Robert Frost |
I stayed the night for shelter at a farm
Behind the mountains, with a mother and son,
They did all the talking.
MOTHER: Folks think a witch who has familiar spirits
She could call up to pass a winter evening,
But wonâ€™t, should be burned at the stake or something.
Summoning spirits isnâ€™t â€œButton, button,
Whoâ€™s got the button,â€ I would have them know.
SON: Mother can make a common table rear
And kick with two legs like an army mule.
MOTHER: And when Iâ€™ve done it, what good have I done?
Rather than tip a table for you, let me
Tell you what Ralle the Sioux Control once told me.
He said the dead had souls, but when I asked him
How could that be â€” I thought the dead were soulsâ€”
He broke my trance.
Donâ€™t that make you suspicious
That thereâ€™s something the dead are keeping back?
Yes, thereâ€™s something the dead are keeping back.
SON: You wouldnâ€™t want to tell him what we have
Up attic, mother?
MOTHER: Bones â€” a skeleton.
SON: But the headboard of motherâ€™s bed is pushed
Against theâ€ attic door: the door is nailed.
Mother hears it in the night
Halting perplexed behind the barrier
Of door and headboard.
Where it wants to get
Is back into the cellar where it came from.
MOTHER: Weâ€™ll never let them, will we, son! Weâ€™ll never!
SON: It left the cellar forty years ago
And carried itself like a pile of dishes
Up one flight from the cellar to the kitchen,
Another from the kitchen to the bedroom,
Another from the bedroom to the attic,
Right past both father and mother, and neither stopped it.
Father had gone upstairs; mother was downstairs.
I was a baby: I donâ€™t know where I was.
MOTHER: The only fault my husband found with me â€”
I went to sleep before I went to bed,
Especially in winter when the bed
Might just as well be ice and the clothes snow.
The night the bones came up the cellar-stairs
Toffile had gone to bed alone and left me,
But left an open door to cool the room off
So as to sort of turn me out of it.
I was just coming to myself enough
To wonder where the cold was coming from,
When I heard Toffile upstairs in the bedroom
And thought I heard him downstairs in the cellar.
The board we had laid down to walk dry-shod on
When there was water in the cellar in spring
Struck the hard cellar bottom.
And then someone
Began the stairs, two footsteps for each step,
The way a man with one leg and a crutch,
Or a little child, comes up.
It wasnâ€™t Toffile:
It wasnâ€™t anyone who could be there.
The bulkhead double-doors were double-locked
And swollen tight and buried under snow.
The cellar windows were banked up with sawdust
And swollen tight and buried under snow.
It was the bones.
I knew them â€” and good reason.
My first impulse was to get to the knob
And hold the door.
But the bones didnâ€™t try
The door; they halted helpless on the landing,
Waiting for things to happen in their favor.
The faintest restless rustling ran all through them.
I never could have done the thing I did
If the wish hadnâ€™t been too strong in me
To see how they were mounted for this walk.
I had a vision of them put together
Not like a man, but like a chandelier.
So suddenly I flung the door wide on him.
A moment he stood balancing with emotion,
And all but lost himself.
(A tongue of fire
Flashed out and licked along his upper teeth.
Smoke rolled inside the sockets of his eyes.
Then he came at me with one hand outstretched,
The way he did in life once; but this time
I struck the hand off brittle on the floor,
And fell back from him on the floor myself.
The finger-pieces slid in all directions.
(Where did I see one of those pieces lately?
Hand me my button-box- it must be there.
I sat up on the floor and shouted, â€œToffile,
Itâ€™s coming up to you.
â€ It had its choice
Of the door to the cellar or the hall.
It took the hall door for the novelty,
And set off briskly for so slow a thing,
Still going every which way in the joints, though,
So that it looked like lightning or a scribble,
From the slap I had just now given its hand.
I listened till it almost climbed the stairs
From the hall to the only finished bedroom,
Before I got up to do anything;
Then ran and shouted, â€œShut the bedroom door,
Toffile, for my sake!â€ â€œCompany?â€ he said,
â€œDonâ€™t make me get up; Iâ€™m too warm in bed.
So lying forward weakly on the handrail
I pushed myself upstairs, and in the light
(The kitchen had been dark) I had to own
I could see nothing.
â€œToffile, I donâ€™t see it.
Itâ€™s with us in the room though.
Itâ€™s the bones.
â€œWhat bones?â€ â€œThe cellar bonesâ€” out of the grave.
That made him throw his bare legs out of bed
And sit up by me and take hold of me.
I wanted to put out the light and see
If I could see it, or else mow the room,
With our arms at the level of our knees,
And bring the chalk-pile down.
â€œIâ€™ll tell you what-
Itâ€™s looking for another door to try.
The uncommonly deep snow has made him think
Of his old song, The Wild Colonial Boy,
He always used to sing along the tote-road.
Heâ€™s after an open door to get out-doors.
Letâ€™s trap him with an open door up attic.
Toffile agreed to that, and sure enough,
Almost the moment he was given an opening,
The steps began to climb the attic stairs.
I heard them.
Toffile didnâ€™t seem to hear them.
â€œQuick !â€ I slammed to the door and held the knob.
â€œToffile, get nails.
â€ I made him nail the door shut,
And push the headboard of the bed against it.
Then we asked was there anything
Up attic that weâ€™d ever want again.
The attic was less to us than the cellar.
If the bones liked the attic, let them have it.
Let them stay in the attic.
When they sometimes
Come down the stairs at night and stand perplexed
Behind the door and headboard of the bed,
Brushing their chalky skull with chalky fingers,
With sounds like the dry rattling of a shutter,
Thatâ€™s what I sit up in the dark to sayâ€”
To no one any more since Toffile died.
Let them stay in the attic since they went there.
I promised Toffile to be cruel to them
For helping them be cruel once to him.
SON: We think they had a grave down in the cellar.
MOTHER: We know they had a grave down in the cellar.
SON: We never could find out whose bones they were.
MOTHER: Yes, we could too, son.
Tell the truth for once.
They were a manâ€™s his father killed for me.
I mean a man he killed instead of me.
The least I could do was to help dig their grave.
We were about it one night in the cellar.
Son knows the story: but â€œtwas not for him
To tell the truth, suppose the time had come.
Son looks surprised to see me end a lie
Weâ€™d kept all these years between ourselves
So as to have it ready for outsiders.
But to-night I donâ€™t care enough to lieâ€”
I donâ€™t remember why I ever cared.
Toffile, if he were here, I donâ€™t believe
Could tell you why he ever cared himself-
She hadnâ€™t found the finger-bone she wanted
Among the buttons poured out in her lap.
I verified the name next morning: Toffile.
The rural letter-box said Toffile Lajway.
Robert Frost |
The buzz-saw snarled and rattled in the yard
And made dust and dropped stove-length sticks of wood,
Sweet-scented stuff when the breeze drew across it.
And from there those that lifted eyes could count
Five mountain ranges one behind the other
Under the sunset far into Vermont.
And the saw snarled and rattled, snarled and rattled,
As it ran light, or had to bear a load.
And nothing happened: day was all but done.
Call it a day, I wish they might have said
To please the boy by giving him the half hour
That a boy counts so much when saved from work.
His sister stood beside them in her apron
To tell them 'Supper'.
At the word, the saw,
As if to prove saws knew what supper meant,
Leaped out at the boy's hand, or seemed to leap--
He must have given the hand.
However it was,
Neither refused the meeting.
But the hand!
The boy's first outcry was a rueful laugh.
As he swung toward them holding up the hand
Half in appeal, but half as if to keep
The life from spilling.
Then the boy saw all--
Since he was old enough to know, big boy
Doing a man's work, though a child at heart--
He saw all spoiled.
'Don't let him cut my hand off
The doctor, when he comes.
Don't let him, sister!'
But the hand was gone already.
The doctor put him in the dark of ether.
He lay and puffed his lips out with his breath.
And then -- the watcher at his pulse took fright.
No one believed.
They listened at his heart.
Little -- less -- nothing! -- and that ended it.
No more to build on there.
And they, since they
Were not the one dead, turned to their affairs.
Gerard Manley Hopkins |
On ear and ear two noises too old to end
Trench—right, the tide that ramps against the shore;
With a flood or a fall, low lull-off or all roar,
Frequenting there while moon shall wear and wend.
Left hand, off land, I hear the lark ascend,
His rash-fresh re-winded new-skeinèd score
In crisps of curl off wild winch whirl, and pour
And pelt music, till none 's to spill nor spend.
How these two shame this shallow and frail town!
How ring right out our sordid turbid time,
Being pure! We, life's pride and cared-for crown,
Have lost that cheer and charm of earth's past prime:
Our make and making break, are breaking, down
To man's last dust, drain fast towards man's first slime.