Maya Angelou |
Some clichty folks
don't know the facts,
posin' and preenin'
and puttin' on acts,
stretchin' their backs.
They move into condos
up over the ranks,
pawn their souls
to the local banks.
Buying big cars
they can't afford,
ridin' around town
If they want to learn how to live life right
they ought to study me on Saturday night.
My job at the plant
ain't the biggest bet,
but I pay my bills
and stay out of debt.
I get my hair done
for my own self's sake,
so I don't have to pick
and I don't have to rake.
Take the church money out
and head cross town
to my friend girl's house
where we plan our round.
We meet our men and go to a joint
where the music is blue
and to the point.
Folks write about me.
They just can't see
how I work all week
at the factory.
Then get spruced up
and laugh and dance
And turn away from worry
with sassy glance.
They accuse me of livin'
from day to day,
but who are they kiddin'?
So are they.
My life ain't heaven
but it sure ain't hell.
I'm not on top
but I call it swell
if I'm able to work
and get paid right
and have the luck to be Black
on a Saturday night.
Wendell Berry |
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay.
of everything ready-made.
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you.
When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute.
Love the Lord.
Love the world.
Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit.
Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion -- put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world.
Laughter is immeasurable.
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade.
Rest your head
in her lap.
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go.
Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Anthony Hecht |
I'm mighty glad to see you, Mrs.
And thank you very kindly for this visit--
Especially now when all the others here
Are having holiday visitors, and I feel
A little conspicuous and in the way.
It's mainly because of Thanksgiving.
All these mothers
And wives and husbands gaze at me soulfully
And feel they should break up their box of chocolates
For a donation, or hand me a chunk of fruitcake.
What they don't understand and never guess
Is that it's better for me without a family;
It's a great blessing.
Though I mean no harm.
And as for visitors, why, I have you,
All cheerful, brisk and punctual every Sunday,
Like church, even if the aisles smell of phenol.
And you always bring even better gifts than any
On your book-trolley.
Though they mean only good,
Families can become a sort of burden.
I've only got my father, and he won't come,
Poor man, because it would be too much for him.
And for me, too, so it's best the way it is.
He knows, you see, that I will predecease him,
Which is hard enough.
It would take a callous man
To come and stand around and watch me failing.
(Now don't you fuss; we both know the plain facts.
But for him it's even harder.
He loved my mother.
They say she looked like me; I suppose she may have.
Or rather, as I grew older I came to look
More and more like she must one time have looked,
And so the prospect for my father now
Of losing me is like having to lose her twice.
I know he frets about me.
Tells me he phones in every single day,
Hoping that things will take a turn for the better.
But with leukemia things don't improve.
It's like a sort of blizzard in the bloodstream,
A deep, severe, unseasonable winter,
The white blood cells
Multiply crazily and storm around,
Out of control.
Hasn't helped much, and it makes my hair fall out.
I know I look a sight, but I don't care.
I care about fewer things; I'm more selective.
It's got so I can't even bring myself
To read through any of your books these days.
It's partly weariness, and partly the fact
That I seem not to care much about the endings,
How things work out, or whether they even do.
What I do instead is sit here by this window
And look out at the trees across the way.
You wouldn't think that was much, but let me tell you,
It keeps me quite intent and occupied.
Now all the leaves are down, you can see the spare,
Delicate structures of the sycamores,
The fine articulation of the beeches.
I have sat here for days studying them,
And I have only just begun to see
What it is that they resemble.
One by one,
They stand there like magnificent enlargements
Of the vascular system of the human brain.
I see them there like huge discarnate minds,
Lost in their meditative silences.
The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels
That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.
So I've assigned them names.
There, near the path,
Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler
Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash.
This view, you see, has become my Hall of Fame,
It came to me one day when I remembered
Mary Beth Finley who used to play with me
When we were girls.
One year her parents gave her
A birthday toy called "The Transparent Man.
It was made of plastic, with different colored organs,
And the circulatory system all mapped out
In rivers of red and blue.
She'd ask me over
And the two of us would sit and study him
Together, and do a powerful lot of giggling.
I figure he's most likely the only man
Either of us would ever get to know
Intimately, because Mary Beth became
A Sister of Mercy when she was old enough.
She must be thirty-one; she was a year
Older than I, and about four inches taller.
I used to envy both those advantages
Back in those days.
Anyway, I was struck
Right from the start by the sea-weed intricacy,
The fine-haired, silken-threaded filiations
That wove, like Belgian lace, throughout the head.
But this last week it seems I have found myself
Looking beyond, or through, individual trees
At the dense, clustered woodland just behind them,
Where those great, nameless crowds patiently stand.
It's become a sort of complex, ultimate puzzle
And keeps me fascinated.
My eyes are twenty-twenty,
Or used to be, but of course I can't unravel
The tousled snarl of intersecting limbs,
That mackled, cinder grayness.
It's a riddle
Beyond the eye's solution.
If there is order in all that anarchy
Of granite mezzotint, that wilderness,
It takes a better eye than mine to see it.
It set me on to wondering how to deal
With such a thickness of particulars,
Deal with it faithfully, you understand,
Without blurring the issue.
Of course I know
That within a month the sleeving snows will come
With cold, selective emphases, with massings
And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things
Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs
To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets
And decorations on every birch and aspen.
And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled,
Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last
It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That's when you have to really watch yourself.
So I hope that you won't think me plain ungrateful
For not selecting one of your fine books,
And I take it very kindly that you came
And sat here and let me rattle on this way.
Walt Whitman |
EARTH, round, rolling, compact—suns, moons, animals—all these are words to be
Watery, vegetable, sauroid advances—beings, premonitions, lispings of the future,
Behold! these are vast words to be said.
Were you thinking that those were the words—those upright lines? those curves,
No, those are not the words—the substantial words are in the ground and sea,
They are in the air—they are in you.
Were you thinking that those were the words—those delicious sounds out of your
No, the real words are more delicious than they.
Human bodies are words, myriads of words;
In the best poems re-appears the body, man’s or woman’s, well-shaped, natural,
Every part able, active, receptive, without shame or the need of shame.
Air, soil, water, fire—these are words;
I myself am a word with them—my qualities interpenetrate with theirs—my name is
Though it were told in the three thousand languages, what would air, soil, water, fire,
A healthy presence, a friendly or commanding gesture, are words, sayings, meanings;
The charms that go with the mere looks of some men and women, are sayings and meanings
The workmanship of souls is by the inaudible words of the earth;
The great masters know the earth’s words, and use them more than the audible words.
Amelioration is one of the earth’s words;
The earth neither lags nor hastens;
It has all attributes, growths, effects, latent in itself from the jump;
It is not half beautiful only—defects and excrescences show just as much as
The earth does not withhold, it is generous enough;
The truths of the earth continually wait, they are not so conceal’d either;
They are calm, subtle, untransmissible by print;
They are imbued through all things, conveying themselves willingly,
Conveying a sentiment and invitation of the earth—I utter and utter,
I speak not, yet if you hear me not, of what avail am I to you?
To bear—to better—lacking these, of what avail am I?
Will you rot your own fruit in yourself there?
Will you squat and stifle there?
The earth does not argue,
Is not pathetic, has no arrangements,
Does not scream, haste, persuade, threaten, promise,
Makes no discriminations, has no conceivable failures,
Closes nothing, refuses nothing, shuts none out,
Of all the powers, objects, states, it notifies, shuts none out.
The earth does not exhibit itself, nor refuse to exhibit itself—possesses still
Underneath the ostensible sounds, the august chorus of heroes, the wail of slaves,
Persuasions of lovers, curses, gasps of the dying, laughter of young people, accents of
Underneath these, possessing the words that never fail.
To her children, the words of the eloquent dumb great mother never fail;
The true words do not fail, for motion does not fail, and reflection does not fail;
Also the day and night do not fail, and the voyage we pursue does not fail.
Of the interminable sisters,
Of the ceaseless cotillions of sisters,
Of the centripetal and centrifugal sisters, the elder and younger sisters,
The beautiful sister we know dances on with the rest.
With her ample back towards every beholder,
With the fascinations of youth, and the equal fascinations of age,
Sits she whom I too love like the rest—sits undisturb’d,
Holding up in her hand what has the character of a mirror, while her eyes glance back from
Glance as she sits, inviting none, denying none,
Holding a mirror day and night tirelessly before her own face.
Seen at hand, or seen at a distance,
Duly the twenty-four appear in public every day,
Duly approach and pass with their companions, or a companion,
Looking from no countenances of their own, but from the countenances of those who are with
From the countenances of children or women, or the manly countenance,
From the open countenances of animals, or from inanimate things,
From the landscape or waters, or from the exquisite apparition of the sky,
From our countenances, mine and yours, faithfully returning them,
Every day in public appearing without fail, but never twice with the same companions.
Embracing man, embracing all, proceed the three hundred and sixty-five resistlessly round
Embracing all, soothing, supporting, follow close three hundred and sixty-five offsets of
sure and necessary as they.
Tumbling on steadily, nothing dreading,
Sunshine, storm, cold, heat, forever withstanding, passing, carrying,
The Soul’s realization and determination still inheriting,
The fluid vacuum around and ahead still entering and dividing,
No balk retarding, no anchor anchoring, on no rock striking,
Swift, glad, content, unbereav’d, nothing losing,
Of all able and ready at any time to give strict account,
The divine ship sails the divine sea.
Whoever you are! motion and reflection are especially for you;
The divine ship sails the divine sea for you.
Whoever you are! you are he or she for whom the earth is solid and liquid,
You are he or she for whom the sun and moon hang in the sky,
For none more than you are the present and the past,
For none more than you is immortality.
Each man to himself, and each woman to herself, such is the word of the past and present,
word of immortality;
No one can acquire for another—not one!
Not one can grow for another—not one!
The song is to the singer, and comes back most to him;
The teaching is to the teacher, and comes back most to him;
The murder is to the murderer, and comes back most to him;
The theft is to the thief, and comes back most to him;
The love is to the lover, and comes back most to him;
The gift is to the giver, and comes back most to him—it cannot fail;
The oration is to the orator, the acting is to the actor and actress, not to the audience;
And no man understands any greatness or goodness but his own, or the indication of his
I swear the earth shall surely be complete to him or her who shall be complete!
I swear the earth remains jagged and broken only to him or her who remains jagged and
I swear there is no greatness or power that does not emulate those of the earth!
I swear there can be no theory of any account, unless it corroborate the theory of the
No politics, art, religion, behavior, or what not, is of account, unless it compare with
amplitude of the earth,
Unless it face the exactness, vitality, impartiality, rectitude of the earth.
I swear I begin to see love with sweeter spasms than that which responds love!
It is that which contains itself—which never invites, and never refuses.
I swear I begin to see little or nothing in audible words!
I swear I think all merges toward the presentation of the unspoken meanings of the earth!
Toward him who sings the songs of the Body, and of the truths of the earth;
Toward him who makes the dictionaries of words that print cannot touch.
I swear I see what is better than to tell the best;
It is always to leave the best untold.
When I undertake to tell the best, I find I cannot,
My tongue is ineffectual on its pivots,
My breath will not be obedient to its organs,
I become a dumb man.
The best of the earth cannot be told anyhow—all or any is best;
It is not what you anticipated—it is cheaper, easier, nearer;
Things are not dismiss’d from the places they held before;
The earth is just as positive and direct as it was before;
Facts, religions, improvements, politics, trades, are as real as before;
But the Soul is also real,—it too is positive and direct;
No reasoning, no proof has establish’d it,
Undeniable growth has establish’d it.
This is a poem—a carol of words—these are hints of meanings,
These are to echo the tones of Souls, and the phrases of Souls;
If they did not echo the phrases of Souls, what were they then?
If they had not reference to you in especial, what were they then?
I swear I will never henceforth have to do with the faith that tells the best!
I will have to do only with that faith that leaves the best untold.
Say on, sayers!
Delve! mould! pile the words of the earth!
Work on—(it is materials you must bring, not breaths;)
Work on, age after age! nothing is to be lost;
It may have to wait long, but it will certainly come in use;
When the materials are all prepared, the architects shall appear.
I swear to you the architects shall appear without fail! I announce them and lead them;
I swear to you they will understand you, and justify you;
I swear to you the greatest among them shall be he who best knows you, and encloses all,
faithful to all;
I swear to you, he and the rest shall not forget you—they shall perceive that you are
iota less than they;
I swear to you, you shall be glorified in them.
Louisa May Alcott |
Long ago in a poultry yard
One dull November morn,
Beneath a motherly soft wing
A little goose was born.
Who straightway peeped out of the shell
To view the world beyond,
Longing at once to sally forth
And paddle in the pond.
"Oh! be not rash," her father said,
A mild Socratic bird;
Her mother begged her not to stray
With many a warning word.
But little goosey was perverse,
And eagerly did cry,
"I've got a lovely pair of wings,
Of course I ought to fly.
In vain parental cacklings,
In vain the cold sky's frown,
Ambitious goosey tried to soar,
But always tumbled down.
The farmyard jeered at her attempts,
The peacocks screamed, "Oh fie!
You're only a domestic goose,
So don't pretend to fly.
Great cock-a-doodle from his perch
Crowed daily loud and clear,
"Stay in the puddle, foolish bird,
That is your proper sphere,"
The ducks and hens said, one and all,
In gossip by the pool,
"Our children never play such pranks;
My dear, that fowl's a fool.
The owls came out and flew about,
Hooting above the rest,
"No useful egg was ever hatched
From transcendental nest.
Good little goslings at their play
And well-conducted chicks
Were taught to think poor goosey's flights
Were naughty, ill-bred tricks.
They were content to swim and scratch,
And not at all inclined
For any wild goose chase in search
Of something undefined.
Hard times she had as one may guess,
That young aspiring bird,
Who still from every fall arose
Saddened but undeterred.
She knew she was no nightingale
Yet spite of much abuse,
She longed to help and cheer the world,
Although a plain gray goose
She could not sing, she could not fly,
Nor even walk, with grace,
And all the farmyard had declared
A puddle was her place.
But something stronger than herself
Would cry, "Go on, go on!
Remember, though an humble fowl,
You're cousin to a swan.
So up and down poor goosey went,
A busy, hopeful bird.
Searched many wide unfruitful fields,
And many waters stirred.
At length she came unto a stream
Most fertile of all Niles,
Where tuneful birds might soar and sing
Among the leafy isles.
Here did she build a little nest
Beside the waters still,
Where the parental goose could rest
Unvexed by any bill.
And here she paused to smooth her plumes,
Ruffled by many plagues;
When suddenly arose the cry,
"This goose lays golden eggs.
At once the farmyard was agog;
The ducks began to quack;
Prim Guinea fowls relenting called,
"Come back, come back, come back.
Great chanticleer was pleased to give
A patronizing crow,
And the contemptuous biddies clucked,
"I wish my chicks did so.
The peacocks spread their shining tails,
And cried in accents soft,
"We want to know you, gifted one,
Come up and sit aloft.
Wise owls awoke and gravely said,
With proudly swelling breasts,
"Rare birds have always been evoked
From transcendental nests!"
News-hunting turkeys from afar
Now ran with all thin legs
To gobble facts and fictions of
The goose with golden eggs.
But best of all the little fowls
Still playing on the shore,
Soft downy chicks and goslings gay,
Chirped out, "Dear Goose, lay more.
But goosey all these weary years
Had toiled like any ant,
And wearied out she now replied
"My little dears, I can't.
"When I was starving, half this corn
Had been of vital use,
Now I am surfeited with food
Like any Strasbourg goose.
So to escape too many friends,
Without uncivil strife,
She ran to the Atlantic pond
And paddled for her life.
Soon up among the grand old Alps
She found two blessed things,
The health she had so nearly lost,
And rest for weary limbs.
But still across the briny deep
Couched in most friendly words,
Came prayers for letters, tales, or verse
From literary birds.
Whereat the renovated fowl
With grateful thanks profuse,
Took from her wing a quill and wrote
This lay of a Golden Goose.
Robert Burns |
GUID-MORNIN’ to our Majesty!
May Heaven augment your blisses
On ev’ry new birth-day ye see,
A humble poet wishes.
My bardship here, at your Levee
On sic a day as this is,
Is sure an uncouth sight to see,
Amang thae birth-day dresses
Sae fine this day.
I see ye’re complimented thrang,
By mony a lord an’ lady;
“God save the King” ’s a cuckoo sang
That’s unco easy said aye:
The poets, too, a venal gang,
Wi’ rhymes weel-turn’d an’ ready,
Wad gar you trow ye ne’er do wrang,
But aye unerring steady,
On sic a day.
For me! before a monarch’s face
Ev’n there I winna flatter;
For neither pension, post, nor place,
Am I your humble debtor:
So, nae reflection on your Grace,
Your Kingship to bespatter;
There’s mony waur been o’ the race,
And aiblins ane been better
Than you this day.
’Tis very true, my sovereign King,
My skill may weel be doubted;
But facts are chiels that winna ding,
An’ downa be disputed:
Your royal nest, beneath your wing,
Is e’en right reft and clouted,
And now the third part o’ the string,
An’ less, will gang aboot it
Than did ae day.
Far be’t frae me that I aspire
To blame your legislation,
Or say, ye wisdom want, or fire,
To rule this mighty nation:
But faith! I muckle doubt, my sire,
Ye’ve trusted ministration
To chaps wha in barn or byre
Wad better fill’d their station
Than courts yon day.
And now ye’ve gien auld Britain peace,
Her broken shins to plaister,
Your sair taxation does her fleece,
Till she has scarce a tester:
For me, thank God, my life’s a lease,
Nae bargain wearin’ faster,
Or, faith! I fear, that, wi’ the geese,
I shortly boost to pasture
I’ the craft some day.
I’m no mistrusting Willie Pitt,
When taxes he enlarges,
(An’ Will’s a true guid fallow’s get,
A name not envy spairges),
That he intends to pay your debt,
An’ lessen a’ your charges;
But, God-sake! let nae saving fit
Abridge your bonie barges
An’boats this day.
Adieu, my Liege; may freedom geck
Beneath your high protection;
An’ may ye rax Corruption’s neck,
And gie her for dissection!
But since I’m here, I’ll no neglect,
In loyal, true affection,
To pay your Queen, wi’ due respect,
May fealty an’ subjection
This great birth-day.
Hail, Majesty most Excellent!
While nobles strive to please ye,
Will ye accept a compliment,
A simple poet gies ye?
Thae bonie bairntime, Heav’n has lent,
Still higher may they heeze ye
In bliss, till fate some day is sent
For ever to release ye
Frae care that day.
For you, young Potentate o’Wales,
I tell your highness fairly,
Down Pleasure’s stream, wi’ swelling sails,
I’m tauld ye’re driving rarely;
But some day ye may gnaw your nails,
An’ curse your folly sairly,
That e’er ye brak Diana’s pales,
Or rattl’d dice wi’ Charlie
By night or day.
Yet aft a ragged cowt’s been known,
To mak a noble aiver;
So, ye may doucely fill the throne,
For a’their clish-ma-claver:
There, him 2 at Agincourt wha shone,
Few better were or braver:
And yet, wi’ funny, queer Sir John, 3
He was an unco shaver
For mony a day.
For you, right rev’rend Osnaburg,
Nane sets the lawn-sleeve sweeter,
Altho’ a ribbon at your lug
Wad been a dress completer:
As ye disown yon paughty dog,
That bears the keys of Peter,
Then swith! an’ get a wife to hug,
Or trowth, ye’ll stain the mitre
Some luckless day!
Young, royal Tarry-breeks, I learn,
Ye’ve lately come athwart her—
A glorious galley, 4 stem and stern,
Weel rigg’d for Venus’ barter;
But first hang out, that she’ll discern,
Your hymeneal charter;
Then heave aboard your grapple airn,
An’ large upon her quarter,
Come full that day.
Ye, lastly, bonie blossoms a’,
Ye royal lasses dainty,
Heav’n mak you guid as well as braw,
An’ gie you lads a-plenty!
But sneer na British boys awa!
For kings are unco scant aye,
An’ German gentles are but sma’,
They’re better just than want aye
On ony day.
Gad bless you a’! consider now,
Ye’re unco muckle dautit;
But ere the course o’ life be through,
It may be bitter sautit:
An’ I hae seen their coggie fou,
That yet hae tarrow’t at it.
But or the day was done, I trow,
The laggen they hae clautit
Fu’ clean that day.
The American colonies had recently been lost.
King Henry V.
Sir John Falstaff, vid.
Alluding to the newspaper account of a certain Royal sailor’s amour.
This was Prince William Henry, third son of George III, afterward King William IV.
Alan Seeger |
You have the grit and the guts, I know;
You are ready to answer blow for blow
You are virile, combative, stubborn, hard,
But your honor ends with your own back-yard;
Each man intent on his private goal,
You have no feeling for the whole;
What singly none would tolerate
You let unpunished hit the state,
Unmindful that each man must share
The stain he lets his country wear,
And (what no traveller ignores)
That her good name is often yours.
You are proud in the pride that feels its might;
From your imaginary height
Men of another race or hue
Are men of a lesser breed to you:
The neighbor at your southern gate
You treat with the scorn that has bred his hate.
To lend a spice to your disrespect
You call him the "greaser".
The greaser has spat on you more than once;
He has handed you multiple affronts;
He has robbed you, banished you, burned and killed;
He has gone untrounced for the blood he spilled;
He has jeering used for his bootblack's rag
The stars and stripes of the gringo's flag;
And you, in the depths of your easy-chair --
What did you do, what did you care?
Did you find the season too cold and damp
To change the counter for the camp?
Were you frightened by fevers in Mexico?
I can't imagine, but this I know --
You are impassioned vastly more
By the news of the daily baseball score
Than to hear that a dozen countrymen
Have perished somewhere in Darien,
That greasers have taken their innocent lives
And robbed their holdings and raped their wives.
Not by rough tongues and ready fists
Can you hope to jilt in the modern lists.
The armies of a littler folk
Shall pass you under the victor's yoke,
Sobeit a nation that trains her sons
To ride their horses and point their guns --
Sobeit a people that comprehends
The limit where private pleasure ends
And where their public dues begin,
A people made strong by discipline
Who are willing to give -- what you've no mind to --
And understand -- what you are blind to --
The things that the individual
Must sacrifice for the good of all.
You have a leader who knows -- the man
Most fit to be called American,
A prophet that once in generations
Is given to point to erring nations
Brighter ideals toward which to press
And lead them out of the wilderness.
Will you turn your back on him once again?
Will you give the tiller once more to men
Who have made your country the laughing-stock
For the older peoples to scorn and mock,
Who would make you servile, despised, and weak,
A country that turns the other cheek,
Who care not how bravely your flag may float,
Who answer an insult with a note,
Whose way is the easy way in all,
And, seeing that polished arms appal
Their marrow of milk-fed pacifist,
Would tell you menace does not exist?
Are these, in the world's great parliament,
The men you would choose to represent
Your honor, your manhood, and your pride,
And the virtues your fathers dignified?
Oh, bury them deeper than the sea
In universal obloquy;
Forget the ground where they lie, or write
For epitaph: "Too proud to fight.
I have been too long from my country's shores
To reckon what state of mind is yours,
But as for myself I know right well
I would go through fire and shot and shell
And face new perils and make my bed
In new privations, if ROOSEVELT led;
But I have given my heart and hand
To serve, in serving another land,
Ideals kept bright that with you are dim;
Here men can thrill to their country's hymn,
For the passion that wells in the Marseillaise
Is the same that fires the French these days,
And, when the flag that they love goes by,
With swelling bosom and moistened eye
They can look, for they know that it floats there still
By the might of their hands and the strength of their will,
And through perils countless and trials unknown
Its honor each man has made his own.
They wanted the war no more than you,
But they saw how the certain menace grew,
And they gave two years of their youth or three
The more to insure their liberty
When the wrath of rifles and pennoned spears
Should roll like a flood on their wrecked frontiers.
They wanted the war no more than you,
But when the dreadful summons blew
And the time to settle the quarrel came
They sprang to their guns, each man was game;
And mark if they fight not to the last
For their hearths, their altars, and their past:
Yea, fight till their veins have been bled dry
For love of the country that WILL not die.
O friends, in your fortunate present ease
(Yet faced by the self-same facts as these),
If you would see how a race can soar
That has no love, but no fear, of war,
How each can turn from his private role
That all may act as a perfect whole,
How men can live up to the place they claim
And a nation, jealous of its good name,
Be true to its proud inheritance,
Oh, look over here and learn from FRANCE!
Robert William Service |
To Dawson Town came Percy Brown from London on the Thames.
A pane of glass was in his eye, and stockings on his stems.
Upon the shoulder of his coat a leather pad he wore,
To rest his deadly rifle when it wasn't seeking gore;
The which it must have often been, for Major Percy Brown,
According to his story was a hunter of renown,
Who in the Murrumbidgee wilds had stalked the kangaroo
And killed the cassowary on the plains of Timbuctoo.
And now the Arctic fox he meant to follow to its lair,
And it was also his intent to beard the Artic hare.
Which facts concerning Major Brown I merely tell because
I fain would have you know him for the Nimrod that he was.
Now Skipper Grey and Deacon White were sitting in the shack,
And sampling of the whisky that pertained to Sheriff Black.
Said Skipper Grey: "I want to say a word about this Brown:
The piker's sticking out his chest as if he owned the town.
Said Sheriff Black: "he has no lack of frigorated cheek;
He called himself a Sourdough when he'd just been here a week.
Said Deacon White: "Methinks you're right, and so I have a plan
By which I hope to prove to-night the mettle of the man.
Just meet me where the hooch-bird sings, and though our ways be rude
We'll make a proper Sourdough of this Piccadilly dude.
Within the Malamute Saloon were gathered all the gang;
The fun was fast and furious, and the loud hooch-bird sang.
In fact the night's hilarity had almost reached its crown,
When into its storm-centre breezed the gallant Major Brown.
And at the apparation, whith its glass eye and plus-fours,
From fifty alcoholic throats responded fifty roars.
With shouts of stark amazement and with whoops of sheer delight,
They surged around the stranger, but the first was Deacon White.
"We welcome you," he cried aloud, "to this the Great White Land.
The Artic Brotherhood is proud to grip you by the hand.
Yea, sportsman of the bull-dog breed, from trails of far away,
To Yukoners this is indeed a memorable day.
Our jubilation to express, vocabularies fail.
Boys, hail the Great Cheechako!" And the boys responded: "Hail!"
"And now," continued Deacon White to blushing Major Brown,
"Behold assembled the eelight and cream of Dawson Town,
And one ambition fills their hearts and makes their bosoms glow -
They want to make you, honoured sir, a bony feed Sourdough.
The same, some say, is one who's seen the Yukon ice go out,
But most profound authorities the definition doubt,
And to the genial notion of this meeting, Major Brown,
A Sourdough is a guy who drinks .
an ice-worm cocktail down.
"By Gad!" responded Major Brown, "that's ripping, don't you know.
I've always felt I'd like to be a certified Sourdough.
And though I haven't any doubt your Winter's awf'ly nice,
Mayfair, I fear, may miss me ere the break-up of your ice.
Yet (pray excuse my ignorance of matters such as these)
A cocktail I can understand - but what's an ice-worm, please?"
Said Deacon White: "It is not strange that you should fail to know,
Since ice-worms are peculiar to the Mountain of Blue Snow.
Within the Polar rim it rears, a solitary peak,
And in the smoke of early Spring (a spectacle unique)
Like flame it leaps upon the sight and thrills you through and through,
For though its cone is piercing white, its base is blazing blue.
Yet all is clear as you draw near - for coyley peering out
Are hosts and hosts of tiny worms, each indigo of snout.
And as no nourishment they find, to keep themselves alive
They masticate each other's tails, till just the Tough survive.
Yet on this stern and Spartan fare so-rapidly they grow,
That some attain six inches by the melting of the snow.
Then when the tundra glows to green and nigger heads appear,
They burrow down and are not seen until another year.
"A toughish yarn," laughed Major Brown, "as well you may admit.
I'd like to see this little beast before I swallow it.
"'Tis easy done," said Deacon White, "Ho! Barman, haste and bring
Us forth some pickled ice-worms of the vintage of last Spring.
But sadly still was Barman Bill, then sighed as one bereft:
"There's been a run on cocktails, Boss; there ain't an ice-worm left.
Yet wait .
By gosh! it seems to me that some of extra size
Were picked and put away to show the scientific guys.
Then deeply in a drawer he sought, and there he found a jar,
The which with due and proper pride he put upon the bar;
And in it, wreathed in queasy rings, or rolled into a ball,
A score of grey and greasy things, were drowned in alcohol.
Their bellies were a bilious blue, their eyes a bulbous red;
Their back were grey, and gross were they, and hideous of head.
And when with gusto and a fork the barman speared one out,
It must have gone four inches from its tail-tip to its snout.
Cried Deacon White with deep delight: "Say, isn't that a beaut?"
"I think it is," sniffed Major Brown, "a most disgustin' brute.
Its very sight gives me the pip.
I'll bet my bally hat,
You're only spoofin' me, old chap.
You'll never swallow that.
"The hell I won't!" said Deacon White.
"Hey! Bill, that fellows fine.
Fix up four ice-worm cocktails, and just put that wop in mine.
So Barman Bill got busy, and with sacerdotal air
His art's supreme achievement he proceeded to prepare.
His silver cups, like sickle moon, went waving to and fro,
And four celestial cocktails soon were shining in a row.
And in the starry depths of each, artistically piled,
A fat and juicy ice-worm raised its mottled mug and smiled.
Then closer pressed the peering crown, suspended was the fun,
As Skipper Grey in courteous way said: "Stranger, please take one.
But with a gesture of disgust the Major shook his head.
"You can't bluff me.
You'll never drink that gastly thing," he said.
"You'll see all right," said Deacon White, and held his cocktail high,
Till its ice-worm seemed to wiggle, and to wink a wicked eye.
Then Skipper Grey and Sheriff Black each lifted up a glass,
While through the tense and quiet crown a tremor seemed to pass.
"Drink, Stranger, drink," boomed Deacon White.
"proclaim you're of the best,
A doughty Sourdough who has passed the Ice-worm Cocktail Test.
And at these words, with all eyes fixed on gaping Major Brown,
Like a libation to the gods, each dashed his cocktail down.
The Major gasped with horror as the trio smacked their lips.
He twiddled at his eye-glass with unsteady finger-tips.
Into his starry cocktail with a look of woe he peered,
And its ice-worm, to his thinking, mosy incontinently leered.
Yet on him were a hundred eyes, though no one spoke aloud,
For hushed with expectation was the waiting, watching crowd.
The Major's fumbling hand went forth - the gang prepared to cheer;
The Major's falt'ring hand went back, the mob prepared to jeer,
The Major gripped his gleaming glass and laid it to his lips,
And as despairfully he took some nauseated sips,
From out its coil of crapulence the ice-worm raised its head,
Its muzzle was a murky blue, its eyes a ruby red.
And then a roughneck bellowed fourth: "This stiff comes here and struts,
As if he bought the blasted North - jest let him show his guts.
And with a roar the mob proclaimed: "Cheechako, Major Brown,
Reveal that you're of Sourdough stuff, and drink your cocktail down.
The Major took another look, then quickly closed his eyes,
For even as he raised his glass he felt his gorge arise.
Aye, even though his sight was sealed, in fancy he could see
That grey and greasy thing that reared and sneered in mockery.
Yet round him ringed the callous crowd - and how they seemed to gloat!
It must be done .
He swallowed hard .
The brute was at his throat.
he gulped .
Thank God! at last he'd got the horror down.
Then from the crowd went up a roar: "Hooray for Sourdough Brown!"
With shouts they raised him shoulder high, and gave a rousing cheer,
But though they praised him to the sky the Major did not hear.
Amid their demonstrative glee delight he seemed to lack;
Indeed it almost seemed that he - was "keeping something back.
A clammy sweat was on his brow, and pallid as a sheet:
"I feel I must be going now," he'd plaintively repeat.
Aye, though with drinks and smokes galore, they tempted him to stay,
With sudden bolt he gained the door, and made his get-away.
And ere next night his story was the talk of Dawson Town,
But gone and reft of glory was the wrathful Major Brown;
For that ice-worm (so they told him) of such formidable size
Was - a stick of stained spaghetti with two red ink spots for eyes.
John Ashbery |
Orpheus liked the glad personal quality
Of the things beneath the sky.
Of course, Eurydice was a part
Then one day, everything changed.
Rocks into fissures with lament.
Can't withstand it.
The sky shudders from one horizon
To the other, almost ready to give up wholeness.
Then Apollo quietly told him: "Leave it all on earth.
Your lute, what point? Why pick at a dull pavan few care to
Follow, except a few birds of dusty feather,
Not vivid performances of the past.
" But why not?
All other things must change too.
The seasons are no longer what they once were,
But it is the nature of things to be seen only once,
As they happen along, bumping into other things, getting along
That's where Orpheus made his mistake.
Of course Eurydice vanished into the shade;
She would have even if he hadn't turned around.
No use standing there like a gray stone toga as the whole wheel
Of recorded history flashes past, struck dumb, unable to
utter an intelligent
Comment on the most thought-provoking element in its train.
Only love stays on the brain, and something these people,
These other ones, call life.
So that the notes mount straight up out of the well of
Dim noon and rival the tiny, sparkling yellow flowers
Growing around the brink of the quarry, encapsulizes
The different weights of the things.
But it isn't enough
To just go on singing.
Orpheus realized this
And didn't mind so much about his reward being in heaven
After the Bacchantes had torn him apart, driven
Half out of their minds by his music, what it was doing to them.
Some say it was for his treatment of Eurydice.
But probably the music had more to do with it, and
The way music passes, emblematic
Of life and how you cannot isolate a note of it
And say it is good or bad.
Wait till it's over.
"The end crowns all,"
Meaning also that the "tableau"
For although memories, of a season, for example,
Melt into a single snapshot, one cannot guard, treasure
That stalled moment.
It too is flowing, fleeting;
It is a picture of flowing, scenery, though living, mortal,
Over which an abstract action is laid out in blunt,
And to ask more than this
Is to become the tossing reeds of that slow,
Powerful stream, the trailing grasses
Playfully tugged at, but to participate in the action
No more than this.
Then in the lowering gentian sky
Electric twitches are faintly apparent first, then burst forth
Into a shower of fixed, cream-colored flares.
Have each seen a share of the truth, though each thinks,
"I'm a maverick.
Nothing of this is happening to me,
Though I can understand the language of birds, and
The itinerary of the lights caught in the storm is
fully apparent to me.
Their jousting ends in music much
As trees move more easily in the wind after a summer storm
And is happening in lacy shadows of shore-trees, now,
day after day.
But how late to be regretting all this, even
Bearing in mind that regrets are always late, too late!
To which Orpheus, a bluish cloud with white contours,
Replies that these are of course not regrets at all,
Merely a careful, scholarly setting down of
Unquestioned facts, a record of pebbles along the way.
And no matter how all this disappeared,
Or got where it was going, it is no longer
Material for a poem.
Matters too much, and not enough, standing there helplessly
While the poem streaked by, its tail afire, a bad
Comet screaming hate and disaster, but so turned inward
That the meaning, good or other, can never
The singer thinks
Constructively, builds up his chant in progressive stages
Like a skyscraper, but at the last minute turns away.
The song is engulfed in an instant in blackness
Which must in turn flood the whole continent
With blackness, for it cannot see.
Must then pass out of sight, not even relieved
Of the evil burthen of the words.
Is for the few, and comes about much later
When all record of these people and their lives
Has disappeared into libraries, onto microfilm.
A few are still interested in them.
"But what about
So-and-so?" is still asked on occasion.
But they lie
Frozen and out of touch until an arbitrary chorus
Speaks of a totally different incident with a similar name
In whose tale are hidden syllables
Of what happened so long before that
In some small town, one different summer.
Margaret Atwood |
What should we have taken
with us? We never could decide
on that; or what to wear,
or at what time of
year we should make the journey
So here we are in thin
raincoats and rubber boots
On the disastrous ice, the wind rising
Nothing in our pockets
But a pencil stub, two oranges
Four Toronto streetcar tickets
and an elastic band holding a bundle
of small white filing cards
printed with important facts.