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?
Bliss Carman |
TO the assembled folk
At great St.
Young Brother Amiel on Christmas Eve;
I give you joy, my friends,
That as the round year ends,
We meet once more for gladness by God’s leave.
On other festal days
For penitence or praise
Or prayer we meet, or fullness of thanksgiving;
To-night we calendar
The rising of that star
Which lit the old world with new joy of living.
Ah, we disparage still
The Tidings of Good Will,
Discrediting Love’s gospel now as then!
And with the verbal creed
That God is love indeed,
Who dares make Love his god before all men?
Shall we not, therefore, friends,
Resolve to make amends
To that glad inspiration of the heart;
To grudge not, to cast out
Selfishness, malice, doubt,
Anger and fear; and for the better part,
To love so much, so well,
The spirit cannot tell
The range and sweep of her own boundary!
There is no period
Between the soul and God;
Love is the tide, God the eternal sea.
To-day we walk by love;
To strive is not enough,
Save against greed and ignorance and might.
We apprehend peace comes
Not with the roll of drums,
But in the still processions of the night.
And we perceive, not awe
But love is the great law
That binds the world together safe and whole.
The splendid planets run
Their courses in the sun;
Love is the gravitation of the soul.
In the profound unknown,
Illumined, fair, and lone,
Each star is set to shimmer in its place.
In the profound divine
Each soul is set to shine,
And its unique appointed orbit trace.
There is no near nor far,
Where glorious Algebar
Swings round his mighty circuit through the night,
Yet where without a sound
The winged seed comes to ground,
And the red leaf seems hardly to alight.
One force, one lore, one need
For satellite and seed,
In the serene benignity for all.
Letting her time-glass run
With star-dust, sun by sun,
In Nature’s thought there is no great nor small.
There is no far nor near
Within the spirit’s sphere.
The summer sunset’s scarlet-yellow wings
Are tinged with the same dye
That paints the tulip’s ply.
And what is colour but the soul of things?
(The earth was without form;
God moulded it with storm,
Ice, flood, and tempest, gleaming tint and hue;
Lest it should come to ill
For lack of spirit still,
He gave it colour,—let the love shine through.
Of old, men said, ‘Sin not;
By every line and jot
Ye shall abide; man’s heart is false and vile.
Christ said, ‘By love alone
In man’s heart is God known;
Obey the word no falsehood can defile.
And since that day we prove
Only how great is love,
Nor to this hour its greatness half believe.
For to what other power
Will life give equal dower,
Or chaos grant one moment of reprieve!
Look down the ages’ line,
Where slowly the divine
Evinces energy, puts forth control;
See mighty love alone
Transmuting stock and stone,
Infusing being, helping sense and soul.
And what is energy,
In-working, which bids be
The starry pageant and the life of earth?
What is the genesis
Of every joy and bliss,
Each action dared, each beauty brought to birth?
What hangs the sun on high?
What swells the growing rye?
What bids the loons cry on the Northern lake?
What stirs in swamp and swale,
When April winds prevail,
And all the dwellers of the ground awake?…
What lurks in the deep gaze
Of the old wolf? Amaze,
Hope, recognition, gladness, anger, fear.
But deeper than all these
Love muses, yearns, and sees,
And is the self that does not change nor veer.
Not love of self alone,
Struggle for lair and bone,
But self-denying love of mate and young,
Love that is kind and wise,
Knows trust and sacrifice,
And croons the old dark universal tongue.
And who has understood
Our brothers of the wood,
Save he who puts off guile and every guise
Of violence,—made truce
With panther, bear, and moose,
As beings like ourselves whom love makes wise?
For they, too, do love’s will,
Our lesser clansmen still;
The House of Many Mansions holds us all;
Courageous, glad and hale,
They go forth on the trail,
Hearing the message, hearkening to the call.
Open the door to-night
Within your heart, and light
The lantern of love there to shine afar.
On a tumultuous sea
Some straining craft, maybe,
With bearings lost, shall sight love’s silver star.
Elizabeth Bishop |
From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,
where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;
where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;
on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,
through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;
down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.
Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts.
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.
Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens' feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;
the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.
One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.
A pale flickering.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn't give way.
On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship's port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
A dog gives one bark.
A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
"A grand night.
all the way to Boston.
She regards us amicably.
Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb's wool
on bushes in a pasture.
The passengers lie back.
Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
--not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;
deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.
He took to drink.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.
" that peculiar
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means "Life's like that.
We know it (also death).
Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.
Now, it's all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.
A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man's voice assures us
Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
"Sure are big creatures.
"It's awful plain.
"Look! It's a she!"
Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r's.
"Look at that, would you.
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,
by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there's a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.
Carl Sandburg |
MAKE war songs out of these;
Make chants that repeat and weave.
Make rhythms up to the ragtime chatter of the machine guns;
Make slow-booming psalms up to the boom of the big guns.
Make a marching song of swinging arms and swinging legs,
On the roads from San Antonio to Athens, from Seattle to Bagdad—
The boys and men in winding lines of khaki, the circling squares of bayonet points.
Cowpunchers, cornhuskers, shopmen, ready in khaki;
Ballplayers, lumberjacks, ironworkers, ready in khaki;
A million, ten million, singing, “I am ready.
This the sun looks on between two seaboards,
In the land of Lincoln, in the land of Grant and Lee.
I heard one say, “I am ready to be killed.
I heard another say, “I am ready to be killed.
O sunburned clear-eyed boys!
I stand on sidewalks and you go by with drums and guns and bugles,
You—and the flag!
And my heart tightens, a fist of something feels my throat
When you go by,
You on the kaiser hunt, you and your faces saying, “I am ready to be killed.
They are hunting death,
Death for the one-armed mastoid kaiser.
They are after a Hohenzollern head:
There is no man-hunt of men remembered like this.
The four big brothers are out to kill.
France, Russia, Britain, America—
The four republics are sworn brothers to kill the kaiser.
Yes, this is the great man-hunt;
And the sun has never seen till now
Such a line of toothed and tusked man-killers,
In the blue of the upper sky,
In the green of the undersea,
In the red of winter dawns.
Eating to kill,
Sleeping to kill,
Asked by their mothers to kill,
Wished by four-fifths of the world to kill—
To cut the kaiser’s throat,
To hack the kaiser’s head,
To hang the kaiser on a high-horizon gibbet.
And is it nothing else than this?
Three times ten million men thirsting the blood
Of a half-cracked one-armed child of the German kings?
Three times ten million men asking the blood
Of a child born with his head wrong-shaped,
The blood of rotted kings in his veins?
If this were all, O God,
I would go to the far timbers
And look on the gray wolves
Tearing the throats of moose:
I would ask a wilder drunk of blood.
Look! It is four brothers in joined hands together.
The people of bleeding France,
The people of bleeding Russia,
The people of Britain, the people of America—
These are the four brothers, these are the four republics.
At first I said it in anger as one who clenches his fist in wrath to fling his knuckles into the face of some one taunting;
Now I say it calmly as one who has thought it over and over again at night, among the mountains, by the seacombers in storm.
I say now, by God, only fighters to-day will save the world, nothing but fighters will keep alive the names of those who left red prints of bleeding feet at Valley Forge in Christmas snow.
On the cross of Jesus, the sword of Napoleon, the skull of Shakespeare, the pen of Tom Jefferson, the ashes of Abraham Lincoln, or any sign of the red and running life poured out by the mothers of the world,
By the God of morning glories climbing blue the doors of quiet homes, by the God of tall hollyhocks laughing glad to children in peaceful valleys, by the God of new mothers wishing peace to sit at windows nursing babies,
I swear only reckless men, ready to throw away their lives by hunger, deprivation, desperate clinging to a single purpose imperturbable and undaunted, men with the primitive guts of rebellion,
Only fighters gaunt with the red brand of labor’s sorrow on their brows and labor’s terrible pride in their blood, men with souls asking danger—only these will save and keep the four big brothers.
Good-night is the word, good-night to the kings, to the czars,
Good-night to the kaiser.
The breakdown and the fade-away begins.
The shadow of a great broom, ready to sweep out the trash, is here.
One finger is raised that counts the czar,
The ghost who beckoned men who come no more—
The czar gone to the winds on God’s great dustpan,
The czar a pinch of nothing,
The last of the gibbering Romanoffs.
Out and good-night—
The ghosts of the summer palaces
And the ghosts of the winter palaces!
Out and out, good-night to the kings, the czars, the kaisers.
Another finger will speak,
And the kaiser, the ghost who gestures a hundred million sleeping-waking ghosts,
The kaiser will go onto God’s great dustpan—
The last of the gibbering Hohenzollerns.
Look! God pities this trash, God waits with a broom and a dustpan,
God knows a finger will speak and count them out.
It is written in the stars;
It is spoken on the walls;
It clicks in the fire-white zigzag of the Atlantic wireless;
It mutters in the bastions of thousand-mile continents;
It sings in a whistle on the midnight winds from Walla Walla to Mesopotamia:
Out and good-night.
The millions slow in khaki,
The millions learning Turkey in the Straw and John Brown’s Body,
The millions remembering windrows of dead at Gettysburg, Chickamauga, and Spottsylvania Court House,
The millions dreaming of the morning star of Appomattox,
The millions easy and calm with guns and steel, planes and prows:
There is a hammering, drumming hell to come.
The killing gangs are on the way.
God takes one year for a job.
God takes ten years or a million.
God knows when a doom is written.
God knows this job will be done and the words spoken:
Out and good-night.
The red tubes will run,
And the great price be paid,
And the homes empty,
And the wives wishing,
And the mothers wishing.
There is only one way now, only the way of the red tubes and the great price.
Maybe the morning sun is a five-cent yellow balloon,
And the evening stars the joke of a God gone crazy.
Maybe the mothers of the world,
And the life that pours from their torsal folds—
Maybe it’s all a lie sworn by liars,
And a God with a cackling laughter says:
“I, the Almighty God,
I have made all this,
I have made it for kaisers, czars, and kings.
Three times ten million men say: No.
Three times ten million men say:
God is a God of the People.
And the God who made the world
And fixed the morning sun,
And flung the evening stars,
And shaped the baby hands of life,
This is the God of the Four Brothers;
This is the God of bleeding France and bleeding Russia;
This is the God of the people of Britain and America.
The graves from the Irish Sea to the Caucasus peaks are ten times a million.
The stubs and stumps of arms and legs, the eyesockets empty, the cripples, ten times a million.
The crimson thumb-print of this anathema is on the door panels of a hundred million homes.
Cows gone, mothers on sick-beds, children cry a hunger and no milk comes in the noon-time or at night.
The death-yells of it all, the torn throats of men in ditches calling for water, the shadows and the hacking lungs in dugouts, the steel paws that clutch and squeeze a scarlet drain day by day—the storm of it is hell.
But look! child! the storm is blowing for a clean air.
Look! the four brothers march
And hurl their big shoulders
And swear the job shall be done.
Out of the wild finger-writing north and south, east and west, over the blood-crossed, blood-dusty ball of earth,
Out of it all a God who knows is sweeping clean,
Out of it all a God who sees and pierces through, is breaking and cleaning out an old thousand years, is making ready for a new thousand years.
The four brothers shall be five and more.
Under the chimneys of the winter time the children of the world shall sing new songs.
Among the rocking restless cradles the mothers of the world shall sing new sleepy-time songs.
Edward Taylor |
The directions to the lunatic asylum were confusing,
more likely they were the random associations
and confused ramblings of a lunatic.
We arrived three hours late for lunch
and the lunatics were stacked up on their shelves,
quite neatly, I might add, giving credit where credit is due.
The orderlies were clearly very orderly, and they
should receive all the credit that is their due.
When I asked one of the doctors for a corkscrew
he produced one without a moment's hesitation.
And it was a corkscrew of the finest craftsmanship,
very shiny and bright not unlike the doctor himself.
"We'll be conducting our picnic under the great oak
beginning in just a few minutes, and if you'd care
to join us we'd be most honored.
However, I understand
you have your obligations and responsibilities,
and if you would prefer to simply visit with us
from time to time, between patients, our invitation
is nothing if not flexible.
And, we shan't be the least slighted
or offended in any way if, due to your heavy load,
we are altogether deprived of the pleasure
of exchanging a few anecdotes, regarding the mentally ill,
depraved, diseased, the purely knavish, you in your bughouse,
if you'll pardon my vernacular, O yes, and we in our crackbrain
daily rounds, there are so many gone potty everywhere we roam,
not to mention in one's own home, dead moonstruck.
Well, well, indeed we would have many notes to compare
if you could find the time to join us after your injections.
My invitation was spoken in the evenest tones,
but midway though it I began to suspect I was addressing
I returned the corkscrew in a nonthreatening manner.
What, for instance, I asked myself, would a doctor, a doctor of the mind,
be doing with a cordscrew in his pocket?
This was a very sick man, one might even say dangerous.
I began moving away cautiously, never taking my eyes off of him.
His right eyelid was twitching guiltily, or at least anxiously,
and his smock flapping slightly in the wind.
Several members of our party were mingling with the nurses
down by the duck pond, and my grip on the situation
was loosening, the planks in my picnic platform were rotting.
I was thinking about the potato salad in an unstable environment.
A weeping spell was about to overtake me.
I was very close to howling and gnashing the gladiola.
I noticed the great calm of the clouds overhead.
And below, several nurses appeared to me in need of nursing.
The psychopaths were stirring from their naps,
I should say, their postprandial slumbers.
They were lumbering through the pines like inordinately sad moose.
Who could eat liverwurst at a time like this?
But, then again, what's a picnic without pathos?
Lacking a way home, I adjusted the flap in my head and duck-walked
down to the pond and into the pond and began gliding
around in circles, quacking, quacking like a scarf.
Inside the belly of that image I began
recycling like a sorry whim, sincerest regrets
are always best.
Robert William Service |
There was Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike living the life of shame,
When unto them in the Long, Long Night came the man-who-had-no-name;
Bearing his prize of a black fox pelt, out of the Wild he came.
His cheeks were blanched as the flume-head foam when the brown spring freshets flow;
Deep in their dark, sin-calcined pits were his sombre eyes aglow;
They knew him far for the fitful man who spat forth blood on the snow.
"Did ever you see such a skin?" quoth he; "there's nought in the world so fine--
Such fullness of fur as black as the night, such lustre, such size, such shine;
It's life to a one-lunged man like me; it's London, it's women, it's wine.
"The Moose-hides called it the devil-fox, and swore that no man could kill;
That he who hunted it, soon or late, must surely suffer some ill;
But I laughed at them and their old squaw-tales.
Ha! Ha! I'm laughing still.
"For look ye, the skin--it's as smooth as sin, and black as the core of the Pit.
By gun or by trap, whatever the hap, I swore I would capture it;
By star and by star afield and afar, I hunted and would not quit.
"For the devil-fox, it was swift and sly, and it seemed to fleer at me;
I would wake in fright by the camp-fire light, hearing its evil glee;
Into my dream its eyes would gleam, and its shadow would I see.
"It sniffed and ran from the ptarmigan I had poisoned to excess;
Unharmed it sped from my wrathful lead ('twas as if I shot by guess);
Yet it came by night in the stark moonlight to mock at my weariness.
"I tracked it up where the mountains hunch like the vertebrae of the world;
I tracked it down to the death-still pits where the avalanche is hurled;
From the glooms to the sacerdotal snows, where the carded clouds are curled.
"From the vastitudes where the world protrudes through clouds like seas up-shoaled,
I held its track till it led me back to the land I had left of old--
The land I had looted many moons.
I was weary and sick and cold.
"I was sick, soul-sick, of the futile chase, and there and then I swore
The foul fiend fox might scathless go, for I would hunt no more;
Then I rubbed mine eyes in a vast surprise--it stood by my cabin door.
"A rifle raised in the wraith-like gloom, and a vengeful shot that sped;
A howl that would thrill a cream-faced corpse-- and the demon fox lay dead.
Yet there was never a sign of wound, and never a drop he bled.
"So that was the end of the great black fox, and here is the prize I've won;
And now for a drink to cheer me up--I've mushed since the early sun;
We'll drink a toast to the sorry ghost of the fox whose race is run.
Now Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike, bad as the worst were they;
In their road-house down by the river-trail they waited and watched for prey;
With wine and song they joyed night long, and they slept like swine by day.
For things were done in the Midnight Sun that no tongue will ever tell;
And men there be who walk earth-free, but whose names are writ in hell--
Are writ in flames with the guilty names of Fournier and Labelle.
Put not your trust in a poke of dust would ye sleep the sleep of sin;
For there be those who would rob your clothes ere yet the dawn comes in;
And a prize likewise in a woman's eyes is a peerless black fox skin.
Put your faith in the mountain cat if you lie within his lair;
Trust the fangs of the mother-wolf, and the claws of the lead-ripped bear;
But oh, of the wiles and the gold-tooth smiles of a dance-hall wench beware!
Wherefore it was beyond all laws that lusts of man restrain,
A man drank deep and sank to sleep never to wake again;
And the Yukon swallowed through a hole the cold corpse of the slain.
The black fox skin a shadow cast from the roof nigh to the floor;
And sleek it seemed and soft it gleamed, and the woman stroked it o'er;
And the man stood by with a brooding eye, and gnashed his teeth and swore.
When thieves and thugs fall out and fight there's fell arrears to pay;
And soon or late sin meets its fate, and so it fell one day
That Claw-fingered Kitty and Windy Ike fanged up like dogs at bay.
"The skin is mine, all mine," she cried; "I did the deed alone.
"It's share and share with a guilt-yoked pair", he hissed in a pregnant tone;
And so they snarled like malamutes over a mildewed bone.
And so they fought, by fear untaught, till haply it befell
One dawn of day she slipped away to Dawson town to sell
The fruit of sin, this black fox skin that had made their lives a hell.
She slipped away as still he lay, she clutched the wondrous fur;
Her pulses beat, her foot was fleet, her fear was as a spur;
She laughed with glee, she did not see him rise and follow her.
The bluffs uprear and grimly peer far over Dawson town;
They see its lights a blaze o' nights and harshly they look down;
They mock the plan and plot of man with grim, ironic frown.
The trail was steep; 'twas at the time when swiftly sinks the snow;
All honey-combed, the river ice was rotting down below;
The river chafed beneath its rind with many a mighty throe.
And up the swift and oozy drift a woman climbed in fear,
Clutching to her a black fox fur as if she held it dear;
And hard she pressed it to her breast--then Windy Ike drew near.
She made no moan--her heart was stone--she read his smiling face,
And like a dream flashed all her life's dark horror and disgrace;
A moment only--with a snarl he hurled her into space.
She rolled for nigh an hundred feet; she bounded like a ball;
From crag to crag she carromed down through snow and timber fall; .
A hole gaped in the river ice; the spray flashed--that was all.
A bird sang for the joy of spring, so piercing sweet and frail;
And blinding bright the land was dight in gay and glittering mail;
And with a wondrous black fox skin a man slid down the trail.
A wedge-faced man there was who ran along the river bank,
Who stumbled through each drift and slough, and ever slipped and sank,
And ever cursed his Maker's name, and ever "hooch" he drank.
He travelled like a hunted thing, hard harried, sore distrest;
The old grandmother moon crept out from her cloud-quilted nest;
The aged mountains mocked at him in their primeval rest.
Grim shadows diapered the snow; the air was strangely mild;
The valley's girth was dumb with mirth, the laughter of the wild;
The still, sardonic laughter of an ogre o'er a child.
The river writhed beneath the ice; it groaned like one in pain,
And yawning chasms opened wide, and closed and yawned again;
And sheets of silver heaved on high until they split in twain.
From out the road-house by the trail they saw a man afar
Make for the narrow river-reach where the swift cross-currents are;
Where, frail and worn, the ice is torn and the angry waters jar.
But they did not see him crash and sink into the icy flow;
They did not see him clinging there, gripped by the undertow,
Clawing with bleeding finger-nails at the jagged ice and snow.
They found a note beside the hole where he had stumbled in:
"Here met his fate by evil luck a man who lived in sin,
And to the one who loves me least I leave this black fox skin.
And strange it is; for, though they searched the river all around,
No trace or sign of black fox skin was ever after found;
Though one man said he saw the tread of HOOFS deep in the ground.
Delmore Schwartz |
Nothing is given which is not taken.
Little or nothing is taken which is not freely desired,
freely, truly and fully.
"You would not seek me if you had not found me": this is
true of all that is supremely desired and admired.
"An enigma is an animal," said the hurried, harried
And a horse divided against itself cannot stand;
And a moron is a man who believes in having too many
wives: what harm is there in that?
O the endless fecundity of poetry is equaled
By its endless inexhaustible freshness, as in the discovery
of America and of poetry.
Hence it is clear that the truth is not strait and narrow but infinite:
All roads lead to Rome and to poetry
and to poem, sweet poem
and from, away and towards are the same typography.
Hence the poet must be, in a way, stupid and naive and a
Unless ye be as a little child ye cannot enter the kingdom
Hence the poet must be able to become a tiger like Blake; a
carousel like Rilke.
Hence he must be all things to be free, for all impersonations
a doormat and a monument
to all situations possible or actual
The cuckold, the cuckoo, the conqueror, and the coxcomb.
It is to him in the zoo that the zoo cries out and the hyena:
"Hello, take off your hat, king of the beasts, and be seated,
And hence the poet must seek to be essentially anonymous.
He must die a little death each morning.
He must swallow his toad and study his vomit
as Baudelaire studied la charogne of Jeanne Duval.
The poet must be or become both Keats and Renoir and
Keats as Renoir.
Mozart as Figaro and Edgar Allan Poe as Ophelia, stoned
out of her mind
drowning in the river called forever river and ever.
Keats as Mimi, Camille, and an aging gourmet.
He must also refuse the favors of the unattainable lady
(As Baudelaire refused Madame Sabatier when the fair
blonde summoned him,
For Jeanne Duval was enough and more than enough,
although she cuckolded him
With errand boys, servants, waiters; reality was Jeanne Duval.
Had he permitted Madame Sabatier to teach the poet a greater whiteness,
His devotion and conception of the divinity of Beauty
would have suffered an absolute diminution.
The poet must be both Casanova and St.
He must be Adonis, Nero, Hippolytus, Heathcliff, and
Genghis Kahn, Genghis Cohen, and Gordon Martini
Dandy Ghandi and St.
Professor Tenure, and Dizzy the dean and Disraeli of Death.
He would have worn the horns of existence upon his head,
He would have perceived them regarding the looking-glass,
He would have needed them the way a moose needs a hatrack;
Above his heavy head and in his loaded eyes, black and scorched,
He would have seen the meaning of the hat-rack, above the glass
Looking in the dark foyer.
For the poet must become nothing but poetry,
He must be nothing but a poem when he is writing
Until he is absent-minded as the dead are
Forgetful as the nymphs of Lethe and a lobotomy.
("the fat weed that rots on Lethe wharf").
Robert William Service |
In the little Crimson Manual it's written plain and clear
That who would wear the scarlet coat shall say good-bye to fear;
Shall be a guardian of the right, a sleuth-hound of the trail--
In the little Crimson Manual there's no such word as "fail"--
Shall follow on though heavens fall, or hell's top-turrets freeze,
Half round the world, if need there be, on bleeding hands and knees.
It's duty, duty, first and last, the Crimson Manual saith;
The Scarlet Rider makes reply: "It's duty--to the death.
And so they sweep the solitudes, free men from all the earth;
And so they sentinel the woods, the wilds that know their worth;
And so they scour the startled plains and mock at hurt and pain,
And read their Crimson Manual, and find their duty plain.
Knights of the lists of unrenown, born of the frontier's need,
Disdainful of the spoken word, exultant in the deed;
Unconscious heroes of the waste, proud players of the game,
Props of the power behind the throne, upholders of the name:
For thus the Great White Chief hath said, "In all my lands be peace",
And to maintain his word he gave his West the Scarlet Police.
Livid-lipped was the valley, still as the grave of God;
Misty shadows of mountain thinned into mists of cloud;
Corpselike and stark was the land, with a quiet that crushed and awed,
And the stars of the weird sub-arctic glimmered over its shroud.
Deep in the trench of the valley two men stationed the Post,
Seymour and Clancy the reckless, fresh from the long patrol;
Seymour, the sergeant, and Clancy--Clancy who made his boast
He could cinch like a bronco the Northland, and cling to the prongs of the Pole.
Two lone men on detachment, standing for law on the trail;
Undismayed in the vastness, wise with the wisdom of old--
Out of the night hailed a half-breed telling a pitiful tale,
"White man starving and crazy on the banks of the Nordenscold.
Up sprang the red-haired Clancy, lean and eager of eye;
Loaded the long toboggan, strapped each dog at its post;
Whirled his lash at the leader; then, with a whoop and a cry,
Into the Great White Silence faded away like a ghost.
The clouds were a misty shadow, the hills were a shadowy mist;
Sunless, voiceless and pulseless, the day was a dream of woe;
Through the ice-rifts the river smoked and bubbled and hissed;
Behind was a trail fresh broken, in front the untrodden snow.
Ahead of the dogs ploughed Clancy, haloed by steaming breath;
Through peril of open water, through ache of insensate cold;
Up rivers wantonly winding in a land affianced to death,
Till he came to a cowering cabin on the banks of the Nordenscold.
Then Clancy loosed his revolver, and he strode through the open door;
And there was the man he sought for, crouching beside the fire;
The hair of his beard was singeing, the frost on his back was hoar,
And ever he crooned and chanted as if he never would tire:--
"I panned and I panned in the shiny sand, and I sniped on the river bar;
But I know, I know, that it's down below that the golden treasures are;
So I'll wait and wait till the floods abate, and I'll sink a shaft once more,
And I'd like to bet that I'll go home yet with a brass band playing before.
He was nigh as thin as a sliver, and he whined like a Moose-hide cur;
So Clancy clothed him and nursed him as a mother nurses a child;
Lifted him on the toboggan, wrapped him in robes of fur,
Then with the dogs sore straining started to face the Wild.
Said the Wild, "I will crush this Clancy, so fearless and insolent;
For him will I loose my fury, and blind and buffet and beat;
Pile up my snows to stay him; then when his strength is spent,
Leap on him from my ambush and crush him under my feet.
"Him will I ring with my silence, compass him with my cold;
Closer and closer clutch him unto mine icy breast;
Buffet him with my blizzards, deep in my snows enfold,
Claiming his life as my tribute, giving my wolves the rest.
Clancy crawled through the vastness; o'er him the hate of the Wild;
Full on his face fell the blizzard; cheering his huskies he ran;
Fighting, fierce-hearted and tireless, snows that drifted and piled,
With ever and ever behind him singing the crazy man.
"Sing hey, sing ho, for the ice and snow,
And a heart that's ever merry;
Let us trim and square with a lover's care
(For why should a man be sorry?)
A grave deep, deep, with the moon a-peep,
A grave in the frozen mould.
Sing hey, sing ho, for the winds that blow,
And a grave deep down in the ice and snow,
A grave in the land of gold.
Day after day of darkness, the whirl of the seething snows;
Day after day of blindness, the swoop of the stinging blast;
On through a blur of fury the swing of staggering blows;
On through a world of turmoil, empty, inane and vast.
Night with its writhing storm-whirl, night despairingly black;
Night with its hours of terror, numb and endlessly long;
Night with its weary waiting, fighting the shadows back,
And ever the crouching madman singing his crazy song.
Cold with its creeping terror, cold with its sudden clinch;
Cold so utter you wonder if 'twill ever again be warm;
Clancy grinned as he shuddered, "Surely it isn't a cinch
Being wet-nurse to a looney in the teeth of an arctic storm.
"The blizzard passed and the dawn broke, knife-edged and crystal clear;
The sky was a blue-domed iceberg, sunshine outlawed away;
Ever by snowslide and ice-rip haunted and hovered the Fear;
Ever the Wild malignant poised and panted to slay.
The lead-dog freezes in harness--cut him out of the team!
The lung of the wheel-dog's bleeding--shoot him and let him lie!
On and on with the others--lash them until they scream!
"Pull for your lives, you devils! On! To halt is to die.
There in the frozen vastness Clancy fought with his foes;
The ache of the stiffened fingers, the cut of the snowshoe thong;
Cheeks black-raw through the hood-flap, eyes that tingled and closed,
And ever to urge and cheer him quavered the madman's song.
Colder it grew and colder, till the last heat left the earth,
And there in the great stark stillness the bale fires glinted and gleamed,
And the Wild all around exulted and shook with a devilish mirth,
And life was far and forgotten, the ghost of a joy once dreamed.
Death! And one who defied it, a man of the Mounted Police;
Fought it there to a standstill long after hope was gone;
Grinned through his bitter anguish, fought without let or cease,
Suffering, straining, striving, stumbling, struggling on.
Till the dogs lay down in their traces, and rose and staggered and fell;
Till the eyes of him dimmed with shadows, and the trail was so hard to see;
Till the Wild howled out triumphant, and the world was a frozen hell--
Then said Constable Clancy: "I guess that it's up to me.
Far down the trail they saw him, and his hands they were blanched like bone;
His face was a blackened horror, from his eyelids the salt rheum ran;
His feet he was lifting strangely, as if they were made of stone,
But safe in his arms and sleeping he carried the crazy man.
So Clancy got into Barracks, and the boys made rather a scene;
And the O.
called him a hero, and was nice as a man could be;
But Clancy gazed down his trousers at the place where his toes had been,
And then he howled like a husky, and sang in a shaky key:
"When I go back to the old love that's true to the finger-tips,
I'll say: `Here's bushels of gold, love,' and I'll kiss my girl on the lips;
It's yours to have and to hold, love.
' It's the proud, proud boy I'll be,
When I go back to the old love that's waited so long for 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).
Anne Sexton |
It was also my violent heart that broke,
falling down the front hall stairs.
It was also a message I never spoke,
calling, riser after riser, who cares
about you, who cares, splintering up
the hip that was merely made of crystal,
the post of it and also the cup.
I exploded in the hallway like a pistol.
So I fell apart.
So I came all undone.
I was like a box of dog bones.
But now they've wrapped me in like a nun.
Burst like firecrackers! Held like stones!
What a feat sailing queerly like Icarus
until the tempest undid me and I broke.
The ambulance drivers made such a fuss.
But when I cried, "Wait for my courage!" they smoked
and then they placed me, tied me up on their plate,
and wheeled me out to their coffin, my nest.
Slowly the siren slowly the hearse, sedate
as a dowager.
At the E.
they cut off my dress.
I cried, "Oh Jesus, help me! Oh Jesus Christ!"
and the nurse replied, "Wrong name.
is Barbara," and hung me in an odd device,
a buck's extension and a Balkan overhead frame.
The orthopedic man declared,
"You'll be down for a year.
" His scoop.
He opened the skin.
and drilled through bone for his four-inch screws.
That takes brute strength like pushing a cow
I tell you, it takes skill
and bedside charm and all that know how.
The body is a damn hard thing to kill.
But please don't touch or jiggle my bed.
I'm Ethan Frome's wife.
I'll move when I'm able.
hangs from the wall like a moose head.
I hide a pint of bourbon in my bedside table.
A bird full of bones, now I'm held by a sand bag.
The fracture was twice.
The fracture was double.
The days are horizontal.
The days are a drag.
All of the skeleton in me is in trouble.
Across the hall is the bedpan station.
The urine and stools pass hourly by my head
in silver bowls.
They flush in unison
in the autoclave.
My one dozen roses are dead.
The have ceased to menstruate.
there like little dried up blood clots.
And the heart too, that cripple, how it sang
How it thought it could call the shots!
Understand what happened the day I fell.
My heart had stammered and hungered at
a marriage feast until the angel of hell
turned me into the punisher, the acrobat.
My bones are loose as clothespins,
as abandoned as dolls in a toy shop
and my heart, old hunger motor, with its sins
revved up like an engine that would not stop.
And now I spend all day taking care
of my body, that baby.
Its cargo is scarred.
I anoint the bedpan.
I brush my hair,
waiting in the pain machine for my bones to get hard,
for the soft, soft bones that were laid apart
and were screwed together.
They will knit.
And the other corpse, the fractured heart,
I feed it piecemeal, little chalice.
I'm good to it.
Yet lie a fire alarm it waits to be known.
It is wired.
In it many colors are stored.
While my body's in prison, heart cells alone
My bones are merely bored
with all this waiting around.
But the heart,
this child of myself that resides in the flesh,
this ultimate signature of the me, the start
of my blindness and sleep, builds a death crèche.
The figures are placed at the grave of my bones.
All figures knowing it is the other death
they came for.
Each figure standing alone.
The heart burst with love and lost its breath.
This little town, this little country is real
and thus it is so of the post and the cup
and thus of the violent heart.
of my house doth eat me up.