Rabindranath Tagore |
Mother, let us imagine we are travelling, and passing through a
strange and dangerous country.
You are riding in a palanquin and I am trotting by you on a
It is evening and the sun goes down.
The waste of Joradighi
lies wan and grey before us.
The land is desolate and barren.
You are frightened and thinking-"I know not where we have come
I say to you, "Mother, do not be afraid.
The meadow is prickly with spiky grass, and through it runs
a narrow broken path.
There are no cattle to be seen in the wide field; they have
gone to their village stalls.
It grows dark and dim on the land and sky, and we cannot tell
where we are going.
Suddenly you call me and ask me in a whisper, "What light is
that near the bank?"
Just then there bursts out a fearful yell, and figures come
running towards us.
You sit crouched in your palanquin and repeat the names of the
gods in prayer.
The bearers, shaking in terror, hide themselves in the thorny
I shout to you, "Don't be afraid, mother.
I am here.
With long sticks in their hands and hair all wild about their
heads, they come nearer and nearer.
I shout, "Have a care, you villains! One step more and you are
They give another terrible yell and rush forward.
You clutch my hand and say, "Dear boy, for heaven's sake, keep
away from them.
I say, "Mother, just you watch me.
Then I spur my horse for a wild gallop, and my sword and
buckler clash against each other.
The fight becomes so fearful, mother, that it would give you
a cold shudder could you see it from your palanquin.
Many of them fly, and a great number are cut to pieces.
I know you are thinking, sitting all by yourself, that your
boy must be dead by this time.
But I come to you all stained with blood, and say,"Mother, the
fight is over now.
You come out and kiss me, pressing me to your heart, and you
say to yourself,
"I don't know what I should do if I hadn't my boy to escort
A thousand useless things happen day after day, and why
couldn't such a thing come true by chance?
It would be like a story in a book.
My brother would say, "Is it possible? I always thought he was
Our village people would all say in amazement, "Was it not
lucky that the boy was with his mother?"
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow |
What the Heart of the Young Man Said to the Psalmist
TELL me not in mournful numbers
Life is but an empty dream!¡ª
For the soul is dead that slumbers
And things are not what they seem.
Life is real! Life is earnest! 5
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art to dust returnest
Was not spoken of the soul.
Not enjoyment and not sorrow
Is our destined end or way; 10
But to act that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.
Art is long and Time is fleeting
And our hearts though stout and brave
Still like muffled drums are beating 15
Funeral marches to the grave.
In the world's broad field of battle
In the bivouac of Life
Be not like dumb driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife! 20
Trust no Future howe'er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act ¡ªact in the living Present!
Heart within and God o'erhead!
Lives of great men all remind us 25
We can make our lives sublime
And departing leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints that perhaps another
Sailing o'er life's solemn main 30
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother
Seeing shall take heart again.
Let us then be up and doing
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving still pursuing 35
Learn to labor and to wait.
Anne Sexton |
a girl who keeps slipping off,
arms limp as old carrots,
into the hypnotist's trance,
into a spirit world
speaking with the gift of tongues.
She is stuck in the time machine,
suddenly two years old sucking her thumb,
as inward as a snail,
learning to talk again.
She's on a voyage.
She is swimming further and further back,
up like a salmon,
struggling into her mother's pocketbook.
Little doll child,
come here to Papa.
Sit on my knee.
I have kisses for the back of your neck.
A penny for your thoughts, Princess.
I will hunt them like an emerald.
Come be my snooky
and I will give you a root.
That kind of voyage,
rank as a honeysuckle.
a king had a christening
for his daughter Briar Rose
and because he had only twelve gold plates
he asked only twelve fairies
to the grand event.
The thirteenth fairy,
her fingers as long and thing as straws,
her eyes burnt by cigarettes,
her uterus an empty teacup,
arrived with an evil gift.
She made this prophecy:
The princess shall prick herself
on a spinning wheel in her fifteenth year
and then fall down dead.
The court fell silent.
The king looked like Munch's Scream
in times like those,
However the twelfth fairy
had a certain kind of eraser
and thus she mitigated the curse
changing that death
into a hundred-year sleep.
The king ordered every spinning wheel
exterminated and exorcised.
Briar Rose grew to be a goddess
and each night the king
bit the hem of her gown
to keep her safe.
He fastened the moon up
with a safety pin
to give her perpetual light
He forced every male in the court
to scour his tongue with Bab-o
lest they poison the air she dwelt in.
Thus she dwelt in his odor.
Rank as honeysuckle.
On her fifteenth birthday
she pricked her finger
on a charred spinning wheel
and the clocks stopped.
She went to sleep.
The king and queen went to sleep,
the courtiers, the flies on the wall.
The fire in the hearth grew still
and the roast meat stopped crackling.
The trees turned into metal
and the dog became china.
They all lay in a trance,
each a catatonic
stuck in a time machine.
Even the frogs were zombies.
Only a bunch of briar roses grew
forming a great wall of tacks
around the castle.
tried to get through the brambles
for they had heard much of Briar Rose
but they had not scoured their tongues
so they were held by the thorns
and thus were crucified.
In due time
a hundred years passed
and a prince got through.
The briars parted as if for Moses
and the prince found the tableau intact.
He kissed Briar Rose
and she woke up crying:
Presto! She's out of prison!
She married the prince
and all went well
except for the fear --
the fear of sleep.
was an insomniac.
She could not nap
or lie in sleep
without the court chemist
mixing her some knock-out drops
and never in the prince's presence.
If if is to come, she said,
sleep must take me unawares
while I am laughing or dancing
so that I do not know that brutal place
where I lie down with cattle prods,
the hole in my cheek open.
Further, I must not dream
for when I do I see the table set
and a faltering crone at my place,
her eyes burnt by cigarettes
as she eats betrayal like a slice of meat.
I must not sleep
for while I'm asleep I'm ninety
and think I'm dying.
Death rattles in my throat
like a marble.
I wear tubes like earrings.
I lie as still as a bar of iron.
You can stick a needle
through my kneecap and I won't flinch.
I'm all shot up with Novocain.
This trance girl
is yours to do with.
You could lay her in a grave,
an awful package,
and shovel dirt on her face
and she'd never call back: Hello there!
But if you kissed her on the mouth
her eyes would spring open
and she'd call out: Daddy! Daddy!
She's out of prison.
There was a theft.
That much I am told.
I was abandoned.
That much I know.
I was forced backward.
I was forced forward.
I was passed hand to hand
like a bowl of fruit.
Each night I am nailed into place
and forget who I am.
That's another kind of prison.
It's not the prince at all,
but my father
drunkeningly bends over my bed,
circling the abyss like a shark,
my father thick upon me
like some sleeping jellyfish.
What voyage is this, little girl?
This coming out of prison?
God help --
this life after death?
William Wordsworth |
The cock is crowing,
The stream is flowing,
The small birds twitter,
The lake doth glitter
The green field sleeps in the sun;
The oldest and youngest
Are at work with the strongest;
The cattle are grazing,
Their heads never raising;
There are forty feeding like one!
Like an army defeated
The snow hath retreated,
And now doth fare ill
On the top of the bare hill;
The plowboy is whooping—anon-anon:
There's joy in the mountains;
There's life in the fountains;
Small clouds are sailing,
Blue sky prevailing;
The rain is over and gone!
Robert William Service |
Have you gazed on naked grandeur where there's nothing else to gaze on,
Set pieces and drop-curtain scenes galore,
Big mountains heaved to heaven, which the blinding sunsets blazon,
Black canyons where the rapids rip and roar?
Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it,
Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost?
Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it;
Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost.
Have you wandered in the wilderness, the sagebrush desolation,
The bunch-grass levels where the cattle graze?
Have you whistled bits of rag-time at the end of all creation,
And learned to know the desert's little ways?
Have you camped upon the foothills, have you galloped o'er the ranges,
Have you roamed the arid sun-lands through and through?
Have you chummed up with the mesa? Do you know its moods and changes?
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.
Have you known the Great White Silence, not a snow-gemmed twig aquiver?
(Eternal truths that shame our soothing lies.
Have you broken trail on snowshoes? mushed your huskies up the river,
Dared the unknown, led the way, and clutched the prize?
Have you marked the map's void spaces, mingled with the mongrel races,
Felt the savage strength of brute in every thew?
And though grim as hell the worst is, can you round it off with curses?
Then hearken to the Wild -- it's wanting you.
Have you suffered, starved and triumphed, groveled down, yet grasped at glory,
Grown bigger in the bigness of the whole?
"Done things" just for the doing, letting babblers tell the story,
Seeing through the nice veneer the naked soul?
Have you seen God in His splendors, heard the text that nature renders?
(You'll never hear it in the family pew.
The simple things, the true things, the silent men who do things --
Then listen to the Wild -- it's calling you.
They have cradled you in custom, they have primed you with their preaching,
They have soaked you in convention through and through;
They have put you in a showcase; you're a credit to their teaching --
But can't you hear the Wild? -- it's calling you.
Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling .
let us go.
Walt Whitman |
Always our own feuillage!
Always Florida’s green peninsula! Always the priceless delta of Louisiana! Always the
cotton-fields of Alabama and Texas!
Always California’s golden hills and hollows—and the silver mountains of New
Always soft-breath’d Cuba!
Always the vast slope drain’d by the Southern Sea—inseparable with the slopes
by the Eastern and Western Seas;
The area the eighty-third year of These States—the three and a half millions of
The eighteen thousand miles of sea-coast and bay-coast on the main—the thirty
The seven millions of distinct families, and the same number of dwellings—Always
more, branching forth into numberless branches;
Always the free range and diversity! always the continent of Democracy!
Always the prairies, pastures, forests, vast cities, travelers, Kanada, the snows;
Always these compact lands—lands tied at the hips with the belt stringing the huge
Always the West, with strong native persons—the increasing density there—the
friendly, threatening, ironical, scorning invaders;
All sights, South, North, East—all deeds, promiscuously done at all times,
All characters, movements, growths—a few noticed, myriads unnoticed,
Through Mannahatta’s streets I walking, these things gathering;
On interior rivers, by night, in the glare of pine knots, steamboats wooding up;
Sunlight by day on the valley of the Susquehanna, and on the valleys of the Potomac and
Rappahannock, and the valleys of the Roanoke and Delaware;
In their northerly wilds, beasts of prey haunting the Adirondacks, the hills—or
Saginaw waters to drink;
In a lonesome inlet, a sheldrake, lost from the flock, sitting on the water, rocking
In farmers’ barns, oxen in the stable, their harvest labor done—they rest
standing—they are too tired;
Afar on arctic ice, the she-walrus lying drowsily, while her cubs play around;
The hawk sailing where men have not yet sail’d—the farthest polar sea, ripply,
crystalline, open, beyond the floes;
White drift spooning ahead, where the ship in the tempest dashes;
On solid land, what is done in cities, as the bells all strike midnight together;
In primitive woods, the sounds there also sounding—the howl of the wolf, the scream
panther, and the hoarse bellow of the elk;
In winter beneath the hard blue ice of Moosehead Lake—in summer visible through the
waters, the great trout swimming;
In lower latitudes, in warmer air, in the Carolinas, the large black buzzard floating
beyond the tree tops,
Below, the red cedar, festoon’d with tylandria—the pines and cypresses, growing
white sand that spreads far and flat;
Rude boats descending the big Pedee—climbing plants, parasites, with color’d
berries, enveloping huge trees,
The waving drapery on the live oak, trailing long and low, noiselessly waved by the wind;
The camp of Georgia wagoners, just after dark—the supper-fires, and the cooking and
whites and negroes,
Thirty or forty great wagons—the mules, cattle, horses, feeding from troughs,
The shadows, gleams, up under the leaves of the old sycamore-trees—the
black smoke from the pitch-pine, curling and rising;
Southern fishermen fishing—the sounds and inlets of North Carolina’s
shad-fishery and the herring-fishery—the large sweep-seines—the windlasses on
work’d by horses—the clearing, curing, and packing-houses;
Deep in the forest, in piney woods, turpentine dropping from the incisions in the
are the turpentine works,
There are the negroes at work, in good health—the ground in all directions is
—In Tennessee and Kentucky, slaves busy in the coalings, at the forge, by the
at the corn-shucking;
In Virginia, the planter’s son returning after a long absence, joyfully welcom’d
kiss’d by the aged mulatto nurse;
On rivers, boatmen safely moor’d at night-fall, in their boats, under shelter of high
Some of the younger men dance to the sound of the banjo or fiddle—others sit on the
smoking and talking;
Late in the afternoon, the mocking-bird, the American mimic, singing in the Great Dismal
Swamp—there are the greenish waters, the resinous odor, the plenteous moss, the
and the juniper tree;
—Northward, young men of Mannahatta—the target company from an excursion
evening—the musket-muzzles all bear bunches of flowers presented by women;
Children at play—or on his father’s lap a young boy fallen asleep, (how his lips
he smiles in his sleep!)
The scout riding on horseback over the plains west of the Mississippi—he ascends a
sweeps his eye around;
California life—the miner, bearded, dress’d in his rude costume—the stanch
friendship—the sweet air—the graves one, in passing, meets, solitary, just
Down in Texas, the cotton-field, the negro-cabins—drivers driving mules or oxen
carts—cotton bales piled on banks and wharves;
Encircling all, vast-darting, up and wide, the American Soul, with equal
one Dilation or Pride;
—In arriere, the peace-talk with the Iroquois, the aborigines—the calumet, the
good-will, arbitration, and indorsement,
The sachem blowing the smoke first toward the sun and then toward the earth,
The drama of the scalp-dance enacted with painted faces and guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party—the long and stealthy march,
The single-file—the swinging hatchets—the surprise and slaughter of enemies;
—All the acts, scenes, ways, persons, attitudes of These States—reminiscences,
All These States, compact—Every square mile of These States, without excepting a
particle—you also—me also,
Me pleas’d, rambling in lanes and country fields, Paumanok’s fields,
Me, observing the spiral flight of two little yellow butterflies, shuffling between each
ascending high in the air;
The darting swallow, the destroyer of insects—the fall traveler southward, but
northward early in the spring;
The country boy at the close of the day, driving the herd of cows, and shouting to them as
loiter to browse by the road-side;
The city wharf—Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Charleston, New Orleans, San
The departing ships, when the sailors heave at the capstan;
—Evening—me in my room—the setting sun,
The setting summer sun shining in my open window, showing the swarm of flies, suspended,
in the air in the centre of the room, darting athwart, up and down, casting swift shadows
on the opposite wall, where the shine is;
The athletic American matron speaking in public to crowds of listeners;
Males, females, immigrants, combinations—the copiousness—the individuality of
each for itself—the money-makers;
Factories, machinery, the mechanical forces—the windlass, lever, pulley—All
The certainty of space, increase, freedom, futurity,
In space, the sporades, the scatter’d islands, the stars—on the firm earth, the
O lands! all so dear to me—what you are, (whatever it is,) I become a part of that,
Southward there, I screaming, with wings slowly flapping, with the myriads of gulls
the coasts of Florida—or in Louisiana, with pelicans breeding;
Otherways, there, atwixt the banks of the Arkansaw, the Rio Grande, the Nueces, the
Tombigbee, the Red River, the Saskatchawan, or the Osage, I with the spring waters
skipping and running;
Northward, on the sands, on some shallow bay of Paumanok, I, with parties of snowy herons
the wet to seek worms and aquatic plants;
Retreating, triumphantly twittering, the king-bird, from piercing the crow with its bill,
amusement—And I triumphantly twittering;
The migrating flock of wild geese alighting in autumn to refresh themselves—the body
flock feed—the sentinels outside move around with erect heads watching, and are from
time reliev’d by other sentinels—And I feeding and taking turns with the rest;
In Kanadian forests, the moose, large as an ox, corner’d by hunters, rising
hind-feet, and plunging with his fore-feet, the hoofs as sharp as knives—And I,
hunters, corner’d and desperate;
In the Mannahatta, streets, piers, shipping, store-houses, and the countless workmen
And I too of the Mannahatta, singing thereof—and no less in myself than the whole of
Mannahatta in itself,
Singing the song of These, my ever united lands—my body no more inevitably united,
part, and made one identity, any more than my lands are inevitably united, and made ONE
Nativities, climates, the grass of the great Pastoral Plains;
Cities, labors, death, animals, products, war, good and evil—these me,
These affording, in all their particulars, endless feuillage to me and to America, how can
than pass the clew of the union of them, to afford the like to you?
Whoever you are! how can I but offer you divine leaves, that you also be eligible as I am?
How can I but, as here, chanting, invite you for yourself to collect bouquets of the
feuillage of These States?
Derek Walcott |
There were still shards of an ancient pastoral
in those shires of the island where the cattle drank
their pools of shadow from an older sky,
surviving from when the landscape copied such objects as
"Herefords at Sunset in the valley of the Wye.
The mountain water that fell white from the mill wheel
sprinkling like petals from the star-apple trees,
and all of the windmills and sugar mills moved by mules
on the treadmill of Monday to Monday, would repeat
in tongues of water and wind and fire, in tongues
of Mission School pickaninnies, like rivers remembering
their source, Parish Trelawny, Parish St David, Parish
St Andrew, the names afflicting the pastures,
the lime groves and fences of marl stone and the cattle
with a docile longing, an epochal content.
And there were, like old wedding lace in an attic,
among the boas and parasols and the tea-colored
daguerreotypes, hints of an epochal happiness
as ordered and infinite to the child
as the great house road to the Great House
down a perspective of casuarinas plunging green manes
in time to the horses, an orderly life
reduced by lorgnettes day and night, one disc the sun,
the other the moon, reduced into a pier glass:
nannies diminished to dolls, mahogany stairways
no larger than those of an album in which
the flash of cutlery yellows, as gamboge as
the piled cakes of teatime on that latticed
bougainvillea verandah that looked down toward
a prospect of Cuyp-like Herefords under a sky
lurid as a porcelain souvenir with these words:
"Herefords at Sunset in the Valley of the Wye.
Strange, that the rancor of hatred hid in that dream
of slow rivers and lily-like parasols, in snaps
of fine old colonial families, curled at the edge
not from age of from fire or the chemicals, no, not at all,
but because, off at its edges, innocently excluded
stood the groom, the cattle boy, the housemaid, the gardeners,
the tenants, the good Negroes down in the village,
their mouth in the locked jaw of a silent scream.
A scream which would open the doors to swing wildly
all night, that was bringing in heavier clouds,
more black smoke than cloud, frightening the cattle
in whose bulging eyes the Great House diminished;
a scorching wind of a scream
that began to extinguish the fireflies,
that dried the water mill creaking to a stop
as it was about to pronounce Parish Trelawny
all over, in the ancient pastoral voice,
a wind that blew all without bending anything,
neither the leaves of the album nor the lime groves;
blew Nanny floating back in white from a feather
to a chimerical, chemical pin speck that shrank
the drinking Herefords to brown porcelain cows
on a mantelpiece, Trelawny trembling with dusk,
the scorched pastures of the old benign Custos; blew
far the decent servants and the lifelong cook,
and shriveled to a shard that ancient pastoral
of dusk in a gilt-edged frame now catching the evening sun
in Jamaica, making both epochs one.
He looked out from the Great House windows on
clouds that still held the fragrance of fire,
he saw the Botanical Gardens officially drown
in a formal dusk, where governors had strolled
and black gardeners had smiled over glinting shears
at the lilies of parasols on the floating lawns,
the flame trees obeyed his will and lowered their wicks,
the flowers tightened their fists in the name of thrift,
the porcelain lamps of ripe cocoa, the magnolia's jet
dimmed on the one circuit with the ginger lilies
and left a lonely bulb on the verandah,
and, had his mandate extended to that ceiling
of star-apple candelabra, he would have ordered
the sky to sleep, saying, I'm tired,
save the starlight for victories, we can't afford it,
leave the moon on for one more hour,and that's it.
But though his power, the given mandate, extended
from tangerine daybreaks to star-apple dusks,
his hand could not dam that ceaseless torrent of dust
that carried the shacks of the poor, to their root-rock music,
down the gullies of Yallahs and August Town,
to lodge them on thorns of maca, with their rags
crucified by cactus, tins, old tires, cartons;
from the black Warieka Hills the sky glowed fierce as
the dials of a million radios,
a throbbing sunset that glowed like a grid
where the dread beat rose from the jukebox of Kingston.
He saw the fountains dried of quadrilles, the water-music
of the country dancers, the fiddlers like fifes
He had to heal
this malarial island in its bath of bay leaves,
its forests tossing with fever, the dry cattle
groaning like winches, the grass that kept shaking
its head to remember its name.
No vowels left
in the mill wheel, the river.
The mountains rolled like whales through phosphorous stars,
as he swayed like a stone down fathoms into sleep,
drawn by that magnet which pulls down half the world
between a star and a star, by that black power
that has the assassin dreaming of snow,
that poleaxes the tyrant to a sleeping child.
The house is rocking at anchor, but as he falls
his mind is a mill wheel in moonlight,
and he hears, in the sleep of his moonlight, the drowned
bell of Port Royal's cathedral, sees the copper pennies
of bubbles rising from the empty eye-pockets
of green buccaneers, the parrot fish floating
from the frayed shoulders of pirates, sea horses
drawing gowned ladies in their liquid promenade
across the moss-green meadows of the sea;
he heard the drowned choirs under Palisadoes,
a hymn ascending to earth from a heaven inverted
by water, a crab climbing the steeple,
and he climbed from that submarine kingdom
as the evening lights came on in the institute,
the scholars lamplit in their own aquarium,
he saw them mouthing like parrot fish, as he passed
upward from that baptism, their history lessons,
the bubbles like ideas which he could not break:
Jamaica was captured by Penn and Venables,
Port Royal perished in a cataclysmic earthquake.
Before the coruscating faÃ§ades of cathedrals
from Santiago to Caracas, where penitential archbishops
washed the feet of paupers (a parenthetical moment
that made the Caribbean a baptismal font,
turned butterflies to stone, and whitened like doves
the buzzards circling municipal garbage),
the Caribbean was borne like an elliptical basin
in the hands of acolytes, and a people were absolved
of a history which they did not commit;
the slave pardoned his whip, and the dispossessed
said the rosary of islands for three hundred years,
a hymn that resounded like the hum of the sea
inside a sea cave, as their knees turned to stone,
while the bodies of patriots were melting down walls
still crusted with mute outcries of La Revolucion!
"San Salvador, pray for us,St.
Thomas, San Domingo,
ora pro nobis, intercede for us, Sancta Lucia
of no eyes," and when the circular chaplet
reached the last black bead of Sancta Trinidad
they began again, their knees drilled into stone,
where Colon had begun, with San Salvador's bead,
beads of black colonies round the necks of Indians.
And while they prayed for an economic miracle,
ulcers formed on the municipal portraits,
the hotels went up, and the casinos and brothels,
and the empires of tobacco, sugar, and bananas,
until a black woman, shawled like a buzzard,
climbed up the stairs and knocked at the door
of his dream, whispering in the ear of the keyhole:
"Let me in, I'm finished with praying, I'm the Revolution.
I am the darker, the older America.
She was as beautiful as a stone in the sunrise,
her voice had the gutturals of machine guns
across khaki deserts where the cactus flower
detonates like grenades, her sex was the slit throat
of an Indian, her hair had the blue-black sheen of the crow.
She was a black umbrella blown inside out
by the wind of revolution, La Madre Dolorosa,
a black rose of sorrow, a black mine of silence,
raped wife, empty mother, Aztec virgin
transfixed by arrows from a thousand guitars,
a stone full of silence, which, if it gave tongue
to the tortures done in the name of the Father,
would curdle the blood of the marauding wolf,
the fountain of generals, poets, and cripples
who danced without moving over their graves
with each revolution; her Caesarean was stitched
by the teeth of machine guns,and every sunset
she carried the Caribbean's elliptical basin
as she had once carried the penitential napkins
to be the footbath of dictators, Trujillo, Machado,
and those whose faces had yellowed like posters
on municipal walls.
Now she stroked his hair
until it turned white, but she would not understand
that he wanted no other power but peace,
that he wanted a revolution without any bloodshed,
he wanted a history without any memory,
streets without statues,
and a geography without myth.
He wanted no armies
but those regiments of bananas, thick lances of cane,
and he sobbed,"I am powerless, except for love.
She faded from him, because he could not kill;
she shrunk to a bat that hung day and night
in the back of his brain.
He rose in his dream.
(to be continued)
Robert Louis Stevenson |
Three of us afloat in the meadow by the swing,
Three of us abroad in the basket on the lea.
Winds are in the air, they are blowing in the spring,
And waves are on the meadow like the waves there are at sea.
Where shall we adventure, to-day that we're afloat,
Wary of the weather and steering by a star?
Shall it be to Africa, a-steering of the boat,
To Providence, or Babylon or off to Malabar?
Hi! but here's a squadron a-rowing on the sea--
Cattle on the meadow a-charging with a roar!
Quick, and we'll escape them, they're as mad as they can be,
The wicket is the harbour and the garden is the shore.
David Herbert Lawrence |
A snake came to my water-trough
On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat,
To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob-tree
I came down the steps with my pitcher
And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom
And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of
the stone trough
And rested his throat upon the stone bottom,
And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness,
He sipped with his straight mouth,
Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body,
Someone was before me at my water-trough,
And I, like a second comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do,
And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do,
And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment,
And stooped and drank a little more,
Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth
On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me
He must be killed,
For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man
You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him,
How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough
And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless,
Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel so honoured?
I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices:
If you were not afraid, you would kill him!
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more
That he should seek my hospitality
From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough
And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken,
And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black,
Seeming to lick his lips,
And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air,
And slowly turned his head,
And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream,
Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round
And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole,
And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered farther,
A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole,
Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after,
Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher,
I picked up a clumsy log
And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him,
But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste.
Writhed like lightning, and was gone
Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front,
At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it.
I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act!
I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross
And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king,
Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld,
Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords
And I have something to expiate:
Robert Hayden |
Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,
sharks following the moans the fever and the dying;
horror the corposant and compass rose.
voyage through death
to life upon these shores.
"10 April 1800--
Our linguist says
their moaning is a prayer for death,
our and their own.
Some try to starve themselves.
Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter
to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home
black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies, of his bones
New England pews are made, those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus Saviour Pilot Me
Over Life's Tempestuous Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,
safe passage to our vessels bringing
heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
I cannot sleep, for I am sick
with fear, but writing eases fear a little
since still my eyes can see these words take shape
upon the page & so I write, as one
would turn to exorcism.
4 days scudding,
but now the sea is calm again.
follows in our wake like sharks (our grinning
Which one of us
has killed an albatross? A plague among
our blacks--Ophthalmia: blindness--& we
have jettisoned the blind to no avail.
It spreads, the terrifying sickness spreads.
Its claws have scratched sight from the Capt.
& there is blindness in the fo'c'sle
& we must sail 3 weeks before we come
What port awaits us, Davy Jones' or home? I've
heard of slavers drifting, drifting, playthings of wind and storm and
chance, their crews gone blind, the jungle hatred crawling
up on deck.
Thou Who Walked On Galilee
"Deponent further sayeth The Bella J
left the Guinea Coast
with cargo of five hundred blacks and odd
for the barracoons of Florida:
"That there was hardly room 'tween-decks for half
the sweltering cattle stowed spoon-fashion there;
that some went mad of thirst and tore their flesh
and sucked the blood:
"That Crew and Captain lusted with the comeliest
of the savage girls kept naked in the cabins;
that there was one they called The Guinea Rose
and they cast lots and fought to lie with her:
"That when the Bo's'n piped all hands, the flames
spreading from starboard already were beyond
control, the negroes howling and their chains
entangled with the flames:
"That the burning blacks could not be reached,
that the Crew abandoned ship,
leaving their shrieking negresses behind,
that the Captain perished drunken with the wenches:
"Further Deponent sayeth not.
Pilot Oh Pilot Me
Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,
Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;
have watched the artful mongos baiting traps
of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons.
Have seen the ****** kings whose vanity
and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,
Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.
And there was one--King Anthracite we named him--
fetish face beneath French parasols
of brass and orange velvet, impudent mouth
whose cups were carven skulls of enemies:
He'd honor us with drum and feast and conjo
and palm-oil-glistening wenches deft in love,
and for tin crowns that shone with paste,
red calico and German-silver trinkets
Would have the drums talk war and send
his warriors to burn the sleeping villages
and kill the sick and old and lead the young
in coffles to our factories.
Twenty years a trader, twenty years,
for there was wealth aplenty to be harvested
from those black fields, and I'd be trading still
but for the fevers melting down my bones.
Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,
the dark ships move, the dark ships move,
their bright ironical names
like jests of kindness on a murderer's mouth;
plough through thrashing glister toward
fata morgana's lucent melting shore,
weave toward New World littorals that are
mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,
voyage whose chartings are unlove.
A charnel stench, effluvium of living death
spreads outward from the hold,
where the living and the dead, the horribly dying,
lie interlocked, lie foul with blood and excrement.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies, the corpse of mercy
rots with him, rats eat love's rotten gelid eyes.
But, oh, the
living look at you with human eyes whose suffering accuses you, whose
hatred reaches through the swill of dark to strike you like a leper's
You cannot stare that hatred down or chain the fear that stalks
the watches and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath; cannot
kill the deep immortal human wish, the timeless will.
"But for the storm that flung up barriers
of wind and wave, The Amistad, señores,
would have reached the port of Príncipe in two,
three days at most; but for the storm we should
have been prepared for what befell.
Swift as a puma's leap it came.
that interval of moonless calm filled only
with the water's and the rigging's usual sounds,
then sudden movement, blows and snarling cries
and they had fallen on us with machete
It was as though the very
air, the night itself were striking us.
Exhausted by the rigors of the storm,
we were no match for them.
Our men went down
before the murderous Africans.
Celestino ran from below with gun
and lantern and I saw, before the cane-
knife's wounding flash, Cinquez,
that surly brute who calls himself a prince,
directing, urging on the ghastly work.
He hacked the poor mulatto down, and then
he turned on me.
The decks were slippery
when daylight finally came.
It sickens me
to think of what I saw, of how these apes
threw overboard the butchered bodies of
our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsam.
The rest is quickly told:
Cinquez was forced to spare the two of us
you see to steer the ship to Africa,
and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea
voyaged east by day and west by night,
deceiving them, hoping for rescue,
prisoners on our own vessel, till
at length we drifted to the shores of this
your land, America, where we were freed
from our unspeakable misery.
demand, good sirs, the extradition of
Cinquez and his accomplices to La
And it distresses us to know
there are so many here who seem inclined
to justify the mutiny of these blacks.
We find it paradoxical indeed
that you whose wealth, whose tree of liberty
are rooted in the labor of your slaves
should suffer the august John Quincey Adams
to speak with so much passion of the right
of chattel slaves to kill their lawful masters
and with his Roman rhetoric weave a hero's
garland for Cinquez.
I tell you that
we are determined to return to Cuba
with our slaves and there see justice done.
or let us say 'the Prince'--Cinquez shall die.
The deep immortal human wish,
the timeless will:
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,
life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death
to life upon these shores.