Siegfried Sassoon |
I’ve never ceased to curse the day I signed
A seven years’ bargain for the Golden Fleece.
’Twas a bad deal all round; and dear enough
It cost me, what with my daft management,
And the mean folk as owed and never paid me,
And backing losers; and the local bucks
Egging me on with whiskys while I bragged
The man I was when huntsman to the Squire.
I’d have been prosperous if I’d took a farm
Of fifty acres, drove my gig and haggled
At Monday markets; now I’ve squandered all
My savings; nigh three hundred pound I got
As testimonial when I’d grown too stiff
And slow to press a beaten fox.
’Twas the damned Fleece that wore my Emily out,
The wife of thirty years who served me well;
(Not like this beldam clattering in the kitchen,
That never trims a lamp nor sweeps the floor,
And brings me greasy soup in a foul crock.
Blast the old harridan! What’s fetched her now,
Leaving me in the dark, and short of fire?
And where’s my pipe? ’Tis lucky I’ve a turn
For thinking, and remembering all that’s past.
And now’s my hour, before I hobble to bed,
To set the works a-wheezing, wind the clock
That keeps the time of life with feeble tick
Behind my bleared old face that stares and wonders.
It’s queer how, in the dark, comes back to mind
Some morning of September.
We’ve been digging
In a steep sandy warren, riddled with holes,
And I’ve just pulled the terrier out and left
A sharp-nosed cub-face blinking there and snapping,
Then in a moment seen him mobbed and torn
To strips in the baying hurly of the pack.
I picture it so clear: the dusty sunshine
On bracken, and the men with spades, that wipe
Red faces: one tilts up a mug of ale.
And, having stopped to clean my gory hands,
I whistle the jostling beauties out of the wood.
I’m but a daft old fool! I often wish
The Squire were back again—ah! he was a man!
They don’t breed men like him these days; he’d come
For sure, and sit and talk and suck his briar
Till the old wife brings up a dish of tea.
Ay, those were days, when I was serving Squire!
I never knowed such sport as ’85,
The winter afore the one that snowed us silly.
Once in a way the parson will drop in
And read a bit o’ the Bible, if I’m bad,
And pray the Lord to make my spirit whole
In faith: he leaves some ’baccy on the shelf,
And wonders I don’t keep a dog to cheer me
Because he knows I’m mortal fond of dogs!
I ask you, what’s a gent like that to me
As wouldn’t know Elijah if I saw him,
Nor have the wit to keep him on the talk?
’Tis kind of parson to be troubling still
With such as me; but he’s a town-bred chap,
Full of his college notions and Christmas hymns.
Religion beats me.
I’m amazed at folk
Drinking the gospels in and never scratching
Their heads for questions.
When I was a lad
I learned a bit from mother, and never thought
To educate myself for prayers and psalms.
But now I’m old and bald and serious-minded,
With days to sit and ponder.
I’d no chance
When young and gay to get the hang of all
This Hell and Heaven: and when the clergy hoick
And holloa from their pulpits, I’m asleep,
However hard I listen; and when they pray
It seems we’re all like children sucking sweets
In school, and wondering whether master sees.
I used to dream of Hell when I was first
Promoted to a huntsman’s job, and scent
Was rotten, and all the foxes disappeared,
And hounds were short of blood; and officers
From barracks over-rode ’em all day long
On weedy, whistling nags that knocked a hole
In every fence; good sportsmen to a man
And brigadiers by now, but dreadful hard
On a young huntsman keen to show some sport.
Ay, Hell was thick with captains, and I rode
The lumbering brute that’s beat in half a mile,
And blunders into every blind old ditch.
Hell was the coldest scenting land I’ve known,
And both my whips were always lost, and hounds
Would never get their heads down; and a man
On a great yawing chestnut trying to cast ’em
While I was in a corner pounded by
The ugliest hog-backed stile you’ve clapped your eyes on.
There was an iron-spiked fence round all the coverts,
And civil-spoken keepers I couldn’t trust,
And the main earth unstopp’d.
The fox I found
Was always a three-legged ’un from a bag,
Who reeked of aniseed and wouldn’t run.
The farmers were all ploughing their old pasture
And bellowing at me when I rode their beans
To cast for beaten fox, or galloped on
With hounds to a lucky view.
I’d lost my voice
Although I shouted fit to burst my guts,
And couldn’t blow my horn.
And when I woke,
Emily snored, and barn-cocks started crowing,
And morn was at the window; and I was glad
To be alive because I heard the cry
Of hounds like church-bells chiming on a Sunday.
Ay, that’s the song I’d wish to hear in Heaven!
The cry of hounds was Heaven for me: I know
Parson would call me crazed and wrong to say it,
But where’s the use of life and being glad
If God’s not in your gladness?
I’ve no brains
For book-learned studies; but I’ve heard men say
There’s much in print that clergy have to wink at:
Though many I’ve met were jolly chaps, and rode
To hounds, and walked me puppies; and could pick
Good legs and loins and necks and shoulders, ay,
And feet—’twas necks and feet I looked at first.
Some hounds I’ve known were wise as half your saints,
And better hunters.
That old dog of the Duke’s,
Harlequin; what a dog he was to draw!
And what a note he had, and what a nose
When foxes ran down wind and scent was catchy!
And that light lemon bitch of the Squire’s, old Dorcas—
She were a marvellous hunter, were old Dorcas!
Ay, oft I’ve thought, ‘If there were hounds in Heaven,
With God as master, taking no subscription;
And all His bless?d country farmed by tenants,
And a straight-necked old fox in every gorse!’
But when I came to work it out, I found
There’d be too many huntsmen wanting places,
Though some I’ve known might get a job with Nick!
I’ve come to think of God as something like
The figure of a man the old Duke was
When I was turning hounds to Nimrod King,
Before his Grace was took so bad with gout
And had to quit the saddle.
Tall and spare,
Clean-shaved and grey, with shrewd, kind eyes, that twinkled,
And easy walk; who, when he gave good words,
Gave them whole-hearted; and would never blame
Without just cause.
Lord God might be like that,
Sitting alone in a great room of books
Some evening after hunting.
Now I’m tired
With hearkening to the tick-tack on the shelf;
And pondering makes me doubtful.
On a moonless night of cloud that feels like frost
Though stars are hidden (hold your feet up, horse!)
And thinking what a task I had to draw
A pack with all those lame ’uns, and the lot
Wanting a rest from all this open weather;
That’s what I’m doing now.
And likely, too,
The frost’ll be a long ’un, and the night
The parsons say we’ll wake to find
A country blinding-white with dazzle of snow.
The naked stars make men feel lonely, wheeling
And glinting on the puddles in the road.
And then you listen to the wind, and wonder
If folk are quite such bucks as they appear
When dressed by London tailors, looking down
Their boots at covert side, and thinking big.
This world’s a funny place to live in.
I’ll need to change my country; but I know
’Tis little enough I’ve understood my life,
And a power of sights I’ve missed, and foreign marvels.
I used to feel it, riding on spring days
In meadows pied with sun and chasing clouds,
And half forget how I was there to catch
The foxes; lose the angry, eager feeling
A huntsman ought to have, that’s out for blood,
And means his hounds to get it!
Now I know
It’s God that speaks to us when we’re bewitched,
Smelling the hay in June and smiling quiet;
Or when there’s been a spell of summer drought,
Lying awake and listening to the rain.
I’d like to be the simpleton I was
In the old days when I was whipping-in
To a little harrier-pack in Worcestershire,
And loved a dairymaid, but never knew it
Until she’d wed another.
So I’ve loved
My life; and when the good years are gone down,
Discover what I’ve lost.
I never broke
Out of my blundering self into the world,
But let it all go past me, like a man
Half asleep in a land that’s full of wars.
What a grand thing ’twould be if I could go
Back to the kennels now and take my hounds
For summer exercise; be riding out
With forty couple when the quiet skies
Are streaked with sunrise, and the silly birds
Grown hoarse with singing; cobwebs on the furze
Up on the hill, and all the country strange,
With no one stirring; and the horses fresh,
Sniffing the air I’ll never breathe again.
You’ve brought the lamp, then, Martha? I’ve no mind
For newspaper to-night, nor bread and cheese.
Give me the candle, and I’ll get to bed.
Richard Brautigan |
I don't know what it is,
but I distrust myself
when I start to like a girl
It makes me nervous.
I don't say the right things
or perhaps I start
what I am saying.
If I say, "Do you think it's going to rain?"
and she says, "I don't know,"
I start thinking : Does she really like me?
In other words
I get a little creepy.
A friend of mine once said,
"It's twenty times better to be friends
than it is to be in love with them.
I think he's right and besides,
it's raining somewhere, programming flowers
and keeping snails happy.
That's all taken care of.
if a girl likes me a lot
and starts getting real nervous
and suddenly begins asking me funny questions
and looks sad if I give the wrong answers
and she says things like,
"Do you think it's going to rain?"
and I say, "It beats me,"
and she says, "Oh,"
and looks a little sad
at the clear blue California sky,
I think : Thank God, it's you, baby, this time
instead of me.
Robert William Service |
Beyond the Rocking Bridge it lies, the burg of evil fame,
The huts where hive and swarm and thrive the sisterhood of shame.
Through all the night each cabin light goes out and then goes in,
A blood-red heliograph of lust, a semaphore of sin.
From Dawson Town, soft skulking down, each lewdster seeks his mate;
And glad and bad, kimono clad, the wanton women wait.
The Klondike gossips to the moon, and sinners o'er its bars;
Each silent hill is dark and chill, and chill the patient stars.
Yet hark! upon the Rocking Bridge a bacchanalian step;
A whispered: "Come," the skirl of some hell-raking demirep.
* * * * * * * * * * *
They gave a dance in Lousetown, and the Tenderloin was there,
The girls were fresh and frolicsome, and nearly all were fair.
They flaunted on their back the spoil of half-a-dozen towns;
And some they blazed in gems of price, and some wore Paris gowns.
The voting was divided as to who might be the belle;
But all opined, the winsomest was Touch-the-Button Nell.
Among the merry mob of men was one who did not dance,
But watched the "light fantastic" with a sour sullen glance.
They saw his white teeth gleam, they saw his thick lips twitch;
They knew him for the giant Slav, one Riley Dooleyvitch.
"Oh Riley Dooleyvitch, come forth," quoth Touch-the-Button Nell,
"And dance a step or two with me - the music's simply swell,"
He crushed her in his mighty arms, a meek, beguiling witch,
"With you, oh Nell, I'd dance to hell," said Riley Dooleyvitch.
He waltzed her up, he waltzed her down, he waltzed her round the hall;
His heart was putty in her hands, his very soul was thrall.
As Antony of old succumbed to Cleopatra's spell,
So Riley Dooleyvitch bowed down to Touch-the-Button Nell.
"And do you love me true?" she cried.
"I love you as my life.
"How can you prove your love?" she sighed.
"I beg you be my wife.
I stake big pay up Hunker way; some day I be so rich;
I make you shine in satins fine," said Riley Dooleyvitch.
"Some day you'll be so rich," she mocked; "that old pipe-dream don't go.
Who gets an option on this kid must have some coin to show.
You work your ground.
When Spring comes round, our wedding bells will ring.
I'm on the square, and I'll take care of all the gold you bring.
So Riley Dooleyvitch went back and worked upon his claim;
He ditched and drifted, sunk and stoped, with one unswerving aim;
And when his poke of raw moose-hide with dust began to swell,
He bought and laid it at the feet of Touch-the-Button Nell.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Now like all others of her ilk, the lady had a friend,
And what she made my way of trade, she gave to him to spend;
To stake him in a poker game, or pay his bar-room score;
He was a pimp from Paris.
and his name was Lew Lamore.
And so as Dooleyvitch went forth and worked as he was bid,
And wrested from the frozen muck the yellow stuff it hid,
And brought it to his Lady Nell, she gave him love galore -
But handed over all her gains to festive Lew Lamore.
* * * * * * * * * * *
A year had gone, a weary year of strain and bloody sweat;
Of pain and hurt in dark and dirt, of fear that she forget.
He sought once more her cabin door: "I've laboured like a beast;
But now, dear one, the time has come to go before the priest.
"I've brought you gold - a hundred fold I'll bring you bye and bye;
But oh I want you, want you bad; I want you till I die.
Come, quit this life with evil rife - we'll joy while yet we can.
"I may not wed with you," she said; "I love another man.
"I love him and I hate him so.
He holds me in a spell.
He beats me - see my bruisèd brest; he makes my life a hell.
He bleeds me, as by sin and shame I earn my daily bread:
Oh cruel Fate, I cannot mate till Lew Lamore is dead!"
* * * * * * * * * * *
The long lean flume streaked down the hill, five hundred feet of fall;
The waters in the dam above chafed at their prison wall;
They surged and swept, they churned and leapt, with savage glee and strife;
With spray and spume the dizzy flume thrilled like a thing of life.
"We must be free," the waters cried, and scurried down the slope;
"No power can hold us back," they roared, and hurried in their hope.
Into a mighty pipe they plunged, like maddened steers they ran,
And crashed out through a shard of steel - to serve the will of Man.
And there, by hydraulicking his ground beside a bedrock ditch,
With eye aflame and savage aim was Riley Dooleyvitch.
In long hip-boots and overalls, and dingy denim shirt,
Behind a giant monitor he pounded at the dirt.
A steely shaft of water shot, and smote the face of clay;
It burrowed in the frozen muck, and scooped the dirt away;
It gored the gravel from its bed, it bellowed like a bull;
It hurled the heavy rock aloft like heaps of fleecy wool.
Strength of a hundred men was there, resistess might and skill,
And only Riley Dooleyvitch to swing it at his will.
He played it up, he played it down, nigh deafened by its roar,
'Til suddenly he raised his eyes, and there stood Lew Lamore.
Pig-eyed and heavy jowled he stood and puffed a big cigar;
As cool as though he ruled the roost in some Montmartre bar.
He seemed to say, "I've got a cinch, a double diamond hitch:
I'll skin this Muscovitish oaf, this Riley Dooleyvitch.
He shouted: "Stop ze water gun; it stun me.
I like to make one beezness deal; you know ze man I am.
Zat leetle girl, she loves me so - I tell you what I do:
You geeve to me zees claim.
Jeecrize! I geeve zat girl to you.
"I'll see you damned," says Dooleyvitch; but e'er he checked his tongue,
(It may have been an accident) the little Giant swung;
Swift as a lightning flash it swung, until it plumply bore
And met with an obstruction in the shape of Lew lamore.
It caught him up, and spun him round, and tossed him like a ball;
It played and pawed him in the air, before it let him fall.
Then just to show what it could do, with savage rend and thud,
It ripped the entrails from his spine, and dropped him in the mud.
They gathered up the broken bones, and sadly in a sack,
They bore to town the last remains of Lew Lamore, the macque.
And would you hear the full details of how it all befell,
Ask Missis Riley Dooleyvitch (late Touch-the-Button Nell).
Marriott Edgar |
Joe Ramshottom rented a bit of a farm
From its owner, Squire Goslett his name;
And the Gosletts came over with William the First,
And found Ramsbottoms here when they came.
One day Joe were ploughing his three-acre field
When the front of his plough hit a rock,
And on closer inspection o' t' damage he found
As the coulter had snapped wi' the shock.
He'd got a spare coulter at home in his shed,
But that were some distance away,
And he reckoned by t' time he had been there and back
He'd have wasted best part of the day.
The accident 'appened not far from the place
Where the Squire had his sumptuous abode;
He thought he might borrow a coulter from him,
And save going back all that road.
He were going to ask.
but he suddenly stopped,
And he said " Nay-I'd better not call;
He might think it cheek I borrowed from him,
I'd best get my own after all.
He were going off back when he turned to himself
And said "That's a gormless idea;
The land you were ploughing belongs to the Squire,
It were 'is rock as caused all this 'ere!"
This 'eartened Joe up, so he set off again,
But he very soon stopped as before,
And he said 'Happen Squire'II have comp'ny to tea,
Nay I'd, better go round to t' back.
Then he answered himself in a manner quite stern
And said "Here's a nice how-de-do!
You can manage without him when all's said and done,
And where would he be without you?"
Joe knew this were right and he knew it were just,
But he didn't seem happy somehow,
So he said "Well, there's no harm in paying a call,
And I needn't say owt about plough.
This suggestion that he were afraid of the Squire
Were most deeply resented by Joe;
He said "Right! I'll show you.
I'll go up at once,
At the worst he can only say 'No.
Then he said "After all as I've done in the past
He would have a nerve to decline;
He ought to be thankful to give me his plough,
Seein'' damage his rock did to mine.
Then he said "Who is he To be puffed up wi' pride,
And behave as if he were King Dick
He's only a farmer the same as myself,
As I'll tell him an' all- Jolly quick.
Then he turned round and looked himself straight in the face,
And he said "What you're scared of beats me;
Ramsbottoms was landlords when Gosletts was nowt,
And it's him should be working for thee!"
Then he said "I'm surprised at myself, so I am,
To think I should so condescend
As to come hat in hand to a feller like 'im
And ask if he's owt he can lend.
This argument brought him to Squire's front door,
It were open and Squire stood inside;
He said "Hello, Joe.
What brings thee right up here?"
"You'll know in a tick," Joe replied.
He said "P'raps you think yourself better than me,
Well, I'm telling you straight that you're not
And I don't want your coulter.
Your plough-or your farm,
You can-do what you like with the lot.
Amy Lowell |
But why did I kill him? Why? Why?
In the small, gilded room, near the stair?
My ears rack and throb with his cry,
And his eyes goggle under his hair,
As my fingers sink into the fair
White skin of his throat.
It was I!
I killed him! My God! Don't you hear?
I shook him until his red tongue
Hung flapping out through the black, queer,
Swollen lines of his lips.
And I clung
With my nails drawing blood, while I flung
The loose, heavy body in fear.
Fear lest he should still not be dead.
I was drunk with the lust of his life.
The blood-drops oozed slow from his head
And dabbled a chair.
And our strife
Lasted one reeling second, his knife
Lay and winked in the lights overhead.
And the waltz from the ballroom I heard,
When I called him a low, sneaking cur.
And the wail of the violins stirred
My brute anger with visions of her.
As I throttled his windpipe, the purr
Of his breath with the waltz became blurred.
I have ridden ten miles through the dark,
With that music, an infernal din,
Pounding rhythmic inside me.
One! Two! Three! And my fingers
To his flesh when the violins, thin
And straining with passion, grow stark.
One! Two! Three! Oh, the horror
While she danced I was crushing his throat.
He had tasted the joy of her, wound
Round her body, and I heard him gloat
On the favour.
That instant I smote.
One! Two! Three! How the dancers
He is here in the room, in my arm,
His limp body hangs on the spin
Of the waltz we are dancing, a swarm
Of blood-drops is hemming us in!
Round and round! One! Two! Three! And
Is red like his tongue lolling warm.
One! Two! Three! And the drums
are his knell.
He is heavy, his feet beat the floor
As I drag him about in the swell
Of the waltz.
With a menacing roar,
The trumpets crash in through the door.
One! Two! Three! clangs his funeral bell.
One! Two! Three! In the chaos
Rolls the earth to the hideous glee
Of death! And so cramped is this place,
I stifle and pant.
One! Two! Three!
Round and round! God! 'Tis he throttles
He has covered my mouth with his face!
And his blood has dripped into my heart!
And my heart beats and labours.
Three! His dead limbs have coiled every part
Of my body in tentacles.
My ears the waltz jangles.
His dead body holds me athwart.
One! Two! Three! Give me air! Oh! My
One! Two! Three! I am drowning
One! Two! Three! And his corpse,
like a clod,
Beats me into a jelly! The chime,
One! Two! Three! And his
dead legs keep time.
Air! Give me air! Air! My God!
Robert William Service |
In Pat Mahoney's booze bazaar the fun was fast and free,
And Ragtime Billy spanked the baby grand;
While caroling a saucy song was Montreal Maree,
With sozzled sourdoughs giving her a hand.
When suddenly erupting in the gay and gilded hall,
A stranger draped himself upon the bar;
As in a voice like bedrock grit he hollered: "Drinks for all,"
And casually lit a long cigar.
He bore a battered stetson on the grizzle of his dome,
And a bunch of inky whiskers on his jaw;
The suddenly I knew the guy - 'twas Black Moran from Nome.
A guinney like greased lightening on the draw.
But no one got his number in that wild and wooly throng,
As they hailed his invitation with eclaw,
And they crowded round the stranger, but I knew something was wrong.
When in there stomped the Sheriff, Red McGraw.
Now Red McGraw from Arkansaw was noted for his spunk;
He had a dozen notches on his gun;
And whether he was sober or whether he was drunk,
He kept the lousy outlaws on the run.
So now he shouts: "Say, boys, there's been a hold-up Hunker Way,
And by this poke I'm throwin' on the bar,
I bet I'll get the bastard braced before another day,
Or send him where a dozen others are.
He banged the bag of gold-dust on the bar for all to see,
When in a lazy drawl the stranger spoke:
"As I'm the man you're lookin' for an feelin' mighty free,
I reckon, Sheriff, I'll jest take yer poke.
It's pleasant meetin' you like this, an' talkin' man to man,
For all the North had heard o' Ref McGraw.
I'm glad to make ye eat yer words, since I am Black Moran,
An' no man livin' beats me on the draw.
And as they boldly bellied, each man's hand was on his rod,
Yet at that dreaded name the Sheriff knew
A single fumbling movement and he'd go to meet his God,
The which he had no great desire to do.
So there they stood like carven wood and hushed was every breath,
We watched them glaring, staring eye to eye;
But neither drew, for either knew a second split meant death -
And so a minute .
three three went by.
The sweat pricked on the Sheriff's brow as suddenly he broke
And limp and weak he wilted to the floor;
And then the stranger's hand shot out and grabbed the heavy poke
As jeeringly he backed up to the door.
"Say, folks," he cried, "I'm off downstream; no more of me you'll see,
But let me state the job was pretty raw.
The guy that staged the robbery he thought to pin on me
Was your bastard Sheriff, Red McGraw.
Robert William Service |
He was a traveling tinker lad
And I was a gypsy jade,
Yet never were two so gay and glad,
And a perfect pair we made;
Bruises I've known since life began,
Blows and the love that smothers:
But I'd rather have the curse of my man,
Than the kisses of all others.
When Black Mike called me a lousy bitch
Jim was so mad, like hell 'e
Flammed, and Mike lay there in the ditch
With a jack-knife in his belly.
Then came the cops and they put away
My bully behind the bars,
And he'll lose for a score of years, they say,
The light o' the larky stars.
And yet in spite o' his dismal doom
No garb of woe I'm wearing,
For the seed of him is in my womb,
And son for him I'm bearing;
And when they swing the prison gate,
And him like blind they're leading,
His boy and I with bliss will wait,
Although our hearts are bleeding.
Then we will take with wildwood track,
And he'll be wae and weary,
But when he gets his manhood back
And beats me I'll be cheery.
And maybe some fowl's neck I'll wring,
And maybe we'll get tipsy;
So by a thorn fire how we'll sing!
What heaven for a gypsy!