Robert Frost |
Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.
Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.
The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.
A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.
The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.
The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.
Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.
Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right--agreed.
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
Eugene Field |
TO MISS GRACE KING
Down in the old French quarter,
Just out of Rampart street,
I wend my way
At close of day
Unto the quaint retreat
Where lives the Voodoo Doctor
By some esteemed a sham,
Yet I'll declare there's none elsewhere
So skilled as Doctor Sam
With the claws of a deviled crawfish,
The juice of the prickly prune,
And the quivering dew
From a yarb that grew
In the light of a midnight moon!
I never should have known him
But for the colored folk
That here obtain
And ne'er in vain
That wizard's art invoke;
For when the Eye that's Evil
Would him and his'n damn,
The negro's grief gets quick relief
Of Hoodoo-Doctor Sam.
With the caul of an alligator,
The plume of an unborn loon,
And the poison wrung
From a serpent's tongue
By the light of a midnight moon!
In all neurotic ailments
I hear that he excels,
And he insures
Of weird, uncanny spells;
The most unruly patient
Gets docile as a lamb
And is freed from ill by the potent skill
Of Hoodoo-Doctor Sam;
Feathers of strangled chickens,
Moss from the dank lagoon,
And plasters wet
With spider sweat
In the light of a midnight moon!
They say when nights are grewsome
And hours are, oh! so late,
Old Sam steals out
And hunts about
For charms that hoodoos hate!
That from the moaning river
And from the haunted glen
He silently brings what eerie things
Give peace to hoodooed men:--
The tongue of a piebald 'possum,
The tooth of a senile '****,
The buzzard's breath that smells of death,
And the film that lies
On a lizard's eyes
In the light of a midnight moon!
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Air a-gittin' cool an' coolah,
Frost a-comin' in de night,
Hicka' nuts an' wa'nuts fallin',
Possum keepin' out o' sight.
Tu'key struttin' in de ba'nya'd,
Nary a step so proud ez his;
Keep on struttin', Mistah Tu'key,
Yo' do' know whut time it is.
Cidah press commence a-squeakin'
Eatin' apples sto'ed away,
Chillun swa'min' 'roun' lak ho'nets,
Huntin' aigs ermung de hay.
Mistah Tu'key keep on gobblin'
At de geese a-flyin' souf,
Oomph! dat bird do' know whut's comin';
Ef he did he'd shet his mouf.
Pumpkin gittin' good an' yallah
Mek me open up my eyes;
Seems lak it's a-lookin' at me
Jes' a-la'in' dah sayin' "Pies.
Tu'key gobbler gwine 'roun' blowin',
Gwine 'roun' gibbin' sass an' slack;
Keep on talkin', Mistah Tu'key,
You ain't seed no almanac.
Fa'mer walkin' th'oo de ba'nya'd
Seein' how things is comin' on,
Sees ef all de fowls is fatt'nin' --
Good times comin' sho's you bo'n.
Hyeahs dat tu'key gobbler braggin',
Den his face break in a smile --
Nebbah min', you sassy rascal,
He's gwine nab you atter while.
Choppin' suet in de kitchen,
Stonin' raisins in de hall,
Beef a-cookin' fu' de mince meat,
Spices groun' -- I smell 'em all.
Look hyeah, Tu'key, stop dat gobblin',
You ain' luned de sense ob feah,
You ol' fool, yo' naik's in dangah,
Do' you know Thanksgibbin's hyeah?
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Dey had a gread big pahty down to Tom's de othah night;
Was I dah? You bet! I nevah in my life see sich a sight;
All de folks f'om fou' plantations was invited, an' dey come,
Dey come troopin' thick ez chillun when dey hyeahs a fife an' drum.
Evahbody dressed deir fines'—Heish yo' mouf an' git away,
Ain't seen no sich fancy dressin' sence las' quah'tly meetin' day;
Gals all dressed in silks an' satins, not a wrinkle ner a crease,
Eyes a-battin', teeth a-shinin', haih breshed back ez slick ez grease;
Sku'ts all tucked an' puffed an' ruffled, evah blessed seam an' stitch;
Ef you 'd seen 'em wif deir mistus, could n't swahed to which was which.
Men all dressed up in Prince Alberts, swaller-tails 'u'd tek yo' bref!
I cain't tell you nothin' 'bout it, y' ought to seen it fu' yo'se'f.
Who was dah? Now who you askin'? How you 'spect I gwine to know?
You mus' think I stood an' counted evahbody at de do.'
Ole man Babah's house-boy Isaac, brung dat gal, Malindy Jane,
Huh a-hangin' to his elbow, him a-struttin' wif a cane;
My, but Hahvey Jones was jealous! seemed to stick him lak a tho'n;[Pg 84]
But he laughed with Viney Cahteh, tryin' ha'd to not let on,
But a pusson would 'a' noticed f'om de d'rection of his look,
Dat he was watchin' ev'ry step dat Ike an' Lindy took.
Ike he foun' a cheer an' asked huh: "Won't you set down?" wif a smile,
An' she answe'd up a-bowin', "Oh, I reckon 't ain't wuth while."
Dat was jes' fu' Style, I reckon, 'cause she sot down jes' de same,
An' she stayed dah 'twell he fetched huh fu' to jine some so't o' game;
Den I hyeahd huh sayin' propah, ez she riz to go away,
"Oh, you raly mus' excuse me, fu' I hardly keers to play."
But I seen huh in a minute wif de othahs on de flo',
An' dah wasn't any one o' dem a-playin' any mo';
Comin' down de flo' a-bowin' an' a-swayin' an' a-swingin',
Puttin' on huh high-toned mannahs all de time dat she was singin':
"Oh, swing Johnny up an' down, swing him all aroun',
Swing Johnny up an' down, swing him all aroun',
Oh, swing Johnny up an' down, swing him all aroun'
Fa' you well, my dahlin'."
Had to laff at ole man Johnson, he 's a caution now, you bet—
Hittin' clost onto a hunderd, but he 's spry an' nimble yet;
He 'lowed how a-so't o' gigglin', "I ain't ole, I 'll let you see,
D'ain't no use in gittin' feeble, now you youngstahs jes' watch me,"
An' he grabbed ole Aunt Marier—weighs th'ee hunderd mo' er less,
An' he spun huh 'roun' de cabin swingin' Johnny lak de res'.
Evahbody laffed an' hollahed: "Go it! Swing huh, Uncle Jim!"
An' he swung huh too, I reckon, lak a youngstah, who but him.
Dat was bettah 'n young Scott Thomas, tryin' to be so awful smaht.
You know when dey gits to singin' an' dey comes to dat ere paht:
"In some lady's new brick house,
In some lady's gyahden.
Ef you don't let me out, I will jump out,
So fa' you well, my dahlin'."
Den dey 's got a circle 'roun' you, an' you's got to break de line;
Well, dat dahky was so anxious, lak to bust hisse'f a-tryin';[Pg 85]
Kep' on blund'rin' 'roun' an' foolin' 'twell he giv' one gread big jump,
Broke de line, an lit head-fo'most in de fiah-place right plump;
Hit 'ad fiah in it, mind you; well, I thought my soul I 'd bust,
Tried my best to keep f'om laffin', but hit seemed like die I must!
Y' ought to seen dat man a-scramblin' f'om de ashes an' de grime.
Did it bu'n him! Sich a question, why he did n't give it time;
Th'ow'd dem ashes and dem cindahs evah which-a-way I guess,
An' you nevah did, I reckon, clap yo' eyes on sich a mess;
Fu' he sholy made a picter an' a funny one to boot,
Wif his clothes all full o' ashes an' his face all full o' soot.
Well, hit laked to stopped de pahty, an' I reckon lak ez not
Dat it would ef Tom's wife, Mandy, had n't happened on de spot,
To invite us out to suppah—well, we scrambled to de table,
An' I 'd lak to tell you 'bout it—what we had—but I ain't able,
Mention jes' a few things, dough I know I had n't orter,
Fu' I know 't will staht a hank'rin' an' yo' mouf 'll 'mence to worter.
We had wheat bread white ez cotton an' a egg pone jes like gol',
Hog jole, bilin' hot an' steamin' roasted shoat an' ham sliced cold—
Look out! What's de mattah wif you? Don't be fallin' on de flo';
Ef it 's go'n' to 'fect you dat way, I won't tell you nothin' mo'.
Dah now—well, we had hot chittlin's—now you 's tryin' ag'in to fall,
Cain't you stan' to hyeah about it? S'pose you'd been an' seed it all;
Seed dem gread big sweet pertaters, layin' by de possum's side,
Seed dat **** in all his gravy, reckon den you 'd up and died!
Mandy 'lowed "you all mus' 'scuse me, d' wa'n't much upon my she'ves,
But I's done my bes' to suit you, so set down an' he'p yo'se'ves."
Tom, he 'lowed: "I don't b'lieve in 'pologisin' an' perfessin',
Let 'em tek it lak dey ketch it. Eldah Thompson, ask de blessin'."[Pg 86]
Wish you 'd seed dat colo'ed preachah cleah his th'oat an' bow his head;
One eye shet, an' one eye open,—dis is evah wud he said:
"Lawd, look down in tendah mussy on sich generous hea'ts ez dese;
Make us truly thankful, amen. Pass dat possum, ef you please!"
Well, we eat and drunk ouah po'tion, 'twell dah was n't nothin' lef,
An' we felt jes' like new sausage, we was mos' nigh stuffed to def!
Tom, he knowed how we 'd be feelin', so he had de fiddlah 'roun',
An' he made us cleah de cabin fu' to dance dat suppah down.
Jim, de fiddlah, chuned his fiddle, put some rosum on his bow,
Set a pine box on de table, mounted it an' let huh go!
He's a fiddlah, now I tell you, an' he made dat fiddle ring,
'Twell de ol'est an' de lamest had to give deir feet a fling.
Jigs, cotillions, reels an' breakdowns, cordrills an' a waltz er two;
Bless yo' soul, dat music winged 'em an' dem people lak to flew.
Cripple Joe, de old rheumatic, danced dat flo' f'om side to middle,
Th'owed away his crutch an' hopped it; what's rheumatics 'ginst a fiddle?
Eldah Thompson got so tickled dat he lak to los' his grace,
Had to tek bofe feet an' hol' dem so 's to keep 'em in deir place.
An' de Christuns an' de sinnahs got so mixed up on dat flo',
Dat I don't see how dey 'd pahted ef de trump had chanced to blow.
Well, we danced dat way an' capahed in de mos' redic'lous way,
'Twell de roostahs in de bahnyard cleahed deir th'oats an' crowed fu' day.
Y' ought to been dah, fu' I tell you evahthing was rich an' prime,
An' dey ain't no use in talkin', we jes had one scrumptious time![Pg 87]
Gaius Valerius Catullus |
O qui flosculus es Iuuentiorum,
non horum modo sed quot aut fuerunt
aut posthac aliis erunt in annis.
mallem diuitias Midae dedisses
isti cui neque seruus est neque arca
quam sic te sineres ab illo amari.
`Qui? Non est *****bellus?' inquies.
sed bello huic neque seruus est neque arca.
Hoc tu quam libet abice eleuaque:
Nec seruum tamen ille habet neque arcam.
MELLITOS oculos tuos Iuuenti
siquis me sinat usque basiare
usque ad milia basiem trecenta,
Nec mi umquam uidear satur futurus,
non si densior aridis aristis
sit nostrae seges osculationis.
NEMONE in tanto potuit populo esse, Iuuenti,
bellus homo, quem tu deligere inciperes.
Praeterquam iste tuus moribunda ab sede Pisauri
hospes inaurata palladior statua,
qui tibi nunc cordi est, quem tu praeponere nobis
Et nescis quod facinus facias?
SURRIPUI tibi dum ludis, mellite Iuuenti
suauiolum dulci dulcius ambrosia.
Verum id non impune tuli, namque amplius horam
suffixum in summa me memini esse cruce
dum tibi me purgo nec possum fletibus ullis
tantillum uestrae demere saeuitiae.
Nam simul id factum est multis diluta labella
guttis abstersisti omnibus articulis.
ne quicquam nostro contractum ex ore maneret,
tamquam commictae spurca saliua lupae.
praeterea infestum misero me tradere amore
non cessasti omni excruciarique modo,
ut mi ex ambrosia mutatum iam foret illud
suauiolum tristi tristius elleboro.
quam quoniam poenam misero proponis amori
numquam iam posthac basia surripiam.
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Dear Miss Lucy: I been t'inkin' dat I 'd write you long fo' dis,
But dis writin' 's mighty tejous, an' you know jes' how it is.
But I 's got a little lesure, so I teks my pen in han'
Fu' to let you know my feelin's since I retched dis furrin' lan'.
I 's right well, I 's glad to tell you (dough dis climate ain't to blame),
An' I hopes w'en dese lines reach you, dat dey 'll fin' yo' se'f de same.
Cose I 'se feelin kin' o' homesick—dat 's ez nachul ez kin be,[Pg 152]
Wen a feller 's mo'n th'ee thousand miles across dat awful sea.
(Don't you let nobidy fool you 'bout de ocean bein' gran';
If you want to see de billers, you jes' view dem f'om de lan'.)
'Bout de people? We been t'inkin' dat all white folks was alak;
But dese Englishmen is diffunt, an' dey 's curus fu' a fac'.
Fust, dey's heavier an' redder in dey make-up an' dey looks,
An' dey don't put salt nor pepper in a blessed t'ing dey cooks!
Wen dey gin you good ol' tu'nips, ca'ots, pa'snips, beets, an' sich,
Ef dey ain't some one to tell you, you cain't 'stinguish which is which.
Wen I t'ought I 's eatin' chicken—you may b'lieve dis hyeah 's a lie—
But de waiter beat me down dat I was eatin' rabbit pie.
An' dey 'd t'ink dat you was crazy—jes' a reg'lar ravin' loon,
Ef you 'd speak erbout a 'possum or a piece o' good ol' ****.
O, hit's mighty nice, dis trav'lin', an' I 's kin' o' glad I come.
But, I reckon, now I 's willin' fu' to tek my way back home.
I done see de Crystal Palace, an' I 's hyeahd dey string-band play,
But I has n't seen no banjos layin' nowhahs roun' dis way.
Jes' gin ol' Jim Bowles a banjo, an' he 'd not go very fu',
'Fo' he 'd outplayed all dese fiddlers, wif dey flourish and dey stir.
Evahbiddy dat I 's met wif has been monst'ous kin an' good;
But I t'ink I 'd lak it better to be down in Jones's wood,
Where we ust to have sich frolics, Lucy, you an' me an' Nelse,
Dough my appetite 'ud call me, ef dey was n't nuffin else.
I 'd jes' lak to have some sweet-pertaters roasted in de skin;
I 's a-longin' fu' my chittlin's an' my mustard greens ergin;
I 's a-wishin' fu' some buttermilk, an' co'n braid, good an' brown,
An' a drap o' good ol' bourbon fu' to wash my feelin's down!
An' I 's comin' back to see you jes' as ehly as I kin,
So you better not go spa'kin' wif dat wuffless scoun'el Quin!
Well, I reckon, I mus' close now; write ez soon's dis reaches you;
Gi' my love to Sister Mandy an' to Uncle Isham, too.
Tell de folks I sen' 'em howdy; gin a kiss to pap an' mam;
Closin' I is, deah Miss Lucy, Still Yo' Own True-Lovin' Sam.[Pg 153]
P. S. Ef you cain't mek out dis letter, lay it by erpon de she'f,
An' when I git home, I 'll read it, darlin', to you my own se'f.
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
You 'll be wonderin' whut 's de reason
I 's a grinnin' all de time,
An' I guess you t'ink my sperits
[Pg 132]Mus' be feelin' mighty prime.
Well, I 'fess up, I is tickled
As a puppy at his paws.
But you need n't think I's crazy,
I ain' laffin' 'dout a cause.
You's a wonderin' too, I reckon,
Why I does n't seem to eat,
An' I notice you a lookin'
Lak you felt completely beat
When I 'fuse to tek de bacon,
An' don' settle on de ham.
Don' you feel no feah erbout me,
Jes' keep eatin', an' be ca'm.
Fu' I's waitin' an' I's watchin'
'Bout a little t'ing I see—
D' othah night I's out a walkin'
An' I passed a 'simmon tree.
Now I's whettin' up my hongry,
An' I's laffin' fit to kill,
Fu' de fros' done turned de 'simmons,
An' de possum 's eat his fill.
He done go'ged hisse'f owdacious,
An' he stayin' by de tree!
Don' you know, ol' Mistah Possum
Dat you gittin' fat fu' me?
'T ain't no use to try to 'spute it,
'Case I knows you's gittin' sweet
Wif dat 'simmon flavoh thoo you,
So I's waitin' fu' yo' meat.
An' some ebenin' me an Towsah
Gwine to come an' mek a call,
We jes' drap in onexpected
Fu' to shek yo' han', dat's all.
Oh, I knows dat you 'll be tickled,
Seems lak I kin see you smile,
So pu'haps I mought pu'suade you
Fu' to visit us a while.
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Dey 's a so't o' threatenin' feelin' in de blowin' of de breeze,
An' I 's feelin' kin' o' squeamish in de night;
I 's a-walkin' 'roun' a-lookin' at de diffunt style o' trees,
An' a-measurin' dey thickness an' dey height.
Fu' dey 's somep'n mighty 'spicious in de looks de da'kies give,
Ez dey pass me an' my fambly on de groun,'
So it 'curs to me dat lakly, ef I caihs to try an' live,
It concehns me fu' to 'mence to look erroun'.
Dey's a cu'ious kin' o' shivah runnin' up an' down my back,
An' I feel my feddahs rufflin' all de day,
An' my laigs commence to trimble evah blessid step I mek;
W'en I sees a ax, I tu'ns my head away.
Folks is go'gin' me wid goodies, an' dey 's treatin' me wid caih,
An' I 's fat in spite of all dat I kin do.
I 's mistrus'ful of de kin'ness dat's erroun' me evahwhaih,
Fu' it 's jes' too good, an' frequent, to be true.
Snow 's a-fallin' on de medders, all erroun' me now is white,
But I 's still kep' on a-roostin' on de fence;
[Pg 172]Isham comes an' feels my breas'bone, an' he hefted me las' night,
An' he 's gone erroun' a-grinnin' evah sence.
'T ain't de snow dat meks me shivah; 't ain't de col' dat meks me shake;
'T ain't de wintah-time itse'f dat's 'fectin' me;
But I t'ink de time is comin', an' I 'd bettah mek a break,
Fu' to set wid Mistah Possum in his tree.
Wen you hyeah de da'kies singin', an' de quahtahs all is gay,
'T ain't de time fu' birds lak me to be 'erroun';
Wen de hick'ry chip is flyin', an' de log 's been ca'ied erway,
Den hit's dang'ous to be roostin' nigh he groun'.
Grin on, Isham! Sing on, da'kies! But I flop my wings an' go
Fu' de sheltah of de ve'y highest tree,
Fu' dey 's too much close ertention—an' dey's too much fallin' snow—
An' it's too nigh Chris'mus mo'nin' now fu' me.
Les Murray |
Blats booted to blatant
dubbing the avenue dire
with rubbings of Sveinn Forkbeard
leading a black squall of Harleys
with Moe Snow-Whitebeard and
Possum Brushbeard and their ladies
and, sphincter-lipped, gunning,
massed in leather muscle on a run,
on a roll, Santas from Hell
like a whole shoal leaning
wide wristed, their tautness stable
in fluency, fast streetscape dwindling,
all riding astride, on the outside
of sleek grunt vehicles, woman-clung,
forty years on from Marlon.
Paul Laurence Dunbar |
Yes, my ha't 's ez ha'd ez stone—
Go 'way, Sam, an' lemme 'lone.
No; I ain't gwine change my min'—
Ain't gwine ma'y you—nuffin' de kin'.
Phiny loves you true an' deah?
Go ma'y Phiny; whut I keer?
Oh, you need n't mou'n an' cry—
I don't keer how soon you die.
Got a present! Whut you got?
Somef'n fu' de pan er pot!
Huh! yo' sass do sholy beat—
Think I don't git 'nough to eat?
Whut's dat un'neaf yo' coat?
Looks des lak a little shoat.
'T ain't no possum! Bless de Lamb!
Yes, it is, you rascal, Sam!
Gin it to me; whut you say?
Ain't you sma't now! Oh, go 'way!
Possum do look mighty nice,
But you ax too big a price.
Tell me, is you talkin' true,
Dat 's de gal's whut ma'ies you?
Come back, Sam; now whah 's you gwine?
Co'se you knows dat possum's mine!