Amy Lowell |
I know a country laced with roads,
They join the hills and they span the brooks,
They weave like a shuttle between broad fields,
And slide discreetly through hidden nooks.
They are canopied like a Persian dome
And carpeted with orient dyes.
They are myriad-voiced, and musical,
And scented with happiest memories.
O Winding roads that I know so well,
Every twist and turn, every hollow and hill!
They are set in my heart to a pulsing tune
Gay as a honey-bee humming in June.
'T is the rhythmic beat of a horse's feet
And the pattering paws of a sheep-dog bitch;
'T is the creaking trees, and the singing breeze,
And the rustle of leaves in the road-side ditch.
A cow in a meadow shakes her bell
And the notes cut sharp through the autumn air,
Each chattering brook bears a fleet of leaves
Their cargo the rainbow, and just now where
The sun splashed bright on the road ahead
A startled rabbit quivered and fled.
O Uphill roads and roads that dip down!
You curl your sun-spattered length along,
And your march is beaten into a song
By the softly ringing hoofs of a horse
And the panting breath of the dogs I love.
The pageant of Autumn follows its course
And the blue sky of Autumn laughs above.
And the song and the country become as one,
I see it as music, I hear it as light;
Prismatic and shimmering, trembling to tone,
The land of desire, my soul's delight.
And always it beats in my listening ears
With the gentle thud of a horse's stride,
With the swift-falling steps of many dogs,
Following, following at my side.
O Roads that journey to fairyland!
Radiant highways whose vistas gleam,
Leading me on, under crimson leaves,
To the opaline gates of the Castles of Dream.
Amy Lowell |
What charm is yours, you faded old-world tapestries,
Of outworn, childish mysteries,
Vague pageants woven on a web of dream!
And we, pushing and fighting in the turbid stream
Of modern life, find solace in your tarnished broideries.
Old lichened halls, sun-shaded by huge cedar-trees,
The layered branches horizontal stretched, like Japanese
Carven cathedrals, on a sky
Of faintest colour, where the gothic spires fly
And sway like masts, against a shifting breeze.
Worm-eaten pages, clasped in old brown vellum,
From over-handling, by some anxious monk.
Or Virgin's Hours, bright with gold and graven
With flowers, and rare birds, and all the Saints of Heaven,
And Noah's ark stuck on Ararat, when all the world had sunk.
They soothe us like a song, heard in a garden,
By youthful minstrels, on the moonlight flung
In cadences and falls, to ease a queen,
Widowed and childless, cowering in a screen
Of myrtles, whose life hangs with all its threads unstrung.
Amy Lowell |
Happiness, to some, elation;
Is, to others, mere stagnation.
Days of passive somnolence,
At its wildest, indolence.
Hours of empty quietness,
No delight, and no distress.
Happiness to me is wine,
Full of tang and fiery pleasure,
Far too hot to leave me leisure
For a single thought beyond it.
Drunk! Forgetful! This the bond: it
Means to give one's soul to gain
Pricks to livelier living, then
Wakes the nerves to laugh again,
Rapture's self is three parts sorrow.
Although we must die to-morrow,
Losing every thought but this;
Torn, triumphant, drowned in bliss.
Happiness: We rarely feel it.
I would buy it, beg it, steal it,
Pay in coins of dripping blood
For this one transcendent good.
Amy Lowell |
Must all of worth be travailled for, and those
Life's brightest stars rise from a troubled sea?
Must years go by in sad uncertainty
Leaving us doubting whose the conquering blows,
Are we or Fate the victors? Time which shows
All inner meanings will reveal, but we
Shall never know the upshot.
Ours to be
Wasted with longing, shattered in the throes,
The agonies of splendid dreams, which day
Dims from our vision, but each night brings back;
We strive to hold their grandeur, and essay
To be the thing we dream.
Sudden we lack
The flash of insight, life grows drear and gray,
And hour follows hour, nerveless, slack.
Amy Lowell |
An arid daylight shines along the beach
Dried to a grey monotony of tone,
And stranded jelly-fish melt soft upon
The sun-baked pebbles, far beyond their reach
Sparkles a wet, reviving sea.
The skeletons of fishes, every bone
Polished and stark, like traceries of stone,
The joints and knuckles hardened each to each.
And they are dead while waiting for the sea,
The moon-pursuing sea, to come again.
Their hearts are blown away on the hot breeze.
Only the shells and stones can wait to be
For living things, who suffer pain,
May not endure till time can bring them ease.
Amy Lowell |
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.
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!
Amy Lowell |
Now what in the name of the sun and the stars
Is the meaning of this most unholy of wars?
Do men find life so full of humour and joy
That for want of excitement they smash up the toy?
Fifteen millions of soldiers with popguns and horses
All bent upon killing, because their "of courses"
Are not quite the same.
All these men by the ears,
And nine nations of women choking with tears.
It is folly to think that the will of a king
Can force men to make ducks and drakes of a thing
They value, and life is, at least one supposes,
Of some little interest, even if roses
Have not grown up between one foot and the other.
What a marvel bureaucracy is, which can smother
Such quite elementary feelings, and tag
A man with a number, and set him to wag
His legs and his arms at the word of command
Or the blow of a whistle! He's certainly damned,
Fit only for mince-meat, if a little gold lace
And an upturned moustache can set him to face
Bullets, and bayonets, and death, and diseases,
Because some one he calls his Emperor, pleases.
If each man were to lay down his weapon, and say,
With a click of his heels, "I wish you Good-day,"
Now what, may I ask, could the Emperor do?
A king and his minions are really so few.
Angry? Oh, of course, a most furious Emperor!
But the men are so many they need not mind his temper, or
The dire results which could not be inflicted.
With no one to execute sentence, convicted
Is just the weak wind from an old, broken bellows.
What lackeys men are, who might be such fine fellows!
To be killing each other, unmercifully,
At an order, as though one said, "Bring up the tea.
Or is it that tasting the blood on their jaws
They lap at it, drunk with its ferment, and laws
So patiently builded, are nothing to drinking
More blood, any blood.
They don't notice its stinking.
I don't suppose tigers do, fighting cocks, sparrows,
And, as to men -- what are men, when their marrows
Are running with blood they have gulped; it is plain
Such excellent sport does not recollect pain.
Toll the bells in the steeples left standing.
The flags which meant order, for order is past.
Take the dust of the streets and sprinkle your head,
The civilization we've worked for is dead.
Squeeze into this archway, the head of the line
Has just swung round the corner to `Die Wacht am Rhein'.
Amy Lowell |
A near horizon whose sharp jags
Cut brutally into a sky
Of leaden heaviness, and crags
Of houses lift their masonry
Ugly and foul, and chimneys lie
And snort, outlined against the gray
Of lowhung cloud.
I hear the sigh
The goaded city gives, not day
Nor night can ease her heart, her anguished labours stay.
Below, straight streets, monotonous,
From north and south, from east and west,
Stretch glittering; and luminous
Above, one tower tops the rest
And holds aloft man's constant quest:
Time! Joyless emblem of the greed
Of millions, robber of the best
Which earth can give, the vulgar creed
Has seared upon the night its flaming ruthless screed.
O Night! Whose soothing presence brings
The quiet shining of the stars.
O Night! Whose cloak of darkness clings
So intimately close that scars
Are hid from our own eyes.
By day, our wealth is having night
To burn our souls before altars
Dim and tree-shadowed, where the light
Is shed from a young moon, mysteriously bright.
Where art thou hiding, where thy peace?
This is the hour, but thou art not.
Will waking tumult never cease?
Hast thou thy votary forgot?
Nature forsakes this man-begot
And festering wilderness, and now
The long still hours are here, no jot
Of dear communing do I know;
Instead the glaring, man-filled city groans below!
Amy Lowell |
Be not angry with me that I bear
Your colours everywhere,
All through each crowded street,
The wonder-light in every eye,
As I go by.
Each plodding wayfarer looks up to gaze,
Blinded by rainbow haze,
The stuff of happiness,
Which wraps me in its glad-hued folds
Of peacock golds.
Before my feet the dusty, rough-paved way
Flushes beneath its gray.
My steps fall ringed with light,
It seems a myriad suns are strown
About the town.
Around me is the sound of steepled bells,
And rich perfumed smells
Hang like a wind-forgotten cloud,
Me from close contact with the world.
I dwell impearled.
You blazon me with jewelled insignia.
A flaming nebula
Rims in my life.
The word upon me, unconfessed
To go unguessed.
Amy Lowell |
You ask me for a sonnet.
Ah, my Dear,
Can clocks tick back to yesterday at noon?
Can cracked and fallen leaves recall last June
And leap up on the boughs, now stiff and sere?
For your sake, I would go and seek the year,
Faded beyond the purple ranks of dune,
Blown sands of drifted hours, which the moon
Streaks with a ghostly finger, and her sneer
Pulls at my lengthening shadow.
Yes, 'tis that!
My shadow stretches forward, and the ground
Is dark in front because the light's behind.
It is grotesque, with such a funny hat,
In watching it and walking I have found
More than enough to occupy my mind.
I cannot turn, the light would make me blind.
Amy Lowell |
A face seen passing in a crowded street,
A voice heard singing music, large and free;
And from that moment life is changed, and we
Become of more heroic temper, meet
To freely ask and give, a man complete
Radiant because of faith, we dare to be
What Nature meant us.
Which can conceive a hero! No deceit,
No knowledge taught by unrelenting years,
Can quench this fierce, untamable desire.
We know that what we long for once achieved
Will cease to satisfy.
Be still our fears;
If what we worship fail us, still the fire
Burns on, and it is much to have believed.
Amy Lowell |
A music-stand of crimson lacquer, long since brought
In some fast clipper-ship from China, quaintly wrought
With bossed and carven flowers and fruits in blackening gold,
The slender shaft all twined about and thickly scrolled
With vine leaves and young twisted tendrils, whirling, curling,
Flinging their new shoots over the four wings, and swirling
Out on the three wide feet in golden lumps and streams;
Petals and apples in high relief, and where the seams
Are worn with handling, through the polished crimson sheen,
Long streaks of black, the under lacquer, shine out clean.
Four desks, adjustable, to suit the heights of players
Sitting to viols or standing up to sing, four layers
Of music to serve every instrument, are there,
And on the apex a large flat-topped golden pear.
It burns in red and yellow, dusty, smouldering lights,
When the sun flares the old barn-chamber with its flights
And skips upon the crystal knobs of dim sideboards,
Legless and mouldy, and hops, glint to glint, on hoards
Of scythes, and spades, and dinner-horns, so the old tools
Are little candles throwing brightness round in pools.
With Oriental splendour, red and gold, the dust
Covering its flames like smoke and thinning as a gust
Of brighter sunshine makes the colours leap and range,
The strange old music-stand seems to strike out and change;
To stroke and tear the darkness with sharp golden claws;
To dart a forked, vermilion tongue from open jaws;
To puff out bitter smoke which chokes the sun; and fade
Back to a still, faint outline obliterate in shade.
Creeping up the ladder into the loft, the Boy
Stands watching, very still, prickly and hot with joy.
He sees the dusty sun-mote slit by streaks of red,
He sees it split and stream, and all about his head
Spikes and spears of gold are licking, pricking, flicking,
Scratching against the walls and furniture, and nicking
The darkness into sparks, chipping away the gloom.
The Boy's nose smarts with the pungence in the room.
The wind pushes an elm branch from before the door
And the sun widens out all along the floor,
Filling the barn-chamber with white, straightforward light,
So not one blurred outline can tease the mind to fright.
"O All ye Works of the Lord, Bless
ye the Lord; Praise Him, and Magnify Him
O let the Earth Bless the Lord; Yea, let it Praise Him,
and Magnify Him
O ye Mountains and Hills, Bless ye the Lord; Praise
Him, and Magnify Him
O All ye Green Things upon the Earth, Bless ye the Lord;
and Magnify Him for ever.
The Boy will praise his God on an altar builded
Will heap it with the Works of the Lord.
In the morning
Spices shall burn on it, and by their pale smoke curled,
Like shoots of all the Green Things, the God of this bright World
Shall see the Boy's desire to pay his debt of praise.
The Boy turns round about, seeking with careful gaze
An altar meet and worthy, but each table and chair
Has some defect, each piece is needing some repair
To perfect it; the chairs have broken legs and backs,
The tables are uneven, and every highboy lacks
A handle or a drawer, the desks are bruised and worn,
And even a wide sofa has its cane seat torn.
Only in the gloom far in the corner there
The lacquer music-stand is elegant and rare,
Clear and slim of line, with its four wings outspread,
The sound of old quartets, a tenuous, faint thread,
Hanging and floating over it, it stands supreme --
Black, and gold, and crimson, in one twisted scheme!
A candle on the bookcase feels a draught and wavers,
Stippling the white-washed walls with dancing shades and quavers.
A bed-post, grown colossal, jigs about the ceiling,
And shadows, strangely altered, stain the walls, revealing
Eagles, and rabbits, and weird faces pulled awry,
And hands which fetch and carry things incessantly.
Under the Eastern window, where the morning sun
Must touch it, stands the music-stand, and on each one
Of its broad platforms is a pyramid of stones,
And metals, and dried flowers, and pine and hemlock cones,
An oriole's nest with the four eggs neatly blown,
The rattle of a rattlesnake, and three large brown
Butternuts uncracked, six butterflies impaled
With a green luna moth, a snake-skin freshly scaled,
Some sunflower seeds, wampum, and a bloody-tooth shell,
A blue jay feather, all together piled pell-mell
The stand will hold no more.
The Boy with humming head
Looks once again, blows out the light, and creeps to bed.
The Boy keeps solemn vigil, while outside the wind
Blows gustily and clear, and slaps against the blind.
He hardly tries to sleep, so sharp his ecstasy
It burns his soul to emptiness, and sets it free
For adoration only, for worship.
His unsheathed soul is naked in its novitiate.
The hours strike below from the clock on the stair.
The Boy is a white flame suspiring in prayer.
Morning will bring the sun, the Golden Eye of Him
Whose splendour must be veiled by starry cherubim,
Whose Feet shimmer like crystal in the streets of Heaven.
Like an open rose the sun will stand up even,
Fronting the window-sill, and when the casement glows
Rose-red with the new-blown morning, then the fire which flows
From the sun will fall upon the altar and ignite
The spices, and his sacrifice will burn in perfumed light.
Over the music-stand the ghosts of sounds will swim,
`Viols d'amore' and `hautbois' accorded to a hymn.
The Boy will see the faintest breath of angels' wings
Fanning the smoke, and voices will flower through the strings.
He dares no farther vision, and with scalding eyes
Waits upon the daylight and his great emprise.
The cold, grey light of dawn was whitening the
When the Boy, fine-drawn by sleeplessness, started his ritual.
He washed, all shivering and pointed like a flame.
He threw the shutters open, and in the window-frame
The morning glimmered like a tarnished Venice glass.
He took his Chinese pastilles and put them in a mass
Upon the mantelpiece till he could seek a plate
Worthy to hold them burning.
Alas! He had
In thinking of this need, and now he could not find
Platter or saucer rare enough to ease his mind.
The house was not astir, and he dared not go down
Into the barn-chamber, lest some door should be blown
And slam before the draught he made as he went out.
The light was growing yellower, and still he looked about.
A flash of almost crimson from the gilded pear
Upon the music-stand, startled him waiting there.
The sun would rise and he would meet it unprepared,
Labelled a fool in having missed what he had dared.
He ran across the room, took his pastilles and laid
Them on the flat-topped pear, most carefully displayed
To light with ease, then stood a little to one side,
Focussed a burning-glass and painstakingly tried
To hold it angled so the bunched and prismed rays
Should leap upon each other and spring into a blaze.
Sharp as a wheeling edge of disked, carnation flame,
Gem-hard and cutting upward, slowly the round sun came.
The arrowed fire caught the burning-glass and glanced,
Split to a multitude of pointed spears, and lanced,
A deeper, hotter flame, it took the incense pile
Which welcomed it and broke into a little smile
Of yellow flamelets, creeping, crackling, thrusting up,
A golden, red-slashed lily in a lacquer cup.
"O ye Fire and Heat, Bless ye the Lord;
Praise Him, and Magnify Him
O ye Winter and Summer, Bless ye the Lord; Praise Him,
and Magnify Him
O ye Nights and Days, Bless ye the Lord; Praise Him,
and Magnify Him
O ye Lightnings and Clouds, Bless ye the Lord; Praise
Him, and Magnify Him
A moment so it hung, wide-curved, bright-petalled,
A chalice foamed with sunrise.
The Boy woke from his
A spike of flame had caught the card of butterflies,
The oriole's nest took fire, soon all four galleries
Where he had spread his treasures were become one tongue
Of gleaming, brutal fire.
The Boy instantly swung
His pitcher off the wash-stand and turned it upside down.
The flames drooped back and sizzled, and all his senses grown
Acute by fear, the Boy grabbed the quilt from his bed
And flung it over all, and then with aching head
He watched the early sunshine glint on the remains
Of his holy offering.
The lacquer stand had stains
Ugly and charred all over, and where the golden pear
Had been, a deep, black hole gaped miserably.
Treasures were puffs of ashes; only the stones were there,
Winking in the brightness.
The clock upon the stair
Struck five, and in the kitchen someone shook a grate.
The Boy began to dress, for it was getting late.
Amy Lowell |
As I would free the white almond from the green husk
So would I strip your trappings off,
And fingering the smooth and polished kernel
I should see that in my hands glittered a gem beyond counting.
Amy Lowell |
A bullet through his heart at dawn.
the table a letter signed
with a woman's name.
A wind that goes howling round the
and weeping as in shame.
Cold November dawn peeping through
cold dawn creeping over the floor, creeping up his cold legs,
creeping over his cold body, creeping across his cold face.
A glaze of thin yellow sunlight on the staring eyes.
through bent branches.
A wind which never dies down.
The gazing eyes glitter in the sunlight.
The lids are
and the eyes glitter.
The thudding of a pick on hard earth.
A spade grinding
Overhead, branches writhing, winding, interlacing, unwinding, scattering;
tortured twinings, tossings, creakings.
drawing them together, whispering and whining among them.
lobsided moon cutting through black clouds.
of pebbles and earth
and the empty spade gleams clear in the moonlight, then is rammed
into the black earth.
Tramping of feet.
Squeaking of wheels.
"Whoa! Ready, Jim?"
Something falls, settles, is still.
have no coffin.
"Give us the stake, Jim.
"He'll never walk.
Nailed to the ground.
An ash stick pierces his heart, if it buds the
roots will hold him.
He is a part of the earth now, clay to clay.
the branches sway,
and writhe, and twist in the wind.
He'll never walk with
in his heart, and an ash stick nailing him to the cold, black ground.
Six months he lay still.
water welled up in his body,
and soft blue spots chequered it.
He lay still, for the
held him in place.
Six months! Then her face
came out of a mist of green.
Pink and white and frail like Dresden china, lilies-of-the-valley
at her breast, puce-coloured silk sheening about her.
green leaves, the horse at a foot-pace, the high yellow wheels of
scarcely turning, her face, rippling like grain a-blowing,
under her puce-coloured bonnet; and burning beside her, flaming
his correct blue coat and brass buttons, is someone.
has dimmed the sun?
The horse steps on a rolling stone; a wind in the branches makes
The little leaves tremble and shake, turn and quake, over and over,
tearing their stems.
There is a shower of young leaves,
and a sudden-sprung gale wails in the trees.
The yellow-wheeled chaise is rocking -- rocking,
and all the branches
are knocking -- knocking.
The sun in the sky is a flat,
the branches creak and grate.
She screams and cowers,
for the green foliage
is a lowering wave surging to smother her.
But she sees
The stake holds firm.
The body writhes, the body squirms.
The blue spots widen, the flesh tears, but the stake wears well
in the deep, black ground.
It holds the body in the still,
Two years! The body has been in the ground two years.
is worn away;
it is clay to clay.
Where the heart moulders, a greenish
dust, the stake
Late August it is, and night; a night flauntingly
with stars, a night of shooting stars and loud insect noises.
Down the road to Tilbury, silence -- and the slow flapping of large
Down the road to Sutton, silence -- and the darkness of heavy-foliaged
Down the road to Wayfleet, silence -- and the whirring scrape of
in the branches.
Down the road to Edgarstown, silence
-- and stars like
stepping-stones in a pathway overhead.
It is very quiet
at the cross-roads,
and the sign-board points the way down the four roads, endlessly
the way where nobody wishes to go.
A horse is galloping, galloping up from Sutton.
still leaves as he goes under them.
Striking sparks with
his iron shoes;
silencing the katydids.
Morgan riding to a child-birth
over Tilbury way;
riding to deliver a woman of her first-born son.
Wayfleet bell tower, what a shower of shooting stars! And
all of a sudden, jarring the big leaves and making them jerk up
Morgan's hat is blown from his head, the horse swerves, and
from the sign-post.
An oath -- spurs -- a blurring of
A quick left twist, and the gelding is snorting and racing
down the Tilbury road with the wind dropping away behind him.
The stake has wrenched, the stake has started,
the body, flesh from flesh,
But the bones hold tight, socket and ball,
and clamping them down
in the hard, black ground is the stake, wedged through ribs and
The bones may twist, and heave, and twine, but the stake holds them
The breeze goes down, and the round stars shine,
for the stake
holds the fleshless bones in line.
Twenty years now! Twenty long years! The body
has powdered itself away;
it is clay to clay.
It is brown earth mingled with brown
bones remain, lain together so long they fit, although not one bone
The stake is there too, rotted through, but
and still piercing down between ribs and spine in a straight line.
Yellow stillness is on the cross-roads, yellow
stillness is on the trees.
The leaves hang drooping, wan.
The four roads point four
saffron and gamboge ribbons to the gaze.
A little swirl
blows up Tilbury road, the wind which fans it has not strength to
it ceases, and the dust settles down.
A little whirl
comes up Tilbury road.
It brings a sound of wheels and
The wind reels a moment and faints to nothing under the sign-post.
Wind again, wheels and feet louder.
Wind again -- again
A drop of rain, flat into the dust.
Drop! -- Drop! Thick
and a shrieking wind bending the great trees and wrenching off their
Under the black sky, bowed and dripping with rain,
up Tilbury road,
comes the procession.
A funeral procession, bound for
Feet and wheels -- feet and wheels.
one who is carried.
The bones in the deep, still earth shiver and pull.
is a quiver
through the rotted stake.
Then stake and bones fall together
in a little puffing of dust.
Like meshes of linked steel the rain shuts down
behind the procession,
now well along the Wayfleet road.
He wavers like smoke in the buffeting wind.
fingers blow out like smoke,
his head ripples in the gale.
Under the sign-post, in
the pouring rain,
he stands, and watches another quavering figure drifting down
the Wayfleet road.
Then swiftly he streams after it.
among the trees.
He licks out and winds about them.
Spindrift after spindrift; smoke following
There is a wailing through the trees, a wailing of fear,
and after it laughter -- laughter -- laughter, skirling up to the
Lightning jags over the funeral procession.
A heavy clap
Then darkness and rain, and the sound of feet and wheels.
Amy Lowell |
You want to know what's the matter with me, do yer?
My! ain't men blinder'n moles?
It ain't nothin' new, be sure o' that.
Why, ef you'd had eyes you'd ha' seed
Me changin' under your very nose,
Each day a little diff'rent.
But you never see nothin', you don't.
Don't touch me, Jake,
Don't you dars't to touch me,
I ain't in no humour.
That's what's come over me;
Jest a change clear through.
You lay still, an' I'll tell yer,
I've had it on my mind to tell yer
Fer some time.
It's a strain livin' a lie from mornin' till night,
An' I'm goin' to put an end to it right now.
An' don't make any mistake about one thing,
When I married yer I loved yer.
Why, your voice 'ud make
Me go hot and cold all over,
An' your kisses most stopped my heart from beatin'.
Lord! I was a silly fool.
But that's the way 'twas.
Well, I married yer
An' thought Heav'n was comin'
To set on the door-step.
Heav'n didn't do no settin',
Though the first year warn't so bad.
The baby's fever threw you off some, I guess,
An' then I took her death real hard,
An' a mopey wife kind o' disgusts a man.
I ain't blamin' yer exactly.
But that's how 'twas.
Do lay quiet,
I know I'm slow, but it's harder to say 'n I thought.
There come a time when I got to be
More wife agin than mother.
The mother part was sort of a waste
When we didn't have no other child.
But you'd got used ter lots o' things,
An' you was all took up with the farm.
Many's the time I've laid awake
Watchin' the moon go clear through the elm-tree,
Out o' sight.
I'd foller yer around like a dog,
An' set in the chair you'd be'n settin' in,
Jest to feel its arms around me,
So long's I didn't have yours.
It preyed on me, I guess,
Longin' and longin'
While you was busy all day, and snorin' all night.
Yes, I know you're wide awake now,
But now ain't then,
An' I guess you'll think diff'rent
When I'm done.
Do you mind the day you went to Hadrock?
I didn't want to stay home for reasons,
But you said someone 'd have to be here
'Cause Elmer was comin' to see t' th' telephone.
An' you never see why I was so set on goin' with yer,
Our married life hadn't be'n any great shakes,
Still marriage is marriage, an' I was raised God-fearin'.
But, Lord, you didn't notice nothin',
An' Elmer hangin' around all Winter!
'Twas a lovely mornin'.
The apple-trees was jest elegant
With their blossoms all flared out,
An' there warn't a cloud in the sky.
You went, you wouldn't pay no 'tention to what I said,
An' I heard the Ford chuggin' for most a mile,
The air was so still.
Then Elmer come.
It's no use your frettin', Jake,
I'll tell you all about it.
I know what I'm doin',
An' what's worse, I know what I done.
Elmer fixed th' telephone in about two minits,
An' he didn't seem in no hurry to go,
An' I don't know as I wanted him to go either,
I was awful mad at your not takin' me with yer,
An' I was tired o' wishin' and wishin'
An' gittin' no comfort.
I guess it ain't necessary to tell yer all the things.
He stayed to dinner,
An' he helped me do the dishes,
An' he said a home was a fine thing,
An' I said dishes warn't a home
Nor yet the room they're in.
He said a lot o' things,
An' I fended him off at first,
But he got talkin' all around me,
Clost up to the things I'd be'n thinkin',
What's the use o' me goin' on, Jake,
He got all he wanted,
An' I give it to him,
An' what's more, I'm glad!
I ain't dead, anyway,
An' somebody thinks I'm somethin'.
Keep away, Jake,
You can kill me to-morrer if you want to,
But I'm goin' to have my say.
Funny thing! Guess I ain't made to hold a man.
Elmer ain't be'n here for mor'n two months.
I don't want to pretend nothin',
Mebbe if he'd be'n lately
I shouldn't have told yer.
I'll go away in the mornin', o' course.
What you want the light fer?
I don't look no diff'rent.
Ain't the moon bright enough
To look at a woman that's deceived yer by?
Don't, Jake, don't, you can't love me now!
It ain't a question of forgiveness.
Why! I'd be thinkin' o' Elmer ev'ry minute;
It ain't decent.
Oh, my God! It ain't decent any more either way!