forward, taking part against her word
In the child's riot. Still I sit and feel
My father's slow hand, when she had left us both,
Stroke out my childish curls across his knee;
And hear Assunta's daily jest (she knew
He liked it better than a better jest)
Inquire how many golden scudi went
To make such ringlets. O my father's hand,
Stroke the poor hair down, stroke it heavily,–
Draw, press the child's head closer to thy knee!
I'm still too young, too young to sit alone.
I write. My mother was a Florentine,
Whose rare blue eyes were shut from seeing me
When scarcely I was four years old; my life,
A poor spark snatched up from a failing lamp
Which went out therefore. She was weak and frail;
She could not bear the joy of giving life–
The mother's rapture slew her. If her kiss
Had left a longer weight upon my lips,
It might have steadied the uneasy breath,
And reconciled and fraternised my soul
With the new order. As it was, indeed,
I felt a mother-want about the world,
And still went seeking, like a bleating lamb
Left out at night, in shutting up the fold,–
As restless as a nest-deserted bird
Grown chill through something being away, though what
It knows not. I, Aurora Leigh, was born
To make my father sadder, and myself
Not overjoyous, truly. Women know
The way to rear up children, (to be just,)
They know a simple, merry, tender knack
Of tying sashes, fitting baby-shoes,
And stringing pretty words that make no sense,
And kissing full sense into empty words;
Which things are corals to cut life upon,
Although such trifles: children learn by such,
Love's holy earnest in a pretty play,
And get not over-early solemnised,–
But seeing, as in a rose-bush, Love's Divine,
Which burns and hurts not,–not a single bloom,–
Become aware and unafraid of Love.
Such good do mothers. Fathers love as well
–Mine did, I know,–but still with heavier brains,
And wills more consciously responsible,
And not as wisely, since less foolishly;
So mothers have God's licence to be missed.
My father was an austere Englishman,
Who, after a dry life-time spent at home
In college-learning, law, and parish talk,
Was flooded with a passion unaware,
His whole provisioned and complacent past
Drowned out from him that moment. As he stood
In Florence, where he had come to spend a month
And note the secret of Da Vinci's drains,
He musing somewhat absently perhaps
Some English question . . whether men should pay
The unpopular but necessary tax
With left or right hand–in the alien sun
In that great square of the Santissima,
There drifted past him (scarcely marked enough
To move his comfortable island-scorn,)
A train of priestly banners, cross and psalm,–
The white-veiled rose-crowned maidens holding up
Tall tapers, weighty for such wrists, aslant
To the blue luminous tremor of the air,
And letting drop the white wax as they went
To eat the bishop's wafer at the church;
From which long trail of chanting priests and girls,
A face flashed like a cymbal on his face,
And shook with silent clangour brain and heart,
Transfiguring him to music. Thus, even thus,
He too received his sacramental gift
With eucharistic meanings; for he loved.
And thus beloved, she died. I've heard it said
That but to see him in the first surprise
Of widower and father, nursing me,
Unmothered little child of four years old,
His large man's hands afraid to touch my curls,
As if the gold would tarnish,–his grave lips
Contriving such a miserable smile,
As if he knew needs must, or I should die,
And yet 'twas hard,–would almost make the stones
Cry out for pity. There's a verse he set
In Santa Croce to her memory,
'Weep for an infant too young to weep much
When death removed this mother'–stops the mirth
To-day, on women's faces when they walk
With rosy children hanging on their gowns,
Under the cloister, to escape the sun
That scorches in the piazza. After which,
He left our Florence, and made haste to hide
Himself, his prattling child, and silent grief,
Among the mountains above Pelago;
Because unmothered babes, he thought, had need
Of mother nature more than others use,
And Pan's white goats, with udders warm and full
Of mystic contemplations, come to feed
Poor milkless lips of orphans like his own–
Such scholar-scraps he talked, I've heard from friends,
For even prosaic men, who wear grief long,
Will get to wear it as a hat aside
With a flower stuck in't. Father, then, and child,
We lived among the mountains many years,
God's silence on the outside of the house,
And we, who did not speak too loud, within;
And old Assunta to make up the fire,
Crossing herself whene'er a sudden flame
Which lightened from the firewood, made alive
That picture of my mother on the wall.
The painter drew it after she was dead;
And when the face was finished, throat and hands,
Her cameriera carried him, in hate
Of the English-fashioned shroud, the last brocade
She dressed in at the Pitti. 'He should paint
No sadder thing than that,' she swore, 'to wrong
Her poor signora.' Therefore, very strange
The effect was. I, a little child, would crouch
For hours upon the floor, with knees drawn up
And gaze across them, half in terror, half
In adoration, at the picture there,–
That swan-like supernatural white life,
Just sailing upward from the red stiff silk
Which seemed to have no part in it, nor power
To keep it from quite breaking out of bounds:
For hours I sate and stared. Asssunta's awe
And my poor father's melancholy eyes
Still pointed that way. That way, went my thoughts
When wandering beyond sight. And as I grew
In years, I mixed, confused, unconsciously,
Whatever I last read or heard or dreamed,
Abhorrent, admirable, beautiful,
Pathetical, or ghastly, or grotesque,
With still that face . . . which did not therefore change,
But kept the mystic level of all forms
And fears and admirations; was by turn
Ghost, fiend, and angel, fairy, witch, and sprite,–
A dauntless Muse who eyes a dreadful Fate,
A loving Psyche who loses sight of Love,
A still Medusa, with mild milky brows
All curdled and all clothed upon with snakes
Whose slime falls fast as sweat will; or, anon,
Our Lady of the Passion, stabbed with swords
Where the Babe sucked; or, Lamia in her first
Moonlighted pallor, ere she shrunk and blinked,
And, shuddering, wriggled down to the unclean;
Or, my own mother, leaving her last smile
In her last kiss, upon the baby-mouth
My father pushed down on the bed for that,–
Or, my dead mother, without smile or kiss,
Buried at Florence. All which images,
Concentred on the picture, glassed themselves
Before my meditative childhood, . . as
The incoherencies of change and death
Are represented fully, mixed and merged,
In the smooth fair mystery of perpetual Life.
And while I stared away my childish wits
Upon my mother's picture, (ah, poor child!)
My father, who through love had suddenly
Thrown off the old conventions, broken loose
From chin-bands of the soul, like Lazarus,
Yet had no time to learn to talk and walk
Or grow anew familiar with the sun,–
Who had reached to freedom, not to action, lived,
But lived as one entranced, with thoughts, not aims,–
Whom love had unmade from a common man
But not completed to an uncommon man,–
My father taught me what he had learnt the best
Before he died and left me,–grief and love.
And, seeing we had books among the hills,
Strong words of counselling souls, confederate
With vocal pines and waters,–out of books
He taught me all the ignorance of men,
And how God laughs in heaven when any man
Says, 'Here I'm learned; this, I understand;
In that, I am never caught at fault or doubt.'
He sent the schools to school, demonstrating
A fool will pass for such through one mistake,
While a philosopher will pass for such,
Through said mistakes being ventured in the gross
And heaped up to a system.
I am like,
They tell me, my dear father. Broader brows
Howbeit, upon a slenderer undergrowth
Of delicate features,–paler, near as grave;
But then my mother's smile breaks up the whole,
And makes it better sometimes than itself.
So, nine full years, our days were hid with God
Among his mountains. I was just thirteen,
Still growing like the plants from unseen roots
In tongue-tied Springs,–and suddenly awoke
To full life and its needs and agonies,
With an intense, strong, struggling heart beside
A stone-dead father. Life, struck sharp on death,
Makes awful lightning. His last word was, 'Love–'
'Love, my child, love, love!'–(then he had done with grief)
'Love, my child.' Ere I answered he was gone,
And none was left to love in all the world.
There, ended childhood: what succeeded next
I recollect as, after fevers, men
Thread back the passage of delirium,
Missing the turn still, baffled by the door;
Smooth endless days, notched here and there with knives;
A weary, wormy darkness, spurred i' the flank
With flame, that it should eat and end itself
Like some tormented scorpion. Then, at last,
I do remember clearly, how there came
A stranger with authority, not right,
(I thought not) who commanded, caught me up
From old Assunta's neck; how, with a shriek,
She let me go,–while I, with ears too full
Of my father's silence, to shriek back a word,
In all a child's astonishment at grief
Stared at the wharfage where she stood and moaned,
My poor Assunta, where she stood and moaned!
The white walls, the blue hills, my Italy,
Drawn backward from the shuddering steamer-deck,
Like one in anger drawing back her skirts
Which suppliants catch at. Then the bitter sea
Inexorably pushed between us both,
And sweeping up the ship with my despair
Threw us out as a pasture to the stars.
Ten nights and days we voyaged on the deep;
Ten nights and days, without the common face
Of any day or night; the moon and sun
Cut off from the green reconciling earth,
To starve into a blind ferocity
And glare unnatural; the very sky
(Dropping its bell-net down upon the sea
As if no human heart should 'scape alive,)
Bedraggled with the desolating salt,
Until it seemed no more than holy heaven
To which my father went. All new, and strange–
The universe turned stranger, for a child.
Then, land!–then, England! oh, the frosty cliffs
Looked cold upon me. Could I find a home
Among those mean red houses through the fog?
And when I heard my father's language first
From alien lips which had no kiss for mine,
I wept aloud, then laughed, then wept, then wept,–
And some one near me said the child was mad
Through much sea-sickness. The train swept us on.
Was this my father's England? the great isle?
The ground seemed cut up from the fellowship
Or verdure, field from field, as man from man;
The skies themselves looked low and positive,
As almost you could touch them with a hand,
And dared to do it, they were so far off
From God's celestial crystals; all things, blurred
And dull and vague. Did Shakspeare and his mates
Absorb the light here?–not a hill or stone
With heart to strike a radiant colour up
Or active outline on the indifferent air!
I think I see my father's sister stand
Upon the hall-step of her country-house
To give me welcome. She stood straight and calm,
Her somewhat narrow forehead braided tight
As if for taming accidental thoughts
From possible pulses; brown hair pricked with grey
By frigid use of life, (she was not old,
Although my father's elder by a year)
A nose drawn sharply, yet in delicate lines;
A close mild mouth, a little soured about
The ends, through speaking unrequited loves,
Or peradventure niggardly half-truths;
Eyes of no colour,–once they might have smiled,
But never, never have forgot themselves
In smiling; cheeks in which was yet a rose
Of perished summers, like a rose in a book,
Kept more for ruth than pleasure,–if past bloom,
Past fading also.
She had lived we'll say,
A harmless life, she called a virtuous life,
A quiet life, which was not life at all,
(But that, she had not lived enough to know)
Between the vicar and the county squires,
The lord-lieutenant looking down sometimes
From the empyreal, to assure their souls
Against chance vulgarisms, and, in the abyss,
The apothecary looked on once a year,
To prove their soundness of humility.
The poor-club exercised her Christian gifts
Of knitting stockings, stitching petticoats,
Because we are of one flesh after all
And need one flannel, (with a proper sense
Of difference in the quality)–and still
The book-club guarded from your modern trick
Of shaking dangerous questions from the crease,
Preserved her intellectual. She had lived
A sort of cage-bird life, born in a cage,
Accounting that to leap from perch to perch
Was act and joy enough for any bird.
Dear heaven, how silly are the things that live
In thickets and eat berries!
A wild bird scarcely fledged, was brought to her cage,
And she was there to meet me. Very kind.
Bring the clean water; give out the fresh seed.
She stood upon the steps to welcome me,
Calm, in black garb. I clung about her neck,–
Young babes, who catch at every shred of wool
To draw the new light closer, catch and cling
Less blindly. In my ears, my father's word
Hummed ignorantly, as the sea in shells,
'Love, love, my child,' She, black there with my grief,
Might feel my love–she was his sister once–
I clung to her. A moment, she seemed moved.
Kissed me with cold lips, suffered me to cling,
And drew me feebly through the hall, into
The room she sate in.
There, with some strange spasm
Of pain and passion, she wrung loose my hands
Imperiously, and held me at arm's length,
And with two grey-steel naked-bladed eyes
Searched through my face,–ay, stabbed it through and through,
Through brows and cheeks and chin, as if to find
A wicked murderer in my innocent face,
If not here, there perhaps. Then, drawing breath,
She struggled for her ordinary calm,
And missed it rather,–told me not to shrink,
As if she had told me not to lie or swear,–
'She loved my father, and would love me too
As long as I deserved it.' Very kind.
I understood her meaning afterward;
She thought to find my mother in my face,
And questioned it for that. For she, my aunt,
Had loved my father truly, as she could,
And hated, with the gall of gentle souls,
My Tuscan mother, who had fooled away
A wise man from wise courses, a good man
From obvious duties, and, depriving her,
His sister, of the household precedence,
Had wronged his tenants, robbed his native land,
And made him mad, alike by life and death,
In love and sorrow. She had pored for years
What sort of woman could be suitable
To her sort of hate, to entertain it with;
And so, her very curiosity
Became hate too, and all the idealism
She ever used in life, was used for hate,
Till hate, so nourished, did exceed at last
The love from which it grew, in strength and heat,
And wrinkled her smooth conscience with a sense
Of disputable virtue (say not, sin)
When Christian doctrine was enforced at church.
And thus my father's sister was to me
My mother's hater. From that day, she did
Her duty to me, (I appreciate it
In her own word as spoken to herself)
Her duty, in large measure, well-pressed out,
But measured always. She was generous, bland,
More courteous than was tender, gave me still
The first place,–as if fearful that God's saints
Would look down suddenly and say, 'Herein
You missed a point, I think, through lack of love.'
Alas, a mother never is afraid
Of speaking angrily to any child,
Since love, she knows, is justified of love.
And I, I was a good child on the whole,
A meek and manageable child. Why not?
I did not live, to have the faults of life:
There seemed more true life in my father's grave
Than in all England. Since that threw me off
Who fain would cleave, (his latest will, they say,
Consigned me to his land) I only thought
Of lying quiet there where I was thrown
Like sea-weed on the rocks, and suffer her
To prick me to a pattern with her pin,
Fibre from fibre, delicate leaf from leaf,
And dry out from my drowned anatomy
The last sea-salt left in me.
So it was.
I broke the copious curls upon my head
In braids, because she liked smooth ordered hair.
I left off saying my sweet Tuscan words
Which still at any stirring of the heart
Came up to float across the English phrase,
As lilies, (Bene . . or che ch'è ) because
She liked my father's child to speak his tongue.
I learnt the collects and the catechism,
The creeds, from Athanasius back to Nice,
The Articles . . the Tracts against the times,
(By no means Buonaventure's 'Prick of Love,')
And various popular synopses of
Inhuman doctrines never taught by John,
Because she liked instructed piety.
I learnt my complement of classic French
(Kept pure of Balzac and neologism,)
And German also, since she liked a range
Of liberal education,–tongues, not books.
I learnt a little algebra, a little
Of the mathematics,–brushed with extreme flounce
The circle of the sciences, because
She misliked women who are frivolous.
I learnt the royal genealogies
Of Oviedo, the internal laws
Of the Burmese Empire, . . by how many feet
Mount Chimborazo outsoars Himmeleh,
What navigable river joins itself
To Lara, and what census of the year five
Was taken at Klagenfurt,–because she liked
A general insight into useful facts.
I learnt much music,–such as would have been
As quite impossible in Johnson's day
As still it might be wished–fine sleights of hand
And unimagined fingering, shuffling off
The hearer's soul through hurricanes of notes
To a noisy Tophet; and I drew . . costumes
From French engravings, nereids neatly draped,
With smirks of simmering godship,–I washed in
From nature, landscapes, (rather say, washed out.)
I danced the polka and Cellarius,
Spun glass, stuffed birds, and modelled flowers in wax,
Because she liked accomplishments in girls.
I read a score of books on womanhood
To prove, if women do not think at all,
They may teach thinking, (to a maiden aunt
Or else the author)–books demonstrating
Their right of comprehending husband's talk
When not too deep, and even of answering
With pretty 'may it please you,' or 'so it is,'–
Their rapid insight and fine aptitude,
Particular worth and general missionariness,
As long as they keep quiet by the fire
And never say 'no' when the world says 'ay,'
For that is fatal,–their angelic reach
Of virtue, chiefly used to sit and darn,
And fatten household sinners–their, in brief,
Potential faculty in everything
Of abdicating power in it: she owned
She liked a woman to be womanly,
And English women, she thanked God and sighed,
(Some people always sigh in thanking God)
Were models to the universe. And last
I learnt cross-stitch, because she did not like
To see me wear the night with empty hands,
A-doing nothing. So, my shepherdess
Was something after all, (the pastoral saints
Be praised for't) leaning lovelorn with pink eyes
To match her shoes, when I mistook the silks;
Her head uncrushed by that round weight of hat
So strangely similar to the tortoise-shell
Which slew the tragic poet.
By the way,
The works of women are symbolical.
We sew, sew, prick our fingers, dull our sight,
Producing what? A pair of slippers, sir,
To put on when you're weary–or a stool
To tumble over and vex you . . 'curse that stool!'
Or else at best, a cushion where you lean
And sleep, and dream of something we are not,
But would be for your sake. Alas, alas!
This hurts most, this . . that, after all, we are paid
The worth of our work, perhaps.
In looking down
Those years of education, (to return)
I wondered if Brinvilliers suffered more
In the water torture, . . flood succeeding flood
To drench the incapable throat and split the veins . .
Than I did. Certain of your feebler souls
Go out in such a process; many pine
To a sick, inodorous light; my own endured:
I had relations in the Unseen, and drew
The elemental nutriment and heat
From nature, as earth feels the sun at nights,
Or as a babe sucks surely in the dark,
I kept the life, thrust on me, on the outside
Of the inner life, with all its ample room
For heart and lungs, for will and intellect,
Inviolable by conventions. God,
I thank thee for that grace of thine!
I felt no life which was not patience,–did
The thing she bade me, without heed to a thing
Beyond it, sate in just the chair she placed,
With back against the window, to exclude
The sight of the great lime-tree on the lawn,
Which seemed to have come on purpose from the woods
To bring the house a message,–ay, and walked
Demurely in her carpeted low rooms,
As if I should not, harkening my own steps,
Misdoubt I was alive. I read her books,
Was civil to her cousin, Romney Leigh,
Gave ear to her vicar, tea to her visitors,
And heard them whisper, when I changed a cup,
(I blushed for joy at that!)–'The Italian child,
For all her blue eyes and her quiet ways,
Thrives ill in England; she is paler yet
Than when we came the last time; she will die.'
'Will die.' My cousin, Romney Leigh, blushed too,
With sudden anger, and approaching me
Said low between his teeth–'You're wicked now?
You wish to die and leave the world a-dusk
For others, with your naughty light blown out?'
I looked into his face defyingly.
He might have known, that, being what I was,
'Twas natural to like to get away
As far as dead folk can; and then indeed
Some people make no trouble when they die.
He turned and went abruptly, slammed the door
And shut his dog out.
Romney, Romney Leigh.
I have not named my cousin hitherto,
And yet I used him as a sort of friend;
My elder by few years, but cold and shy
And absent . . tender when he thought of it,
Which scarcely was imperative, grave betimes,
As well as early master of Leigh Hall,
Whereof the nightmare sate upon his youth
Repressing all its seasonable delights,
And agonising with a ghastly sense
Of universal hideous want and wrong
To incriminate possession. When he came
From college to the country, very oft
He crossed the hills on visits to my aunt,
With gifts of blue grapes from the hothouses,
A book in one hand,–mere statistics, (if
I chanced to lift the cover) count of all
The goats whose beards are sprouting down toward hell.
Against God's separating judgment-hour.
And she, she almost loved him,–even allowed
That sometimes he should seem to sigh my way;
It made him easier to be pitiful,
And sighing was his gift. So, undisturbed
At whiles she let him shut my music up
And push my needles down, and lead me out
To see in that south angle of the house
The figs grow black as if by a Tuscan rock.
On some light pretext. She would turn her head
At other moments, go to fetch a thing,
And leave me breath enough to speak with him,
For his sake; it was simple.
He would have saved me utterly, it seemed,
He stood and looked so.
Once, he stood so near
He dropped a sudden hand upon my head
Bent down on woman's work, as soft as rain–
But then I rose and shook it off as fire,
The stranger's touch that took my father's place,
Yet dared seem soft.
I used him for a friend
Before I ever knew him for a friend.
'Twas better, 'twas worse also, afterward:
We came so close, we saw our differences
Too intimately. Always Romney Leigh
Was looking for the worms, I for the gods.
A godlike nature his; the gods look down,
Incurious of themselves; and certainly
'Tis well I should remember, how, those days
I was a worm too, and he looked on me.
A little by his act perhaps, yet more
By something in me, surely not my will,
I did not die. But slowly, as one in swoon,
To whom life creeps back in the form of death
With a sense of separation, a blind pain
Of blank obstruction, and a roar i' the ears
Of visionary chariots which retreat
As earth grows clearer . . slowly, by degrees,
I woke, rose up . . where was I? in the world:
For uses, therefore, I must count worth while.
I had a little chamber in the house,
As green as any privet-hedge a bird
Might choose to build in, though the nest itself
Could show but dead-brown sticks and straws; the walls
Were green, the carpet was pure green, the straight
Small bed was curtained greenly, and the folds
Hung green about the window, which let in
The out-door world with all its greenery.
You could not push your head out and escape
A dash of dawn-dew from the honeysuckle,
But so you were baptised into the grace
And privilege of seeing. . .
First, the lime,
(I had enough, there, of the lime, be sure,–
My morning-dream was often hummed away
By the bees in it;) past the lime, the lawn,
Which, after sweeping broadly round the house,
Went trickling through the shrubberies in a stream
Of tender turf, and wore and lost itself
Among the acacias, over which, you saw
The irregular line of elms by the deep lane
Which stopt the grounds and dammed the overflow
Of arbutus and laurel. Out of sight
The lane was; sunk so deep, no foreign tramp
Nor drover of wild ponies out of Wales
Could guess if lady's hall or tenant's lodge
Ddispensed such odours,–though his stick well -crooked
Might reach the lowest trail of blossoming briar
Which dipped upon the wall. Behind the elms,
And through their tops, you saw the folded hills
Striped up and down with hedges, (burley oaks
Projecting from the lines to show themselves)
Thro' which my cousin Romney's chimneys smoked
As still as when a silent mouth in frost
Breathes–showing where the woodlands hid Leigh Hall;
While far above, a jut of table-land,
A promontory without water, stretched,–
You could not catch it if the days were thick,
Or took it for a cloud; but, otherwise
The vigorous sun would catch it up at eve
And use it for an anvil till he had filled
The shelves of heaven with burning thunderbolts,
And proved he need not rest so early;–then
When all his setting trouble was resolved
Toa trance of passive glory, you might see
In apparition on the golden sky
(Alas, my Giotto's background!) the sheep run
Along the fine clear outline, small as mice
That run along a witch's scarlet thread.
Not a grand nature. Not my chestnut-woods
Of Vallombrosa, cleaving by the spurs
To the precipices. Not my headlong leaps
Of waters, that cry out for joy or fear
In leaping through the palpitating pines,
Like a white soul tossed out to eternity
With thrills of time upon it. Not indeed
My multitudinous mountains, sitting in
The magic circle, with the mutual touch
Electric, panting from their full deep hearts
Beneath the influent heavens, and waiting for
Communion and commission. Italy
Is one thing, England one.
On English ground
You understand the letter . . ere the fall,
How Adam lived in a garden. All the fields
Are tied up fast with hedges, nosegay-like;
The hills are crumpled plains–the plains, parterres–
The trees, round, woolly, ready to be clipped;
And if you seek for any wilderness
You find, at best, a park. A nature tamed
And grown domestic like a barn-door fowl,
Which does not awe you with its claws and beak,
Nor tempt you to an eyrie too high up,
But which, in cackling, sets you thinking of
Your eggs to-morrow at breakfast, in the pause
Of finer meditation.
A sweet familiar nature, stealing in
As a dog might, or child, to touch your hand
Or pluck your gown, and humbly mind you so
Of presence and affection, excellent
For inner uses, from the things without.
I could not be unthankful, I who was
Entreated thus and holpen. In the room
I speak of, ere the house was well awake,
And also after it was well asleep,
I sat alone, and drew the blessing in
Of all that nature. With a gradual step,
A stir among the leaves, a breath, a ray,
It came in softly, while the angels made
A place for it beside me. The moon came,
And swept my chamber clean of foolish thoughts
The sun came, saying, 'Shall I lift this light
Against the lime-tree, and you will not look?
I make the birds sing–listen! . . but, for you.
God never hears your voice, excepting when
You lie upon the bed at nights and weep.'
Then, something moved me. Then, I wakened up
More slowly than I verily write now,
But wholly, at last, I wakened, opened wide
The window and my soul, and let the airs .
And out-door sights sweep gradual gospels in,
Regenerating what I was. O Life,
How oft we throw it off and think,–'Enough,
Enough of life in so much!–here's a cause
For rupture; herein we must break with Life,
Or be ourselves unworthy; here we are wronged,
Maimed, spoiled for aspiration; farewell Life!'
–And so, as froward babes, we hide our eyes
And think all ended.–Then, Life calls to us,
In some transformed, apocryphal, new voice,
Above us, or below us, or around . .
Perhaps we name it Nature's voice, or Love's,
Tricking ourselves, because we are more ashamed
So own our compensations than our griefs:
Still, Life's voice!–still, we make our peace with Life.
And I, so young then, was not sullen. Soon
I used to get up early, just to sit
And watch the morning quicken in the grey,
And hear the silence open like a flower,
Leaf after leaf,–and stroke with listless hand
The woodbine through the window, till at last
I came to do it with a sort of love,
At foolish unaware: whereat I smiled,–
A melancholy smile, to catch myself
Smiling for joy.
Capacity for joy
Admits temptation. It seemed, next, worth while
To dodge the sharp sword set against my life;
To slip down stairs through all the sleepy house,
As mute as any dream there, and escape
As a soul from the body, out of doors,–
Glide through the shrubberies, drop into the lane,
And wander on the hills an hour or two,
Then back again before the house should stir.
Or else I sat on in my chamber green,
And lived my life, and thought my thoughts, and prayed
My prayers without the vicar; read my books,
Without considering whether they were fit
To do me good. Mark, there. We get no good
By being ungenerous, even to a book,
And calculating profits . . so much help
By so much rending. It is rather when
We gloriously forget ourselves, and plunge
Soul-forward, headlong, into a book's profound,
Impassioned for its beauty and salt of truth–
'Tis then we get the right good from a book.
I read much. What my father taught before
From many a volume, Love re-emphasised
Upon the self-same pages: Theophrast
Grew tender with the memory of his eyes,
And Ælian made mine wet. The trick of Greek
And Latin, he had taught me, as he would
Have taught me wrestling or the game of fives
If such he had known.–most like a shipwrecked man
Who heaps his single platter with goats' cheese
And scarlet berries; or like any man
Who loves but one, and so gives all at once,
Because he has it, rather than because
He counts it worthy. Thus, my father gave;
And thus, as did the women formerly
By young Achilles, when they pinned the veil
Across the boy's audacious front, and swept
With tuneful laughs the silver-fretted rocks,
He wrapt his little daughter in his large
Man's doublet, careless did it fit or no.
But, after I had read for memory,
I read for hope. The path my father's foot
Had trod me out, which suddenly broke off,
(What time he dropped the wallet of the flesh
And passed) alone I carried on, and set
My child-heart 'gainst the thorny underwood,
To reach the grassy shelter of the trees.
Ah, babe i' the wood, without a brother-babe!
My own self-pity, like the red-breast bird,
Flies back to cover all that past with leaves.
Sublimest danger, over which none weeps,
When any young wayfaring soul goes forth
Alone, unconscious of the perilous road,
The day-sun dazzling in his limpid eyes,
To thrust his own way, he an alien, through
The world of books! Ah, you!–you think it fine,
You clap hands–'A fair day!'–you cheer him on,
As if the worst, could happen, were to rest
Too long beside a fountain. Yet, behold,
Behold!–the world of books is still the world;
And worldlings in it are less merciful
And more puissant. For the wicked there
Are winged like angels. Every knife that strikes,
Is edged from elemental fire to assail
A spiritual life. The beautiful seems right
By force of beauty, and the feeble wrong
Because of weakness. Power is justified,
Though armed against St. Michael. Many a crown
Covers bald foreheads. In the book-world, true,
There's no lack, neither, of God's saints and kings,
That shake the ashes of the grave aside
From their calm locks, and undiscomfited
Look stedfast truths against Time's changing mask.
True, many a prophet teaches in the roads;
True, many a seer pulls down the flaming heavens
Upon his own head in strong martyrdom,
In order to light men a moment's space.
But stay!–who judges?–who distinguishes
'Twixt Saul and Nahash justly, at first sight,
And leaves king Saul precisely at the sin,
To serve king David? who discerns at once
The sound of the trumpets, when the trumpets blow
For Alaric as well as Charlemagne?
Who judges prophets, and can tell true seers
From conjurors? The child, there? Would you leave
That child to wander in a battle-field
And push his innocent smile against the guns?
Or even in the catacombs, . . his torch
Grown ragged in the fluttering air, and all
The dark a-mutter round him? not a child!
I read books bad and good–some bad and good
At once: good aims not always make good books;
Well-tempered spades turn up ill-smelling soils
In digging vineyards, even: books, that prove
God's being so definitely, that man's doubt
Grows self-defined the other side the line,
Made Atheist by suggestion; moral books,
Exasperating to license; genial books,
Discounting from the human dignity;
And merry books, which set you weeping when
The sun shines,–ay, and melancholy books,
Which make you laugh that any one should weep
In this disjointed life, for one wrong more.
The world of books is still the world, I write,
And both worlds have God's providence, thank God,
To keep and hearten: with some struggle, indeed,
Among the breakers, some hard swimming through
The deeps–I lost breath in my soul sometimes
And cried 'God save me if there's any God.'
But even so, God save me; and, being dashed
From error on to error, every turn
Still brought me nearer to the central truth.
I thought so. All this anguish in the thick
Of men's opinions . . press and counterpress
Now up, now down, now underfoot, and now
Emergent . . all the best of it perhaps,
But throws you back upon a noble trust
And use of your own instinct,–merely proves
Pure reason stronger than bare inference
At strongest. Try it,–fix against heaven's wall
Your scaling ladders of high logic–mount
Step by step!–Sight goes faster; that still ray
Which strikes out from you, how, you cannot tell,
And why, you know not–(did you eliminate,
That such as you, indeed, should analyse?)
Goes straight and fast as light, and high as God.
The cygnet finds the water: but the man
Is born in ignorance of his element,
And feels out blind at first, disorganised
By sin i' the blood,–his spirit-insight dulled
And crossed by his sensations. Presently
We feel it quicken in the dark sometimes;
Then mark, be reverent, be obedient,–
For those dumb motions of imperfect life
Are oracles of vital Deity
Attesting the Hereafter. Let who says
'The soul's a clean white paper,' rather say,
A palimpsest, a prophets holograph
Defiled, erased and covered by a monk's,–
The apocalypse, by a Longus! poring on
Which obscene text, we may discern perhaps
Some fair, fine trace of what was written once,
Some upstroke of an alpha and omega
Expressing the old scripture.
Books, books, books!
I had found the secret of a garret-room
Piled high with cases in my father's name;
Piled high, packed large,–where, creeping in and out
Among the giant fossils of my past,
Like some small nimble mouse between the ribs
Of a mastodon, I nibbled here and there
At this or that box, pulling through the gap,
In heats of terror, haste, victorious joy,
The first book first. And how I felt it beat
Under my pillow, in the morning's dark,
An hour before the sun would let me read!
At last, because the time was ripe,
I chanced upon the poets.
As the earth
Plunges in fury, when the internal fires
Have reached and pricked her heart, and, throwing flat
The marts and temples, the triumphal gates
And towers of observation, clears herself
To elemental freedom–thus, my soul,
At poetry's divine first finger touch,
Let go conventions and sprang up surprised,
Convicted of the great eternities
Before two worlds.
What's this, Aurora Leigh,
You write so of the poets, and not laugh?
Those virtuous liars, dreamers after dark,
Exaggerators of the sun and moon,
And soothsayers in a tea-cup?
I write so
Of the only truth-tellers, now left to God,–
The only speakers of essential truth,
Posed to relative, comparative,
And temporal truths; the only holders by
His sun-skirts, through conventional grey glooms;
The only teachers who instruct mankind,
From just a shadow on a charnel wall,
To find man's veritable stature out,
Erect, sublime,–the measure of a man,
And that's the measure of an angel, says
The apostle. Ay, and while your common men
Build pyramids, gauge railroads, reign, reap, dine,
And dust the flaunty carpets of the world
For kings to walk on, or our senators,
The poet suddenly will catch them up
With his voice like a thunder. . 'This is soul,
This is life, this word is being said in heaven,
Here's God down on us! what are you about?
How all those workers start amid their work,
Look round, look up, and feel, a moment's space,
That carpet-dusting, though a pretty trade,
Is not the imperative labour after all.
My own best poets, am I one with you,
That thus I love you,–or but one through love?
Does all this smell of thyme about my feet
Conclude my visit to your holy hill
In personal presence, or but testify
The rustling of your vesture through my dreams
With influent odours? When my joy and pain,
My thought and aspiration, like the stops
Of pipe or flute, are absolutely dumb
If not melodious, do you play on me,
My pipers,–and if, sooth, you did not blow,
Would not sound come? or is the music mine,
As a man's voice or breath is called his own,
In breathed by the Life-breather? There's a doubt
For cloudy seasons!
But the sun was high
When first I felt my pulses set themselves
For concords; when the rhythmic turbulence
Of blood and brain swept outward upon words,
As wind upon the alders blanching them
By turning up their under-natures till
They trembled in dilation. O delight
And triumph of the poet,–who would say
A man's mere 'yes,' a woman's common 'no,'
A little human hope of that or this,
And says the word so that it burns you through
With a special revelation, shakes the heart
Of all the men and women in the world,
As if one came back from the dead and spoke,
With eyes too happy, a familiar thing
Become divine i' the utterance! while for him
The poet, the speaker, he expands with joy;
The palpitating angel in his flesh
Thrills inly with consenting fellowship
To those innumerous spirits who sun themselves
Outside of time.
O life, O poetry,
Which means life in life! cognisant of life
Beyond this blood-beat,–passionate for truth
Beyond these senses, –poetry, my life,–
My eagle, with both grappling feet still hot
From Zeus's thunder, who has ravished me
Away from all the shepherds, sheep, and dogs,
And set me in the Olympian roar and round
Of luminous faces, for a cup-bearer,
To keep the mouths of all the godheads moist
For everlasting laughters,–I, myself,
Half drunk across the beaker, with their eyes!
How those gods look!
Enough so, Ganymede.
We shall not bear above a round or two–
We drop the golden cup at Heré's foot
And swoon back to the earth,–and find ourselves
Face-down among the pine-cones, cold with dew,
While the dogs bark, and many a shepherd scoffs,
'What's come now to the youth?' Such ups and downs
Am I such indeed? The name
Is royal, and to sign it like a queen,
Is what I dare not,–though some royal blood
Would seem to tingle in me now and then,
With sense of power and ache,–with imposthumes
And manias usual to the race. Howbeit
I dare not: 'tis too easy to go mad,
And ape a Bourbon in a crown of straws;
The thing's too common.
Many fervent souls
Strike rhyme on rhyme, who would strike steel on steel
If steel had offered, in a restless heat
Of doing something. Many tender souls
Have strung their losses on a rhyming thread.
As children, cowslips:–the more pains they take,
The work more withers. Young men, ay, and maids,
Too often sow their wild oats in tame verse.
Before they sit down under their own vine
And live for use. Alas, near all the birds
Will sing at dawn,–and yet we do not take
The chaffering swallow for the holy lark.
In those days, though, I never analysed
Myself even. All analysis comes late.
You catch a sight of Nature, earliest,
In full front sun-face, and your eyelids wink
And drop before the wonder of 't; you miss
The form, through seeing the light. I lived, those days,
And wrote because I lived–unlicensed else:
My heart beat in my brain. Life's violent flood
Abolished bounds,–and, which my neighbour's field,
Which mine, what mattered? It is so in youth.
We play at leap-frog over the god Term;
The love within us and the love without
Are mixed, confounded; if we are loved or love,
We scarce distinguish. So, with other power.
Being acted on and acting seem the same:
In that first onrush of life's chariot-wheels,
We know not if the forests move or we.
And so, like most young poets, in a flush
Of individual life, I poured myself
Along the veins of others, and achieved
Mere lifeless imitations of life verse,
And made the living answer for the dead,
Profaning nature. 'Touch not, do not taste,
Nor handle,'–we're too legal, who write young:
We beat the phorminx till we hurt our thumbs,
As if still ignorant of counterpoint;
We call the Muse . . 'O Muse, benignant Muse!'–
As if we had seen her purple-braided head .
With the eyes in it start between the boughs
As often as a stag's. What make-believe,
With so much earnest! what effete results,
From virile efforts! what cold wire-drawn odes
From such white heats!–bucolics, where the cows
Would scare the writer if they splashed the mud
In lashing off the flies,–didactics, driven
Against the heels of what the master said;
And counterfeiting epics, shrill with trumps
A babe might blow between two straining cheeks
Of bubbled rose, to make his mother laugh;
And elegiac griefs, and songs of love,
Like cast-off nosegays picked up on the road,
The worse for being warm: all these things, writ
On happy mornings, with a morning heart,
That leaps for love, is active for resolve,
Weak for art only. Oft, the ancient forms
Will thrill, indeed, in carrying the young blood.
The wine-skins, now and then, a little warped,
Will crack even, as the new wine gurgles in.
Spare the old bottles!–spill not the new wine.
By Keats's soul, the man who never stepped
In gradual progress like another man,
But, turning grandly on his central self,
Ensphered himself in twenty perfect years
And died, not young,–(the life of a long life,
Distilled to a mere drop, falling like a tear
Upon the world's cold cheek to make it burn
For ever;) by that strong excepted soul,
I count it strange, and hard to understand,
That nearly all young poets should write old;
That Pope was sexagenarian at sixteen,
And beardless Byron academical,
And so with others. It may be, perhaps,
Such have not settled long and deep enough
In trance, to attain to clairvoyance,–and still
The memory mixes with the vision, spoils,
And works it turbid.
Or perhaps, again,
In order to discover the Muse-Sphinx,
The melancholy desert must sweep round,
Behind you, as before.–
For me, I wrote
False poems, like the rest, and thought them true.
Because myself was true in writing them.
I, peradventure, have writ true ones since
With less complacence.
But I could not hide
My quickening inner life from those at watch.
They saw a light at a window now and then,
They had not set there. Who had set it there?
My father's sister started when she caught
My soul agaze in my eyes. She could not say
I had no business with a sort of soul,
But plainly she objected,–and demurred,
That souls were dangerous things to carry straight
Through all the spilt saltpetre of the world.
She said sometimes, 'Aurora, have you done
Your task this morning?–have you read that book?
And are you ready for the crochet here?'–
As if she said, 'I know there's something wrong,
I know I have not ground you down enough
To flatten and bake you to a wholesome crust
For household uses and proprieties,
Before the rain has got into my barn
And set the grains a-sprouting. What, you're green
With out-door impudence? you almost grow?'
To which I answered, 'Would she hear my task,
And verify my abstract of the book?
And should I sit down to the crochet work?
Was such her pleasure?' . . Then I sate and teased
The patient needle til it split the thread,
Which oozed off from it in meandering lace
From hour to hour. I was not, therefore, sad;
My soul was singing at a work apart
Behind the wall of sense, as safe from harm
As sings the lark when sucked up out of sight,
In vortices of glory and blue air.
And so, through forced work and spontaneous work,
The inner life informed the outer life,
Reduced the irregular blood to settled rhythms,
Made cool the forehead with fresh-sprinkling dreams,
And, rounding to the spheric soul the thin
Pined body, struck a colour up the cheeks,
Though somewhat faint. I clenched my brows across
My blue eyes greatening in the looking-glass,
And said, 'We'll live, Aurora! we'll be strong.
The dogs are on us–but we will not die.'
Whoever lives true life, will love true love.
I learnt to love that England. Very oft,
Before the day was born, or otherwise
Through secret windings of the afternoons,
I threw my hunters off and plunged myself
Among the deep hills, as a hunted stag
Will take the waters, shivering with the fear
And passion of the course. And when, at last
Escaped,–so many a green slope built on slope
Betwixt me and the enemy's house behind,
I dared to rest, or wander,–like a rest
Made sweeter for the step upon the grass,–
And view the ground's most gentle dimplement,
(As if God's finger touched but did not press
In making England!) such an up and down
Of verdure,–nothing too much up or down,
A ripple of land; such little hills, the sky
Can stoop to tenderly and the wheatfields climb;
Such nooks of valleys, lined with orchises,
Fed full of noises by invisible streams;
And open pastures, where you scarcely tell
White daisies from white dew,–at intervals
The mythic oaks and elm-trees standing out
Self-poised upon their prodigy of shade,–
I thought my father's land was worthy too
Of being my Shakspeare's.
Very oft alone,
Unlicensed; not unfrequently with leave
To walk the third with Romney and his friend
The rising painter, Vincent Carrington,
Whom men judge hardly, as bee-bonneted,
Because he holds that, paint a body well,
You paint a soul by implication, like
The grand first Master. Pleasant walks! for if
He said . . 'When I was last in Italy' . .
It sounded as an instrument that's played
Too far off for the tune–and yet it's fine
Often we walked only two,
If cousin Romney pleased to walk with me.
We read, or talked, or quarrelled, as it chanced;
We were not lovers, nor even friends well-matched–
Say rather, scholars upon different tracks,
And thinkers disagreed; he, overfull
Of what is, and I, haply, overbold
For what might be.
But then the thrushes sang,
And shook my pulses and the elms' new leaves,–
And then I turned, and held my finger up,
And bade him mark that, howsoe'er the world
Went ill, as he related, certainly
The thrushes still sang in it.–At which word
His brow would soften,–and he bore with me
In melancholy patience, not unkind,
While, breaking into voluble ecstasy,
I flattered all the beauteous country round,
As poets use . . .the skies, the clouds, the fields,
The happy violets hiding from the roads
The primroses run down to, carrying gold,–
The tangled hedgerows, where the cows push out
Impatient horns and tolerant churning mouths
'Twixt dripping ash-boughs,–hedgerows all alive
With birds and gnats and large white butterflies
Which look as if the May-flower had sought life
And palpitated forth upon the wind,–
Hills, vales, woods, netted in a silver mist,
Farms, granges, doubled up among the hills,
And cattle grazing in the watered vales,
And cottage-chimneys smoking from the woods,
And cottage-gardens smelling everywhere,
Confused with smell of orchards. 'See,' I said,
'And see! is God not with us on the earth?
And shall we put Him down by aught we do?
Who says there's nothing for the poor and vile
Save poverty and wickedness? behold!'
And ankle-deep in English grass I leaped,
And clapped my hands, and called all very fair.
In the beginning when God called all good,
Even then, was evil near us, it is writ.
But we, indeed, who call things good and fair,
The evil is upon us while we speak;
Deliver us from evil, let us pray.
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about melancholy
- quotes about Italy
- quotes about missing
- quotes about Thanksgiving
- quotes about genealogy
- quotes about vampires
- quotes about television
- quotes about students
O My Mother, O My Father
O my mother, O my father,
I stand at this Y in the road,
the hybrid son of an angel and a demon,
two halves of the same chromosome
splitting like the left side of my brain
as a squad car took, you, my father, to jail,
and you, my mother, my right half,
were rushed in an ambulance,
a bruised and battered rose to emergency
as if you'd just barely survived
a hailstorm of meters intent
on making your species extinct.
And it was hard to tell if flesh of my flesh
blood of my blood meant the same as
flesh upon flesh with a dull thud
upon the untempered anvil of a child's heart,
or not. So is it any wonder
when you split the atom that day between you
like Charles Manson and Mother Theresa
and our nuclear family turned out to be
despite Leucippus and Democritus,
fissile material in a radioactive meltdown,
wholly divisible into the infinite wavelengths
that weep like shattered mirrors
with splinters of stars in their eyes
for things they wished they'd never seen.
So is it any wonder I've been
this photon in exile ever since,
this candle that got knocked off the balcony
like a potted geranium of blood
where Romeo declared his love of Juliet
out into this storm that's been trying
to blow me out ever since in the pelting rain?
I've hung onto to that flame
like the rag of fire I was swaddled in
as my natural birthright ever since
like a withered leaf on a maple tree
in the dead of a bird-killing winter.
Strange, isn't it, when a circus
comes to your homelessness
to put up tents where surrealistic clowns
laugh at a childhood in distress
as if it were some kind of joke
you weren't let in on?
And I doubt at this late date
I'll ever know what to make of it
whenever it stares me straight in the heart
and I'm brutally clear enough
not to let my vision of it be smudged
by either hatred or compassion
or the chromatic aberration
of peripheral ideals drowning in wishing wells
like flies in a toilet bowl
love's too dainty to rescue
and the saints are too lazy to save.
Is it any wonder then O my mother, O my father
that I have become this silver-tongued
shape-shifting snake with
a graceful way of twisting things
and haut-couture tattoos on my back
I earned in a radioactive snake-pit
of high-maintenance wavelengths?
That my tongue should be as forked
as three-tined lightning in the mouth
of Hermes the Thrice-Blessed
bearing alphabets to expectant mothers
in a crane-bag of occult grammars,
prophetic as a witching wand
looking for water on the moon,
a split hair, the sacred meeting place
where rivers were enjoined
like bloodstreams of native tribes
to sit around the same council fire
and share the same heart.
That it's a slingshot that can slay Goliath
square in the third eye from anywhere.
Two roads that diverged in a yellow wood
and I took neither one.
The split ends of one strong rope of a language
that was frayed into two
like a Manichean conception of good and evil
or the wishbone of a broken filament,
the death of a nanocosmic chandelier
that sings like tiny birds in the morning
when you shake it close to your ear
like a seashell or a crystal skull
to see if it's still alive or not?
Blue Flower. Black Dog.
Chicory. A junkyard wolf.
Not two. Not two. Not two.
And I tell myself the brightest lights
like dreams and wine and stars
are all seasoned by the dark.
What else can I do
what else can I say to myself
to heal the wounded myth of origins
I received from you, O my mother,
O my father, but lie down like a bridge
by the edge of a river of stars,
a bridge of scars
with only one bank, one foot,
one overturned lifeboat,
one pillar of quicksand to stand on,
the sound of one hand clapping
like applause when no one's listening
that I've made it this far
like the apostate of the raging heresy
that's gone on bleeding ever since
however much holy oil I spread
on the head of the crucified dove
nailed by a slingshot when the T of the cross
where my father's loins hung
like two thieves either side of him
like the unblessed soil
of the ground he walked on
and the people he crushed underfoot
like the cosmic eggs of the skylarks
as if they were nothing but skulls on the moon
one thumb up and one thumb down
like the torches in the hands of the dadaphors
celebrating the Roman New Year,
one thief cursed, and the other
yet to be forgiven. Changed one day
for reasons that are well beyond me
and I intend to keep that way
to the Y of my mother's delta
that flooded like the Nile
every day of my heretical childhood
with tears, the silt of stars, the dust
of unfinished pyramids
that kept us nourished through
those long lonely nights of famine
we ate bitter bread together
and cracked burnt bones
like koans and fortune-cookies
around the kitchen table
to get at the hot marrow of the matter
without burning our fingers and mouths
as we stared for hours
at the patterns on the worn linoleum
without saying a word
as if we were Neanderthals
who'd just stumbled upon a secret cave
of sacred Cro Magnon finger paintings of us.
Back in those days, back in those nights,
when it all seemed so natural back then
before we lost our innocence to comparison,
to have been littered by a Roman wolf-mother
who had driven my father
like a jackal in a lion's hide
with the soul of a scavenger
off what remained
of the carcass of her marriage
to feed her young
and keep them from being eaten
by the likes of him or any other man
for that matter, in her eyes,
though I remember how
it used to terrify me
in a cold sweat for sleepless starless hours
of living a waking nightmare in bed
after all the lights had gone out
that one day I would have to betray her
like her son, Judas,
with thirty moons of silver in my hand,
by telling her against my will
that I was becoming one.
I was becoming a man
and there was nothing I could do about it
except drive myself away from the pride
not knowing in my heart of hearts
whether I was a lion in the wilderness
or a scapegoat that had just cleansed
the sins of the tribes
as if they were my own to bear
for the rest of my life
like a debt to you, O my mother,
my beautiful, savage,
pagan godsend of a mother,
with the soul of a moonrise
and the heart of a gypsy artist in partial eclipse
and your crescents withdrawn like claws
and no blood on the thorns of your rose
when we were happy together, remember,
like weeds in a field, like night birds
that were going to risk the winter
in a tree full of September apples
as ripe as Queensland sunsets
you used to tell us about like passions flowers
that were your version of paradise
you wanted to get back to one day
like all those blue luggage trunks
you kept waiting in the basement like arks
if you could when the wind and the stars,
and the forty days, and the forty nights
were blowing from the right quarter
like a wharf that gave suck
to the comings and goings of the lifeboats
she nursed into life at sea
without ever going anywhere herself.
O my mother, precisely because
you'd never ask, and never did,
what can the son of bright vacancy
say to the mother of dark abundance except
I am a debt I'll never be able to repay you
regardless of what the bloodbanks say,
I am the lion sacrifice on the lunar altar
of the black lamb of the new moon
that opened my third eye
at a coven of gypsy witches
dancing around the fire
like a zodiac of mystic eclipses
far into the wee hours
of my afterlife in this wilderness
of broken vows and stained-glass windows.
And, O my mother, you must know,
before your green eyes
burn like the salt of the earth
in the distant fires of autumn,
before you die, before I do,
before the rose of your life
you turned into a tent and a fire
that sheltered me under
your eyelids, your wings,
goes out when the wind
upends this hourglass world
like a blossom in a mirage of shifting sands.
Before the landlord comes with the sheriff
to serve our final eviction notice,
I sweep your threshold of thorns,
I sweep the wasps like cinders
from the eyes of your fountains
in tears as deep as watersheds.
Because I am so afraid of losing you,
because any word could be our last,
because every word I say to you
seems like an empty lifeboat
drifting across the moon like a cloud
or a lost nightbird in a storm of sorrow,
and all I can think to do to make
what I can't make up to you,
is to become a small boy again,
a thief of flowers who used to steal
from orchards, telelphone booths,
and the backyard starfields
of the abandoned houses of the zodiac
to have something to bring home to you
like Evening in Paris perfume
on your birthday at the winter solstice
when the days began to get longer and warmer
and every bead on your rosary
of habitable planets in orbit, each,
one of the ninety-nine names of God
and one unknown secret she keeps to herself
so the light won't get tongue-tied
trying to say it out loud,
tilted toward the sun at apogee
as only a mother can do
letting the light in through
a crack in our bedroom doors
like a moonrise at midnight
to see if we were all right.
All I can do, and it's only
a metaphoric gesture of the love
I bear for you like a bucket of water
a wishing well once gave birth to in the desert,
is strew your path with fireflies,
with desert stars, with passion flowers,
with humming birds and honey bees
in the wild bougainvillea of Queensland,
and an easel in Eden to paint them with
and Scotch thistles with no thorns for brushes
and caterpillars of oil paint in tubes
that will turn into butterflies at sunrise
when the southern stars and the fireflies
get the light just right,
and any one of which,
their shining sitting to have
their portrait done in the living likeness
of the starmap I've will always see
in your green, green eyes
as life-giving as the moon
in the sentient corals
of this vast nightsea
and the way home for all of us
when the prodigal son returns
like a boy riding a dolphin of stars
through the wavelengths
of the lightyears to come
through both hemispheres
of my heart and mind,
through the northern eclipse of you
O my father, and you, O my mother
who shone even at midnight in the southern
and kept us all together even in our absence
like a weld along the equator
that scarred the wound of the beginning over
with herb gardens you gathered
from the mother-tongue of your heart
that have gone on blooming ever since
well beyond any fence
in any universe of inconceivable existence
that could keep a good thief of flowers out.
The Lawyer’s Second Tale: Christian
A highland inn among the western hills,
A single parlour, single bed that fills
With fisher or with tourist, as may be;
A waiting-maid. as fair as you can see,
With hazel eyes, and frequent blushing face,
And ample brow, and with a rustic grace
In all her easy quiet motions seen,
Large of her age, which haply is nineteen,
Christian her name, in full a pleasant name,
Christian and Christie scarcely seem the same;
A college fellow, who has sent away
The pupils he has taught for many a day,
And comes for fishing and for solitude,
Perhaps a little pensive in his mood,
An aspiration and a thought have failed,
Where he had hoped, another has prevailed,
But to the joys of hill and stream alive,
And in his boyhood yet, at twenty-five.
A merry dance, that made young people meet,
And set them moving, both with hands and feet;
A dance in which he danced, and nearer knew
The soft brown eyes, and found them tender too.
A dance that lit in two young hearts the fire,
The low soft flame, of loving sweet desire,
And made him feel that he could feel again;
The preface this, what follows to explain.
That night he kissed, he held her in his arms,
And felt the subtle virtue of her charms;
Nor less bewildered on the following day,
He kissed, he found excuse near her to stay,
Was it not love? And yet the truth to speak,
Playing the fool for haply half a week,
He yet had fled, so strong within him dwelt
The horror of the sin, and such he felt
The miseries to the woman that ensue.
He wearied long his brain with reasonings fine,
But when at evening dusk he came to dine,
In linsey petticoat and jacket blue
She stood, so radiant and so modest too,
All into air his strong conclusions flew.
Now should he go. But dim and drizzling too,
For a night march, to-night will hardly do,
A march of sixteen weary miles of way.
No, by the chances which our lives obey,
No, by the Heavens and this sweet face, he’ll stay.
A week he stayed, and still was loth to go,
But she grew anxious and would have it so.
Her time of service shortly would be o’er,
And she would leave; her mistress knew before.
Where would she go? To Glasgow, if she could;
Her father’s sister would be kind and good;
An only child she was, an orphan left,
Of all her kindred, save of this, bereft.
Said he, ‘Your guide to Glasgow let me be
You little know, you have not tried the sea,
Say, at the ferry when are we to meet?
Thither, I guess, you travel on your feet.’
She would ‘be there on Tuesday next at three;
‘O dear, how glad and thankful she would be;
But don’t,’ she said, ‘be troubled much for me.’
Punctual they met, a second class he took,
More naturally to her wants to look,
And from her side was seldom far away.
So quiet, so indifferent yet, were they,
As fellow-servants travelling south they seemed,
And no one of a love-relation dreamed.
At Oban, where the stormy darkness fell,
He got two chambers in a cheap hotel.
At Oban of discomfort one is sure,
Little the difference whether rich or poor.
Around the Mull the passage now to make,
They go aboard, and separate tickets take,
First-class for him, and second-class for her.
No other first-class passengers there were,
And with the captain walking soon alone,
This Highland girl, he said, to him was known.
He had engaged to take her to her kin;
Could she be put the ladies’ cabin in?
The difference gladly he himself would pay,
The weather seemed but menacing to-day.
She ne’er had travelled from her home before,
He wished to be at hand to hear about her more.
Curious it seemed, but he had such a tone,
And kept at first so carefully alone,
And she so quiet was, and so discreet,
So heedful ne’er to seek him or to meet,
The first small wonder quickly passed away.
And so from Oban’s little land-locked bay
Forth out to Jura Jura pictured high
With lofty peaks against the western sky,
Jura, that far o’erlooks the Atlantic seas,
The loftiest of the Southern Hebrides.
Through the main sea to Jura; when we reach
Jura, we turn to leftward to the breach,
And southward strain the narrow channel through,
And Colonsay we pass and Islay too;
Cantire is on the left, and all the day
A dull dead calm upon the waters lay.
Sitting below, after some length of while,
He sought her, and the tedium to beguile,
He ventured some experiments to make,
The measure of her intellect to take.
Upon the cabin table chanced to lie
A book of popular astronomy;
In this he tried her, and discoursed away
Of Winter, Summer, and of Night and Day.
Still to the task a reasoning power she brought,
And followed, slowly followed with the thought;
How beautiful it was to see the stir
Of natural wonder waking thus in her;
But loth was he to set on books to pore
An intellect so charming in the ore.
And she, perhaps, had comprehended soon
Even the nodes, so puzzling, of the moon;
But nearing now the Mull they met the gale
Right in their teeth: and should the fuel fail?
Thinking of her, he grew a little pale,
But bravely she the terrors, miseries, took:
And met him with a sweet courageous look:
Once, at the worst, unto his side she drew,
And said a little tremulously too,
‘If we must die, please let me come to you.’
I know not by what change of wind or tide,
Heading the Mull, they gained the eastern side,
But stiller now, and sunny e’en it grew;
Arran’s high peaks unmantled to the view;
While to the north, far seen from left to right,
The Highland range, extended snowy white.
Now in the Clyde, he asked, what would be thought,
In Glasgow, of the company she brought:
‘You know,’ he said, ‘how I desire to stay;
We’ve played at strangers for so long a day,
But for a while I yet would go away.’
She said, O no, indeed they must not part.
Her father’s sister had a kindly heart.
‘I’ll tell her all, and O, when you she sees,
I think she’ll not be difficult to please.’
Landed at Glasgow, quickly they espied
Macfarlane, grocer, by the river side:
To greet her niece the woman joyful ran,
But looked with wonder on the tall young man.
Into the house the women went and talked,
He with the grocer in the doorway walked.
He told him he was looking for a set
Of lodgings: had he any he could let?
The man was called to council with his wife;
They took the thing as what will be in life,
Half in a kind, half in a worldly way;
They said, the lassie might play out her play.
The gentleman should have the second floor,
At thirty shillings, for a week or more.
Some days in this obscurity he stayed,
Happy with her, and some inquiry made
(For friends he found) and did his best to see,
What hope of getting pupils there would be.
This must he do, ’twas evident, ’twas clear,
Marry and seek a humble maintenance here.
Himself he had a hundred pounds a year.
To this plain business he would bend his life,
And find his joy in children and in wife,
A wife so good, so tender, and so true,
Mother to be of glorious children too.
Half to excuse his present lawless way,
He to the grocer happened once to say
Marriage would cost him more than others dear;
Cost him, indeed, three hundred pounds a-year.
‘’Deed,’ said the man, ‘a heavy price, no doubt,
For a bit form that one can do without.’
And asked some questions, pertinent and plain,
Exacter information to obtain;
He took a little trouble to explain.
The College Audit now, to last at least
Three weeks, ere ending with the College Feast,
He must attend, a tedious, dull affair,
But he, as junior Bursar, must be there.
Three weeks, however, quickly would be fled,
And then he’d come, he didn’t say to wed.
With plans of which he nothing yet would say,
Preoccupied upon the parting day,
He seemed a little absent and distrait;
But she, as knowing nothing was amiss,
Gave him her fondest smile, her sweetest kiss.
A fortnight after, or a little more,
As at the Audit, weary of the bore,
He sat, and of his future prospects thought,
A letter in an unknown hand was brought.
’Twas from Macfarlane, and to let him know
To South Australia they proposed to go.
‘Rich friends we have, who have advised us thus,
Occasion offers suitable for us;
Christie we take; whate’er she find of new,
She’ll ne’er forget the joy she’s had with you;
’Tis an expensive pilgrimage to make
You’ll like to send a trifle for her sake.’
Nothing he said of when the ship would sail.
That very night, by swift-returning mail,
Ten pounds he sent, for what he did not know;
And ‘In no case,’ he said, ‘let Christian go.’
He in three days would come, and for his life
Would claim her and declare her as his wife.
Swift the night-mail conveyed his missive on;
He followed in three days, and found them gone.
All three had sailed: he looked as though he dreamed
The money-order had been cashed, it seemed.
The Clergyman, ‘This story is mere pain,’
Exclaimed, ‘for if the women don’t sustain
The moral standard, all we do is vain.’
‘But what we want,’ the Yankee said, ‘to know,
Is if the girl went willingly or no.
Sufficient motive though one does not see,
’Tis clear the grocer used some trickery.’
He judged himself, so strong the clinging in
This kind of people is to kith and kin;
For if they went and she remained behind,
No one she had, if him she failed to find.
Alas, this lawless loving was the cause,
She did not dare to think how dear she was.
Justly his guilty tardiness he curst,
He should have owned her when he left her first.
And something added how upon the sea,
She perilled, too, a life that was to be;
A child that, born in far Australia, there
Would have no father and no father’s care.
So to the South a lonely man returned,
For other scenes and busier life he burned,
College he left and settled soon in town,
Wrote in the journals, gained a swift renown.
Soon into high society he came,
And still where’er he went outdid his fame.
All the more liked and more esteemed, the less
He seemed to make an object of success.
An active literary life he spent,
Towards lofty points of public practice bent,
Was never man so carefully who read,
Whose plans so well were fashioned in his head,
Nor one who truths so luminously said.
Some years in various labours thus he passed,
A spotless course maintaining to the last.
Twice upon Government Commissions served
With honour; place, which he declined, deserved.
He married then, a marriage fit and good,
That kept him where his worth was understood;
A widow, wealthy and of noble blood.
Mr. and Lady Mary are they styled,
One grief is theirs to be without a child.
I did not tell you how he went before
To South Australia, vainly to explore.
The ship had come to Adelaide, no doubt;
Watching the papers he had made it out,
But of themselves, in country or in town,
Nothing discovered, travelling up and down.
Only an entry of uncertain sound,
In an imperfect register he found.
His son, he thought, but could not prove it true;
The surname of the girl it chanced he never knew.
But this uneasy feeling gathered strength
As years advanced, and it became at length
His secret torture and his secret joy
To think about his lost Australian boy.
Somewhere in wild colonial lands has grown
A child that is his true and very own.
This strong parental passion fills his mind,
To all the dubious chances makes him blind.
Still he will seek, and still he hopes to find.
Again will go.
Said I, ‘O let him stay,
And in a London drawing-room some day
Rings on her fingers, brilliants in her hair,
The lady of the latest millionaire
She’ll come, and with a gathering slow surprise
On Lady Mary’s husband turn her eyes:
The soft brown eyes that in a former day
From his discretion lured him all astray.
At home, six bouncing girls, who more or less
Are learning English of a governess,
Six boisterous boys, as like as pear to pear;
Only the eldest has a different air.’
‘You jest,’ he said, ‘indeed it happened so.’
From a great party just about to go,
He saw, he knew, and ere she saw him, said
Swift to his wife, as for the door he made,
‘My Highland bride! to escape a scene I go,
Stay, find her out great God! and let me know.’
The Lady Mary turned to scrutinise
The lovely brow, the beautiful brown eyes,
One moment, then performed her perfect part,
And did her spiriting with simplest art,
Was introduced, her former friends had known,
Say, might she call to-morrow afternoon
At three? O yes! At three she made her call,
And told her who she was and told her all.
Her lady manners all she laid aside;
Like women the two women kissed and cried.
Half overwhelmed sat Christian by her side,
While she, ‘You know he never knew the day
When you would sail, but he believed you’d stay
Because he wrote you never knew, you say,
Wrote that in three days’ time, they need not fear,
He’d come and then would marry you, my dear.
You never knew? And he had planned to live
At Glasgow, lessons had arranged to give.
Alas, then to Australia he went out,
All through the land to find you sought about,
And found a trace, which though it left a doubt,
Sufficed to make it still his grief, his joy,
To think he had a child, a living boy,
Whom you, my love ’
‘His child is six foot high,
I’ve kept him as the apple of my eye,’
Cried she, ‘he’s riding, or you’d see him here.
O joy, that he at last should see his father dear!
As soon as he comes in I’ll tell him all,
And on his father he shall go and call.’
‘And you,’ she said, ‘my husband will you see?’
‘O no, it is not possible for me.
The boy I’ll send this very afternoon.
O dear, I know he cannot go too soon;
And something I must write, to write will do.’
So they embraced and sadly bade adieu.
The boy came in, his father went and saw;
We will not wait this interview to draw;
Ere long returned, and to his mother ran:
His father was a wonderful fine man,
He said, and looked at her; the Lady, too,
Had done whatever it was kind to do.
He loved his mother more than he could say,
But if she wished, he’d with his father stay.
A little change she noticed in his face,
E’en now the father’s influence she could trace;
From her the slight, slight severance had begun,
But simply she rejoiced that it was done.
She smiled and kissed her boy, and ‘Long ago,
When I was young, I loved your father so.
Together now we had been living, too,
Only the ship went sooner than he knew.
In loving him you will be loving me:
Father and mother are as one you see.’
Her letter caught him on the following day
As to the club he started on his way.
From her he guessed, the hand indeed was new;
Back to his room he went and read it through.
‘I know not how to write and dare not see;
But it will take a load of grief from me
O! what a load that you at last should know
The way in which I was compelled to go.
Wretched, I know, and yet it seems ’twas more
Cruel and wretched than I knew before;
So many years to think how on your day
Joyful you’d come, and find me flown away.
What would you think of me, what would you say?
O love, this little let me call you so;
What other name to use I do not know.
O let me think that by your side I sit,
And tell it you, and weep a little bit,
And you too weep with me, for hearing it.
Alone so long I’ve borne this dreadful weight;
Such grief, at times it almost turned to hate.
O let me think you sit and listening long,
Comfort me still, and say I wasn’t wrong,
And pity me, and far, far hence again
Dismiss, if haply any yet remain,
Hard thoughts of me that in your heart have lain.
O love! to hear your voice I dare not go.
But let me trust that you will judge me so.
‘I think no sooner were you gone away,
My aunt began to tell me of some pay,
More than three hundred pounds a-year ’twould be,
Which you, she said, would lose by marrying me.
Was this a thing a man of sense would do?
Was I a fool, to look for it from you?
You were a handsome gentleman and kind,
And to do right were every way inclined,
But to this truth I must submit my mind,
You would not marry. “Speak, and tell me true,
Say, has he ever said one word to you
That meant as much?” O, love, I knew you would.
I’ve read it in your eyes so kind and good,
Although you did not speak, I understood.
Though for myself, indeed, I sought it not,
It seemed so high, so undeserved a lot,
But for the child, when it should come, I knew
O, I was certain what you meant to do.
She said, “We quit the land, will it be right
Or kind to leave you for a single night,
Just on the chance that he will come down here,
And sacrifice three hundred pounds a-year,
And all his hopes and prospects fling away,
And has already had his will, as one may say?
Go you with us, and find beyond the seas,
Men by the score to choose from, if you please.”
I said my will and duty was to stay,
Would they not help me to some decent way
To wait, and surely near was now the day?
Quite they refused; had they to let you know
Written, I asked, to say we were to go?
They told me yes; they showed a letter, too,
Post-office order that had come from you.
Alas, I could not read or write, they knew.
I think they meant me, though they did not say,
To think you wanted me to go away;
O, love, I’m thankful nothing of the kind
Ever so much as came into my mind.
‘To-morrow was the day that would not fail;
For Adelaide the vessel was to sail.
All night I hoped some dreadful wind would rise.
And lift the seas and rend the very skies.
All night I lay and listened hard for you.
Twice to the door I went, the bolt I drew,
And called to you; scarce what I did I knew.
‘Morning grew light, the house was emptied clear;
The ship would go, the boat was lying near.
They had my money, how was I to stay?
Who could I go to, when they went away?
Out in the streets I could not lie, you know.
O dear, but it was terrible to go.
Yet, yet I looked; I do not know what passed,
I think they took and carried me at last.
Twelve hours I lay, and sobbed in my distress;
But in the night, let be this idleness,
I said, I’ll bear it for my baby’s sake,
Lest of my going mischief it should take,
Advice will seek, and every caution use;
My love I’ve lost his child I must not lose.
‘How oft I thought, when sailing on the seas,
Of our dear journey through the Hebrides,
When you the kindest were and best of men:
O, love, I did not love you right till then.
O, and myself how willingly I blamed,
So simple who had been, and was ashamed,
So mindful only of the present joy,
When you had anxious cares your busy mind to employ.
Ah, well, I said, but now at least he’s free,
He will not have to lower himself for me.
He will not lose three hundred pounds a-year,
In many ways my love has cost him dear.
‘Upon the passage, great was my delight,
A lady taught me how to read and write.
She saw me much, and fond of me she grew,
Only I durst not talk to her of you.
‘We had a quiet time upon the seas,
And reached our port of Adelaide with ease.
At Adelaide my lovely baby came.
Philip, he took his father’s Christian name,
And my poor maiden surname, to my shame.
O, but I little cared, I loved him so,
’Twas such a joy to watch and see him grow.
At Adelaide we made no length of stay;
Our friends to Melbourne just had gone away.
We followed shortly where they led before,
To Melbourne went, and flourished more and more.
My aunt and uncle both are buried there;
I closed their eyes, and I was left their heir.
They meant me well, I loved them for their care.
‘Ten years ago I married Robert; dear
And well he loved, and waited many a year.
Selfish it seemed to turn from one so true,
And I of course was desperate of you.
I’ve borne him children six; we’ve left behind
Three little ones, whom soon I hope to find.
To my dear boy he ever has been kind.
‘Next week we sail, and I should be so glad
Only to leave my boy will make me sad.
But yours he is by right the grief I’ll bear,
And at his age, more easy he can spare,
Perhaps, a mother’s than a father’s care.
Indeed I think him like his father, too;
He will be happier, probably, with you.
’Tis best, I know, nor will he quite forget,
Some day he’ll come perhaps and see his mother yet.
O heaven! farewell perhaps I’ve been to blame
To write as if it all were still the same.
Farewell, write not. I will not seek to know
Whether you ever think of me or no.’
O love, love, love, too late! the tears fell down.
He dried them up and slowly walked to town.
To bed with busy thoughts; the following day
Bore us expectant into Boston Bay;
With dome and steeple on the yellow skies,
Upon the left we watched with curious eyes
The Puritan great Mother City rise.
Among the islets, winding in and round,
The great ship moved to her appointed ground.
We bade adieu, shook hands and went ashore:
I and my friend have seen our friends no more.
How fresh the Dartle's little waves that day!
A steely silver, underlined with blue,
And flashing where the round clouds, blown away,
Let drop the yellow sunshine to gleam through
And tip the edges of the waves with shifts
And spots of whitest fire, hard like gems
Cut from the midnight moon they were, and sharp
As wind through leafless stems.
The Lady Eunice walked between the drifts
Of blooming cherry-trees, and watched the rifts
Of clouds drawn through the river's azure warp.
Her little feet tapped softly down the path.
Her soul was listless; even the morning breeze
Fluttering the trees and strewing a light swath
Of fallen petals on the grass, could please
Her not at all. She brushed a hair aside
With a swift move, and a half-angry frown.
She stopped to pull a daffodil or two,
And held them to her gown
To test the colours; put them at her side,
Then at her breast, then loosened them and tried
Some new arrangement, but it would not do.
A lady in a Manor-house, alone,
Whose husband is in Flanders with the Duke
Of Marlborough and Prince Eugene, she's grown
Too apathetic even to rebuke
Her idleness. What is she on this Earth?
No woman surely, since she neither can
Be wed nor single, must not let her mind
Build thoughts upon a man
Except for hers. Indeed that were no dearth
Were her Lord here, for well she knew his worth,
And when she thought of him her eyes were kind.
Too lately wed to have forgot the wooing.
Too unaccustomed as a bride to feel
Other than strange delight at her wife's doing.
Even at the thought a gentle blush would steal
Over her face, and then her lips would frame
Some little word of loving, and her eyes
Would brim and spill their tears, when all they saw
Was the bright sun, slantwise
Through burgeoning trees, and all the morning's flame
Burning and quivering round her. With quick shame
She shut her heart and bent before the law.
He was a soldier, she was proud of that.
This was his house and she would keep it well.
His honour was in fighting, hers in what
He'd left her here in charge of. Then a spell
Of conscience sent her through the orchard spying
Upon the gardeners. Were their tools about?
Were any branches broken? Had the weeds
Been duly taken out
Under the 'spaliered pears, and were these lying
Nailed snug against the sunny bricks and drying
Their leaves and satisfying all their needs?
She picked a stone up with a little pout,
Stones looked so ill in well-kept flower-borders.
Where should she put it? All the paths about
Were strewn with fair, red gravel by her orders.
No stone could mar their sifted smoothness. So
She hurried to the river. At the edge
She stood a moment charmed by the swift blue
Beyond the river sedge.
She watched it curdling, crinkling, and the snow
Purfled upon its wave-tops. Then, 'Hullo,
My Beauty, gently, or you'll wriggle through.'
The Lady Eunice caught a willow spray
To save herself from tumbling in the shallows
Which rippled to her feet. Then straight away
She peered down stream among the budding sallows.
A youth in leather breeches and a shirt
Of finest broidered lawn lay out upon
An overhanging bole and deftly swayed
A well-hooked fish which shone
In the pale lemon sunshine like a spurt
Of silver, bowed and damascened, and girt
With crimson spots and moons which waned and played.
The fish hung circled for a moment, ringed
And bright; then flung itself out, a thin blade
Of spotted lightning, and its tail was winged
With chipped and sparkled sunshine. And the shade
Broke up and splintered into shafts of light
Wheeling about the fish, who churned the air
And made the fish-line hum, and bent the rod
Almost to snapping. Care
The young man took against the twigs, with slight,
Deft movements he kept fish and line in tight
Obedience to his will with every prod.
He lay there, and the fish hung just beyond.
He seemed uncertain what more he should do.
He drew back, pulled the rod to correspond,
Tossed it and caught it; every time he threw,
He caught it nearer to the point. At last
The fish was near enough to touch. He paused.
Eunice knew well the craft - 'What's got the thing!'
She cried. 'What can have caused -
Where is his net? The moment will be past.
The fish will wriggle free.' She stopped aghast.
He turned and bowed. One arm was in a sling.
The broad, black ribbon she had thought his basket
Must hang from, held instead a useless arm.
'I do not wonder, Madam, that you ask it.'
He smiled, for she had spoke aloud. 'The charm
Of trout fishing is in my eyes enhanced
When you must play your fish on land as well.'
'How will you take him?' Eunice asked. 'In truth
I really cannot tell.
'Twas stupid of me, but it simply chanced
I never thought of that until he glanced
Into the branches. 'Tis a bit uncouth.'
He watched the fish against the blowing sky,
Writhing and glittering, pulling at the line.
'The hook is fast, I might just let him die,'
He mused. 'But that would jar against your fine
Sense of true sportsmanship, I know it would,'
Cried Eunice. 'Let me do it.' Swift and light
She ran towards him. 'It is so long now
Since I have felt a bite,
I lost all heart for everything.' She stood,
Supple and strong, beside him, and her blood
Tingled her lissom body to a glow.
She quickly seized the fish and with a stone
Ended its flurry, then removed the hook,
Untied the fly with well-poised fingers. Done,
She asked him where he kept his fishing-book.
He pointed to a coat flung on the ground.
She searched the pockets, found a shagreen case,
Replaced the fly, noticed a golden stamp
Filling the middle space.
Two letters half rubbed out were there, and round
About them gay rococo flowers wound
And tossed a spray of roses to the clamp.
The Lady Eunice puzzled over these.
'G. D.' the young man gravely said. 'My name
Is Gervase Deane. Your servant, if you please.'
'Oh, Sir, indeed I know you, for your fame
For exploits in the field has reached my ears.
I did not know you wounded and returned.'
'But just come back, Madam. A silly prick
To gain me such unearned
Holiday making. And you, it appears,
Must be Sir Everard's lady. And my fears
At being caught a-trespassing were quick.'
He looked so rueful that she laughed out loud.
'You are forgiven, Mr. Deane. Even more,
I offer you the fishing, and am proud
That you should find it pleasant from this shore.
Nobody fishes now, my husband used
To angle daily, and I too with him.
He loved the spotted trout, and pike, and dace.
He even had a whim
That flies my fingers tied swiftly confused
The greater fish. And he must be excused,
Love weaves odd fancies in a lonely place.'
She sighed because it seemed so long ago,
Those days with Everard; unthinking took
The path back to the orchard. Strolling so
She walked, and he beside her. In a nook
Where a stone seat withdrew beneath low boughs,
Full-blossomed, hummed with bees, they sat them down.
She questioned him about the war, the share
Her husband had, and grown
Eager by his clear answers, straight allows
Her hidden hopes and fears to speak, and rouse
Her numbed love, which had slumbered unaware.
Under the orchard trees daffodils danced
And jostled, turning sideways to the wind.
A dropping cherry petal softly glanced
Over her hair, and slid away behind.
At the far end through twisted cherry-trees
The old house glowed, geranium-hued, with bricks
Bloomed in the sun like roses, low and long,
Gabled, and with quaint tricks
Of chimneys carved and fretted. Out of these
Grey smoke was shaken, which the faint Spring breeze
Tossed into nothing. Then a thrush's song
Needled its way through sound of bees and river.
The notes fell, round and starred, between young leaves,
Trilled to a spiral lilt, stopped on a quiver.
The Lady Eunice listens and believes.
Gervase has many tales of her dear Lord,
His bravery, his knowledge, his charmed life.
She quite forgets who's speaking in the gladness
Of being this man's wife.
Gervase is wounded, grave indeed, the word
Is kindly said, but to a softer chord
She strings her voice to ask with wistful sadness,
'And is Sir Everard still unscathed? I fain
Would know the truth.' 'Quite well, dear Lady, quite.'
She smiled in her content. 'So many slain,
You must forgive me for a little fright.'
And he forgave her, not alone for that,
But because she was fingering his heart,
Pressing and squeezing it, and thinking so
Only to ease her smart
Of painful, apprehensive longing. At
Their feet the river swirled and chucked. They sat
An hour there. The thrush flew to and fro.
The Lady Eunice supped alone that day,
As always since Sir Everard had gone,
In the oak-panelled parlour, whose array
Of faded portraits in carved mouldings shone.
Warriors and ladies, armoured, ruffed, peruked.
Van Dykes with long, slim fingers; Holbeins, stout
And heavy-featured; and one Rubens dame,
A peony just burst out,
With flaunting, crimson flesh. Eunice rebuked
Her thoughts of gentler blood, when these had duked
It with the best, and scorned to change their name.
A sturdy family, and old besides,
Much older than her own, the Earls of Crowe.
Since Saxon days, these men had sought their brides
Among the highest born, but always so,
Taking them to themselves, their wealth, their lands,
But never their titles. Stern perhaps, but strong,
The Framptons fed their blood from richest streams,
Scorning the common throng.
Gazing upon these men, she understands
The toughness of the web wrought from such strands
And pride of Everard colours all her dreams.
Eunice forgets to eat, watching their faces
Flickering in the wind-blown candle's shine.
Blue-coated lackeys tiptoe to their places,
And set out plates of fruit and jugs of wine.
The table glitters black like Winter ice.
The Dartle's rushing, and the gentle clash
Of blossomed branches, drifts into her ears.
And through the casement sash
She sees each cherry stem a pointed slice
Of splintered moonlight, topped with all the spice
And shimmer of the blossoms it uprears.
'In such a night -' she laid the book aside,
She could outnight the poet by thinking back.
In such a night she came here as a bride.
The date was graven in the almanack
Of her clasped memory. In this very room
Had Everard uncloaked her. On this seat
Had drawn her to him, bade her note the trees,
How white they were and sweet
And later, coming to her, her dear groom,
Her Lord, had lain beside her in the gloom
Of moon and shade, and whispered her to ease.
Her little taper made the room seem vast,
Caverned and empty. And her beating heart
Rapped through the silence all about her cast
Like some loud, dreadful death-watch taking part
In this sad vigil. Slowly she undrest,
Put out the light and crept into her bed.
The linen sheets were fragrant, but so cold.
And brimming tears she shed,
Sobbing and quivering in her barren nest,
Her weeping lips into the pillow prest,
Her eyes sealed fast within its smothering fold.
The morning brought her a more stoic mind,
And sunshine struck across the polished floor.
She wondered whether this day she should find
Gervase a-fishing, and so listen more,
Much more again, to all he had to tell.
And he was there, but waiting to begin
Until she came. They fished awhile, then went
To the old seat within
The cherry's shade. He pleased her very well
By his discourse. But ever he must dwell
Upon Sir Everard. Each incident
Must be related and each term explained.
How troops were set in battle, how a siege
Was ordered and conducted. She complained
Because he bungled at the fall of Liege.
The curious names of parts of forts she knew,
And aired with conscious pride her ravelins,
And counterscarps, and lunes. The day drew on,
And his dead fish's fins
In the hot sunshine turned a mauve-green hue.
At last Gervase, guessing the hour, withdrew.
But she sat long in still oblivion.
Then he would bring her books, and read to her
The poems of Dr. Donne, and the blue river
Would murmur through the reading, and a stir
Of birds and bees make the white petals shiver,
And one or two would flutter prone and lie
Spotting the smooth-clipped grass. The days went by
Threaded with talk and verses. Green leaves pushed
Through blossoms stubbornly.
Gervase, unconscious of dishonesty,
Fell into strong and watchful loving, free
He thought, since always would his lips be hushed.
But lips do not stay silent at command,
And Gervase strove in vain to order his.
Luckily Eunice did not understand
That he but read himself aloud, for this
Their friendship would have snapped. She treated him
And spoilt him like a brother. It was now
'Gervase' and 'Eunice' with them, and he dined
Whenever she'd allow,
In the oak parlour, underneath the dim
Old pictured Framptons, opposite her slim
Figure, so bright against the chair behind.
Eunice was happier than she had been
For many days, and yet the hours were long.
All Gervase told to her but made her lean
More heavily upon the past. Among
Her hopes she lived, even when she was giving
Her morning orders, even when she twined
Nosegays to deck her parlours. With the thought
Of Everard, her mind
Solaced its solitude, and in her striving
To do as he would wish was all her living.
She welcomed Gervase for the news he brought.
Black-hearts and white-hearts, bubbled with the sun,
Hid in their leaves and knocked against each other.
Eunice was standing, panting with her run
Up to the tool-house just to get another
Basket. All those which she had brought were filled,
And still Gervase pelted her from above.
The buckles of his shoes flashed higher and higher
Until his shoulders strove
Quite through the top. 'Eunice, your spirit's filled
This tree. White-hearts!' He shook, and cherries spilled
And spat out from the leaves like falling fire.
The wide, sun-winged June morning spread itself
Over the quiet garden. And they packed
Full twenty baskets with the fruit. 'My shelf
Of cordials will be stored with what it lacked.
In future, none of us will drink strong ale,
But cherry-brandy.' 'Vastly good, I vow,'
And Gervase gave the tree another shake.
The cherries seemed to flow
Out of the sky in cloudfuls, like blown hail.
Swift Lady Eunice ran, her farthingale,
Unnoticed, tangling in a fallen rake.
She gave a little cry and fell quite prone
In the long grass, and lay there very still.
Gervase leapt from the tree at her soft moan,
And kneeling over her, with clumsy skill
Unloosed her bodice, fanned her with his hat,
And his unguarded lips pronounced his heart.
'Eunice, my Dearest Girl, where are you hurt?'
His trembling fingers dart
Over her limbs seeking some wound. She strove
To answer, opened wide her eyes, above
Her knelt Sir Everard, with face alert.
Her eyelids fell again at that sweet sight,
'My Love!' she murmured, 'Dearest! Oh, my Dear!'
He took her in his arms and bore her right
And tenderly to the old seat, and 'Here
I have you mine at last,' she said, and swooned
Under his kisses. When she came once more
To sight of him, she smiled in comfort knowing
Herself laid as before
Close covered on his breast. And all her glowing
Youth answered him, and ever nearer growing
She twined him in her arms and soft festooned
Herself about him like a flowering vine,
Drawing his lips to cling upon her own.
A ray of sunlight pierced the leaves to shine
Where her half-opened bodice let be shown
Her white throat fluttering to his soft caress,
Half-gasping with her gladness. And her pledge
She whispers, melting with delight. A twig
Snaps in the hornbeam hedge.
A cackling laugh tears through the quietness.
Eunice starts up in terrible distress.
'My God! What's that?' Her staring eyes are big.
Revulsed emotion set her body shaking
As though she had an ague. Gervase swore,
Jumped to his feet in such a dreadful taking
His face was ghastly with the look it wore.
Crouching and slipping through the trees, a man
In worn, blue livery, a humpbacked thing,
Made off. But turned every few steps to gaze
At Eunice, and to fling
Vile looks and gestures back. 'The ruffian!
By Christ's Death! I will split him to a span
Of hog's thongs.' She grasped at his sleeve, 'Gervase!
What are you doing here? Put down that sword,
That's only poor old Tony, crazed and lame.
We never notice him. With my dear Lord
I ought not to have minded that he came.
But, Gervase, it surprises me that you
Should so lack grace to stay here.' With one hand
She held her gaping bodice to conceal
Her breast. 'I must demand
Your instant absence. Everard, but new
Returned, will hardly care for guests. Adieu.'
'Eunice, you're mad.' His brain began to reel.
He tried again to take her, tried to twist
Her arms about him. Truly, she had said
Nothing should ever part them. In a mist
She pushed him from her, clasped her aching head
In both her hands, and rocked and sobbed aloud.
'Oh! Where is Everard? What does this mean?
So lately come to leave me thus alone!'
But Gervase had not seen
Sir Everard. Then, gently, to her bowed
And sickening spirit, he told of her proud
Surrender to him. He could hear her moan.
Then shame swept over her and held her numb,
Hiding her anguished face against the seat.
At last she rose, a woman stricken - dumb -
And trailed away with slowly-dragging feet.
Gervase looked after her, but feared to pass
The barrier set between them. All his rare
Joy broke to fragments - worse than that, unreal.
And standing lonely there,
His swollen heart burst out, and on the grass
He flung himself and wept. He knew, alas!
The loss so great his life could never heal.
For days thereafter Eunice lived retired,
Waited upon by one old serving-maid.
She would not leave her chamber, and desired
Only to hide herself. She was afraid
Of what her eyes might trick her into seeing,
Of what her longing urge her then to do.
What was this dreadful illness solitude
Had tortured her into?
Her hours went by in a long constant fleeing
The thought of that one morning. And her being
Bruised itself on a happening so rude.
It grew ripe Summer, when one morning came
Her tirewoman with a letter, printed
Upon the seal were the Deane crest and name.
With utmost gentleness, the letter hinted
His understanding and his deep regret.
But would she not permit him once again
To pay her his profound respects? No word
Of what had passed should pain
Her resolution. Only let them get
Back the old comradeship. Her eyes were wet
With starting tears, now truly she deplored
His misery. Yes, she was wrong to keep
Away from him. He hardly was to blame.
'Twas she - she shuddered and began to weep.
'Twas her fault! Hers! Her everlasting shame
Was that she suffered him, whom not at all
She loved. Poor Boy! Yes, they must still be friends.
She owed him that to keep the balance straight.
It was such poor amends
Which she could make for rousing hopes to gall
Him with their unfulfilment. Tragical
It was, and she must leave him desolate.
Hard silence he had forced upon his lips
For long and long, and would have done so still
Had not she - here she pressed her finger tips
Against her heavy eyes. Then with forced will
She wrote that he might come, sealed with the arms
Of Crowe and Frampton twined. Her heart felt lighter
When this was done. It seemed her constant care
Might some day cease to fright her.
Illness could be no crime, and dreadful harms
Did come from too much sunshine. Her alarms
Would lessen when she saw him standing there,
Simple and kind, a brother just returned
From journeying, and he would treat her so.
She knew his honest heart, and if there burned
A spark in it he would not let it show.
But when he really came, and stood beside
Her underneath the fruitless cherry boughs,
He seemed a tired man, gaunt, leaden-eyed.
He made her no more vows,
Nor did he mention one thing he had tried
To put into his letter. War supplied
Him topics. And his mind seemed occupied.
Daily they met. And gravely walked and talked.
He read her no more verses, and he stayed
Only until their conversation, balked
Of every natural channel, fled dismayed.
Again the next day she would meet him, trying
To give her tone some healthy sprightliness,
But his uneager dignity soon chilled
Her well-prepared address.
Thus Summer waned, and in the mornings, crying
Of wild geese startled Eunice, and their flying
Whirred overhead for days and never stilled.
One afternoon of grey clouds and white wind,
Eunice awaited Gervase by the river.
The Dartle splashed among the reeds and whined
Over the willow-roots, and a long sliver
Of caked and slobbered foam crept up the bank.
All through the garden, drifts of skirling leaves
Blew up, and settled down, and blew again.
The cherry-trees were weaves
Of empty, knotted branches, and a dank
Mist hid the house, mouldy it smelt and rank
With sodden wood, and still unfalling rain.
Eunice paced up and down. No joy she took
At meeting Gervase, but the custom grown
Still held her. He was late. She sudden shook,
And caught at her stopped heart. Her eyes had shown
Sir Everard emerging from the mist.
His uniform was travel-stained and torn,
His jackboots muddy, and his eager stride
Jangled his spurs. A thorn
Entangled, trailed behind him. To the tryst
He hastened. Eunice shuddered, ran - a twist
Round a sharp turning and she fled to hide.
But he had seen her as she swiftly ran,
A flash of white against the river's grey.
'Eunice,' he called. 'My Darling. Eunice. Can
You hear me? It is Everard. All day
I have been riding like the very devil
To reach you sooner. Are you startled, Dear?'
He broke into a run and followed her,
And caught her, faint with fear,
Cowering and trembling as though she some evil
Spirit were seeing. 'What means this uncivil
Greeting, Dear Heart?' He saw her senses blur.
Swaying and catching at the seat, she tried
To speak, but only gurgled in her throat.
At last, straining to hold herself, she cried
To him for pity, and her strange words smote
A coldness through him, for she begged Gervase
To leave her, 'twas too much a second time.
Gervase must go, always Gervase, her mind
Repeated like a rhyme
This name he did not know. In sad amaze
He watched her, and that hunted, fearful gaze,
So unremembering and so unkind.
Softly he spoke to her, patiently dealt
With what he feared her madness. By and by
He pierced her understanding. Then he knelt
Upon the seat, and took her hands: 'Now try
To think a minute I am come, my Dear,
Unharmed and back on furlough. Are you glad
To have your lover home again? To me,
Pickthorn has never had
A greater pleasantness. Could you not bear
To come and sit awhile beside me here?
A stone between us surely should not be.'
She smiled a little wan and ravelled smile,
Then came to him and on his shoulder laid
Her head, and they two rested there awhile,
Each taking comfort. Not a word was said.
But when he put his hand upon her breast
And felt her beating heart, and with his lips
Sought solace for her and himself. She started
As one sharp lashed with whips,
And pushed him from her, moaning, his dumb quest
Denied and shuddered from. And he, distrest,
Loosened his wife, and long they sat there, parted.
Eunice was very quiet all that day,
A little dazed, and yet she seemed content.
At candle-time, he asked if she would play
Upon her harpsichord, at once she went
And tinkled airs from Lully's `Carnival'
And `Bacchus', newly brought away from France.
Then jaunted through a lively rigadoon
To please him with a dance
By Purcell, for he said that surely all
Good Englishmen had pride in national
Accomplishment. But tiring of it soon
He whispered her that if she had forgiven
His startling her that afternoon, the clock
Marked early bed-time. Surely it was Heaven
He entered when she opened to his knock.
The hours rustled in the trailing wind
Over the chimney. Close they lay and knew
Only that they were wedded. At his touch
Anxiety she threw
Away like a shed garment, and inclined
Herself to cherish him, her happy mind
Quivering, unthinking, loving overmuch.
Eunice lay long awake in the cool night
After her husband slept. She gazed with joy
Into the shadows, painting them with bright
Pictures of all her future life's employ.
Twin gems they were, set to a single jewel,
Each shining with the other. Soft she turned
And felt his breath upon her hair, and prayed
Her happiness was earned.
Past Earls of Crowe should give their blood for fuel
To light this Frampton's hearth-fire. By no cruel
Affrightings would she ever be dismayed.
When Everard, next day, asked her in joke
What name it was that she had called him by,
She told him of Gervase, and as she spoke
She hardly realized it was a lie.
Her vision she related, but she hid
The fondness into which she had been led.
Sir Everard just laughed and pinched her ear,
And quite out of her head
The matter drifted. Then Sir Everard chid
Himself for laziness, and off he rid
To see his men and count his farming-gear.
At supper he seemed overspread with gloom,
But gave no reason why, he only asked
More questions of Gervase, and round the room
He walked with restless strides. At last he tasked
Her with a greater feeling for this man
Than she had given. Eunice quick denied
The slightest interest other than a friend
Might claim. But he replied
He thought she underrated. Then a ban
He put on talk and music. He'd a plan
To work at, draining swamps at Pickthorn End.
Next morning Eunice found her Lord still changed,
Hard and unkind, with bursts of anger. Pride
Kept him from speaking out. His probings ranged
All round his torment. Lady Eunice tried
To sooth him. So a week went by, and then
His anguish flooded over; with clenched hands
Striving to stem his words, he told her plain
Tony had seen them, 'brands
Burning in Hell,' the man had said. Again
Eunice described her vision, and how when
Awoke at last she had known dreadful pain.
He could not credit it, and misery fed
Upon his spirit, day by day it grew.
To Gervase he forbade the house, and led
The Lady Eunice such a life she flew
At his approaching footsteps. Winter came
Snowing and blustering through the Manor trees.
All the roof-edges spiked with icicles
In fluted companies.
The Lady Eunice with her tambour-frame
Kept herself sighing company. The flame
Of the birch fire glittered on the walls.
A letter was brought to her as she sat,
Unsealed, unsigned. It told her that his wound,
The writer's, had so well recovered that
To join his regiment he felt him bound.
But would she not wish him one short 'Godspeed',
He asked no more. Her greeting would suffice.
He had resolved he never should return.
Would she this sacrifice
Make for a dying man? How could she read
The rest! But forcing her eyes to the deed,
She read. Then dropped it in the fire to burn.
Gervase had set the river for their meeting
As farthest from the farms where Everard
Spent all his days. How should he know such cheating
Was quite expected, at least no dullard
Was Everard Frampton. Hours by hours he hid
Among the willows watching. Dusk had come,
And from the Manor he had long been gone.
Eunice her burdensome
Task set about. Hooded and cloaked, she slid
Over the slippery paths, and soon amid
The sallows saw a boat tied to a stone.
Gervase arose, and kissed her hand, then pointed
Into the boat. She shook her head, but he
Begged her to realize why, and with disjointed
Words told her of what peril there might be
From listeners along the river bank.
A push would take them out of earshot. Ten
Minutes was all he asked, then she should land,
He go away again,
Forever this time. Yet how could he thank
Her for so much compassion. Here she sank
Upon a thwart, and bid him quick unstrand
His boat. He cast the rope, and shoved the keel
Free of the gravel; jumped, and dropped beside
Her; took the oars, and they began to steal
Under the overhanging trees. A wide
Gash of red lantern-light cleft like a blade
Into the gloom, and struck on Eunice sitting
Rigid and stark upon the after thwart.
It blazed upon their flitting
In merciless light. A moment so it stayed,
Then was extinguished, and Sir Everard made
One leap, and landed just a fraction short.
His weight upon the gunwale tipped the boat
To straining balance. Everard lurched and seized
His wife and held her smothered to his coat.
'Everard, loose me, we shall drown -' and squeezed
Against him, she beat with her hands. He gasped
'Never, by God!' The slidden boat gave way
And the black foamy water split - and met.
Bubbled up through the spray
A wailing rose and in the branches rasped,
And creaked, and stilled. Over the treetops, clasped
In the blue evening, a clear moon was set.
They lie entangled in the twisting roots,
Embraced forever. Their cold marriage bed
Close-canopied and curtained by the shoots
Of willows and pale birches. At the head,
White lilies, like still swans, placidly float
And sway above the pebbles. Here are waves
Sun-smitten for a threaded counterpane
Gold-woven on their graves.
In perfect quietness they sleep, remote
In the green, rippled twilight. Death has smote
Them to perpetual oneness who were twain.
Tom Zart's 52 Best Of The Rest America At War Poems
SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF WORLD WAR III
The White House
Tom Zart's Poems
Ms. Lillian Cauldwell
President and Chief Executive Officer
Passionate Internet Voices Radio
Ann Arbor Michigan
Number 41 passed on the CDs from Tom Zart. Thank you for thinking of me. I am thankful for your efforts to honor our brave military personnel and their families. America owes these courageous men and women a debt of gratitude, and I am honored to be the commander in chief of the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world.
George W. Bush
SONS AND DAUGHTERS OF WORLD WAR III
Our sons and daughters serve in harm's way
To defend our way of life.
Some are students, some grandparents
Many a husband or wife.
They face great odds without complaint
Gambling life and limb for little pay.
So far away from all they love
Fight our soldiers for whom we pray.
The plotters and planners of America's doom
Pledge to murder and maim all they can.
From early childhood they are taught
To kill is to become a man.
They exploit their young as weapons of choice
Teaching in heaven, virgins will await.
Destroying lives along with their own
To learn of their falsehoods too late.
The fearful cry we must submit
And find a way to soothe them.
Where defenders worry if we stand down
The future for America is grim.
Now's not the time to fight one another
Or kiss our enemy's cheek.
All through history it remains the same
The strong enslave the weak.
May God continue to bless America
Refusing evil, the upper hand.
It's up to us to stay resolute
Defending the liberty of Man.
Our men and women give the ultimate sacrifice
When they pledge to defend our flag.
In hot spots throughout our world
They defeat our enemies who brag.
Most say their prayers to their own private God
To protect and bring them safely home.
It's our job as patriots and Americans
To let them know we love them as our own.
Think of all of history's heroes of freedom
And what they gave up for "Old Glory".
Nothing has changed for over two hundred years
As our soldiers continue the story.
Those rows of white crosses in manicured fields
Tell the story of ultimate sacrifice and love.
Always remember all we treasure and enjoy
Are because of our soldiers and God above.
Weakness invites moral plight, war and aggression
Encouraged by mistrust, misjudgment and delay.
All we love can be destroyed and transformed
By the powers of darkness maneuvering our way.
When something wicked stares us in the face
To corrupt our morals, faith and resolve.
God gives us courage to defend what's right
No matter the sacrifice or danger involved.
Evil seeks to destroy the good in man
And silence the memory of God's law.
It's up to the faithful to stay unyielding
Defending the liberty and justice of all.
Our men and woman who serve in harm's way
Are the armor of what the free world depends on.
Without their sacrifice of body and soul
All that we stand for is gone.
GOD LOVES HIS SOLDIERS
Sometimes it's hard to protect what is right
Sometimes we're scorned as for others we fight.
Some of us are willing regardless of loss
To commit our soul to save the cross.
Evil prospers on greed and human hate
Always eager to destroy and defecate.
God's grace descends on the souls of man
Cleansing the impure wherever He can.
As long as man has struggled on earth
Life has had its troubles from birth.
God's seed of goodness has delayed man's demise
Thank Heaven for his heroes the strong and the wise.
The Lord adores his heroes of yesterday
Just how numerous, only He could say.
God loves his soldiers who line up to serve
By standing against evil His grace they deserve.
America the abundant the place I was born
I'll cherish till the day I die.
Where the bones of past heroes lie buried in the ground
Who loved her the same as I.
Her mountains are so tall they reach for the sky
With prairies where the green grasses grow.
There's billions of trees where wild birds nest
With creatures that flourish below.
That blue gold called water with which we are blessed
As raindrops or crystallized snow;
Changes to rivers and fresh water lakes
While the winds of our seasons blow.
There's the haunt of a whistle from a lonely freight train
Racing on ribbons of steel
With the harvest of farms and from the factories
Balanced in a box on a wheel.
Some cities have buildings a hundred stories tall
Structures of concrete, glass and steel.
A statue in a harbor, a present from France
Describes how, inside, we feel.
That flag on the moon with red and white stripes
Proves America's dreams come true.
A country of heroes who line up to protect
The past, the present and the few.
We'll defeat terrorism as it should be fought
Never letting Satan's horde chase us to our door.
Safeguarding our borders and system of life
As our forefathers sacrificed before.
Never be afraid to be proud of America
And march with the brave, faithful and just.
Refusing to submit to the will of our enemies
Standing firm to preserve what we trust.
INTO THE TEETH of THE DOG
All through history man was born to struggle
Surviving nature, disease, greed, and war.
Since his conception he has remained the same
Choosing to serve evil or good as before.
Our boys and girls face the teeth of the dog
In hot spots all over our earth.
They leave their families and all they love
To protect and preserve what liberty is worth.
The foes they face are the mad dogs of man
With a desire to kill, disfigure and enslave.
They sing and dance to the death of others
Teaching principles of hate till the grave.
Support our troops who battle the horde
While we live the good life back home.
When you see a soldier show them your smile
Say "hello we love you and your not alone.
THE MAD DOGS OF MAN
Wherever dwell the mad dogs of man
There is corruption, plunder and hate.
In every city, town, or village
Those who promote distrust deserve their fate.
All are born as an innocent child
Till mislead by others along the way.
God has always loved his children
Though it breaks His heart when they stray.
The mad dogs of man never repent
For they have no sense of shame or sorrow.
Worshiping dominance and the dark side of life
Abusing victims as if there were no tomorrow.
God gives the will to sin no more
And to overcome evil unwilling to cease.
The mad dogs of man must be stopped
Who murder, rape and destroy world peace.
Samson, Solomon, and David
Were chosen by God to stand tall.
They faced great odds and the fear of death
Refusing to ignore their call.
The time has come for the good men of Earth
To band together to restrain the horde.
Standing firm against tyranny where it exists
Putting the mad dogs of man to the sword.
WHERE WARS ARE WON OR LOST
Wars are waged by older men
In battle rooms in countries apart.
Who call for greater firepower
And troops for the combat chart.
While out among the shattered flesh
The dreams of all have turned gray.
So young and determined their faces were
Till on the battlefield they lay.
Unable to overcome their pride
The politicians cast their vote.
For this or that or something else
As the rage of war sounds its note.
Wherever wars are won or lost
The soldiers fall like toys.
Down through history it remains the same
Most who die are hardly more than boys.
Like monkeys in a revolving cage
Man squabbles for the peanuts of power.
When will we rise above our greed
And become as a beautiful flower?
Death to death, dust to dust
The wrath of war is a horrible crime.
It's the beast within that still prevails
As it has through the torments of time.
WAR IS THE GREATEST PLAGUE OF MAN
As war is fought it takes charge
And events spin out of control.
The madness of men can alter the soil
Which nourishes the roots of their soul.
Many things will forever change
Far more then wished to be.
As the wrath of war starts to destroy
Those things we fight to keep free.
War is the greatest plague of man
Religion, state, and sanity.
Any scourge is more preferred
Than the one which disables humanity.
When war breaks out, boundaries change
And all who die are a token
Of the rage that must run it's course
Before words of peace are spoken.
War I hate, though not men, flags nor race
But war itself with its ugly face.
When we lose faith in the brave, which die
Then we're not fit to greet those who cry.
What distinguishes war isn't death
But that man is slain by fellow man.
Crushed by cruelty and injustice
With his enemy's murderous hand.
War tends to punish the punishers
So the losers won't suffer alone.
The essence of war is but violence
Till the survivors come marching home.
Sometimes it's hard to defend what's right
Sometimes we're forced to rise up and fight.
Sometimes we survive, while others must die
Sometimes never knowing the reason why.
The rush of combat is a natural buzz
Caused by fear, leaving nothing as it was.
Hunting one another like wild game
Without a shortage of those to blame.
Sometimes victory comes too slow or quick
Sometimes the cost on both sides is sick.
Sometimes God is asked to intervene
To help stop the savage from being so mean.
War is a hell we visit before death
Fueled by the whisper of the devil's breath.
There must be a reason man destroys man
But why it is so, I can't understand.
After suffering the wrath of a sneak attack
America now mourns to her very core.
Though soon her enemies shall all but flee
From the sound of America waging full war.
Let there be no doubt, no doubt at all
That the devil has decided to give us a call.
We shall defeat hell's soldiers and cast them out
And if we die; that's what freedom is about.
We shall seek them out wherever they may hide
Street by street, house-by-house, cave by cave.
They will be eradicated from the face of the earth
By the righteous, the loyal and the brave.
SATAN'S HORDE SHALL BE REMOVED
Overrun with war and uncontrolled leaders
Our world becomes more dangerous each day.
Dishonest politicians, criminals and the media
Survive by their falsehoods at play.
Bible believers preach, that the end is near
Our world as a whole is beyond reform.
God will eradicate all which is wicked
By His fire of eruption and storm.
To evil's victory, I will never concede
May its supporters anguish in hell.
By the grace of God and the power of faith
The goodness of man will prevail.
What we accomplish is heaven's measure
As patriots respond to the threats of man.
Protect and defend what we love till death
As the soldiers of Satan arise from the sand.
SO DEAR TO MY HEART
So dear to my heart are my loved ones at home
As I toss and I turn in my bunk all alone.
Everyday I see death, hate, and corruption
Combat is God's proof of man's malfunction
For family, comrades, and myself I pray
To my love with this poem I wish to convey.
I knew I loved you though never how much
Till by war, I'm forced beyond your touch.
Where violence thrives, there's the stench of death
With the taste of fear on every breath.
Who shall prevail, who shall die
As the sadistic kill beneath God's sky.
Baghdad has become man's highway to hell
Where the hearts of darkness are alive and well.
I count each day till it's time to come home
And be with my love and never alone.
In their new uniforms
The young march off
Not knowing who shall return.
With a proud devotion
They brandish their flag
Leaving loved ones to wonder and yearn.
May we all be buried
By all of our children
Is an ancient tribal prayer.
They're so easy to lose
But so hard to forget
Such a burden for a parent to bear.
Oh, the taste of victory
Shall soon be forgotten
But, never that which was lost.
For those rows of white headstones
In peaceful green fields
Make it easy to tally the cost.
America has survived all attempts to destroy
Knowing the cruelty of war
And, we who remain
Must help keep her free
For those who can march no more!
Our flag is fabric wove of thread
Carried by heroes live and dead.
She stands for justice and courage too
With her colors; red, white and blue.
For all who serve her, there'll be cheers
For any who die, there'll be tears
For all who love her, honor will prevail
Any who harm her, shall suffer and fail.
How many moms have cried before
As they sent their children to war.
How many dads have not returned
Because our freedom must be earned.
Wars were waged where brave men died
As patriots fought side by side.
Our flag is still the pearl of Earth
Because of those who prove her worth.
LOVE OF COUNTRY
I dedicate this poem from inside my tent
As the desert winds keep it's silhouette bent.
My love of country is at full boil now
I'd like to describe it but it's hard to know how.
Tomorrow I'll hunt those who enjoy our death
Cursed by their hatred and foulness of breath.
I don't care if it's another God they serve
For their crime's retribution is what they deserve.
Their horde survives by a different set of rules,
Though soon they'll learn the fate of murderous fools.
Proudly I serve my homeland and president
Who I've sworn to defend one hundred percent.
While haunted by visions of what I must do
I fight for justice, and the red, white, and blue.
The cost of freedom is sometimes high
Extremely more when our loved one's die.
Men and women pledged to fight and serve
And it's our support that they deserve.
Mankind itself is the one to blame
That all through history, the story's the same.
Peace, like love, can be hard to acquire
Subject always to enemy fire.
Some how the righteous tend to prevail
Over the miss-guided, prone to fail.
No wonder we fear the tongues that lie
As mankind squabbles beneath God's sky.
The danger our solders face is real
So lets let them know just how we feel.
Put forth your flag and show them your heart
As those we love from us depart.
THE BATTLE FOR BAGHDAD
Determined though scared, I walk my beat
On the deadly streets of Baghdad.
Searching for any who plot our harm
Or by our death are joyous and glad.
Standing in shadows caused by the moon
I'm reminded of my nights back home.
I wonder if the woman I love
Is growing tired of sleeping alone?
I feel remorse for all who live here
For this place is a madman's hell.
And those who wish to keep it that way
Must be killed or locked away in jail.
My greatest fear is not my death
But that I'll end up in a wheelchair.
Disabled for the rest of my life,
Depending on others for my care.
My wife, she prays for my safe return
As night and day more GI's are killed.
She knows quite well, whatever it takes
The oath I've given will be fulfilled.
The king of Baghdad has fallen
Never to dictate again.
Man shall sentence him for this crimes
And heaven shun him for his sin.
For his tyranny, he was famous
In every capital on earth.
Till apprehended in his spider hole
Completely stripped of his worth.
He is guilty of rape and genocide
While he ruled without remorse.
His power and prestige were toppled
Once George Bush set his course.
Though it may seem that the wicked triumph
And have conquered by their brutality of hand,
Through the power of faith they are defeated
By the seed of goodness in man.
America is the birthday cake of Earth
As the ants march from every direction.
Thank God for all who have sworn to defend her
Serving with love, honor, pride, and affection.
Since the first day George Washington marched off to war
There have been those who have wished our demise.
Their hatred, fueled by jealousy and greed
Was defeated by our brave and the wise.
Once again, we must face a formidable foe
Who have pledged by their God to destroy us all
Misusing their faith as an excuse to kill
As for a worldwide jihad, their leaders call.
Some say we should try to appease them
For if we resist, they'll hate us even more.
But the David's among us shall cast our stones
Defeating them, as it was done before.
SHOULD TOMORROW START WITHOUT ME
Should tomorrow start without me
Remember I love you.
Looking down from up above
Seeing everything you do.
If I become a casualty
I pray you will love again
Whom ever makes you happy
I'll consider my friend.
Should tomorrow start without me
Remind our boys, God loves all who care.
And when life seems too harsh and cruel
With 'Him' they must share their prayer.
I have proven I'm not a coward
Who breaks and runs to survive.
Always fearing death will kiss me
As the streets of Baghdad I drive.
Should tomorrow start without me
Be proud I choose to serve.
Our faith and our patriotism
Earn the freedom we deserve.
I miss home more than ever
It breaks my heart to stay away
I can't help but want to hold you
And whisper what I say.
It's not a priest that gives us our freedom of religion
And it's not a reporter that gives us our freedom of voice.
It's not any judge, lawyer, politician, or teacher
But the blood of a soldier that has sacrificed by choice.
Our soldiers line up to be remembered
As the best of the best at their job.
They wish to be needed and depended on
To save all we love from the mob.
They risk their life and limb for liberty
Standing firm against evil unwilling to break.
To be part of something greater than themselves
They are willing to sacrifice whatever it will take.
THANK HEAVEN FOR HEROES
Thank Heaven for the heroes of life
Who lead us to overcome those who are not.
The wise are grateful for all God's blessings
Where fools never realize what they've got.
America is the grain train of Earth
Whose people exercise rule by their vote.
All have a chance to partake and prosper
As they arrive by foot, plane or boat.
Our freedom relies on the law of the land
Our future depends on our grit.
Our past has known both good and bad
And our mistakes we are willing to admit.
The grim of heart hate America
And choose to put her wonders to shame
The devotion of most who love and live here
Rise up to defeat the soldiers of blame.
THE LONELINESS OF WAR
I know I'm still here so far, far away
As I fight for what I believe is right.
I wonder about you and your mom
Every moment of every day and night.
The loneliness of war can drive you insane
If you don't get letters of concern from home.
Left, right, behind and ahead,
Death awaits leaving love ones alone.
We pray to God that we will be saved
To return home or live the here after.
Bloody, dirt-covered men, we see everyday
As we yearn for those times of laughter.
The far off stare of a fallen comrade
As you stay by his side till his end.
No mother ever carried her infant child
More carefully, than we do a friend.
Many have their own personal diaries
To help keep their faculties together.
Watching hot steel crash into human flesh
Always makes home seem far away and better.
I've become an expert at dodging, weaving and diving
So try not to worry too much about me.
Just help your mom and stand up from the ground
And while I'm gone be all you can be.
SACRIFICE TRANSFORMATION AND UNRESTRICTED WARFARE
The Japanese hadn't lost a war since 1598
Each man carried 400 rounds of ammunition
(twice as many as an American infantryman)
With five days rations and fearless determination.
The men in the badly wrapped brown uniforms
Since their early childhood had been taught
That to die for the emperor and one's country
Was the greatest of all glories to be sought.
Moreover, the hardware backing them was awesome
As sharpshooters they were accurate up to a thousand yards and more.
Their ships were faster, their guns bigger, Their torpedoes better
And their planes matchless in quality, aerobatics and score.
Only by sacrifice, transformation, and unrestricted warfare
Was America able to overcome and prevail.
Again America must stand firm to survive
As we face a new monster from Hell.
SOLDIER IN THE RAIN
I'm just a soldier who stands in the rain
My memories of home are what keep me sane.
Back home is a land of milk and honey
Ruled by lust and love of money.
But, what can I say, when I serve her true
For I volunteered to see this war through.
Now, that I'm here, it's hard to believe
We're just the victims of those who deceive.
As darkness falls on the rice fields of Nam
Scared men with rifles walk the shadows of the calm.
It's thousands of miles to the steps of my church
With its stained glass, steeples and lost souls who search.
Off in the distance I see an arc light
Bombs being dropped on children at night.
I've seen that evil they call the yellow rain
And how life withers when it's sprayed by a plane.
All of my buddies have been taken away
No more touch football will they ever play.
Zipped in their body bags for the long trip home
Are some of the bravest, I've ever known.
War is a hell, devised by man
There's death in the sea, the sky and the land.
Lord, I can't help but wish I were home
Back with my love, whom I hope is alone?
DADS AT WAR
Where would I be without you dad
My hero of night and day
I'm so glad you love my mother
And think of us when you pray
The last time we went to church
You reached for me with your hand.
I looked at you, then made a wish
That I might be just half the man.
I love my father of this earth
And I love my father of heaven.
It's a lot for me to love, you know
For I'm only eleven.
Mom and I sure miss you
Since you left to defend our flag.
When others ask, where is your dad
I can't help but boast and brag.
BULLETS AND BARBWIRE
We awoke to the crack of rifle fire
With mortar rounds hitting the ground near by.
The flying shrapnel was absorbed by sand bags
Which saved lots of us who wished not to die.
The hot spent shell casings fell to the ground
As the VC charged our fortified hill.
We killed so many the stench made us sick
While we fought to live and not for a thrill.
Barbwire, bullets and clay-mores took their toll
As red and green tracers lit up the sky.
Before long I was the last GI left
When napalm caused my enemy to fry.
Fleeing the sound of our choppers gunfire
The enemy retreated to the caves and trees.
Then I cried, 'thank you ' to Heaven above
As I checked out my buddies on my knees.
Somehow I managed to survive the day
Though many I've served with names I have read
Carved in the shinny black stone of The Wall
Are my comrades of war, among the dead.
UN soldiers fought and were forced to retreat
Behind sandbags protected by barbwire hoops.
Many GI's died as they held off attacks
By 810,000 Communist troops.
Our guys used phosphorus, flame-throwers and napalm
For without these weapons they could not survive.
The Communist charges led by buglers
Till the UN could start it's offensive drive.
On the battlefield of death Chosin Reservoir
Many froze with their hands still stuck to their guns.
While others hobbled with their boots wrapped in rags
City boys, farmers, students, fathers and sons.
With a million and a half dead or wounded
Both sides singed a truce before generals involved.
And though thousands were orphaned, nothing was solved.
As war is fought it takes charge
And events spin out of control.
The madness of men can alter the soil
Which nourishes the roots of their soul.
Many things will forever change
Far more then wished to be.
As the wrath of war starts to destroy
Those things we fight to keep free.
War is the greatest plague of man
Religion, state, and sanity.
Any scourge is more preferred
Than the one which disables humanity.
When war breaks out, boundaries change
And all who die are a token
Of the rage that must run it's course
Before words of peace are spoken.
Our ship had sailed before the dawn
Surrounded by the thickest of fog
Still ignorant of our destination
Or what was written in the captain's log.
It didn't take long for me to see
Our cruise was not for fun
An experience of a lifetime
With nowhere for us to run.
Twenty knots per hour we cruised
As the white caps passed us by
Ten thousand young Americans
Off to Europe to die.
A sailor told us not to worry
Someday we'd get our mail.
Uncle Sam would make sure
No matter how far we sail.
Thirty feet deep I tried to sleep
Beneath our ship's waterline
Just the place for claustrophobia
To enter into my mind.
My favorite vest was my May West
Which I wore all the time
Just in case of German U-boats
Or an underwater mine.
Thirty-three days we were at sea
We crossed the equator twice.
Many years have passed since then
Those years of sacrifice.
Many brave souls lived before now
Unwept and unknown by their face.
Lost somewhere in the distant night
Till a poet chronicles their grace.
True bravery is shown by performing
Without witness, what one might be
Capable of before the world
Without any or all to see.
How great the brave who rest in peace
All blessings from heaven to earth.
They gave our country but their best
Those destined to be brave from birth.
Sunday, December the seventh
In the year of 1941,
While most of Hawaii still slept
Came the planes of the Rising Sun.
Waves of bombers and fighters flew
From the decks of the Japanese ships.
While our planes were still on the ground
'Banzai' was spoken from their lips.
The winds of war had been blowing
Across the oceans of our earth
Though not till Pearl had been bombed
Did we realize what freedom's worth.
Wars are fought and won on two fronts
At home and on the battle line.
Both are equally important
When war consumes our heart and mind.
The attack brought us World War II
With death, pain and separation.
All who had served were well aware
Of their sacrifice for nation.
The harder the conflict we sometimes face
The far more glorious is the victory.
Tyranny like hell is tough to defeat
When it raises its head throughout history.
War never leaves a country as it was
When neutrality is a word disregarded.
As the murderous hands of man himself
Are to blame for all who have departed.
D-DAY THE WALL
Over two hundred rangers scaled 'The Wall'
A stone cliff over one hundred feet tall.
Some of them made it all the way to the top
While others fell and perished from their drop.
Those who climbed over, had answered God's call
For men to stop evil once and for all.
They fought the Germans and destroyed their guns
To save the lives of our fathers and sons.
So many years have passed since then
When our world's future was saved by brave men.
We cannot forget the hell they went through
Before the skies, again turned blue.
D-Day raised the curtain on the conflict
That fore shadowed the end of Hitler's dream.
The largest joint combat landing ever
Though the blood from both sides flowed like a stream.
When their boats hit the sand, their ramps went down
And all within paid a visit to hell.
They jumped out to do good for their country
And to kill the enemy without fail.
They fought the Germans, tides, winds and the waves
In conditions not easily foreseen.
By night the battle was in our favor
With bravery, valor, death, and men who scream.
The corpses littered the beach for five miles
Though heroism had carried the day.
With literally thousands dead or wounded
Those who were left were determined to stay.
They faced great odds and chose not to protest
And won the war that put evil to shame.
Most came home, married and raised their babies
But those who could not we recall with pain.
It was June the 4th 1942
As I was floating in the ocean alone
The ship I had sailed on, sank to the bottom
And I thought I would never again, see home.
The Japanese fleet had steamed in from the east
With the intentions of capturing Midway.
Though they were stopped by American war ships
Whose guns, bombs and torpedoes planes saved the day.
All night long, I watched the fireworks of war
And on the second day we turned up the heat.
As big bombers from Hawaii dropped their loads
On Japanese ships who soon chose to retreat.
An imperial pilot came floating close by
Who had been chewed on by the beasts of the sea.
I couldn't help but feel passion for this is man
Who had answered his call just like me.
When it was over, I was plucked from the deep
By men in a lifeboat just after the dawn.
For two days I had watched the battle for, Midway
Now it's quiet and the enemy has gone.
I drifted all night and was loosing my hope
Before by the moon's light I saw dry land.
I floated over and through its reefs to the beach
Where I quickly smoothed out my tracks in the sand.
All I had was my dagger and a canteen
And it was May 4th of 43.
Just me alone on an enemy island
Wasn't a safe place for a sailor to be.
I felt I could kill in less than a heartbeat
If that's what it took for me to survive.
I'd already said thanks so many times
For' God' was the reason I was alive.
Off in the dark, I herd two men's voices
Laughing and talking in a language not mine.
Inch by inch I crept to their campsite
Where on what they were eating, I would soon dine.
I stabbed them both and took their fish, rice and wine
Then ran my way back to the raft by the beach.
Soon I was floating in the ocean again
And far enough out where bullets couldn't reach.
The next day I was picked up by a seaplane
Whose crew spotted my sail from the air.
Once inside and safe, I cried like a child
For the dead whom would forever be there.
It was hard to believe heaven let me live
A farm boy from Kansas, in high school last year.
My girlfriend is blond and she hates it I 'm gone
Though I'm a veteran of battle, death, and fear.
Okinawa was to be our last stop
Before we invaded Japan.
The largest landing of the Pacific war
As our soldiers ran across the sand.
At first our marines were scarcely opposed
But on the fifth day hell they found.
A solid wall of human resistance
Firing their weapons from caves in the ground.
Air power and big guns had little affect
On their cliff forts carved deep in the limestone.
It took man against man to root them out
As flying bullets pierced flesh and bone.
Kamikaze pilots crashed their planes
Knocking out transports and war ships.
As the Imperial air force struck our fleet
Cries of fear and hate spewed from lips.
One hundred, ten thousand Japanese
By the end of the battle were killed.
Over twelve thousand Americans died,
Before, just our flag flew over the field.
BATTLE OF THE ATLANTIC
After the fall of France in 1940
The Germans soon began their own blockade
With most their efforts in the Atlantic
Hoping to cut Britain's flow of war trade.
With fast surface raiders like the Bismarck
Merchant ships caught at sea, had little chance.
The German's small navy sank ship after ship
Till the British Navy destroyed war's romance.
Shipping losses from German U-boats increased
And the battle of the Atlantic seemed lost.
But soon America would enter the war
To defeat freedom's enemies at all cost.
Multitudes would die and their families cry
Before World War II would be fought to its end.
What a waste of mankind, which had lost its mind
Though now, our enemy is our friend.
The truest words, which portray my love
I speak to you from within my heart.
May we always recall how we feel
Though through conflict we're forced to part.
No one can say how long they will last
For life is not everlasting.
Yet most hope to be blessed by love
By he who does our casting.
As the fear of battle bites my flesh
My thoughts of home help keep me sane.
There's no guarantee that I'll survive
But either way, I'll serve without shame.
Should the cold hands of death reach for me
I pray my soul will awake from sleep.
To the voice of God assuring me
That my spirit, He has chosen to keep.
So try to remember while I'm gone
That the person I need most is you.
I'll fight like hell to stay alive
To return home to the love I knew.
When you become a P.O.W.
You find you've lost your liberty and more
The guy with the gun tells you what to do
As you yearn for freedoms you had before.
Your will to survive helps keep you alive
Though sometimes you wish you were dead.
Tortures far beyond any normal mind
And there's no safety, even in your bed.
Bullets, barbwire, searchlights and sharp teeth
Keep you in a place you don't wish to be.
The food is quite awful and sometimes it moves
And you've no choice of what you hear or see.
The lucky are released and return home
Though in their dreams their fate is unsure.
War may be hell, but confinement is worse
Cause afterward you're never as you were.
General quarters, general quarters
All hands man your battle station!
Sunday morning, December the 7th
As war confronted our nation.
We soon found out it wasn't a drill
But instead it was war for real.
As you watch the death of friends and shipmates
It's more anger than fear you feel.
Japanese warplanes came flying in low
As I took aim with my gun sight.
From the deck of a ship anchored at Pearl
Damaged, though crew still eager to fight.
I saw the face of a pilot, who crashed
Surrounded by black smoke and fire.
Some of my bullets must have found their mark.
For his death was but my desire!
Two thousand, three hundred and twenty-three killed
In a battle less than two hours.
With the heart of our Pacific fleet gone
Japan had flexed their naval powers.
The bombing and strafing of ships and troops
Caused our congress to declare full war.
Where many a man laid down his life
Fighting for flag, country and more.
KENNEDY = THE WAR YEARS
After the attack on Pearl Harbor
He applied for sea duty in the war.
Where Lieutenant John F. Kennedy
Became known for his bravery and more.
In the dark hours before dawn
On August 2, of 43.
Kennedy commanded a torpedo boat
Through the blackness of night at sea.
PT 109, was on Solomon's patrol
With a 12-man crew in a plywood craft.
A Japanese destroyer plowed through the night
Ramming and cutting Kennedy's boat in half.
Two of the crew just disappeared
A third was badly burned.
Kennedy himself was thrown to the deck
Where in pain his leadership he earned.
Some of his men had never learned to swim
As he gathered them on the bobbing bow.
The hours passed tell it seemed it would sink
So they made for an island and here's how.
He ordered those who could to swim
The others were to hang on to a beam.
Kennedy grabbed the injured sailor
And off they tread through the ocean stream.
With his teeth clenched on the burnt man's vest straps
Skipper Kennedy swam 3 miles.
5 hours later they all made it
Despite their hardships, sharks, and trials.
The next problem was how to summon up help
Without arousing the enemy all around.
After several attempts swimming to other islands
Eventually two natives in a canoe were found.
Kennedy scratch a note on a coconut
To be delivered to a base 38 miles away.
The message made it and they were saved
And their courage still lives today.
World War-I gave us the flyboys
Who flew by the seat of their pants.
Many would never return from war
While others survived by chance.
Their planes were mostly canvas and wood
Gasoline, bullets, bombs and poison gas.
Every pilot carried his own pistol
Wearing leathers, scarf and goggles of glass.
Aviators had no Parachutes
To escape their burning plane.
Many were forced to jump to their death
Or self inflect a bullet to the brain.
Blimps where known as battleships of the sky
The roar of their engines gave reason for fear.
They flew so high they were hard to shoot down
Hiding above clouds till their targets drew near.
Tracer bullets for the first time were used
In the guns of airplanes to set blimps afire.
The skies became man's highway of death
With duty and honor their driving desire.
How many flyboys have we lost since then
Those days of the Great War and more?
Where do we get such brave souls of chance
Who rise from the rest in the battles of war?
THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
In 1860 life was good
Till its simple-ness ceased one day.
The North wished to save the Union
While the South chose to break away.
America was torn apart
As six hundred thousand died.
Throughout four years of total war
Women without husbands cried.
The sad fact of the Civil War
Is what was left at its end.
Too many times, men's evil acts
Destroyed both foe and friend.
The problem was, once it began
There was no peace or compromise.
Total victory must be proclaimed
Before rage would leave men's eyes.
Destroy all that helps the enemy
Was the cry of either side.
Anything to obtain victory
As death on horseback did ride.
Black men dressed in old uniforms
Became the Union's reserve.
They fought and died for their freedom
And their rights they earned and deserve.
Lifestyles would forever change
For all who survived the war.
It had ended as it began
With sadness, misery and more.
Both sides prayed to the same God
And spoke words from the Bible.
The prayers of both were not answered
For all involved were liable.
BLACK POWDER BRIDGE
A courier rider hands his papers to me
They are instructions from Robert E. Lee.
I am advised now is the time
To stop the troop movement on the Rock Island line.
I muster my men and they load up the boats
We powder our pistols and darken our coats.
Traveling the currents, the sun slips from sight
As brave men with a purpose have gathered to fight.
We capture a bridge before the moonrise
The Yankees who are here shall soon feed the flies.
The evil of war feeds on my brain
As I light the fuse to destroy a train.
Above us a trestle of timber and tar
As we pull our oars for a willowed sandbar.
From the banks of the river; we watch it approach
There's shadows of soldiers, in the windows of a coach.
With a burst of bright yellow and a roar in my ear
I hear them scream as they 're falling in fear.
The river is boiling in steam, steel and stems
Back home their families shall soon sing funeral hymns.
The one lone survivor was a red stallion stud
I lassoed his neck, and freed him from the mud.
As I ride in his saddle beneath the stars that shine
I pray for forgiveness and some peace of mind.
War is a lesson we re eager to learn
When man has that fever to murder and burn.
Lord, please forgive me for what I have done
For all those I've silenced were some mother's son.
THE FEVER OF FEAR
Cannons are bursting hot metal from the ground.
Soldiers are looting and burning our town.
The fever of fear rushes through my veins
As too many Bluecoats jump from troop trains.
Smoke from hot barrels is swirling around
As four thousand muskets volley their sound.
All of my comrades have stopped a lead ball
Most cry out, then stumble and fall.
Even the young lad who carried our flag
Now he lies dead as he clings to that rag.
Wagons with the wounded trail blood on the ground
Death and destruction are easily found.
The Generals are crying 'cause they can't stand defeat
But it's always the soldier who dies on his feet.
Horse hooves are pounding on a bridge made of boards
As the sunlight reflects from the blades of their swords.
Quickly I hide out in the roots of a tree
Where the dirt has eroded and there's just room for me.
After dark I sneak out with the cover of fog
Then float down the river, as I cling to a log.
Songs of their victory, ring out through the night
While from the cold, muddy water, I see their firelight.
It makes me remember my old country church
Where the preacher spoke God's word from his holy perch.
That the seed of all conflict began in a cave
When man, like the wild wolf had to prove he was brave.
THUNDER IN THE GROUND
Cannons are bellowing from a ridge far away
The battle lines are forming and there's little time to pray.
Musket balls are pelting like hailstones from the sky
I'm so full of fear cause I don 't want to die.
From beyond yonder hill comes a terrifying sound
It's the music of the buglers and there's thunder in the ground.
The fast-riding troopers have all drawn out their swords.
They 're shouting and screaming as they charge up the gorge.
It's hard to believe how many make it through
As they're hacking and shooting at the boys dressed in blue.
Then come the soldier men who run upon their feet
Every time I dropp one, my heart skips a beat.
There's a storm on the ground made of death, dust and smoke
My throat is so dry, I can 't help but choke.
The fury of the battle is bound to settle down
When most of the fighters lie dead on the ground.
After dark, the stretcher-bearers are afraid to search around
The wild hogs eat the wounded and I can 't stand the sound.
Come dawn, we dig ditches for all the brave, lifeless men
Then quote words from our Bible praying heaven lets them in.
When you chain the neck of a slave
The other end fastens to you.
Your heart and soul become corrupt
And all which is evil you'll do.
No government shall exist for long
Who's people are not really free.
Though around the world there are those
Who stay blind to how life should be.
Any who must enslave others
Will dwell in their own living hell
After death, they'll join their master
In that place from heaven he fell.
But till then we'll fight and resist
Making them put their chains away.
And those of us who may die first
From heaven shall watch and pray
BROTHER AGAINST BROTHER
In the course of becoming officers
The young men of West Point bonded like brothers.
Till roomers of Civil War transformed friend to foe
As many cadets chose to serve others.
Fifty-five of sixty major battles fought
Were lead by graduates of the long gray line.
Yankees and Rebels ravaged one another
For to kill and plunder were virtues of the time.
Over six hundred thousand soldiers were consumed
Not counting multitudes of population.
Cities, farms and the countryside were laid to waste
Before our Union was restored to a nation.
THE LITTLEST SOLDIER
Nine year old Johnny Clem who stood just four feet tall
Ran away from Ohio to answer his country's call.
He joined up with the Union and became a drummer boy
Soon to prove the gun he wore was far more than a toy.
Armed with a sawed-off musket, cut down to just fit him
He shot a Rebel horseman who tried to do him in.
Awarded his sergeant's stripes and the silver medal
His comrades offered him hot coffee from their kettle.
The newspapers of the North, gladly published his story
Telling of the nine year old who earned his country's glory.
The moon is sky high
And perfectly round
As it highlights the beauty
Of disputed ground.
Life is a journey
Where the passage is free.
After, there's judgment
By the living and Thee.
We'll survive if we can.
Death and dismemberment
By the hand of man.
Some will stumble
With absence of breath.
While others charge
Into the face of death.
We'll race toward the battle
And pray for the best
We pass God's test.
Their red and blue, ragtag flag stood out
Against their dust covered uniforms of gray.
Savagely we fought to kill our enemy
As the battle raged on in the heat of the day
Volley after volley we put forth our blaze
With thousands of led balls snapping flesh and bone.
Blistering sweat rolled down every face
As the tunes of war by bugles were blown.
There was a clanking sound of ramrods in barrels
As each new lead ball was loaded and fired.
Some shot aimlessly into the smoke
While others took aim at the worn and tired.
Bullets were popping like the fourth of July
Yet our enemy kept surging ahead.
All at once they broke and ran off in groups
Scattering as for the forest they fled.
From behind the protection of a stacked-stone wall
The victorious cheered or just sat starring
At all the bodies of friend and foe
While for the wounded the surgeons were caring.
Soon the war was over and I survived
Despite it's brutality on trampled ground.
From boy to man I was transformed
Though, still in the night I hear its sound.
LEAF ON THE WATER
America's East Coast was settled by the Brits
As the Indians rule began to recede.
After many a battle, they lost their land
Giving into the white man's power and greed.
In years to come like a leaf on the water
The Indians were swept away by the white man.
As trappers and pioneers pushing westward
Brought death and disease to the land.
With the white settlements came the fur traders
Followed by soldiers, forts, whiskey and form tools.
None of which helped the Indians to survive
Who chose to wage war, and break the white man's rules.
Many treaties were made, just to be broken
By those eager for land, timber, furs and gold.
Prospectors arrived to plunder the land
And to be farmers, the Indians were told.
The combat raged on, to the western prairie
Over mountains and down through the desert sand.
Indians proved to be formidable foe
As both sides fought from afar and hand-to-hand.
Lieutenant Colonel Custer, led his cavalry
In search of fame and tribal disgrace.
But instead he and his men were butchered
By hostile Indians with paint on their face.
Around the campfires of Rosebud and Pine Ridge
Singing warriors danced till Sitting Bull's death.
Most were forced to surrender at Wounded Knee
Where many sad Indian would draw their last breath.
With their fighting spirit completely broken
And their ancient tribal ways forever gone.
Proud Indians were moved to reservations
Where their once great history in song lives on.
THE HINGE OF HISTORY
The hinge of history swings in all directions
As the happenings of the past are written down.
Out of all that has occurred since man's beginnings
Less has been recorded than waits to be found.
Babylonians kept chronicles of history
Hebrews wrote the past as a dramatic story.
Greeks had no faith in the future at all
Believing mans repeated errors doom his glory.
Christians added a new dimension to history
Looking forward to Christ's return to earth.
An on going drama involving man and God
Believing all are created of equal worth.
Some have asked why must we study history
It just encourages us to live in the past.
When we forget history we repeat its mistakes
As the outcome of humanity is cast.
The leaves of the cottonwoods hung motionless
As outside the walls Santa Anna's horde closed in.
A small band of Texans watched and waited
Preoccupied by combat and how life would end.
The battle raged from building to building
Till the old mission's chapel was the last to fall.
Over 180 Texans died fighting to the man
Never to yield, surrender or crawl.
Six weeks later Sam Houston rallied his forces
With 'Remember the Alamo' as their battle cry.
Attacking and defeating Santa Anna's army
To win independence for Texas or die.
The Spanish word for 'cottonwood' is 'Alamo'
The long time popular name for the mission.
Today the stout-walled old chapel still stands
Preserved as a shrine of sacrifice and tradition.
GENERAL WASHINGTON AT WAR
Once in command, he boxed in the British
At Boston where he captured Dorchester Heights
Overlooking the Brits at his mercy
As his men took aim with their cannon sites.
The British commander had but one choice
To sail to New York to renew the fight.
Where the English had much greater forces
Who soon chased Washington's men in full flight.
They continued on to Pennsylvania
After crossing the Hudson in retreat
With the British forces in hot pursuit
It looked as though George was doomed to defeat.
When winter seemed to have stopped the fighting
That's when Washington crossed the Delaware.
On that Christmas night he captured Trenton
Where Hessians were surprised and unaware.
He whipped the British at Princeton
Where in victory his men began to sing.
Washington then wintered at Morristown
Training his troops for the combat of spring.
Washington fought bravely at Brandywine
And again at a place called Germantown
But the British were the victorious ones
As the dead of both sides covered the ground
Americans were blessed early that spring
When the French entered the war on their side.
Though most suffered frostbite at Valley Forge
With the help of the French they marched in stride.
The battles raged on, in the North and South
As the King's soldiers laid waste to the land.
Washington himself was in great despair
Pleading for aid for his weakened command.
His prayers were answered by 5000 troops
And a French fleet who took Chesapeake Bay.
They bottled up Cornwallis at Yorktown
Who surrendered to victory drums at play.
Yorktown was really the end of the war
Though not many quite realized that fact yet.
But the British soon grew tired of the fight
And the terms for its end were signed and set.
Washington yearned to retire at home
But his country chose him first president.
Cheering crowds waved flags of love and support
For they believed that 'he, ' by God, was sent.
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My Father Away From Home
T still smell
the pervasive urine
in my sleep
the old nursing home
of lost teeth
and too much sleep
the seeping sores
that never heal
an ignominious end
to a valiant life
of silent courage.
(Father poems) In the name of the father
Is a deranged drug addict
Who refuses to listen to the experts
The junkie just won't kick the habit
And the son is a teen drug peddler who
Who sells drugs at school
His father is an alcoholic
The unrepentant drug dealer has sold
His soul to the devil and liquor
The drunkard has a master's degree
In alcohols abuse and he can teach
The suicidal to misuse liquor and
Pay the price with their own lives
His wife abuser of a father assaults
His mother routinely in front of his
Own children party as a chore but mainly
To prove what's meant by it's a man's world
And the boy watches with baleful admiration
Thus is born a girl hater and a serial rapist
His father is maniacal tiger at home and
A coward of a bleating harmless lamb
In the streets who pays protection fee
To the gangsters who fear no wife beater
And the son grows up in the name of the father
He himself becomes a deluded drug dealer
And loony of a wife abuser
His own son too will grow up and continue
The family trade of drug abuse and wife
Battering and the grandson too and the great
Grandson...you see it runs through the family
Nursing Home Neglect
I've seen those who are suffering very bad
Those whose mere existence very sad
I am blessed to be well and alive each day
For those people I continue to pray
I have seen so much neglect and abuse
For the young and elderly never a truce
So hopelessly lying in their beds, day in day out
They can't say a word, just an occasional shout
Have to lie in their waste most of the time
Their bodies covered with dirt and grime
Does anyone out there really care?
Or is this a cross for the poor elderly to bear
They can't eat or drink when they need to
It's not their decision, not part of the crew
Their minds are gone and they can't remember
So taken advantage of, a smoldering ember
They have no control over their life anymore
Often found in their rooms, laying on the floor
The cuts on their head, don't know what happened
They either fell or had a good slapping
Call an ambulance they say out loud
Keep it quiet, don't want a crowd
They can't tell the hospital, what happened to them
Can't remember anything, the home was a gem
Many broken bones and cuts on their face
Is this normal routine at this horrible place
So bad an infection, that they finally die
Who's to blame, the death certificates a lie
The hospital doesn't report the neglect
It's not their problem, what the heck
The doctor lies to make it so easy
Has no consience, he's pretty sleazy
If you have a loved, better check where you put them
Because most of them are bad and need condemned
My mother is gone to a better place now
It's in heaven, where there is plenty of chow
She is not neglected or abused anymore
God knows what happens, and isn't found in the floor
She's singing and dancing and waiting for me
She's sad no longer but full of glee
God will restore what was done to her
Since she's in heaven with her new transfer!
A home with grandma
Not all the homes are lucky to have grandmother
Children love grandma even more than mother
They have less attachment with the father
Grandma is all the time there to bother
She is generous and vast sea of affection
Al children are taken of with full care and attention
Grandma is such personality at home that needs no mention
She is there for all practical purpose for any prevention
She may guide us as to how the things are to be passed of or gone
Nothing escapes from her mind as it is practically performed or done
She has no forgone conclusions but with practical remedy
She also offers us stories with so much truth in comedy
Grandmamma remains so much healthy and stout
She has seen the ages with experience and knows all about
She has passed off all the storms at ease
She has now the big task to get it released
It is always nice to find elderly woman in home
She is protective cover for all the times to come
She is there to entertain us with all the dignity
The home is fine place to find her with all the qualities
What else can we expect from lovable grandma?
She moves in home with all her stamina
Sometimes we feel shame to walk with her
She complains about nothing and makes us to bother
It is honor to address her as grandma
She is no less important than papa
It is our luck that we have somebody to look after
The life would have turned us into miser
She is source of towering strength and inspiration
She is sought after by all children and asks for narration
She may have all the stories to be told with great effect
It is her gorgeous part that instills the confidence and will power to act
All the children are good listener
She is preferred to and remains as great admirer
It is easy to make joke or laugh it out
Dignity and personal honor is all about
It is honor and simple craze
Elderly women are considered in good phrase
Concealment of age makes it difficult and not easy
Still grandma remain at help of affairs and makes it rosy
One should be cautious while dealing with elderly person
They are easily offended for no reason
Their honor and dignity must be preserved at all the costs
After all it is pride that has to be counted as sacred most
A Story Of Father And Son
THE STORY OF FATHER AND SON
In thy world, any one is for none,
But thee Father for son.
Wishes had he many when thy son opened his eyes,
From then he would search the aim in his childish eyes.
Be his son, great, greater, greatest than the father, sang in his daily’s prayer,
Empty they would starve but provide thy son bread & butter,
The half-battled wishes, which he could not, in his life time,
Fulfill would the son make, hopes had he many.
School he sent, books he provided,
To make his son greater than thee.
Taking huge sum he taught to make his child literate,
Thinking of the hopes that he has, which his son would make fulfill.
Good result in turn provided the son,
Happiness filled in the heart of thee, and all the sadness was gone.
More & more good result he expected,
And the son fulfilled the wishes of thee at best.
Waited for the job, thee for son,
Got-And distributed sweets both father and son.
Thought for the half-battled hopes which he would now fulfill,
And the son, till the partner, fulfills.
When the partner comes,
Thinks thee extra and grows dislike.
Every day thee’s gray eyes saw him,
The eyes would see the son’s disliking for thee.
Day’s past would think thee,
Of starving and feeding his old age’s stick.
Till the partner, the stick was a stick,
And thee thinks some day the stick would kick,
Alas! it happens,
Left their house, thee with his partner,
The house where he dreamt high thoughts,
All thoughts and wishes was now in ruined.
Lived happily the son with his partner,
Once a cry heard from Peter’s house,
That was the little junior partner,
Both they had.
Expectations had he many,
As their junior opened his eyes.
Did the same as thee did for him,
And the child in turn did the same as he did with thee.
The real mystery could he understand now,
Pain of old age, before the son, made his head bow.
Thought of his old father who left the home but didn’t bow,
Felt proud of his father and did the same now.
Pain of old age he could understand now,
Says the father before leaving home now-
“Till birth who cared you, loved you their love is no fair but the partner’s love has more value”
Whispers in the ear of his little son-“Don’t do the same”
And said-“Long live my son, god bless you” and departed.
This time the real thing fascinated the son,
He tried to keep them but none.
Felt lonely the son,
And got the punishment, for he has done.
MANISH KUMAR MAJUMDAR,
Any Recommendation: -
Manish Kumar Majumdar,
C/o-Mr.Arun Kumar Majumdar
Log In to Orkut and find Manish in Bhadrak
I was wandering through the Nursing Home
In the town of Morton Rise,
Seeking an old and weathered face
That I'd known in another guise,
For Richard Spratt was my father's friend
That I hadn't seen for years,
I was going to let him know his friend
Had taken a turn for the worse.
The eyes that stared from the armchairs there
Were blank, and devoid of pain,
They'd taken the pills that dulled them down
So they wouldn't be restrained,
The nurses treated them all as fools
This gross humanity,
Whose only sin was they'd given in
To age, and infirmity.
It was all so very depressing, I
Imagined my future there,
Staring in immobility
From the prison of one of their chairs,
Waiting my turn to be spoon-fed
By a very impatient nurse,
Who shovelled the food all over my chin
As I sat, and inwardly cursed.
I wandered the home there, room by room
In search of his friendly face,
This Richard Spratt in a cricketer's hat
I remembered from Ambergate,
He'd batted a decent fifty, while
My father polished the ball,
And took five wickets alone that day
In his bowling, over all.
It was nigh on forty years before
That I'd watched them play as a child,
Out on the green at Ambergate
With the weather, warm and mild,
But the years dismay as they pass away
And my father grew so old,
Now he lay in bed in a kind of dread
As the bell of his lifetime tolled.
I said that I'd find his friend for him
And let him know, at the last,
That he was remembered, thick and thin
For a friendship, forged in the past,
There were days when they both had sunny skies
And met each day with a grin,
But time drew shrouds like storm-filled clouds
And the end was looking grim.
I heard a shout from a private room
And went to investigate,
Quite a commotion in the gloom,
I hoped I wasn't too late,
And there was a nurse stood over him
In a wheelchair, Richard Spratt,
He'd thrown his meds all over the room
And sat in his cricketer's hat.
‘You know what to do with your pills, you witch, '
He shouted, and turned to see
Just who was stood in the doorway, I
Was grinning from ear to ear,
‘Well I'll be… You can get out of here! '
He said to the wayward nurse,
Who said, ‘If you're going to be like that…'
And left the room, with a curse.
I told the news of my father then
And I swear, he sat and cried,
Just a couple of tears escaped
That he hid, he still had pride,
‘Life is a trail of sorrow, son,
But we're all on the same long train,
Your dad and I in the tunnel, while
Your carriage is still on the plain.'
‘What do you value of life the most? '
I saw the pain in his eyes,
‘Youth was that great and precious thing
That with age, you realise!
I'd give it all for an hour to spend
In the glow of my lady's eyes,
The touch of her skin and a hint of sin
But the thing that we love, it dies! '
‘I've often thought of those balmy days
On the green in our cricket whites,
And think I hear the crack of the ball
On the willow of sweet delight,
I remember your father's terse ‘Howzat! '
When he scattered another's bails,
Now I sit in this prisoning wheelchair, here
And all I can hear are wails.'
‘Wails from the ones who want to die,
Wails that they want to live,
The future is lost to the best of us
We have but the past to give.
You'd like to know how I feel right now,
Like a leopard, caught in a cage,
If only I could be young once more…
But all that I feel is rage! '
4 October 2012
For years, the 'Muse of the Heavenly Gates'
Had stood in the shade of a country lane,
Quietly tending its residents there,
The old, the feeble, the stark insane.
The blurb said, here was a heaven on earth
For the old to pass their declining years,
It said they lived in a quiet content,
The truth was actually quite the reverse.
For Matron Margaret Parker-Lang was
A nun, expelled from the Carmelites,
'Too much of the world', they said of her,
When caught indulging in base delights.
The years had hardened, had turned her hair
An iron grey, and her eyes were cold,
She only smiled when the visitors came
To pay the fees for their aged, in gold.
She didn't encourage their visits, though:
'It's hard, you see, and they get upset,
Best to remember them how they were,
Their memories fade, then they forget.'
Few would revisit the Heavenly Gates,
They left them safe in the nurse's care,
Who drugged the residents every night
So none could complain of their treatment there.
They gathered them all in a stupor, sat
In rows, in front of a giant screen,
Then played them movies in black and white
'Til half the residents there could scream.
The food was bland and inedible,
So soon they wasted to skin and bone,
And those who thought to protest would find
They'd confiscated their telephone.
The visiting Locum, Doctor Zourk,
Had quite a collection of things antique,
Whenever he'd visit a prospect's home,
They'd be committed, within the week.
Then he and the Matron would take their pick
Of anything there that took the eye,
If anyone later complained, they'd say:
'He'd put it out for the rubbish guy! '
But once in 'The Muse of the Heavenly Gates'
The trap would spring, the shades come down,
They'd flourish the papers and help him sign
His house and his title deeds to them.
Again, when his mind was wandering
The Matron would sit, and hold his hand:
'Organ donation, that's the thing,
If you could help, that would be grand! '
I was away in China, when
My father went to the Heavenly Gates,
A note from the Matron said, 'He's fine!
Our lawyers will help him to sort his estate.'
I must have been deaf to the warning bells,
My mind was focused, I let it be,
I never once thought of the Chinese Box
That I'd taken home on a previous leave.
I'd happened on it in a Curio Shop
In the winding back streets of Xi'an,
I'd never quite managed to puzzle it out
And finally left the old box at home.
I knew it was ancient, marked and scored,
With a funny old Chinese symbol too,
The Chinese owner had bowed and smiled
When I asked what the box could really do.
It came as a shock when my father died,
We'd not been together for quite a spell,
By the time that I got back home again,
They'd taken his organs, eyes as well.
Unknown to me, he had signed a form
That I knew he'd not in the world have done,
To give them the right to his organs, once
He had passed away, and his race was run.
I was angry then, but I went on home
And braced myself for another shock,
Things were missing, a Chinese screen
And my beautiful, ancient Chinese Box.
My back was up, my suspicions rife
I sought out the Matron then, to talk,
But found her dead on the slab back there,
Dismembered by locum, Doctor Zourk.
He'd taken some of her organs out,
They sat in the open fridge nearby,
But then she coughed, and she sat up straight,
Let out a horrible, piercing cry.
The doctor staggered and ran from the room
Like a sprinter, racing right out of the blocks,
'Watch for that old antique, ' she hissed,
'The dragon that came in the Chinese Box! '
She was breathing for barely a minute more
As she fell back onto the blood-soaked deck,
But what she managed to whisper there
Made the hairs rise up on the back of my neck,
She'd solved the puzzle and opened the box
When the drawer slid out with a sudden bang,
For what had jumped out and bitten her then
Was the Dragon of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
The dragon's venom had paralyzed her,
So Zourk had thought she was good and dead,
He'd wanted the Box for himself, you see,
But she had raided our house, instead.
He thought he could sell her organs then,
And pick up the box as a plus, as well,
Collectors become more fanatical when
On that short sharp road to a personal hell!
The Box sits there by the mantelpiece
Wherever I travel, or think to roam,
I've travelled on back to China, so
The Dragon will feel that it's safe at home.
I heard that the Doctor is doing time
For the gruesome murder of Matron Lang,
Thank God - I haven't been introduced
To the Dragon of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.
25 October 2008
As It Begins With A Brush Stroke On A Snare Drum
The plaza was so still in that moment two years ago that
everything was clear,
As if it had been preserved beneath a kind of lacquered
stillness, &, for a while,
I did not even notice the pigeons lifting above the sad tiles
Or how they must have sounded like applause that is not
meant for anyone;
I must not have noticed that blind woman on the corner who
For a living, who had one eye swelled shut entirely while
the other, a thin film
Of glaucoma over it that had taken on the lustreless sheen
of a nickel,
Was held wide open to witness spittle on the curb. And soon
In their sun-bleached military uniforms were tuning up beneath
the blossom of rust
Covering the gazebo, its eaves festooned with the off-white
spiderwebs of unlit Christmas lights.
And that girl, Socorro, her smile surfacing voluptuously as
an unspoken thought
Again, was selling gardenias—their petals already beginning
Faintly discolored around the edges—from a basket she carried
on her head
In an unwobbling stillness; Martin was selling chicklets but
no one bought
Chicklets anymore; no one bought the little squawking birds
or the cheap stone
Animals turned out on a lathe in Veracruz, either; no one
wanted his shoes shined.
By then the band was playing show tunes from My Fair Lady
& South Pacific & was
Interrupted only once because of a routine demonstration by
the Communists, who,
Mostly, were demonstrating because it was Sunday & because
that is what they did,
On Sundays. After a while I started walking vaguely away
beside some fading stonework,
Which in fact is not called Our Lady of Perfect Solitude nor
even Our Sister
Of Perpetual Solitude, but simply Santo Domingo. I do not
know why I walked near it then,
& passed without entering.
Still, in the painting the children kept skating, & the others
Walking home from school at this moment in their yellow
The stale smells left on wax paper locked in their lunch pails.
Keeps brushing her hair, & so somewhere it is still 1970 &
the riot police
Are spilling Out of their buses. On the marsh above the
Sound there were egrets,
There were black swans nesting in the rushes; the canal was
warm, & salty.
There was a cabin filling with so much moonlight I almost
believed I could
Dissolve in it if I sat very still, & I sat very still. I watched
Skating at the edge of a pond in his sleep. It was summer
by the time
I finally saw the painting in Brussels & counted each one of
the children as if
To make sure they were still there, & then gradually
lost count, & in the dream
Of the plowman on the hill there must have been the face
of an English poet
Looking as lined as a maple leaf pressed between the pages
of a book. Beneath it
The Danube is gliding, & I am just holding his book now,
not even needing to read it
Anymore as I cross into the frontier—green wheat, alfalfa, a
feeling of distance
In it all like sleep or rain reclaiming some lost, rural Missouri
slum town until
It no longer exists—& now the Hungarian checkpoint, where
guards with stars
The shade of American lipstick on their caps will enter &
seem proud of the unchipped,
Deep blue enamel on their machine guns. Most of them are
just poor teen-agers
From the surrounding villages & farms . . . & innocent, &
The only glamour that is left
On the Orient Express
Is a soiled, torn doily on an armrest.
Rhyme then, rhyme & dream, but in the other painting,
which is not a painting,
They are trudging home from school in the rain which is like
a kind of sleep
When one of them thinks the mind is not the mind in the
First shaping of numbers on a blackboard; it is only the
shadow of a skater over
A white pond. There is a sea beyond it, roughened by
whitecaps, & the mind
Moves first one way, then another, then both ways at once,
& then one long
Glide past the pines that look black from this far away, but
The boy's friend is saying he 'hates school, but only sort
of.' But the child's
Not listening, he is thinking that something he painted was
something he dreamt,
And then some of the dream got mixed in with the paint,
& then with recess,
The afternoon, this long walk in the rain, & now he will
never get it sorted
Out . . . In the story, the boy, falling, must have thought his
father had wings
Unlike his own, & real. That is why the myth is so clear,
& so cruel,
And why we survive it. Yellow rain gear. Black woods. Gray
Is where you can forget some things, the boy is thinking,
because he is
Tired from having to walk for so long & because he has left
At school & his shoes are wet as he unthinkingly turns his
back to me now,
Goes up the worn, slick steps of a front porch, & the door
Because I am not allowed to see it, there is a glass of milk
on the table,
The stairs behind it are dark, & from a narrow upstairs
window there is
A glimpse of the sea, & later, in his dream, there is sometimes
And then it is more like a story about a father, & then it is
the hush of ice
Over a pond's surface. In spring, when it begins to thaw,
there is a little
Noise underneath it like steel sighing, if steel could sigh as
it seems to,
Sometimes—when you are walking home alone on a trestle
above a river & there
Is a broken pattern of geese above it, a vee decomposing, a
sky mottled with blue
And some clouds. It is like a father dissolving, & setting you
free, & what
Has the father ever achieved that will outlast his own
vanishing? And so
The boy spits over the raillng & watches the silvery web
of it falling
And thinning until it is gossamer, a filament untying itself
forever & saying
Exactly what forever always meant to say—that this long pull
of spring tide in the river
Needs nothing, nothing except its one momentary witness,
a boy pausing
Above it all on a bridge.
In Oaxaca, after the bomb went off, there were nevertheless
a few seconds . . .
A pure stillness in which I could hear the fountain in the
plaza, distant traffic,
The sudden silence of birds. Then everyone was rushing
through the streets
Toward a place where sound had been, a place that wasn't
there. It is funny,
But the sound of a bomb, a few seconds after it has gone
off, is no longer even
Surprising. In a little while it seems only right, & sad. I sat
in the balcony of a restaurant
Overlooking it all, & read a poem by Alberto Blanco in the
magazine edited by Paz,
And waited for the place to open, & in the next hour watched
Gradually fill with the usual crowds . . . those who love, or
those who think they love,
Novelty; & change.
Saltbush Bill's Second Flight
The news came down on the Castlereagh, and went to the world at large,
That twenty thousand travelling sheep, with Saltbush Bill in charge,
Were drifting down from a dried-out run to ravage the Castlereagh;
And the squatters swore when they heard the news, and wished they were well away:
For the name and the fame of Saltbush Bill were over the country-side
For the wonderful way that he fed his sheep, and the dodges and tricks he tried.
He would lose his way on a Main Stock Route, and stray to the squatters' grass;
He would come to a run with the boss away, and swear he had leave to pass;
And back of all and behind it all, as well the squatters knew,
If he had to fight, he would fight all day, so long as his sheep got through:
But this is the story of Stingy Smith, the owner of Hard Times Hill,
And the way that he chanced on a fighting man to reckon with Saltbush Bill.
'Twas Stingy Smith on his stockyard sat, and prayed for an early Spring,
When he started at sight of a clean-shaved tramp, who walked with a jaunty swing;
For a clean-shaved tramp with a jaunty walk a-swinging along the track
Is as rare a thing as a feathered frog on the desolate roads out back.
So the tramp he made for the travellers' hut, to ask could he camp the night;
But Stingy Smith had a bright idea, and called to him, "Can you fight?"
"Why, what's the game?" said the clean-shaved tramp, as he looked at him up and down;
"If you want a battle, get off that fence, and I'll kill you for half-a-crown!
But, Boss, you'd better not fight with me -- it wouldn't be fair nor right;
I'm Stiffener Joe, from the Rocks Brigade, and I killed a man in a fight:
I served two years for it, fair and square, and now I'm trampin' back,
To look for a peaceful quiet life away on the outside track."
"Oh, it's not myself, but a drover chap," said Stingy Smith with glee,
"A bullying fellow called Saltbush Bill, and you are the man for me.
He's on the road with his hungry sheep, and he's certain to raise a row,
For he's bullied the whole of the Castlereagh till he's got them under cow --
Just pick a quarrel and raise a fight, and leather him good and hard,
And I'll take good care that his wretched sheep don't wander a half a yard.
It's a five-pound job if you belt him well -- do anything short of kill,
For there isn't a beak on the Castlereagh will fine you for Saltbush Bill."
"I'll take the job," said the fighting man; "and, hot as this cove appears,
He'll stand no chance with a bloke like me, what's lived on the game for years;
For he's maybe learnt in a boxing school, and sparred for a round or so,
But I've fought all hands in a ten-foot ring each night in a travelling show;
They earned a pound if they stayed three rounds, and they tried for it every night.
In a ten-foot ring! Oh, that's the game that teaches a bloke to fight,
For they'd rush and clinch -- it was Dublin Rules, and we drew no colour line;
And they all tried hard for to earn the pound, but they got no pound of mine.
If I saw no chance in the opening round I'd slog at their wind, and wait
Till an opening came -- and it always came -- and I settled 'em, sure as fate;
Left on the ribs and right on the jaw -- and, when the chance comes, make sure!
And it's there a professional bloke like me gets home on an amateur:
For it's my experience every day, and I make no doubt it's yours,
That a third-class pro is an over-match for the best of the amateurs --"
"Oh, take your swag to the travellers' hut," said Smith, "for you waste your breath;
You've a first-class chance, if you lose the fight, of talking your man to death.
I'll tell the cook you're to have your grub, and see that you eat your fill,
And come to the scratch all fit and well to leather this Saltbush Bill."
'Twas Saltbush Bill, and his travelling sheep were wending their weary way
On the Main Stock Route, through the Hard Times Run, on their six-mile stage a day;
And he strayed a mile from the Main Stock Route, and started to feed along,
And when Stingy Smith came up Bill said that the Route was surveyed wrong;
And he tried to prove that the sheep had rushed and strayed from their camp at night,
But the fighting man he kicked Bill's dog, and of course that meant a fight.
So they sparred and fought, and they shifted ground, and never a sound was heard
But the thudding fists on their brawny ribs, and the seconds' muttered word,
Till the fighting man shot home his left on the ribs with a mighty clout,
And his right flashed up with a half-arm blow -- and Saltbush Bill "went out".
He fell face down, and towards the blow; and their hearts with fear were filled,
For he lay as still as a fallen tree, and they thought that he must be killed.
So Stingy Smith and the fighting man, they lifted him from the ground,
And sent back home for a brandy-flask, and they slowly fetched him round;
But his head was bad, and his jaw was hurt -- in fact, he could scarcely speak --
So they let him spell till he got his wits; and he camped on the run a week,
While the travelling sheep went here and there, wherever they liked to stray,
Till Saltbush Bill was fit once more for the track to the Castlereagh.
Then Stingy Smith he wrote a note, and gave to the fighting man:
'Twas writ to the boss of the neighbouring run, and thus the missive ran:
"The man with this is a fighting man, one Stiffener Joe by name;
He came near murdering Saltbush Bill, and I found it a costly game:
But it's worth your while to employ the chap, for there isn't the slightest doubt
You'll have no trouble from Saltbush Bill while this man hangs about."
But an answer came by the next week's mail, with news that might well appal:
"The man you sent with a note is not a fighting man at all!
He has shaved his beard, and has cut his hair, but I spotted him at a look;
He is Tom Devine, who has worked for years for Saltbush Bill as cook.
Bill coached him up in the fighting yard, and taught him the tale by rote,
And they shammed to fight, and they got your grass, and divided your five-pound note.
'Twas a clean take-in; and you'll find it wise -- 'twill save you a lot of pelf --
When next you're hiring a fighting man, just fight him a round yourself."
And the teamsters out on the Castlereagh, when they meet with a week of rain,
And the waggon sinks to its axle-tree, deep down in the black-soil plain,
When the bullocks wade in a sea of mud, and strain at the load of wool,
And the cattle-dogs at the bullocks' heels are biting to make them pull,
When the off-side driver flays the team, and curses tham while he flogs,
And the air is thick with the language used, and the clamour of men and dogs --
The teamsters say, as they pause to rest and moisten each hairy throat,
They wish they could swear like Stingy Smith when he read that neighbour's note.
Number 3 on the Docket
The lawyer, are you?
Well! I ain't got nothin' to say.
I told the perlice I hadn't nothin'.
They know'd real well 'twas me.
Ther warn't no supposin',
Ketchin' me in the woods as they did,
An' me in my house dress.
Folks don't walk miles an' miles
In the drifted snow,
With no hat nor wrap on 'em
Ef everythin's all right, I guess.
All right? Ha! Ha! Ha!
Nothin' warn't right with me.
Oh, Lord! Why did I do it?
Why ain't it yesterday, and Ed here agin?
Many's the time I've set up with him nights
When he had cramps, or rheumatizm, or somethin'.
I used ter nurse him same's ef he was a baby.
I wouldn't hurt him, I love him!
Don't you dare to say I killed him. 'Twarn't me!
Somethin' got aholt o' me. I couldn't help it.
Oh, what shall I do! What shall I do!
I beg your pardon, I - I -
Oh, I'm a wicked woman!
An' I'm desolate, desolate!
Why warn't I struck dead or paralyzed
Afore my hands done it.
Oh, my God, what shall I do!
No, Sir, ther ain't no extenuatin' circumstances,
An' I don't want none.
I want a bolt o' lightnin'
To strike me dead right now!
Oh, I'll tell yer.
But it won't make no diff'rence.
Yes, I killed him.
Why do yer make me say it?
It's cruel! Cruel!
I killed him because o' th' silence.
The long, long silence,
That watched all around me,
And he wouldn't break it.
I tried to make him,
Time an' agin,
But he was terrible taciturn, Ed was.
He never spoke 'cept when he had to,
An' then he'd only say 'yes' and 'no'.
You can't even guess what that silence was.
I'd hear it whisperin' in my ears,
An' I got frightened, 'twas so thick,
An' al'ays comin' back.
Ef Ed would ha' talked sometimes
It would ha' driven it away;
But he never would.
He didn't hear it same as I did.
You see, Sir,
Our farm was off'n the main road,
And set away back under the mountain;
And the village was seven mile off,
Measurin' after you'd got out o' our lane.
We didn't have no hired man,
'Cept in hayin' time;
An' Dane's place,
That was the nearest,
Was clear way 'tother side the mountain.
They used Marley post-office
An' ours was Benton.
Ther was a cart-track took yer to Dane's in Summer,
An' it warn't above two mile that way,
But it warn't never broke out Winters.
I used to dread the Winters.
Seem's ef I couldn't abear to see the golden-rod bloomin';
Winter'd come so quick after that.
You don't know what snow's like when yer with it
Day in an' day out.
Ed would be out all day loggin',
An' I set at home and look at the snow
Layin' over everythin';
It 'ud dazzle me blind,
Till it warn't white any more, but black as ink.
Then the quiet 'ud commence rushin' past my ears
Till I most went mad listenin' to it.
Many's the time I've dropped a pan on the floor
Jest to hear it clatter.
I was most frantic when dinner-time come
An' Ed was back from the woods.
I'd ha' give my soul to hear him speak.
But he'd never say a word till I asked him
Did he like the raised biscuits or whatever,
An' then sometimes he'd jest nod his answer.
Then he'd go out agin,
An' I'd watch him from the kitchin winder.
It seemed the woods come marchin' out to meet him
An' the trees 'ud press round him an' hustle him.
I got so I was scared o' th' trees.
I thought they come nearer,
Every day a little nearer,
Closin' up round the house.
I never went in t' th' woods Winters,
Though in Summer I liked 'em well enough.
It warn't so bad when my little boy was with us.
He used to go sleddin' and skatin',
An' every day his father fetched him to school in the pung
An' brought him back agin.
We scraped an' scraped fer Neddy,
We wanted him to have a education.
We sent him to High School,
An' then he went up to Boston to Technology.
He was a minin' engineer,
An' doin' real well,
A credit to his bringin' up.
But his very first position ther was an explosion in the mine.
And I'm glad! I'm glad!
He ain't here to see me now.
I'm your mother still, Neddy.
Don't turn from me like that.
I can't abear it. I can't! I can't!
What did you say?
Oh, yes, Sir.
I'm very sorry,
I don't know what I'm sayin'.
Not till after Neddy died.
'Twas the next Winter the silence come,
I don't remember noticin' it afore.
That was five year ago,
An' it's been gittin' worse an' worse.
I asked Ed to put in a telephone.
I thought ef I felt the whisperin' comin' on
I could ring up some o' th' folks.
But Ed wouldn't hear of it.
He said we'd paid so much for Neddy
We couldn't hardly git along as 'twas.
An' he never understood me wantin' to talk.
Well, this year was worse'n all the others;
We had a terrible spell o' stormy weather,
An' the snow lay so thick
You couldn't see the fences even.
Out o' doors was as flat as the palm o' my hand,
Ther warn't a hump or a holler
Fer as you could see.
It was so quiet
The snappin' o' the branches back in the wood-lot
Sounded like pistol shots.
Ed was out all day
Same as usual.
An' it seemed he talked less'n ever.
He didn't even say `Good-mornin'', once or twice,
An' jest nodded or shook his head when I asked him things.
On Monday he said he'd got to go over to Benton
Fer some oats.
I'd oughter ha' gone with him,
But 'twas washin' day
An' I was afeared the fine weather'd break,
An' I couldn't do my dryin'.
All my life I'd done my work punctual,
An' I couldn't fix my conscience
To go junketin' on a washin'-day.
I can't tell you what that day was to me.
It dragged an' dragged,
Fer ther warn't no Ed ter break it in the middle
Every time I stopped stirrin' the water
I heerd the whisperin' all about me.
I stopped oftener'n I should
To see ef 'twas still ther,
An' it al'ays was.
An' gittin' louder
It seemed ter me.
Once I threw up the winder to feel the wind.
That seemed most alive somehow.
But the woods looked so kind of menacin'
I closed it quick
An' started to mangle's hard's I could,
The squeakin' was comfortin'.
Well, Ed come home 'bout four.
I seen him down the road,
An' I run out through the shed inter th' barn
To meet him quicker.
I hollered out, `Hullo!'
But he didn't say nothin',
He jest drove right in
An' climbed out o' th' sleigh
An' commenced unharnessin'.
I asked him a heap o' questions;
Who he'd seed
An' what he'd done.
Once in a while he'd nod or shake,
But most o' th' time he didn't do nothin'.
'Twas gittin' dark then,
An' I was in a state,
With the loneliness
An' Ed payin' no attention
Like somethin' warn't livin'.
All of a sudden it come,
I don't know what,
But I jest couldn't stand no more.
It didn't seem 's though that was Ed,
An' it didn't seem as though I was me.
I had to break a way out somehow,
Somethin' was closin' in
An' I was stiflin'.
Ed's loggin' axe was ther,
An' I took it.
Oh, my God!
I can't see nothin' else afore me all the time.
I run out inter th' woods,
Seemed as ef they was pullin' me;
An' all the time I was wadin' through the snow
I seed Ed in front of me
Where I'd laid him.
An' I see him now.
What you holdin' me fer?
I want ter go to Ed,
Stop holdin' me.
I got to go.
I'm comin', Ed.
I'll be ther in a minit.
Oh, I'm so tired!
The Clergyman’s Second Tale
Edward and Jane a married couple were,
And fonder she of him or he of her
Was hard to say; their wedlock had begun
When in one year they both were twenty-one;
And friends, who would not sanction, left them free.
He gentle-born, nor his inferior she,
And neither rich; to the newly-wedded boy,
A great Insurance Office found employ.
Strong in their loves and hopes, with joy they took
This narrow lot and the world’s altered look;
Beyond their home they nothing sought or craved,
And even from the narrow income saved;
Their busy days for no ennui had place,
Neither grew weary of the other’s face.
Nine happy years had crowned their married state
With children, one a little girl of eight;
With nine industrious years his income grew,
With his employers rose his favour too;
Nine years complete had passed when something ailed,
Friends and the doctors said his health had failed,
He must recruit, or worse would come to pass;
And though to rest was hard for him, alas!
Three months of leave he found he could obtain,
And go, they said, get well and work again.
Just at this juncture of their married life,
Her mother, sickening, begged to have his wife.
Her house among the hills in Surrey stood,
And to be there, said Jane, would do the children good.
They let their house, and with the children she
Went to her mother, he beyond the sea;
Far to the south his orders were to go.
A watering-place, whose name we need not know,
For climate and for change of scene was best:
There he was bid, laborious task, to rest.
A dismal thing in foreign lands to roam
To one accustomed to an English home,
Dismal yet more, in health if feeble grown,
To live a boarder, helpless and alone
In foreign town, and worse yet worse is made,
If ’tis a town of pleasure and parade.
Dispiriting the public walks and seats,
The alien faces that an alien meets;
Drearily every day this old routine repeats.
Yet here this alien prospered, change of air
Or change of scene did more than tenderest care:
Three weeks were scarce completed, to his home,
He wrote to say, he thought he now could come,
His usual work was sure he could resume,
And something said about the place’s gloom,
And how he loathed idling his time away.
O, but they wrote, his wife and all, to say
He must not think of it, ’twas quite too quick;
Let was their house, her mother still was sick,
Three months were given, and three he ought to take;
For his and her’s and for his children’s sake.
He wrote again, ’twas weariness to wait,
This doing nothing was a thing to hate;
He’d cast his nine laborious years away,
And was as fresh as on his wedding-day;
At last he yielded, feared he must obey.
And now, his health repaired, his spirits grown
Less feeble, less he cared to live alone.
’Twas easier now to face the crowded shore,
And table d’hôte less tedious than before;
His ancient silence sometimes he would break,
And the mute Englishman was heard to speak.
His youthful colour soon, his youthful air
Came back; amongst the crowd of idlers there,
With whom good looks entitle to good name,
For his good looks he gained a sort of fame,
People would watch him as he went and came.
Explain the tragic mystery who can,
Something there is, we know not what, in man,
With all established happiness at strife,
And bent on revolution in his life.
Explain the plan of Providence who dare,
And tell us wherefore in this world there are
Beings who seem for this alone to live,
Temptation to another soul to give.
A beauteous woman at the table d’hôte,
To try this English heart, at least to note
This English countenance, conceived the whim.
She sat exactly opposite to him.
Ere long he noticed with a vague surprise
How every day on him she bent her eyes;
Soft and inquiring now they looked, and then
Wholly withdrawn, unnoticed came again;
His shrunk aside: and yet there came a day,
Alas! they did not wholly turn away.
So beautiful her beauty was, so strange,
And to his northern feeling such a change;
Her throat and neck Junonian in their grace;
The blood just mantled in her southern face:
Dark hair, dark eyes; and all the arts she had
With which some dreadful power adorns the bad,
Bad women in their youth, and young was she,
Twenty perhaps, at the utmost twenty-three,
And timid seemed, and innocent of ill,;
Her feelings went and came without her will.
You will not wish minutely to know all
His efforts in the prospect of the fall.
He oscillated to and fro, he took
High courage oft, temptation from him shook,
Compelled himself to virtuous thoughts and just,
And as it were in ashes and in dust
Abhorred his thought. But living thus alone,
Of solitary tedium weary grown;
From sweet society so long debarred,
And fearing in his judgment to be hard
On her that he was sometimes off his guard
What wonder? She relentless still pursued
Unmarked, and tracked him in his solitude.
And not in vain, alas!
The days went by and found him in the snare.
But soon a letter full of tenderest care
Came from his wife, the little daughter too
In a large hand the exercise was new
To her papa her love and kisses sent.
Into his very heart and soul it went.
Forth on the high and dusty road he sought
Some issue for the vortex of his thought,
Returned, packed up his things, and ere the day
Descended, was a hundred miles away.
There are, I know of course, who lightly treat
Such slips; we stumble, we regain our feet;
What can we do, they say, but hasten on
And disregard it as a thing that’s gone?
Many there are who in a case like this
Would calm re-seek their sweet domestic bliss;
Accept unshamed the wifely tender kiss,
And lift their little children on their knees,
And take their kisses too; with hearts at ease
Will read the household prayers, to church will go,
And sacrament, nor care if people know.
Such men so minded do exist, God knows,
And, God be thanked, this was not one of those.
Late in the night, at a provincial town
In France, a passing traveller was put down;
Haggard he looked, his hair was turning grey,
His hair, his clothes, were much in disarray:
In a bedchamber here one day he stayed,
Wrote letters, posted them, his reckoning paid
And went. ’Twas Edward rushing from his fall;
Here to his wife he wrote and told her all.
Forgiveness yes, perhaps she might forgive
For her, and for the children, he must live
At any rate; but their old home to share
As yet was something that he could not bear.
She with her mother still her home should make,
A lodging-near the office he should take
And once a quarter he would bring his pay,
And he would see her on the quarter-day,
But her alone; e’en this would dreadful be,
The children ’twas not possible to see.
Back to the office at this early day
To see him come, old-looking thus and grey,
His comrades wondered, wondered too to see,
How dire a passion for his work had he,
How in a garret too he lived alone;
So cold a husband, cold a father grown.
In a green lane beside her mother’s home,
Where in old days they had been used to roam,
His wife had met him on the appointed day,
Fell on his neck, said all that love could say,
And wept; he put the loving arms away.
At dusk they met, for so was his desire;
She felt his cheeks and forehead all on fire;
The kisses which she gave he could not brook;
Once in her face he gave a sidelong look,
Said, but for them he wished that he were dead,
And put the money in her hand and fled.
Sometimes in easy and familiar tone,
Of sins resembling more or less his own
He heard his comrades in the office speak,
And felt the colour tingling in his cheek;
Lightly they spoke as of a thing of nought;
He of their judgment ne’er so much as thought.
I know not, in his solitary pains,
Whether he seemed to feel as in his veins
The moral mischief circulating still,
Racked with the torture of the double will;
And like some frontier-land where armies wage
The mighty wars, engage and yet engage
All through the summer in the fierce campaign;
March, counter-march, gain, lose, and yet regain;
With battle reeks the desolated plain;
So felt his nature yielded to the strife
Of the contending good and ill of life.
But a whole year this penance he endured,
Nor even then would think that he was cured.
Once in a quarter, in the country lane,
He met his wife and paid his quarter’s gain;
To bring the children she besought in vain.
He has a life small happiness that gives,
Who friendless in a London lodging lives,
Dines in a dingy chop-house, and returns
To a lone room while all within him yearns
For sympathy, and his whole nature burns
With a fierce thirst for some one, is there none?
To expend his human tenderness upon.
So blank, and hard, and stony is the way
To walk, I wonder not men go astray.
Edward, whom still a sense that never slept
On the strict path undeviating kept,
One winter-evening found himself pursued
Amidst the dusky thronging multitude.
Quickly he walked, but strangely swift was she,
And pertinacious, and would make him see.
He saw at last, and recognising slow,
Discovered in this hapless thing of woe
The occasion of his shame twelve wretched months ago.
She gaily laughed, she cried, and sought his hand,
And spoke sweet phrases of her native land;
Exiled, she said, her lovely home had left,
Not to forsake a friend of all but her bereft;
Exiled, she cried, for liberty, for love,
She was; still limpid eyes she turned above.
So beauteous once, and now such misery in,
Pity had all but softened him to sin;
But while she talked, and wildly laughed, and cried,
And plucked the hand which sadly he denied,
A stranger came and swept her from his side.
He watched them in the gas-lit darkness go,
And a voice said within him, Even so,
So midst the gloomy mansions where they dwell
The lost souls walk the flaming streets of hell!
The lamps appeared to fling a baleful glare,
A brazen heat was heavy in the air;
And it was hell, and he some unblest wanderer there.
For a long hour he stayed the streets to roam,
Late gathering sense, he gained his garret home;
There found a telegraph that bade him come
Straight to the country, where his daughter, still
His darling child, lay dangerously ill.
The doctor would he bring? Away he went
And found the doctor; to the office sent
A letter, asking leave, and went again,
And with a wild confusion in his brain,
Joining the doctor caught the latest train.
The train swift whirled them from the city light
Into the shadows of the natural night.
’Twas silent starry midnight on the down,
Silent and chill, when they, straight come from town,
Leaving the station, walked a mile to gain
The lonely house amid the hills where Jane,
Her mother, and her children should be found.
Waked by their entrance, but of sleep unsound,
The child not yet her altered father knew;
Yet talked of her papa in her delirium too.
Danger there was, yet hope there was; and he,
To attend the crisis, and the changes see,
And take the steps, at hand should surely be.
Said Jane the following day, ‘Edward, you know,
Over and over I have told you so,
As in a better world I seek to live,
As I desire forgiveness, I forgive.
Forgiveness does not feel the word to say,
As I believe in One who takes away
Our sin and gives us righteousness instead,
You to this sin, I do believe, are dead.
’Twas I, you know, who let you leave your home
And bade you stay when you so wished to come;
My fault was that: I’ve told you so before,
And vainly told; but now ’tis something more.
Say, is it right, without a single friend,
Without advice, to leave me to attend
Children and mother both? Indeed, I’ve thought
Through want of you the child her fever caught.
Chances of mischief come with every hour.
It is not in a single woman’s power
Alone, and ever haunted more or less
With anxious thoughts of you and your distress,
’Tis not indeed, I’m sure of it, in me,
All things with perfect judgment to foresee.
This weight has grown too heavy to endure;
And you, I tell you now, and I am sure,
Neglect your duty both to God and man
Persisting thus in your unnatural plan.
This feeling you must conquer, for you can.
And after all, you know we are but dust,
What are we, in ourselves that we should trust?’
He scarcely answered her; but he obtained
A longer leave, and quietly remained.
Slowly the child recovered, long was ill,
Long delicate, and he must watch her still
To give up seeing her he could not near,
To leave her less attended, did not dare.
The child recovered slowly, slowly too
Recovered he, and more familiar drew
Home’s happy breath; and apprehension o’er,
Their former life he yielded to restore,
And to his mournful garret went no more.
Midnight was dim and hazy overhead.
When the tale ended and we turned to bed.
On the companion-way, descending slow,
The artillery captain, as we went below,
Said to the lawyer, life could not be meant
To be so altogether innocent.
What did the atonement show? he, for the rest,
Could not, he thought, have written and confessed.
Weakness it was, and adding crime to crime
To leave his family that length of time,
The lawyer said; the American was sure
Each nature knows instinctively its cure.
Midnight was in the cabin still and dead,
Our fellow-passengers were all in bed,
We followed them, and nothing further spoke.
Out of the sweetest of my sleep I woke
At two, and felt we stopped; amid a dream
Of England knew the letting-off of steam
And rose. ’Twas fog, and were we off Cape Race?
The captain would be certain of his place.
Wild in white vapour flew away the force,
And self-arrested was the eager course
That had not ceased before. But shortly now
Cape Race was made to starboard on the bow.
The paddles plied. I slept. The following night
In the mid seas we saw a quay and light,
And peered through mist into an unseen town,
And on scarce-seeming land set one companion down,
And went. With morning and a shining sun,
Under the bright New Brunswick coast we run,
And visible discern to every eye
Rocks, pines, and little ports, and passing by
The boats and coasting craft. When sunk the night,
Early now sunk, the northern streamers bright
Floated and flashed, the cliffs and clouds behind,
With phosphorus the billows all were lined.
That evening, while the arctic streamers bright
Rolled from the clouds in waves of airy light,
The lawyer said, ‘I laid by for to night
A story that I would not tell before;
For the last time, a confidential four,
We meet. Receive in your elected ears
A tale of human suffering and tears.’