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Full text of "Selected Works Of Stephen Vincent Benet Vol I"

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SELECTED WORKS OF' 

Stephen Vincent Bene"t 



VOLUME ONE: POETRY 



ty Stephen Vincent Benet 

Prose 

THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM 

YOUNG PEOPLE'S PRIDE 

JEAN HUGUENOT 

SPANISH BAYONET 

JAMES SHORE'S DAUGHTER 

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER 

THIRTEEN O'CLOCK 

JOHNNY PYE AND THE FOOL-KILLER 
TALES BEFORE MIDNIGHT 



Poetry 



FIVE MEN AND POMPEY 

TIGER JOY 

HEAVENS AND EARTH 
JOHN BROWN'S BODY 
BALLADS AND POEMS 

BURNING CITY 
YOUNG ADVENTURE 

A BOOK OF AMERICANS 
(with Rosemary Benet) 

NIGHTMARE AT NOON 

Libretto 

THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER 



SELECTED WORKS OF 

Stevhen Vincent 

BEKET 



VOLUME ONE 
POETRY 



New York 

Farrar & Rinekart, Inc. 
1942 



B'... 



^t^^$<^^t^^ 



COPYRIGHT, 1942, BY STEPHEN VINCENT BEN&T 

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 

The works included in this volume are covered by separate copyrights, 
as stated below: 

VOLUME ONE 

John Brown's Body, Copyright, 1927, 1928, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

YOUNG ADVENTURE 

Portrait of a Boy, Copyright, 1917, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Portrait of a Baby, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Portrait of Young Love, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The General Public, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Bcnct 

Young Blood, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Breaking Point, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Poor Devil!, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Golden Corpse, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

MY FAIR LADY 

To Rosemary (original title Dedication) , Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vin- 
cent Benet 

Chemical Analysis, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Nomenclature, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Difference, Copyright, 1921, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
A Sad Song, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
A Nonsense Song, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
To Rosemary, on the Methods by Which She Might Become an Angel, 

Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Evening and Morning, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
In a Glass of Water Before Retiring, Copyright, 1923, by Stephen Vincent 

Benet 

Legend, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Dulce Ridentem, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Bent 
All Night Long, Copyright, 1923, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Days Pass: Men Pass, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Ilia, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Hands, Copyright, 1931, by Stephen Vincent Benjt-- 
Memory, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen VioccTTf"Benet 



BALLADS AND TALES 

American Names, Copyright, 1927, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Ballad of William Sycamore, Copyright, 1922, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Hemp, Copyright, 1916, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Mountain Whippoorwill, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

King David, Copyright, 1923, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Retort Discourteous, Copyright, 1920, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Three Days' Ride, Copyright, 1920, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Alexander the Sixth Dines with the Cardinal of Capua, Copyright, 1918, by 

Stephen Vincent Benet 
Southern Ships and Settlers (Original title Southern Ships), Copyright, 1933, 

by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet 

Cotton Mather, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet 
Captrin Kidd, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary. and Stephen Vincent Benet 
French Pioneers, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet 
Thomas Jefferson, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet 
John James Audubon, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent 

Benet 

Daniel Boone, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet 
Western Wagons, Copyright, 1933, by Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Benet 



CREATURES OF EARTH 

The Innovator, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Snowfall, Copyright, 1924, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Bad Dream, Copyright, 1929, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

For All Blasphemers, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Architects, Copyright, 1925, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Dinner in a Quick Lunch Room, Copyright; 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Operation, Copyright, 1920, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

The Trapeze Performer, Copyright, 1920, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Judgment, Copyright, 1920, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Ghosts of a Lunatic Asylum, Copyright, 1918, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

For Those Who Arc as Right as Any, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent 

Benet 

Girl Child, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Old Man Hoppergrass, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
The Lost Wife, Copyright, 1927, by Stephen Vincent Pcnet 
Sparrow, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Thanks, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Complaint of Body, the Ass, Against His Rider, the Soul, Copyright, 1936, 
by Stephen Vincent Benet 



NIGHTMARES AND VISITANTS 

Notes to be Left in a Cornerstone, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Short Ode, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Litany for Dictatorships, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Benet 
Ode to the Austrian Socialists, Copyright? 1936, by Stephen Vincent Bene*t 
Do You Remember, Springfield?, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Bene't 



Ode to Walt Whitman, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Bene"t 

Metropolitan Nightmare, Copyright, 1933, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Nightmare, with Angels, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Nightmare Number Three, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

1935, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

For City Spring, Copyright, 1935, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

For City Lovers, Copyright, 1936, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Nightmare for Future Reference, Copyright, 1938, by Stephen Vincent Ben6t 

Minor Litany, Copyright, 1940, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Nightmare at Noon, Copyright, 1940, by Stephen Vincent Benet 

Listen to the People, Copyright, 1941, by Stephen Vincent Benet , 



TO ROSEMARY 



STEPHEN VINCENT BENET 

Of Mark Sabre, the hero of If Winter Comes, we are told that 
Byron's poems was "the first book he had ever bought 'specially' 
not, that is, as one buys a bun, but as one buys a dog.' I have a 
similar feeling for Stephen Vincent Benet's Heavens and Earth 
(his third volume of poems, following Young Adventure, and 
Five Men and Pompey, published while he was still at school). 
For that was the first book I ever bought on the strength of a 
review and I wish my own reviews were always as reliable as 
that one proved to be. It appeared in The Yale Literary Magazine; 
I was a schoolboy at Taft at the time, and read the Lit much more 
religiously than I did when I got to Yale. What chiefly struck me 
in it was a comparison to William Morris, a current idol of mine, 
and a number of quotations, excellently chosen, which showed 
me that here was one of my predestined books. I bought it the 
first day of the following vacation (it was one of the curious fea- 
tures or secondary education as then practiced that while at school 
it was made as difficult as possible to read any books) and found 
all that I had been looking for and more besides. The resemblance 
to William Morris in certain poems was plain enough; in his first 
novel, The Beginning of Wisdom, which belongs to what he has 
elsewhere described as "the required project in those days, a school 
and college novel," Benet says of the boy who is not quite him- 
self that one of his first outpourings was "a long and bloodily bad 
ballad stewed from the bones of William Morris"; but it was 
resemblance to Morris where he is least dangerous as an influence, 
in the mood of mediaevalism combined with brutal realism of 
"Shameful Death" or "The Haystack in the Floods" and, mak- 
ing allowance for some youthful romanticism, the mood, here, of 
"Three Days' Ride." 

But there was of course a great deal more than that. Even in 
that one poem, there was also, for instance, a technical device to 
take your breath away literally, the way the pnigos in Aris- 
tophanes took away the breath of the actor if (as you should) 
you read it aloud. It is that innocent refrain, 

ix 



From Belton Castle to Solway side, 
Hard by the bridge, is three days' ride, 

which, at each repetition, becomes more menacing, until in its final 
form, 

From Belton Castle to Solway side, 

Though great hearts break, is three days' ride, 

the beating stresses give you a feeling in the chest which you will 
recognize from the last time you ran five miles. 

There were other matters of technique, too, to fascinate a school- 
boy who had recently discovered the subject. There is the dirge 
in "The First Vision of Helen" which he would not let me in- 
clude here, with the oversevere judgment of a creator who has 
gone on to something else. God, I suppose, admires the dinosaurs 
less than we do. The poem is in various metres; one section begins: 

Close his eyes with the coins; bind his chin with the shroud. 

That line, you will notice, is made of the musical phrase turn ti turn 
ti ti turn twice repeated; and that, with what the books call ana- 
crusis and anaclasis, is the metrical unit of the entire lament. It was 
not until freshman year at Yale when I read Prometheus Bound 
that I learned to call it a dochmiac; but I was able to recognize it 
as a single foot, and a complete and rare one. (Gilbert Murray and 
another have used it to render Greek choruses; as far as I know it 
occurs nowhere else in English.) A good deal later I was able to 
ask Steve Benet, ""M. Jourdain, did you know that in that passage 
you were writing in dochmiacs?" He replied honestly that he did 
not know whether he had ever encountered the foot or not, but 
he believed he had just felt that anapaests were "too curly." 

Whether he found or invented it, it is the perfect measure for 
the sway of the bearers ("Slow as the stream and strong, answer- 
ing knee to knee") ; and the accommodation of the line to the 
breath in these two poems is the promise of what he achieves in 
John Bro r wn > s Body when he attacks one of the primary problems 
of verse in our day, the finding of a form which may bear the same 
relation to our easygoing talk that, presumably, blank verse did 
to the more formal speech of an earlier generation. Half a dozen 
poets are attempting it; Benet was one of the first in the field, and 
I think is the most successful, with the long, loose, five- or six-beat 



line that carries the bulk of John Bro f wn^s Body. It will be im- 
proved in the later poems; in John Broiun's Body it is sometimes 
a little too loose, coming perilously near prose; yet it can carry 
casual conversations without incongruity, or at need can deepen 
without any sense of abrupt transition into blank verse for the 
nobility of Lincoln or Lee, or even slip into rhyme for the roman- 
tics of the Wingates. And it passes the great test for existence as 
a metre: single lines of it stay in your memory, existing by them- 
selves. 

It is over now, but they will not let it be over. 

Professor Procrustes could explain that as an iambic or an ana- 
paestic line, and name its variations; but to plain common sense it 
is neither. It is in a metre of its own; one of our time; one which 
Benet has given us. 

There was more, too, in that thin purple book with a gilt demi- 
Pegasus on the cover, to meet one halfway and lead one out of the 
Pre-Raphaelite dreamland. There was an impish humor, which ap- 
peared not only in the openly grotesque poems, but was likely 
to crop up anywhere in the tempting quotation, for instance, 
which begins "Young Blood," and which, when you catch him 
with the question, Steve will blandly tell you that he invented. 
It is this quality, by the way, which is most readily apparent when 
you know him. He is given a puckish air by his habit of twisting 
his legs round his chair, by his round glasses, and his squeaky 
voice which I always hear, in "Nightmare with Angels," giving 
his own peculiarly emphatic intonation to the conclusion "In fact, 
you will not be saved." In talk he seems to "make fun" of every- 
thing, not in the sense of ridicule, but with the humor that comes 
from looking at anything with a really original mind. His talk 
ranges over everything he has read (and he has read everything) 
building pyramids in the air, and, like his own "Innovator," turn- 
ing them upside down to see how they look; while from time to 
time his wife Rosemary puts in a wise and charming word as she 
sits serenely sewing looking like an unusually humorous version 
of the housewifely Athena, as Steve behind his spectacles looks 
like an unusually humorous version of Athena's owl. 

That is the Benet of the dry comments in John Brown's Body, 
upon McClellan 

He looked the parthe could have acted the part 

xi 



Word perfectly. He looked like an empire-builder. 
But so few empire-builders have looked the part 

or upon Wendell Phillips- 
He did his part, 

Being strong and active, in all ways shaped like a man, 
And the cause being one to which he professed devotion, 
He spoke. He spoke well, with conviction, and frequently. 

It is the Benet of the fantasies and fables, of the extraordinary 
"Nightmares," which deepen from the fantastic-amusing to the 
fantastic-terrifying. It's the author who can rewrite an old fairy 
tale for today in the much-reprinted "King of the Cats," or can 
write a new legend so perfect that it seems to have been always 
a part of our folklore for the Devil and Daniel Webster ought 
forever to haunt New Hampshire as solidly as Rip Van Winkle 
and his gnomes haunt the Hudson. And the Benet who turns 
pyramids upside down in talk is the one who writes with imagina- 
tion. The popular magazines are filled with stories that have in- 
vention, and ingenuity, and even a sort of conjurer's illusion; but 
the rarest thing in the world there or anywhere else is real imagi- 
nation, which is real magic such as you find in that astonishing 
piece of what-if, "The Curfew Tolls," or that haunting evocation 
of the feeling of certain quiet city backwaters, "Glamour." It is 
also one of the marks of imaginative insight that it can have an 
Einsteinian view of both sides of a solid at once; can see Napoleon 
as a good deal of a scoundrel and also as a great man; can destroy 
all the traditional witchery of the traditional Southern belle, and 
yet leave her, somehow, mistress of a more undeniable spell than 
before. 

And then, of course, in Heavens and Earth there was a section, 
The Tall Town, which showed that there was poetry in New 
York; and in Benet's previous volume, Young Adventure, to which 
Heavens and Earth sent me back, there was "The Hemp," a ballad 
laid in Virginia. He was to write finer celebrations of New York, 
in prose and in verse, in "All Ar )und the Town," and his city 
poems, in visions of its decay and resurrection; and he was to write 
greater ballads about America; but he had already declared that 
delight in his city and country which was to be a major theme 
in his work. 

Americanism is so much in fashion now that Benet's Ameri- 



xn 



canism, for all its brilliance of technical achievement, its breadth 
of sympathy, and its depth of feeling, is apt, now that the intel- 
lectual climate of the day has caught up with it, to seem less 
remarkable than it is. It is worth remembering that when other 
young men of his age were writing rondcaux and villanelles and 
tales of far away and long ago, Benet was already turning the 
ballad to American themes; and that at the end of the tinsel twen- 
ties, when it was the fashion to say that American life was rootless, 
drab, and everywhere the same, Benet was already writing John 
Brown's Body, with its sensitive feeling for half a dozen country- 
sides and racial strains, and for the American wilderness and the old 
English songs that frame the exquisite idyll of Jack Ellyat and 
Melora Vilas. (That story always reminds me somewhat of an- 
other idyll in the midst of a martial epic, the episode of Angelica 
and Medoro in the Orlando Furioso, and sets me to wondering 
about what the unconscious mind may do. I once asked Steve 
whether the line in John Bro r nm > s Body, 

He danced with me. He could dance rather well. Fie is dead. 

was intended to translate, as it so perfectly does, the epitaph on a 
Roman dancing boy: Saltavit. Placuit. Mortuus est. He replied 
that he had not intended it, but he knew the Latin line well it 
was a favorite with Monty Woolley, who gave delight and a sup- 
ply of anecdotes to generations of Yale actors and, said Steve, 
"the unconscious does queer things." I have often wondered if his 
unconscious brought him the name of Melora, altered from Ariosto. 
Melora Medoro: it might be.) And from the crowd of novels 
which try to add realism to historical fiction by getting up all the 
details or a campaign and not letting you off a single one of them, 
it is a pleasure to turn back to Spanish Bayonet, a historical novel 
which attains reality by the simple and difficult device of making 
the hero a real person. 

There is no one to touch Benet in the variety and skill of his 
treatment of American themes; yet even his Americanism is only 
the outcome of something deeper. If he says, "Dear city of 
Cecrops," it is because that is the nearest earthly approach to the 
dear crv of God. He loves New York as the communal achieve- 
ment of the spirit of man; he loves America because there every 
man can most freely become what God meant him to be. One can 
perceive his feeling, in reverse, in his two grotesque nightmares, 
the ones which express a horror of insects and of machines; for 

xiii 



they are the two things that have no right to be so intelligent 
and so inhuman. And because he loves man he loves man's life. 
Life, one feels as one reads here, is too good to waste in holding 
a grudge like the Die-Hard, or in philandering, like the man to 
whom everybody was very nice, and too good to waste in being 
rich and proper, like the magnificent sheep who were Schooner 
Fairchild's classmates; and eternity is too good, as Doc Mellhorn 
found, to waste playing a harp. 

When the free life of man is threatened by the cult of death, 
by those who deliberately make their souls eunuchs for the sake 
of the kingdoms of this earth, it is such a man who has both the 
surest guard against ultimate despair, and the most tragic sense of 
immediate peril. The spirit of man, he knows, is indestructible; 
the last of the legions goes, and Britain falls, but England rises; 
the savage by the waters of Babylon begins the hazardous moun- 
taineering toward civilization; the refugee going into Egypt says, 
"We have been in exile before." But between there lies gaping 
the gulf of the Dark Ages; and the man who feels the tragedy of 
the waste of one Napoleon Bonaparte will be the one who can 
feel and make us feel the horror of the waste of whole generations- 
ful of lives. If (in spite of the angel in the nightmare) we are to be 
saved, it will be in great part by the writings that show us all what 
we have to live for, and the good life that we could make. 

BASIL DAVENPORT 



X3V 



CONTENTS VOLUME ONE 

STEPHEN VINCENT BENET ix 

JOHN BROWN'S BODY 3 

YOUNG ADVENTURE 

Portrait of a Boy 339 

Portrait of a Baby 340 

Portrait of Young Love 341 

The General Public 342 

Young Blood 343 

The Breaking Point 344 

Poor Devil! 345 

The Golden Corpse 346 

MY FAIR LADY 

To Rosemary 353 

Chemical Analysis 354 

Nomenclature 354 

Difference 355 

A Sad Song 355 

A Nonsense Song 356 

To Rosemary, on the Methods by Which She Might 

Become an Angel 357 

Evening and Morning 357 

In a Glass of Water Before Retiring 358 

Legend 359 

Dulce Ridentem 361 

All Night Long 362 

Days Pass: Men Pass 

Ilia , . 



Hands 363 

Memory 364 

BALLADS AND TALES 

American Names * . . 367 

The Ballad of William Sycamore 368 

The Hemp 371 

The Mountain Whippoorwill 376 

King David 380 

The Retort Discourteous 387 

Three Days' Ride 389 

Alexander the Sixth Dines with the Cardinal of Capua . 392 

Southern Ships and Settlers 395 

Cotton Mather 396 

Captain Kidd 397 

French Pioneers 397 

Thomas Jefferson 398 

John James Audubon 400 

Daniel Boone 402 

Western Wagons 402 

CREATURES OF EARTH 

The Innovator 405 

Snowfall 406 

Bad Dream 407 

For All Blasphemers 408 

Architects 409 

Dinner in a Quick Lunch Room 409 

Operation 410 

The Trapeze Performer 410 

Judgment 411 

Ghosts of a Lunatic Asylum 411 

For Those Who Are as Right as Any 412 

Girl Child 413 

Old Man Hoppergrass 414 

The Lost Wife 415 

Sparrow 416 



Thanks 417 

Complaint of Body, the Ass, Against His Rider, the Soul 418 

NIGHTMARES AND VISITANTS 

Notes to Be Left in a Cornerstone 423 

Short Ode 428 

Litany for Dictatorships 429 

Ode to the Austrian Socialists 432 

Do You Remember, Springfield? 435 

Ode to Walt Whitman 438 

Metropolitan Nightmare 448 

Nightmare, with Angels 450 

Nightmare Number Three 452 

1936 454 

For City Spring 455 

For City Lovers 456 

Nightmare for Future Reference 457 

Minor Litany 461 

Nightmare at Noon 464 

LISTEN TO THE PEOPLE 471 



JOHN: BROWN'S BODY 



John 'Brown's 



INVOCATION 

A/IERICAN muse, whose strong and diverse heart 
So many men have tried to understand 
But only made it smaller with their art, 
Because you are as various as your land, 

As mountainous-deep, as flowered with blue rivers, 
Thirsty with deserts, buried under snows, 
As native as the shape of Navajo quivers, 
And native, too, as the sea-voyaged rose. 

Swift runner, never captured or subdued, 
Seven-branched elk beside the mountain stream, 
That half a hundred hunters have pursued 
But never matched their bullets with the dream, 

Where the great huntsmen failed, I set my sorry 
And mortal snare for your immortal quarry. 

You are the buffalo-ghost, the broncho-ghost 
With dollar-silver in your saddle-horn, 
The cowboys riding in from Painted Post, 
The Indian arrow in the Indian corn, 

And you are the clipped velvet of the lawns 
Where Shropshire grows from Massachusetts sods, 
The grey Maine rocks and the war-painted dawns 
That break above the Garden of the Gods. 

The prairie-schooners crawling toward the ore 
And the cheap car, parked by the station-door. 



Where the skyscrapers lift their foggy plumes 
Of stranded smoke out of a stony mouth 
You are that high stone and its arrogant fumes, 
And you are ruined gardens in the South 

And bleak New England farms, so winter- white 
Even their roofs look lonely, and the deep 
The middle grainland where the wind of night 
Is like all blind earth sighing in her sleep. 

A friend, an enemy, a sacred hag 

With two tied oceans in her medicine-bag. 

They tried to fit you with an English song 
And clip your speech into the English tale. 
But, even from the first, the words went wrong, 
The catbird pecked away the nightingale. 

The homesick men begot high-cheekboned things 
Whose wit was whittled witli a different sound 
And Thames and all the rivers of the kings 
Ran into Mississippi and were drowned. 

They planted England with a stubborn trust. 
But the cleft dust was never English dust. 

Stepchild of every exile from content 
And all the disavouched, hard-bitten pack 
Shipped overseas to steal a continent 
With neither shirts nor honor to their back. 

Pimping grandee and rump-faced regicide, 
Apple-cheeked younkers irom a windmill-square, 
Puritans stubborn as the nails of Pride, 
Rakes from Versailks and thieves from County Clare, 

The black-robed priests who broke their hearts in vain 
To make you God and France or God and Spain. 

These were your lovers in your buckskin-youth. 
And each one married with a dream so proud 
He never knew it could not be the truth 
And that he coupled with a girl of cloud. 



And now to see you is more difficult yet 
Except as an immensity of wheel 
Made up of wheels, oiled with inhuman sweat 
And glittering with the heat of ladled steel. 

All these you are, and each is partly you, 
And none is false, and none is wholly true. 

So how to see you as you really are, 
So how to suck the pure, distillate, stored 
Essence of essence from the hidden star 
And make it pierce like a riposting sword. 

For, as we hunt you down, you must escape 
And we pursue a shadow of our own 
That can be caught in a magician's cape 
But has the flatness of a painted stone. 

Never the running stag, the gull at wing, 
The pure elixir, the American thing. 

And yet, at moments when the mind was hot 
With something fierier than joy or grief, 
When each known spot was an eternal spot 
And every leaf was an immortal leaf, 

I think that I have seen you, not as one, 
But clad in diverse semblances and powers, 
Always the same, as light falls from the sun, 
And always different, as the differing hours. 

Yet, through each altered garment that you wore 
The naked body, shaking the heart's core. 

All day the snow fell on that Eastern town 
With its soft, pelting, little, endless sigh 
Of infinite flakes that brought the tall sky down 
Till I could put my hands in the white sky 

And taste cold scraps of heaven on my tongue 
And walk in such a changed and luminous light 
As gods inhabit when the gods are young. 
All day it fell. And when the gathered night 



Was a blue shadow cast by a pale glow 

I saw you then, snow-image, bird of the snow. 

And I have seen and heard you in the dry 
Close-huddled furnace of the city street 
When the parched moon was planted in the sky 
And the limp air hung dead against the heat. 

I saw you rise, red as that rusty plant, 

Dizzied with lights, half-mad with senseless sound, 

Enormous metal, shaking to the chant 

Of a triphammer striking iron ground. 

Enormous power, ugly to the fool, 
And beautiful as a well-handled tool. 

These, and the memory of that windy day 
On the bare hills, beyond the last barbed wire, 
When all the orange poppies bloomed one way 
As if a breath would blow them into fire, 

I keep forever, like the sea-lion's tusk 
The broken sailor brings away to land, 
But when he touches it, he smells the musk, 
And the whole sea lies hollow in his hand. 

So, from a hundred visions, I make one, 
And out of darkness build my mocking sun. 

And should that task seem fruitless in the eyes 
Of those a different magic sets apart 
To see through the ice-crystal of the wise 
No nation but the nation that is Art, 

Their words are just. But when the birchbark-call 
Is shaken with the sound that hunters make 
The moose comes plunging through the forest-wall 
Although the rifle waits beside the lake. 

Art has no nations but the mortal sky 
Lingers like gold in immortality. 



This flesh was seeded from no foreign grain 
But Pennsylvania and Kentucky wheat, 
And it has soaked in California rain 
And five years tempered in New England sleet 

To strive at last, against an alien proof 
And by the changes of an alien moon, 
To build again that blue, American roof 
Over a half -forgotten battle-tune 

And call unsurely, from a haunted ground, 
Armies of shadows and the shadow-sound. 

In your Long House there is an attic-place 
Full of dead epics and machines that rust, 
And there, occasionally, with casual face, 
You come awhile to stir the sleepy dust; 

Neither in pride nor tnercy, but in vast 
Indifference at so many gifts unsought, 
The yellowed satins, smelling of the past, 
And all the loot the lucky pirates brought. 

I only bring a cup of silver air, 

Yet, in your casualness, receive it there. 

Receive the dream too haughty for the breast, 
Receive the words that should have walked as bold 
As the storm walks along the mountain-crest 
And are like beggars whining in the cold. 

The maimed presumption, the unskilful skill, 
The patchwork colors, fading from the first, 
And all the fire that fretted at the will 
With such a barren ecstasy of thirst. 

Receive them all and should you choose to touch them 
With one slant ray of quick, American light, 
Even the dust will have no power to smutch them, 
Even the worst will glitter in the night. 

If notthe dry bones littered by the way 
May still point giants toward their golden prey. 

I 



PRELUDE-THE SLAVER 

He closed the Bible carefully, putting it down 
As if his fingers loved it. 

Then he turned. 
"Mr. Mate." 

"Yes, sir." 

The captain's eyes held a shadow. 
"I think, while this weather lasts," he said, after a pause, 
"We'd better get them on deck as much as we can. 
They keep better that way. Besides," he added, unsmiling, 
"She's begun to stink already. You've noticed it?" 

The mate nodded, a boyish nod of half-apology, 
"And only a week out, too, sir." 

"Yes," said the skipper. 

His eyes looked into themselves. "Well. The trade," he said, 
"The trade's no damn perfume-shop." He drummed with his 

fingers. 

"Seem to be quiet tonight," he murmured, at last. 
"Oh yes sir, quiet enough." The mate flushed. "Not 
What you'd call quiet at home but quiet enough." 

"Um," said the skipper. "What about the big fellow?" 

"Tarbarrel, sir? The man who says he's a king? 

He was praying to something-it made the others restless. 

Mr. Olsen stopped it." 

"I don't like that," said the skipper. 

"It was only an idol, sir." 

"Oh." 

"A stone or something." 
"Oh." 

"But he's a bad tfne, sira regular sullen one- 
He eyes in the dark like a cat's enough to give you" 
The mate was young. He shivered. "The creeps," he said. 

"We've had that kind," said the skipper. His mouth was hard 
Then it relaxed. "Damn cheating Arabe!" he said, 
"I told them I'd take no more o* their pennyweight kings, 
Worth pounds to look at, and then when you get them aboard 

8 



Go crazy so they have to be knocked on the head 
Or else just eat up their hearts and die in a week 
Taking up room for nothing." 

The mate hardly heard him, thinking of something else. 
"I'm afraid we'll lose some more of the women," he said. 
"Well, they're a scratch lot," said the skipper, "Any sickness?" 

"Just the usual, sir." 

"But nothing like plague or" 

"No sir." 

"The Lord is merciful," said the skipper. 
His voice was wholly sincere an old ship's bell 
Hung in the steeple of a meeting-house 
With all New England and the sea's noise in it. 
"Well, you'd better take another look-see, Mr. Mate." 
The mate felt his lips go dry. "Aye aye, sir," he said, 
Wetting his lips with his tongue. As he left the cabin 
He heard the Bible being opened again. 

Lantern in hand, he went down to the hold. 
Each time he went he had a trick of trying 
To shut the pores of his body against the stench 
By force of will, by thinking of salt and flowers, 
But it was always useless. 

He kept thinking: 

When I get home, when I get a bath and clean food, 
When I've gone swimming out beyond the Point 
In that cold green, so cold it must be pure 
Beyond the purity of a dissolved star, 
When I get rny shore-clothes on, and one of those shirts 
Out of the linen-closet that smells of lavender, 
Will my skin smell black even then, will my skin smell black? 

The lantern shook in his hand. 

This was black, here, 

This was black to see and feel and smell and taste, 
The blackness of black, with one weak lamp to light it 
As ineffectually as a firefly in Hell, 
And, being so, should be silent. 

But the hold 
Was never silent. 



There was always that breathing. 
Always that thick breathing, always those shivering cries. 

A few of the slaves 

Knew English-at least the English for water and Jesus. 

Tm dying." "Sick." "My name Caesar." 

Those who knew 

These things, said these things now when they saw the lantern 
Mechanically, as tamed beasts answer the whipcrack. 
Their voices beat at the light like heavy moths. 
But most made merely liquid or guttural sounds 
Meaningless to the mate, but horribly like 
The sounds of palateless men or animals trying 
To talk through a human throat. 

The mate was used 

To the confusion of limbs and bodies by now. 
At first it had made him think of the perturbed 
Blind coil of blacksnakes thawing on a rock 
In the bleak sun of Spring, or Judgment Day 
Just after the first sounding of the trump 
When all earth seethes and crumbles with the slow 
Vast, mouldy resurrection of the dead. 
But he had passed such fancies. 

He must see 

As much as he could. He couldn't see very much. 
They were too tightly packed but-no plague yet, 
And all the chains were fast. Then he saw something. 
The woman was asleep but her baby was dead. 
He woadered whether to take it from her now. 
No, it would only rouse the others. Tomorrow. 
He turned away with a shiver. 

His glance fell 

Ori the man who said he had been a king, the man 
Called Tarbarrel, the image of black stone 
Whose eyes were savage gods. 

The huge suave muscles 

Rippled like stretching cats as he changed posture, 
Magnificence in chains that yet was ease. 
The smolder in those eyes. The steady hate. 

The mate made himself stare till the eyes dropped. 
Then he turned back to the companionway. 

10 



His forehead was hot and sweaty. He wiped it off, 
But then the rough cloth of his sleeve smelt black. 

The captain shut the Bible as he came in. 
"Well, Mister Mate? " 

"All quiet, sir." 

The captain 

Looked at him sharply. "Sit down," he said in a bark. 
The mate's knees gave as he sat. "It's hot down there," 
He said, a little weakly, wanting to wipe 
His face again, but knowing he'd smell that blackness 
Again, if he did. 

"Takes you that way, sometimes," 
Said the captain, not unkindly, "I remember 
Back in the twenties." 

Something hot and strong 
Bit the mate's throat. He coughed. 

"There," said the captain, 
Putting the cup down. "You'll feel better now. 
You're young for this trade, Mister, and that's a fact." 

The mate coughed and didn't answer, much too glad 
To see the captain change back to himself 
From something made of steam, to want to talk. 
But, after a while, he heard the captain talking, 
Half to himself. 

"It's a fact, that," he was saying, 
"They've even made a song of me ever heard it?" 
The mate shook his head, quickly, "Oh yes you have. 
You know how it goes." He cleared his throat and hummed: 

"Captain Ball 'was a Yankee slaver y 
Blow, blow, blow the man down! 
He traded in niggers and loved his Saviour, 
Give me some time to blow the man down" 

The droning chanty filled the narrow cabin 
An instant with grey Massachusetts sea, 
Wave of the North, wave of the melted ice, 
The hard salt-sparkles on the harder rock. 
The stony islands. 

Then it died away. 

ii 



"Well," said the captain, "if that's how it strikes them- 
They mean it bad but I don't take it bad. 
I get my sailing-orders from the Lord." 
He touched the Bible. "And it's down there, Mister, 
Down there in black and whitethe sons of Ham- 
Bondservants sweat of their brows." His voice trailed off 
Into texts. "I tell you, Mister," he said fiercely, 
"The pay's good pay, but it's the Lord's work, too. 
We're spreading the Lord's seed spreading his seed" 

His hand made the outflung motion of a sower 

And the mate, staring, seemed to hear the slight 

Patter of fallen seeds on fertile ground, 

Black, shining seeds, robbed from a black king's storehouse, 

Falling and falling on American earth 

With light, inexorable patter and fall, 

To strike, lie silent, quicken. 

Till the Spring 

Came with its weeping rains, and the ground bore 
A blade, a shadow-sapling, a tree of shadow, 
A black-leaved tree whose trunk and roots were shadow, 
A tree shaped like a yoke, growing and growing 
Until it blotted all the seamen's stars. 



Horses of anger trampling, horses of anger, 
Trampling behind the sky in ominous cadence, 
Beat of the heavy hooves like metal on metal, 
Trampling something down. . . . 

Was it they, was it they? 

Or was it cold wind in the leaves of the shadow-tree 
That made such grievous music? 



Oh Lordy Je-sus 

Won't you come and find me? 

They put me in jail, Lord, 

Way down in the jail. 

Won't you send me a pro-phet 

Just one of your prophets 

Like Moses and Aaron 

To get me some bail? 

12 



I'm feeling poorly- 
Yes, mighty poorly, 
I ain't got no strength, Lord, 
I'm all trampled down. 
So send me an angel 
Just any old angel 
To give me a robe, Lord, 
And give me a crown. 

Oh Lordy Jc-sus 

It's a long time comin' 

It's a long time co-o-min' 

That Jubilee time. 

We'll wait and we'll pray, Lord, 

We'll wait and we'll pray, Lord, 

But it's a long time, Lord, 

Yes, it's a long time. 

The dark sobbing ebbed away. 

The captain was still talking. "Yes," he said, 

"And yet we treat 'em well enough. There's no one 

From Salem to the Guinea Coast can say 

They lose as few as I do." He stopped. 

"Well, Mister?" 
The mate arose. "Good night sir and" 

"Good night." 

The mate went up on deck. The breeze was fresh. 
There were the stars, steady. He shook himself 
Like a dog coming out of water and felt better. 
Six weeks, with luck, and they'd be back in port 
And he could draw his pay and see his girl. 
Meanwhile, it wasn't his watch, so he could sleep. 
The captain still below, reading that Bible. . . . 
Forget it and the noises, still half-heard 
He'd have to go below to sleep, this time, 
But after, if the weather held like this, 
He'd have them sling a hammock up on deck. 
You couldn't smell the black so much on deck 
And so you didn't dream it when you slept. 



BOOK ONE 

Jack Ellyat had been out all day alone, 
Except for his new gun and Ned, the setter, 
The old wise dog with Autumn in his eyes, 
Who stepped the fallen leaves so delicately 
They barely rustled. Ellyat trampled them down 
Crackling, like cast-off skins of fairy snakes. 
He'd meant to hunt, but he had let the gun 
Rest on his shoulder. 

It was enough to feel 
The cool air of the last of Indian summer 
Blowing continually across his cheek 
And watch the light distill its water of gold 
As the sun dropped. 

Here was October, here 
Was ruddy October, the old harvester, 
Wrapped like a beggared sachem in a coat 
Of tattered tanager and partridge feathers, 
Scattering jack-o-lanterns everywhere 
To give the field-mice pumpkin-colored moons. 
His red clay pipe had trailed across the land 
Staining the trees with colors of the sumach: 
East, West, South, North, the ceremonial fume 
Blue and enchanted as the soul of air 
Drifted its incense. 

Incense of the wild, 
Incense of earth fulfilled, ready to sleep 
The stupefied dark slumber or the bear 
All winter, underneath a frozen star. 

Jack Ellyat felt that turning of the year 

Stir in his blood lil^e drowsy fiddle-music 

And knew he was glad to be Connecticut-born 

And young enough to find Connecticut winter 

Was a black pond to cut with silver skates 

And not a scalping-knife against the throat. 

He thought the thoughts of youth, idle and proud. 

Since I was begotten 
My father's grown wise 

14 



But he has forgotten 
The wind in the skies. 
I shall not grow wise. 

Since I have been growing 

My uncle's got rich. 

He spends his time sowing 

A bottomless ditch. 

I will not grow rich. 

For money is sullen 
And wisdom is sly, 
But youth is the pollen 
That blows through the sky 
And does not ask why. 

O wisdom and money 
How can you requite 
The honey of honey 
That flies in that flight? 
The useless delight? 

So, with his back against a tree, he stared 

At the pure, golden feathers in the West 

Until the sunset flowed into his heart 

Like a slow wave of honey-dropping dew 

Murmuring from the other side of Sleep. 

There was a fairy hush 

Everywhere. Even the setter at his feet 

Lay there as if the twilight had bewitched 

His russet paws into two russet leaves, 

A dog of russet leaves who did not stir a hair. 

Then something broke the peace. 
Like wind it was, the flutter of rising wind, 
But then it grew until it was the rushing 
Of winged stallions, distant and terrible, 
Trampling beyond the sky. 

The hissing charge 
Of lightless armies of angelic horse 
Galloping down the stars. 

There were no words 



In that implacable and feathery thunder, 
And yet there must have been, or Ellyat's mind 
Caught them like broken arrows out of the air. 

Thirteen sisters beside the sea, 

(Have a care, my son.) 

Builded a house called Liberty 

And locked the doors with a stately key. 

None should enter it but the free. 

(Have a care, my son.) 

The walls are solid as Plymouth Rock. 

(Rock can crumble, my son.) 

The door of seasoned New England stock. 

Before it a Yankee fighting-cock 

Pecks redcoat kings away from the lock. 

(Fighters can die, my son.) 

The hearth is a corner where sages sit. 

(Sages pass, my son.) 

Washington's heart lies under it. 

And the long roof-beams are chiseled and split 

From hickory tough as Jackson's wit. 

(Bones in the dust, my son.) 

The trees in the garden are fair and fine. 

(Trees blow down, my son.) 

Connecticut elm and Georgia pine. 

The warehouse groans with cotton and swine. 

The cellar is full of scuppernong-wine. 

(Wine turns sour, my son.) 

Surely a house so strong and bold, 
(The wind is rising, my son,) 
Will last till Time is a pinch of mould! 
There is a ghost, when the night is old. 
There is a ghost who walks in the cold. 
(The trees are shaking, my son.) 

The sisters sleep on Liberty's breast, 
(The thunder thunders, my son,) 
Like thirteen swans in a single nest. 

16 



But the ghost is naked and will nut 
Until the sun rise out of the West. 
(The lightning lightens, my son.) 



AH night long like a moving stain, 
(The trees are breaking, my son,) 
The black ghost wanders his house of pain. 
There is blood where his hand has lain. 
It is wrong he should wear a chain. 
(The sky is falling, my son.) 

The warning beat at his mind like a bird and passed. 

Ellyat roused. He thought: they are going South. 

He stared at the sky, confused. It was empty and bleak. 

But still he felt the shock of the hooves on his heart. 

The riderless horses never bridled or tamed 

He heard them screaming like eagles loosed from a cloud 

As they drove South to trample the indolent sun, 

And darkness sat in his mind like a shadow enthroned. 

He could not read the riddle their flight had set 

But he felt wretched, and glad for the dog's cold nose 

That now came nuzzling his hand. 

Who has set you free? 

Who has driven you out in the sky with an iron whip 
Like blind, old thunders stubbornly marching abreast 
To carry a portent high on shoulders of stone 
The length and breadth of the Union? 
The North and South are at peace and the East and West, 
The tomahawk is buried in prairie-sod. 
The great frontier rolls westward with the sun, 
And the new States are crowding at the door, 
The buckskin-States, the buffalo-horned, the wild 
Mustangs with coats the color of crude gold. 
Their bodies, naked as the hunter's moon, 
Smell of new grass and the sweet milk of the corn. 
Defiant virgins, fiercely unpossessed 
As the bird-stars that walk the night untrodden. 
They drag their skies and sunsets after them 
Like calico ponies on a rawhide rope, 
And who would ride them must have iron thighs 
And a lean heart, bright as a bowie-knife. 



Were they not foaled with treasure in their eyes 
Between the rattlesnake and the painted rock? 
Are they not matches for vaquero gods? 
Are they not occupation for the strength 
Of a whole ruffian world of pioneers? 
And must they wait like spayed mares in the rain, 
While Carolina and Connecticut 
Fight an old quarrel out before a ghost? 

So Ellyat talked to his young indignation, 

Walking back home with the October moon. 

But, even as he mused, he tried to picture 

The South, that languorous land where Uncle Toms 

Groaned Biblically underneath the lash, 

And grinning Topsies mopped and mowed behind 

Each honeysuckle vine. 

They called them niggers 
And cut their ears off when they ran away, 
But then they loved their mammies there was that 
Although they sometimes sold them clown the river 
And when the niggers were not getting licked 
Or quoting Scripture, they sang funny songs, 
By the Swanee river, on the old plantation. 

The girls were always beautiful. The men 

Wore varnished boots, raced horses and played cards 

And drank mint-juleps till the time came round 

For fighting duels with their second cousins 

Or tar-and-feathering some God-damn Yankee. . . . 

The South . . . the honeysuckle ... the hot sun . . . 

The taste of ripe persimmons and sugar-cane . . . 

The cloyed and waxy sweetness of magnolias . . . 

White cotton, blowing like a fallen cloud, 

And foxhounds belling the Virginia hills . . . 

And then the fugitive slave he'd seen in Boston, 
The black man with the eyes of a tortured horse. . . e 

He whistled Ned. What do you think of it, Ned? 
We're abolitionists, I suppose, and Father 
Talks about Wendell Phillips and John Brown 
But, even so, that doesn't have to mean 

18 



We'll break the Union up for abolition, 
And they can't want to break it up for slavery- 
It won't come to real fighting, will it, Ned? 
But Ned was busy with a rabbit-track. 
There was the townthe yellow window of home* 

Meanwhile, in Concord, Emerson and Thoreau 
Talked of an ideal state, so purely framed 
It never could exist. 

Meanwhile, in Boston 
Minister Higginson and Dr. Howe 
Waited for news about a certain project 
That had to do with pikes and Harper's Ferry. 

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Clay Wingate dreamed. 



Settled more than a hundred year 

By the river and county of St. Savier, 

The Wingates held their ancestry 

As high as Taliaferro or Huger, 

Maryland Carroll, Virginia Lee. 

They had ill-spelt letters of Albemarle's 

And their first grant ran from the second Charles, 

Clerkly inscribed upon parchmentries 

"To our well-beloved John Wingate, these/' 

Though envy hinted the royal mood 

Held more of humor than gratitude 

And the well-beloved had less applied 

To honest John than his tall young bride, 

At least their eldest to John's surprise, 

Was very like Monmouth about the eyes, 

Till his father wondered if every loyalty 

Was always so richly repaid by royalty, 

But, having long found that the principal question 

In a happy life is a good digestion 

And the worst stomachic of all is jealousy 

He gave up the riddle, and settled zealously 

To farming his acres, begetting daughters, 

And making a study of cordial waters 

Till he died at ninety of pure senility 

And was greatly mourned by the local gentility. 

19 



John the Second was different cloth. 

He had wings but the wings of the moth. 

Courtly, unlucky, clever and wise, 

There was a Stuart in his eyes, 

A gambler that played against loaded dice. 

He could harrow the water and plough the sand, 

But he could not do the thing at hand. 

A fencing-foil too supple for use, 

A racing colt that must run at loose. 

And the Wingate acres had slipped away 

If it had not been for Elspeth Mackay. 

She was his wife, and her heart was bold 

As a broad, bright guinea of Border gold. 

Her wit was a tartan of colored weather. 

Her walk was gallant as Highland heather. 

And whatever she had, she held together. 

It was she who established on Georgia soil 

Wingate honor and Wingate toil 

When John and his father's neighbors stood 

At swords' points over a county feud 

And only ill-fortune and he were friends. 

They prophesied her a dozen ends, 

Seeking new ground for a broken man 

Where only the deer and the rabbit ran 

And the Indian arrow harried both, 

But she held her word and she kept her troth, 

Cleared the forest and tamed the wild 

And gave the breast to the new-born child 

While the painted Death went whooping by 

To die at last as she wished to die 

In the fief built out of her blood and bone 

With her heart for the Hall's foundation-stone. 

Deep in her sons, and the Wingate blood, 
She stamped her sigil of fortitude. 
Thrift and love for the house and the chief 
And a scone on the hob for the son of grief. 
But a knife in the ribs for the pleasant thief \ 
And deep in her sons, when she was gone, 
Her words took root, and her ghost lived on. 
The slow voice haunting the ocean-shell 

20 



To counsel the sons of her sons as well. 

And it was well for the Wingate line 

To have that stiffening set in its spine. 

For once in each breeding of Wingate kin 

There came a child with an olive skin 

And the mouth of Charles, the merry and sad, 

And the bright, spoilt charm that Monmouth had. 

Luckily seldom the oldest born 

To sow the nettle in Wingate corn 

And let the cotton blight on its stalk 

While he wasted his time in witty talk, 

Or worse, in love with no minister handy, 

Or feeding a spaniel on nuts and brandy 

And taking a melancholy pride 

In never choosing the winning side. 

Clay Wingate was the last to feel 

The prick of that spur of tarnished steel, 

Gilt, but crossed with the dubious bar 

Of arms won under the bastard's star, 

Rowel his mind, at that time or this, 

With thoughts and visions that were not his. 

A sorrow of laughter, a mournful glamor 

And the ghostly stroke of an airy hammer 

Shaking his heart with pity and pride 

That had nothing to do with the things he eyed. 

He was happy and young, he was strong and stout, 

His body was hard to weary out. 

When he thought of life, he thought of a shout. 

But there was a sword in a blackened sheath, 

There was a shape with a mourning wreath: 

And a place in his mind was a wrestling-ring 

Where the crownless form of an outlawed king 

Fought with a shadow too like his own, 

And, late or early, was overthrown. 

It is not lucky ro dream such stuff- 
Dreaming men are haunted men. 
Though Wingate's face looked lucky enough 
To any eye that had seen him then, 
Riding back through the Georgia Fall 
To the white-pillared porch of Wingate Hall. 

21 



Fall of the possum, fall of the 'coon, 

And the lop-eared hound-dog baying the moon. 

Fall that is neither bitter nor swift 

But a brown girl bearing an idle gift, 

A brown seed-kernel that splits apart 

And shows the Summer yet in its heart, 

A smokiness so vague in the air 

You feel it rather than see it there, 

A brief, white rime on the red clay road 

And slow mules creaking a lazy load 

Through endless acres of afternoon, 

A pine-cone fire and a banjo-tune, 

And a julep mixed with a silver spoon. 

Your noons are hot, your nights deep-starred, 
There is honeysuckle still in the yard, 
Fall of the quail and the firefly-glows 
And the pot-pourri of the rambler-rose, 
Fall that brings no promise of snows . . . 

Wingate checked on his horse's rein 

With a hand as light as a butterfly 

And drank content in body and brain 

As he gazed for a moment at the sky. 

This was his Georgia, this his share 

Of pine and river and sleepy air, 

Of summer thunder and winter rain 

That spills bright tears on the window-pane 

With the slight, fierce passion of young men's grief, 

Of the mockingbird and the mulberry-leaf. 

For, wherever the winds of Georgia run, 

It smells of peaches long in the sun, 

And the white wolf-winter, hungry and frore, 

Can prowl the North by a frozen door 

But here we have fed him on bacon-fat 

And he sleeps by the stove like a lazy cat. 

Here Christmas stops at everyone's house 

With a jug of molasses and green, young boughs, 

And the little New Year, the weakling one, 

Can lie outdoors in the noonday sun, 

Blowing the fluff from a turkey-wing 

At skies already haunted with Spring 

22 



Oh, Georgia . . . Georgia . . . the careless yield! 
The watermelons ripe in the field! 
The mist in the bottoms that tastes of fever 
And the yellow river rolling forever. . . ! 

So Wingate saw it, vision or truth, 

Through the colored window of his own youth, 

Building an image out of his mind 

To live or die for, as Fate inclined. 

He drank his fill of the air, and then, 
Was just about to ride on again 
When what was that noise beyond the sky, 
That harry of unseen cavalry 
Riding the wind? 

His own horse stirred, 
Neighing. He listened. There was a word. 
He could not hear it and yet he heard. 
It was an arrow from ambush flung, 
It was a bell with a leaden tongue 
Striking an hour. 

He was young 

No longer. He and his horse were old, 
And both were bound with an iron band. 
He slipped from the saddle and tried to stand. 
He struck one hand with the other hand. 
But both were cold. 



The horses, burning-hooved, drove on toward the sea, 
But, where they had passed, the air was troubled and sick 
Like earth that the shoulder of earthquake heavily stirs. 
There was a whisper moving that air all night, 
A whisper that cried and whimpered about the house 
Where John Brown prayed to his God, by his narrow bed. 



JOHN BROWN'S PRAYER 

Omnipotent and steadfast God, 
Who, in Thy mercy, hath 
Upheaved in me Jehovah's rod 
And his chastising wrath, 

23 



For fifty-nine unsparing years 
Thy Grace hath worked apart 
To mould a man of iron tears 
With a bullet for a heart. 

Yet, since this body may be weak 
With all it has to bear, 
Once more, before Thy thunders speak, 
Almighty, hear my prayer. 

I saw Thee when Thou did display 
The black man and his lord 
To bid me free the one, and slay 
The other with the sword. 

I heard Thee when Thou bade me spurn 
Destruction from my hand 
And, though all Kansas bleed and burn, 
It was at Thy command. 

I hear the rolling of the wheels, 
The chariots of war! 
I hear the breaking of the seals 
And the opening of the door! 

The glorious beasts with many eyes 
Exult before the Crowned. 
The buried saints arise, arise 
Like incense from the ground! 

Before them march the martyr-kings, 
In bloody sunsets drest, 
O, Kansas, bleeding Kansas, 
You will not let me rest! 

I hear your sighing corn again, 
1 smell your prairie-sky, 
And 1 remember five dead men 
By Pottaivattomie. 

Lord God it was a work of Thine, 
And how might I refrain? 

24 



But Kansas, bleeding Kansas, 
I hear her in her pain. 

Her corn is rustling in the ground, 
An arro'w in my flesh. 
And all night long I staunch a wound 
That ever bleeds afresh. 

Get up, get up, my hardy sons, 
From this time forth we are 
No longer men, but pikes and guns 
In God's advancing war. 

And if we live, we free the slave, 
And if we die, we die. 
But God has digged His saints a grave 
Beyond the western sky. 

Oh, fairer than the bugle-call 
Its walls of jasper shine! 
And Joshua's sword is on the wall 
With space beside for mine. 

And should the Philistine defend 
His strength against our blows, 
The God who doth not spare His friend, 
Will not forget His foes. 



They reached the Maryland bridge of Harper's Ferry 
That Sunday night. There were twenty-two in all, 
Nineteen were under thirty, three not twenty-one, 
Kagi, the self-taught scholar, quiet and cool, 
Stevens, the cashiered soldier, Puritan-fathered, 
A singing giant, gunpowder-tempered and rash. 
Dauphin Thompson, the pippin-cheeked country-boy, 
More like a girl than a warrior; Oliver Brown, 
Married last year when he was barely nineteen; 
Dangerfield Newby, colored and born a slave, 
Freeman now, but married to one not free 
Who, with their seven children, waited him South, 
The youngest baby just beginning to crawl; 

25 



Watson Brown, the steady lieutenant, who wrote 
Back to his wife, 

"Oh, Bell, I want to see you 
And the little fellow very much but must wait. 
There was a slave near nere whose wife was sold South. 
They found him hanging in Kennedy's orchard next morning. 
I cannot come home as long as such things are done here. 
I sometimes think that we shall not meet again." 

These were some of the band. For better or worse 
They were all strong men. 

The bearded faces look strange 
In the old daguerreotypes: they should be the faces 
Of prosperous, small-town people, good sons and fathers, 
Good horse-shoe pitchers, good at plowing a field, 
Good at swapping stories and good at praying, 
American wheat, nrm-rooted, good in the ear. 
There is only one whose air seems out of the common, 
Oliver Brown. That face has a masculine beauty 
Somewhat like the face of Keats. 

They were all strong men. 

They tied up the watchmen and took the riflcworks. 

Then John Brown sent a raiding party away 

To fetch in Colonel Washington from his farm. 

The Colonel was George Washington's great-grand-nephew, 

Slave-owner, gentleman-farmer, but, more than these, 

Possessor of a certain fabulous sword 

Given to Washington by Frederick the Great. 

They captured him and his sword and brought them along 

Processionally. 

The act has a touch of drama, 
Half costume-romance, half unmerited farce. 
On the way, they told the Washington slaves they were free, 
Or free to fight for their freedom. 

The slaves heard the news 

With the dazed, scared eyes of cattle before a storm. 
A few came back with the band and were given pikes, 
And, when John Brown was watching, pretended to mount 
A slipshod guard over the prisoners. 
But, when he had walked away, they put down their pikes 
And huddled together, talking in mourning voices. 

26 



It didn't seem right to play at guarding the Colonel 
But they were afraid of the bearded patriarch 
With the Old Testament eyes. 

A little later 

It was Patrick Higgins' turn. He was the night-watchman 
Of the Maryland bridge, a tough little Irishman 
With a canny, humorous face, and a twist in his speech. 
He came humming his way to his job. 

"Halt!" ordered a voice. 

He stopped a minute, perplexed. As he told men later, 
"Now I didn't know what 'Halt!' mint, any more 
Than a hog knows about a holiday." 

There was a scuffle. 

He got away with a bullet-crease in his scalp 
And warned the incoming train. It was half-past-one. 
A moment later, a man named Shepherd Heyward, 
Free negro, baggage-master of the small station, 
Well-known in the town, hardworking, thrifty and fated, 
Came looking for Higgins. 

"Halt!" called the voice again, 
But he kept on, not hearing or understanding, 
Whichever it may have been. 

A rifle cracked. 

He fell by the station-platform, gripping his belly, 
And lay for twelve hours of torment, asking for water 
Until he was able to die. 

There is no stone, 

No image of bronze or marble green with the rain 
To Shepherd Heyward, free negro of Harper's Ferry, 
And even the books, the careful, ponderous histories, 
That turn live men into dummies with smiles of wax 
Thoughtfully posed against a photographer's background 
In the act of signing a treaty or drawing a sword, 
Tell little of what he was. 

And yet his face 

Grey with pain and puzzled at sudden death 
Stares out at us through the bookworm-dust of the years 
With an uncomprehending wonder, a blind surprise. 
"I was getting along," it says, "I was doing well. 
I had six thousand dollars saved in the bank. 
It was a good town, a nice town, I liked the folks 
And they liked me. I had a good job there, too. 



On Sundays I used to dress myself up slick enough 

To pass the plate in church, but I wasn't proud 

Not even when trashy niggers called me Mister, 

Though I could hear the old grannies over their snuff 

Mumbling along, 'Look, chile, there goes Shepherd Heyward. 

Ain't him fine in he Sunday clo'es ain't him sassy and fine? 

You grow up decent and don't play ball in the street, 

And maybe you'll get like him, with a gold watch and chain.' 

And then, suddenly and what was it all about? 

Why should anyone (>vant to kill me? Why was it done?" 

So the grey lips. And so the hurt in the eyes. 

A hurt like a child's, at punishment unexplained 

That makes the whole child-universe fall to pieces. 

At the time of death, most men turn back toward the child. 

Brown did not know at first that the first man dead 
By the sword he thought of so often as Gideon's sword 
Was one of the race he had drawn that sword to free. 
It had been dark on the bridge. A man had come 
And had not halted when ordered. Then the shot 
And the scrape of the hurt man dragging himself away. 
That was all. The next man ordered to halt would halt. 
His mind was too full of the burning judgments of God 
To wonder who it had been. He was cool and at peace. 
He dreamt of a lamb, lying down by a rushing stream. 

So the night wore away, indecisive and strange. 

The raiders stuck by the arsenal, waiting perhaps 

For a great bell of jubilation to toll in the sky, 

And the slaves to rush from the hills with pikes in their hands, 

A host redeemed, black rescue-armies of God. 

It did not happen. 

Meanwhile, there was casual firing. 

A townsman named Boerley was killed. Meanwhile, the train 
Passed over the bridge to carry its wild news 
Of abolition-devils sprung from the ground 
A hundred and fifty, three hundred, a thousand strong 
To pillage Harper's Ferry, with fire and sword. 
Meanwhile the whole countryside was springing to arms. 
The alarm-bell in Charlestown clanged "Nat Turner has come. 
Nat Turner has come again, all smoky from Hell, 

28 



Setting the slave to murder and massacre!" 

The Jefferson Guards fell in. There were boys and men. 

They had no uniforms but they had weapons. 

Old squirrel-rifles, taken down from the wall, 

Shot guns loaded with spikes and scraps of iron. 

A boy dragged a blunderbuss as big as himself. 

They started for the Ferry. 

In a dozen 

A score of other sleepy, neighboring towns 
The same bell clanged, the same militia assembled. 

The Ferry itself was roused and stirring with dawn. 
And the firing began again. 

A queer, harsh sound 

In the ordinary streets of that clean, small town, 
A desultory, vapid, meaningless sound. 

God knows why John Brown lingered! Kagi, the scholar, 

Who, with two others, held the rifle-works, 

All morning sent him messages urging retreat. 

They had the inexorable weight of common sense 

Behind them, but John Brown neither replied 

Nor heeded, brooding in the patriarch-calm 

Of a lean, solitary pine that hangs 

On the cliff's edge, and sees the world below 

A tiny pattern of toy fields and trees, 

And only feels its roots gripping the rock 

And the almighty wind that shakes its boughs, 

Blowing from eagle-heaven to eagle-heaven. 

Of course they were cut off. The whole attempt 
Was fated from the first. 

Just about noon 

The Jefferson Guards took the Potomac Bridge 
And drove away the men Brown posted there. 

There were three doors of possible escape 
Open to Brown. With this the first slammed shut. 
The second followed it a little later 
With the recapture of the other bridge 
That cut Brown off from Kagi and the arsenal 
And penned the larger body of the raiders 
In the armory. 

29 



Again the firing rolled, 
And now the first of the raiders fell and died, 
Dangerfield Newby, the freed Scotch-mulatto 
Whose wife and seven children, slaves in Virginia, 
Waited for him to bring them incredible freedom. 
They were sold South instead, after the raid. 
His body lay where the townspeople could reach it. 
They cut off his ears for trophies. 

If there are souls, 

As many think that there are or wish that there might be, 
Crystalline things that rise on light wings exulting 
Out of the spoilt and broken cocoon of the body, 
Knowing no sorrow or pain but only deliverance, 
And yet with the flame of speech, the patterns of memory, 
One wonders what the soul of Dangerfield Newby 
Said, in what terms, to the soul of Shepherd Heyward, 
Both born slave, both freed, both dead the same day. 
What do the souls that bleed from the corpse of battle 
Say to the tattered night? 

Perhaps it is better 
We have no power to visage what they might say. 

The firing now was constant, like the heavy 

And drumming rains of summer. Twice Brown sent 

Asking a truce. The second time there went 

Stevens and Watson Brown with a white flag. 

But things had gone beyond the symbol of flags. 

Stevens, shot from a window, fell in the gutter 

Horribly wounded. Watson Brown crawled back 

To the engine house that was the final fort 

Of Brown's last stand, torn through and through with slugs. 

A Mr. Brua, one of Brown's prisoners, 
Strolled out from the unguarded prison-room 
Into the bullets, lifted Stevens up, 
i Carried him over to the old hotel 
They called the Wager House, got a doctor for him, 
And then strolled back to take his prisoner's place 
With Colonel Washington and the scared rest. 
I know no more than this of Mr. Brua 
But he seems curiously American, 
And I imagine him a tall, stooped man 

30 



A little yellow with the Southern sun, 

With slow, brown eyes and a slow way of talking, 

Shifting the quid of tobacco in his cheek 

Mechanically, as he lifted up 

The dirty, bloody body of the man 

Who stood for everything he most detested 

And slowly carrying him through casual wasps 

Of death to the flyspecked but sunny room 

In the old hotel, wiping the blood and grime 

Mechanically from his Sunday coat, 

Settling his black string-tie with big, tanned hands, 

And, then, incredibly, going back to jail. 

He did not think much about what he'd done 

But sat himself as comfortably as might be 

On the cold bricks of that dejected guard-room 

And slowly started cutting another quid 

With a worn knife that had a brown bone-handle. 

He lived all through the war and died long after, 
This Mr. Brua I see. His last advice 
To numerous nephews was "Keep out of trouble, 
But if you're in it, chew and don't be hasty, 
Just do whatever's likeliest at hand." 

I like your way of talking, Mr. Brua, 

And if there still are people interested 

In cutting literary clothes for heroes 

They might do worse than mention your string-tie. 

There were other killings that day. On the one side, this, 
Leeman, a boy of eighteen and the youngest raider, 
Trying to flee from the death-trap of the engine-house 
And caught and killed on an islet in the Potomac. 
The body lay on a tiny shelf of rock 
For hours, a sack of clothes still stung by bullets. 

On the other side Fontaine Beckham, mayor of the town, 
Went to look at Heyward's body with Patrick Higgins. 
The slow tears crept to his eyes. He was getting old. 
He had thought a lot of Heyward. He had no gun 
But he had been mayor of the town for a dozen years, 
A peaceful, orderly place full of decent people, 
And now they were killing people, here in his town, 

3 1 



He had to do something to stop it, somehow or other. 

He wandered out on the railroad, half-distraught 

And peeped from behind a water-tank at the raiders. 

"Squire, don't go any farther," said Higgins, "It ain't safe." 

He hardly heard him, he had to look out again. 

Who were these devils with horns who were shooting his people? 

They didn't look like devils. One was a boy 

Smooth -cheeked, with a bright half-dreamy face, a little 

Like Sally's eldest. 

Suddenly, the air struck him 

A stiff, breath-taking blow. "Oh," he said, astonished. 
Took a step and fell on his face, shot through the heart. 
Higgins watched him for twenty minutes, wanting to lift him 
But not quite daring. Then he turned away 
And went back to the town. 

The bars had been open all day, 
Never to better business. 

When the news of Beckham's death spread from bar to bar, 
It was like putting loco-weed in the whiskey, 
The mob came together at once, the American mob, 
They mightn't be able to take Brown's last little fort 
But there were two prisoners penned in the Wager House. 
One was hurt already, Stevens, no fun killing him. 
But the other was William Thompson, whole and unwounded, 
Caught when Brown tried to send his first flag of truce. 

They stormed the hotel and dragged him out to the bridge, 
Where two men shot him, unarmed, then threw the body 
Over the trestle. It splashed in the shallow water, 
But the slayers kept on firing at the dead face. 
The carcass was there for days, a riven target, 
Barbarously misused. 

Meanwhile the armory yard 
Was taken by a new band of Beckham's avengers, 
The most of Brown's prisoners freed and his last escape cut off. 

What need to tell of the killing of Kagi the scholar, 
The wounding of Oliver Brown and the other deaths? 
Only this remains to be told. When the drunken day 
Reeled into night, there were left in the engine-house 
Five men, alive and unwounded, of all the raiders. 
Watson and Oliver Brown 

32 



Both of them hurt to the death, were stretched on the floor 
Beside the corpse of Taylor, the young Canadian. 
There was no light, there. It was bitterly cold. 
A cold chain of lightless hours that slowly fell 
In leaden beads between two fingers of stone. 
Outside, the fools and the drunkards yelled in the streets, 
And, now and then, there were shots. The prisoners talked 
And tried to sleep. 

John Brown did not try to sleep, 
The live coals of his eyes severed the darkness; 
Now and then he heard his young son Oliver calling 
In the thirsty agony of his wounds, "Oh, kill me! 
Kill me and put me out of this suffering!" 
John Brown's jaw tightened. "If you must die," he said, 
"Die like a man." Toward morning the crying ceased. 
John Brown called out to the boy but he did not answer. 
"I guess he's dead," said John Brown. 

If his soul wept 

They were the incredible tears of the squeezed stone. 
He had not slept for two days, but he would not sleep. 
The night was a chained, black leopard that he stared down, 
Erect, on his feet. One wonders what sights he saw 
In the cloudy mirror of his most cloudy heart, 
Perhaps God clothed in a glory, perhaps himself 
The little boy who had stolen three brass pins 
And been well whipped for it. 

When he was six years old 
An Indian boy had given him a great wonder, 
A yellow marble, the first he had ever seen. 
He treasured it for months but lost it at last, 
Boylike. The hurt of the loss took years to heal. 
He never quite forgot. 

He could see it now, 

Smooth, hard and lovely, a yellow, glistening ball, 
But it kept rolling away through cracks of darkness 
Whenever he tried to catch it and hold it fast. 
If he could only touch it, he would be safe, 
But it trickled away and away, just out of reach, 
There by the wall . . . 

Outside the blackened East 
Began to tarnish with a faint, grey stain 
That caught on the fixed bayonets of the marines. 

33 



Lee of Virginia, Light Horse Harry's son, 
Observed it broaden, thinking of many things, 
But chiefly wanting to get his business done, 
A curious, wry, distasteful piece of work 
For regular soldiers. 

Therefore to be finished 
As swiftly and summarily as possible 
Before this yelling mob of drunk civilians 
And green militia once got out of hand. 
His mouth set. Once already he had offered 
The honor of the attack to the militia, 
Such honor as it was. 

Their Colonel had 

Declined with a bright nervousness of haste. 
"Your men are paid for doing this kind of work. 
Mine have their wives and children." Lee smiled briefly, 
Remembering that. The smile had a sharp edge. 
Well, it was time. 

The whooping crowd fell silent 
And scattered, as a single man walked out 
Toward the engine-house, a letter in his hand. 
Lee watched him musingly. A good man, Stuart. 
Now he was by the door and calling out. 
The door opened a crack. 

Brown's eyes were there 
Over the cold muzzle of a cocked carbine. 
The parleying began, went on and on, 
While the crowd shivered and Lee watched it all 
With the strict commonsense of a Greek sword 
And with the same sure readiness. 

Unperceived, 

The dawn ran down the valleys of the wind, 
Coral-footed dove, tracking the sky with coral . . . 
Then, sudden as powder flashing in a pan, 
The parleying was done. 

The door slammed shut. 
The little figure of Stuart jumped aside 
Waving its cap. 

And themarines came on. 

Brown watched them come. One hand was on his carbine. 
The other felt the pulse of his dying son. 

34 



"Sell your lives dear," he said. The rifle-shots 
Rattled within the bricked-in engine-room 
Like firecrackers set off in a stone jug, 
And there was a harsh stink of sweat and powder. 
There was a moment when the door held firm. 
Then it was cracked with sun. 

Brown fired and missed. 

A shadow with a sword leaped through the sun. 
"That's Ossawattomie," said the tired voice 
Of Colonel Washington. 

The shadow lunged 
And Brown fell to his knees. 

The sword bent double, 
A light sword, better for parades than fighting, 
The shadow had to take it in both hands 
And fairly rain his blows with it on Brown 
Before he sank. 

Now two marines were down, 
The rest rushed in over their comrades' bodies, 
Pinning one man of Brown's against the wall 
With bayonets, another to the floor. 

Lee, on his rise of ground, shut up his watch. 
It had been just a quarter of an hour 
Since Stuart gave the signal for the storm, 
And now it was over. 

All but the long dying. 



Cud jo, the negro, watched from the pantry 

The smooth glissades of the dancing gentry, 

His splay-feet tapping in time to the tune 

While his broad face beamed like a drunken moon 

At candles weeping in crystal sconces, 

Waxed floors glowing like polished bronzes, 

Sparkles glinting on Royal Worcester 

And all the stir and color and luster 

Where Miss Louisa and Miss Amanda, 

Proud dolls scissored from silver paper, 

With hoopskirts wide as the front veranda 

And the gypsy eyes of a caged frivolity, 

Pointed their toes in a satin caper 

To the nonchalant glory of the Quality. 

35 



And there were the gentlemen, one and all, 
Friends and neighbors of Wingate Hall- 
Old Judge Brooke from Little Vermilion 
With the rusty voice of a cracked horse-pistol 
And manners as stiff as a French cotillion. 
Huger Shepley and Wainscott Bristol, 
Hawky arrogant sons of anger 
Who rode like devils and fought like cocks 
And watched, with an ineffable languor 
Their spoilt youth tarnish a dicing-box. 
The Cazenove boys and the Cotter brothers, 
Pepperalls from Pepperall Ride. 
Cummings and Growls and a dozen others, 
Every one with a name and a pride. 
Sallow young dandies Jn shirts with ruffles, 
Each could dance like a blowing feather, 
And each had the voice that Georgia muffles 
In the -lazy honey of her May weather. 

Cud jo watched and measured and knew them, 
Seeing behind and around and through them 
With the shrewd, dispassionate, smiling eye 
Of the old-time servant in days gone by. 
He couldn't read and he couldn't write, 
But he knew Quality, black or white, 
And even his master could not find 
The secret place in the back of his mind 
Where witch-bones talked to a scarlet rag 
And a child's voice spoke from a conjur-bag. 
For he belonged to the hidden nation, 
The mute, enormous confederation 
Of the planted earth and the burden borne 
And the horse that is ridden and given corn. 
The wind from the brier-patch brought him news 
That never went walking in white men's shoes 
And the grapevine whispered its message faster 
Than a horse could gallop across a grave, 
Till, long ere the letter could tell the master, 
The doomsday rabbits had told the slave. 

He was faithful as bread or salt, 
A flawless servant without a fault, 



Major-domo of Wingate Hall, 

Proud of his white folks, proud of it all. 

They might scold him, they might let him scold them, 

And he might know things that he never told them, 

But there was a bond, and the bond would hold, 

On either side until both were cold. 

So he didn't judge, though he knew, he knew, 

How the yellow babies down by the Slough, 

Had a fourth of their blood from old Judge Brooke, 

And where Sue Growl got her Wingate look, 

And the whole, mad business of Shepley's Wager, 

And why Miss Harriet married the Major. 

And he could trace with unerring ease 

A hundred devious pedigrees 

Of man and horse, from the Squire's Rapscallion 

Back to the stock of the Arab stallion, 

And the Bristol line through its baffling dozens 

Of doubly-removed half-second-cousins, 

And found a creed and a whole theology 

On the accidents of human geology. 

He looked for Clay in the dancing whirl, 

There he was, coming down the line, 

Hand in hand with a dark, slim girl 

Whose dress was the color of light in wine 

Sally Dupre from Appleton 

Wliere the blackshawled ladies rock in the sun 

And young things labor and old things rule, 

A proud girl, taught in a humbling school 

That the only daughters of misalliance 

Must harden their hearts against defiance 

Of all the uncles and all the aunts 

Who succour such offspring of mischance 

And wash them clean from each sinful intention 

With the kindliest sort of incomprehension. 

She had the Appleton mouth, it seemed, 

And the Appleton way of riding, 

But when she sorrowed and if she dreamed, 

Something came out from hiding. 

She could sew all day on an Appleton ht> 

37 



And look like a saint in plaster, 

But when the fiddles began to play 

And her feet beat fast but her heart beat faster 

An alien grace inhabited them 

And she looked like her father, the dancing-master, 

The scapegrace elegant, "French" Dupre, 

Come to the South on a luckless day, 

With bright paste buckles sewn on his pumps. 

A habit of holding the ace of trumps, 

And a manner of kissing a lady's hand 

Which the county failed to understand. 

He stole Sue Appleton's heart away 

With eyes that were neither black nor grey, 

And broke the heart of the Brookes' best mare 

To marry her safely with time to spare 

While the horsewhip uncles toiled behind 

He knew his need and she knew her mind. 

And the love they had was as bright and brief 

As the dance of the gilded maple-leaf, 

Till she died in Charleston of childbed fever 

Before her looks or his heart could leave her. 

It took the flavor out of his drinking 

And left him thoughts he didn't like thinking, 

So he wrapped his child in the dead girl's shawl 

'And sent her politely to Uncle Paul 

With a black-edged note full of grief and scruples 

And half the money he owed his pupils, 

Saw that Sue had the finest hearse 

That I. O. U.'s could possibly drape her 

And elegized her in vile French verse 

While his hot tears spotted the borrowed paper. 

He still had manners, he tried to recover, 
But something went when he buried his lover. 
No women with "feyes could ever scold him 
But he would make places too hot to hold him, 
He shrugged his shoulders and kept descending- 
Life was a farce, but it needed ending. 
The tag-line found him too tired to dread it 
And he died as he lived, with an air, on credit, 
In his host's best shirt and a Richmond garret, 
Talking to shadows and drinking claret. 

38 



He passed when Sally was barely four 

And the Appleton kindred breathed once more 

And, with some fervor, began to try 

To bury the bone of his memory 

And strictly expunge from his daughter's semblance 

All possible traces of a resemblance. 

Which system succeeded, to outward view, 

As well as most of such systems do 

And resulted in mixing a martyr's potions 

For "French" Dupre in his daughter's notions. 

And slander is sinful and gossip wrong, 
But country memories are long, 
The Appleton clan is a worthy clan 
But we remember the dancing-man. 
The girl is pretty, the girl seems wise, 
The girl was born with her father's eyes. 
She will play with our daughters and know our sons, 
We cannot offend the Appletons. 
Bristols and Wingates, Shepleys and Growls, 
We wouldn't hurt her to save our souls. 
But after all and nevertheless 
For one has to think and one must confess 
And one should admit but one never knows 
So it has gone, and so it goes, 

Through the sun and the wind and the rainy weather 
Whenever ladies are gathered together, 
Till, little by little and stitch by stitch, 
The girl is put in her proper niche 
With all the virtues that we can draw 
For someone else's daughter-in-law, 
A girl to be kind to, a girl we're lucky in, 
A girl to marry some nice Kentuckian, 
Some Alabaman, some Carolinian 
In fact, if you ask me for my opinion, 
There are lots of boys in the Northern sections 
And some of them have quite good connections- 
She looks charming this evening, doesn't she? 
If she danced just a little less dashingly! 

Cud jo watched her as she went by, 

"She's got a light foot," thought Cudjo, "Hi! 

39 



A light, swif foot and a talkin' eye! 

But you'll need more'n dat, Miss Sally Dupre 

Before you proposals with young Marse Clay. 

And as soon as de fiddles finish slewin' 

Dey's sixteen things I ought to be doin'. 

The Major's sure to be wan tin' his dram, 

We'll have to be cuttin' a second ham, 

And dat trashy high-yaller, Parker's Guinea, 

Was sayin' some Yankee name Old John Brown 

Has raised de Debil back in Virginny 

And freed de niggers all over town, 

He's friends with de ha'nts and steel won't touch him 

But the paterollers is sure to cotch him. 

How come he want to kick up such a dizziness! 

Nigger-business ain't white-folks' business." 



There was no real moon in all the soft, clouded night, 
The rats of night had eaten the silver cheese, 
Though here and there a forgotten crumb of old brightness 
Gleamed and was blotted. 

But there was no real moon, 
No bowl of nacre, dripping an old delusive 
Stain on the changed, strange grass, making faces strange; 
There was only a taste of warm rain not yet fallen, 
A wine-colored dress, turned black because of no moon, 
It would have been spangled in moonand a broadcloth coat, 
And two voices talking together, quite softly, quite calmly. 
The dance. Such a lovely dance. But you dance so lightly. 
Amanda dances so well. But you dance so lightly. 
Louisa looks so pretty in pink, don't you think? 
Are you fond of Scott? Yes, I'm very fond of Scott. 
Elegant extracts from gilt-edged volumes called Keepsakes 
And Godey's Lady's Book words. 

If I were a girl, 

A girl in a Godey's Lady's Book steel-engraving, 
I would have no body or legs, no aches or delusions. 
I would know what to do. I would marry a man called Mister. 
We would live in a steel-engraving, in various costumes 
Designed in the more respectable Paris modes, 
With two little boys in little plush hats like muffins, 

40 



And two little girls with pantalettes to their chins. 
I must do that, 1 think. 

But now my light feet know 

That they will be tired and burning with all my dancing 
Before I cool them in the exquisite coolness 
Of water or the cool virginal sheets of virgins, 
And a face comes swimming toward me out of black broadcloth 
And my heart knocks. 

Who are you, why are you here? 
Why should you trouble my eyes? 

No, Mr. Wingate, 

I cannot agree with you on the beauties of Byron. 
But why should something melt in the stuff of my hand, 
And my voice sound thin in my ears? 

This face is a face 

Like any other face. Did my mother once 
Hear thin blood sing in her ears at a voice called Mister? 
And wish for and not wish for and when the strange thing 
Was consummate, then, and she lay in a coil of darkness, 
Did she feel so much changed? What is it to be 
A woman? 

No, I must live in a steel-engraving. 

His voice said. But there was other than his voice. 
Something that heard warm rain on unopened flowers 
And spoke or tried to speak across swimming blackness 
To the slight profile and the wine-colored dress. 
Her hair was black. Her eyes might be black or grey. 
He could not remember, it irked him not to remember. 
But she was just Sally Dupre from Appleton 
Only she was not. Only she was a shadow 
And a white face a terrible, white shut face 
That looked through windows of inflexible glass 
Disdainfully upon the beauties of Byron 
And every puppy that ever howled for the moon 
To brush warm raindrops across the unopened flower 
And so quiet the heart with what? 

But you speak to her aunts. 

You are Wingate of Wingate Hall. You are not caught 
Like a bee drunk with the smell of honey, the smell of sleep, 
In a slight flower of glass whose every petal 
Shows eys one cannot remember as black or grey. 

4* 



You converse easily on elegant subjects 
Suitable for young ladies. 
, You do not feel 

The inexorable stairs of the flesh ascended 
By an armed enemy with a naked torch. 
.This has been felt before, this has been quenched 
With fitting casualness in flesh that has 
A secret stain of the sun. 

It is not a subject 
Suitable for the converse of young ladies. 



"My God, My God, why will she not answer the aching? 
My God, My God, to He at her side through the darkness!" 

And yetis it real do I really 

The wine-colored dress 
Rose. Broadcloth rose and took her back to the dance. 



The nickeled lamp threw a wide yellow disk 
On the red tablecloth with the tasseled fringes. 
Jack Ellyat put his book down with a slight 
Impatient gesture. 

There was mother, knitting 
The same grey end of scarf while Father read 
The same unajtered paper through the same 
Old-fashioned spectacles with the worn bows. 

Jane with one apple-cheek and one enshadowed, 
Soundlessly conjugated Latin verbs, 
"Amo, amas, amat," through sober lips, 
"Amamus, amatis, amant," and still no sound. 
He glanced at the clock. On top of it was Phaeton 
Driving bronze, snarling horses down the sharp, 
Quicksilver, void, careening gulfs of air. 
Until they smashed upon a black-marble sea. 
The round spiked trophy of the brazen sun 
Weighed down his chariot with its heavy load 
Of ponderous fire. 

To be like Phaeton 
And drive the trophy-sun! 

But he and his horses 

42 



Were frozen in their attitude of snarling, 

Frozen forever to the tick of a clock. 

Not all the broomstick witches of New England 

Could break that congealed motion and cast down 

The huge sun thundering on the black marble 

Of the mantelpiece, streaked with white veins of foam. 

If once such things could happen, all could happen, 

The snug, safe world crack up like broken candy 

And the young rivers, roaring, rush to the sea; 

White bulls that caught the morning on their horns 

And shook the secure earth until they found 

Some better recompense for life than life, 
The untamed ghost, the undiminished star. 

But it would not happen. Nothing would ever happen. 
He had been here, like this, ten thousand times, 
He would be here, like this, ten thousand more, 
Until at last the little ticks of the clock 
Had cooled what had been hot, and changed the thin, 
Blue, forking veins across the back of his hand 
Into the big, soft veins on Father's hand. 
And the world would be snug. 

And he would sit 

Reading the same newspaper, after dinner, 
Through spectacles whose bows were getting worn 
While a wife knitted on an endless scarf 
And a child slowly formed with quiet lips 
"Amo, amas, amat," and still no sound. 
And it would be over. Over without having been. 

His father turned a creaking page of paper 

And cleared his throat. "The Tribune calls," he said, 

"Brown's raid the work of a madman. Well, they're right, 

But-" 

Mrs. Ellyat put her knitting down. 
"Are they going to hang him, Will?" 

"It looks that way." 
"But, Father, when-" 

"They have the right, my son, 
He broke the law." 

"But, Will! You don't believe-" 

43 



A little spark lit Mr. EHyat's eyes. 
"I didn't say 1 thought that he was wrong. 
I said they had the right to hang the man, 
But they'll hang slavery with him." 

A quick pulse 

Beat in Jack Ellyat's wrist. Behind his eyes 
A bearded puppet creaked upon a rope 
And the sky darkened because he was there. 
Now it was Mother talking in a strange 
Iron-bound voice he'd never heard before. 
"I prayed for him in church last Sunday, Will. 
I pray for him at home here every night. 
I don't know I don't care what laws he broke. 
I know that he was right. I pray to God 
To show the world somehow that he was right 
And break these Southern people into knowing! 
And 1 know this-in every house and church, 
All through the North-women are praying for him, 
Praying for him. And God will hear those prayers." 

"He will, my dear/' said Mr. Ellyat gently, 
"But what will be His answer?" 

He took her hand, 

Smoothing it for a moment. Then she sighed 
And turned back to the interminable scarf. 
Jack Ellyat's pulse beat faster. 

Women praying, 

Praying at night, in every house in the North, 
Praying for old John Brown until their knees 
Ached with stiff cold. 

Innumerable prayers 
Inexorably rising, till the dark 
Vault of the midnight was so thronged and packed 
The wild geese could not arrow through the storm 
Of terrible, ascendant, women's prayers. . . . 

The clock struck nine, and Phaeton still stood 
Frozcnly urging on his frozen horses, 
But, for a moment, to Jack Ellyat's eyes, 
The congealed hoofs had seemed to paw the air 
And the bronze car roll forward. 



44 



On Saturday, in Southern market towns, 
When I was a boy with twenty cents to spend, 
The carts began to drift in with the morning, 
And, by the afternoon, the slipshod Square 
And all broad Center Street were lined with them; 
Moth-eaten mules that whickered at each other 
Between the mended shafts of rattletrap wagons, 
Mud-spattered buggies, mouldy phaetons, 
And, here and there, an ox-cart from the hills 
Whose solemn team had shoulders of rough, white rock, 
* Innocent noses, black and wet as snailshells, 
And that inordinate patience in their eyes. 

There always was a Courthouse in the Square, 

A cupolaed Courthouse, drowsing Time away 

Behind the grey-white pillars of its porch 

Like an old sleepy judge in a spotted gown; 

And, dow r n the Square, always a languid jail 

Of worn, uneven brick with moss in the cracks 

Or stone weathered the grey of weathered pine. 

The plump jail-master wore a linen duster 

In summer, and you used to see him sit 

Tilted against the wall in a pine-chair, 

Spitting reflectively in the warm dust 

While endless afternoons slowly dissolved 

Into the longer shadow, the dust-blue twilight. 

Higgledy-piggledy days days that are gone 

The trotters are dead, all the yellow-painted sulkies 

Broken for firewood the old Courthouse grins 

Through new false-teeth of Alabama limestone 

The haircloth lap-robe weeps on a Ford radiator 

But I have seen the old Courthouse. I have seen 

The flyspeckcd windows and the faded flag 

Over the judge's chair, touched the scuffed walls, 

Spat in the monumental brass spittoons 

And smelt the smell that never could be aired, 

Although one opened windows for a year, 

The unforgettable, intangible 

Mixture of cheap cigars, worm-eaten books, 

Sweat, poverty, negro hair-oil, grief and law. 

I have seen the long room packed with quiet men, 

45 



Fit to turn mob, if need were, in a flash 

Cocked-pistol men, so lazily attentive 

Their easy languor knocked against your ribs 

As, hour by hour, the lawyers droned along, 

And minute on creeping minute, your cold necknape 

Waited the bursting of the firecracker, 

The flare of fury. 

And yet, that composed fury 
Burnt itself out, unflaring was held down 
By a dry, droning voice, a faded flag. 
The kettle never boiled, the pistol stayed 
At cock but the snake-head hammer never fell. . . . 
The little boys climbed down beyond the windows. . . . 

So, in the cupolaed Courthouse there in Charlestown, 
When the jail-guards had carried in the cot 
Where Brown lay like a hawk with a broken back, 
I hear the rustle of the moving crowd, 
The buzz outside, taste the dull, heavy air, 
Smell the stale smell and see the country carts 
Hitched in the streets. 

For a long, dragging week 
Of market-Saturdays the trial went on. 
The droning voices rise and fall and rise. 
Stevens lies quiet on his mattress, breathing 
The harsh and difficult breath of a dying man, 
Although not dying then. 

Beyond the Square 

The trees are dry, but all the dry leaves not fallen- 
Yellow leaves falling through a grey-blue dusk, 
The first winds of November whirl and scatter them. . . . 

Read as you will in any of the books, 

The details of the thing, the questions and answers, 

How sometimes Brown would walk, sometimes was carried, 

At first would hardly plead, half-refused counsel, 

Accepted later, made up witness-lists, 

Grew fitfully absorbed in his defense, 

Only to flare in temper at his first lawyers 

And drive them from the case. 

Questions and answers, 
Wheels creaking in a void. 



Sometimes he lay 

Quiet upon his cot, the hawk-eyes staring. 
Sometimes his fingers moved mechanically 
As if at their old task of sorting wool, 
Fingertips that could tell him in the dark 
Whether the wool they touched was from Ohio 
Or from Vermont. They had the shepherd's gift. 
It was his one sure talent. 

Questions creaking 
Uselessly back and forth. 

No one can say 

That the trial was not fair. The trial was fair, 
Painfully fair by every rule of law, 
And that it was made not the slightest difference. 
The law's our yardstick, and it measures well 
Or well enough when there are yards to measure. 
Measure a wave with it, measure a fire, 
Cut sorrow up in inches, weigh content. 
You can weigh John Brown's body well enough, 
But how and in what balance weigh John Brown? 

He had the shepherd's gift, but that was all. 

He had no other single gift for life. 

Some men are pasture Death turns back to pasture, 

Some are fire-opals on that iron wrist, 

Some the deep roots of wisdoms not yet born. 

John Brown was none of these, 

He was a stone, 

A stone eroded to a cutting edge 

By obstinacy, failure and cold prayers. 

Discredited farmer, dubiously involved 

In lawsuit after lawsuit, Shubel Morgan 

Fantastic bandit of the Kansas border, 

Red-handed murderer at Pottawattomie, 

Cloudy apostle, whooped along to death 

By those who do no violence themselves 

But only buy the guns to have it done, 

Sincere of course, as all fanatics are, 

And with a certain minor-prophet air, 

That fooled the world to thinking him half-great 

When all he did consistently was fail. 

47 



So far one advocate. 

But there is this. 

Sometimes there comes a crack in Time itself. 
Sometimes the earth is torn by something blind. 
Sometimes an image that has stood so long 
It seems implanted as the polar star 
Is moved against an unfathonied force 
That suddenly will not have it any more. 
Call it the mores, call it God or Fate, 
Call it Mansoul or economic law, 
That force exists and moves. 

And when it moves 
It will employ a hard and actual stone 
To batter into bits an actual wall 
And change the actual scheme of things. 

John Brown 

Was such a stone unreasoning as the stone, 
Destructive as the stone, and, if you like, 
Heroic and devoted as such a stone. 
He had no gift for life, no gift to bring 
Life but his body and a cutting edge, 
But he knew how to die. 

And yardstick law 

Gave him six weeks to burn that hoarded knowledge 
In one swift fire whose sparks fell like live coals 
On every State in the Union. 

Listen now, 

Listen, the bearded lips are speaking now, 
There are no more guerilla-raids to plan, 
There are no more hard questions to be solved 
Of right and wrong, no need to beg for peace, 
Here is the peace unbegged, here is the end, 
Here is the insolence of the sun cast off, 
Here is the voice already fixed with night. 

JOHN BROWN'S SPEECH 

I have, may it please the Court, a few words to say. 
In the first place I deny everything but w r hat I have all along 
admitted: of a design on my part to free slaves. . . . 
Had I interfered in the matter which I admit, and which I 



admit has been fairly proved . . . had I so interfered in behalf 
of the rich, the powerful, the intelligent, or the so-called great 
c . . and suffered and sacrificed, what I have in this interfer- 
ence, it would have been all right. Every man in this Court 
would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than 
punishment. 

I see a book kissed w r hich I suppose to be the Bible, or at least 
the New Testament, which teaches me that all things whatso- 
ever I would that men should do unto me, I should do even so 
to them. It teaches me further to remember them that are in 
bonds as bound with them. I endeavored to act up to that in- 
struction. I say I am yet too young to understand that God is any 
respecter of persons. I believe that to have interfered as I have 
done, as I have always freely admitted I have done in behalf of 
His despised poor, I did no wrong, but right. Now, if it is deemed 
necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance 
of the ends of justice and mingle my blood further with the blood 
of my children and with the blood of millions in this slave 
country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel and unjust 
enactments, I say, let it be done. 

Let me say one word further. I feel entirely satisfied with the 
treatment I have received on my trial. Considering all the cir- 
cumstances, it has been more generous than I expected. But I 
feel no consciousness of guilt. I have stated from the first what 
was my intention and what was not. I never had any design 
against the liberty of any person, nor any disposition to commit 
treason or incite slaves to rebel or make any general insurrec- 
tion. I never encouraged any man to do so but always discour- 
aged any idea of that kind. 

Let me say also, in regard to the statements made by some 
of those connected with me, I hear it has been stated by some 
of them that I have induced them to join with me. But the con- 
trary is true. I do not say this to injure them, but as regretting 
their weakness. Not one but joined me of his own accord, and 
the greater part at their own expense. A number of them I 
never saw, and never had a word of conversation with, till the 
day they came to me, and that was for the purpose I have stated. 

Now I have done. 



The voice ceased. There was a deep, brief pause. 
The judge pronounced the formal words of death. 

49 



One man, a stranger, tried to clap his hands. 
The foolish sound was stopped. 
There was nothing but silence then. 

No cries in the court, 

No roar, no slightest murmur from the thronged street, 
As Brown went back to jail between his guards. 
The heavy door shut behind them. 

There was a noise of chairs scraped back in the court-room 
And that huge sigh of a crowd turning back into men. 



A month between the sentence and the hanging. 
A month of endless visitors, endless letters. 
A Mrs. Russell came to clean his coat. 
A sculptor sketched him. 

In the anxious North, 
The anxious Dr. Howe most anxiously 
Denied all godly connection with the raid, 
And Gerrit Smith conveniently went mad 
For long enough to sponge his mind of all 
Memory of such an unsuccessful deed. 
Only the tough, swart-minded Higginson 
Kept a grim decency, would not deny. 
Pity the portly men, pity the pious, 
Pity the fool who lights the powder-mine, 
They need your counterfeit penny, they will live long. 

In Charlestown meanwhile, there were whispers of rescue f 

Brown told them, 

"I am worth now infinitely more to die than to live." 

And lived his month so, busily. 

A month of trifles building up a legend 

And letters in a pinched, firm handwriting 

Courageous, scriptural, misspelt and terse, 

Sowing a fable every where* they fell 

While the town filled with troops. 

The Governor came, 
Enemies, friends, militia-cavaliers, 
Old Border Foes. 

The month ebbed into days, 
The wife and husband met for the last time, 
The last letter was written: 

50 



"To be inscribed on the old family Monument at North Elba, 
Oliver Brown born 1839 was killed at Harpers Ferry, Va. Nov. 

iyth 1859 
Watson Brown born 1835 was wounded at Harpers Ferry Nov. 

ijth and died Nov. i9th 1859 
(My Wife can) supply blank dates to above 
John Brown born Alay 9th 1800 was executed at Charlestown 

Va. December znd 1859." 

At last the clear warm day, so slow to come. 

The North that had already now begun 
To mold his body into crucified Christ's, 
Hung fables about those hours saw him move 
Symbolically, kiss a negro child, 
Do this and that, say things he never said, 
To swell the sparse, hard outlines of the event 
With sentimental omen. 

It was not so. 

He stood on the jail -porch in carpet-slippers, 
Clad in a loose ill-iitting suit of black, 
Tired farmer waiting for his team to come. 
He left one last written message: 

"I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this 
guilty land: will never be purged away: but with Blood. I had 
as I now think: vainly flattered myself that without very much 
bloodshed; it might be done." 

They did not hang him in the jail or the Square. 
The two white horses dragged the rattling cart 
Out of the town. Brown sat upon his coffin. 
Beyond the soldiers lay the open fields 
Earth-colored, sleepy with unfallen frost. 
The farmer's eye took in the bountiful land. 
"This is a beautiful country," said John Brown. 

The gallows-stairs were climbed, the death-cap fitted. 

Behind the gallows, 

Before a line of red-and-grey cadets, 

A certain odd Professor T. J. Jackson 

Watched disapprovingly the ragged militia 

5* 



Deploy for twelve long minutes ere they reached 

Their destined places. 

The Presbyterian sabre of his soul 

Was moved by a fey breath. 

He saw John Brown, 
A tiny blackened scrap of paper-soul 
Fluttering above the Pit that Calvin barred 
With bolts of iron on the unelect; 
He heard the just, implacable Voice speak out 
"Depart ye wicked to eternal fire." 
And sternly prayed that God might yet be moved 
To save the predestined cinder from the flame. 

Brown did not hear the prayer. The rough black cloth 

Of the death-cap hid his eyes now. He had seen 

The Blue Ridge Mountains couched in their blue haze. 

Perhaps he saw them still, behind his eyes 

Perhaps just cloth, perhaps nothing any more. 

"/ shall look unto the hills from whence cometh my help" 

The hatchet cut the cord. The greased trap fell. 
Colonel Preston: 

"So perish all such enemies of Virginia, 
All such enemies of the Union, 
All such foes of the human race." 



John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave. 

He will not come again with foolish pikes 

And a pack of desperate boys to shadow the sun. 

He has gone back North. The slaves have forgotten his eyes. 

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave. 

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave. 

Already the corpse is changed, un'der the stone, 

The strong flesh rotten, the bones dropping away. 

Cotton will grow next year, in spite of the skull. 

Slaves will be slaves next year, in spite of the bones. 

Nothing is changed, John Brown, nothing is changed. 

"There is a song in my bones. There is a song 
In my white bones" 

5* 



I hear no song. I hear 
Only the blunt seeds growing secretly 
f In the dark entrails of the preparate earth, 
The rustle of the cricket under the leaf, 
The creaking of the cold wheel of the stars. 

"Bind my white bones together hollow them 
To skeleton pipes of music. When the wind 
Blows from the budded Spring, the song will blow" 

I hear no song. I only hear the roar 
Of the Spring freshets, and the gushing voice 
Of mountain-brooks that overflow their banks, 
Swollen with melting ice and crumbled earth. 

"That is my song. 

It is made of water and wind. It marches on" 

No, John Brown's body lies a-mouldering, 
A-mouldering. 

"My bones have been washed clean 

And God blows through them with a hollow sound, 

And God has shut his wildfire in my dead heart." 

I hear it now, 

Faint, faint as the first droning flies of March, 

Faint as the multitudinous, tiny sigh 

Of grasses underneath a windy scythe. 

"It will grow stronger" 

It has grown stronger. It is marching on. 

It is a throbbing pulse, a pouring surf, 

It is the rainy gong of the Spring sky 

Echoing, 

John Brown's body, 

John Brown's body. 

But still it is not fierce. I find it still 

More sorrowful than fierce. 

"You have not heard it yet. You have not heard 
The ghosts that walk in it, the shaking sound" 

53 



Strong medicine, 

Bitter medicine of the dead, 

I drink you now. I hear the unloosed thing, 

The anger of the ripe wheat-the ripened earth 

Sullenly quaking like a beaten drum 

From Kansas to Vermont. I hear the stamp 

Of the ghost-feet I hear the ascending sea. 

"Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, 
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah, 
Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!" 

What is this agony of the marching dust? 
What are these years ground into hatchet blades? 

"Ask the tide why it rises with the moon, 
My bones and I have risen like that tide 
And an mmrortal anguish plucks us up 
And will not hide us till our song is done" 

The phantom drum diminishes the year 
Rolls back. It is only winter still, not spring, 
The snow still flings its white on the new grave, 
Nothing is changed, John Brown, nothing is changed 
John . . . Brown . . . 



BOOK TWO 

A smoke-stained Stars-arid-Stripes droops from a broken tooth- 
pick and ninety tired men march out or fallen Sumter to their 
ships, drums rattling and colors flying. 

v Their faces are worn and angry, their bellies empty and cold, 
but the stubborn salute of a gun, fifty times repeated, keeps their 
backs straight as they march out, and answers something stubborn 
and mute in their flesh. 

Beauregard, beau sabreur, hussar-sword with the gilded hilt, 
the gilded metal of the guard twisted into lovelocks and roses, 
vain as Murat, dashing as Murat, Pierre Gustave Toutant Beau- 
regard is a pose of conquering courtesy under a palmetto-banner. 

54 



The lugubrious little march goes grimly by his courtesy, he 
watches it unsmiling, a light half-real, half that of invisible foot- 
lights on his French, dark, handsome face. 



The stone jails in the pool, the ripples spread. 

The colt in the Long Meadow kicked up his heels. 

"That was a fly," he thought, "It's early for flies." 

But being alive, in April, was too fine 

For flies or anything else to bother a colt. 

He kicked up his heels again, this time in pure joy, 

And started to run a race with the wind and his shadow. 

After the stable stuffiness, the sun. 

After the straw-littered boards, the squelch of the turf. 

His little hoofs felt lighter than dancing-shoes, 

He scared himself with a blue-jay, his heart was a leaf. 

He was pure joy in action, he was the unvexed 

Delight of all moving lightness and swift-footed pace, 

The pride of the flesh, the young Spring neighing and rearing. 

Sally Dupre called to him from the fence. 

He came like a charge in a spatter of clean-cut clods, 

Ears back, eyes wide and wild with folly and youth. 

He drew up snorting. 

She laughed and brushed at her skirt 
Where the mud had splashed it. 

"There, Star there, silly boy! 
Why won't you ever learn sense?" 

But her eyes were hot, 

Her hands were shaking as she offered the sugar 
Long-fingered, appleblossom-shadow hands- 
Star blew at the sugar once, then mumbled it up. 
She patted the pink nose. "There, silly Star! 
That's for Fort Sumter, Star!" How hot her eyes were! 
"Star, do you know you're a Confederate horse? 
Do you know I'm going to call you Beauregard?" 

Star whinnied, and asked for more sugar. She put her hand 
On his neck for a moment that matched the new green leaves 
And sticky buds of April. 

You would have said 
They were grace in quietness, seen so, woman and horse. . . , 

55 



The widened ripple breaks against a stone 
The heavy noon 'walks over Chancellorsville 
On brazen shoes, but 'where the squadron rode 
Into the ambush, the blue flies are coming 
To blow on the dead meat. 

Carter, the telegraph-operator, sighed 
And propped his eyes awake again. 

He was tired. 

Dog-tired, stone-tired, body and mind burnt up 
With too much poker last night and too little sleep. 
He hated the Sunday trick. It was Riley's turn 
To take it, but Riley's wife was having a child. 
He cursed the child and the wife and Sunday and Riley. 
Nothing ever happened at Stroudsburg Siding 
And yet he had to be here and keep awake 
With the flat, stale taste of too little sleep in his mouth 
And wait for nothing to happen. 

His bulky body 

Lusted for sleep with every muscle and nerve. 
He'd rather have sleep than a woman or whiskey or money. 
He'd give up the next three women that might occur 
For ten minutes 7 sleep, he'd never play poker again, 
He'd battered face beginning to droop on his hands- 
Sleep womenwhiskey eyelids too heavy to lift 
"Yes, Ma, I said, 'Now I lay me.' "- 

The sounder chattered 

And his head snapped back with a sharp, neck-breaking jerk. 
By God, he'd nearly chatchitter-chatter-chat-chat 
For a moment he took it in without understanding 
And then the vein in his forehead began to swell 
And his eyes bulged wide awake. 

"By Jesus! "he said, 

And stared at the sounder-as if it had turned to a snake. 
"By Jesus!" he said, "By Jesus, they've done it!" he said. 

The cruelty of cold trumpets -wounds the air. 
The ponderous princes draw their gauntlets on. 
The captains fit their coal-black armor on. 

Judah P. Benjamin, the dapper Jew, 
Seal-sleek, black-eyed, lawyer and epicure, 



Able, well-hated, face alive with life, 

Looked round the council-chamber with the slight 

Perpetual smile he held before himself 

Continually like a silk-ribbed fan. 

Behind the fan, his quick, shrewd, fluid mind 

Weighed Gentiles in an old balance. 

There they were. 

Toombs, the tall, laughing, restless Georgian, 
As fine to look at as a yearling bull, 
As hard to manage. 

Stephens, sickly and pale, 
Sweet-voiced, weak-bodied, ailingly austere, 
The mind's thin steel wearing the body out, 
The racked intelligence, the crippled charm. 
Mallory Reagan Walkerat the head 
Davis. 

The mind behind the silk-ribbed fan 
Was a dark prince, clothed in an Eastern stuff, 
Whose brown hands cupped about a crystal egg 
That filmed with colored cloud. The eyes stared, searching, 

"I am the Jew. What am I doing here? 

The Jew is in my blood and in my hands, 

The lonely, bitter and quicksilver drop, 

The stain of myrrh that dyes no Gentile mind 

With tinctures out of the East and the sad blare 

Of the curled ramshorn on Atonement Day. 

A river runs between these men and me, 

A river of blood and time and liquid gold, 

Oh white rivers of Canaan, running the night! 

And we are colleagues. And we speak to each other 

Across the roar of that river, but no more. 

I hide myself behind a smiling fan. 

They hide themselves behind a Gentile mask 

And, if they fall, they will be lifted up, 

Being the people, but if I once fall 

I fall forever, like the rejected stone. 

That is the Jew of it, my Gentile friends, 

To see too far ahead and yet go on 

And I can smile at it behind my fan 

With a drowned mirth that you would find uncouth. 

For here we are, the makeshift Cabinet 

57 



Of a new nation, gravely setting down 
Rules, precedents and cautions, never once 
Admitting aloud the cold, plain Franklin sense 
That if we do not hang together now 
We shall undoubtedly hang separately. 
It is the Jew, to see too far ahead 

I wonder what they're doing in the North, 
And how their Cabinet shapes, and how they take 
Their railsplitter, and if they waste their time 
As we waste ours and Mr. Davis's. 

Jefferson Davis, pride of Mississippi, 
First President of the Confederate States, 
What are you thinking now? 

Your eyes look tired. 

Your face looks more and more like John Calhoun. 
And that is just, because you are his son 
In everything but blood, the austere child 
Of his ideas, the flower of states-rights. 
I will not gird against you, Jefferson Davis. 
I sent you a challenge once, but that's forgotten, 
And though your blood runs differently from mine, 
The Jew salutes you from behind his fan, 
Because you are the South he fell in love with 
When that young black-haired girl with the Gentile-eyes, 
Proud, and a Catholic, and with honey-lips, 
First dinted her French heels upon his heart. . . . 
We have changed since, but the remembered Spring 
Can change no more, even in the Autumn smokes. 
We cannot help that havoc of the heart 
But my changed mind remembers half the spring 
And shall till winter falls. 

~No, Jefferson Davis, 

You are not she you are not the warm night 
On the bayou, or the New Orleans lamps, 
The white-wine bubbles in the crystal cup, 
The almond blossoms, sleepy with the sun: 
But, nevertheless, you are the South in word, 
Deed, thought and temper, the cut cameo 
Brittle but durable, renned but fine, 
The hands well-shaped, not subtle, but not weak, 

58 



The mind set in tradition but not unjust, 
The generous slaveholder, the gentleman 
Who neither forces his gentility 
Nor lets it be held lightly 

and yet, and yet 

I think you look too much like John Calhoun, 
I think your temper is too brittly-poised, 
I think your hands too scholar-sensitive, 
And though they say you mingle in your voice 
The trumpet and the harp, I think it lacks 
That gift of warming men which coarser voices 
Draw from the common dirt you tread upon 
But do not take in your hands. I think you are 
All things except success, all honesty 
Except the ultimate honesty of the earth, 
All talents but the genius of the sun. 
And yet I would not have you otherwise, 
Although I see too clearly what you are. 

Except except oh honeydropping Spring, 
Oh black-haired woman with the Gentile eyes! 
Tell me, you Gentiles, when your Gentile wives 
Pray in the church for you and for the South, 
How do they pray? not in that lulling voice 
Where some drowned bell of France makes undertones 
To the warm river washing the levee. 
You do not have so good a prayer as mine. 
You cannot have so good a prayer as mine." 



Lincoln, six feet one in his stocking feet, 
The lank man, knotty and tough as a hickory rail, 
Whose hands were always too big for white-kid gloves, 
Whose wit was a coonskin sack of dry, tall tales, 
Whose weathered face was homely as a plowed field- 
Abraham Lincoln, who padded up and down 
The sacred White House in nightshirt and carpet-slippers, 
And yet could strike young hero-worshipping Hay 
As dignified past any neat, balanced, fine 
Plutarchan sentences carved in a Latin bronze; 
The low clown out of the prairies, the ape-buffoon, 

59 



The small-town lawyer, the crude small-time politician, 

State-character but comparative failure at forty 

In spite of ambition enough for twenty Caesars, 

Honesty rare as a man without self-pity, 

Kindness as large and plain as a prairie wind, 

And a self-confidence like an iron bar: 

This Lincoln, President now by the grace of luck, 

Disunion, politics, Douglas and a few speeches 

Which make the monumental booming of Webster 

Sound empty as the belly of a burst drum, 

Lincoln shambled in to the Cabinet meeting 

And sat, ungainly and awkward. Seated so 

He did not seem so tall nor quite so strange 

Though he was strange enough. His new broadcloth suit 

Felt tight and formal across his big shoulders still 

And his new shiny top-hat was not yet battered 

To the bulging shape of the old familiar hat 

He'd worn at Springfield, stuffed with its hoard of papers. 

He was pretty tired. All week the office-seekers 

Had plagued him as the flies in fly-time plague 

A gaunt-headed, patient horse. The children weren't well 

And Mollie was worried about them so sharp with her tongue. 

But he knew Mollie and tried to let it go by. 

Men tracked dirt in the house and women liked carpets. 

Each had a piece of the right, that was all most people could stand. 

Look at his Cabinet here. There were Seward and Chase, 

Both of them good men, couldn't afford to lose them, 

But Chase hates Seward like poison and Seward hates Chase 

And both of 'em think they ought to be President 

Instead of me. When Seward wrote me that letter 

The other day, he practically told me so. 

I suppose a man who was touchy about his pride 

Would send them both ta the dickens when he found out, 

But I can't do that as long as they do their work. 

The Union's too big a horse to keep changing the saddle 

Each time it pinches you. As long as you're sure 

The saddle fits, you're bound to put up with the pinches 

And not keep fussing the horse. 

When I was a boy 

I remember figuring out when I went to town 
That if I had just one pumpkin to bump in a sack 

60 



It was hard to carry, but once you could get two pumpkins, 

One in each end of the sack, it balanced things up. 

Seward and Chase'll do for my pair of pumpkins. 

And as for me if anyone else comes by 

Who shows me that he can manage this job of mine 

Better than I canwell, he can have the job. 

It's harder sweating than driving six cross mules, 

But I haven't run into that other fellow yet 

And till or supposing I meet him, the job's my job 

And nobody else's. 

Seward and Chase don't know that. 
They'll learn it, in time. 

Wonder how Jefferson Davis 
Feels, down there in Montgomery, about Surnter. 
He must be thinking pretty hard and fast, 
For he's an able man, no doubt of that. 
We were born less than forty miles apart, 
Less than a year apart he got the start 
Of me in age, and raising too, I guess, 
In fact, from all you hear about the man, 
If you set out to pick one of us two 
For President, by birth and folks and schooling, 
General raising, training up in office, 
I guess you'd pick him, nine times out of ten 
And yet, somehow, I've got to last him out. 

These thoughts passed through the mind in a moment's flash. 
Then that mind turned to business. 

It was the calling 
Of seventy-five thousand volunteers. 



Shake out the long line of verse like a lanyard of woven steel 
And let us praise while we can what things no praise can deface, 
The corn that hurried so fast to be ground in an iron wheel 
The obdurate, bloody dream that slept before it grew base. 

Not the silk flag and the shouts, the catchword patrioteers, 
The screaming noise of the press, the preachers who howled for 

blood, 

But a certain and stubborn pith in the hearts of the cannoneers 
Who hardly knew their guns before they died in the mud. 

61 



They came like a run of salmon where the ice-fed Kennebec flings 
Its death at the arrow-silver of the packed and mounting host, 
They came like the young deer trooping to the ford by Eutaw 

Springs, 
Their new horns fuzzy with velvet, their coats still rough with 

the frost. 

North and South they assembled, one cry and the other cry, 
And both are ghosts to us now, old drums hung up on a wall, 
But they were the first hot wave of youth too-ready to die, 
And they went to war with an air, as if they went to a ball. 

Dress-uniform boys who rubbed their buttons brighter than gold, 
And gave them to girls for flowers and raspberry-lemonade, 
Unused to the sick fatigue, the route-march made in the cold, 
The stink of the fever camps, the tarnish rotting the blade. 

We in our time have seen that impulse going to war 

And how that impulse is dealt with. We have seen the circle 

complete. * 

The ripe wheat wasted like trash between the fool and the whore. 
We cannot praise again that anger of the ripe wheat. 

This we have seen as well, distorted and half-forgotten 

In what came before and after, where the blind went leading the 

blind, 

The first swift rising of youth before the symbols were rotten, 
The price too much to pay, the payment haughty in kind. 

So with these men and then. They were much like the men you 

know, 
Under the beards and the strangeness of clothes with a different 

fit. 
They wrote mush-notes to their girls and wondered how it would 

g> 

Half-scared, half-fierce at the thought, but none yet ready to 

quit. 

Georgia, New York, Virginia, Rhode Island, Florida, Maine, 
Piney-woods squirrel-hunter and clerk with the brand-new gun, 
Thus they were marshalled and drilled, while Spring turned 
Summer again, 

62 



Until they could stumble toward death at gartersnake-crooked 
" ~lun. 



il they < 
Bull Ru 



Wingate sat in his room at night 

Between the moon and the candle-light, 

Reading his Byron with knitted brows, 

While his mind drank in the peace of his house, 

It was long past twelve, and the night was deep 

With moonlight and silence and wind and sleep, 

And the small, dim noises, thousand-fold, 

That all old houses and forests hold. 

The boards that creak for nothing at all, 

The leaf that rustles, the bough that sighs, 

The nibble of mice in the wainscot-wall, 

And the slow clock ticking the time that dies 

All distilled in a single sound 

Like a giant breathing underground, 

A sound more sleepy than sleep itself. 

Wingate put his book on the shelf 

And went to the window. It was good 

To walk in the ghost through a silver wood 

And set one's mettle against the far 

Bayonet-point of the fixed North Star. 

Fie stood there a moment, wondering. 

North Star, wasp with the silver sting 

Blue-nosed star on the Yankee banners, 

We are coming against you to teach you manners! 

With crumbs of thunder and wreaths of myrtle 

And cannon that dance to a Dixie chorus. 

With a song that bites like a mapping-turtle 

And the tiger-lily of Summer before us, 

To pull you doivn like a torn bandanna, 

And drown you deeper than the Savannah! 

And still, while his arrogance made its cry, 
He shivered a little, wondering why. 

There was his uniform, grey as ash, 
The boots that shone like a well-rubbed table, 
The tassels of silk on the colored sash 
And sleek Black Whistle down in the stable, 
The housewife, stitched from a beauty's fan, 



The pocket-Bible with Mother's writing, 

The sabre never yet fleshed in man, 

And all the crisp new toys of fighting. 

He gloated at them with a boyish pride, 

But still he wondered, Monmouth-eyed. 

The Black Horse Troop was a cavalier 

And gallant name for a lady's ear. 

He liked the sound and the ringing brag 

And the girls who stitched on the county flag, 

The smell of horses and saddle-leather 

And the feel of the squadron riding together, 

From the loose-reined canter of colts at large, 

To the crammed, tense second before the charge: 

He liked it all with the young, keen zest 

Of a hound unleashed and a hawk un jessed. 

And yet 'what happened to men in war? 
Why 'were they all going out to 'war? 

He brooded a moment. It wasn't slavery, 
That stale red-herring of Yankee knavery 
Nor even states-rights, at least not solely, 
But something so dim that it must be holy. 
A voice, a fragrance, a taste of wine, 
A face half-seen in old candleshine, 
A yellow river, a blowing dust, 
Something beyond you that you must trust, 
Something so shrouded it must be great, 
The dead men building the living State 
From 'simmon-seed on a sandy bottom, 
The woman South in her rivers laving 
That body whiter than new-blown cotton 
And savage and sweet as wild-orange-blossom, 
The dark hair streams on the barbarous bosom, 
If there ever has been a land worth saving 
In Dixie land, Til take my stand, 
And live and die for Dixie! . . . 

And yetand yet in some cold Northern room, 
Does anyone else stare out the obdurate moon 
With doubtful passion, seeing his toys of fighting 
Scribbled all over with such silver writing 



From such a heart of peace, they seem the stale 

Cast properties of a dead and childish tale? 

And does he see, too soon, 

Over the horse, over the horse and rider, 

The grey, soft swathing shadowness of the spider, 

Spinning his quiet loom? 

No-no other man is cursed 

With such doubleness of eye, 

They can hunger, they can thirst, 

But they know for what and why. 

I can drink the midnight out, 
And rise empty, having dined. 
For my courage and my doubt 
Are a double strarfd of mind, 
And too subtly intertwined. 
They are my flesh, they are my bone, 
My shame and my foundation-stone. 
I was born alone, to live alone. 

Sally Dupre, Sally Dupre, 

Eyes that are neither black nor grey, 

Why do you haunt me, night and day? 

Sea-changing eyes, with the deep, drowned glimmer 

Of bar-gold crumbling from sunken ships, 

Where the sea-dwarfs creep through the streaked, green shimmer 

To press the gold to their glass-cold lips. 

They sculpture the gold for a precious ring, 

In the caverns under the under-skies, 

They would marry the sea to a sailor-king! 

You have taken my heart from me, sea-born eyes. 

You have taken it, yes, but I do not know. 

There are too many roads where I must go. 

There are too many beds where I have slept 

For a night unweeping, to quit unwept, 

And it needs a king to marry the sea. 

Why have you taken my heart from me? 

I am not justice nor loyalty. 

I am the shape of the weathercock, 

That all winds come to and all winds mock. 

You are the image of sea-carved stone, 



The silent thing that can suffer alone, 
The little women are easier, 
The easy women make lighter love, 
I will not take your face to the war, 
I will not carry your cast-off glove. 

Sally Dupre, Sally Dupre, 

Heart and body like sea-blown spray, 

I cannot forget you, night or day. 

So Wingate pondered in Wingate Hall, 

And hated and loved in a single breath, 

As he tried to unriddle the doubtful scrawl 

Of war and courage and love and death, 

And then was suddenly nothing but sleep 

And tomorrow they marched to a two-months chasing 

Of Yankees running away like sheep 

And peace in time for the Macon racing. 

He got in his bed. Where the moonlight poured, 
It lay like frost on a sleeping sword. 



It was stuffy at night in the cabins, stuffy but warm. 

And smells are a matter of habit. So, if the air 

Was thick as black butter with the commingled smells 

Of greens and fried fat and field-sweat and heavy sleep, 

The walls were well-chinked, the low roof kept out the rain. 

Not like the tumble-down cabins at Zachary's place 

Where the field-hands lived all year on hominy-grits 

And a piece of spoiled pork at Christmas. 

But Zachary 

Was a mean man out of the Bottoms, no quality to him. 
Wingate was quality. Wingate cared for its own. 
A Wingate cabin was better than most such cabins, 
You might have called it a sty, had they set you there; 
A Middle Age serf might have envied the well-chinked walls. 
While as for its tenants then, being folk unversed 
In any law but the law of the Wingate name, 
They were glad to have it, glad for fire on the hearth, 
A roof from the dark-veined wind. 

Their bellies were war; 

66 



And full of food. They were heavy in love with each other. 
They liked their cabin and lying next to each other, 
Long nights of winter when the slow-burning pine-knots 
Danced ghosts and witches over the low, near ceiling, 
Short nights of summer, after the work of the fields, 
When the hot body aches with the ripened sweetness 
And the children and the new tunes are begotten together. 

"What you so wakeful for, black boy?" 

"Thinkin', woman." 

"You got no call to be thinkin', little black boy, 
Thinkin's a trouble, a h'ant lookin' over de shoulder, 
Set yo' head on my breas' and forget about thinkin'." 

"I got my head on yo' breas', and it's sof ' dere, woman, 
Sof ' and sweet as a mournin' out of de Scriptures, 
Sof as two Solomon doves. But I can't help thinkin'." 

"Ain't I good enough for you no more, black boy? 
Don' you love me no more dat you mus' keep thinkin'?" 

"You's better'n good to me and I loves you, woman, 
Till I feels like Meshuck down in de fiery furnace, 
Till I feels like God's own chile. But I keeps on thinkin', 
Wonderin' what I'd feel like if I was free." 

"Hush, black boy, hush for de Lord's sake!" 

"But listen, woman " 

"Hush yo'self, black boy, lean yo'self on my breas', 
Talk like that and paterollers'll git you, 
Swinge you all to bits with a blacksnake whip, 
Squinch-owl carry yo' talk to de paterollers, 
It ain't safe to talk like that." 

"I got to, woman, 
I got a f eelin* in niy heart." 

"Den you sot on dat feelin'! 
Never heard you talk so in all my born days! 
Ain't we got a good cabin here?" 

"Sho', we got a good cabin." 



"Ain't we got good vittles, ain't old Mistis kind to us?" 

"Sho' we got good vittles, and ole Mistis she's kind. 
Fse mighty fond of ole Mistis. 1 ' 

"Den what you talking 
You brash fool-nigger?" 

"I just got a feelin', woman. 
Ole Marse Billy, he's goin' away tomorrow, 
Marse Clay, he's goin' with him to fight de Yankees, 
All of 'em goin', yes suh." 

"And what if dey is?" 

"Well, sposin' de Yankees beats?" 

"Ain't you got no sense, 
nigger? 

Like to see any ole Yankees lick ole Marse Billy 
And young Marse Clay!" 

"Hi, woman, ain't dat de trufe!" 
-Well, den" 

"But I sees 'em all, jus' goin' and goin', 
Goin' to war like Joshua, goin' like David, 
And it makes me want to be free. Ain't you never thought 
At all about bein' free?" 

"Sho', co'se I thought of it. 
I always reckoned when ole Marse Billy died, 
Old Mistis mebbe gwine to set some of us free, 
Mebbe she will." 

"But we-uns gwine to be old den, 
We won't be young and have the use of our hands, 
We won't see our young 'uns growin' up free around us, 
We won't have the strength to hoe our own co'n ourselves, 
I want to be free, like me, while I got my strength." 

"You might be a lot worse off and not be free, 
What'd you do if ole man Zachary owned us?" 

"Kill him, I reckon." 

"Hush, black boy, for God's sake hush!" 

"I can't help it, woman. Dey ain't so many like him 
But what dey is is too pizen-mean to live. 
Can't you hear dat feelin' I got, woman? I ain't scared 
Of talk and de paterollers, and I ain't mean. 

68 



Fse mighty fond of ole Mistis and ole Marse Billy, 

Fse mighty fond of 'em all at de Big House, 

I wouldn't be nobody else's nigger for nothin'. 

But I hears 'em goin' away, all goin* away, 

With horses and guns and things, all stompin' and wavin', 

And I hears de chariot-wheels and de Jordan River, 

Rollin' and rollin' and rollin' thu' my sleep, 

And I wants to be free. I wants to see my chillun 

Growin' up free, and all bust out of Egypt! 

I wants to oe free like an eagle in de air, 

Like an eagle in de air." 



Iron-filings scattered over a dusty 
Map of crook-cornered States in yellow and blue. 
Little, grouped male and female iron-filings, 
Scattered over a patchwork-quilt whose patches 
Are the red-earth stuff of Georgia, the pine-bough green of Ver- 
mont. 

Here you are clustered as thick as a clump of bees 
In swarming time. The clumps make cities and towns. 
Here you are strewn at random, like single seeds 
Lost out of the wind's pocket. 

But now, but now, 

The thunderstone has fallen on your map 
And all the iron-filings shiver and move 
Under the grippings of that blinded force, 
The cold pull of the ash-and-cinder star. 

The map is vexed with the long battle-worms 
Of filings, clustered and moving. 

If it is 

An enemy of the sun who has so stolen 
Power from a burnt star to do this work, 
Let the bleak essence of the utter cold 
Beyond the last gleam of the most outpost light 
Freeze in his veins forever. 

But if it is 

A fault in the very metal of the heart, 
We and our children must acquit that fault 
With the old bloody wastage, or give up 
Playing the father to it. 

69 



vexed and strange, 

Salt-bitter, apple-sweet, strong-handed life! 
Your million lovers cast themselves like sea 
Against your mountainy breast, with a clashing noise 
And a proud clamor-and like sea recoil, 
Sucked down beneath the forefoot of the new 
Advancing surf. They feed the battle-worms, 
Not only War's, but in the second's pause 
Between the assaulting and the broken wave, 
The voices of the lovers can be heard, 
The sea-gull cry, 



Jake Diefer, the barrel-chested Pennsylvanian, 
Hand like a ham and arms that could wrestle a bull, 
A roast of a man, all solid meat and good fat, 
A slow-thought-chewing Clydesdale horse of a man, 
Roused out of his wife's arms. The dawn outside 
Was ruddy as his big cheeks. He yawned and stretched 
Gigantically, hawking and clearing his throat. 
His wife, hair tousled around her like tousled corn, 
Stared at him with sleep-blind eyes. 

"Juke, it ain't come morning, 
Already yet?" 

He nodded and started to dress. 
She burrowed deeper into the bed for a minute 
&nd then threw off the covers. 

They didn't say much 

Then, or at breakfast. Eating was something serious. 
But he looked around the big kitchen once or twice 
In a puzzled way, as if trying hard to remember it. 
She too, when she was buSy with the first batch 
Of pancakes, burnt one or two, because she was staring 
At the "SALT" on the salt-box, for no particular reason, 
The boy ate with them and didn't say a word, 
Being too sleepy. 

Afterwards, when the team 
Was hitched up and waiting, with the boy on the seat, 
Holding the reins till Jake was ready to take them, 
Jake didn't take them at once. 

The sun was up now, 
The spilt-milk-mist of first morning lay on the farm, 

70 



Jake looked at it all with those same mildly-puzzled eyes, 
The red barn, the fat rich fields just done with the winter, 
Just beginning the work of another year. 
The boy would have to do the rest of the planting. 

He blew on his hands and stared at his wife dumbly. 
He cleared his throat. 

"Well, good-by, Minnie," he said, 

"Don't you hire any feller for harvest without you write me, 
And if any more of those lightning-rodders come around, 
We don't want no more dum lightning-rods." 

He tried 

To think if there was anything else, but there wasn't. 
She suddenly threw her big, red arms around his neck, 
He kissed her with clumsy force. 

Then he got on the wagon 
And clucked to the horses as she started to cry. 



Up in the mountains where the hogs are thin 
And razorbacked, wild Indians of hogs, 
The laurel's green in Apriland if the nights 
Are cold as the cold cloud of watersmoke 
Above a mountain-spring, the midday sun 
Has heat enough in it to make you sweat. 

They are a curious and most native stock, 

The lanky men, the lost, forgotten seeds 

Spilled from the first great wave-march toward the West 

And set to sprout by chance in the deep cracks 

Of that hill-billy world of laurel-hells. 

They keep the beechwood-fiddle and the salt 

Old-fashioned ballad-English of our first 

Rowdy, corn-liquor-drinking, ignorant youth; 

Also the rifle and the frying-pan, 

The old feud-temper and the old feud-way 

Of thinking strangers better shot on sight 

But treating strangers that one leaves unshot 

With border-hospitality. 

The girls 
Have the brief-blooming, rhododendron-youth 

7' 



Of pioneer women, and the black-toothed age. 

And if you yearn to meet your pioneers, 

You'll nnd them there, the same men, inbred sons 

Of inbred sires perhaps, but still the same; 

A pioneer-island in a world that has 

No use for pioneers the unsplit rock 

Of Fundamentalism, calomel, 

Clan-virtues, clannish vices, fiddle-tunes 

And a hard God. 

They are our last frontier. 
They shot the railway-train when it first came, 
And when the Fords first came, they shot the Fords. 
It could not save them. They are dying now 
Or being educated, which is the same. 
One need not weep romantic tears for them, 
But when the last moonshiner buys his radio, 
And the last, lost, wild-rabbit of a girl 
Is civilized with a mail-order dress, 
Something will pass that was American 
And all the movies will not bring it back. 

They are misfit and strange in our new day, 
In Sixty-One they were not quite so strange, 
Before the Fords, before the day of the Fords . . . 

Luke Breckinridge, his rifle on his shoulder, 
Slipped through green forest alleys toward the town, 
A gawky boy with smoldering eyes, whose feet 
Whispered tne crooked paths like moccasins. 
He wasn't looking for trouble, going down, 
But he was on guard, as always. When he stopped 
To scoop some water in the palm of his hand 
From a sweet trickle between moss-grown rocks, 
You might have thought him careless for a minute, 
But when the snapped stick cracked six feet behind him 
He was all sudden rifle and hard eyes. 
The pause endured a long death-quiet instant, 
Then he knew who it was. 

"Hi, Jim," he said, 

Lowering his rifle. The green laurel-screen 
Hardly had moved, but Jim was there beside him. 
The cousins looked at each other. Their rifles seemed 
To look as well, with much the same taut silentness. 

72 



"Coin' to town, Luke?" 

"Uh-huh, goin' to town, 
You goin'?" 

"Looks as if I was goin'." 

"Looks 
As if you was after squirrels." 

"I might be. 

You goin' after squirrels?" "I might be, too." 
"Not so many squirrels near town." 

"No, reckon there's not." 



Jim hesitated. His gaunt hands caressed 

The smooth guard of his rifle. His eyes were sharp. 

"Might go along a piece together," he said. 

Luke didn't move. Their eyes clashed for a moment, 

Then Luke spoke, casually. 

"I hear the Kelceys 

Air goin' to fight in this here war," he said. 
Jim nodded slowly, "Yuh, I heerd that too." 
He watched Luke's trigger-hand. 

"I might be goin' 

Myself sometime," he said reflectively 
Sliding his own hand down. Luke saw the movement. 
"We-uns don't like the Kelceys much," he said 
With his eyes down to pinpoints. 

Then Jim smiled. 
'We-uns neither," he said. 

His hand slid back. 



They went along together after that 

But neither of them spoke for half-a-mile, 

Then finally, Jim said, half-diffidently, 

"You know who we air goin' to fight outside? 

I heard it was the British. Air that so?" 

"Hell, no," said Luke, with scorn. He puckered his brows. 

"Dunno's I rightly know just who they air." 

He admitted finally, "But 'tain't the British. 

It's some trash-lot of furriners, that's shore. 

They call 'em Yankees near as I kin make it, 

But they ain't Injuns neither." 

"Well," said Jim 

73 



o y, "Reckon it don't rightly matter 
Long as the Kelceys take the other side." 



It was noon when the company marched to the railroad-station. 
The town was ready for them. The streets were packed. 
There were flags and streamers and pictures of Lincoln and 

Hamlin. 

The bad little boys climbed up on the trees and yelled, 
The good little boys had clean paper-collars on, 
And swung big-eyed on white-painted wicket-gates, 
Wanting to yell, and feeling like Fourth of July. 
Somebody fastened a tin can full of firecrackers 
To a yellow dog's tail and sent him howling and racketing 
The length of the street. 

"There goes Jeff Davis!" said somebody, 
And everybody laughed, and the little boys 
Punched each other and squealed between fits of laughing 
"There goes Jeff Davis-lookit ole yellow Jeff Davis!" 
And then the laugh died and rose again in a strange 
Half -shrill, half-strangled unexpected shout 
As they heard the Hillsboro' Silver Cornet Band 
Swinging "John Brown's Body" ahead of the soldiers. 
/ have heard that soul of crowd go out in the queer 
Groan between laughter and tears that baffles the wise. 
I have heard that whanging band. 

"We'll hang Jeff Davis on a sour-apple tree." 

Double-roll on the snare-drums, double squeal of the fife, 

"We'll hang Jeff Davis on a sour-apple freer 

Clash of the cymbals zinging, throaty blare of cornets, 

"We'll hang Jeff Davis on a sour-apple treer 

"On to Richmond! On to Richmond! On to Richmond!" 

"Yeah! There they come! Yeah! Yeah!" 

And they came, the bearskin drum-major leading the band, 

Twirling his silver-balled baton with turkey-cock pomp, 

The cornet-blowers, the ranks. The drum-major was fine, 

But the little boys thought the captain was even finer, 

He looked just like a captain out of a book 

With his sword and his shoulder-straps and his discipline-face. 

He wasn't just Henry Fairfield, he was a captain, 

-Henry Fairfield worried about his sword, 

Hoping to God that he wouldn't drop his sword, 

74 



And wondering hotly whether his discipline-face 

Really looked disciplined or only peevish 

"Yeah! There they come! There's Jack! There's Charlie! Yeah! 

Yeah!" 

The color-guard with the stiff, new flapping flag, 
And the ranks and the ranks and the ranks, the amateur 
Blue, wavering ranks, in their ill-fitting tight coats, 
Shoulders galled already by their new guns, 
They were three-months' men, they had drilled in civilian 

clothes 

Till a week ago "There's Charlie! There's Hank, yeah, yeah!" 
"On to Richmond, boys! Three cheers for Abe Lincoln! 
Three cheers for the boys! Three groans for old Jeff Davis 
And the dirty Rebs!" 
"We'll hang Jeff Davis on a sour-apple tree!" 

Jack Ellyat, marching, saw between blue shoulders 
A blur of faces. They all were faces he knew, 
Old Mrs. Cobb with her wart and her Paisley shawl, 
Little George Freeman, the slim Tucker girls, 
All of them cheering and shouting and all of them strange 
Suddenly, different, faces he'd never seen. 
Faces somehow turned into one crowd-face. 
His legs went marching along all right but they felt 
Like somebody else's legs, his mind was sucked dry. 
It was real, they were going away, the town was cheering them. 
Henry Fairfield was marching ahead with his sword. 
Just as he'd thought about it a thousand times, 
These months but it wasn't the way that he'd thought about it. 
"On to Richmond! On to Richmond! On to Richmond!" 
There were Mother and Father and Jane and the house. 
Jane was waving a flag. He laughed and called to them. 
But his voice was stiff in his throat, not like his real voice. 
This, everything, it was too quick, too crowded, not Phaeton 
Charging his snarling horses at a black sea, 
But a numb, hurried minute with legs that marched 
Mechanically, feeling nothing at all. 
The white crowd-face the sweat on the red seamed neck 
Of the man ahead "On to Richmond!" blue shoulders bobbing 
Flags cheering somebody kissed him Ellen Baker- 
She was crying wet mouth of tears didn't want her to kiss him 
Why did she want to the station halt Mother and Jane. 

75 



The engineer wore a flag in his coat-lapel. 

The engine had U 0n to Richmond!" chalked all over it. 

Nothing to say now-Mother looks tired to death- 

I wish I weren't going no, I'm glad that I am 

The damn band's playing "John Brown's Body" again, 

I wish they'd stop it! I wish to God we could start 

There-/0$e up, menl-oh my God, they've let Ned out! 

I told them for God's sake to lock him up in the cellar, 

But they've let him out maybe he got out by himself 

He's got too much sense-"No, down, Ned! Down, good dog! 

Down, I tell you!-" 

"Good-by, boys! Good-by! We'll hang Jeff 
Davis!" 

The engine squealed, the packed train started to move. 
Ned wanted to come, but they wouldn't let him come. 
They had to kick him away, he couldn't see why. 



In another column, footsore Curly Hatton 

Groaned at the thought of marching any more. 

His legs weren't built for marching and they knew it, 

Butterball-legs under a butterball-body. 

The plump good-tempered face with its round eyes 

Blue and astonished as a china-doll's, 

Stared at the road ahead and hated it 

Because there was so much of it ahead 

And all of it so dry. 

He didn't mind 

The rest so much. He didn't even mind 
Being the one sure necessary joke 
Of the whole regiment. He'd always been 
A necessary joke-fat people were. 
Fat babies always were supposed to laugh. 
Fat little boys had fingers poked at them. 
And, even with the road, and being fat, 
You had a good time in this funny war, 
Considering everything, and one thing most. 

His mind slipped back two months. He saw himself 
In the cool room at Weatherby's Retreat 
1 Where all the girls were sewing the new star 
In the new flag for the first volunteers. 



He hadn't thought of fighting much before, 

He was too easy-going. If Virginia 

Wanted secession, that was her affair. 

It seemed too bad to break the Union up 

After some seventy years of housekeeping. 

But he could understand the way you'd feel 

If you were thin and angry at the Yanks. 

He knew a lot of Yankees that he liked, 

But then he liked most people, 'on the whole 

Although most girls and women made him shy. 

He loved the look of them and the way they walked, 

He loved their voices and their little sweet mouths, 

But something always seemed to hold him back, 

When he was near them. 

He was too fat, too friendly, 
Too comfortable for dreams, too easy-shy. 
The porcelain dolls stood on the mantelpiece, 
Waiting such slim and arrant cavaliers 
As porcelain dolls must have to make them proud, 
They had no mercy for fat Cupidons, 
Not even Lucy, all the years before, 
And Lucy was the porcelain belle of the world! 
And so when she said. 

And he couldn't believe 
At first. 

But she was silver and fire and steel 
That day of the new stars and the new flag, 
Fire and bright steel for the invading horde 
And silver for the men who drove them off, 
And so she sewed him in her flag and heart: 
Though even now, he couldn't believe she had 
In spite of all the letters and the socks 
And kissing him before he went away. 
But it was so the necessary joke 
Made into a man at last, a man in love 
And loved by the most porcelain belle of the world. 
And he was ready to march to the world's end 
And fight ten million Yanks to keep it so. 

"Oh God, after we're married-the cool night 

Over the gardenand Lucy sitting there 

In her blue dress while the big stars come out." 

77 



His face was funny with love and footsore pride, 
The man beside him saw it, gave a laugh, 
"Curly's thinking it's time for a julep, boys! 
Hot work for fat men, Curly!" 



The crows fly over the Henry House, through the red sky of 

evening, cawing, 
Judith Henry, bedridden, watches them through the clouded 

glass of old sight. 

(July is hot in Virginia a parched, sun-leathered farmer sawing 
Dry sticks with a cicada-saw that creaks all the lukewarm night.) 

But Judith Henry's hands are cool in spite of all midsummer's 
burning, 

Cool, muted and frail with age like the smoothness of old yellow 
linen, the cool touch of old, dulled rings. 

Her years go past her in bed like falling waters and the waters 
of a millwheel turning, 

And she is not ill content to lie there, dozing and calm, remem- 
bering youth, to the gushing of those watersprings. 

She has known Time like the cock of red dawn and Time like a 

tired clock slowing; 
She has seen so many faces and bodies, young and then old, so 

much life, so many patterns of death and birth. 
She knows that she must leave them soon. She is not afraid to 

flow with that river's flowing. 
But the wrinkled earth still hangs at her sufficed breast like a 

weary child, she is unwilling to go while she still has milk for 

the earth. 

She will go in her sleep, most likely, she has the sunk death-pleep 

of the old already, 
(War-bugles by the Potomac, you cannot reach her ears with 

your brass lyric, piercing the crowded dark.) 
It does not matter, the farm will go on, the farm and the children 

bury her in her best dress, the plow cut its furrow, steady, 
(War-horses of the Shenandoah, why should you hurry so fast 

to tramp the last ashy fire from so feeble and retired a spark?) 

78 



There is nothing here but a creek and a house called the Henry 
House, a farm and a bedridden woman and people with coun- 
try faces. 

There is nothing for you here. And La Haye Sainte was a quiet 
farm and the mile by it a quiet mile. 

And Lexington was a place to work in like any one of a dozen 
dull, little places. 

And they raised good crops at Blenheim till the soldiers came 
and spoiled the crops for a while. 

The red evening fades into twilight, the crows have gone to 

their trees, the slow, hot stars are emerging. 
It is cooler now on the hilland in the camps it is cooler, where 

the untried soldiers find their bivouac hard. 
Where, from North and South, the blind wrestlers of armies 

converge on the forgotten house like the double pincers of an 

iron claw converging. 
And Johnston hurries his tired brigades from the Valley, to 

bring them up in time before McDowell can fall on Beauregard. 



The congressmen came out to see Bull Run, 

The congressmen who like free shows and spectacles. 

They brought their wives and carriages along, 

They brought their speeches and their picnic-lunch, 

Their black constituent-hats and their devotion: 

Some even brought a little whiskey, too, 

(A little whiskey is a comforting thing 

For congressmen in the sun, in the heat of the sun.) 

The bearded congressmen with orator's mouths, 

The fine, clean-shaved, Websterian congressmen, 

Come out to see the gladiator's show 

Like Iliad gods, wrapped in the sacred cloud 

Of Florida-water, wisdom and bay-rum, 

Of free cigars, democracy and votes, 

That lends such portliness to congressmen. 

(The gates fly wide, the bronze troop marches out 

Into the stripped and deadly circus-ring, 

"Ave, Caesar!" the cry goes up, and shakes 

The purple awning over Caesar's seat.) 

"Ave y Caesar! Ave, O congressmen, 

We who are about to die, 

Salute you, congressmen!" 

79 



Eleven States, 

New York, Rhode Island, Maine, 

Connecticut, Michigan and the gathered West, 

Salute you, congressmen! 

The red-fezzed Fire-Zouaves, flamingo-bright, 

Salute you, congressmen! 

The raw boys still in their civilian clothes, 

Salute you, congressmen! 

The second Wisconsin in its homespun grey, 

Salutes you, congressmen! 

The Garibaldi Guards in cocksfeather hats, 

Salute you, congressmen! 

The Second Ohio with their Bedouin-caps, 

Salutes you, congressmen! 

Sherman's brigade, grey-headed Heintzelman, 

Ricketts' and Griffin's doomed and valiant guns, 

The tough, hard-bitten regulars of Sykes 

Who covered the retreat with the Marines, 

Burnside and Porter, Willcox and McDowell, 

All the vast, unprepared, militia-mass 

Of boys in red and yellow Zouave pants, 

Who carried peach-preserves inside their kits 

And dreamt of being generals overnight; 

The straggling companies where every man 

Was a sovereign and a voter the slack regiments 

Where every company marched a different step; 

The clumsy and unwieldy-new brigades 

Not yet distempered into battle-worms; 

The whole, huge, innocent army, ready to fight 

But only half-taught in the tricks of fighting, 

Ready to die like picture-postcard boys 

While fighting still had banners and a sword 

And just as ready to run in blind mob-panic, 

Salutes you with a vast and thunderous cry, 

Ave, Caesar, ave, O Congressmen, 

Ave, O Iliad gods who forced the fight! 

You bring your carriages and your picnic-lunch 

To cheer us in our need. 

You come with speeches, 
Your togas smell of heroism and bay^rum. 
You are the people and the voice of the people 
And, when the fight is done, your carnages 

80 



Will bear you safely, through the streaming rout 
Of broken troops, throwing their guns away. 
You come to see the gladiator's show, 
But from a high place, as befits the wise: 
You will not see the long windrows of men 
Strewn like dead pears before the Henry House 
Or the stone- wall of Jackson breathe its parched 
Devouring breath upon the failing charge, 
Ave, Caesar, ave, O congressmen, 
Cigar-smoke wraps you in a godlike cloud, 
And if you are not to depart from us 
As easily and divinely as you came, 
It hardly matters. 

Fighting Joe Hooker once 
Said with that tart, unbridled tongue of his 
That made so many needless enemies, 
"Who ever saw a dead cavalryman?" 

The phrase 

Stings with a needle sharpness, just or not, 
But even he was never heard to say, 
"Who ever saw a dead congressman?" 
And yet, he was a man with a sharp tongue. 



The day broke, hot and calm. In the little farm-houses 

That are scattered here and there in that rolling country 

Of oak and rail-fence, crooked creeks and second-growth pine, 

The early-risers stand looking out of the door 

At the long dawn-shadows for a minute or two 

Shadows are always cool but the blue-glass sky 

Is fusing with heat even now, heat that prickles the hairs 

On the back of your hand. 

They sigh and turn back to the house. 
"Looks like a scorcher today, boys!" 

They think already 
Of the cool jug of vinegar-water down by the hedge. 

Judith Henry wakened with the first light, 

She had the short sleep of age, and the long patience. 

She waited for breakfast in vague, half-drowsy wonderment 

At various things. Yesterday some men had gone by 

And stopped for a drink of water. She'd heard they were soldiers. 

81 



She couldn't, be sure. It had seemed to worry the folks 
But it took more than soldiers and such to worry her now. 
Young people always worried a lot too much. 
No soldiers that had any sense would fight around here. 
She'd had a good night. Today would be a good day. 



A mile and a half away, before the Stone Bridge, 
A Union gun opened fire. 



Six miles away, McDowell had planned his battle 

And planned it well, as far as such things can be planned 

A feint at one point, a flanking march at another 

To circle Beauregard's left and crumple it up. 

There were Johnston's eight thousand men to be reckoned with 

But Patterson should be holding them, miles away, 

And even if they slipped loose from Patterson's fingers 

The thing might still be done. 

If you take a flat map 

And move wooden blocks upon it strategically, 
The thing looks well, the blocks behave as they should. 
The science of war is moving live men like blocks. 
And getting the blocks into place at a fixed moment. 
But it takes time to mold your men into blocks 
And flat maps turn into country where creeks and gullies 
Hamper your wooden squares. They stick in the brush, 
They are tired and rest, they straggle after ripe blackberries, 
And you cannot lift them up in your hand and move them. 
A string of blocks curling smoothly around the left 
Of another string of blocks and crunching it up 
It is all so clear in the maps, so clear in the mind, 
But the orders are slaw, the men in the blocks are slow 
To move, when they start they take too long on the way 
The General loses his stars and the block-men die 
In unstrategic defiance of martial law 
Because still used to just being men, not block-parts. 
McDowell was neither a fool nor a fighting fool; 
He knew his dice, he knew both armies unready, 
But congressmen and nation wanted a battle 
And he felt their hands on his shoulders, forcing his play. 

82 



He knew well enough when he played that he played for his head 

As Beauregard and Johnston were playing for theirs, 

So he played with the skill he had and does not lie 

Under a cupolaed gloom on Riverside Drive. 

Put Grant in his place that day and with those same dice, 

Grant might have done little better. 

Wherefore, now, 

Irvin McDowell, half-forgotten general, 
Who tried the game and found no luck in the game 
And never got the chance to try it again 

But did not backbite the gamblers who found more luck in it 
Then or later in double-edged reminiscences; 
If any laurel can grow in the sad-colored fields 
Between Bull Run and Cub Run and Cat Hairpin Bend 
You should have a share of it for your hardworking ghost 
Because you played as you could with your cold, forced dice 
And neither wasted your men like the fighting fools 
Nor posed as an injured Napoleon twenty years later. 
Meanwhile, McDowell watched his long flanking column 
File by, on the Warrentown pike, in the first dawn-freshness. 
"Gentlemen, that's a big force," he said to his staff. 



A full rifled battery begins to talk spitefully to Evans' Caro- 
linians. The grey skirmish-line, thrown forward on the other 
side of Bull Run, ducks its head involuntarily as a locomotive 
noise goes by in the air above it, and waits for a flicker of blue 
in the scrub-oaks ahead. 



Beauregard, eager sabreur, whose heart was a French 
Print of a sabretasche-War with "La Gloire" written under it, 
Lovable, fiery, bizarre, picturesque as his name, 
Galloped toward Mitchell's Ford with bald, quiet Joe Johnston, 
The little precise Scotch-dominie of a general, 
Stubborn as flint, in advance not always so lucky, 
In retreat more dangerous than a running wolf- 
Slant shadow, sniffing the traps and the poisoned meat, 
And going on to pause and slash at the first 
Unwary dogs before the hunters came up. 
Grant said of him once, 

83 



"I was always anxious with Joe Johnston in front of me, 

I was never half so anxious in front of Lee." 

He kissed his friends in the Nelson-way weVe forgotten, 

He could make men cheer him after six-weeks retreating. 

Another man said of him, after the war was done, 

Still with that puzzled comparison we find 

When Lee, the reticent sword, comes into the question, 

"Yes, Lee was a great general, a good man; 

But I never wanted to put my arms round his neck 

As I used to want to with Johnston."- 

The two sayings 

Make a good epitaph for so Scotch a ghost, 
Or would if they were all 

They are not quite all, 
He had to write his reminiscences, too, 
And tell what he would have done if it had not been 
For Davis and chance and a dozen turns of the wheel. 
That was the thistle in him the other strain- 
But he was older then. 

I'd like to have seen him 
That day as he galloped along beside Beauregard, 
Sabreur and dominie planning the battle-lines. 
They'd ordered Jackson up to the threatened left 
But Beauregard was sure that the main assault 
Would come on the right. He'd planned it so a good plan- 
But once the blocks start moving, they keep on moving. 



The hands of the scuffed brown clock in the kitchen of the 

Henry House point to nine-forty-five. 
Judith Henry does not hear the clock, she hears in the sky a 

vast dim roar like piles of heavy lumber crashingly falling. 
They are carrying her in her bed to a ravine below the Sudley 

Road, maybe she will be safe there, maybe the battle will go 

by and leave her alive. 
The crows have been scared from their nests by the strange 

crashing, they circle in the sky like a flight of blackened leaves, 

wheeling and calling. 



Back at Centerville, there are three-months' men, 
A Pennsylvania regiment, a New York Battery. 



They hear the spent wave of the roar of the opening guns, 
But they are three-months' men, their time is up today. 
They would have fought yesterday or a week ago, 
But then they were still enlistedtoday they are not 
Their time is up, and there can't be much use or sense 
In fighting longer than youVe promised to fight. 
They pack: up their things and decide they'd better go home, 
And quietly march away from that gathering roar. 



Luke Breckinridge, crouched by the Warrentown pike, 
Saw stuffed dolls in blue coats and baggy trousers 
Go down like squirrels under the rifle-cracks. 
His eyes glowed as a bullet ripped his sleeve 
And he felt well. Armies weren't such a much, 
Too damn many orders, too damn much saluting, 
Too many damn officers you weren't allowed 
To shoot when they talked mean to you because 
They were your officers, which didn't make sense. 
But this was something he could understand, 
Except for those dirty stinkers of big guns, 
It wasn't right to shoot you with big guns 
But it was a good scrap except for that- 
Carried a little high, then . . . change it ... good . . . 
Though men were hard to miss when you were used 
To squirrels. His eyes were narrow. He hardly heard 
The officer's voice. The woods in front of him 
Were full of Kelceys he was going to kill, 
Blue-coated Kelcey dolls in baggy trousers. 
It was a beautiful and sufficing sight. 



The first blue wave of Burnside is beaten back from the pike to 
stumble a little way and rally against Porter's fresh brigade. 

Bee and Bartow move down from the Henry House plateau- 
grey and butternut lines trampling the bullet-cut oatc-leaves, 
splashing across Young's Branch. 

Tall, black-bearded Bee rides by on his strong horse, his long 
black hair fluttering. 

Imboden's red-shirted gunners unlimber by the Henry House 

85 



to answer the Parrotts and howitzers of Ricketts and Griffin. 
The air is a sheet of iron, continually and dully shaken. 



Shippy, the little man with the sharp rat-eyes, 
Saw someone run in front of them waving a sword; 
Then they were going along toward a whining sound 
That ran like cold spring-water along his spine. 
God, he was in for it now! His sharp rat-eyes 
Flickered around and about him hopelessly. 
If a fellow could only drop out, if a fellow could only 
Pretend he was hurt a little and then drop out 
Behind a big, <safe oak-treeno use no use- 
He was in for it, now. He couldn't get away. 
"Come on, boys come on, men clean them out with the 

bayonet!" 

He saw a rail-fence ahead, a quiet rail-fence, 
But men were back of it grey lumps a million bees 
Stinging the air Oh Jesus, the* corporal's got it- 
He couldn't shoot, even he ws too scared to shoot- 
Bis legs took him on he couldn't stop his legs 
Or the weak urine suddenly trickling down them. 



Curly Hatton, toiling along the slow 

Crest of the Henry Hill, over slippery ground, 

Glanced at the still-blue sky that lay so deep 

Above the little pines, so pooled, so calm. 

He thought, with the slow drowsiness of fatigue, 

Of Lucy feeding the white, greedy swans 

On the blue pool by Weatherby's Retreat. 

They stretched their necks, and clattered with their wings. 

There was a fragrante sleeping in her hair. 

"Close up, folksdon't straggle we're going into action!" 

His butterball-legs moved faster-Lucy Lucy- 



Bee and Bartow's brigades are broken in their turn it is fight 
and run away-fight and run away, all day-the day will go to 

86 



whichever of the untried wrestlers can bear the pain of the grips 
an instant longer than the other. 

Beauregard and Johnston hurry toward the firing McDowell 
has already gone 

The chessplayers have gone back to little pieces on the shaken 
board little pieces that cannot see the board as a whole. 

The block-plan is lost there is no plan any more only the 
bloodstained, fighting blocks, the bloodstained and blackened 
men. 



Jack Ellyat heard the guns with a knock at his heart 

When he first heard them. They were going to be in it, soon. 

He wondered how it would feel. They would win, of course, 

But how would it feel? He'd never killed anything much. 

Ducks and rabbits, but ducks and rabbits weren't men. 

He'd never even seen a man killed, a man die, 

Except Uncle Amos, and Uncle Amos was old. 

He saw a red sop spreading across the close 

Feathers of a duck's breast it had been all right, 

But now it made him feel sick for a while, somehow. 

Then they were down on the ground, and they were firing, 

And that was all right just fire as you fired at drill. 

Was anyone firing at them? He couldn't tell. 

There was a stone bridge. Were there rebels beyond the bridge? 

The shot he was firing now might go and kill rebels 

But it didn't feel like it. 

A man down the line 

Fell and rolled flat, with a minor coughing sound 
And then was quiet. Ellyat felt the cough 
In the pit of his stomach a minute. 
But, after that, it was just like a man falling down. 
It was all so calm except for their guns and the distant 
Shake in the air of cannon. No more men were hit, 
And, after a while, they all got up and marched on. 
If Rebels had been by the bridge, the rebels were gone, 
And they were going on somewhere, you couldn't say where, 
Just marching along the way that they always did. 
The only funny thing was, leaving the man 
Who had made that cough, back there in the trampled grass 
With the red stain sopping through the blue of his coat 

87 



Like the stain on a duck's breast. He hardly knew the man 
But it felt funny to leave him just lying there. 



The wreckage of Bee, Bartow and Evans* commands streams 
back into a shallow ravine below a little wood broken blocks 
hammered into splinters by war two thousand confused men 
reeling past their staggering flags and the hoarse curses and 
rallying cries of their officers, like sheep in a narrow run. 

Bee tries to halt them furiously he stands up in his stirrups, 
tree-tall, while the blue flood of the North trickles over the 
stream and pours on and on. 

He waves his sword the toyish glitter sparkles he points to 
a grey dyke at the top of the ravine a grey dyke of musket- 
holding Virginians, silent and ready. 

"Look, men, there's Jackson's brigade! It stands there like a 
stone wall. Rally behind the Virginians!" 

They rally behind them Johnston and Beauregard are there 
the Scotch dominie plucks a flag and carries it forward to 
rally the Fourth Alabama the French hussar-sword rallies them 
with bursting rockets of oratory his horse is shot under him, 
but he mounts again. 

And the grey stone wall holds like a stiff dyke while the tired 
men get their breath behind it and the odd, lemon-sucking, 
ex-professor of tactics who saw John Brown hung in his carpet- 
slippers and prayed a Presbyterian prayer for his damned soul, 
has a new name that will last as long as the face they cut for 
him on Stone Mountain, and has the same clang of rock against 
the chisel-blade. 



Judith Henry, Judith Henry, they have moved you back at 
last, in doubt and confusion, to the little house where 
you know every knothole by heart. 

It is not safe, but now there is no place safe, you are between the 
artillery and the artillery, and the incessant noise comes 
to your dim ears like the sea-roar within a shell where 
you are lying. 

The walls of the house are riddled, the brown clock in the kitchen 
gouged by a bullet, a jar leaks red preserves on the cup- 
board shelf where the shell-splinter came and tore the 
cupboard apart. 

88 



The casual guns do not look for you, Judith Henry, they find 
you in passing merely and touch you only a little, but the 
touch is enough to give your helpless body five sudden 
wounds and leave you helplessly dying. 



Wingate gentled Black Whistle's pawing 

With hand and wisdom and horseman's play 

And listened anew to the bulldogs gnawing 

Their bone of iron, a mile away. 

There was a wood that a bonfire crowned 

With thick dark smoke without flame for neighbor, 

And the dull, monotonous, heavy sound 

Of a hill or a woman in too-long labor, 

But that was all for the Black Horse Troop 

And had been all since the day's beginning, 

That stray boy beating his metal hoop 

And the tight-lipped wonder if they were winning. 

Wainscott Bristol, behind his eyes, 

Was getting in bed with a sweet-toothed wench, 

Huger Shepley felt for his dice 

And Stuart Cazenove swore in French 

"Mille diables and Yankee blood! 

How long are we going to stick in the mud?" 

While a Cotter hummed with a mocking sigh, 

" 'If you want a good time, jine the cavalry!' " 

"Stuart's in it, Wade Hampton's in it." 

"The Yanks'll quit in another minute!" 

"General Beau's just lost us!" 

"Steady!" 

"And he won't find us until he's ready!" 
"It must be twowe've been here since six." 
"It's Virginia up to her old-time tricks! 
They never diet trust a Georgia man, 
But Georgia'll fight while Virginia can!" 

The restless talk was a simmering brew 
That made the horses restless too; 
They stamped and snuffled and pricked their ears- 
There were cheers, off somewhere but which side's cheers? 
Had the Yankees whipped? Were the Yankees breaking? 



The whole troop grumbled and wondered, aching 

For fighting or neeing or fornicating 

Or anything else except this bored waiting. 

An aide rode up on a sweating mare 

And they glowered at him with hostile stare. 

He had been in it and they had not. 

He had smelt the powder and heard the shot, 

And they hated his soul and his martial noise 

With the envious hate of little boys. 

Then "Yaaih! Yaaih!" 

and Wingate felt 

The whole troop lift like a lifted dart 
And loosened the sabre at his belt, 
And felt his chest too small for his heart. 



Curly Hatton was nothing any more 

But a dry throat and a pair of burnt black hands 

That held a hot gun he was always firing 

Though he no longer remembered why he fired. 

They ran up a cluttered hill and took hacked ground 

And held it for a while and fired for a while, 

And then the blue men came and they ran away, 

To go back, after a while, when the blue men ran. 

There was a riddled house and a crow in a tree, 

There was uneven ground. It was hard to run. 

The gun was heavy and hot. There once had been 

A person named Lucy and a flag and a star 

And a cane chair beside wistarias 

Where a nigger brought you a drink. These had cea?ed to exist 

There was only very hot sun and being thirsty. 

Yellscrashings screams from black lips a dead, tattered crow 

In a tattered tree. There had once been a person named Lucy 

Who had had an importance. There was none of her now. 

Up the hill again. Damn tired of running up hill. 
And then he found he couldn't run any more, 
He had to fall down and be sick. Even that was hard, 
Because somebody near kept making a squealing noise 
The dolefully nasty noise of a badly-hurt dog. 

QO 



It got on his nerves'and he tried to say something to it, 
But it was he who made it, so he couldn't stop it. 



Jack Ellyat, going toward the battle again, 

Saw the other side of the hill where Curly was lying, 

Saw, for a little while, the two battered houses, 

The stuffed dead stretched in numb, disorderly postures, 

And heard for a while again that whining sound 

That made you want to duck, and feel queer if you did. 

To him it was .noise and smoke and the powder-taste 

And, once and again, through the smoke, for a moment seen, 

Small, monstrous pictures, gone through the brain like light, 

And yet forever bitten into the brain; 

A marsh, a monstrous arras of live and dead 

Still shaking under the thrust of the weaver's hand, 

The crowd of a deadly fair. 

Then, orders again. 
And they were going away from the smoke once more. 

The books say "Keyes' brigade made a late and weak 
Demonstration in front of the Robinson house 
And then withdrew to the left, by flank, down Young's Branch, 
Taking no further part in the day." 

To Jack Ellyat 

It was a deadly fair in a burning field 
Where strange crowds rushed to and fro and strange drunkards 

lay 

Sprawled in a stupor deeper than wine or sleep, 
A whining noise you shrank from and wanted to duck at, 
And one dead cough left behind them in the tall grass 
With the slow blood sopping its clothes like the blood on a shot 

duck's breast. 



Imboden is wounded, Jackson is shot through the hand, the 
guns of Ricketts and Griffin, on the Henry House plateau, are 
taken and retaken; the gunners shot down at their guns while 
they hold their fire, thinking the advancing Thirty-Third Vir- 
ginia is one of their own regiments, in the dimness of the battle- 
cloud. 

91 



It is nearly three o'clock the South gathers for a final charge 
on the left, Elzey's brigade, new-come from the Shenandoah, 
defiles through the oaks near the Sudley Road to reinforce the 
grey wrestlerthe blue wrestler staggers and goes back, on 
unsteady heels. 

The charge sweeps the plateau Bartow is killed, black-haired 
Bee mortally wounded, but the charge goes on. 

For a moment, the Union line is a solid crescent again a 
crescent with porcupine-pricks of steel and then a crescent of 
sand and then spilt sand, streaming away. 

There is no panic at first. There is merely a moment when 
men have borne enough and begin to go home. The panic comes 
later, when they start to jostle each other. 

Jefferson Davis, riding from Manassas, reaches the back-wash 
of the battle. A calm grey-bearded stranger tells him calmly 
that the battle is lost and the South defeated. But he keeps on, 
his weak eyes stung with the dust, a picture, perhaps, of a Plutarch 
death on a shield in his schooled mind and is in time to see the 
last blue troops disappear beyond Bull Run, and hear the last 
sour grumble of their guns. 



Judith Henry, Judith Henry, your body has born its ghost at 
last, there are no more pictures of peace or terror left in the 
broken machine of the brain that was such a cunning pic- 
ture-maker: 

Terrified ghost, so rudely dishouscd by such casual violence, be 

at rest; there are others dishoused in this falling night, the 

falling night is a sack of darkness, indifferent as Saturn to 

wars or generals, indifferent to shame or victory. 
War is a while but peace is a while and soon enough the earth- 
colored hands of the earth-workers will scoop the last buried 
shells and the last clotted bullet-slag from the racked em- 
bittered acre, 

And the rustling visitors drive out fair Sundays to look at the 
monument near the rebuilt house, buy picture postcards and 
wonder dimly what you were like when you lived and what 
you thought when you knew you were going to die. 



Wingate felt a frog in his throat 

As he patted Black Whistle's reeking coat 

92 



And reined him in for a minute's breath. 

He was hot as the devil and tired to death, 

And both were glad for the sun in the West 

And a panting second of utter rest, 

While Wingate's mind went patching together 

Like a cobbler piecing out scraps or leather 

The broken glimmers of what they'd done 

Since the sun in the West was a rising sun, 

The long, bored hours of shiftless waiting 

And that single instant of pure, fierce hating 

When the Charge came down like a cataract 

On a long blue beach of broken sand 

And Thought was nothing but all was Act 

And the sabre seemed to master the hand. 

Wainscott Bristol, a raging terrier 

Killing the Yankee that shot Phil Ferrier 

With a cut that spattered the bloody brains 

Over his saddle and bridle-reins, 

One Cotter cursing, the other praying, 

And both of them slashing like scythes of slaying, 

Stuart Cazenove singing "Lord Randall" 

And Howard Brooke as white as a candle, 

While Father fought like a fiend in satin, 

And killed as he quoted tag-ends of Latin, 

The prisoners with their sick, dazed wonder 

And the mouths of children caught in a blunder 

And over it all, the guns, the thunder, 

The pace, the being willing to die, 

The stinging color of victory. 

He remembered it all like a harsh, tense dream. 
It had a color. It had a gleam. 
But he had outridden and lost the rest 
And he was alone with the blpody West 
And a trampled road, and a black hill-crest. 

The road and the bushes all about 
Were cluttered with relics of Yankee rout, 
Haversacks spilling their shirts and socks, 
A burst canteen and a cartridge-box. 
Rifles and cups trampled underfoot, 
A woman's locket, a slashed black boot 

93 



Stained and oozing along the slash 
And a ripe pear crushed to a yellow mash. 
Who had carried the locket and munched the pear, 
And why was a dead cat lying there, 
Stark and grinning, a furry sack, 
With a red flannel tongue and a broken back? 
You didn't fight wars with a tabby-cat. . . . 
He found he was telling the Yankees that, 
They couldn't hear him of course, but still . . . 
He shut his eyes for a minute until 
He felt less dizzy. There, that was better, 
And the evening wind was chilly and keen 
He'd have to write Mother some sort of letter 
He'd promised Amanda a Yank canteen, 
But he didn't feel like getting it here, 
Where that dead cat snickered from ear to ear- 
Back in the pinewoods, clear and far, 
A bugle sang like a falling star. 
He shivered, turned Black Whistle around 
And galloped hastily toward the sound. 



Curly Hatton opened his eyes again. 

A minute ago he had been marching, marching, 

Forever up and down enormous hills 

While his throat scratched with thirst and something howled- 

But then there was a clear minute and he was lying 

In a long, crowded, strangely-churchly gloom 

Where lanterns bobbed like marshlights in a swamp 

And there was a perpetual rustling noise 

Of dry leaves stirred by a complaining wind. 

No, they were only voices of wounded men. 

"Water. Water. Water. Water. Water." 

He heard the rain on the roof and sucked his lips. 

"Water. Water. Water. Water. Water." 

Oh, heavy sluices of dark, sweet, Summer rain, 

Pour down on me and wash me free again, 

Cleanse me of battles, make my flesh smell sweet, 

I am so sick of thirst, so tired of pain, 

So stale with wounds and the heat! 

Somebody went by, a doctor with red sleeves; 

94 



He stared at the red sleeves and tried to speak 

But wheij he spoke, he whispered. This was a church. 

He could see a dim altar now and a shadow-pulpit. 

He was wounded. They had put the wounded men in a church. 

Lucy's face came to him a minute and then dissolved, 

A drowned face, ebbing away with a smile on its mouth. 

He had meant to marry that face in another church. 

But he was dying instead. It was strange to die. 



All night from the hour of three, the dead man's hour, the rain 
falls in heavy gusts, in black irresistible streams as if the whole 

sky were falling in one wet huddle. 

All night, living and dead sleep under it, without moving, on 

the neld; the surgeons work in the church; the wounded moan; 

the dissevered fragments of companies and regiments look 

for each other, trying to come together. 

In the morning, when the burial-parties go out, the rain is still 

falling, damping the powder of the three rounds fired over the 

grave; before the grave is well-dug, the bottom of the grave 

is a puddle. 

All day long the Southern armies bury their dead to the sodden 
drums of the rain; all day the bugle calls a hoarse-throated 
"Taps"; the bugler lets the water run from his bugle- 
mouth and wipes it clean again and curses the rainy 
weather. , 

All night the Union army fled in retreat 

Like horses scared by a shadow a stumbling flood 

Of panicky men who had been brave for a while 

And might be brave again on another day 

But now were merely children chased by the night 

And each man tainting his neighbor with the same 

Blind fear. 

When men or horses begin to run 
Like that, they keep on running till they tire out 
Unless a strong hand masters a bridle-rein. 
Here there was no hand to master, no rein to clutch, 
Where the riderless horses kicked their way through the crowd 
And the congressmen's carriages choked Cat Hairpin Bend. 
Sykes and the regulars covered the retreat, 
And a few brigades were kept in some sort of order, 
But the rest They tried to stop them at Centerville. 

95 



McDowell and his tired staff held a haggard conference. 
But before the officers could order retreat 
The men were walking away. 

They had fought and lost. 

They were going to Washington, they were going back 
To their tents and their cooking-fires and their letters from Susie. 
They were going back home to Maine or Vermont or Ohio, 
And they didn't care who knew it, and that was that. 

Meanwhile, on the battlefield, Johnston and Beauregard, 

Now joined by the dusty Davis, found themselves 

As dazed by their victory as their foes by defeat. 

They had beaten one armed mob with another armed mob 

And Washington was theirs for the simple act 

Of stretching a hand to the apple up on the bough, 

If they had known. But they could not know it then. 

They too saw spectres unbroken Union reserves 

Moving to cut their supply-line near Manassas. 

They called back the pursuit, such scattered pursuit as it was. 

Their men were tired and disordered. The chance went by 

While only the stiff-necked Jackson saw it clear 

As a fighting-psalm or a phrase in Napoleon's tactics. 

He said to the surgeon who was binding his wound, 

With a taciturn snap, "Give me ten thousand fresh troops 

And I will be in Washington by tomorrow." 

But they could not give him the troops while there yet was time. 

He had three days' rations cooked for the Stonewall Brigade 

And dourly awaited the order that never came. 

He had always been at God's orders, and God had used him 

As an instrument in winning a certain fight. 

Now, if God saw fit to give him the men and guns, 

He would take Washington for the glory of God. 

If He didn't, it was God's will and not to be questioned. 

Meanwhile he could while the hours of waiting away 
By seeing the Stonewall Brigade was properly fed, 
Endeavoring, with that rigid kindness of his 
To show Imboden his error in using profanity 
-In the heat of battle many things might be excused, 
But nothing excused profanity, even then 
And writing his Pastor at Lexington a letter 
Enclosing that check for the colored Sunday-school 



Which he'd promised, and, being busy, had failed to send. 
There is not one word of Bull Run in all that letter 
Except the mention of "a fatiguing day's service/' 
It would not have occurred to Jackson there might have been. 



Walt Whitman, unofficial observer to the cosmos, reads of the 
defeat in a Brooklyn room. The scene rises before him, more real 
than the paper he stares upon. He sees the defeated army pouring 
along Pennsylvania Avenue in the drizzling rain, a few regiments 
in good order, marching in silence, with lowering faces the rest a 
drenched, hungry mob that plods along on blistered feet and falls 
asleep on the stoops of houses, in vacant lots, in basement-areas 
huddled, too tired to remember battle or be ashamed of flight. 

Nothing saidno cries or cheers from the windows, no jeers 
from the secessionists in the watching crowd half the crowd is 
secessionist at heart, even now, more than ever now. 

Two old women, white-haired, stand all day in the rain, giving 
coffee and soup and bread to the passing men. The tears stream 
down their faces as they cut the bread and pour out the coffee. 

Whitman sees it all in his mind's eye the tears of the two 
women the strange Jook on the men's faces, awake or asleep 
the dripping, smoke-colored rain. Perplexed and deep in his heart, 
something stirs and moves he is each one of them in turn the 
beaten men, the tired women, the boy who sleeps there quietly 
with his musket still clutched tightly to him. The long lines of a 
poem begin to lash themselves against his mind, with the lashing 
surge and long thunder of Montauk surf. 



Horace Greeley bas written Lincoln an hysterical letter he has 
not slept for seven nights- in New York, "on every brow sits 
sullen, scorching, black despair." 

He was trumpeting "On to Richmond!" two weeks ago. But 
then the war was a thing for an editorial a triumphal parade of 
Unionists over rebels. Now there has been a battle and a defeat. 
He pleads for an armistice a national convention anything on 
almost any terms to end this war. 

Many think as he does; many fine words ring hollow as the 
skull or an orator, the skull of a maker of war. They have raised 
the Devil with slogans and editorials, but where is the charm that 
will lay him? Who will bind the Devil aroused? 

97 



Only Lincoln, awkwardly enduring, confused by a thousand 
counsels, is neither overwhelmed nor touched to folly by the 
madness that runs along the streets like a dog in August scared 
of itself, scaring everyone who crosses its path. 

Defeat is a fact and victory can be a fact. If the idea is good, 
it will survive defeat, it may even survive the victory. 

His huge, patient, laborious hands start kneading the stuff of 
the Union together again; he gathers up the scraps and puts them 
together; he sweeps the corners and the cracks and patches to- 
gether the lost courage and the rags of belief. 

The dough didn't rise that time maybe it will next time. God 
must have tried and discarded a lot of experiment-worlds before 
he got one even good enough to whirl for a minute it is the 
same with a belief, with a cause. 

It is wrong to talk of Lincoln and a star together that old 
rubbed image is a scrap of tinsel, a scrap of dead poetry it dries 
up and blows away when it touches a man. And yet Lincoln had 
a star, if you will have it so and was haunted by a prairie-star. 

Down in the South another man, most unlike him but as stead- 
fast, is haunted by another star that has little to do with tinsel, 
and the man they call "Evacuation" Lee begins to grow taller and 
to cast a longer shadow. 



BOOK THREE 

By Pittsburg Landing, the turbid Tennessee 
Sucks against black, soaked spiles with soil-colored waters. 
That country is huge and disorderly, even now. 
This is Ellyat's tune, this is no tune but his 
Country of muddy rivers, sombre and swollen, 
Country of bronze wild turkeys and catfish-fries 
And brushpile landings going back to the brush. 
A province of mush and milk, a half-cleared forest, 
A speckled guinea-cock that never was cooped 
But ran away to grow his spurs by himself. 
Neither North nor South, but crunching a root of its own 
Between strong teeth perhaps a wild-onion-root, 
Perhaps a white stalk of arbutus, hardier there, 
Than any phantom-arbutus of Eastern Springs. 
A mudsill man with the river-wash in his ears, 
Munching the coarse, good meal of a johnny-cake 



Hot from the hob even now it tastes of the brush, 
The wilderness, the big lost star in the pines, 
The brown river-dirt, the perpetual river-sound, 
In spite of the sidewalks, in spite of the trolley-cars. 
No trolley-car-bell can drown that river-sound, 
Or take the loneliness out of the lost moon, 
The night too big for a man, too lonesome and wide. 
The vastness has been netted in railroad tracks 
But it is still vast, uneasy. 

And when the brief 

Screech of the railway-whistle stabs at the trees 
That grow so thick,. so unplanned, so untidily strong 
On either side of the two planned ribs of steel, 
Ghost-steamboats answer it from the sucking brown water. 
In Sixty-two, it was shaggy with wilderness still 
For stretches and stretches of close-packed undergrowth, 
Wild as a muskrat, ignorant of the axe; 
Stretches and stretches where roughly-chinked log-cabins, 
Two shouts and a holler away from the nearest neighbors, 
Stood in a wisp of open. All night long 
The cabin-people heard the chant of the trees, 
The forest, hewn away from the painful clearing 
For a day or a year, with sweat and back-breaking toil, 
But waiting to come back, to crush the crude house 
And the planted space with vines "and trailers of green, 
To quench the fire on the hearth with running green saps, 
With a chant of green, with tiny green tendrils curling, 
This is Ellyat's tune, this is no tune but his 
The railway-train goes by with a shrill, proud scream 
And the woman comes to the door in a butternut dress 
Hair tousled up in a knot on the back of her head, 
A barefoot child at her skirt. 

The train goes by. 

They watch it with a slow wonder that is not pathos 
Nor heroism but merely a slow wonder. 



Jack Ellyat, in camp above Pittsburg Landing, 
Speck in Grant's Army of the Tennessee, 
Thought of old fences in Connecticut 
With a homesick mind. 

This country was too new, 

99 



Too stragglingly-unplanned, too muddy with great, 
Uncomfortable floods, too roughly cut 
With a broad hatchet out of a hard tree. 

It had seemed fine when he was mustered out 
After Bull Run, to wear a veteran air, 
And tell pink Ellen Baker about war 
And how, as soon as he could re-enlist 
He'd do it where he got a chance to fight- 
Wet mouth of tears he hadn't wanted to kiss her 
At first, but it was easier later on. 
Why had he ever gone out to Chicago? 
Why had he ever heard that shallow band 
Whanging its brass along a Western street 
And run to sign the muster-roll again? 
Why had he ever talked about Bull Run 
To these green, husky boys from Illinois 
And Iowa, whose slang was different slang, 
Who called suspenders galluses and swore 
In the sharp pops of a mule-driver's whip? 
Bull Run it had impressed them for a week 
But then they started to call him "Bull Run Jack." . 

Henry Fairfield marching along with his sword, 
All the old company marching after him 
Back in McClellan's army, back by the known 
Potomac, back in the safe and friendly East; 
All the papers telling how brave they were 
And how, as soon as the roads dried up in the spring, 
"The little Napoleon" would hammer the South to bits 
With a blue thunderbolt. 

And here he was 

A lost pea, spilt at random in a lost war; 
A Tennessee war that had no Tribunes or polish 
Where he was the only Easterner in the whole 
Strange-swearing regiment of Illinois farmers, 
Alien as Rebels, and rough as all outdoors. 

He wanted to get transferred, he wanted to be 
Back with the company, back with the Eastern voices, 
Back where nobody called him "Bull Run Jack" 
And snickered at him for shaving every two days. 

100 



He'd written about it and Father knew a congressman 

But nothing would happenhe'd never get away, 

He'd stay being Bull Run Jack till the end of the war 

And march through acres of hostile Tennessee mud 

Till his legs dropped off, and never get to be Corporal. 

He was sick of the war and the mud and the Western faces. 

He hated the sight of his Illinois uniform. 

He was sorry for himself. He felt with a vague 

Soft blur of self-pity that he was really quite brave, 

And if people only knew, they'd do something about it. 

This is Ellyat's tune, this is no tune but his. 

Nine months have passed since McDowell reddened Bull Run, 

Nine strong-hoofed months, but they have meant little to Ellyat 

What means the noise of the wind to the dust in the wind? 

But the wind calls strange things out, calls strange men out, 

A dozen pictures flash in front of the eyes 

And are gone in a flash 

rough-bearded Tecumseh Sherman, 
Who had tried most things, but being cursed with a taste 
For honesty, had found small luck in his stars; 
Ex-soldier, banker, lawyer, each in its turn, 
Ex-head of a Southern military-school, 
Untidy ex-president of a little horse-railroad; 
Talkative, nervous, salty, Scotch-Irish fighter, 
High-strung, quick-tempered, essentially modern-minded, 
Stamping the length of the dusty corridors 
Of a Western hotel with a dead cigar in his teeth, 
Talking the war to himself, till the word goes round 
The new general is crazy- 
neat, handsome McClellan, 
Ex-railroad president too, but a better railroad; 
The fortunate youth, the highly-modern boy-wonder, 
The snapping-eyed, brisk banner-salesman of war 
With all the salesman's gifts and the salesman's ego; 
Great organizer, with that magnetic spark 
That pulls the heart from the crowd and all of it spoiled 
By the Napoleon-complex that haunts such men. 
There never has been a young banner-salesman yet 
That did not dream of a certain little cocked-hat 
And feel it fit. McClellan felt that it fitted. 
After a year and a day, the auditors come, 

101 



Dry auditors, going over the books of the company, 
Sad auditors, with groups of red and black figures 
That are not moved by a dream of precious cocked hats. 
And after the auditors go, the board of directors 
Decides, with a sigh, to do without banner-salesmen 
It is safer to dream of a rusty Lincoln stovepipe. 
That dream has more patience in it. 

And yet, years later, 

Meeting the banner-salesman in some cheap street 
With the faded clippings of old success in his pocket, 
One cannot help feeling sorry for the cocked hat 
So briefly worn in a dream of luck and the ego. 
One cannot help feeling sorry for George McClellan, 
He should have been a hero by every rule. 
He looked the part he could have acted the part 
Word perfectly. He looked like an empire-maker. 
But so few empire-makers have looked the part. 

Fate has a way of picking unlikely material, 
Greasy-haired second lieutenants of French artillery, 
And bald-headed, dubious, Roman rake-politicians. 
Her stiff hands were busy now with an odd piece of wood, 
Sometime Westpointer, by accident more than choice, 
Sometime brevet-captain in the old Fourth Infantry, 
Mentioned in Mexican orders for gallant service 
And, six years later, forced to resign from the Army 
Without enough money to pay for a stateroom home. 
Turned farmer on Hardscrabble Farm, turned bill-collector, 
Turned clerk in the country-store that his brothers ran, 
The eldest-born of the lot, but the family-failure, 
Unloading frozen hides from a farmer's sleigh 
With stoop-shouldered strength, whittling beside the stove, 
And now and then turning to whislcey to take the sting 
From winter and certain memories. 

It didn't take much. 

A glass or two would thicken the dogged tongue 
And flush the fair skin beneath the ragged brown beard. 
Poor and shabby old "Cap" Grant of Galena, 
Who should have amounted to something but hadn't so far 
Though he worked hard and was honest. 

A middle-aged clerk, 
A stumpy, mute man in a faded army overcoat, 

IO2 



Who wrote the War Department after Fort Sumter, 
Offering them such service as he could give 
And saying he thought that he was fit to command 
As much as a regiment, but getting no answer. 
So many letters come to a War Department, 
One can hardly bother the clerks to answer them all- 
Then a Volunteer colonel, drilling recruits with a stick, 
A red bandanna instead of an officer's sash; 
A brigadier-general, one of thirty-seven, 
Snubbed by Halleck and slighted by fussy Fremont; 
And then the frozen February gale 
Over Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, 
The gunboats on the cold riverthe brief siege 
"Unconditional surrender" and the newspapers. 

Major-General Grant, with his new twin-stars, 
Who, oddly, cared so little for reading newspapers, 
Though Jesse Grant wrote dozens of letters to them 
Pointing out all the wonders his son had done 
And wringing one dogged letter from that same son 
That should have squelched anybody but Jesse Grant. 
It did not squelch him. He was a business man, 
And now Ulysses had astonished Galena 
By turning out to be somebody after all; 
Ulysses* old father was going to see him respected 
And, incidentally, try to wangle a contract 
For army-harness and boom the family tannery. 
It was a great surprise when Ulysses refused, 
The boy was so stubborn about it. 

And everywhere 

Were business-people, picking up contraband cotton, 
Picking up army-contracts, picking up shoddy, 
Picking up shoes and blankets, picking up wagons, 
Businesslike robins, picking up juicy earthworms, 
Picking up gold all over Tom-Tiddler's Ground, 
And Ulysses wouldn't see it. 

Few people have been 
More purely Yankee, in essence, than Jesse Grant. 

More pictures Jefferson Davis, in dripping Spring rain, 

Reading a chilly inauguration-address 

To an unstirred crowd. He is really President now. 

103 



His eyes are more tired, his temper beginning to fray. 
A British steamer in the Bahama Channel 
Stopped by a Captain Wilkes and a Union cruiser. 
They take two men, and let the steamer puff on 
And light a long hissing fuse that for a month 
Nearly brings war with England. Lincoln and Seward 
Stamp out the fuse, and let the Confederates go- 
Wooden frigates at anchor in Hampton Roads 
Burning and sinking with tattered banners apeak 
Under the strange new, armadillo-bite 
Of something plated with iron that yet can float, 
The Merrimac and all Washington and the North 
In a twenty-four-hours' panic then, next day 
As Lincoln stares from the window of the White House 
For the sooty sign in the sky that means defeat 
The armadillo, smoking back in her pride 
To crunch up another meal of weak wooden ships, 
Is beaten off by another leaky prodigy 
A tin-can cylinder on a floating shingle, 
The Monitor the first fight of iron-clads, 
The sinking of all the world's old sea-bitten names, 
Temeraire, Victory, and Constellation, 
Serapis, Eon Honrme Richard, Golden Hind, 
Galleys of Antony, galleys of Carthage, 
Galleons with gilded Virgins, galleasses, 
Viking long-serpents, siren-haunted galliots, 
Argos and argosies and the Achaean pride, 
Moving to sea in one long wooden wall 
Behind the huge ghost-flagship of the Ark 

D D O 1 

In such a swelling cloud of phantom sail 

They whitened Oceangoing down by the head, 

Green water seeping through the battened ports, 

Spreading along the scrubbed and famous decks, 

Going down going down going down to mermaid-pools, 

To Fiddler's Green to the dim barnacle-thrones, 

Where Davy Jones drinks everlasting rum 

With the sea-horses of his sunken dreams. 

But this is Ellyat's tune and if the new 
Army of the Potomac stands astrain 
To end Secession with its "little Napoleon." 
If Lee is just about to find his hour; 

104 



If, among many mirrors and gilt chairs, 

Under the flare of the gas-chandeliers 

A sallow-faced and puffy Emperor 

With waxed mustachios and a slick goatee 

Gave various Southern accents, talking French, 

Evasive answers and no definite help, 

Ready enough to recognize the South 

If he were sure of profit in the scheme 

But not yet finding such a profit sure; 

If in the foggy streets of Westminster, 

The salty streets of Liverpool and Hull, 

The same mole-struggle in the dark went on 

Between Confederate and Unionist 

The Times raved at the North Mr. Gladstone thought 

England might recognize the South next year, 

While Palmerston played such a tangled game 

It is illegible yet and Henry Adams 

Added one more doubt to his education 

By writing propaganda for the North, 

It is all mist to Ellyat. 

And when he sleeps, 

He does not dream of Grant or Lee or Lincoln. 
He only dreams that he is back at home 
With a heroic wound that does not hurt, 
A uniform that never stings with lice, 
And a sword like Henry Fairficld*s to show Ellen Baker. 



As far as the maps and the blocks on the maps have meaning 
The situation is this. 

A wide Western river, 
A little lost landing, with a steamboat-store, 
A post office where the roads from the landings meet, 
A plank church three miles inland called Shiloh Chapel, 
An undulating and broken table-land 
Roughed into a triangle by bordering creeks. 
Each side of the triangle runs about four miles long 
And, scattered in camps from the tip of the triangle 
To the base at the landing, are thirty-three thousand men, 
Some fairly seasoned in war, but many green sticks, 
Grant's Army of the Tennessee. 

Down the river 

105 



Don Carlos Buell has twenty-five thousand more 
In the Army of the Ohio. 

Opposing these 

Are Albert Sidney Johnston and Beauregard 
With something like forty thousand butternut fighters, 
Including a martial bishop. 

Johnston plans 

To smash Grant's army to bits, before Buell can join it, 
And water his wagon-trains in the Tennessee. 
He has sneaked his army along through wilderness roads 
Till now they are only a mile and a half away 
Tonight from the Union lines. 

He is tall and active. 

Light brown hair streaked with grey feathers, blue claymore eyes 
That get steel shadows in battle, a face like Hamilton's, 
Old Westpointer, old cavalry-colonel, well-schooled in war. 
Lincoln offered to make him a major-general 
And rumor says that he could have had the command 
Of the Union armies, once. 

But he resigned 

And later, went with his State. It is hard to say 
What he might have been. 

They called him the "preux chevalier" 
At times, as they called and were to call many others 
With that Waverley-streak that was so strong in the South. 
They also called him one of Davis's pets, 
One of the tin Westpointers that Davis favored 
Above good politicians and courtesy colonels. 
The Richmond Enquirer didn't think so much of him, 
His soldiers thought rather more. 

Only this can be said. 

He caught Grant napping in some strange flaw of skill 
Which happened once and did not happen again. 
And drove his unprepared, unwatchful brigades 
Back almost into the river. 

And in the heat 

Of seeing his lines go forward, he bled to death 
From a wound that should not have been mortal. 

After which, 

While the broken Union stragglers under the bluff 
Were still howling that they were beaten, Buell came up, 
Lew Wallace came up, the knife half-sunk in the wound 

106 



Was not thrust home, the night fell, the battle lagged. 
The bulldog got the bone in his teeth again 
And next day, reinforced, beat Beauregard back 
And counted a Union victory. 

In the books 

Both sides claim victory on one day or the other 
And both claims seem valid enough. 

It only remains 

To take the verdict of the various dead 
In this somewhat indecisive meeting of blocks. 
There were thirty -five hundred dead when the blocks had met. 
But, being dead, their verdict is out of court. 
They cannot puzzle the books with their testimony. 

Now, though, it is only the evening before the day. 
Johnston and Beauregard meet with their corps-commanders 
By the wagon-cut Pittsburg road. The march has been slow. 
The marching men have been noisy and hard to manage. 
By every rule of war, Grant must have been warned 
Long before now, and is planning an ambush for them. 
They are being marched into an open Union trap. 
So Beauregard thinks and says and is perfectly right 
According to rules. There is only one difficulty. 
There is no ambush. 

Sherman has just reported 

The presence of enemy troops in front of his lines 
But says he expects nothing more than some picket-firing 
And Grant that evening telegraphs General Halleck, 
"I have scarcely the faintest idea of an attack." 

So much for the generals. Beauregard makes his point 
And is overruled. 

The April night comes down. 

The butternut men try to get some sleep while they can. 
They are to be up and fighting by five in the morning. 



Jack Ellyat, least of any, expected attack. 
He woke about five with a dazzle struck in his eyes 
Where a long dawn-ray slid through a crack in the tent. 
He cursed at the ray and tried to go back to sleep 
But he couldn't do it, although he was tired enough, 

107 



Something ate at his mind as soon as he wakened 
And kept on eating. 

This morning was Sunday morning. 

The bells would be jangling for church back home, pretty soon, 
The girls would be going to church in white Sunday dresses, 
No, it was too early for that they'd be muffled up 
In coats and galoshes. Their cheeks would be pink as apples. 
He wanted to see a girl who washed her hair, 
Not a flat old woman sucking a yellow snuffstick 
Or one of the girls in the dirty blue silk wrappers 
With flags on their garters. He wanted to see a girl. 

He wondered idly about the flags on the garters. 
Did they change them to Rebel flags when the Rebels came? 
Some poor whore down the river had had herself 
Tattooed with a Secesh flag. She was patriotic. 
She cried so hard when the Union troops were landed 
That the madam h^d to hide her down in the cellar. 
He must be bad tolbe thinking of things like that 
On Sunday morning. He'd better go to church 
If they had any kind of church, and make up for it 
O frosty churchbells jangling across the thin 
Crust of packed frost, under Connecticut sky, 
Put snow on my tongue, and the grey, cool flower of rain- 
He had to get up. He couldn't lie here and listen 
To Bailey and the rest of them, snoring away. 
His throat was dry. He needed a drink of water 
But not from a muddy riverput rain on my tongue! 
Souse me with chilly, sweet flaws of Puritan rain- 
He started to put on his boots, looking over at Bailey. 
Bailey was bearded, Bailey was thirty-two, 
Bailey had been a teamster and was a corporal. 
The waking Bailey looked like a stupid horse, 
The sleeping Bailey- looked like a dirty sack, 
Bailey called him "Colonel" and didn't mean it, 
Bailey had had him tossed in a blanket once, 
Bailey had told the tale of the tattooed whore, 
Somehow he hated Bailey worse than the rest. 
He managed to leave the tent without waking Bailey. 
It was very early still. The sun was just up. 
A fair sky, a very fair day. The air still held 
That bloom which is not the bloom on apple or peach 

108 



But the bloom on a fruit made up of pure water and light, 
The freshness of dawn, still trembling, being new-born. 
He sucked at it gratefully. 

The camp was asleep. 

All that length of tents still asleep. He could see through the tents. 
He could see all those sleeping, rough, lousy, detested men 
Laden with sleep as with soft leaden burdens laden, 
Movelessly lying between the brown fawns of sleep 
Like infants nuzzled against the flanks of a doe, 
In quietness slumbering, in a warm quietness, 
While sleep looked at them with her fawn's agate eyes 
And would not wake them yet. 

And he was alone, 

And for a moment, could see this, and see them so 
And, being free, stand alone, and so being free 
To love or hate, do neither, but merely stand 
Above them like sleep and see them with untouched eyes. 
In a while they would wake, and he would hate them again. 
But now he was sleep. He was the sun on the coat 
Of the halted fawn at the green edge of the wood 
Staring at morning. 

He could not hate them yet. 

Somebody near by, in the woods, took a heap of dry sticks, 
And began to break them quickly^ first one by one, 
Then a dozen together, then hard-cracking axe-helves breaking. 
Ellyat was running. His mouth felt stiff with loud words 
Though he heard no sound from his mouth. He could see the 

white 
Fine pine-splinters flying from those invisible axe-helves. . . . 

For a minute all of them were tangled together 

In the bucking tent like fish in a canvas scoop, 

Then they were out of it somehow falling in line - 

Bailey's hair looked angry and sleepy. The officers 

Were yelling the usual things that officers yelled. 

It was a surprise. They were going to be licked again. 

It did not matter yet. It would matter soon. 

Bailey had lost his blouse and his pants weren't buttoned. 

He meant to tell Bailey about it. There wasn't time. 

His eyes felt bald as glass but that was because 

He kept looking for flying pine-splinters in the air. 

109 



Now they were setting off firecrackers under a boiler 
And a man ran past with one hand dripping red paint, 
Holding the hand with his other hand and talking 
As if the hurt hand were a doll. 

An officer hit him 

With the flat of a sword. It spanked some dust from his coat 
And the man's face changed from a badly-fitting mask 
Of terror, cut into ridges of sallow wax, 
To something pink and annoyed, but he kept on running. 
All this happened at once as they were moving. 
The dawn had been hit to pieces with a hard mallet. 
There were no fawns. There was an increasing noise 
Through which he heard the lugubrious voice of Bailey 
Singing off-key, like a hymn, 

"When I was a weaver, I lived by myself, 
And I worked at the weaver's tra-a-de " 

The officers were barking like foxes now. 

As the last tent dropped behind them, Ellyat saw 
A red, puzzled face, looking out from under a tent-flap, 
Like a bear from a cave. The face had been drunk last night, 
And it stared at the end of the column with a huge and stupid 
wisdom. 



"When I was a weaver, I lived by myself, 
And I worked at the weaver's trade" 

Jack Ellyat found himself back behind somebody's tent 

After a while. He had been out in the woods. 

He remembered scrouging against a too-porous tree 

For a day or a nuniber of minutes while he jerked 

A rattling ramrod up and down in a gun. 

But they couldn't stay in the woodsthey had to come back. 

They had called him "Bull Run Jack" but they had to come back, 

Bailey and all the rest. He had come back with them, 

But that was different-that was all right for him. 

This red-colored clang of haste was different for him. 

Bailey and all the rest could run where they liked. 

He was an old soldier. He would stay here and fight. 

no 



Running, he tripped on a rope, and began to fall, 

Bailey picked him back on his feet. "Did they get you, Bud?" 

"No, they didn't get me." 

Ellyat's voice was a snarl. 

What business had Bailey steadying him like that? 
He hadn't been running. 

Suddenly he saw 

Grey shouting strangers bursting into the tents 
And his heart shrank up in a pea. 

"Oh hell," he said, 

Hopelessly ramming a cartridge. He was an old soldier. 
He wasn't going to run. He was going to act 
Vast fictive heroisms in front of Bailey, 
If they only gave him time, just a little time. 

A huge horse rose above the wall of the tent 
And hung there a second like a bad prodigy, 
A frozen scream full of hoofs. 

He struck at its head 

And tried to get out from under as it lunged down 
But he wasn't quite quick enough. 

As he slipped and fell 

He saw the laughter pasted on Bailey's face 
But before he could hear the laugh, the horse had fallen, 
Jarring the world. 

After blunt, sickly time 

A fat young man with a little pink moustache 
Was bawling "Hey, Yank, surrender!" into his ear 
And nervously waving a pistol in front of his eyes. 
He nodded weakly. "Hey, boys," called the fat young man, 
"I got two Yanks!" His mouth was childish with pleasure. 
He was going to tell everybody he had two Yanks. 
"Here, Yank, come and pull the horse off the other Yank." 

The prisoner's column straggled along the road 

All afternoon. Jack Ellyat marched in it numbly. 

He was stiff and sore. They were going away from the battle 

But they could still hear it, quaking, 

The giant stones rolled over the grumbling bridge. 

Some of the prisoners tried to joke with the guards, 
Some walked in silence, some spoke out now and then, 
As if to explain to the world why they were there. 

in 



One man said, "I got a sore heel.' 1 Another said, 

"All the same the Tenth Missouri's a damn good regiment." 

Another said, "Listen, boys, don't it beat all hell? 

I left my tobacco behind me, back in the tent, 

Don't it beat all'hell to lose your tobacco like that?" 

Bailey kept humming the "Weaver," but now and then 

He broke it off , to say, with a queer satisfaction, 

"Well, we surely did skedaddlewe surely did." 

Jack Ellyat had said nothing for a long time. 

This was war, this was Phaeton, this was the bronze chariot 

Rolling the sky. If he had a soul any more 

It felt scrawny and thin as a sick turkey-poult. 

It was not worth the trouble to fatten. He tried to fatten it 

With various thoughts, now and then, but the thoughts were 

spoilt 

Corn. They had damn well skedaddled. They damn well had. 
That was all. The rest of the army could win or lose 
They had surely skedaddled. They had been whipped again. 
He had been whipped again. 

He was no longer 

The old soldier no longer even "Bull Run Jack." 
He had lost a piece of himself. It had ragged edges 
That piece. He could see it left behind in the tents 
Under a dirty coat and a slab of tobacco. 

After a while he knocked against Bailey's arm. 
"Where are we going?" he said, in a shy voice. 
Bailey laughed, not badly, "Well, Colonel, Corinth I guess, 
Corinth first and then some damn prison-camp." 
He spat in the road. "It won't be good grub," he said. 
"Bacon and hominy-grits. They don't eat right. 
They don't eat nothing but bacon and hominy-grits. 
God, I'm goin' to gfet tired of bacon and hominy-grits!" 

Ellyat looked. There was something different about him. 
He stated a fact. "You've buttoned your pants," he said. 
"I remember you didn't have 'em buttoned this morning." 

'That's so," said Bailey, impressed, "Now when did I button 
'em?" 

112 



They chewed at the question, trying to puzzle it out. 
It seemed very important to both for quite a long time. 



It was night now. The column still marched. But Bailey and 

Ellyat 

Had dropped to the rear of the column, planning escape. 
There were few guards and the guards were as tired as they. 
Two men could fall in a ditch by the side of the road 
And get away, perhaps, if they picked a good time. 
They talked it over in stupid whispers of weariness. 
The next bend no, the guard was coming along. 
The next bend after no, there was light for a moment 
From a brief star, then cloudedthe top of the hill 
The bottom of the hill and they still were marching. 
Rain began to fall, a drizzle at first, then faster. 
Ellyat's eyes were thick. He walked in a dream, 
A heavy dream, cut from leaden foil with blunt shears. 
Then Bailey touched him he felt the tired bones of his skull 
Click with a sudden spark his feet stopped walking- 
He held his breath for an instant, 

And then wearily slumped in the ditch with enormous noise, 
Hunching his shoulders against a phantom bayonet. 

But when he could raise his head, the column had gone. 
He felt fantastic. They couldn't escape like this. 
You had to escape like a drawing in Harper's Weekly 
With stiff little men on horses like sickle-pears 
Firing round frozen cream-puffs into your back. 
But they had escaped. 

Life came back to him in a huge 
Wave of burnt stars. He wanted to sing and yell. 
He crackled out of the ditch and stood beside Bailey. 
Had he ever hated Bailey? It could not have been. 
He loved Bailey better than anything else in the world. 

They moved slyly toward the woods, they were foxes escaped. 

Wise foxes sliding away to a hidden earth 

To a sandy floor, to the warm fawn-flanks of sweet sleep. . . . 

And then an awful molasses-taffy voice 

Behind them yelled "Halt!" and "Halt!" and-sudden explosion 

Of desultory popcorn in iron poppers 

113 



Wild running at random a crash among broken boughs 
A fighting sound Bailey's voice, half-strangled but clear, 
"Run like hell, Jack, they'll never catch you!" ' 

He ran like hell. 

Time passed like the rain. Time passed and was one with the 
rain. 



Ellyat woke from a nightmare and put out his hand 
To touch the wall by his bed, but there was no wall. 
Then he listened for Bailey's snoring. 

And he heard 

The gorged, sweet pouring of water through infinite boughs, 
The hiss of the big spilt drop on the beaten leaf, 
The bird-voiced and innumerable rain, 
A wet quail piping, a thousand soaked black flutes 
Building a lonely castle of sliding tears, 
Strange and half-cruel as a dryad's bright grief. 

Ellyat huddled closer under the tree, 

Remembering what he could. He had run for years, 

He had slept for years and yet it was still not dawn. 

It seemed cruel to him that it should never be dawn. 

It seemed cruel that Bailey was lost. He had meant to show 

Some fictive heroisms in front of Bailey. 

He had not. Bailey had saved his skin instead, 

And Bailey was lost. And in him something was lost, 

Something worse than defeat or this rain some piece of himself. 

Some piece of courage. 

Now the slant rain began 

To creep through his sodden heart. He thought, with wild awe, 
"This is Nibelung Hall. I am lying in Nibelung Hall. 
I am long dead. I feJJ there out of the sky 
In a wreck of horses, spilling the ball of the sun, 
And they shut my eyes with stone runes and put me to sleep 
On a bier where the living stream perpetually flows 
Past Ygdrasil and waters the roots of the world. 
I can hear the ravens scream from the cloudy roof. 
I can hear the bubbles rising in the clear stream. 
I can hear the old gods shout in the heathen sky 
As the hawk- Valkyrie carry the stiffened lumps 

114 



Of corpse-faced heroes shriekingly to Valhalla. 

This is Nibelung Hall. I must break the runes fronrthy eyes. 

I must escape it or die." 

He slept. The rain fell. 



Melora Vilas, rising by candlelight, 

Looked at herself in the bottom of the tin basin 

And wished that she had a mirror. 

Now Spring was here, 

She could kneel above the well of a forest pool 
And see the shadow hidden under the water, 
The intent brown eyes, the small face cut like a heart. 
She looked at the eyes and the eyes looked back at her, 
But just when it seemed they could start to talk to each other- 
"What arc you like? Who are you?" 

a ripple flawed 
The deep glass and the shadow trembled away. 

If she only had a mirror, maybe she'd know 

Something, she didn't know what, but something important, 

Something like knowing your skin and you were alive 

On a good day, something as drenched as sleep, 

As wise as sleep, as piercing as the bee's dagger. 

But she'd never know it unless she could get a mirror 

And they'd never get a mirror while they were hiders. 

They were bound to be hiders as long as the war kept on. 

Pop was that way. She remembered roads and places. 

She was seventeen. She had seen a lot of places, 

A lot of roads. Pop was always moving along. 

Everybody she'd ever known was moving along. 

Dusty wagons full of chickens and children, 

Full of tools and quilts, Rising Sun and Roses of Sharon, 

Mahogany dressers out of Grandmother's house, 

Tin plates, cracked china, a couple of silver spoons, 

Moving from State to State behind tired, scuffed horses 

Because the land was always better elsewhere. 

Next time they'd quit. Next stop they'd settle right down. 
Next year they'd have time to rub up the mahogany dresser* 

"5 



Next place, Mom could raise the flowers she wanted to raise. 
But it never began. They were always moving along. 

She liked Kansas best. She wished they'd go back to Kansas. 

She liked the smell of the wind there. 

But Pop hadn't wanted to join with the Free-Soilers 

And then the slavery men had shot up the town 

And killed the best horse they had. That had settled Pop. 

He said something about a plague on both of your houses 

And moved along. So now they were hiders here 

And whenever you wanted to ask Pop about the war 

All he said was that same old thing about the plague. 

She mustn't call him Pop that was movers'-talk. 

She must call him Father, the way Mom, Mother wanted. 

But it was hard to remember. Mom talked a lot 

About old times back in the East and Grandmother's house. 

She couldn't remember an East. The East wasn't real. 

There was only the dusty road and moving along. 

Although she knew that Mom had worn a silk dress 

And gone to a ball, once. There was a picture of Pop 

And Mom, looking Eastern, in queer old Eastern clothes. 

They weren't white trash. She knew how to read and figure. 

She'd read Macbeth and Eeidah and Oliver Twist. 

She liked Beulah best but Macbeth would have suited Pop. 

Sometimes she wondered what had happened to them, 

When Mother used to live in Grandmother's house 

And wear silk dresses, and Father used to read Latin 

When had they started to go just moving along, 

And how would it feel to live in Grandmother's house? 

But it was so long ago, so hard to work out 

And she liked it this way she even liked being hiders. 

It was exciting, especially when the guns 

Coughed in the sky as they had all yesterday, 

When Bent hid out in the woods to keep from recruiters, 

And you knew there were armies stumbling all around you, 

Big, blundering cows of armies, snuffling and tramping 

The whole scuffed world with their muddy, lumbering hoofs, 

Except the little lost brushpile where you were safe. 

There were guns in the sky again today. Big armies. 

An army must be fine to look at. 

But Pop 
Would never let her do it or understand. 

116 



An army or a mirror. She didn't know 

Which she'd rather find, but whenever she thought of it 

The mirror generally won. You could keep a mirror yourself. 



She had to call the hogs that afternoon. 

You had to call them once or twice a month 

And give them food or else they ran too wild 

And never came for butchering in the Fall, 

Though' they lived well enough without your calling, 

Fat in the forest, feeding on beech mast, 

Wild muscadines and forest provender 

That made their flesh taste sweet as hazelnuts. 

She liked the hogs, they weren't tame, sleepy hogs 
Grunting in a black wallow, they were proud 
Rapid and harsh and savage as Macbeth. 
There was a young boar that she called Macbeth, 
She'd seen him fight grey-bristled, drowsy Duncan 
And drive him from the trough. 

Fagin was there, 

Bill Sikes was there and Beulah the black sow, 
And Lady Macduff whose grunt was half a whine. 
You could learn lots about a book from hogs. 
She poured the swill and cupped her hands to call. 
Sometimes they'd help her with it, Pop or Bent, 
But Pop was off with Bent this afternoon 
And Mom was always busy. 

Slim and straight 

She stood before the snake-rail pen that kept 
Macbeths on their own proper side of the fence. 
"Piggy/' she called, "Here, piggy, piggy, piggy!" 
It wasn't the proper call, but the hogs knew 
That sweet clear loudness with its sleepy silver 
Trembling against a chanter of white ash. 
"Here, piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy! 
Here, piggy, piggy'" There was a scrambling noise 
At the edge of the woods. "Here, piggy'" 

It was Banquo. 
Greedy, but hesitant. 

The Artful Dodger 
Slim, black and wicked, had two feet in the trough 

117 



Before that obese indecision moved. 
"Here, piggy! Here, piggy, piggy!" 

The gleaming call 

Floated the air like a bright glassy bubble, 
Far, far, with its clean silver and white ash. 
And Ellyat, lost and desperate in the wood, 
Heard it, desirous as the elvish blast 
Wound on a tiny horn of magic grass 
To witch steel riders into a green hill. 
He stumbled toward its music. 

" pi ggy> piggy* 

Here, piggy, piggy!" 

The swine grunted and jostled. 
Melora watched them, trying to count them up 
With grave eyes, brown as nuts in rainwater. 
They were all there, she thoughtshe must be sure. 
She called again. No, something moved in the woods. 
She stared past the clearing, puzzled. So Ellyat saw her 
Beyond the swine, head lifted like a dark foal 
That listens softly for strangeness. 

And she saw 

An incoherent scarecrow in blue clothes 
Stagger on wooden feet from the deep wood. 
She called to him to keep away from the hogs, 
Half-frightenedly. 

He did not hear or obey. 
He was out of Nibelung Hall. 

She put one hand 

On the rail of the fence to steady herself and waited. 
"You can't come in here," she said, fiercely. "The hogs'll kill 

you." 

But he was past the fed hogs and over the fence. 
She saw a queer look on his face. "You're hungry," she said. 
He grinned, made a noise in his throat, and fell, trying to touch 

her. 



Now that I am clean again, 
Now I've slept and fed, 
How shall I remember when 
I was someone dead? 

118 



Now the balm has worked its art 
And the gashes dry, 
And the lizard at my heart 
Has a sleepy eye, 

How shall I remember yet 
Freezing underground, 
With the wakened lizard set 
To the living wound? 

Do not ponder the offence 
Nor reject the sore, 
Do not tear the cerements 
Flesh may need once more. 

Cold comes back and pain comes back 

And the lizard, too. 

And the burden in the sack 

May be meant for you. 

Do not play the risen dunce 
With unrisen men. 
Lazarus was risen once 
But earth gaped again. 



So Ellyat swam back to life, swam back to warmth 
And the smell of cooking food. It was night. He heard 
Impenetrable rain shake a low roof 
And hiss stray, scattering drops on an open fire. 
But he was safe. That rain was caged in the sky. 
It could not fall on him. 

He lay in a lax 

Idleness, warm and hungry, not wanting to move. 
A grub in a close cocoon neither bold nor wise, but content. 

A tall woman was cooking mush in an iron pot. 

The smell of the mush was beautiful, the shape of the pot 

More beautiful than an urn by sea-nymphs carved 

From sunken marbles stained with the cold sea-rose. 

The woman was a great Norn, in her pot she cooked a new world* 

119 



Made of pure vapors and the juices of unspoilt fight, 
A new globe of sulliless amber and grains of white corn, 
An orbed perfection. All life was beautiful now. 

A girl came into the room upon light, quick feet. 

He stared at her, solemnly. She was young and thin. 

The small, just head was set on the slender neck 

With a clean sureness. The heavy hair was a helm 

Of bronze cooled under a ripple, marked by that flowing. 

It was not slight but it could not weight her down. 

Her hands and feet were well made and her body had 

That effortless ease, that blood that flies with the bird. 

She saw his open eyes and came over to him, 

Not shyly but not concernedly. 

Their eyes met. 

The older woman kept stirring her melted world. 
"Well," said the girl, "You look better." He nodded, u Yes." 
Their eyes said, "I have seen a new thing. In the deep cells 
Below the paltry clockwork of the ticked heart, 
I have seen something neither light nor night, 
A new thing, a new picture. It may mean 
The lifting of a shut latch. It may mean nothing." 

She made an escaping gesture with her right hand. 

"You didn't say who you were," she said. "You just fell. 

You better tell who you are, Pop'll want to know." 

A shadow crossed her. "Pop won't want to keep you," she said. 

"But I reckon we'll have to keep you here for a piece, 

You're not fit to travel yet and that's a fact. 

You look a little bit like Young Seward," she said 

Reflectively, "But sometimes you look more like Oliver. 

I dunno. What's your name?" 

Ellyat put forth his hand 

Toward being alive again, slowly, hauling it down. 
He remembered. He was Jack Ellyat. He had been lost. 
He had lain with hel-shoes on in Nibelung Hall 
For twenty years. This was the girl with the swine 
Whose loud sweet calling had come to him in the wood 
And lifted him back to warmth and a cooking world. 
He had lost a piece of himself, a piece of life, 
He must find it, but now 

"What's your name?" he said in a whisper. 



1 20 



This is the hidden place that hiders know. 

This is where hiders go. 

Step softly, the snow that falls here is different snow, 

The rain has a different sting. 

Step softly, step like a cloud, step softly as the least 

Whisper of air against the beating wing, 

And let your eyes be sealed 

With two blue muscadines 

Stolen from secret vines, 

Or you will never find in the lost field 

The table spread, the signs of the hidden feast. 

This is where hiders live. 

This is the tentative 

And outcast corner where hiders steal away 

To bake their hedgehogs in a lump of clay, 

To raise their crops and children wild and shy, 

And let the world go by 

In accidental marches of armed wrath 

That stumble blindly past the buried path. 

Step softly, step like a whisper, but do not speak 

Or you will never see 

The furriness curled within the hollow tree, 

The shadow-dance upon the wilderness-creek. 

This is the hiders' house. 

This is the ark of pine-and-willow-boughs. 

This is the quiet place. 

You may call now, but let your call be sweet 

As clover-honey strained through silver sieves 

And delicate as the dust upon the moth 

Or you will never find your fugitives. 

Call once, and call again, 

Then, if the lifted strain 

Has the true color and substance of the wild, 

You may perceive, if you have lucky eyes, 

Something that ran away from being wise 

And changed silk ribbons for a greener cloth, 

Some budding-horned and deer-milk-suckled child 

Some lightness, moving toward you on light feet, 

Some girl with indolent passion in her face. 



121 



Jack Ellyat wondered about things, six days later. 

The world had come back to its shape. He was well and strong. 

He had seen the old man with the burnt dreams in his eyes, 

Who had fallen from something years ago inTiis youth 

Or risen from something with an effort too stark; 

The runaway who had broken the pasture-bars 

To test the figments of life on a wild stone. 

You could see the ultimate hardness of that strange stone 

Cut in his face but then, there was something else, 

That came at moments and went, and answered no questions. 

Had the feel of the stone been worth it, after all? 

It puzzled Ellyat. 

He couldn't figure it out. 

Going West to get fat acres was common enough, 
But, once you got the acres, you settled down, 
You sent your children to school. You put up a fence. 
When a war came along, you fought on your proper side; 
You didn't blast both sides with Mercutio's curse 
And hide in a wilderness. 

The man was all wrong, 

And yet the man was not weak. It was very strange. 
If the man had been weak, you could understand him all right. 

The woman was more easy to understand. 

He liked the woman he liked the rough shaggy boy 

Who had lived so much in the woods to keep from the armies 

That his ears were sharp as a squirrel's, and all his movements 

Had something untamed about them, something leafy and strange. 

Of course he ought to be fighting for the North, 

He was really a skulkbut things were different here. 

You couldn't reason about the difference in words 

But you felt it inside your skin. 

Things were different here. 
Like Nibelung Hall in the rain of his fever-dream, 
But with no terror, with an indolent peace. 

He'd have to get back to the regiment pretty soon. 

He couldn't stay here. They none of them wanted him here. 

He'd have to get back. But he didn't know where to go. 

They could tell him how to get back to Pittsburg Landing 

But how did he know if the army was there or not? 

He didn't even know who'd won in the battle, 

122 



And, if the Rebs had won, he'd be captured again 
As soon as he got on a road. 

Well, he'd have to chance it. 
He couldn't stay here and fall in love with Melora. 
Melora came walking down the crooked path 
With a long shadow before her. It was the hour 
When the heat is out of the gold of afternoon 
And the cooled gold has not yet turned into grey, 
The hour of the paused tide, neither flow nor ebb, 
The flower beginning to close but not yet closed. 

He saw her carry her fairy head aloft 

Against that descending gold, 

He saw the long shadow that her slight body made. 

When she came near enough to him, she heard him humming 
A tune he had thought forgotten, the weaver's tune. 
"And the only harm that I've ever done, 
Was to love a pretty maid." 

She halted, trying to listen. He stopped the tune. 
"What's that you were singing?" she said. 

"Oh, just trash," he said 
"I liked it. Sing it some more." 

But he would not sing it. 

They regarded each other a foot or so apart. 
Their shadows blotted together into one shadow. 

She put her hand to both cheeks, and touched them lightly, 
As if to cool them from something. 

A soft, smooth shock 
Inexplicable as the birth of a star 
And terrible as the last cry of the flesh 
Ran through his cords and struck. 

He stared at the shadows. 

Then she took her shadow into the house with her 
But he still stood looking where the shadows had touched. 



John Vilas watched them go off through the wood 
To get the water from the other spring, 



The big pail clanking between them. 

His hard mouth 

Was wry with an old nursery-rhyme, but his eyes 
Looked Somewhere beyond hardness. 

Let them go. 

Harriet said and Harriet always said 
And Harriet was right, but let them go. 
Men who go looking for the wilderness-stone 
And find it, should not marry or beget, 
But, having done so, they must take the odds 
As the odds are. 

Faustus and I are old. 
We creep about among the hollow trees 
Where the bright devils of our youth have gone 
Like a dissolving magic, back to earth. 
But in our tarnished and our antique wands 
And in the rusty metal of our spells 
There still remain such stubbornness and pith 
As may express elixirs from ^i rock 
Or pick a further quarrel with the gods 
Should we find cause enough. 

I know this girl, 

This boy, this youth, this honey in the blood, 
This kingly danger, this immediate fire. 
I know what comes of it and how it lies 
And how, long afterwards, at the split core 
Of the prodigious and self-eaten lie, 
A little grain of truth lies undissolved 
By all the acids of philosophy. 
Therefore, I will not seek a remedy 
Against a sword but in the sword itself 
Nor medicine life with anything but life. 
I am too old to try the peddler's tricks, 
Too wise, too foolish,^ too long strayed in the wood, 
The custom of the world is not my custom, 
Nor its employments mine. 

I know this girl 

I As well as if I never lay with her mother. 

'I know her heart touched with that wilderness-stone 
That turns good money into heaps of leaves 
And builds an outcast house of apple-twigs 
Beside a stream that never had a name. 

124 



She will forget what I cannot forget, 

And she may learn what I shall never learn, 

But, while the wilderness-stone is strong in her, 

Fd have her use it for a touchstone yet 

And see the double face called good and bad 

With her own eyes. So, if she stares it down, 

She is released, and if it conquers her, 

She was not weighted with a borrowed shield. 

We are no chaff crers, my daughter and I. 
We give what pleases us and when we choose, 
And, having given, we do not take back. 
But once we shut our fists upon a star 
It will take portents to unloose that grip 
And even then the stuff will keep the print. 
It is a habit of living. 

For the boy 

I do not know but will not stand between. 
He has more toughness in him than he thinks. 
I took my wife out of a pretty house. 
I took my wife out of a pleasant place. 
I stripped my wife of comfortable things. 
I drove my wife to wander with the wind. 
And we are old now, Faustus. 

Let it be so. 

There was one man who might have understood, 
Because he was half-oriole and half-fox, 
Not Emerson, but the man by Walden Pond. 
But he was given to the birds in youth 
And never had a woman or a daughter. 



The filled pail stood on a stone by the lip of the spring, 
But they had forgotten the pail. 

The spring was a cool 

Wavering mirror that showed them their white, blurred face 
And made them wonder to see the faces so like 
And yet so silent and distant. 

Melora turned. 

"We ought to go back," she said in a commonplace voice. 
"Not yet, Melora." 

Something, as from the spring 

125 



Rising, in silver smoke, in arras of silvers, 

Drifting around them, pushed by a light, slow wind. 

"Not yet Melora." 

They sat on a log above. 

Melora's eyes were still looking down at the spring. 
Her knees were hunched in her arms. 

"You'll be going/' she said, 
Staring at the dimmed glass. "You'll be going soon." 
The silver came closer, soaking into his body, 
Soaking his flesh with bright, impalpable dust. 
He could smell her hair. It smelt of leaves and the wind. 
He could smell the untaken whiteness of her clean flesh, 
The deep, implacable fragrance, fiercer than sleep, 
Sweeter than long sleep in the sun. 

He touched her shoulder. 

She let the hand stay but still she gazed at the spring. 
Then, after a while, she turned. 

The mirrored mouths 
Fused in one mouth that trembled with the slow waters. 



Melora, in the room she had to herself 

Because they weren't white-trash and used to be Eastern, 

Let the rain of her hair fall down, 

In a stream, in a flood, on the white birch of her body. 

She was changed, then. She was not a girl any more. 

She was the white heart of the birch, 

Half hidden by a fleece that a South wind spun 

Out of bronze air and light, on a wheel of light. 

Her sharp clear breasts 

Were two young victories in the hollow darkness 

And when she stretched her hands above her head 

And let the spun fleece ripple to her loins, 

Her body glowed like deep springs under the sun. 

She had no song to sing herself asleep 

Tonight, but she would need no song to sing. 

A thousand thoughts ran past her in a brief 

Unhurrying minute, on small, quiet feet 

But did not change her. Nothing could change her now. 

Black winter night against the windowpane 

And she, a child, singing her fear to sleep 

126 



With nursery-rhymes and broken scraps of tunes. 
How well she could remember those old songs. 
But this night she would sleep without a song 
Except the song the earth knows in the night 
After the huge embrace of the bright day, 
And that was better. 

She thought to herself. 

"I don't know. I can't think. I ought to be scared. 
I ought to have lots of maybes. I can't find them. 
It's funny. It's different. It's a big pair of hands 
Pushing you somewhere but you've got to go. 
Maybe you're crazy but you've got to go. 
That's why Mom went. I know about Mom now. 
I know how she used to be. It's pretty sweet. 
It's rhymes, it's hurting, it's feeling a bird's heart 
Beat in your hand, it's children growing up, 
It's being cut to death with bits of light, 
It's wanting silver bullets in your heart, 
It's not so happy, but it's pretty sweet, 
I've got to go." 

She passed her narrow hands 
Over her body once, half-wonderingly. 

"Divide this transitory and temporal flesh 

Into twelve ears of red and yellow corn 

And plant each ear beside a different stream. 

Yet, in the summer, when the harvesters 

Come with their carts, the grain shall change again 

And turn into a woman's body again 

And walk across a heap of sickle-blades 

To find the naked body of its love." 

She slipped her dress back on and stole downstairs. 
The bare feet, whispering, made little sound. 
A sleeper breathed, a child turned in its sleep. 
She heard the tiny breathings. She shut the door. 

The moon rode a high heaven streaked with cloud. 
She watched it for a moment. Then she drank 
That moon from its high heaven with her mouth 
And felt the immaculate burning of that frost 
Run from her fingers in such corporal silver 

127 



Her whole slight body was a corposant 

Of hollow light and the cold sap of the moon. 

She knew the dark grass cool beneath her feet. 
She knew the opening of the stable door. 
It shut behind her. She was in darkness now. 



Jack Ellyat, lying in a warm nest of hay, 
Stared at the sweet-smelling darkness with troubled eyes. 
He was going tomorrow. He couldn't skulk any more. 
Oh, reasonless thirst in the night, what can slake your thirst, 
Reasonless heart, why will you not let me rest? 
I have seen a woman wrapped in the grace of leaves, 
I have kissed her mouth with my mouth, but 1 must go- 
He was going back to find a piece of himself 
That he had lost in a tent, in a red loud noise, 
Under a sack of tobacco. Until he found it 
He could never be whole again 

but the hunger creeps 

Like a vine about me, crushing my narrow wisdom, 
Crushing my thoughts- 
He couldn't stay with Melora. 
He couldn't take her back home. If he were Bailey 
He would know what to do. He would follow the weaver's tune. 
He would keep Melora a night from the foggy dew 
And then go oif with the sunrise to tell the tale 
Sometime for a campfire yarn. But he wasn't Bailey. 
He saw himself dead without ever having Melora 
And he didn't like it. 

Maybe, after the war. 

Maybe he could come back to the hider's place, 
Maybe it is a long time till after the war 
And this is now you took a girl when you found her 
A girl with flags on her garters or a new girl- 
It didn't matter it made a good campfire yarn- 
It was men and women Bailey the weaver's tune- 
He heard something move and rustle in the close darkness 
"What's that?" he said. He got no answering voice 
But he knew what it was. He saw a light-footed shadow 

128 



Come toward the nest where he lay. For a moment then 
He felt weak, half-sickened almost. 

Then his heart began 

To pound to a marching rhythm that was not harsh 
Nor sweet, but enormous cadence. 

"Melora," he said. 
His hand went out and touched the cup of her breast. 



What things shall be said of you, 
Terrible beauty in armor? 
What things shall be said of you, 
Horses riding the sky? 
The fleetness, the molten speed, 
The rhythm rising like beaten 
Drums of barbaric gold 
Until fire mixes with fire? 

The night is a sparkling pit 
Where Time no longer has power 
But only vast cadence surging 
Toward an instant of tiny death. 
Then, with the slow withdrawal 
Of seas from a rock of moonlight, 
The clasping bodies unlock 
And the lovers have little words. 

What is this spear, this burnished 

Arrow in the deep waters 

That is not quenched by them 

Until it has found its mark? 

What is this beating of wings 

In the formless heart of the tempest? 

This wakening of a sun 

That was not wakened before? 

They have dragged you down from the sky 

And broken you with an ocean 

Because you carried the day, 

Phaeton, charioteer. 

But still you loose from the cloud 

129 



The matched desires of your horses 
And sow on the ripened earth 
The quickened, the piercing flame. 

What things shall be said of you, 
Terrible beauty in armor? 
Dance that is not a dance, 
Brief instant of welded swords. 
For a moment we strike the black 
Door with a fist of brightness. 
And then it is over and spent, 
And we sink back into life. 

Back to the known, the sure, 
The river of sleep and waking, 
The dreams floating the river, 
The nearness, the conquered peace. 
You have come and smitten and passed, 
Poniard, poniard of sharpness. 
The child sleeps in the planet. 
The blood sleeps again. 



He wasn't going away when he went to the wood. 

He told himself that. They had broken the dime together. 

They had cut the heart on the tree. 

The jack-knife cut 

Two pinched half -circles of white on the green bark. 
The tree-gum bled from the cuts in sticky, clear drops, 
And there you were. 

And shortly the bark would dry 
Dead on the living wood and leave the white heart 
All through the winter, all through the rain and snow, 
A phantom-blaze to" guide a tall phantom-hunter 
Who came in lightness along a leaf-buried path. 
All through the snowing winter it would be white. 
It would take many springs to cover that white again. 
What have I done in idleness, in sweet idleness, 
What have I done to the forest? 

I have marked 
A tree to be my own with a jack-knife blade 

130 



In idleness, in sweet idleness. I have loosed 
A dryad out of the tree to chain me with wild 
Grapevines and forest trailers forever and ever 
To the hider's place, to the outcast house of the lost, 
And now, when I would be free, I am free no more. 
He thought of practical matters. There ought to be 
A preacher and a gold ring and a wedding-dress, 
Only how could there be? 

He rolled hard words 

Over his tongue. "A shotgun wedding," he said. 
It wasn't like that, it never could be like that, 
But there was a deadly likeness. 

He saw the bored 

Shamefaced seducer in the clean Sunday collar, 
The whining, pregnant slut in the cheesecloth veil. 
They weren't like thatbut the picture colored his mind. 

If he only could go away without going away 
And have everything turn out just as it ought to be 
Without rings or hiding! 

He told himself "I'm all right. 
I'm not like Bailey. I wouldn't sleep with a girl 
Who never slept with anybody before 
And then just go off and leave her/' 

But it was Melora. 

It wasn't seducing a girl. It was all mixed up. 
All real where it ought to be something told in a sermon, 
And all unreal when you had to do something about it, 
His thoughts went round and round like rats in a cage, 
But all he knew was 

he was sick for a room 
And a red tablecloth with tasselled fringes, 
Where a wife knitted on an end of a scarf, 
A father read his paper through the same 
Unchanging spectacles with the worn bows 
And a young girl beneath a nickeled lamp 
Soundlessly conjugated Latin verbs, 
"Amo, amas, amat," and still no sound- 
Slight dryad, trailing the green, curled vines of the Spring, 
I hate you for this moment, I hate your white breast 
And idleness, sweet, hidden idleness 

13* 



He started awake. He had been walking through dreams. 
How far had he come? He studied the sun and the trees. 
Was he lost? No, there was the way. 

He turned back slowly, 

To the dryad, the idleness to the cheesecloth veil, 
The incredible preacher, the falling out of life. 
He'd ask her this evening where you could find such preachers. 
The old man mustn't know till the thing was done 
Or he would turn to a father out of a cheap 
Play, a cheap shotgun father with a wool beard 
Roaring gilt rhetoricand loading a musket. 
He got the dry grins. 

If the property-father shot him 
Would they carve his name on the soldiers' monument 
After the war? 

There should be a special tablet. 
"Here lies John Ellyat Junior, shot and killed 
By an angry father for the great cause of Union. 
'How sleep the brave.' " 

He stumbled and looked around him. 
"Well, I might go on as far as the road," he said. 

A little while later he burst through the screen of brush. 
And saw the highroad below him. 

He wiped his face. 

The road dipped down a hill to a little bridge. 
He was safe enough now. 

What was it Melora had said? 
The highroad was six miles away from the farm, 
Due west, and he could tell the west by the sun. 
He must have covered a dozen, finding the road, 
But getting back would be easy. 

The sun was high. 

He ought to be starting soon. But he lay down 
And stared for a while at the road. It was good to see 
A road in the open again, a dust-bitten road 
Where people and horses went along to a town. 
-Dryad, deep in the woods, your trails are small, 
Winding and faint they run between grass and flowers 
But it is good once more to come on a road 
That is not drowsy with your idleness 

132 



He looked down toward the bridge. There were moving blobs 

of dust 

Crossing itmen on horses. His heart gave a strange 
Throb of desire. What were they? They looked like soldiers. 
Blue coats or grey? He could not tell for the dust. 
He'd have to get back in the woods before they passed, 
He was a hider now. But he kept on staring 
A long two minutes, trying to make them out, 
Till his eyes stung. One man had- a yellow beard 
And carried his rifle slung the Missouri way 
But there were Missouri troops on either side. 
In a minute he could telland wriggle away 

A round stick jabbed in his back. 

A slow voice said 

"Reach for the sky, Yank, or I'll nachully drill yuh." 
His hands flew up. 

"Yuh're the hell of a scout," said the voice 
With drawling scorn. "Yuh h'ain't even got a gun. 
I could have picked yuh off ten minutes ago, 
Yuh made more noise than a bear, bustin thru* that bresh. 
What'd yuh ust to work at wrappin' up corsets? 
Yeah yuh kin turn around." 

Jack Ellyat turned 
Incredulously. 

"Well, I'll be damned," said the boy 
In butternut clothes with the wrinkled face of a leaf. 
"Yuh're a young 'un all right aw, well, don't take it so hard. 
Our boys get captured, too. Hey, Billy!" he called, 
"Got a Yankee scout." 

The horse-hoofs stopped in the road. 
"Well, bring him along," said a voice. 

Jack Ellyat slid 

Down a little bank and stood in front of the horses. 
He was dazed. This was not happening. But the horses 
Were there, the butternut men on the horseS" were there. 

A gaunt old man with a sour, dry mouth was talking, 
"He's no scout," he said, "He's one of their lousy spies. 
Don't he look like a spy? Let's string him up to a tree." 
His eye roved, looking for a suitable branch, 

133 



His mouth seemed pleased. 

Ellyat saw two little scooped dishes, 
Hung on a balance, wavering in the air. 
One was bright tin and carried his life and breath, 
The other was black. They were balanced with dreadful even- 
ness. 
But now the black dish trembled, starting to fall. 

"Hell, no," said the boy with the face like a wrinkled leaf. 
"He's a scout all right. What makes yuh so savage, Ben? 
Yuh're always hankerin' after a necktie-party. 
Who captured the bugger anyhow?" 

"Oh, well," 

Said the other man. "Oh, well." He spat in the dust. 
"Anyhow," he said, with a hungry look at Ellyat, 
"He's got good boots." 

The boy with the wrinkled face 
Remarked that, as for the boots, no Arkansaw catfish 
Was going to take them away from their lawful captor. 

The rest sat their horses loosely and looked at him 
With mild curiosity, ruminating tobacco. 
Ellyat tried to think. He could not think. 

He was free, 

These stuffless men on stuffless horses had freed him 
From dryads and fathers, from cheesecloth veils and Melora. 
He began to talk fast. He didn't hear what he said. 
"But I've got to get back," he said. Then he stopped. They 

laughed. 

"Oh, yuh'll get over it, Bub," said the wrinkled boy, 
"It ain't so bad. You won't have to fight no more. 
Maybe yuh'll git exchanged. Git up on that horse. 
No, take off them boots first, thanks." 

He slung the boots 

Around his neck. "Now I got some good boots," he said. 
And grinned at the gaunt man with the sour mouth. 
"Now, Bub, I'll just tie yuh a little with this yere rope 
And then you won't be bustin' loose from the gang. 
Grab the pommel as well as yuh kin." 

The gaunt man coughed* 
"I tell you," he said, in a disappointed voice, 
"If we just strung him up it'd make things a hull lot easier. 

'34 



He's a spy for sure, and everyone strings up spies. 
We got a long piece to go yet and he's a nuisance.'* 

"Aw, shut yore face/' said Jim Breckinridge in a drawl, 
"Yuh kin hang any Yanks yuh ketch on a piece uh dishrag, 
Yuh ain't caught no armies yit." 

The gaunt man was silent. 

Ellyat saw the little tin dish that carried the life 
Slowly sink down, to safety, the black dish rise. 
"Come on," said Billy. The horses started to move, 
Stirring a dust that rose for a little while 
In a faint cloud. But after the horses had gone, 
The cloud settled, the road went to sleep again. 



BOOK FOUR 

Strike up, strike up for Wingate's tune, 

Strike up for Sally Dupre! 

Strike up, strike up for the April moon, 

And the rain on the lilac spray! 

For Wingate Hall in its pride once more, 

For the branch of myrtle over the door, 

Because the men are back from the war; 

For the clean bed waiting the dusty rider 

And the punchbowl cooling for thirsty throttles, 

For the hot cooks boiling the hams in cider 

And Cudjo grinning at cobwebbed bottles 

The last of the wine, the last of the wine, 

The last of the '12 and the '29! 

Three times voyaged around the Cape 

Till old Judge Brooke, with an oath oracular, 

Pronounced it the living soul of the grape, 

And the veriest dregs to be superhacular! 

Old Judge Brooke with his double chins 
Sighing over his hoarded claret 
And sending the last of his cherished bins 
To the hospital-doctors with "I can spare it 
But if you give it to some damned layman 
Who doesn't know brandy from licorice-water 



And sports a white ribbon, by fire and slaughter, 
111 hang the lot of you higher than Haman!" 

The Wingate cellars are nearly bare 

But Miss Louisa is doing her hair 

In the latest style of Napoleon's court. 

(A blockade-runner brought the report, 

A blockade-runner carried the silk, 

Heavy as bullion and white as milk, 

That makes Amanda a gleaming moth. 

For the coasts are staked with a Union net 

But the dark fish slip through the meshes yet, 

Shadows sliding without a light, 

Through the dark of the moon, in the dead of night, 

Carrying powder, carrying cloth, 

Hoops for the belle and guns for the fighter, 

Guncotton, opium, bombs and tea. 

Fashionplates, quinine and history. 

For Charleston's corked with a Northern fleet 

And the Bayou City lies at the feet 

Of a damn-the-torpedoes commodore; 

The net draws tighter and ever tighter, 

But the fish dart past till the end of the war, 

From Wilmington to the Rio Grande, 

And the sandy Bahamas are Dixie Land 

Where the crammed, black shadows start for the trip 

That, once clean-run, will pay for the ship. 

They are caught, they are sunk with all aboard. 

They scrape through safely and praise the Lord, 

Ready to start with the next jammed hold 

To pull Death's whiskers out in the cold, 

The unrecorded skippers and mates 

Whom even their legend expurgates, 

The tough daredevils from twenty ports 

Who thumbed their noses at floating forts 

And gnawed through the bars of a giant's cage 

For a cause or a laugh or a living-wage, 

Who five long years on a sea of night, 

Pumped new blood to the vein bled white 

And, incidentally, made the money 

For the strangely rich of the after years 

For the flies wifi come to the open honey, 



And, should war and hell have the same dimensions, 
Both have been paved with the best intentions 
And both are as full of profiteers.) 

The slaves in the quarters are buzzing and talking. 
All through the winter the ha'nts went walking, 
Ha'nts the size of a horse or bigger, 
Ghost-patrollers, scaring a nigger, 
But now the winter's over and broken, 
And the sun shines out like a lovin' token, 
There's goin' to be mixin's and mighty doin's, 
Chicken-fixin's and barbecuin's, 
Old Marse Billy's a-comin' home! 
He's slewn a brigade with a ha'nts's jaw-bone, 
i He's slewn an army with one long sabre, 
He's scared old Linkum 'most to death, 
Now he's comin' home to rest from he labor, 
Play on he fiddle and catch he breath! 

The little black children with velvet eyes 

Tell each other tremendous lies. 

They play at Manassas with guns of peeled 

Willow-stalks from the River Field, 

Chasing the Yanks into Kingdom Come 

While one of them beats on a catskin drum. 

They are happy because they don't know why. 

They scare themselves pretending to die, 

But all through the scare, and before and after, 

Their voices are rich with the ancient laughter, 

The negro laughter, the blue-black rose, 

The laughter that doesn't end with the lips 

But shakes the belly and curls the toes 

And prickles the end of the fingertips. 

Up through the garden, in through the door, 

Tnat undercurrent of laughter floats, 

It mounts like a sea from floor to floor, 

A dark sea, covering painted boats, 

A warm sea, smelling of earth and grass, 

It seeps through the back of the cheval-glass 

Where Amanda stares at her stately self 

Till her eves are bright with a different spark, 

137 



It sifts like a dye, where Louise's peering 

In a shagreen-case for a garnet ear-ring 

Till the little jewels shine in the dark, 

It spills like a wave in the crowded kitchen 

Where the last good sugar of Wingate Hall 

Is frosting a cake like a Polar Highland 

And fat Aunt Bess in her ice-wool shawl 

Spends the hoarded knowledge her heart is rich in 

On oceans of trifle and floating-island. 

Fat Aunt Bess is older than Time 

But her eyes still shine like a bright, new dime, 

Though two generations have gone to rest 

On the sleepy mountain of her breast. 

Wingate children in Wingate Hall, 

From the first weak cry in the bearing-bed 

She has petted and punished them, one and all, 

She has closed their eyes when they lay dead. 

She raised Marse Billy when he was puny, 

She cared for the Squire when he got loony, 

Fed him and washed him and combed his head, 

Nobody else would do instead. 

The matriarch of the weak and the young, 

The lazy crooning, comforting tongue. 

She has had children of her own, 

But the white-skinned ones are bone of her bone. 

They may n6t be hers, but she is theirs, 

And if the shares were unequal shares, 

She does not know it, now she is old. 

They will keep her out of the rain and cold. 

And some were naughty, and some were good, 

But she will be warm while they have wood, 

Rule them and spoil them and play physician 

With the vast, insensate force of tradition, 

Half a nuisance and half a mother 

And legally neither one nor the other, 

Till at last they follow her to her grave, 

The family-despot, and the slave. 

Curious blossom from bitter ground, 
Master of masters who left you bound, 
Who shall unravel the mingled strands 

138 



Or read the anomaly of your hands? 

They have made you a shrine and a humorous fable, 

But they kept you a slave while they were able, 

And yet, there was something between the two 

That you shared with them and they shared with you, 

Brittle and dim, but a streak of gold, 

A genuine kindness, unbought, unsold, 

Graciousness founded on hopeless wrong 

But queerly living and queerly strong. . . . 

There were three stout pillars that held up all 

The weight and tradition of Wingate Hall. 

One was Cud jo and one was you 

And the third was the mistress, Mary Lou. 

Mary Lou Wingate, as slightly made 

And as hard to break as a rapier-blade. 

Bristol's daughter and Wingate's bride, 

Never well since the last child died 

But staring at pain with courteous eyes. 

When the pain outwits it, the body dies, 

Meanwhile the body bears, the pain. 

She loved her hands and they made her vain, 

The tiny hands of her generation 

That gathered the reins of the whole plantation; 

The velvet sheathing the steel demurdy 

In the trained, light grip that holds so surely. 

She was at work by candlelight, 

She was at work in the dead of night, 

Smoothing out troubles and healing schisms 

And doctoring phthisics and rheumatisms, 

Guiding the cooking and watching the baking, 

The sewing, the soap-and-candle-making, 

The brewing, the darning, the lady-daughters, 

The births and deaths in the negro-quarters, 

Seeing that Suke had some new, strong shoes 

And Joe got a week in the calaboose, 

While Dicey's Jacob escaped a whipping 

And the jellybag dripped with its proper dripping, 

And the shirts and estrangements were neatly mended, 

And all of the tasks that never ended. 

139 



Her manner was gracious but hardly^fervent 

And she seldom raised her voice to a servant. 

She was often mistaken, not often blind, 

And she knew the whole duty of womankind, 

To take the burden and have the power 

And seem like the well-protected flower, 

To manage a dozen industries 

With a casual gesture in scraps of ease, 

To hate the sin and to love the sinner 

And to see that the gentlemen got their dinner 

Ready and plenty and piping-hot 

Whether you wanted to eat or not. 

And always, always, to have the charm 

That makes the gentlemen take your arm 

But never the bright, unseemly spell 

That makes strange gentlemen love too well, 

Once you were married and settled down 

With a suitable gentleman of your own. 

And when that happened, and you had bred 
The requisite children, living and dead, 
To pity the fool and comfort the weak 
And always let the gentlemen speak 
To succor your love from deep-struck roots 
When gentlemen went to bed in their boots, 
And manage a gentleman's whole plantation 
In the manner befitting your female station. 

This was the creed that her mother taught her 
And the creed that she taught to every daughter. 
I She knew her Bible and how to flirt 
With a swansdown fan and a brocade skirt. 
For she trusted in God but she liked formalities 
And the world and Heaven were both realities. 
In Heaven, of course, we should all be equal, 
But, until we came to that golden sequel, 
Gentility must keep to gentility 
Where God and breeding had made things stable, 
While the rest of the cosmos deserved civility 
But dined in its boots at the second-table. 
This view may be reckoned a trifle narrow, 
But it had the driving force of an arrow, 

140 



And it helped Mary Lou to stand up straight, 

For she was gentle, but she could hate 

And she hated the North with the hate of Jael 

When the dry hot hands went seeking the nail, 

The terrible hate of women's ire, 

The smoky, the long-consuming fire. 

The Yankees were devils, and she could pray, 

For devils, no doubt, upon Judgment Day, 

But now in the world, she would hate them still 

And send the gentlemen out to kill. 

The gentlemen killed and the gentlemen died, 
But she was the South's incarnate pride 
That mended the broken gentlemen 
And sent them out to the w r ar again, 
That kept the house with the men away 
And baked the bricks where there was no clay, 
Made courage from terror and bread from bran 
And propped the South on a swansdown fan 
Through four long years of ruin and stress, 
The prideand the deadly bitterness. 

Let us look at her now, let us see her plain, 

She will never be quite like this again. 

Her house is rocking under the blast 

And she hears it tremble, and still stands fast, 

But this is the last, this is the last. 

The last of the wine and the white corn meal, 

The last high fiddle singing the reel, 

The last of the silk with the Paris label, 

The last blood-thoroughbred safe in the stable 

.Yellow corn meal and a jackass colt, 

A door that swings on a broken bolt, 

Brittle old letters spotted with tears 

An4 a wound that rankles for fifty years 

This is the last of Wingate Hall, 

The last bright August before the Fall, 

Death has been near, and Death has passed, 

But this is the last, this is the last. 

There will be hope, and a scratching pen, 

There will be cooking for tired men, 

The waiting for news with shut, hard fists, 

141 



And the blurred, strange names in the battle-lists, 
The April sun and the April rain, 
But never this day come back again. 

But she is lucky, she does not see 
The axe-blade sinking into the tree 
Day after day, with a slow, sure stroke 
Till it chops the mettle from Wingate oak. 
The house is busy, the cups are filling 
To welcome the gentlemen back from killing, 
, The hams are boiled and the chickens basting, 
Fat Aunt Bess is smiling and tasting, 
Cud jo's napkin is superfine, 
He knows how the gentlemen like their wine, 
Amanda is ready, Louisa near her, 
Glistering girls from a silver mirror, 
Everyone talking, everyone scurrying, 
Upstairs and downstairs, laughing and hurrying, 
Everyone giving and none denying, 
There is only living, there is no dying. 
War is a place but it is not here, 
The peace and the victory are too near. 
One more battle, and Washington taken, 
The Yankees mastered, the South unshaken, 
Fiddlers again, and the pairing season, 
The old-time rhyme and the old-time reason, 
The grandchildren, and the growing older 
Till at last you need a gentleman's shoulder, 
And the pain can stop, for the frayed threads sever, 
But the house and the courtesy last forever. 

So Wingate found it, riding at ease, 

The cloud-edge lifting over the trees, 

A white-sail glimmer beyond the rise, 

A sugar-castle that strained the eyes, 

Then mounting, mounting, the shining spectre 

Risen at last from the drop of nectar, 

The cloud expanding, the topsails swelling, 

The doll's house grown to a giant's dwelling, 

Porches and gardens and ells and wings 

Linking together like puzzle-rings, 

142 



Till the parts dissolved in a steadfast whole, 
And Wingate saw it, body and soul. 

Saw it completely, and saw it gleam, 

The full-rigged vessel, the sailing dream, 

The brick and stone that were somehow quick 

With a ghost not native to stone and brick, 

The name held high and the gift passed on 

From Wingate father to Wingate son, 

No longer a house but a conjur-stone 

That could hate and sorrow and hold its own 

As long as the seed of Elspeth Mackay 

Could mix its passion with Wingate clay 

And the wind and the river had memories. . . . 

Wingate saw it ail-but with altered eyes. 
He was not yet broken on any wheel, 
He had no wound of the flesh to heal, 
He had seen one battle, but he was still 
The corn unground by the watermill, 
He had ridden the rainy winter through 
And he and Black Whistle were good as new, 
The Black Horse Troop still carried its pride 
And rode as the Yankees could not ride, 
But, when he remembered a year-old dawn, 
Something had come and something gone, 
And even now, when he smelt the Spring, 
And his heart was hot with his homecoming, 
There was a whisper in his ear 
That said what he did not wish to hear, 
"This is the last, this is the last;, 
Hurry, hurry, this is the last, ' 
Drink the wine before yours is spilled, 
Kiss the sweetheart before you're killed, 
She will be loving, and she will grieve, 
And wear your heart on her golden sleeve 
And marry your friend when he gets his leave. 
It does not matter that you are still 
The corn unground by the watermill, 
The stones grind till they get their will. 
Pluck the flower that hands can pluck, 
Touch the walls of your house for luck, 



Eat of the fat and drink the sweet, 
There is little savor in dead men's meat. 
It does not matter that you once knew 
Future and past and a different you, 
That went by when the wind first blew. 
There is no future, there is no past, 
There is only this hour and it goes fast, 
Hurry, hurry, this is the last, 
This is the last, 
This is the last." 

He heard it and faced it and let it talk. 
The tired horses dropped to a walk. 
And then Black Whistle lunged at the bit 
And whinnied because he was alive, 
And he saw the porch where the evenings sit 
And the tall magnolias shading the drive, 
He heard the bell of his father's mirth, 
"Tallyho, Yanks we've gone to earth! 
Home, boy, home to Wingate Hall, 
Home in spite of them, damn them all!" 
He was stabbed by the rays of the setting sun, 
He felt Black Whistle break to a run, 
And then he was really there again, 
Before he had time to think or check, 
And a boy was holding his bridle-rein, 
And Mary Lou's arms were around his neck. 



Sally Dupre and Wingate talk with the music. . . . 

The dance. Such a lovely dance. But you dance so lightly. 

Amanda dances so well. But you dance so lightly. 

(Do you remember the other dance? ) 

Phil Ferrier was here, remember, last year. 

(He danced with me. He could dance rather well. He is dead.) 

We were all so sorry when we heard about Phil. 

(How long will you live and be able to dance with me?) 

Yes. Phil was a fine fellow. We all liked Phil. 

(Do not talk of the dead. 

At first we talk of the dead, we write of the dead, 

We send their things to their people when we can find them, 

144 



We write letters to you about them, we say we liked him, 

He fought well, he died bravely, here is his sword, 

Here is his pistol, his letters, his photograph case; 

You will like to have these things, they will do instead. 

But the war goes on too long. 

After a while you still want to talk of the dead. 

But we are too tired. We will send you the pistol still, 

The photograph-case, the knickknacks, if we can find them, 

But the war has gone on too long. 

We cannot talk to you still, as we used to, about the dead.) 

Nancy Huguenot's here tonight. Have you danced with her yet? 

She didn't want to come. She was brave to come. 

(Phil Ferrier was Nancy's lover. 

She sent him off. She cut her hair for a keepsake. 

They were going to be married as soon as he came back. 

For a long time she dressed in black. 

Then one morning she rose, and looked at the sun on the wall, 

She put on a dress with red sleeves and a red, striped shawl, 

She said "Phil was my beau. He wouldn't have liked me in black." 

She used to cry quite a lot but she hasn't cried much since then. 

I think she'll get well and marry somebody else. 

I think she's right. If I had to wear grief for a lover, 

I wouldn't wear black. 

I would wear my best green silk and my Empire sacque 

And walk in the garden at home and feel the wind 

Blow through my rags of honor forever and ever. 

And after that, when I married some other beau, 

I would make a good wife and raise my children on sweet 

Milk, not on poison, though it might have been so. 

And my husband would never know 

When he turned to me, when I kissed him, when we were kind, 

When I cleaned his coat, when we talked about dresses and 

weather, 

He had married something that belonged to the wind 
And felt the blind 

And always stream of that wind on her too-light bones, 
Neither fast nor slow, but never checked or resigned, 
Blowing through rags of honor forever and ever.) 

They are calling for partners again. Shall we dance again? 
(Why do we hate each other so well, when we 
Are tied together by something that will not free us? 



If I see you across a room, I will go to you, 

If you see me across a room, you will come to me, 

And yet we hate each other.) 

Not yet, for a minute. I want to watch for a minute. 

(I do not hate you. I love you. But you must take me. 

I will not take your leavings nor you my pity. 

I must break you first for a while and you must break me. 

We are too strong to love the surrendered city. 

So we hate each other.) 

That's a pretty girl over there. Beautiful hair. 

(She is the porcelain you play at being.) 

Yes, isn't she. Her name is Lucy Weatherby. 

(I hate her hair. I hate her porcelain air.) 

She can't be from the county or I'd remember her. 

(I know that kind of mouth. Your mouth is not that. 

Your mouth is generous and bitter and sweet. 

If I kissed your mouth, I would have to be yours forever. 

Her mouth is pretty. You could kiss it awhile.) 

No, they're kin to the Shepleys. Lucy comes from Virginia. 

(I know that kind of mouth. I know that hair. 

I know the dolls you like to take in your hands, 

The dolls that all men like to take in their hands, 

I will not fight with a doll for you or any one.) 

We'd better dance now. 

(Lucy Weatherby. 

When this dance is done, I will leave you and dance with her. 

I know that shallow but sufficient mouth.) 

As you please. 

(Lucy Weatherby. 

I will make an image of you, a doll in wax. 

I will pierce the little .wax palms with silver bodkins. 

No, I will not.) 

That's good music. It beats in your head. 

(It beats in the head, it beats in the head, 

It ties the heart with a scarlet thread, 

This is the last, 

This is the last, 

Hurry, hurry, this is the last. 

We dance on a floor of polished sleet, 

146 



But the little cracks are beginning to meet, 
Under the play of our dancing feet. 
I do not care. I am Wingate still. 
The corn unground by the watermill. 
And I am yours while the fiddles spill, 
But my will has a knife to cut your will, 
My birds will never come to your hill. 

You are my foe and my only friend, 
You are the steel I cannot bend, 
You are the water at the world's end. 

But Wingate Hall must tumble down, 

Tumble down, tumble down, 

A dream dissolving, a ruined thing, 

Before we can melt from the shattered crown 

Gold enough for a wedding-ring. 

And Wingate Hall must lie in the dust, 

And the wood rot and the iron rust 

And the vines grow over the broken bust, 

Before we meet without hate or pride, 

Before we talk as lover and bride, 

Before the daggers of our offence 

Have the color of innocence, 

And nothing is said and all is said, 

And we go looking for secret bread, 

And lie together in the same bed.) 

Yes, it's good music, hear it lift. 

(It is too mellow, it is too swift, 

I am dancing alone in my naked shift, 

I am dancing alone in the snowdrift. 

You are my lover and you my life, 

My peace and my unending strife 

And the edge of the knife against my knife. 

I will not make you a porcelain wife. 

We are linked together for good and all, 
For the still pool and the waterfall, 
But you are married to Wingate Hall. 
And Wingate Hall must tumble down, 

147 



Tumble down, tumble down, 

Wingate Hall must tumble down, 

An idol broken apart, 

Before I sew on a wedding gown 

And stitch my name in your heart. 

And Wingate Hall must lie in the grass, 

And the silk stain and the rabbits pass 

And the sparrows wash in the gilded glass, 

Before the fire of our anger smothers, 

And our sorrows can laugh at their lucky brothers, 

Before the knives of our enmity 

Are buried under the same green tree 

And nothing is vowed and all is vowed 

And we have forgotten how to be proud, 

And we sleep like cherubs in the same cloud.) 



Lucy Weatherby, cuddled up in her bed, 

Drifted along toward sleep with a smile on her mouth, 

"I was pretty tonight," she thought, "I was pretty tonight. 

Blue's my color blue that matches my eyes. 

I always ought to wear blue. I'm sorry for girls 

Who can't wear that sort of blue. Her name is Sally 

But she's too dark to wear the colors I can, 

I'd like to give her my blue dress and see her wear it, 

She'd look too gawky, poor thing. 

He danced with her 

For a while at first but I hadn't danced with him then, 
He danced with me after that. He's rather a dear. 
I wonder how long he'll be here. I think I like him. 
I think I'm going to be pretty while I am here. 

Lucy Weatherby Lucy Shepley Lucy Wingate 
Huger's so jealous, nearly as jealous as Curly, 
Poor Curly I ought to answer his mother's letter 
But it's so hard answering letters." 

She cried a little, 

Thinking of Curly. The tears were fluent and warm, 
They did not sting in her eyes. They made her feel brave. 
She could hardly remember Curly any more 
But it was right to cry for him, now and then, 



Slight tears at night and a long, warm, dreamless sleep 
That left you looking pretty. 

She dried the tears 

And thought to herself with a pleasant little awe, 
"You really are mighty brave, dear. You really are. 
Nobody would think your beau was killed at Manassas." 
She could hardly remember Curly any more- 
She tried to make Curly's face come out of the darkness 
But it was too hard the other faces kept coming 
Huger Shepley and all the Virginia boys 
And now this new boy's face with the dark, keen eyes. 

Boys who were privates, boys who were majors and captains, 

Nice old Generals who patted your shoulder, 

Darling convalescents who called you an angel 

A whole, great lucky-bag of nice, thrilling boys, 

Fighting for you and the South and the Cause, of course. 

You were a flame for the Cause. You sang songs about it. 

You sent white feathers to boys who didn't enlist 

And bunches of flowers to boys who were suitably wounded. 

You wouldn't dream of making peace with the North 

While a single boy was left to fight for the Cause 

And they called you the Dixie Angel. 

They fought for the Cause 

But you couldn't help feeling, too, that they fought for you, 
And when they died for you and the Cause and the flag 
Your heart was tender enough. You were willing to say 
You had been engaged to them, even when you hadn't 
And answer their mothers' letters in a sweet way, 
Though answering letters was hard. 

She cuddled closer, 

"Pillow, tell me I'm pretty, tell me I'm lovely, 
Tell me I'm nicer than anybody you know, 
Tell me that nice new boy is thinking about me, 
Tell me that Sally girl couldn't wear my blue, 
Tell me the war won't end till we've whipped the Yankees, 
Tell me I'll never get wrinkles and always have beaus." 



The slave got away from Zachary's place that night. 
He was a big fellow named Spade with one cropped ear. 
He had splay feet and sometimes walked with a limp. 

149 



His back was scarred. He was black as a pine at night. 

He'd tried to run away a couple of times 

That was how he got some of the marks you could tell him 

by- 

But he'd been pretty quiet now for a year or so 
And they thought he had settled down. 

When he got away 

He meant to kill Zachary first but the signs weren't right. 
He talked to the knife but the knife didn't sweat or heat, 
So he just got away instead. 

When he reached the woods 

And was all alone, he was pretty scared for a while, 
But he kept on going all night by the big soft stars, 
Loping as fast as he could on his long splay feet 
And when morning broke, he knew he was safe for a time. 

He came out on a cleared place, then. He saw the red 
Sun spill over the trees. 

He threw his pack 

Down on the ground and started to laugh and laugh, 
"Spade, boy, Spade, you's lucky to git dis far. 
You never managed to git dis far before, 
De Lawd's sho'ly with you, Spade." 

He ate and drank. 

He drew a circle for Zachary's face in the ground 
And spat in the circle. Then he thought of his woman. 
"She's sho'ly a grievin' woman dis mawnin', Spade." 
The thought made him sad at first, but he soon cheered up. 
"She'll do all right as soon as she's thu with grievin'. 
Grievin' yaller gals always does all right. 
Next time Fse gwine to git me a coal-black gal. 
Fse tired of persimmon-skins. 

Fse gwine to break loose. 

De signs is right dis time. Fse gwine to be free, 
Free in de Norf." 

He saw himself in the North. 
He had a stovepipe hat and a coal-black gal. 
He had a white-folks' house and a regular mule. 
He worked for money and nobody ever owned him. 
He got religion and dollars and lucky dice 
And everybody he passed in the white folks' street 
Said "Good mawnin', Mr. Spade Mr. Spade, good mawnin'." 

150 



He chuckled aloud. "Good mawnin*, Mistuh Spade, 
Gwine to be free, Mistuh Spadeyes, suh, Mistuh Spade!" 
For a lazy moment, he was already there- 
Then he stiffened, nostrils flaring, at a slight sound. 
It couldn't be dogs already. 

"Jesus," he whispered, 

"Sweet, lovin' Jesus, don't let 'em git me again, 
Burn me up, but don't let 'em git me again, 
Dey's gwine.to cut me apart." 

The rabbit ran past. 

He stared at it for a moment with wild, round eyes, 
Started a yell of laughter and choked it off. 
"Dat ain't no nachul rabbit dere, Spade, boy. 
Dat's a sign. Yss, suh. You better start makin' tracks. 
Take your foot in your hand, Mistuh Spade." 

He swung the bundle 

Up on his shoulders and slid along through the trees. 
The bundle was light. He was going to be hungry soon 
And the big splay feet would soon be bleeding and sore, 
But, as he went, he shook with uncanny chuckles. 
"Good mawnin', Mr. Spade glad to see you dis mawnin* 
How's Mrs. Spade, Mr. Spade?" 



Sally Dupre, from the high porch of her house 
Stared at the road. 

They would be here soon enough. 
She had waved a flag the last time they went away. 
This time she would wave her hand or her handkerchief. 
That was what women did. The column passed by 
And the women waved, and it came back and they waved, 
And, in between, if you loved, you lived by a dull 
Clock of long minutes that passed like sunbonneted women 
Each with the same dry face and the same set hands. 
I have read, they have told me that love is a pretty god 
With light wings stuck to his shoulders. 

They did not tell me 

That love is nursing a hawk with yellow eyes. 
That love is feeding your heart to the beak of the hawk 
Because an old woman, gossiping, uttered a name. 



They were coming now. 

She remembered the first time. 

They were different now. They rode with a different rein. 

They rode all together. They knew where they were going. 

They were famous now, but she wondered about the fame. 

And yet, as she wondered, she felt the tears in her blood 

Because they could ride so easily. 

He was there. 
She fed her heart to the hawk and watched him ride. 

She thought, "But they like this, too. They are like small boys 

Going off to cook potatoes over a fire 

Deep in the woods, where no women can ever come 

To say how blackened and burnt the potatoes are 

And how you could cook them better back in a house. 

Oh, they like to come home. When they're sick they like to come 

home, 
They dream about home they write you they want to come 

back, 

And they come back and live in the house for a while 
And raise their sons to hear the same whistle-tune 
Under the window, the whistle calling the boys 
Out to the burnt potatoes. 

O whistler Death, 

What have we done to you in a barren month, 
In a sterile hour, that our lovers should die before us?" 
Then she thought. "No, no, I can't bear it. It cannot be borne." 
And knowing this, bore it. 

He saw her. He turned his horse. 

"If he comes here, I can't keep it back, I can't keep it back, 
I can't stand it, don't let him come." He was coming now. 
He rides well, she thought, while her hands made each other cold. 
I will have to remember how. And his face is sharper. 
The moustache quite changes his face. The face that I saw 
While he was away was clean-shaven and darker-eyed. 
I must change that, now. I will have to remember that. 
It is very important. 

He swung from Black Whistle's back. 
His spurs made a noise on the porch. She twisted her hands. 
"If I shut my eyes, I can make him kiss me. I will not." 

They were saying good-by, now. She heard polite voices say- 
ing it. 

152 



Then the voices ended. "No, no, it is not to be borne, 
It is the last twist of the vise." 

Her will snapped then. 

When she looked at him, she knew that the knives were edgeless. 
In an instant life would begin, life would be forever. 

His eyes wavered. There was a thin noise in her ears, 
A noise from the road. 

The instant fell and lay dead 
Between them like something broken. 

She turned to see what had killed it. 

Lucy Weatherby, reining a bright bay mare, 
Played with the braided Jash of a riding-whip 
And talked to Wingate's father with smiling eyes, 
While Huger Shepley tried to put in a word 
And the whole troop clustered about her. 

Her habit was black 

But she had a knot of bright ribbons pinned at her breast, 
Red and bluethe Confederate colors. 

They had cheered her. 

They had cheered her, riding along with her colored ribbons. 
It was that which had killed the instant. 

Sally looked 

At the face with the new moustache she had to remember. 
"Good-by," she said. The face bent over her hand 
And kissed it acceptably. 

Then the face had gone. 

He was back with the others now. She watched for a minute. 
Lucy was unpinning her knot of ribbons. 
She saw a dozen hands go up for the knot 
And Lucy laugh her sweet laugh and shake her bright head, 
Glance once at Huger Shepley and once at Clay, 
And then toss the colored knot to the guidon-bearer 
Who grinned and tied the ribbons around the staff 
While some of them cheered again. 

Then the horses moved. 

They went by Lucy. Lucy was waving her hand. 
She had tears in her eyes and was saying brave words to the 

soldiers. 

Sally watched a back and a horse go out of sight. 
She was tired, then. 

153 



When the troop had quite disappeared 
Lucy rode up toche house. 

The two women kissed 

And talked for a while about riding-habits and war. 
"I just naturally love every boy in the Black Horse Troop, 
Don't you, Sally darling? They're all so nice and polite, 
Quite like our Virginia boys, and the Major's a dear, 
And that nice little one with the guidon is perfectly sweet. 
You ought to have heard what he said when I gave him the knot. 
Though, of course, I can tell why you didn't come down to the 

road, 

War's terrible, isn't it? All those nice boys going off 
I feel just the way you do, darling we just have to show them 
Whenever we can that we know they are fighting for us, 
Fighting for God and the South and the cause or the right 
'Law, Chile, don't you fret about whether you's pretty or plain, 
You just do what you kin, and the good Lawd'll brighten your 

tracks.' 

That's what my old mammy would tell me when I was knee-high 
And I always remember and just try to do what I can 
For the boys and the wounded and well, that's it, isn't it, dear? 
We've all got to do what we can in this horrible war." 
Sally agreed that we had, and drank Jrom a cup. 
She thought. "Lucy Weatherby. Yes. I must look for a doll. 
I must make a doll with your face, an image of wax. 
I must call that doll by your name." 



Now the scene expands, we must look at the scene as a whole. 

How are the gameboards chalked and the pieces set? 

There is an Eastern game and a Western game. 

In the West, blue armies try to strangle the long 

Snake of the Mississippi with iron claws; 

Buell and Grant against Bragg and Beauregard. 

They have hold of the head of the snake where it touches the 

Gulf, 

New Orleans is taken, the fangs of the forts drawn out, 
The ambiguous Butler wins ambiguous fame 
By issuing orders stating that any lady 
Who insults a Union soldier in uniform 
Shall be treated as a streetwalker plying her trade. 
The orders are read and hated. The insults stop 



But the ladies remember Butler for fifty years 
And make a fabulous devil with pasteboard horns 
"Beast" Butler, the fiend who pilfered the silver spoons 
From a slightly-tarnished, crude-minded, vain politician 
Who loved his wife and ached to be a great man. 
You were not wise with the ladies, Benjamin Butler, 
It has been disproved that you stole New Orleans spoons 
But the story will chime at the ribs of your name and stain it, 
fc Ghost-silver, clinking against the ribs of a ghost, 
As long as the ladies have tongues. 

Napoleon was wiser 

But he could not silence one ugly, clever De Stael. 
Make war on the men the ladies have too-long memories. 

The head of the snake is captured the tail gripped fast- 
But the body in between still writhes and resists, 
Vicksburg is still unfallen Grant not yet master- 
Sheridan, Sherman, Thomas still in the shadow. 
The eyes of the captains are fixed on the Eastern game, 
The presidents and the watchers oversea 
For there are the two defended kings of the board, 
Muddy Washington, with its still-unfinished Capitol, 
Sprawling, badly-paved, beset with sharp hogs 
That come to the very doorsteps and grunt for crumbs, 
Full of soldiers and clerks, full ot all the baggage of war, 
"Bombproof " officers, veterans back on leave, 
Recruits, spies, spies on the spies, politicians, contractors, 
Reporters, slackers, ambassadors, bands and harlots, 
Negro-boys who organize butting-matches 
To please the recruits, tattooers and fortune-tellers, 
Rich man, poor man, soldier, beggarman, thief, 
And one most lonely man in a drafty White House 
Whose everlasting melancholy runs 
Like a deep stream under the funny stories, 
The parable-maker, humble in many things 
But seldom humble with his fortitude, 
The sorrowful man who cracked the sure-fire jokes, 
Roareu over Artemus Ward and Orpheus C. Kerr 
And drove his six cross mules with a stubborn hand. 
He has lost a son, but he has no time to grieve for him. 
He studies tactics now till late in the night 
With the same painful, hewing industry 

'55 



He put on studying law. 

McClellan comes, 

McClellan goes, McClellan bustles and argues, 
McClellan is too busy to see the President, 
McClellan complains of this, complains of that, 
The Government is not supporting him, 
The Government cannot understand grand strategy, 
The Government 

McClellan feels abused. 

McClellan is quite sincere and sometimes right. 
They come to the lonely man about McClellan 
With various tales. 

McClellan lacks respect, 
McClellan dreams about a dictatorship, 
McClellan does that and this. 

The lonely man 

Listens to all the stories and remarks, 
"If McClellan wins, I will gladly hold his horse." 

A hundred miles away in an arrow-line 

Lies the other defended king of the giant chess, 

Broad-streeted Richmond. 

All the baggage of war 
Is here as well, the politicians, the troops, 
The editors who scream at the government, 
The slackers, the good and the bad, but the flavor is different: 
There is something older here, and smaller and courtlier, 
The trees in the streets are old trees used to living with people, 
Family-trees that remember your grandfather's name. 
It is still a clan-city, a family-city, a city 
That thinks of the war, on the whole, as a family-matter, 
A woman city, devoted and fiercely jealous 
As any of the swan-women who ruled it then- 
Ready to give their lives and hearts for the South, 
But already a little galled by Jefferson Davis 
And finding him rather too much of a doctrinaire 
With a certain comparative touch of the parvenu. 
He is not from Virginia, we never knew his grandfather. 

The South is its husband, the South is not quite its master. 
It has a soul while Washington is a symbol, 
Beautiful, witty, feminine, narrow and valiant, 



Unwisely-chosen, perhaps, for a king of the game, 
But playing the part with a definite air of royalty 
Until, in the end, it stands for the South completely 
And when it falls, the sword of the South snaps short 

At present, the war has not yet touched it home, 
McClellan has landed, on the Peninsula, 
But his guns are still far away. 

The ladies go 

To Mrs. Davis's parties in last year's dresses. 
Soon they are to cut the green and white chintz curtains 
That shade their long drawing-rooms from the lazy sun 
To bandage the stricken wounded of Seven Pines. 

The lonely man with the chin like John Calhoun's 
Works hard and is ill at ease in his Richmond White House. 
His health was never too strong it is tiring now 
Under a mass of detail, under the strain 
Of needless quarrels with secretaries and chiefs 
And a Congress already beginning to criticize him. 
He puts his trust in God with a charmed devotion 
And his faith, too often, in men who can feed his vanity. 
They mock him for it. He cannot understand mocking. 
There is something in him that prickles the pride of men 
Whom Lincoln could have used, and makes them his foes. 
Joe Johnston and he have been at odds from the first, 
Beauregard and he are at odds and will be at odds, 
One could go through a list- 
He is quite as stubborn as Lincoln 
In supporting the people he trusts through thick and thin, 
But except for Lee the people he trusts so far 
Seldom do the work that alone can repay the trust. 
They fail in the end and his shoulders carry the failure, 
And leave him, in spite of his wife, in spite of his God, 
Lonely, beginning and end, with that other's loneliness. 
The other man could have understood him and used him. 
He could never have used or comprehended the other. 
It is their measure. 

And yet, a deep loneliness, 
A deep devotion, a deep self-sacrifice, 
Binds the strange two together. 

He, too, is to lose 



A child in his White House, ere his term is accomplished. 

He, too, is to be the scapegoat for all defeat. 

And he is to know the ultimate bitterness, 

The cause lost after every expense of mind, 

And bear himself with decent fortitude 

In the prison where the other would not have kept him. 

One cannot balance tragedy in the scales 

Unless one weighs it with the tragic heart. 

The other man's tragedy was the greater one 

Since the blind fury tore the huger heart, 

But this man's tragedy is the more pitiful. 

Thus the Eastern board and the two defended kings. 

But why is the game so ordered, what crowns the kings? 

They are cities of streets and houses like other cities. 

Baltimore might be taken, and war go on, 

Atlanta will be taken and war go on, 

Why should these two near cities be otherwise? 

We do not fight for the real but for shadows we make. 

A flag is a piece of cloth and a word is a sound, 

But we make them something neither cloth nor a sound, 

Totems of love and hate, black sorcery -stones, 

So with these cities. 

And so the third game is played, 
The intricate game of the watchers oversea, 
The shadow that falls like the shadow of a hawk's wing 
Over the double-chessboard until the end 
The shadow of Europe, the shadows of England and France, 
The war of the cotton against the iron and wheat. 
The shadows ponder and mutter, biding their time; 
If the knights and bishops that play for the cotton-king 
Can take the capital-city of wheat and iron, 
The shadow-hands will turn into hands of steel 
And intervene for the cotton that feeds the mills. 
But if the fable throned on a cotton-bale 
Is checkmated by the* pawns of iron and wheat, 
The shadows will pause, and cleave to iron and wheat, 
They will go their ways and lift their eyes from the game, 
For iron and wheat are not to be lightly held. 
So the watchers, searching the board. 

And so the game. 

The blockade grips, the blockade-runners break through, 
There are duels and valors, the Western game goes on 



And the snake of the Mississippi is tamed at last, 
But the fight in the East is the fight between the two kings. 
If Richmond is threatened, we threaten Washington, 
You check our king with McClellan or Hooker or Grant, 
We will check your king with Jackson or Early or Lee 
And you must draw back strong pieces to shield your king, 
For we hold the chord of the circle and you the arc 
And we can shift our pieces better than you. 

So it runs for years until Jubal Early, riding, 

A long twelve months after Gettysburg's high tide, 

Sees the steeples of Washington prick the blue June sky 

And the Northern king is threatened for the last time. 

But, by then, the end is too near, the cotton is withered. 

Now the game still hangs in the balance the cotton in bloom 

The shadows of the watchers long on the board. 

McClellan has moved his men from their camps at last 

In a great sally. 

There are many gates he can try. 
The Valley gate and the old Manassas way, 
But he has chosen to ferry his men by sea, 
To the ragged half-island between the York and the James 
And thrust up a long, slant arm from Fortress Monroe 
Northwest toward Richmond. 

The roads are sticky and soft, 

There are forts at Yorktown and unmapped rivers to cross. 
He has many more men than Johnston or John Magruder 
But the country hinders him, and he hinders himself 
By always thinking the odds on the other side 
And that witches of ruin haunt each move he makes. 
But even sohe has boarded that jutting deck 
That is the Peninsula, and his forces creep 
Slowly toward Richmond, slowly up to the high 
Defended captain's cabin of the great ship. 
There was another force that came from its ships 
To take a city set on a deck of land, 
The cause unlike, but the fighting no more stark, 
The doom no fiercer, the fame no harder to win. 
There are no gods to come with a golden smoke 
Here in the mud between the York and the James 
And wrap some high-chinned hero away from death. 
There are only Bibles and buckles and cartridge belts 

159 



That sometimes stop a bullet before it kills 
But oftener let it pass. 

And when Sarpedon 

Falls and the heavy darkness stiffens his limbs 
They will let him lie where he fell, they will not wash him 
In the running streams of Scamander, the half-divine, 
They will bury him in a shallow and cumbered pit. 
But, if you would sing of fighters, sing of these men, 
Sing of Fair Oaks and the battered Seven Days, 
Not of the raging of Ajax, the cry of Hector, 
These men were not gods nor shielded by any gods, 
They were men of our shape: they fought as such men may fight 
With a mortal skill: when they died it was as men die. 

Army of the Potomac, advancing army, 

Alloy of a dozen disparate, alien States, 

City-boy, farm-hand, bounty-man, first volunteer, 

Old regular, drafted recruit, paid substitute, 

Men who fought through the war from First Bull Run, 

And other men, nowise different in look or purpose, 

Whom the first men greeted at first with a ribald cry 

"Here they come! Two hundred dollars and a ka-ow!" 

Rocks from New England and hickory-chunks from the West,. 

Bowery boy and clogging Irish adventurer, 

Germans who learnt their English under the shells 

Or didn't have time to learn it before they died. 

Confused, huge weapon, forged from such different metals, 

Misused by unlucky swordsmen till you were blunt 

And then reforged with anguish and bloody sweat 

To be blunted again by one more unlucky captain 

Against the millstone of Lee. 

Good stallion, 

Ridden and ridden against a hurdle of thorns 
By uncertain rider after uncertain rider. 
The rider fails and you shiver and catch your breath, 
They plaster your wounds and patch up your broken knees,. 
And then, just as you know the grip of your rider's hands 
And begin to feel at home with his horseman's tricks, 
Another rider comes with a different seat, 
And lunges you at the bitter hurdle again, 
And it beats you again and' it all begins from the first, 
The patching of wounds, the freezing in winter camps, 

1 60 



The vain mud-marches, the diarrhea, me wastage, 
The grand reviews, the talk in the newspapers, 
The sour knowledge that you were wasted again, 
Not as Napoleons waste for a victory 
But blindly, unluckily 

until at last 

After long years, at fish-hook Gettysburg, 
The blade and the millstone meet and the blade holds fast. 
And, after that, the chunky man from the West, 
Stranger to you, not one of the men you loved 
As you loved McClellan, a rider with a hard bit, 
Takes you and uses you as you could be used, 
Wasting you grimly but breaking the hurdle down. 
You arc never to worship him as you did McClellan, 
But at the last you can trust him. He slaughters you 
But he sees that you are fed. After sullen Cold Harbor 
They call him a butcher and want him out of the saddle, 
But you have had other butchers who did not win 
And this man wins in the end. 

You see him standing, 

Reading a map, unperturbed, under heavy fire. 
You do not cheer him as the recruits might cheer 
But you say "Ulysses doesn't scare worth a darn. 
Ulysses is all right. He can finish the job." 
And at last your long lines go past in the Grand Review 
And your legend and his begins and are mixed forever. 

Now, though, he is still just one of the Western leaders, 
And Little Mac is your darling. 

You are unshaken 

By the ruin of Fredericksburg, the wounds of Antietam, 
Chancellorsville is a name in the Wilderness, 
Your pickets, posted in front of the Chickahominy, 
Hear the churchbells of Richmond, ringing; 
Listen well to those bells, they are very near tonight, 
But you will not hear them again for three harsh years. 

Black months of war, hard-featured, defeated months 

Between Fair Oaks and Gettysburg, 

What is your tale for this army? 

What do the men, 

So differently gathered for your word to devour, 

161 



Say to your ears, deaf with cannon? What do they bring 
In powder-pocked hands to the heart of the burst shell? 
Let us read old letters awhile, 
Let us try to hear 

The thin, forgotten voices of men forgotten 
Crying out of torn scraps of paper, notes scribbled and smudged 
On aces, on envelope-backs, on gilt-edged cards stolen out of a 
dead man's haversack. 

Two brothers lay on the field of Fredericksburg 
After the assault had failed. 

They were unwounded but they could not move, 
The sharpshooters covered that patch of ground too well. 
They had a breastwork to hide them from the bullets, 
A shelter of two dead men. One had lost his back, 
Scooped out from waist to neck with a solid shot. 
The other's legs were gone. They made a good breastwork. 
The brothers lay behind them, flat in the mud, 
All Sunday till night came down and they could creep off. 
They did not dare move their hands for fourteen hours. 
A middle-aged person named Fletcher from Winchester 
Enlisted in the Massachusetts Sharpshooters. 
He was a crack-duckshooter, skilful and patient. 
They gave him the wrong sort of rifle and twenty rounds 
And told him to join his company. 
It took him days to find it. He had no rations, 
He begged bread and green corn and peaches and shot a hog; 
So got there at last. He joined just before Antictam. 
He'd never been drilled but he knew how to shoot, 
Though at first his hands kept shaking. 
"It was different kind of gunning from what I was used to, 
I was mad with myself that I acted so like a coward." 
But as soon as they let him lie down and fight on his own, 
He felt all right. He had nineteen cartridges now. 
The first five each killed a manhe was a good shot- 
Then the rifle fouled. He began to get up and fix it, 
Mechanically. A bullet went through his lung. 
He lay on the field all day. At the end of the day 
He was captured, sent to prison, paroled after weeks, 
Died later, because of the wound. 
That was his war 

162 



Other voices, rising out of the scraps of paper, 

Till they mix in a single voice that says over and over 

"It is cold. It is wet. We marched till we couldn't stand up. 

It is muddy here. I wish you could see us here. 

I wish everybody at home could see us here. 

They would know what war is like. We are still patriotic. 

We are going to fight. We hope this general's good. 

We hope he can make us win. We'll do all we can. 

But I wish we could show everybody who stays at home 

What this is like." 

Voices of tired men, 

Sick, convalescent, afraid of being sick. 

"The diarrhea is bad. I hope I don't get it 

But everybody seems to get it sometime. 

I felt sick last night. I thought I was going to die, 

But Jim rubbed me and I feel better. There's just one thing, 

I hope I never get sent to the hospital, 

You don't get well when you go to the hospital. 

I'd rather be shot and killed quick." 

(Nurses and doctors, savagely, tenderly working, 

Trying to beat off death without enough knowledge, 

Trying and failing. 

Clara Barton, Old Mother Bickerdyke, 

Overworked evangels of common sense, 

Nursing, tending, clearing a ruthless path 

Through the cant and red tape, through the petty jealousies 

To the bitter front, bringing up the precious supplies 

In spite of hell and high water and pompous fools, 

To the deadly place where the surgeons' hands grew stiff 

Under the load of anguish they had to deal, 

Where they bound men's wounds and swabbed them with green 

corn leaves, 

There being no other lint. 
Whitman, with his sack of tobacco and comfits, 
Passing along the terrible, crowded wards, 
Listening, w r riting letters, trying to breathe 
Strong life into lead-colored lips. 
He does what he can. The doctors do what they can. 
The nurses save a life here and another there, 
But the sick men die like flies in the hospitals.) 

163 



Voices of boys and men, 
Homesick, stubborn, talking of little things, 
"We get better food. I'm getting to be a good cook. 
The food's bad. The whole company yelled 'Hard Bread!' today- 
There are only three professed Christians in my whole regiment 
I feel sad about that. 

I wish you could see the way we have to live here, 
I wish everybody at home could see what it's like. 
It's muddy. It's cold. My shoes gave out on the march. 
We lost the battle. The general was drunk. 
This is the roughest life that you ever saw. 
If I ever get back home" 
And, over and over, in stiff, patriotic phrases, 
"I am resigned to die for the Union, mother. 
If we die in this battle, we will have died for the right, 
We will have died bravely you can trust us for that. 
It is only right to die for our noble Union. 
We will save it or die for it. There's just one thing. 
I hope I die quick. I hope I don't have to die 
In the hospital. 

There is one thought that to me is worse than death. 
(This, they say over and over) it is the thought 
Of being buried as they bury us here 
After a battle. Sometimes they barely cover us. 
I feel sick when I think of getting buried like that, 
Though if nothing except our death will rescue our Union, 
You can trust us to die for it." 
And, through it all, the deep diapason swelling, 
"It is cold. We are hungry. We marched all day in the mud. 
We could barely stand when we got back into camp. 
Don't believe a thing the newspapers say about us. 
It's all damn lies. 

We are willing to die for our Union, 
But I wish you could all of you see what this is like, 
Nobody at home can imagine what it is like. 
We are ready to fight. We know we can fight and win. 
But why will they waste us in fights that cannot be won? 
When will we get a man that can really lead us?" 
These are the articulate that write the letters. 
The inarticulate merely undergo. 

There are times of good food and times of campfire jokes, 
Times of good weather, times of partial success 

164 



In those two years. 

"The mail came. Thanks for the papers. 
We had a good feed at Mrs. Wilson's place. 
I feel fine today. We put on a show last night. 
You ought to have seen Jim Wheeler in 'Box and Cox.' 
Our little band of Christians meets often now 
And the spirit moves in us strongly, praise be to God. 
The President reviewed us two days ago. 
You should have seen it, father, it was majestic. 
I have never seen a more magnificent sight. 
It makes me proud to be part of such an army. 
We got the tobacco. The socks came. I'm feeling fine." 
All that but still the deep diapason throbs 
Under the rest. 

The cold. The mud. The bleak wonder. 
The weakening sickness the weevils tainting the bread 
We were beaten again irt spite of all we could do. 
We don't know what went wrong but something went wrong. 
When will we find a man who can really lead us? 
When will we not be wasted without success? 

Army of the Potomac, army of brave men, 
Beaten again and again but never quite broken, 
You are to have the victory in the end 
But these bleak months are your anguish. 

Your voice dies out. 
Let us hear the voice of your steadfast enemy. 

Army of Northern Virginia, fabulous army, 

Strange army of ragged individualists, 

The hunters, the riders, the walkers, the savage pastorals, 

The unmachined, the men come out of the ground, 

Still for the most part, living close to the ground 

As the roots of the cow-pea, the roots of the jessamine, 

The lazy scorners, the rebels against the wheels, 

The rebels against the steel combustion-chamber 

Of the half-born new age of engines and metal hands. 

The fighters who fought for themselves in the old clan-fashion. 

Army of planters' sons and rusty poor-whites, 

Where one man came to war with a haircloth trunk 

Full of fine shirts and a body-servant to mend them, 

And another came with a rifle used at King's Mountain 



And nothing else but his pants and his sun-cracked hands, 

Aristo-democracy armed with a forlorn hope, 

Where a scholar turned the leaves of an Arabic grammar 

By the campfire-glow, and a drawling mountaineer 

Told dirty stories old as the bawdy world, 

Where one of Lee's sons worked a gun with the Rockbridge 

Battery 
And two were cavalry generals. 

Praying army, 

Full of revivals, as full of salty jests, 
Who debated on God and Darwin and Victor Hugo, 
Decided that evolution might do for Yankees 
But that Lee never came from anything with a tail, 
And called yourselves "Lee's miserables faintin' " 
When the book came out that tickled your sense of romance, 
Army of improvisators of peanut-coffee 

Who baked your bread on a ramrod stuck through the dough, 
Swore and laughed and despaired and sang "Lorena," 
Suffered, died, deserted, fought to the end. 
Sentimental army, touched by "Lorena," 
Touched by all lace-paper-valentines of sentiment, 
Who wept for the mocking-bird on Hallie's grave 
When you had better cause to weep for more private griefs, 
Touched by women and your tradition-idea of them, 
The old, book-fed, half-queen, half-servant idea, 
False and true and expiring. 

Starving army, 

Who, after your best was spent and your Spring lay dead, 
Yet held the intolerable lines of Petersburg 
With deadly courage. 

You too are a legend now 

And the legend has made your fame and has dimmed that fame, 
The victor strikes and the beaten man goes down 
But the years pass and the legend- covers them both, 
The beaten cause turns into the m'agic cause, 
The victor has his victory for his pains 
So with you and the legend has made a stainless host 
Out of the dusty columns of footsore men 
Who found life sweet and didn't want to be killed, 
Grumbled at officers, grumbled at Governments. 
That stainless host you were not. You had your cowards, 
Your bullies, your fakers, your sneaks, your savages. 

166 



You go^: tired of marching. You cursed the cold and the rain. 

You cursed the war and the food and went on till the end. 

And yet, there was something in you that matched your fable. 

What was it? What do your dim, faint voices say? 

"Will we ever get home? Will we ever lick them for good? 

We've got to go on and fight till we lick them for good. 

They've got the guns and the money and lots more men 

But we've got to lick them now. 

We're not fighting for slaves. 

Most of us never owned slaves and never expect to, 

It takes money to buy a slave and we're most of us poor, 

But we won't lie down and let the North walk over us 

About slaves or anything else. 

We don't know how it started 
But they've invaded us now and we're bound to fight 
Till every last damn Yankee goes home and quits. 
We used to think we could lick them in one hand's turn. 
We don't think that any more. 

They keep coming and coming, 
We haven't got guns that shoot as well, as their guns, 
We can't get clothes that wear as well as their clothes, 
But we've got to keep on till they're licked and we're independent, 
It's the only thing we can do. 

Though some of us wonder- 
Some of us try and puzzle the whole thing through, 
Some of us hear about Richmond profiteers, 
The bombproofs who get exempted and eat good dinners, 
And the rest of it, and say, with a bitter tongue, 
'This is the rich man's war and the poor man's fight.' 
And more of us, maybe, say that, after a while, 
. But most of us just keep on till we're plumb worn out, 
We just keep on. 

We've got the right men to lead us, 
It doesn't matter how many the Yankees are, 
Marse Robert and Old Jack will take care of that, 
We'll have to march like Moses and fight like hell 
But we're bound to win unless the two of them die 
And God wouldn't be so mean as to take them both, 
So we just keep on and keep on" 

To the Wilderness, 
To Appomattox, to the end of the dream. 



Army of Northern Virginia, army of legend, 

Who were your captains that you could trust them so surely? 

Who were your battle-flags? 

Call the shapes from the mist, 

Call the dead men out of the mist and watch them ride. 
Tall the first rider, tall with a laughing mouth, 
His long black beard is combed like a beauty's hair, 
His slouch hat plumed with a curled black ostrich-feather, 
He wears gold spurs and sits his horse with the seat 
Of a horseman born. 

It is Stuart of Laurel Hill, 
"Beauty" Stuart, the genius of cavalry, 
Reckless, merry, religious, theatrical, 
Lover of gesture, lover of panache, 
With all the actor's grace and the quick, light charm 
That makes the women adore him a wild cavalier 
Who worships as sober a God as Stonewall Jackson, 
A Rupert who seldom drinks, very often prays, 
Loves his children, singing, fighting, spurs, and his wife. 
Sweeney his banjo-player follows him. 
And after them troop the young Virginia counties, 
Horses and men, Botetort, Halifax, 
Dinwiddie, Prince Edward, Cumberland, Nottoway, 
Mecklenburg, Berkeley, Augusta, the Marylanders, 
The horsemen never matched till Sheridan came. 
Now the phantom guns creak by. They are Pelham's guns. 
That quiet boy with the veteran mouth is Pelham. 
He is twenty-two. He is to fight sixty battles 
And never lose a gun. 

The cannon roll past, 
The endless lines of the infantry begin. 
A. P. Hill leads the van. He is small and spare, 
His short, clipped beard is red as his battleshirt, 
Jackson and Lee are to call him in their death-hours. 
Dutch Longstreet follows, slow, pugnacious and stubborn, 
Hard to beat and just as hard to convince, 
Fine corps commander, good bulldog for holding on, 
But dangerous when he tries to think for himself, 
He thinks for himself too much at Gettysburg, 
But before and after he grips with tenacious jaws. 
There is D. H. Hill-there is Early and Fitzhugh Lee 
Yellow-haired Hood with his wounds and his empty sleeve, 

1 68 



Leading his Texans, a Viking shape of a man, 
With the thrust and lack of craft of a berserk sword, 
All lion, none of the fox. 

When he supersedes 

Joe Johnston, he is lost, and his army with him, 
But he could lead forlorn hopes with the ghost of Ney. 
His bigboned Texans follow him into the mist. 
Who follows them? 

These are the Virginia faces, 
The Virginia speech. It is Jackson's foot-cavalry, 
The Army of the Valley, 
It is the Stonewall Brigade, it is the streams 
Of the Shenandoah, marching. 

Ewell goes by, 

The little woodpecker, bald and quaint of speech, 
With his wooden leg stuck stiffly out from his saddle, 
He is muttering, "Sir, I'm a nervous Major-General, 
And whenever an aide rides up from General Jackson 
I fully expect an order to storm the North Pole." 
He chuckles and passes, full of crotchets and courage, 
Living on frumenty for imagined dyspepsia, 
And ready to storm the North Pole at a Jackson phrase. 
Then the staff then little Sorrel and the plain 
Presbyterian figure in the flat cap, 
Throwing his left hand out in the Awkward gesture 
That caught the bullet out of the air at Bull Run, 
Awkward, rugged and dour, the belated Ironside 
With the curious, brilliant streak of the cavalier 
That made him quote Mercutio in staff instructions, 
Love lancet windows, the color of passion-flowers, 
Mexican sun and all fierce, taut-looking fine creatures; 
Stonewall Jackson, wrapped in his beard and his silence, 
Cromwell-eyed and ready with Cromwell's short 
Bleak remedy for doubters and fools and enemies, 
Hard on his followers, harder on his foes, 
An iron sabre vowed to an iron Lord, 
And yet the only man of those men who pass 
With a strange, secretive grain of harsh poetry 
Hidden so deep in the stony sides of his heart 
That it shines by flashes only and then is gone. 
It glitters in his last words. 

He is deeply ambitious, 

169 



Jhe skilled man, utterly sure of his own skill 

And taking no nonsense about it from the unskilled, 

But God is the giver of victory and defeat, 

And Lee, on earth, vicegerent under the Lord. 

Sometimes he differs about the mortal plans 

But once the order is given, it is obeyed. 

We know what he thought about God. One would like to know 

What he thought of the two together, if he so mingled them. 

He said two things about Lee it is well to recall. 

When he first beheld the man that he served so well, 

"I have never seen such a fine-looking human creature." 

Then, afterwards, at the height of his own fame, 

The skilled man talking of skill, and something more. 

"General Lee is a phenomenon, 

He is the only man I would follow blindfold." 

Think of those two remarks and the man who made them 

When you picture Lee as the rigid image in marble. 

No man ever knew his own skill better than Jackson 

Or was more ready to shatter an empty fame. 

He passes now in his dusty uniform. 

The Bible jostles a book of Napoleon's Maxims 

And a magic lemon deep in his saddlebags. 

And now at last, 

Comes Traveller and his master. Look at them well. 

The horse is an iron-grey, sixteen hands high, 

Short back, deep chest, strong haunch, flat legs, small head, 

Delicate ear, quick eye, black mane and tail, 

Wise brain, obedient mouth. 

Such horses are 

The jewels of the horseman's hands and thighs, 
They go by the word and hardly need the rein. 
They bred such horses in Virginia then, 
Horses that were remembered after death 
And buried not so far from Christian ground 
That if their sleeping riders should arise 
They could not witch them from the earth again 
And ride a printless course along the grass 
With the old manage and light ease of hand. 
The rider, now. 

He too, is iron-grey, 
Though the thick hair and thick, blunt-pointed beard 

170 



Have frost in them, 

Broad-foreheaded, deep-eyed, 

Straight-nosed, sweet-mouthed, firm-lipped, head cleanly set, 
He and his horse are matches for the strong 
Grace of proportion that inhabits both. 
They carry nothing that is in excess 
And nothing that is less than symmetry, 
The strength of Jackson is a hammered strength, 
Bearing the tool marks still. This strength was shaped 
By as hard arts but does not show the toil 
Except as justness, though the toil was there. 
And so we get the marble man again, 
The head on the Greek coin, the idol-image, 
The shape who stands at Washington's left hand, 
Worshipped, uncomprehended and aloof, 
A figure lost to flesh and blood and bones, 
Frozen into a legend out of life, 
A blank-verse statue- 
How to humanize 

That solitary gentleness and strength 
Hidden behind the deadly oratory 
Of twenty thousand Lee Memorial days, 
How show, in spite of all the rhetoric, 
All the sick honey of the speechifiers, 
Proportion, not as something calm congealed 
From lack of fire, but ruling such a fire 
As only such proportion could contain? 

The man was loved, the man was idolized, 
The man had every just and noble gift. 
He took great burdens and he bore them well, 
Believed in God but did not preach too much, 
Believed and followed duty first and last 
With marvellous consistency and force, 
Was a great victor, in defeat as great, 
No more, no less, always himself in both, 
Could make men die for him but saved his men 
Whenever he could save them was most kind 
But was not disobeyed was a good father, 
A loving husband, a considerate friend: 
Had little humor, but enough to play 
Mild jokes that never wounded, but had charm, 

171 



Did not seek intimates, yet drew men to him, 
Did not seek fame, did not protest against it, 
Knew his own value without pomp or jealousy 
AnH died as he preferred to live sans phrase, 
With commonsense, tenacity and courage, 
A Greek proportion and a riddle unread. 
And everything that we have said is true 
And nothing helps us yet to read the man, 
Nor will he help us while he has the strength 
To keep his heart his own. 

For he will smile 

And give you, with unflinching courtesy, 
Prayers, trappings, letters, uniforms and orders, 
Photographs, kindness, valor and advice, 
And do it with such grace and gentleness 
That you will know you have the whole of him 
Pinned down, mapped out, easy to understand 
And so you have. 

All things except the heart. 
The heart he kept himself, that answers all. 
For here was someone who lived all his life 
In the most fierce and open light of the sun, 
Wrte letters freely, did not guard his speech, 
Listened and talked with every sort of man, 
And kept his heart a secret to the end 
From all the picklocks of biographers. 

He was a man, and as a man he knew 

Love, separation, sorrow, joy and death. 

He was a master of the tricks of war, 

He gave great strokes and warded strokes as great. 

He was the prop and pillar of a State, 

The incarnation of a national dream, 

And when the State fell and the dream dissolved 

He must have liveH with bitterness itself 

But what his sorrow was and what his joy, 

And how he felt in the expense of strength, 

And how his heart contained its bitterness, 

He will not tell us. 

We can lie about him, 
Dress up a dummy in his uniform 
And put our words into the dummy's mouth, 

172 



Say "Here Lee must have thought," and "There, no doubt, 
By what we know of him, we may suppose 
He felt this pang or that" but he remains 
Beyond our stagecraft, reticent as ice, 
Reticent as the fire within the stone. 

Yet look at the face againlook at it well 

This man was not repose, this man was act. 

This man who murmured "It is well that war 

Should be so terrible, if it were not 

We might become too fond of it" and showed 

Himself, for once, completely as he lived 

In the laconic balance of that phrase; 

This man could reason, but he was a fighter, 

Skilful in every weapon of defence 

But never defending when he could assault, 

Taking enormous risks again and again, 

Never retreating while he still could strike, 

Dividing a weak force on dangerous ground 

And joining it again to beat a strong, 

Mocking at chance and all the odds of war 

With acts that looked like hairbreadth recklessness 

We do not call them reckless, since they won. 

We do not see him reckless for the calm 

Propojjion that controlled the recklessness 

But that attacking quality was there. 

He was not mild with life or drugged with justice, 

He gripped life like a wrestler with a bull, 

Impetuously. It did not come to him 

While he stood waiting in a famous cloud, 

He went to it and took it by both horns 

And threw it down. 

Oh, he could bear the shifts 
Of time and play the bitter loser's game, 
The slow, unflinching chess of fortitude, 
But while he had an opening for attack 
He would attack with every ounce of strength. 
His heart was not a stone but trumpet-shaped 
And a long challenge blew an anger through it 
That was more dread for being musical 
First, last, and to the end. 

Again he said 

173 



A curious thing to life. 

"I'm always wanting something." 

The brief phrase 

Slides past us, hardly grasped in the smooth flow 
Of the well-balanced, mildly-humorous prose 
That goes along to talk of cats and duties, 
Maxims of conduct, farming and poor bachelors, 
But for a second there, the marble cracked 
And a strange man we never saw before 
Showed us the face he never showed the world 
And wanted something not the general 
Who wanted shoes and food for ragged men, 
Not the good father wanting for his children, 
The patriot wanting victoryall the Lees 
Whom all the world could see and recognize 
And hang with gilded laurels but the man 
Who had, you'd say, all things that life can give 
Except the last success and had, for that, 
Such glamor as can wear sheer triumph out, 
Proportion's son and Duty's eldest sword 
And the calm mask who wanted something still, 
Somewhere, somehow and always. 

Picklock biographers, 
What could he want that he had never had? 

He only said it once the marble closed- 
There was a man enclosed within that image. 
There was a force that tried Proportion's rule 
And died without a legend or a cue 
To bring it back. The shadow-Lees still live. 
But the first-person and the singular Lee? 

The ant finds kingdoms in a foot of ground 
But earth's too small for something in our earth, 
We'll make a new earth from the summer's cloud, 
From the pure summer's cloud. 

It was not that, 

It was not God or love or mortal fame. 
It was not anything he left undone. 
What does Proportion want that it can lack? 
What does the ultimate hunger of the flesh 
Want from the sky more than a sky of air? 

174 



He wanted something. That must be enough. 
Now he rides Traveller back into the mist. 



Continual guns, be silent for a moment, 

Be silent, now. 

We know your thirst. We hear the roll of your wheels 

Crushing down tangled June, 

Virginia June, 

With tires of iron, with heavy caissons creaking, 

Crushing down maidenhair and wilderness-seal, 

Scaring the rabbit and the possum-children, 

Scaring the redbird and the mockingbird 

As McClellan's army moves forward. 

We know your bloody thirst so soon to be slaked 

With the red burst-grape juices. 

But now, we would have you silent, a little moment, 

We would have you hold your peace and point at the moon 

For when you speak, we can hear no sound but your sound, 

And we would hear the voices of men and women 

For a little while. 

Jake Diefer, the barrel-chested Pennsylvanian, 
Shippy, the little man with the sharp rat-eyes, 
Luke Breckinridge, the gawky boy from the hills, 
Clay Wingate, Melora Vilas, Sally Dupre, 
The slaves in the cabins, ragged Spade in the woods, 
We have lost these creatures under a falling hammer. 
We must look for them now, again. 

Jake Diefer is with the assault that comes from the ships, 

He has marched, he has fought at Fair Oaks, but he looks the 

same: 

A slow-thought-chewing Clydesdale horse of a man 
Who doesn't think much of the way that they farm down here. 
The sun may be good, if you like that sort of sun, 
But the barns and the fields are different, they don't look right, 
They don't look like Pennsylvania. 

He spits and wonders. 

Whenever he can, he reads a short, crumpled letter 
And tries to puzzle out from the round, stiff writing 



How things are back on the farm. 

The boy's a good boy 

But the boy can't do it all, or the woman either. 
He knows too much about weather and harvest-hands 
It's all right fighting the Rebels to save the Union 
But they ought to get through with it quicker, now they've 

begun, 

They don't take the way the crops are into account, 
You can't go off and leave a farm like a store, 
And you can't expect a boy to know everything, 
Or a hired man. No, sir. 

He walks along like an ox. 
He'd like to see the boy and the woman again, 
Eat pancakes and sleep in a bed and look at the hay 
This business comes first but after it's finished up 
He can't say he's bothered exactly most of the time. 
The weather bothers him more than anything. 
He knows it's not the same sort of weather down here, 
But every day when he wakes, he looks at the sky 
And tries to figure out what it's like back home. 

Shippy, the little man with the sharp rat-eyes, 
Creeps into an old house in beleaguered Richmond 
And meets a woman dressed in severe black silk 
With a gentle voice, soft delicate useless hands, 
A calm, smooth, faded, handsome mask of a face 
And an incredible secret under her brooches. 
You would picture her with ivory crochet-needles 
Demurely tatting, demurely singing mild hymns 
To an old melodeon before a blurred mirror. 
She is to live in Richmond throughout the war, 
A Union spy, never caught, never once suspected, 
And when she dies, she dies with a shut prim mouth 
Locked on her mystejy. 

Shippy is afraid. 

She gives him instructions, he tries to remember them. 
But his hands are sweating, his eyes creep around the floor. 
He is afraid of the rustle of the black silk. 
He wishes he were back in Pollet's Hotel 
With Sophy, the chambermaid. 

The woman talks 
And he listens, while the woman looks through and through him. 



Melora Vilas, rising by crack of dawn, 

Looked at herself in the bottom of her tin basin 

And wished that she had a mirror. 

She thought dully, 

"He's been gone two months. I can't get used to it yet. 
I've got to get used to it. Maybe I'll die instead. 
No, I'd know if he'd died." 

Sally Dupre was tired of scraping lint 

Bat her hands kept on. The hours, sunbonneted women, 

Passed and passed. "If he ever comes back to me!" 

She finished her scraping and wondered how to make coffee 

Out of willow-bark and life from a barren stick. . . . 

Spade the fugitive stared at the bleak North Star. . . . 

Luke Breckinridge, on picket out in the woods, 

Remembered a chambermaid at Pollet's Hotel. 

And wanted a fight. He hadn't been lucky, of late. 

Jim, his cousin, was lucky, out in the West, 

Riding a horse and capturing Yankee scouts. 

But his winter here had been nothing but work and mud, 

He'd nearly got courtmartialed a dozen times, 

Though they knew how he could shoot. 

The chambermaid's name 
Was Sophy. She was little and scared and thin, 
But he liked her looks and he liked the size of her eyes, 
He'd like to feed her up and see how she looked, 
If they ever got through with fighting the Yankees here. 
The Yankees weren't all Kelceys. He knew that now, 
But he always looked for Kelceys whenever he fought. . . . 
Clay Wingatc slept in his cloak and dreamed of a girl 
With Sally's face and Lucy Weatherby's mouth 
And waked again 

To know today there would be continual guns. 
Continual guns, silent so brief a moment, 
Speak again, now, 
For now your ignorance 
Drowns out the little voices of human creatures. 
Jackson slips from the Valley where he has played 
A dazzling game against Banks and Shield and Fremont 
And threatened the chess-game-king of Washington 
Till strong pieces meant to join in McClellan's game 
Are held to defend that king. 

177 



And now the two, 

Jackson and Lee, strike hard for Seven Days 
At the host come up from its ships, come up from the sea 
To take the city set on a deck of land, 
Till the deck is soaked and red with a bloody juice. 
And the host goes back. 

You can read in the histories 
How the issue wavered, the fog of tiny events, 
How here, at one dot, McClellan might have wrung 
A victory, perhaps, with his larger force, 
And there, on the other hand, played canny and well; 
How Jackson, for once, moved slowly, how Porter held, 
And the bitter, exhausted wrestling of Malvern Hill. 
What we know is this. 

The host from the ships went back, 
Hurt but not broken, hammered but undestroyed, 
To find a new base far up the crook of the James 
And rest there, panting. 

Lincoln and Halleck come. 

The gaunt, plain face is deeper furrowed than ever, 
The eyes are strained with looking at books of tactics 
And trying to understand. 

There is so much 

For one man to understand, so many lies, 
So much half-truth, so many counselling voices, 
So much death to be sown and reaped and still no end. 
The dead of the Seven Days. The four months dead 
Boy who used to play with a doll named Jack, 
Was a bright boy as boys are reckoned and now is dead. 
The doll named Jack was sometimes a Union soldier, 
Sometimes a spy. 

The boy and his brother held 
A funeral in the White House flower-beds 
After suitably executing the doll named Jack 
But then they thought of a different twist to the game. 
The gaunt man signed a paper. 

"The doll named Jack 
Is pardoned. By order of the President. 
A. Lincoln." 

So Jack was held in honor awhile 

But next day the boy and his brother forgot the pardon 
And the doll named Jack was shot and buried once more. 



So much death to be sown and reaped. 

So much death to be sown 
By one no sower of deaths. 

And still no end. 

The council is held. The chiefs and captains debate. 
McClellan clings to his plan of storming the deck 
From the water ways. He is cool now. He argues well. 
He has written Lincoln "From the brink of eternity" 
A strained, high-flown, remarkable speech of a letter 
Of the sort so many have written and still will write 
Telling how well he has done in saving his army, 
No thanks to the Government, or to anything else 
But the pith of his fighting-men and his own craft. 
Lincoln reads and pockets the speech and thanks him. 
There had been craft and courage in that retreat 
And much was due to McClellan. 

The others speak. 

Some corps commanders agree and some demur, 
The Peninsula-stroke has failed and will fail again. 
Elbow-rubbing Halleck, newly-made chief of staff, 
Called "Old Brains/' for reasons that history 
Still tries to fathom, demurs. He urges withdrawal. 
Washington must be defended first and last- 
Withdraw the army and put it in front of Washington. 
Lincoln listens to all as he tries to sift 
The mustardseed from the twenty barrels of chaff 
With patient hands. 

There has been a growth in the man, 
A tempering of will in these trotting months 
Whose strong hoofs striking have scarred him again and again. 
He still rules more by the rein than by whip or spur 
But the reins are fast in his hands and the horses know it. 
He no longer says "I think," but "I have decided." 
And takes the strength and the burden of such decision 
For good or bad on himself. 

He will bear all things 

But lack of faith in the Union and that not once. 
Now at last he decides to recall McClellan's army 
For right or wrong. 

We see the completed thing, 
Long afterward, knowing all that was still to come, 

179 



And say "He was wrong." 

He saw the incomplete, 

The difficult chance that might turn a dozen ways 
And so decided. 

Be it so. He was wrong. 

So the deck is cleared and the host goes back to its ships. 

The bells in the Richmond churches, clanging for Sunday, 

Clang as if silver were mixed in their sweet bell-metal, 

The dark cloud lifts, the girls wear flowers again. 

Virginia June, 

Crushed under cannon, under the cannon ruts, 

The trampled grass lifts up its little green guidons, 

The honeysuckle and the eglantine 

Blow on their tiny trumpets, 

Blow out "Dixie," 

Blow out "Lorena," blow the "Bonnie Blue Flag" 

There are many dead, there are many too many dead, 

The hospitals are crowded with broken dolls 

But cotton has won again, cotton is haughty, 

Cotton is mounting again to a sleepy throne, 

Wheat and iron recoil from the fields of cotton, 

The sweet grass grows over them, the cotton blows over them, 

One more battle and free, free, free forever. 

Cotton moves North in a wave, in a white-crested 

Wave of puff-blossomsin a long grey coil 

Of marching men with tongues as dry as cotton. 

Cotton and honeysuckle and eglantine 

Move North in a drenching wave of blossom and guns 

To wash out wheat and iron forever and ever. 

There will be other waves that set toward the North, 

There will be a high tide, 

But this is the high hour. 

Jackson has still three hammerstrokes to strike, 

Lee is still master of the attacking sword, 

Stuart still carries his black feather high. 

Put silver in your bell-metal, Richmond bells, 

The wave of the cotton goes North to your sweet ringing, 

The first great raiding wave of the Southern dream. 



Jack Ellyat, in prison deep in the South, 

Gaunt, bearded, dirty old man with the captive eyes, 

1 80 



Lay on his back and stared at the flies on the wall 

And tried to' remember, through an indifferent mist, 

A green place lost in the woods and a herd of black swine. 

They came and went and the mist moved round them again. 

The mist was not death. He was used to death by now, 

But the mist still puzzled him, sometimes. 

It was curiousbeing so weak and yet used to death. 

When you were strong, you thought of death as a strong 

Rider on a black horse, perhaps, or at least 

As some strong creature, dreadful because so strong. 

But when you were "weak and lived in a place like this, 

Things changed. There was nothing strong about death any more, 

He was only the gnawed rat-bone on the dirty floor, 

That you stumbled across and hardly bothered to curse. 

That was all. 

The two Michigan men had died last night. 
The Ohio brothers were going to die this week, 
You got pretty soon so you knew when people would die, 
It passed the time as well as carving bone-rings, 
Playing checkers with straws or learning Italian nouns 
From the lanky schoolteacher-sergeant from Vermont. 
Somewhere, sometime, in a tent, by a red loud noise, 
Under a dirty coat and a slab of tobacco, 
He had lost a piece of himself, a piece of life. 
He couldn't die till he got that piece of him back 
And felt its ragged edges fit in- his heart. 
Or so he thought. Sometimes, when he slept, he felt 
As if he were getting it backbut most of the time 
tt was only the mist and counting the flies that bothered him. 
He heard a footstep near him and turned his head. 
; 'Hcllo, Charley," he said, "Where you been?" 

Bailey's face looked strange, 
The red, hot face of a hurt and angry boy, 
'Out hearing the Rebs," he said. He spat on the floor 
And broke into long, blue curses. When he was through, 
'Did you hear them?" he asked. Jack Ellyat tried to remember 
A, gnat-noise buzzing the mist. "I guess so," he said. 
'What was it? Two-bottle Ed on another tear?" 
''Hell," said Bailey. "They cheered. They've licked us again. 
The news just come. It happened back at Bull Run." 
''You're crazy," said Ellyat. "That was the start of the war. 
1 was in that one." 

181 



"Oh, don't be a fool," said Bailey, 
'They licked us again, I tell you, the same old place. 
Pope's army's ruined." 

"Who's he?" said Ellyat wearily. 

"Aw, we had him out West he's God Almighty's pet horse, 
He came East and told all the papers how good he was, 
'Headquarters in the saddle'!" Bailey snickered. 
"Well, they snaffled his saddle and blame near snaffled him, 
Jackson and Lee anyhow they licked us again." 

"What about Little Mac?" 

"Well, Gawd knows what's happened to him" 
Said Bailey, flatly, "Maybe he's captured, too, 
Maybe they captured Old Abe and everyone else. 
I don't know you can't tell from those lyin' Rebs." 

There was a silence. Ellyat lay on his back 

And watched the flies on the wall for quite a long time. 

"I wish I had a real newspaper," said Bailey, 

"Not one of your Richmond wipers. By God, you know, Jack, 

When w r e get back home, I'll read a newspaper, sometimes. 

I never was much at rcadin' the newspaper 

But I'd like to read one now, say once in a while?' 

Ellyat laughed. 

"You know, Charley," he said at last. 
"We've got to get out of this place." 

Bailey joined in the laugh. 

Then he stopped and stared at the other with anxious eyes. 
"You don't look crazy," he said, "Stop countin' those flies." 
Ellyat raised himself on one arm. 

"No, honest, Charley, 

I mean it, damn it. We've got to get out of here. 
I know we can't but we've got to. . . ." 

He swallowed dryly. 

"Look here" he said, "It just came over me then. 
I've got a girl and she doesn't know where I am. 
I left her back in a tent no, that wasn't a girl 
And you say we got licked again. But that's just it, Charley. 
We get licked too much. We've got to get out of here." 

He sank back to the floor and shut his ghost-ridden eyes. 
Bailey regarded him for a long, numb moment. 

182 



"You couldn't walk a mile and a half," he muttered, 
"And, by God, I couldn't carry you twenty feet, 
And, by God, if we could, there ain't no way to get out. 
But all the same-" ' 

"If there was any use tryin'," 
He said, half-pleadingly, half-defiantly, 
"I tell you, Jack, if there was any use try in' " 
He stopped. Ellyat's eyes were shut. He rose with great care. 
"I'll get you some water," he muttered. "No, let you sleep." 
He sat down again and stared at the sleeping face. 
"He looks bad," he thought. "I guess I look bad myself. 
I guess the kid's goin' to die if we don't get out. 
I guess we're both goin' to die. I don't see why not." 
He looked up at the flies on the ceiling and shook his fist. 
"Listen, you dirty Rebs," he said, unuer his breath, 
"Flap your goddam wings we're goin' to get out of here!" 



John Brown lies dead in his grave and does not stir, 
It is nearly three years since he died and he does not stir, 
There is no sound in his bones but the sound of armies 
And that is an old sound. 

He walks, you will say, he walks in front of the armies, 
A straggler met him, going along to Manassas, 
With his gun on his shoulder, his phantom-sons at heel, 
His eyes like misty coals. 

A dead man saw him striding at Seven Pines, 
The bullets whistling through him like a torn flag, 
A madman saw him whetting a sword on a Bible, 
A cloud above Malvern Hill. 

But these are all lies. He slumbers. He does not stir. 
The spring rains and the winter snows on his slumber 
And the bones of his flesh breed armies and yet more armies 
But he himself does not stir. 

It will take more than cannon to shake his fortress, 
His song is alive and throbs in the tramp of the columns, 
His song is smoke blown out of the mouth of a cannon, 
But his song and he are two. 



The South goes ever forward, the slave is not free, 

The great stone gate of the Union crumbles and totters, 

The cotton-blossoms are pushing the blocks apart, 

The roots of cotton grow in the crevices, 

(John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.) 

Soon the fight will be over, the slaves will be slaves forever. 

(John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.) 

You did not fight for the Union or wish it well, 

You fought for the single dream of a man unchained 

And God's great chariot rolling. You fought like the thrown 

Stone, but the fighters have forgotten your dream. 

(John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.) 

You fought for a people you did not comprehend, 

For a symbol chained by a symbol in your own mind, 

But, unless you arise, that people will not be free. 

Are there no seeds of thunder left in your bones 

Except to breed useless armies? 

(John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave.) 

Arise, John Brown, 

Call up your sons from the ground, 

In smoky wreaths, call up your sons to heel, 

Call up the clumsy country boys you armed 

With crazy pikes and a fantastic mind. 

Call up the American names, 

Kagi, the self-taught scholar, quiet and cool, 

Stevens, the cashiered soldier, bawling his song, 

Dangerfield Newby, the freed Scotch-mulatto, 

Watson and Oliver Brown and all the hard-dying. 

Call up the slug-riddled dead of Harper's Ferry 

And cast them down the wind on a raid again. 

This is the dark hour, 

This is the ebb-tide, 

This is the sunset, this is the defeat. 

The cotton-blossoms,are growing up to the sky, 

The great stone gate of the Union sinks beneath them, 

And under the giant blossoms lies Egypt's land, 

The dark river, 

The ground of bondage, ' 

The chained men. 

If the great gate falls, the cotton grows over your dream. 

Find your heart, John Brown, 

(A-mouldering in the grave.) 

184 



Call your sons and get your pikes, 

(A-mouldering in the grave.) 

Your song goes on, but the slave is still a slave, 

And all Egypt's land rides Northward while you moulder in the 

grave! 

Rise up, John Brown, 
(A-mouldering in the grave.) 
Go down, John Brown, 
(Against all Egypt's land) 
Go down, John Brown, 
Go down, John Brown, 
Go down, John Brown, and set that people free! 



BOOK FIVE 

It was still hot in Washington, that September, 
Hot in the city, hot in the White House rooms, 
Desiccate heat, dry as a palm-leaf fan, 
That makes hot men tuck cotton handkerchiefs 
Between their collars and their sweaty necks, 
And Northern girls look limp at half-past-four, 
Waiting the first cool breath that will not come 
For hours yet. 

The sentinel on post 

Clicks back and forth, stuffed in his sweltering coat, 
And dreams about brown bottles of cold beer 
Deep in a cellar. 

In the crowded Bureaus 

The peris move slow, the damp clerks watch the clock. 
Women in houses take their corsets off 
And stifle in loose gowns. 

They could lie down 

But when they touch the bed, the bed feels hot, 
And there are things to do. 

The men will want 
Hot food when they come back from work. 

They sigh 
And turn, with dragging feet, to the hot kitchens. 

Sometimes they pause, and push a window up 
To feel the blunt, dry buffet of the heat 



Strike in the face and hear the locust-cry 
Of shrilling newsboy-voices down the street, 
"News from the army extra ter-ble battle 
Terr-r-ble vic'try ter-r-ble defeat- 
Lee's army trapped invading Maryland 
McClellan Sharpsburg fightin' news from the front" 
The women at the windows sigh and wonder 
"I ought to buy a paper No, I'll wait 
Till Tom gets home I wonder if it's true- 
Terrible victory terrible defeat 
They're always saying that when Tom gets home 
He'll have some news I wonder if the army- 
No, it's too hot to buy a paper now" 

A hot, spare day of waiting languidly 
For contradictory bits of dubious news. 

It was a little cooler, three miles out, 

Where the tall trees shaded the Soldiers' Home. 

The lank man, Abraham Lincoln, found it so, 

Glad for it, doubtless, though his cavernous eyes 

Had stared all day into a distant fog 

Trying to pierce it. 

"General McClellan 

Is now in touch with Lee in front of Sharpsburg 
And will attack as soon as the fog clears." 

It's cleared by now. They must be fighting now. 

We can't expect much from the first reports. 
Stanton and Halleck think they're pretty good 
But you can't tell. Nobody here can tell. 
We're all too far away. 

You get sometimes 

Feeling as if youjieard the guns yourself 
Here in the room and felt them shake the house 
When you keep waiting for the news all day. 
I wish we'd get some news. 

Bull Run was first. 

We got the news of Bull Run soon enough. 
First that we'd won, hands down, which was a lie, 
And then the truth. 

It may be that to-day. 

186 



I told McClclIan not to let them go, 
Destroy them if he couldbut you can't tell. 
He's a good man in lots of different ways, 
But he can't seem to finish what he starts 
And then, he's jealous, like the rest of them, 
Lets Pope get beaten, wanted him to fail, 
Because he don't like Pope. 

I put him back 

Into command. What else was there to do? 
Nobody else could lick those troops in shape. 
But, if he wins, and lets Lee get away, 
I'm done with him. 

Bull Run the Seven Days- 
Bull Run again and eighteen months of war 
And still no end to it. 

What is God's will? 

They come to me and talk about God's will 

In righteous deputations and platoons, 

Day after day, laymen and ministers. 

They write me Prayers From Twenty Million Souls 

Defining me God's will and Horace Greeley's. 

God's will is General This and Senator That, 

God's will is those poor colored fellows' will, 

It is the will of the Chicago churches, 

It is this man's and his worst enemy's. 

But all of them are sure they know God's will. 

I am the only man who does not know it. 

And, yet, if it is probable that God 
Should, and so very clearly, state His will 
To others, on a point of my own duty, 
It might be thought He would reveal it me 
Directly, more especially as I 
So earnestly desire to know His will. 

The will of God prevails. No doubt, no doubt- 
Yet, in great contests, each side claims to act 
In strict accordance with the will of God. 
Both may, one must be wrong. 

God could have saved 
This Union or destroyed it without war 



If He so wished. And yet this war began, 

And, once begun, goes on, though He could give 

Victory, at any time, to either side. 

It is unfathomable. Yet I know 

This, and this only. While I live and breathe, 

I mean to save the Union if I can, 

And by whatever means my hands can find 

Under the Constitution. 

If God reads 

The hearts of men as clearly as He must 
To be Himself, then He can read in mine 
And has, for twenty years, the old, scarred wish 
That the last slave should be forever free 
Here, in this country. 

I do not go back 
From that scarred wish and have not. 

But I put 

The Union, first and last, before the slave. 
If freeing slaves will bring the Union back 
Then I will free them; if by freeing some 
And leaving some enslaved I help my cause, 
I will do that but should such freedom mean 
The wreckage of the Union that I serve 
I would not free a slave. 

O Will of God, 

I am a patient man, and I can wait 
Like an old gunflint buried in the ground 
While the slow years pile up like moldering leaves 
Above me, underneath the rake of Time, 
And turn, in time, to the dark, fruitful mold 
That smells of Sangamon apples, till at last 
There's no sleep left there, and the steel event 
Descends to strike the live coal out of me 
And light the powder that was always there. 

That is my only virtue as I see it, 

Ability to wait and hold my own 

And keep my own resolves once they are made 

In spite of what the smarter people say. 

I can't be smart the way that they are smart. 

I've known that since I was an ugly child. 

It teaches you to be an ugly child. 

188 



It teaches you to lose a thing you love. 
It sticks your roots down into Sangamon ground 
And makes you grow when you don't want to grow 
And makes you tough enough to wait life out, 
Wait like the fields, under the rain and snow. 

I have not thought for years of that lost grave 
That was my first hard lesson in the queer 
Thing between men and women we call love. 
But when I think of it, and when I hear 
The rain and snow fall on it, as they must, 
It fills me with unutterable grief. 

We've come a good long way, my hat and I, 
Since then, a pretty lengthy piece of road, 
Uphill and down but mostly with a pack. 
Years of law-business, years of cracking jokes, 
And watching Billy Herndon do his best 
To make me out, which seemed to be a job; 
Years tiying how to learn to handle men, 
Which can be done, if you've got heart enough, 
And how to deal with women or a woman 
And that's about the hardest task I know. 
For, when you get a man, you've got the man 
Like a good big axchandlc in your fist, 
But you can't catch a woman like an axe. 
She'll run like mercury between your hands 
And leave you wondering which road she went, 
The minute when you thought you knew her ways. 

I understand the uses of the earth, 
And I have burned my hands at certain fires 
Often enough to know a use for fire, 
But when the genius of the water moves, 
And that's the woman's genius, I'm at sea 
In every sense and meaning of the word, 
With nothing but old patience for my chart, 
And patience doesn't always please a woman. 

Bright streams of water, watering the world,. 
Deep seas of water that all men must sail 
Or rest half -men and fill the narrow graves, 

189 



When will I understand or comprehend 

Your salt, sweet taste, so different from the taste 

Of Sangamon russets, weighing down the bough? 

You can live with the water twenty years 

And never understand it like the earth 

But that's the lesson I can't seem to learn. 

"Abraham Lincoln, his hand and pen, 
He will be good, but God knows when/' 
He will be wise, but God knows when. 

It doesn't matter. If I had some news 
News from that f og 

I'll get the hypo, sure, 
Unless I watch myself, waiting for news. 
I can't afford to get the hypo now, 
I've got too much to do. 

Political years, 

Housekeeping years of marrying and begetting 
And losing, too, the children and the town, 
The wife, the house, the life, the joy and grief, 
The profound wonder still behind it all. 

I had a friend who married and was happy. 

But something haunted him that haunted me 

Before he did, till he could hardly tell 

What his own mind was, for the brooding veil 

And immaterial horror of the soul 

Which colors the whole world for men like that. 

I do not know from whence that horror comes 
Or why it hangs between us and the sun 
For some f ew men, at certain times and days, 
But I have known it closer than my flesh, 
Got up with it, hain down and walked with it, 
Scotched it awhile, but never killed it quite, 
And yet lived on. 

I wrote him good advice, 
The way you do, and told him this, for part, 
"Again you fear that that Elysium 
Of which youVe dreamed so much is not to be. 
Well, I dare swear it will not be the fault 

190 



Of that same black-eyed Fanny, now your wife. 
And I have now no doubt that you and I, 
To our particular misfortune, dream 
Dreams of Elysium far exceeding all 
That any earthly thing can realize." 

I wrote that more than twenty years ago, 
At thirty-three, and now I'm fifty-three, 
And the slow days have brought me up at last 
Through water, earth and fire, to where I stand, 
To where I stand and no Elysiums still. 

No, no Elysiums for that personal dream 
I dreamt of for myself and in my youth 
Has been abolished by the falling sledge 
Of chance and an ambition so fulfilled 
That the fulfillment killed its personal part. 

My old ambition was an iron ring 
Loose-hooped around the live trunk of a tree. 
If the tree grows till bark and iron touch 
And then stops growing, ring and tree are matched 
And the fulfillment fits. 

But, if by some 

Unlikely chance, the growing still keeps on, 
The tree must burst the binding-ring or die. 

I have not once controlled the circumstances. 
They have controlled me. But with that control 
They made me grow or die. And I have grown. 
The iron ring is burst. 

Three elements, 

Earth, water and fire. I have passed through them all, 
Still to find no Elysium for my hands, 
Still to find no Elysium but growth, 
And the slow will to grow to match my task. 

Three elements. I have not sought the fourth 

Deeply, till now the element of air, 

The everlasting element of God, 

Who must be there in spite of all we See, 

Who must be there in spite of all we bear, 

Who must exist where all Elysium 

191 



Are less than shadows of a hunter's fire 
Lighted at night to scare a wolf away. 

I know that wolf his scars are in my hide 

And no Llysiurns can rub them out. 

Therefore at last, I lift my hands to You 

Who Were and Are and Must Be, if our world 

Is anything but a lost ironclad 

Shipped with a crew of fools and mutineers 

To drift between the cold forts of the stars. 

I've never found a church that I could join 

Although I've prayed in churches in my time 

And listened to all sorts of ministers 

Well, they were good men, most of them, and yet- 

The thing behind the words it's hard to find. 

I used to think it wasn't there at all 

Couldn't be there. I cannot say that, now. 

And now I pray to You and You alone. 

Teach me to know Your will. Teach me to read 

Your difficult purpose here, which must be plain 

If I had eyes to see it. Make me just. 

There was a man I knew near Pigeon Creek 

Who kept a kennel full of hunting dogs, 

Young dogs and old, smart hounds and silly hounds. 

He'd sell the young ones every now and then, 

Smart as they were and slick as they could run. 

But the one dog he'd never sell or lend 

Was an old half-deaf foolish-looking hound 

You wouldn't think had sense to scratch a flea 

Unless the flea were old and sickly too. 

Most days he used to lie beside the stove 

Or sleeping in a piece of sun outside. 

Folks used to plague the man about that dog 

And he'd agree to everything they said, 

"No he ain't much on looks or much on speed 

A young dog can outrun him any time, 

Outlook him and outeat him and outleap him, 

But, Mister, that dog's hell on a cold scent 

And, once he gets his teeth in what he's after, 

He don't let go until he knows he's dead." 

192 



I am that old, deaf hunting-dog, O Lord, 

And the world's kennel holds ten thousand hounds 

Smarter and faster and with finer coats 

To hunt your hidden purpose up the wind 

And bell upon the trace you leave behind. 

But, when even they fail and lose the scent, 

I will keep on because I must keep on 

Until You utterly reveal Yourself 

And sink my teeth in justice soon or late. 

There is no more to ask of earth or fire 

And water only runs between my hands, 

But in the air, I'll look, in the blue air, 

The old dog, muzzle down to the cold scent, 

Day after day, until the tired years 

Crackle beneath his feet like broken sticks 

And the last barren bush consumes with peace. 

I should have tried the course with younger legs, 
This hunting-ground is stiff enough to pull 
The metal heart out of a dog of steel; 
I should have started back at Pigeon Creek 
From scratch, not forty years behind the mark. 
But you can't change yourself, and, if you could, 
You might fetch the wrong jack-knife in the swap. 
It's up to you to whittle what you can 
With what you've got and what I am, I am 
For what it's worth, hypo and legs and all. 
I can't complain. I'm ready to admit 
You could have made a better-looking dog 
From the same raw material, no doubt, 
But, since You didn't, this'll have to do. 

Therefore I utterly lift up my hands 
To You, and here and now beseech Your aid. 
I have held back when others tugged me on, 
I have gone on when others pulled me >back 
Striving to read Your will, striving to find 
The justice and expedience of this case, 
Hunting an arrow down the chilly airs 
Until my eyes are blind with the great wind 
And my heart sick with running after peace. 
And now, I stand and tremble on the last 

193 



Edge of the last blue cliff, a hound beat out, 
Tail down and belly flattened to the ground, 
My lungs are breathless and my legs are whipped, 
Everything in me's whipped except my will. 
I can't go on. And yet, I must go on. 

I will say this. Two months ago I read 
My proclamation setting these men free 
To Seward and the rest. I told them then 
I was not calling on them for advice 
But to hear something that I meant to do. 
We talked about it. Most of them approved 
The thing, if not the time. Then Seward said 
Something I hadn't thought of, "I approve 
The proclamationbut, if issued now 
With our defeats in everybody's mouth 
It may be viewed as a last shriek for help 
From an exhausted, beaten government. 
Put it aside until a victory comes, 
Then issue it with victory." 

He was right. 

I put the thing aside and ever since 
There has been nothing for us but defeat, 
Up to this battle now and still no news. 

If I had eyes to look to Maryland! 
If I could move that battle with my hands! 
No, it don't work. I'm not a general. 
All I can do is trust the men who are. 

I'm not a general, but I promise this, 

Here at the end of every ounce of strength 

That I can muster, here in the dark pit 

Of ignorance that is not quite despair 

And doubt tHat does but must not break the mind! 

The pit I have inhabited so long 

At various times and seasons, that my soul 

Has taken color in its very grains 

From the blind darkness, from the lonely cave 

That never hears a footstep but my own 

Nor evqr will, while I'm a man alive 

To keep my prison locked from visitors. 

194 



What if I heard another footstep there, 
What if, some daythere is no one but God, 
No one but God who could descend that stair 
And ring his heavy footfalls on the stone. 
And if He came, what would we say to Him? 

That prison is ourselves that we have built, 
And, being so, its loneliness is just, 
And, being so, its loneliness endures. 
But, if another came, 

What would we say? 
What can the blind say, given back their eyes? 

No, it must be as it has always been. 
We are all prisoners in that degree 
And will remain so, but 1 think I know 
ThisGod is not a jailor .... 

And I make 

A promise now to You and to myself. 
If this last battle is a victory 
And they can drive the Rebel army back 
From Maryland, back over the Potomac, 
My proclamation shall go out at last 
To set those other prisoners and slaves 
From this next year, then and forever free. 

So much for my will. Show me what is Yours! 

That must be news, those footsteps in the hall, 
Good news, or else they wouldn't come so fast. 

What is it, now? Yes, yes, I'm glad of that. 
I'm very glad. There's no mistake this time? 
We have the best of them? They're in retreat? 

This is a great day, Stanton 

If McClellan 

Can only follow up the victory now! 

Lord, I will keep my promise and go on, 
Your will, in much, still being dark to me, 
But, in this one thing, as I see it, plain. 

195 



And yetif Lee slips from our hands again 
As he well may from all those last reports 
And the war still goes on and still no end- 
Even after this Antietam not for years 

I cannot read it but I will go on, 

Old dog, old dog, but settled to the scent 

And with fresh breath now from this breathing space, 

Almighty God. 

At best we never seem 

To know You wholly, but there's something left, 
A strange, last courage. 

We can fail and fail, 

But, deep against the failure, something wars, 
Something goes forward, something lights a match, 
Something gets up from Sangamon County ground 
Armed with a bitten and a blunted axe 
And after twenty thousand wasted strokes 
Brings the tall hemlock crashing to the ground. 



Spade saw the yellow river rolling ahead 

His sore, cracked lips curled back in a death's head grin 

And his empty belly ceased to stick to his sides. 

He sat on the bank a minute to rest his legs 

And catch his breath. He had lived for the last three days 

On a yam, two ears of horse-corn and the lame rabbit 

That couldn't run away when he threw the stick. 

He was still a big man but the ribs stuck into his skin 
And the hard, dry muscles were wasted to leather thongs. 
u Boy, I wisht we had a good meal," he thought with a dull 
Fatigue. "Dat's Freedom's Ian' ovah dere fer sho', 
But how we gwino. to swim it without a good meal? 
I wisht we had even a spoonful of good hot pot-licker 
Or a smidgin' of barbecued shote. 

Dat river's cold. 
Colder'n Jordan. I wisht we had a good meal." 

He went down to the river and tested it with his hand. 
The X (5bld jumped up his arm and into his heart, 
Sharp as the toothache. His mouth wried up in a queer 

196 



Grimace. He felt like crying. "Fse tired," he said. 
"Flow easy, river," he said. 

Then he tumbled in. 

The hard shock of the plunge took his breath away. 
So stinging at first that his arms and legs moved fast, 
But then the cold crept into his creaking bones 
And he rolled wild eyes. 

"Oh, God," he thought as he struggled, 
"Fse weak as a cat. I ust to be a strong man." 

The yellow flood sucked round him, pulling him down, 

The yellow foam had a taste like death in his mouth, 

"We 6ught to of had a good meal," he thought with a weak 

Wonder, as he fought weakly. "A good hot meal. 

Dis current, she's too strong for a hungry mouth. 

We'se done our best, but she fights like a angel would 

Like wrestlin* with a death-angel." 

He choked and sank 

To come up gasping and staring with bloodshot eyes. 
His brain had a last, clear flash. "You're drowned," said the brain. 
Then it stopped working. 

But the black, thrashing hands 
Caught hold of something solid and hard and rough 
And hung to it with a last exhausted grip. 
He had been fighting an angel for seven nights 
And now he hung by his hands to the angel's neck, 
Lost in an iron darkness of beating wings. 
If he once let go, the angel would push him off 
And touch him across the loins with a stony hand 
In the last death-trick of the wrestle. 

He moaned a little. 

The blackness began to lighten. He saw the river 
Rolling and rolling. He was clutched to a log 
Like a treetoad set afloat on a chip of wood, 
And the log and he were rushing downstream together, 
But the current pulled them both toward the freedom side. 

He hunched up a little higher. An eddy took 
The log and him and spun them both like a top 
While he prayed and sickened. 

Then they were out of the eddy 
And drifting along more slowly, straight for the shore. 

197 



He hauled himself up the bank with enormous care, 
Y r omited and lay down. 

When he could arise 

He looked at his hands. They were still hooked into a curve. 
It took quite a time to straighten them back again. 

He said a prayer as he tried to dry his clothes, 
Then he looked for a stone and threw it into the river. 
"You'se a mean and hungry river," he said. "You is. 
Heah's a present for you. I hope it busts up your teef. 
Heah's a present fum Mistah Spade." 

He felt better then, 

But- his belly started to ache. "Act patient," he said, 
Rubbing it gently, "We'se loose in Freedom's land, 
Crossed old Jordan bound to get vittles now." 

He started out for the town. The town wasn't far 
But he had to go slow. Sometimes he fell on the way. 
The last time he fell was in front of a little yard 
With a white, well-painted fence. A woman came out. 
"Get along," she said. "You can't get sick around here. 
I'm tired of you nigger tramps. You're all of you thieves." 
Spade rose and said something vague about swimming rivers 
And vittles. She stamped her foot. "Get along!" she said, 
"Get along or I'll call the dog and " 

Spade got along. 

The next house, the dog was barking out in the yard, 
He went by as fast as he could, but when he looked back 
A man had come out with a hostile stick in his hand. 
Spade shook his head. "Freedom's land," he thought to himself, 
"They's some mighty quick-actin' people in Freedom's land, 
Some mighty rash-tempered dogs." 

He swayed as he walked. 
Here was another house. He looked for the dog 
With fright in his eyes. Then a swimming qualm came over him, 
A deathly faintness. His hands went out to the fence. 
He gripped two palings, hung, and stared at his shoes. 
Somebody wa4 talking to him. He tried to move on 
But his legs wouldn't walk. The voice was a woman's voice. 

She'd be calling the dog in a minute. He shivered hard. 
"Excuse me ma'am, but I'se feelin' poorly," he said, 

198 



"I just crossed over I'll go as soon as I kin." 

A man's voice now. They were taking him under the arms. 

He didn't care what they did. He let himself walk. 

Then he was sitting up in a bentwood chair 
In a tidy kitchen that smelt of frying and ham; 
The thick, good smell made him strangely sick at first 
But it soon passed off. They fed him little by little 
Till at last he could tell his tale and ask about them. 

They were churchgoing people and kind to runaway slaves. 
She wore a blue dress. They had two sons in the war. 
That was all that he knew and all that he ever knew. 
But they let him sleep in the garret and gave him some shoes 
And fifty cents when he left. 

He wanted to stay 

But times were bad and they couldn't afford to keep him. 
The town was tired of runaway negroes now. 

All the same, when he left, he walked with a different step. 
He went down town. He was free. He was Mister Spade. 
The President had written a letter about it 
And the mule and the coal-black gal might come any day. 

He hummed a tuneless whistle between his teeth 
And fished a piece of paper out of his pants, 
They'd written him down a boss's name and address 
But he'd have to get somebody to read it again. 
He approached a group of three white men on a corner 
Holding the paper. 

" 'Scuse me, boss, can you tell me " 
The white men looked at him with hard, vacant eyes. 
At last one of them took the paper. "Oh, Hell," he said, 
Spitting, and gave Spade a stare. Then he seemed to think 
Of something funny. He nudged the other two men. 
"Listen, nigger," he said. "You want Mr. Braid. 
You'll find him two blocks down at the Marshal's office, 
Tell him Mr. Clarke sent you there Mr. William Clarke 
He'll fix you up all right." 

The other men grinned, 

Adding directions. Spade thanked them and went away. 
He heard them laugh as he went. 

199 



Another man took him 

To a red-faced person who sat in a tilted chair, 
Reading a paper, his feet cocked up on his desk. 
He looked at Spade and his feet came down with a slam. 
"Take that God damn smile off," he said. "Who let you come in? 
You contraband niggers think that you own this town 
And that all you've got to do is cross over here 
For people to feed you free the rest of your lives. 
Well it don't go down with me just understand that." 

Spade brought out his paper, dumbly. The man looked at it. 
"Hell, this ain't for me," he said. 

Spade started to go. 

"Come back here, nigger," ordered t^ie red-faced man. 
"Hey, Mike!" he yelled, "Here's another of Lincoln's pets. 
Send him out with the rest of the gang." 

"But, boss " said Spade. 

"Don't get lippy with me," said the man, "Mike, take him along." 
The pimply boy named Mike jerked a sallow thumb. 
"Come on, black beauty," he said. "We got you a job." 
Spade followed him, dazed. 

When they were out in the street 

The boy turned to him. "Now, nigger, watch out," he said, 
Patting a heavy pistol swung at his belt, 
With puppy-nerceness, "You don't get away from me. 
I'm a special deputy, see?" 

"All right, boss," said Spade. 
"I ain't aimin' to get away from nobody now, 
I just aims to work till I gets myself a good mule." 
The boy laughed briefly. The conversation dropped. 
They walked out of the town till they came to a torn-up road 
Where a gang of negroes was working. 

"Say, boss" said Spade. 

The boy cut him off. "Hey, Jerry," he called to the foreman, 
"Here's another one." 

The foreman looked up and spat. 
"Judas!" he said, "Can't they keep the bastards at home? 
I'd put a gun on that river if I was Braid. 
Well, come along, nig, get a move on and find a shovel. 
Don't stand lookin' at me all day." 

The boy went away. 

200 



Spade found a shovel and started work on the road. 
The foreman watched him awhile with sarcastic eyes, 
Spade saw that he, too, wore a pistol. 

"Christ," said the foreman, 

Disgustedly, "Try and put some guts in it there. 
You're big enough. That shovel'll cost five dollars. 
Remember that it comes out of your first week's pay. 
You're a free nigger now." 

He chuckled. Spade didn't answer 
And, after a while, the foreman moved away. 

Spade turned to the gingerskinned negro who worked beside him. 
"You fum de Souf?" he mouthed at him. 

Ginger nodded. 

"I been here a month now. They fotched me here the first day. 
Got any money?" 

"Nuthin' but fifty cents." 

"You better give it to him," said Ginger, stealing 
A glance at the foreman. "He'll treat you bad if you don't. 
He's a cranky man." 

Spade's heart sank into his boots. 

"Don't we uns get paid? We ain't none of us slaves no more, 
The President said so. Why we wuhkin' like dis?" 
Ginger snickered. "Sho' we uns get paid," he said, 
"But we got to buy our stuff at de company sto' 
And he sells his old shovels a dozen times what dey's wuth. 
I only been here a month but I owes twelve dollars. 
Dey ain't no way to pay it except by wuhk, 
And de more you wuhk de more you owe at the sto.' 
I kain't figure it out exactly but it's dat way." 
Spade worked for a while, revolving these things in his mind. 
"I reckoned I sho' was gwine to be sassy and free 
When I swum dat river," he said. 

Ginger grinned like a monkey, 

"Swing your shubbel, boy, and forget what you ain't. 
You mought be out on de chain-gang, bustin' up rocks, 
Or agin, you mought be enlisted." 

"Huh?" said Spade. 

"Sho', dey's gwine to enlist us all when we finish dis road. 
All excep' me. I got bad sight in my eyes 
And dey knows about it." 

20T 



"Dey kain't enlist me," said Spade. 
"I ain't honin' to go an' fight in no white-folks war, 
I ain't bust loose into Freedom's land fer dat, 
All I want is a chance to git me a gal and a mule. 
If Fse free, how kin dey enlist me, lessen I want?'' 

"You watch 'em," said Ginger. They worked on for a time. 
The foreman stood on the bank and watched them work, 
Now and then he drank from a bottle. 

Spade felt hungry. 



Autumn is filling his harvest-bins 

With red and yellow grain, 
Fire begins and frost begins 

And the floors are cold again. 

Summer went when the crop was sold, 

Summer is piled away, 
Dry as a faded marigold 

In the dry, long-gathered hay. 

It is time to walk to the cider-mill 

Through air like apple wine 
And watch the moon rise over the hill, 

Stinging and hard and fine. 

It is time to cover your seed-pods deep 
And let them wait and be warm, 

It is time to sleep the heavy sleep 
That does not wake for the storm. 

Winter walks from the green, streaked West 
With a bag of Northern Spies, 

The skins are red as a robin's breast, 
The honey chill as the skies. 



Melora Vilas walked in the woods that autumn 
And heard the dry leaves crackle under her feet, 
Feeling, below the leaves, the blunt heavy earth. 



202 



"It's getting-in time," she thought. "It's getting-in time, 
Time to put things in barns and sit by the stove, 
Time to watch the long snow and remember your lover. 

He isn't dead. I know that he isn't dead. 
Maybe they've changed his body into a tree, 
Maybe they've changed his body into a cloud 
Or something that sleeps through the Winter. 

But I'll remember. 

I'll sleep through the Winter, too. We all sleep then 
And when the Spring freshet drums in the narrow brooks 
And fills them with a fresh water, they'll let him come 
Out of the cloud and the tree and the Winter-sleep. 

The Winter falls and we lie like beleaguered stones 
In the black, cramped ground. 

And then you wake in the morning 

And the air's got soft and you plant the narrow-edged seeds, 
They grow all Summer and now we've put them in barns 
To sleep again for a while. 

I am the seed and the husk. I have sown and reaped. 
My heart is a barn full of grain that my work has harvested. 
My body holds the ripe grain. I can wait my time." 

She walked on farther and came to the lip of the spring, 
The brown leaves drifted the water. She w r atchcd them drift. 

"I am satisfied," she thought, "I am satisfied. 

I can wait my time in spite of 'Mom being sad 

And Pop looking fierce and sad when he sees me walk 

So heavy and knows I'll have to walk heavier still 

Before my time comes. I'm sorry to make them sad, 

Fm sorry I did a bad thing if it was a bad thing; 

But I'm satisfied. 

We cut the heart on the tree. 
I've got my half of the dime and he's got his, 
He'll come back when Winter's over or else I'll find him, 
When you can push up the windows, when the new colts 
Come out in the Spring, when the snake sheds his winter coat, 
When the old, shed coat of Winter lies on the ground 
Grey as wasp-paper under the green, slow rain, 
When the big barn door rolls open. 

203 



I was worried to death at first and I couldn't tell. 
But as soon as I knew what it was it was different then- 
It made things all right. 

I can't tell why it did that." 

She awkwardly stooped and put her hand on the ground, 

Under the brittle leaves the soil was alive, 

Torn with its harvest, turned on its side toward sleep, 

But stripped for battle, too, for the unending 

Battle with Winters till the Spring is born 

Like a tight green leaf uncurling, so slightly, so gently, 

Out of the husk of ice and the blank, white snows. 

The wind moved over it, blowing the leaves away, 
Leaving the bare, indomitable breast. 
She felt a wind move over her heavy body, 
Stripping it clean for war. 

She felt the blind-featured 

Mystery move, the harmonics of the quick grain, 
The battle and the awakening for battle, 
And the salt taste of peace. 

A flight of geese passed by in a narrow V, 
Honking their cry. 

That cry was stuck in her heart 
Like a bright knife. 

She could have laughed or wept 
Because of that cry flung down from a moving wing, 
But she stood silent. 

She had touched the life in the ground. 



Love capie by from the riversmoke, 
When the leaves were fresh on the tree, 

But I cut my heart on the blackjack oak 
Before they fell on me. 

The leaves are green in the early Spring, 
They are brown as linsey now, 

I did not ask for a wedding-ring 
From the wind in the bending bough. 

204 



Fall lightly, lightly, leaves of the wild, 

Fail lightly on my care, 
I am not the first to go with child 

Because of the blowing air, 

I am not the first nor yet the last 

To watch a goosefeather sky, 
And wonder what will come of the blast 

And the name to call it by. 

Snow down, snow down, you whitefeather bird, 

Snow down, you winter storm, 
WTiere the good girls sleep with a gospel word 

To keep their honor warm. 

The good girls sleep in their modesty, 

The bad girls sleep in their shame, 
But I must sleep in the hollow tree 

Till my child can have a name. 

I will not ask for the wheel and thread 

To spin the labor plain, 
Or the scissors hidden under the bed 

To cut the bearing-pain. 

I will not ask for the prayer in church 
Or the preacher saying the prayer, 

But I will ask the shivering birch 
To hold its arms in the air. 

Cold and cold and cold again, 

Cold in the blackjack limb 
The winds of the sky for his sponsor-men 

And a bird to christen him. 

Now listen to me, you Tennessee corn, 

And listen to my word, 
This is the first child ever born 

That was christened by a bird. 

He's going to act like a hound let loose 
When he comes from the blackjack tree, 

205: 



And he's going to walk in proud shoes 
All over Tennessee. 

I'll feed him milk out of my own breast 
And call him Whistling Jack. 

And his dad'll bring him a partridge nest, 
As soon as his dad comes back. 



John Brown's raid has gone forward, the definite thing is done, 

Not as we see it done when we read the books, 

A clear light burning suddenly in the sky, 

But dimly, obscurely, a flame half -strangled by smoke, 

A thing come to pass from a victory not a victory, 

A dubious doctrine dubiously received. 

The papers praise, but the recruiting is slow, 

The bonds sell badly, the grind of the war goes on 

There is no sudden casting off of a chain, 

Only a slow thought working its way through the ground, 

A slow root growing, touching a hundred soils, 

A thousand mindsno blossom or flower yet 

It takes a long time to bring a thought into act 
And when it blossoms at last, the gardeners wonder- 
There have been so many to labor this patch of ground, 
Garrison, Beecher, a dozen New England names, 
Courageous, insulting Sumner, narrow and strong, 
With his tongue of silver and venom and his wrecked body, 
Wendell Phillips, Antinous of Harvard 
But now that the thought has arisen, they are not sure 
It was their thought after all-it is good enough- 
The best one could expect from a man like Lincoln, 
But this and that are wrong, are unshrewdly planned, 
We could have ordered it better, we knew the ground, 
It should have been done before, in a different way, 
And our praise is grudging. 

Pity the gardeners, 
Pity Boston, pity thepure in heart, 
Pity the men whom Time goes past in the night, 
Without their knowledge. They worked through the heat of the 
day. 

206 



Let us even pity 

Wendell Phillips, Antinous of Harvard, 

For he was a model man and such men deserve 

A definite pity at times. 

He too did his best. 

Secure in his own impenetrable self-knowledge, 
He seldom agreed with Lincoln or thought him wise; 
He sometimes thought that a stunning defeat would give 
A needed lesson to the soul of the nation, 
And, before, would have broken the Union as blithely as Yancey 
For his own side of abolition, speaking about it 
In many public meetings where he was heckled 
But usually silenced the hecklers sooner or later 
With his mellifluous, masculine, well-trained accents. 
War could hardly come too soon for a man like that 
And when it came, he was busy. He did his part, 
Being strong and active, blessed with a ready mind, 
And the cause being one to which he professed devotion, 
He spoke. He spoke well, with conviction, and frequently. 

So much for the banner-bearers of abolition, 

The men who carried the lonely flag for years 

And could bear defeat with the strength of the pure in heart 

But could not understand the face of success. 

The other dissenters are simpler to understand. 
They are ready to fight for the Union but not for niggers, 
They don't give a damn for niggers and say so now 
With a grievous cry. 

And yet the slow root-thought works 
Gradually through men's minds. 

The Lancashire spinners, 

Thrown out of work because no cotton can come 
To feed their mills through the choking Union blockade, 
Yet hold starvation meetings and praise the Union. 
The tide has begun to turn in some English minds, 
The watchers overseas feel their hands grow numb, 
Slidell and Mason and Huse still burrow and argue, 
But a cold breath blows through the rooms with the chandeliers. 
A door is beginning to close. 

Few men perceive 
The turn of the tide, the closing of the door. 

207 



Lincoln does not perceive it. He sees alone 

The grind of the war, the lagging of the recruits, 

Election after election going against him, 

And Lee back safe in Virginia after Antietam 

While McClellan sticks for five weeks and will not move. 

He loses patience at last and removes McClellan. 

Burnside succeeds him 

and the grimly bewildered 
Army of the Potomac has a new rider, 
Affable, portly, whiskered and self-distrusting, 
Who did not wish the command and tried to decline it, 
Took it at last and almost wept when he did. 
A worried man who passes like a sad ghost 
Across November, looking for confidence, 
And beats his army at last against stone walls 
At Fredericksburg in the expected defeat 
With frightful slaughter. 

The news of the thing comes back. 
There are tears in his eyes. He never wanted command. 
"Those men over there," he groans, "Those men over there" 
They are piled like cordwood in front of the stone wall- 
He wants to lead a last desperate charge himself, 
But he is restrained. 

The sullen army draws back, 

Licking its wounds. The night falls. The newspapers rave. 
There are sixty-three hundred dead in that doomed attack 
That never should have been made. 

His shoulders are bowed. 

He tries a vain march in the mud and resigns at last 
The weapon he could not wield. 

Joe Hooker succeeds him. 
The winter clamps down, cold winter of doubt and grief. 



The sun shines, the wind goes by, 
The prisoners and captives lie 
In a cell without an eye. 

Winter wilj not touch them more 
Than the cold upon a sore 
That was frozen long before. 

208 



Summer will not make them sweet 
Nor the rainy Springs refresh 
That extremity of heat 
In the self -corrupting flesh. 

The band blares, the bugles snort, 
They lose the fort or take the fort, 
Someone writes a wise report. 

Someone's name is Victory. 
The prisoners and captives lie 
Too long dead before they die. 



For all prisoners and captives now, 
For the dark legion, 

The Andersonvillers, the Castle Thunder men, 
The men who froze at Camp Morton and cam" *-~m the dun- 
geons 

With blood burst out on their faces. 
The men who died at Salisbury and Belle Isle, 
Elmira, St. Louis, Camp Douglas the Libby tunnellers 
The men in the fetid air. 

There are charges back and forth upon either side, 
Some true, some false. 

You can read the official reports, 

The dozen thick black-bound volumes of oaths and statements, 
A desert of type, a dozen black mummy-cases 
Embalming the long-forgotten, building again 
The cumbrous machine of guards and reports and orders, 
"Respectfully submitted" ... "I beg to state" . . . 
"State of kitchengood." . . . "Food, quality of quite good." . . . 
"Police of hospital good except Ward 7" . . . 
"Remarks we have ninety-five cases of smallpox now." . . . 
"Remarks as to general health of prisoners, fair." . . . 
"Remarks" . . . "Remarks" . . . "Respectfully submitted" . . . 
Under this type are men who used to have hands 
But the creaking wheels have respectfully submitted them 
Into a void, embalmed them in mummy-cases, 
With their chills and fever, their looks and plans of escape. 

209 



They called one "Shorty," they called another "The Judge," 
One man wore the Virgin's medal .around his neck, 
One had a broken nose and one was a liar, 
"Respectfully submitted" 

But, now and then, 

A man or a scene escapes from the mummy-cases, 
Like smoke escaping, blue smoke coiling into pictures, 
Stare at those coils 

and see in the hardened smoke, 
The triple stockade of Andersonville the damned, 
Where men corrupted like flies in their own dung 
And the gangrened sick were black with smoke and their filth. 
There were thirty thousand Federal soldiers there 
Before the end of the war. 

A man called Wirtz, 

A Swiss, half brute, half fool, and wholly a clod, 
Commanded that camp of spectres. 

One reads what he did 

And longs to hang him higher than Haman hung, 
And then one reads what he said when he was tried 
After the war and sees the long, heavy face, 
The dull fly buzzing stupidly in the trap, 
The ignorant lead of the voice, saying and saying, 
"Why, I did what I could, I was ordered to keep the jail. 
Yes, I set up deadlines, sometimes chased men with dogs, 
Put men in torturing stocks, killed this one and that, 
Let the camp corrupt till it tainted the very guards 
Who came there with mortal sickness. 
But they were prisoners, they were dangerous men, 
If a hundred died a day how was it my fault? 
I did my duty. I always reported the deaths. 
I don't see what I did different from other people. 
I fought well at Seven Pines and was badly wounded. 
I have witnesses here to tell you I'm a good man 
And that I was really kind: I don't understand. 
I'm old. I'm sick. You're going to hang me. Why?" 

Crush out the fly with your thumb and wipe your hand, 
You cannot crush the leaden, creaking machine, 
The first endorsement, the paper on the desk 
Referred by Adjutant Feeble to Captain Dull 
For further information and his report. 

210 



Some men wish evil and accomplish it 

But most men, when they work in that machine, 

Just let it happen somewhere in the wheels. 

The fault is no decisive, villainous knife 

But the dull saw that is the routine mind. 

Why, if a man lay dying on their desk 
They'd do their best to help him, friend or foe, 
But this is merely a respectfully 
Submitted paper, properly endorsed 
To be sent on and on, and gather blood. 

Stare at the smoke again for a moment's space 
And see another live man in another prison. 

A colored trooper named Woodson was on guard 
In the prison at Newport News, one night around nine. 
There was a gallery there, where the privy was, 
But prisoners weren't allowed in it after dark. 

The colored soldier talked with the prisoners 
At first, in a casual, more or less friendly way; 
They tried to sell him breastpins and rings they had 
And bothered him by wanting to go to the privy. 

At last, he fired on a man 

Who went in the gallery, but happened to miss him. 
A lieutenant came down to ask the cause of the shot. 
Woodson told him. 

A second prisoner went 

On the same errand, a shadow slipping through shadows. 
Woodson halted him twice but he kept on moving. 
"There's a man in the gallery now," said the young lieutenant. 
"Well, I reckon it's one of the men makin' water again,'* 
Said Woodson, uneasily. The lieutenant stiffened. 
He was officer of the guard and orders were orders. 
"Why don't you use the bayonet on him?" he said. 
Woodson jumped forward. The bayonet hunched and struck 

The man ran into the privy and fell like a log 

A prisoner said "You've killed him dead," in a voice. 
"Yes, by God!" said Woodson, cleaning his bayonet, 
"They buried us alive at Fort Pillow." 

211 



The court 

Found the sentry a trifle hasty, but on the whole 
Within his instructions, the officer's orders lawful; 
One cannot dispute the court. 

And yet the man 

Who went to the privy is inconveniently dead. 
It seems an excessive judgment for going there. 

The little pictures wreathe into smoke again. 
The mummy-cases close upon the dark legion. 
The papers are filed away. 

If they once were sent 

To another court for some last woid of review, 
They are back again. It seems strange that such tidy files 
Of correspondence respectfully submitted 
Should be returned from God with no final endorsement. 



The slow carts hitched along toward the place of exchange 
Through a bleak wind. 

It was not a long wagon train, 
Wagons and horses were too important to waste 
On prisoners for exchange, if the men could march. 
Many did march and some few died on the way 
But more died up in the wagons, which was not odd. 
If a man was too sick to walk, he was pretty sick. 

They had been two days on the road. 

Jack Ellyat lay 

Between a perishing giant from Illinois 
Who raved that he was bailing a leaky boat 
Out on the Lakes, and a slight, tubercular Jew 
Who muttered like a sick duck when the wagon jounced. 
Bailey marched. He still was able to march 
But his skin hung on him. He hummed to the Weaver's tune. 

They got to the river at last. 

Jack Ellyat saw 

A yellow stream and slow boats crossing the stream. 
Bailey had helped him out. He was walking now 
With his arm around Bailey's neck. Their course was a crab's. 

212 



The Jew was up and staring with shoe-button eyes 
While his cough took him. The giant lay on a plank, 
Some men were trying to lift him. 

The wind blew 

Over a knife of frost and shook their rags. 
The air was a thawing ice of most pure, clear gold. 
They stared across the river and saw the flag 
And the tall, blue soldiers walking in thick, warm coats 
Like strong, big men who fed well. And then they cheered, 
A dry thin cheer, pumped up from exhausted lungs 
And yet with a metal vibrance. 

The bright flag flapped. 

"I can smell 'em frying meat," said the coughing Jew. 
He sniffed, "Oh God, I hope it ain't ham," he said 
With his mouth puckered. A number of scarecrows laughed. 
And then they heard the echo of their own cheer 
Flung back at them, it seemed, in a high, shrill wail 
With that tongue of metal pulsing its feebleness. 
But it did not end like an echo, it gathered and rose, 
It was the Confederate sick on the other side, 
Cheering their own. 

The two weak crowd-voices met 
In one piping, gull-like cry. 

Then the boats began 
To take the weak men on board. 

Jack Ellyat walked 

To his boat on stuffless legs. "Keep quiet," he thought, 
"You're not through yetyou won't be through till you land. 
They can jerk you back, even now, if you look too pleased. 
Look like a soldier, damn you, and show them how." 
The thought was childish but it stiffened his back 
And got him into the boat. 

In the midst of the stream 
They passed a boat with Confederate prisoners 
So near they could yell at each other. 

"Hello there, -Yank." 
"Hello Reb" . . . "You look pretty sick-don't we feed you 

good?" . . . 
"You don't look so damn pretty, yourself" . . . "My, ain't that a 

shame!" . * . 

"You'll look a lot sicker when Hooker gets after you." . . . 
"Hell, old Jack'll take Hooker apart like a coffee-pot" . . . 

213 



"Well, good-by, Yank" . . . "Good-by, Reb" . . . "Get fat if you 
kin.'* 

So might meet and pass, perhaps, on a weedier stream 
Other boats, no more heavily charged, to a wet, black oar. 
Bailey watched the boat move away with its sick grey men 
Still yelling stingless insults through tired lips. 
He cupped his hands to his mouth. "Oh he roared, 
Then he sank back, coughing. 

"They look pretty bad," he said 
"They look glad to get back. They ain't such bad Rebs at that. 

The boat's nose touched the wharf. It swung and was held. 
They got out. They didn't move toward the camp at first. 
They looked back at the river first and the other side, 
Without saying words. They stood there thus for a space 
Like a row of tattered cranes at the edge of a stream, 
Blinking at something. 

"All right, you men," said an officer. "Come along." 
Jack Ellyat's heart made a sudden lump in his chest. 
It was a blue officer. They were back in their lines, 
Back out of prison. 

Bailey whirled out his arm 

In a great wheel gesture. "Hell," he said in a low, 
Moved voice, thumbed his nose across at the Stars and Bars 
And burst into horrible tears. Jack Ellyat held him. 
"Captain, when do we eat?" said the Jew in a wail. 



BOOK SIX 

Cudjo breathed on the silver urn 
And rubbed till his hand began to burn, 
With his hoarded scrap of*chamois-skin. 
The metal glittered like bright new tin 
And yet, as he labored, his mouth was sad- 
"Times is gettin' almighty bad. 
Christmas a-comin', sure and swif , 
But no use hollerin' Christmas GifP 
No use keepin' the silver fitting 
No use doin' nothin' but sittin'. 

214 



Old Marse Billy stayin* away, 
Yankees shootin' at Young Marse Clay, 
Grey hairs in Miss Mary's brush, 
And a-whooin' wind in de berry-bush, 
Dat young red setter done eat her pups, 
We was washin' de tea set an' bust two cups, 
Just come apart in Liza's han' 
Christmas, where has you gwine to, man? 
i Won't you never come back again? 
I feels like a cat in de outdoors rain." 
Christmas used to come without fail, 
A big old man with a raccoon tail, 
So fine and bushy it brushed the ground 
And made folks sneeze when he waltzed around. 
He was rolling river and Jucky sun 
And a laugh like a double-barrelled gun, 
And the chip-straw hat on his round, bald head 
Was full of money and gingerbread. 
"Come in, Christmas, and have a cheer! 
But, if he's comin', he won't stop here, 
He likes folks cheerful and dinners smokin' 
And famblies shootin' off caps and jokin', 
But he won't find nothin' on dis plantation, 
But a lot of grievin' conversation. 

Dey's tooken de carpets and window-weights 
To go and shoot at de Yankee States, 
Dey's tooken Nelly, de cross-eye mule, 
And whoever took her was one big fool; 
Dey's tooken dis an* dey's tooken dat, 
Till I kain't make out what dey's drivin' at. 
But if Ole Marse Billy could see dis place 
He'd cuss all Georgia blue in de face. 
To see me wuhkin with dis ole shammy 
Like a field-hand-nigger fum Alabammy, 
And Ole Miss wearin' a corn-husk hat, 
Dippin' ole close in de dyein' vat, 
Scrapin* her petticoats up for lint 
An' bilin' her tea out of julep-mint. 

Young Marse Clay he'd feel mighty sad 
If he'd seed de weddin' his sisters 

215 



De grooms was tall and de brides was fine, 
But dey drunk de health in blackberry wine, 
And supper was thu at half -past-nine. 

Weddin's ust to last for a week, 

But now we's rowin' up Hard Times Creek. 

Somethings conjured dis white-folks' South. 

Somethin' big with a hongry mouth, 

Eatin' an' eatin' I done my bes', 

Scattered de fedders and burnt de nes', 

Filled de bottle an' made de hand 

An' buried de trick in Baptis' land, 

An' dat trick's so strong, 1 was skeered all night, 

But, somehow or udder, it don' wuhk right. 

Ef I got me a piece of squinch-owl's tail 

An' some dead-folks' yearth fum de county jail, 

It mout wuhk better but I ain't sho', 

And de wind keeps scrabblin' under de do', 

Scratchin' and scratchin' his buzzard-claws, 

Won't nuthin' feed you, hongry jaws? 

Field hands keeps on hoein' de corn, 
Stupidest niggers ever born, 
All dey's good for is gravy -lickin', 
Ram-buttin' and cotton-pickin'; 
Dey don't hear de wind in de slew, 
But dat wind's blowin' over 'em too, 
An' dat wind's res'less an' dat wind's wile, 
An' dat wind aches like a motherless chile, 
Won't nuthin' feed you, achin' wind?" 

The hand stopped rubbing. The spoons were shined. 
He put them back in the flannel bag 
And stared at his scrap of chamois-rag. 
War was a throat that swallowed things 
And you couldn't cure it with conjurings. 



Sally Dupre watched over her dyeing-pots, 

Evening was setting in with a light slow rain 

That marched like a fairy army there being nothing 



216 



From the white fog on the hill to the soaked door-stone 
But a moving grey and silver hurry of lances, 
Distinct yet crowded, thin as the edge of the moon, 
Carried in no fleshed hand. 

She thought to herself, 

"I have stained my arms with new colors, doing this work, 
The red is pokeberry- juice, the grey is green myrtle, 
The deep black is queen's delight. 

If he saw me now 

With my hands so parti-colored he would not know them. 
He likes girls' hands that nothing has stained but lotions, 
This is too fast a dye. 

I will dye my heart 

In a pot of queen's delight, in the pokeberry sap, 
I will dye it red and black in the fool's old colors 
And send it to him, wrapped in a calico rag, 
To keep him warm through the rain, 

It will keep him warm. 

And women in love do better without a heart. 
What fools we are to wait the wheel of the year, 
The year will not help our trouble. 

What fools we are 
To give our parti-colored hearts to the rain. 

I am tired of the slogans now and tired of -the saving, 

I want to dance all night in a brand-new dress 

And forget about wars and love and the South and courage. 

The South is an old high house full of charming ladies, 
The war is a righteous war full of gallant actions, 
And love is a ^yhite camellia worn in the hair. 

But I am tired of talking to charming ladies 
And the smell of the white camellia, I will dye 
My hands twice as black as ink in the working waters 
And wait like a fool for bitter love to come home. 

He was wounded this year. They hurt him. They hurt you, 

darling. 

I have no doubt she came with a bunch of flowers 
And talked to your wound and you like a charming lady, 
I have no doubt that she came. 

217 



Her heart is not parti-colored. Shell not go steeping 
Her gentle hands in the pulp and the dead black waters 
Till die crooked blot lies there like a devil's shadow, 
And the heart is stained with the stain. 

If I came to the bed where you lay sick and in fever, 
I would not come with little tight-fisted flowers 
But with the white heron's plume that lay in the forest 
Till it was cooler than sleep. 

The living balm would touch on your wound less gently, 
The Georgia sun less fierce than my arms to hold you, 
The steel bow less stubborn than my curved body 
Strung against august death. 

They hurt you, darling, they hurt you and I not with you, 
I nowhere there to slit the cloth from your burning, 
To find the head of the man who fired the bullet 
And give his eyes to the crows. 

House, house, house, it is not that my friend was wounded, 
But that you kept him from me while he had freedom, 
You and the girl whose heart is a snuffed white candle- 
Now I will curse you both. 

Comely house, high-courteous house of the gentle, 
You must win your war for my friend is mixed in your quarrel, 
But then you must fall, you must fall, for your walls divide us, 
Your worn stones keep us apart. 

I am sick of the bland camellias in your old gardens, 
Your pride and passion are not my pride and my passion, 
I am strangling to death in your cables of honeysuckle, 
Your delicate lady-words. 

I would rather dig in the earth than learn your patience, 
I have need of a sky that never was cut for dresses 
And a rough ground to tear my hands on like lion's clothing, 
And a hard wheel to move. 

The low roof by the marches of rainy weather, 
The sharp love that carries the fool's old colors, 

218 



The bare bed that is not a saint's or a lady's, 
The strong death at the end. 

They hurt you, darling, they hurt you, and I not with you, 
I nowhere by to see you, to touch my darling, 
To take your fever upon me if 1 could take it 
And burn my hands at your wound. 

If I had been thereoh, how surely I would have found you* 
How surely killed your foeand sat by your bedside 
All night long, like a mouse, like a stone unstirring, 
Only to hear your slow breath moving the darkness, 
Only to hear, more precious than childish beauty, 
The slow tired beat of your heart." 



Wingate sat by a smoky fire 

Mending a stirrup with rusty wire. 

His brows were clenched in the workman's frown, 

In a day or a week they'd be back in town, 

He thought of it with a brittle smile 

That mocked at guile for its lack of guile 

And mocked at ease for its lack of ease. 

It was better riding through rainy trees 

And playing tag with the Union spies 

Than telling ladies the pleasant lies, 

And yet, what else could you do, on leave? 

He touched a rent in his dirty sleeve, 

That was the place that the bullet tore 

From the blue-chinned picket whose belt he wore, 

The man who hadn't been quick enough, 

And the powder-burn on the other cuff 

Belonged to the fight with the Yankee scout 

Who died in Irish when he went out. 

He thought of these things as a man might think 

Of certain trees by a river-brink, 

Seen in a flash from a passing train, 

And, before you could look at them, gone again. 

It was more important to eat and drink 

Than give the pain or suffer the pain 

And life was too rapid for memory. 

219 



"There are certain things that will cling to me, 
But not the things that I thought would cling, 
And the wound in my body cannot sting 
Like the tame black crow with the bandaged wing, 
The nervous eye and the hungry craw 
That picked at the dressing-station straw 
Till I was afraid it would pick my eyes 
And couldn't lift hand to beat it off. 
I can tell the ladies the usual lies 
Of the wild night-duels when two scouts clash 
And your only light is his pistol-flash; 
But I remember a watering-trough 
Lost in a little brushwood town 
And the feel of Black Whistle slumping down 
Under my knees in the yellow air, 
Hit by a bullet from God knows where . . . 
Not the long, mad ride round the Union lines 
But the smell of the swamp at Seven Pines, 
The smell of the swamp by Gaines's Mill, 
And Lee in the dusk before Malvern Hill, 
Riding along with his shoulders straight 
Like a sending out of the Scsean Gate, 
The cold intaglio of war. 
'This is Virginia's Iliad? 
But Troy was taken nevertheless 
I remember the eyes my father had 
When we saw our dead in the Wilderness 
I cannot remember any more- 
Lucy will wear her English gown 
When the Black Horse Troop comes back to town, 
Pin her dress with a silver star 
And tell our shadows how brave we are. 
Lucy I like your white-and-gold " 

He blew on his hands for the day was cold, 
And the damp, green wood gave little heat: 
There was something in him that matched the sleet 
And washed its hands in a rainy dream, 
Till the stirrup-strap and the horses' steam 
And Shepley and Bristol behind his back, 
Playing piquet with a dog-eared pack 

220 



And the hiss of the sap in the smoky wood 

Mixed for a moment in something good, 

Something outside of peace or war 

Or a fair girl wearing a silver star, 

Something hardly as vain as pride 

And gaunt as the men he rode beside. 

It made no comments but it was there, 

Real as the color of Lucy's hair 

Or the taste of Henry Weatherby's wine. 

He thought "These people are friends of mine. 

And we certainly fooled the Yanks last week, 

When we caught those wagons at Boiling Creek, 

I guess we're not such a bad patrol 

If we never get straight with the muster-roll, 

I guess, next Spring, we can do it again" 

Bristol threw down a flyspecked ten, 
"Theah," he said, in the soft, sweet drawl 
That could turn as hard as a Minie-ball, 
"This heah day is my lucky day, 
And Shepley nevah could play piquet." 
He stretched his arms in a giant yawn, 
"Gentlemen, when are we movin' on? 
I have no desire for a soldier's end, 
While I still have winnin's that I can spend 
And they's certain appointments with certain ladies 
Which I'd miss right smart if I went to Hades, 
Especially one little black-eyed charmer 
Whose virtue, one hopes, is her only armor, 
So if Sergeant Wingate's mended his saddle 
I suggest that we all of us now skedaddle, 
To employ a term that the Yankees favor" 
He tasted his words, for he liked the flavor. 
"And yet, one dreads to be back," said he, 
"One knows how tippled one well may be 
If one meets with the oppor-tun-ity. 
And even the charmers can likewise raise 
Unpleasant doubts that may last for days- 
Ana as one," he sighed, "of our martial lads, 
I'd rather be chargin' Columbiads, 
Than actin' sweet to some old smooth-bore 
When he tells me how he could win the War 

221 



By burnin' the next Yank crossroads-store. 
The Yanks aren't always too blame polite, 
But they fight like sin when they've got to fight, 
And after they've almost nailed your hide 
To your stinkin' saddle in some ole ride, 
It makes you mad when some nice home-guard 
Tells you they nevah could combat hard. 
I have no desire to complain or trouble 
But I'd find this conflict as comfortable 
As a big green pond for a duck to swim in, 
If it wasn't for leave, and the lovin' women." 



The snow lay hard on the hills. You could burn your eyes 

By too-long-looking into the cold ice-lens 

Of infinite, pure, glittering, winter air. 

It was as cold as that, as sparkling as that, 

Where the crystal trees stood up like strange, brittle toys 

After the sleet storm passed, till the setting sun 

Hung the glass boughs with rainbows frozen to gems 

And the long blue shadows pooled in the still hill-hollows. 

The white and the purple lilacs of New England 

Are frozen long, they will not bloom till the rains, 

But when you look from the window, you see them there, 

A great field of white lilacs. 

A gathered sheaf 
Of palest blossoms of lilac, stained with the purple evening. 

Jack Ellyat turned away from the window now, 
The frosty sleighbell of winter was in his ears, 
He saw the new year, a child in a buffalo-robe, 
Dragged in a sleigh whose runners were polished steel 
Up the long hill of February, into chill light. 
Tne child slept in the robe like a reindeer-colt, 
Nuzzled under the" winter. The bright bells rang. 

He warmed his hands at the stove and shivered a little 
Hearing that ice-sweet chime. 

He was better now, 
But his blood felt thin when he thought of skating along 

222 



Over black agate floors in the bonfire light 
Or beating a girl's red mittens free of the snow, 
And he slept badly at times, when his flesh recalled 
Certain smells and sights that were prison. 

He stared at the clock where Phaeton's horses lunged 
With a queer nod of recognition. The rest had altered, 
People and winter and nightmares and Ellen Baker, 
Or stayed in a good dimension that he had lost, 
But Phaeton was the same. He said to himself, 
"I have met you twice, old, drunken charioteer, 
Once in the woods, and once in a dirty shack 
Where Death was a coin of spittle left on the floor. 
I suppose we will meet again before there's an end, 
Well, let it happen. 

It must have been cold last year 
At Fredericksburg. I'm glad I wasn't in that. 
Melora, what's happened to you?" 

He saw Melora 

Walking down from the woods in the low spring light. 
His body hurt for a minute, but then it stopped. 
He was getting well. He'd have to go back pretty soon. 
He grinned, a little dryly, thinking of chance, 
Father had seen the congressman after all, 
Just before Shiloh. So now, nearly ten months later, 
The curious wheels that are moved by such congressmen 
Were sending him back to the Army of the Potomac, 
Back with the old company, back with the Eastern voices, 
Henry Fairfield limping along with his sticks, 
Shot through both hips at Antietam. 

He didn't care, 

Except for losing Bailey, which made it tough. 
He tried to puzzle out the change in his world 
But gave it up. Things and people looked just the same, 
You could love or like or detest them just the same way, 
But whenever you tried to talk of your new dimension 
It didn't sound right, except to creatures like Bailey. 
"I have met you twice, old, drunken charioteer, 
The third time you may teach me how to be cool." 

Ned, asleep by the stove, woke up and yawned, 
"Hello Ned," said his master, with a half-smile, 

223 



"I told a girl about you, back in a wood, 
You'd like that girl. She'd rub the back of youi cars. 
And Bailey'd like you too, I wish Bailey was here. 
Want to go to war, Ned?" Ned yawned largely again. 
Ellyat laughed. "You're right, old fella," he said, 
"You get too mixed up in a war. You better stay here. 
God, I'd like to sleep by a stove for a million years, 
Turn into a dog and remember how to stand cold," 
The clock struck five. Jack Ellyat jumped at the sound 
Then he sank back. "No, fooled you that time," he said, 
As if the strokes had been bullets. 

Then he turned 

To see his mother, coming in with a lamp, 
And taste the strange tastes of supper and quietness. 



John Vilas heard the beating of another 

Sleet at another and a rougher wall 

While his hands knotted together and then unknotted. 

Each time she had to moan, his hands shut down, 

And now the moans were coming close together, 

Close as bright streaks of hail. 

The younger children 
Slept the uneasy sleep of innocent dogs 
Who know there's something strange about the house, 
Stranger than storms, and yet they have to sleep, 
And someone has to watch them sleeping now. 

"Harriet's right and Harriet's upstairs, 

And Harriet cried like this when she gave birth, 

Eighteen years back, in that chintz-curtained room, 

And her long cry ran like an icicle 

Into my veins. I can remember yet 

The terrible old woman with the shawl 

Who sat beside me, like deserted Fate, 

Cursing me with those eyes each time she cried, 

Although she must, one time, have cried like that 

And been the object of as wild a cry, 

And so far back, and on and always that, 

The linked, the agonizing chain of cries 

Brighter than steel, because earth will be earth 

224 



And the sun strike it, and the seed have force. 
And yet no cry has touched me like this cry. 

Harriet's right and Harriet's upstairs 

And Harriet would have kept her from today, 

And now today has come, I look at it, 

Under the icicle, and wish it gone, 

Because it hurts me to be sitting here, 

Biting my fingers at my daughter's cry 

And knowing Harriet has the harder task 

As she has had for nearly twenty years. 

And yet, what I have sought that I have sought 

And cannot disavouch for my own pang, 

Or be another father to the girl 

Than he who let her run the woods alone 

Looking for stones that have no business there. 

For Harriet sees a dozen kinds of pain. 

And some are blessed, being legitimate, 

And some are cursed, being outside a law: 

But she and I see only pain itself 

And are hard-hearted with our epitaphs, 

And yet I wish I could not hear that cry.. 

I know that it will pass because all things 

Pass but the search that only ends with breath, 

And, even after that, my daughter and I 

May still get up from bondage, being such 

Smoke as no chain of steel-bright cries can chain 

To walk like Indian Summer through the woods 

And be the solitaries of the wind 

Till we are sleepy as old clouds at last. 

She has a lover and will have a child 
And I'm alone. I had forgotten that, 
Though you'd not think it easy to forget. 
No, we'll not go together. 

The cries beat 

Like hail upon the cold panes of my heart 
Faster and faster, till they crack the glass 
And I can know at last how old I am. 

That is my punishment and my defence, 
My ecstasy and my deep-seated bane. 

225 



I prayed to life for life once, in my youth, 
Between the rain and a long stroke of cloud 
Till my soaked limbs felt common with the sky 
And the black stone of heaven swung aside, 
With a last clap of water, to reveal 
Lonely and timid, after all that wrath, 
The small, cold, perfect flower of the new moon 
And now, perhaps, I'll pray again tonight, 
Still to the life that used me as a man 
Uses and wears a strong and riotous horse, 
Still to the vagrants of no fortunate word. 

Men who go looking for the wilderness-stone, 

Eaters of life who run away from bread 

And are not satisfied with lucky days! 

Robbers of airy gold, skin-changing men 

Who find odd brothers when the moon is full, 

Stray alchemics who entertain an imp 

And feed it plums within a hollow tree 

Until its little belly is sufficed, 

Men who have seen the bronze male-partridge beat 

His drum of feathers not ten feet away, 

Men who have listened to ^ild geese at night 

Until your hearts were hollowed with that sound, 

Moth-light and owl-light and first-dayspring men, 

Seekers and seldom-finders of the woods, 

But always seekers till your eyes are shut; 

I have an elder daughter that I love 

And, having loved from childhood, would not tame 

Because I once was tamed. 

If you're my friends, 
Then she's your friend. 

I do not ask for her 
Refusal or compunction or the safe 
Road between little houses and old gates 
Where Death lies sleepy as a dog in the sun 
And the slow cows come home with evening bells 
Into the tired peace that's good for pain. 
Those who are never tired of eating life 
Must immolate themselves against a star 
Sooner or late, as she turns crucified 
Now, on that flagellating wheel of light 

226 



Which will not miss one revolution's turn 

For any anguish we can bring to it, 

Because it is our master and our stone, 

Body of pain, body of sharpened fire, 

Body of quenchless life, itself, itself, 

That safety cannot buy or peddlers sell 

Or the rich cowards leave their silly sons. 

But, oh, 

She's tired out, she's broken, she's athirst. 

Wrap her in twilights now, she is so torn, 

And mask again the cold, sweat-runnelled mask 

With the deep silence of a leafy wood 

So cool and dim its birds are all asleep 

And will not fret her. Wipe her straining hands 

With the soft, gleaming cobwebs April spins 

Out of bright silver tears and spider silk 

Till they are finer than the handkerchiefs 

Of a young, wild, spear-bearing fairy-queen. 

Soothe her and comfort her and let her hear 

No harshness but the mumbling peaceful sound 

The fed bee grumbles to his honey-bags 

In the red foxglove's throat. 

Oh, if you are 
Anything but lost shadows, go to her!" 

Melora did not make such words for herself, 
Being unable, and too much in pain. 
If wood-things were beside her, she did not see them, 
But only a lamp, and hands. 

The pains came hard now, 
A fist that hardly opened before it shut, 
A red stair mounting into an ultimate 
Flurry of misty conflict, when it seemed 
As if she fought against the parth itself 
For mere breath and something other than mere breath. 
She heard the roar of the tunnel, drowned in earth. 
Earth and its expulsive waters, tearing her, being born. 
Then it was yellow silence and a weak crying. 

After the child was washed, they showed her the child, 
Breakable, crumpled, breathing, swathed and indignant, 
With all its nails and hands that moved of themselves 

227 



A queer thing to come out of that, but then it was there. 
"Looks healthy enough/' said her mother in a tired voice. 
Melora stared. "He's got blue eyes," she said finally. 
Her mother sniffed. "A lot of 'em start out blue." 
She looked at the child as if she wanted to tell it, 
"You aren't respectable. What are you doing here?" 
But the child began wailing. She rocked it mechanically. 
The rain kept on through the night but nobody listened. 
The parents talked for a while, then they fell asleep. 
Even the new child slept with its fists tight shut. 
Melora heard the rain for a single moment 
And then deep, beautiful nothing. "Over," she thought. 
She slept, handfasted to the wilderness-stone. 



Now the earth begins to roll its wheel toward the sun, 
The deep mud-gullies are drying. 

The sluggish armies 

That have slept the bear-months through in their winter-camps, 
Begin to stir and be restless. 

They're tired enough 

Of leaky huts and the rain and punishment-drill. 
They haven't forgotten what it was like last time, 
But next time we'll lick 'em, next time it won't be so bad, 
Somehow we won't get killed, we won't march so hard. 
"These huts looked pretty good when we first hit camp 
But they look sort of lousy now we might as well git- 
Fight the Rebs-and the Yanks-and finish it up." 
So they think in the bored, skin-itching months 
While the roads are drying. "We're sick of this crummy place, 
We might as well git, it doesn't much matter where." 
But when they git, they are cross at leaving the huts, 
"We fixed up ours first rate. We had regular lamps. 
We knew the girls at the Depot. It wasn't so bad. 
Why the hell do we have to git when we just got fixed? 
Oh, well, we might as well travel." 

So they go on, 
The huts drop behind, the dry road opens ahead .... 

Fighting Joe Hooker feels good when he looks at his men. 
A blue-eyed, uncomplex man with a gift for phrase. 
"The finest army on the planet," he says. 

228 



The phrase is to turn against him with other phrases 

When he is beaten-but now he is confident. 

Tall, sandy, active, sentimental and tart, 

His horseman's shoulder is not yet bowed by the weight 

Of knowing the dice are his and the cast of them, 

The weight of command, the weight of Lee's ghostly name, 

He rides, preparing his fate. 

In the other camps, 

Lee writes letters, is glad to get buttermilk, 
Wrings food and shoes and clothes from his commissariat, 
Trusts in God and whets a knife on a stone. 
Jackson plays with his new-born daughter, waiting for Spring, 
His rare laugh clangs as he talks to his wife and child. 
He is looking well. War always agrees with him, 
And this, perhaps, is the happiest time of his life. 
He has three months of it left. 

By the swollen flood 

Of the Mississippi, stumpy Grant is a mole 
Gnawing at Vicksburg. He has been blocked four times 
But he will carry that beaver-dam at last. 
There is no brilliant lamp in that dogged mind 
And no conceit of brilliance to shake the hand, 
But hand and mind can use the tools that they get 
This long way out of Galena. 

Sherman is there 

And Sherman loves him and finds him hard to make out, 
In Sherman's impatient fashion the quick, sharp man 
Seeing ten thousand things where the slow sees one 
And yet with a sort of younger brother awe 
At the infinite persistence of that slow will 
They make a good pair of hunting dogs, Grant and Sherman, 
The nervous, explosive, passionate, slashing hound 
And the quiet, equable, deadly holder-on, 
Faded-brown as a cinnamon-bear in Spring- 
See them like that, the brown dog and the white dog, 
Calling them back and forth through the scrubby woods 
After the little white scut of Victory, 
Or see them as elder brother and younger brother, 
But remember this. In their time they were famous men 
And yet they were not jealous, one of the other. 
When the gold has peeled from the man on the gilded horse, 
Riding Fifth Avenue, and the palm-girl's blind; 

229 



When the big round tomb gapes empty under the sky, 

Vacant with summer air, when it's all forgotten, 

When nobody reads the books, when the flags are moth-dust, 

Write up that. You won't have to write it so often. 

It will do as well as the railway-station tombs. 

So with the troops and the leaders of the bear-armies, 
The front-page-newspaper-things. 

Tall Lincoln reviews 

Endless columns crunching across new snow. 
They pass uncheering at the marching-salute. 
Lincoln sits on his horse with his farmer's seat, 
Watching the eyes go by and the eyes come on. 
The gaunt, long body is dressed in its Sunday black, 
The gaunt face, strange as an omen, sad and foreboding. 
The eyes look at him, he looks back at the eyes; 
They pass and pass. They go back to their camps at last. 
"So that was him," they say. "So that's the old man. 
I'm glad we saw him. He isn't so much on looks 
But he looks like people you know. He looks sad all right, 
I never saw nobody look quite as sad as that 
Without it made you feel foolish. He don't do that. 
He makes you feel I dunno-Fm glad we could see him. 
He was glad to see us but you could tell all the same 
This war's plumb killin' him. You can tell by his face. 
I never saw such a look on any man's face. 
I guess it's tough for him. Well, we saw him, for once." 

That day in Richmond, a mob of angry women 

Swarm in the streets and riot for bread or peace. 

They loot some shops, a few for the bread they need, 

A few for thieving, most because they are moved 

By discontent and hunger to do as the rest. 

The troops are called out. The troops are about to fire, 

But Davis gets on a wagon and calms the crowd 

Before the tumbled bodies clutter the street. 

He never did a better thing with his voice 

And it should be told. Next day they riot again, 

But this time the fire is weaker. They are dispersed, 

A few arrested. Bread grows dearer than ever. 

The housewives still go out with their market-baskets, 

But coffee's four dollars a pound and tea eleven. 

230 



They come back with a scraping of this and a scrap of that 
And try to remember old lazy, lagnappe days, 
The slew-foot negro chanting his devilled crabs 
Along the street, and the market-women piling 
The wicker baskets with everything good and fresh; 
Topping it off with a great green fist of parsley 
That you used to pretty the sides of the serving-dish 
And never bothered to eat. 

They improvise dishes, 

"Blockade pudding" . . . "Confederate fricassee," 
Serve hominy grits on the Royal Derby china 
And laugh or weep in their cups of willow-bark tea. 

Davis goes back from the riot, his shoulders stooped, 
The glow of speech has left him and he feels cold. 
He eats a scant meal quickly and turns to the endless 
Papers piled on his desk, the squabbles and plans. 
A haggard dictator, fretting the men he rules 
And being fretted by them. 

He dreams, perhaps, 

Of old days, riding wild horses beside his wife 
Back in his youth, on a Mississippi road. 
That was a good time. It is past. He drowns in his papers. 

The curtain is going up on that battlesmoked, 
Crowded third act which is to decide this war 
And yet not end it for years. 

Turn your eyes away 

From these chiefs and captains, put them back in their books. 
Let the armies sleep like bears in a hollow cave. 
War is an iron screen in front of a time, 
With pictures smoked upon it in red and black, 
Some gallant enough, some deadly, but all intense. 
We look at the pictures, thinking we know the time, 
We only know the screen. 

Look behind it now 

At the great parti-colored quilt of these patchwork States. 
This part and that is vexed by a battle-worm, 
But the ploughs go ahead, the factory chimneys smoke, 
A new age curdles and boils in a hot steel caldron 
And pours into rails and wheels and fingers of steel, 
Steel is being born like a white-hot rose 



In the dark smoke-cradle of Pittsburg- 

a man with a crude 

Eye of metal and crystal looks at a smear 
On a thin glass plate and wonders 

a shawled old woman 

Sits on a curbstone calling the evening news. 
War, to her, is a good day when papers sell 
Or a bad day when papers don't. War is fat black type. 
Anything's realer than war. 

By Omaha 

The valleys and gorges are white with the covered wagons 
Moving out toward the West and the new, free land. 
All through the war they go on. 

Five thousand teams 

Pass Laramie in a month in the last war-year, 
Draft-evaders, homesteaders, pioneers, 
Old soldiers, Southern emigrants, sunburnt children. . . . 
Men are founding colleges, finding gold, 
Selling bad beef to the army and making fortunes, 
Ploughing the stone-cropped field that their fathers ploughed. 
(Anything's realer than war.) 

A moth of a woman, 

Shut in a garden, lives on scraps of Eternity 
With a dog, a procession of sunsets and certain poems 
She scribbles on bits of paper. Such poems may be 
Ice-crystals, rubies cracked with refracted light, 
Or all vast death like a wide field in ten short lines. 
She writes to the tough, swart-minded Higginson 
Minding his negro troops in a lost bayou, 
"War feels to me like an oblique place." 

A man 

Dreams of a sky machine that will match the birds 
And another, dusting the shelves of a country store, 
Saves his pennies until they turn into dimes. 
(Anything's realer than war.) 

A dozen men 

Charter a railroad to go all across the Plains 
And link two seas with a whistling iron horse. 
A whiskered doctor stubbornly tries to find 
The causes of childbed-fever and, doing so, 
Will save more lives than all these war-months have spent, 
And never inhabit a railway-station tomb. 

232 



All this through the war, all this behind the flat screen. 

I heard the song of breath 

Go up from city and country, 

The even breath of the sleeper, 

The tired breath of the sick, 

The dry cough in the throat 

Of the man with the death-sweat on him, 

And the quiet monotone 

We breathe but do not hear. 

The harsh gasp of the runner, 

The long sigh of power 

Heaving the weight aloft, 

The grey breath of the old. 

Men at the end of strength 

With their lungs turned lead and fire, 

Panting like thirsty dogs; 

A child's breath, blowing a flame. 

The breath that is the voice, 
The silver, the woodwinds speaking, 
The dear voice of your lover, 
The hard voice of your foe, 
And the vast breath of wind, 
Mysterious over mountains, 
Caught in pines like a bird 
Or filling all hammered heaven. 

I heard the song of breath. 
Like a great strand of music, 
Blown between void and void, 
Uncorporal as the light. 
The breath of nations asleep, 
And the piled hills they sleep in, 
The word that never was flesh 
And yet is nothing but life. 

What are you, bodiless sibyl, 
Unseen except as the frost-cloud 
Puffed from a silver mouth 
When the hard winter's cold? 

233 



We cannot live without breath, 

And yet we breathe without knowledge 

And the vast strand of sound 

Goes on, eternally sighing, 

Without dimension or space, 

Without beginning or end. 

I heard the song of breath 
And lost it in all sharp voices, 
Even my own voice lost 
Like a thread in that huge strand, 
Lost like a skein of air, 
And with it, continents lost 
In the great throat of Death. 
I trembled, asking in vain, 
Whence come you, whither art gone? 
The continents flow and melt 
Like wax in the naked candle, 
Burnt by the wick of time- 
Where is the breath of the Chaldees, 
The dark, Minoan breath? 
I said to myself in hate, 
Hearing that mighty rushing, 
Though you raise a new Adam up 
And blow fresh fire in his visage, 
He has only a loan of air, 
And gets but a breathing-space. 
But then I was quieted. 

I heard the song of breath, 
The gulf hollow with voices, 
Fused into one slow voice 
That never paused or was faint. 
Man, breathing his life, 
And with him all life breathing, 
The young horse and the snake, 
Beetle, lion and dove, 
Solemn harps of the fir, 
Trumpets of sea and whirlwind 
And the vast, tiny grass 
Blown by a breath and speaking. 
I heard these things. I heard 

234 



The multitudinous river. 
When I came back to my life, 
My voice was numb in my ears, 
I wondered that I still breathed. 



Sophy, scared chambermaid in Pollet's Hotel, 
Turned the cornhusk mattress and plumped the pillow 
With slipshod hands. 

Then she picked the pillow up 
And sniffed it greedily. 

Something in it smelt sweet. 

The bright, gold lady had slept there the night before 
Oh, her lovely, lovely clothes! and the little green bottle 
That breathed out flowers when you crept into the room 
And pulled out the silver stopper just far enough 
To get the sweetness, not far enough to be caught 
If anyotie came. 

It made her thin elbows ache 
To think how fine and golden the lady was 
And how sweet she smelled, how sweet she looked at the men, 
How they looked at her. 

"I'd like to smell sweet," she thought, 
"Smell like a lady." 

She put the hard pillow back. 
The lady and the green bottle had gone away. 
If only you had clever hands after the next sleeper 
You could steal green bottles the room would smell stale again- 
Hide it somewhere under your dress as it always did 
Stale cigars and tired bodies or even say 
When they reached to give you the tip, "Don't give me a tip, 
Just give me" unwashed men with their six-weeks' beards, 
Trying to hold you back when "that little green bottle, 
I want it so." but the lady would never do it. 
Ladies named Lucy. Lucy was a good name, 
Flower-smelling. Sophy was just a name. 

She took up her broom and swept ineffectively, 
Thinking dim thoughts. 

The ladies named Lucy came, 
Sometimes in the winter, and then all the men got shaved 

235 



And you could look through the door at the people dancing. 
But when battles drew near, the ladies went home to stay. 
It was right they should. War wasn't a thing for ladies. 

War was an endless procession of dirty boots. 
Filling pitchers and emptying out the slops, 
And making the cornhusk beds for the unshaved men 
Who came in tired but never too tired to wonder- 
Look in the eyes and hands and suppose you didn't, 
They didn't like it and if you did, it was nothing 
But they always and rough sometimes and drunk now and 

then- 

And a couple of nice ones-well, it didn't mean nothing. 
It was merely hard to carry the heavy pails 
* When you didn't get fed enough and got up so soon. 
But, now the army was moving, there wouldn't be 
So many men or beds or slops for a while 
And that meant something. 

She sighed and dabbed with her broom. 

Shippy, the little man with the sharp rat-eyes, 
Came behind her and put his hands on her waist, 
She let him turn her around. He held her awhile 
While his eyes tried to look at her and over his shoulder 
At once and couldn't. 

She felt his poor body shake 
But she didn't think much about it. 

He murmured something. 

She shook her head with the air of a frightened doll 
And he let her go. 

"Well, I got to go anyway," 
He said, in a gloomy voice. "I'm late as it is, 
But I thought that maybe" He let the sentence trail off. 

"What do you want, next time I come back?" he said. 
Her face was sharper. "You bring me a bottle, Charley, 
The kind that lady had, with the Richmond scent. 
Hers has got a big silver stopper." 

He pursed his mouth. 

"I don't know," he said. "I'll try. I'd like to all right. 
You be a good girl now, Soph. Do you love me, Sophy?" 

236 



"Uh-huh," she said, in a tired voice, thinking of pitchers. 

"Well, I you're a good girl, Soph." He held her again. 
"I'm late," he muttered. She looked at him and felt mean. 
He was skimpy like her. They ought to be nice to each other. 
She didn't like him much but she sort of loved him. 
"You be a good girl till Charley comes back," he mumbled 
Kissing her nervously. "I'll bring you the scent." 

"It's got a name called French Lilies," she said. "Oh, Charley!" 
They clung together a moment like mournful shadows. 
He was crying a little, the wet tears fell on her chin, 
She cried herself when he'd gone, she didn't know why, 
But when she thought of the scent with the silver stopper 
She felt more happy. She went to make the next bed. 



Luke Breckinridge, washing his shirt in a muddy pool, 
Chewed on a sour thought. 

Only yesterday 

He had seen the team creak by toward Pollet's Hotel 
With that damn little rat-eyed peddler driving his mules 
As if he was God Almighty. 

He conjured up 

A shadow-Shippy before him to hate and bruise 
As he beat his shirt with a stone. 

"If we-uns was home, 

I could just lay for him and shoot him out of the bresh, 
Goin' to see my girl with his lousy mules. 
Tryin' to steal my girl with his peddler's talk!" 

But here, in the war, you could only shoot at the Yanks, 

If you shot other folks, they found out about it and shot you, 

Just like you was a spyer or something mean 

Instead of a soldier. There wasn't no sense to it. 

"Teach him to steal my girl if I had him home, 

Back in the mountains I told her straight the last time, 

You be a good girl, Soph, and I'll buy you a dress 

We can fix the cabin up fine and if we have kids 

We'll get ourselves married. Couldn't talk fairer than that, 

And she's a good girl but women's easy to change 

God-damn peddler, givin' her Richmond trash, 



And we-uns movin' away to scrimmage the Yanks 

Before I git a chance to see her agin 

And find out if she's been good He'll come back this way, 

Drivin' his mules plumb easy to lay for him, 

But they'd catch me, shore." 

His mouth had a bitter twist, 

His slow mind grubbed for a plan to settle his doubts. 
At last he dropped his stone with a joyous whoop. 
"Hey, Billy," he called to his neighbor. "Got your shirt dry? 
Well, lend it here for a piece until mine's wrung out, 
I got to go see the Captain." 

Billy demurred. 

"I got friends enough in this shirt," he said with a drawl. 
"I ain't hankerin' after no visitors out of yours. 
I'm a modest man and my crawl ies is sort of shy, 
They don't mix well with strangers. They's Piedmont crawlies, 
Besides, this shirt, she's still got more shirt than hole, 
Yours ain't a shirt-it's a doughnut." 

They swore for a while 

But finally Luke went off with the precious shirt, 
Whistling the tuneless snatch of a mountain jig, 
"Gawd help you, peddler," he thought, as he looked for the 
Captain. 

Shippy drove his rattletrap cart along 
Through the dusty evening, worried and ill at ease. 
He ought to have taken the other road by the creek 
But he'd wasted too much time at Pollet's Hotel 
Looking for Sophy and hardly seen her at that 
And now she wanted a bottle of scent. 

His soul 

Shivered with fear like a thin dog in the cold, 
Raging in vain at the terrible thing called Life. 
-There must be*a corner somewhere where you could creep, 
Curl up soft and be warm but he'd never found it. 
The big boys always stole his lunch at the school 
And rubbed his nose in the dirt r and when he grew up 
It was just the same. 

There was something under his face, 
Something that said, "Come, bully me-I won't bite." 
He couldn't see it himself, but it must be there. 
He was always going places and thinking, "This time, 

z 3 8 



They won't find out." But they always did find out 
After a while. 

It had been that way at the store, 
That way in the army, that way now as a spy. 
Behind his eyes he built up a super-Shippy 
Who ordered people around, loved glittering girls, 
Threw out his chest and died for a bloody flag 
And then revived to be thanked by gilt generals, 
A schoolboy Shippy, eating the big boys' lunch. 
It was his totem. He visioned that Shippy now, 
Reckless Shippy with papers sewed in his boots, 
Slyly carrying fate through the Rebel lines 
To some bright place where 

The off mule stumbled and brayed. 
He cursed it whimperingly and jerked at the reins, 
While his heart jerked, too. The super-Shippy was gone. 
He was alone and scared and late on the road. 
My God, but he was scared of being a spy 
And the mute-faced woman in Richmond and war and life! 
He had some papers sewn in his boots all right 
And they'd look at the papers while he stood sweating before 

them, 

Crumple them up and bully him with cross speech, 
"Couldn't you even find out where Heth's men are? 
Can't you draw a map? You don't know about Stonewall Jackson? 
Why don't you know it? What's this ford by the church? 
My God, man, what do you think you are out there for? 
You'll have to do better next time, I can tell you that. 
We'll send you over Route 7. We had a man there, 
But he's been reported killed" 

He shuddered in vain, 

Seeing a rope and a tree and a dangling weight 
And the mute-faced woman sending a paper off 
In somebody's else's boots, and somebody saying 
In an ice-cream voice to another scared little man. 
"Next time, you'll try Route 7. We had a man there, 
But he's been reported killed" 

Oh, there is a hole 

Somewhere deep in the ground where the rabbits hide, 
But I've never found it 

They stuck up signs and a flag 



And it was war and you went and got scared to death 
By the roar and the yells and the people trying to kill you 
Till anything else seemed better and there you were, 
Driving mules with papers sewn in your boots, 
But people still wanting to kill you and no way out. 
If you deserted, the mute-faced woman would know 
And that would be the worst-and if you went back, 
It would be Bull Run and yelling and all that blood 
When it made you sick to your stomach. Even at school 
You always had to fight. There was no way out. 

Sophy was sweet and Sophy was a good girl 
And Sophy was the warm earth where the rabbits hide 
Away from danger, letting their hearts go slow, 
But you couldn't stay with Sophy, you couldn't stay, 
And she'd say she'd be a good girl- 
but, in spite of himself, 
He saw a big boy tearing a cardboard box 
Apart, with greedy hands, in a bare school-yard, 
Where a Shippy whimpered 

"Oh, Soph, I'll get you the scent, 
Honest I will! Oh God, just let me get through, 
Just this one time and I'll prayI'll be good oh God, 
Make these papers something they want!" 

He clucked to his mules. 
Another mile and he'd be out on the pike 
And pretty safe for a while. 

His spirit returned 

To building the super-Shippy from dust again. 
His head began to nod with the sway of the cart. . . . 
Half a dozen men rode out from a little clearing 
And casually blocked the road. He pulled up his mules, 
Staring around. He saw a face that he knew, 
Now queer with triumph Sophy filling a pail 
And that gangling fellow lounging against the pump, 
Hungry-eyed 

It happened too fast to be scary. 

You got stopped such a lot. It was only some new patrol. 
"All the boys know me," he said. "Yes, I got my pass." 
They took the pass but they did not give it back. 
There was a waver shaking the dusty air, 

240 



The feel of a cord grown tauter. How dry his throat was! 
He'd be driving on in a minute. "Well boys?" he said, 
"Well, fellers?" 

They didn't answer or look at him. 
"I tell you that's the man," said the mountaineer. 

The sergeant-feller looked dubiously at, the rest, 
Gentlemanly he looked like, a nice young feller 
With his little black moustache and his thin, brown face, 
He wouldn't do anything mean. It would be all right. 
Another man was paring his nails with a knife, 
His face was merry and reckless nice feller, too, 
Feller to stand you a drink and talk gay with the girls, 
Not anybody to hurt you or twist your wrist. 
They were all nice fellers except for the mountaineer. 

They were searching him now, but they didn't do it mean. 
He babbled to them all through it. 

"Now boys, now boys, 

You're making a big mistake, boys. They all know me, 
They all know Charley the peddler." 

The sergeant looked 

Disgusted now wonder why. Go ahead and look, 
You'll never find it Sophy bottle of scent 

A horrible voice was saying, "Pull off his boots," 
He fought like a frightened rat then, weeping and biting, 
But they got him down and found the papers all right. 
Luke Breckinridge observed them with startled eyes, 
"Christ," he thought, "so the skunk's a spy after all. 
Well, I told 'em so but I didn't reckon he was. 
Little feist of a peddler, chasin' my girl, 
Wanted to scare him off so he wouldn't come back- 
Hell, they ought to make me a corporal now." 
He was pleased. 

Clay Wingate looked at the writhing man, 
"Get up!" he said, in a hard voice, feeling sick. 
But they had to drag it up before it would stand 
And even then it still babbled. 

His throat was dry 

But that was all right it was going to be all right- 
He was alive he was Shippy he knew a girl 

241 



He was going to buy her a bottle of first-class scent 

It couldn't all stop. He wasn't ready to die. 

He was willing enough to be friends and call it a joke. 

Let them take the mules and the cart and hurt him a lot 

Only not that it was other spies who were hung, 

Not himself, not Shippy, not the body he knew 

With the live blood running through it, making it warm. 

He was real. He wore clothes. He could make all this go away 

If he shut his eyes. They'd turn him loose in a minute. 

They were all nice fellers. They wouldn't treat a man mean. 

They couldn't be going to hang him. 

But they were. 



Lucy Weatherby spread out gowns on a bed 
And wondered which she could wear to the next levee. 
The blue was faded, the rose brocade had a tear, 
She'd worn the flowered satin a dozen times, 
The apricot had never gone with her hair, 
And somebody had to look nice at the evening parties. 
But it was hard. The blockade runners of course- 
But so few of them had space for gowns any more 
And, really, they charged such prices! 

Of course it is 
The war, and, of course, when one thinks of our dear, brave 

boys 

But, nevertheless, they like a girl to look fresh 
When they come back from their fighting. 

When one goes up 

To the winter-camps, it doesn't matter so much, 
Any old rag will do for that sort of thing. 
But here, in Richmond . . . 

She pondered, mentally stitching, 
Cutting and shaping, tost in a pleasant dream. 

Fighting at Chancellors vple and Hooker beaten 
And nobody killed that you knew so terribly well 
Except Jo Frear's second brotherthough it was sad 
Our splendid general Jackson's lost his arm, 
Such an odd man but so religious. 

She hummed a moment 

242 



"That's Stonewall Jackson's way" in her clear cool voice. 
"I really should have trained for nursing," she thought. 
She heard a voice say. "Yes, the General's very ill, 
But that lovely new nurse will save him if anyone can. 
She came out from Richmond on purpose." 

The voice stopped speaking. 
She thought of last month and the boys and the Black Horse 

Troop, 

And the haggard little room in Pollet's Hotel 
Whose slipshod chambermaid had such scared, round eyes. 
She was just as glad they were fighting now, after all, 
Hugcr had been so jealous and Clay so wild, 
It was quite a strain to be engaged to them both 
Especially when Jim Merrihew kept on writing 
And that nice Alabama major- 
She heard the bells 

Ring for a wedding but who was the man beside her? 
He had a face made up of too many faces. 
And yet, a young girl must marry 

You may dance, 

Play in the sun and wear bright gowns to levees, 
But soon or late, the hands unlike to your hands 
But rough and seeking, will catch your lightness at last 
And with strange passion force you. What is this passion. 
This injury that women must bear for gowns? 
It does not move me or stir me. I will not bear it. 
There are women enough to bear it. If 1 have sweetness, 
It is for another service. It is my own. 
I will not share it. I'll play in the heat of the sun. 
And yet, young girls must marry what am I thinking? 

She stepped from her hoops to try on the rose brocade, 

But let it lie for a moment, while she stood up 

To look at the bright ghost-girl in the long dark mirror, 

Adoringly. 

"Oh, you honey," she thought. "You honey! 
You look so pretty and nobody knows but me. 
Nobody knows." 

She kissed her little white shoulders, 
With fierce and pitying love for their shining whiteness, 
So soft, so smooth, so untarnished, so honey-sweet. 
Her eyes were veiled. She swayed in front of the mirror. 

243 



"Honey, I love you," she whispered, "I love you, honey. 
Nobody loves you like I do, do they, sugar? 
Nobody knows but Lucy how sweet you are. 
You mustn't get married, honey. You mustn't leave me. 
We'll be pretty and sweet to all of them, won't we, honey? 
We'll always have beaus to dance with and tunes to dance to, 
But you mustn't leave me, honey. I couldn't bear it. 
You mustn't ever leave me for any man." 



In the dense. heart of the thicketed Wilderness, 

Stonewall Jackson lies dying for four long days. 

They have cut off his arm, they have tried such arts as they know, 

But no arts now can save him. 

When he was hit 

By the blind chance bullet-spatter from his own lines, 
In the night, in the darkness, they stole him off from the field 
To keep the men from knowing, but the men knew. 
The dogs in the house will know when there's something wrong. 
You do not have to tell them. 

He marched his men 

That grim first day across the whole Union front 
To strike a sleepy right wing with a sudden stone 
And roll it up it was his old trick of war 
That Lee and he could play like finger and thumb! 
It was the last time they played so. 

When the blue-coated 

Unprepared ranks of Howard saw that storm, 
Heralded by wild rabbits and frightened deer, 
Burst on them yelling, out of the whispering woods, 
They could not face it. Some men died where they stood, 
The storm passed over the rest. It was Jackson's storm, 
It was his old trick of war, for the last time played. 
He must have known 1t. He loosed it and drove it on, 
Hearing the long yell shake like an Indian cry 
Through the dense black oaks, the clumps of second-growth pine, 
And the red flags reel ahead through the underbrush. 
It was the hour he did not stop to taste, 
Being himself. He saw it and found it good, 
But night was falling, the Union centre still held, 
Another attack would end it. He pressed ahead 

244 



Through the dusk, pushing Little Sorrel, as if the horse 
Were iron, and he were iron, and all his men 
Not men but iron, the stalks of an iron broom 
Sweeping a dire floor clean-and vet, as he rode, 
A canny captain, planning a ruthless chess 
Skilfully as night fell. The night fell too soon. 
It is hard to tell your friend from your enemy 
In such a night. So he rode too far in advance 
And, turning back toward his lines, unrecognized, 
Was fired upon in the night, in the stumbling darkness, 
By his own men. He had ridden such rides before 
Often enough and taken the chance of them, 
But this chance was his bane. 

He lay on the bed 

After the arm had been lopped from him, grim and silent, 
Refusing importunate Death with terrible eyes. 
Death was a servant and Death was a sulky dog 
And Death crouched down by the Lord in the Lord's own time, 
But he still had work to finish that Death would spoil. 
He would live in spite of that servant. 

Now and then 

He spoke, with the old curt justice that never once 
Denied himself or his foe or any other 
The rigid due they deserved, as he saw that due. 
He spoke of himself and his storm. "A successful movement. 
I think the most successful I ever made." 
He had heard that long veil shake like an Indian cry 
Through the ragged wooas and seen his flags go ahead. 
Later on, they brought him a stately letter from Lee 
That said in Lee's gracious way, "You have only lost 
Your left arm, I my right." 

The dour mouth opened. 

"Better ten Jacksons should fall than one Lee," it said 
And closed again, while the heart went on with its task 
Of beating off foolish, unnecessary Death. 

The slow time wore. They had to tell him at last 
That he must die. The doctors were brave enough, 
No doubt, but they looked awhile at the man on the bed 
And summoned his wife to do it. So she told him. 
He would not believe at first. Then he lay awhile 
Silent, while some slow, vast reversal of skies 



Went on in the dying brain. At last he spoke. 
"All right," he said. 

She opened the Bible and read. 
It was Spring outside the window, the air was warm, 
The rough, plank house was full enough of the Spring. 
They had had a good life together, those two middle-aged 
Calm people, one reading aloud now, the other silent. 
They haa passed hard schools. They were in love with each other 
And had been for many years. Now that tale was told. 
They had been poor and odd, found each other trusty, 
Begotten children, prayed, disliked to be parted, 
Had family-jokes, known weather and other matters, 
Planned for an age: they were famous now, he was dying. 

The clock moved on, the delirium began. 
The watchers listened, trying to catch the words; 
Some awed, one broken-hearted, a few, no doubt, 
Not glad to be there precisely, but in a way 
Glad that, if it must happen, they could be there. 
It is a human emotion. 

The dying man 

Went back at first to his battles, as soldiers do. 
He was pushing a new advance 

With the old impatience and skill, over tangled ground, 
A cloudy drive that did not move as he willed 
Though he had it clear in his mind. They were slow today. 
"Tell A. P. Hill to push them-push the attack- 
Get up the guns!" 

The cloudy assault dispersed. 
There were no more cannon. The ground was plain enough now. 

He lay silent, seeing it so, while the watchers listened. 
He had been dying once, but that was a dream. 
The ground was plain enough now. 
He roused himself and spoke in a different voice. 
"Let us cross the river," he said, "and rest under the shade of 
the trees." 



246 



BOOK SEVEN 

They came on to fish-hook Gettysburg in this way, after this 

fashion. 
Over hot pikes heavy with pollen, past fields where the wheat 

was high. 

Peaches grew in the orchards; it was a fertile country, 
Full of red barns and fresh springs and dun, deep-uddered kine. 

A farmer lived with a clear stream that ran through his very 

house-room, 
They cooled the butter in it and the milk, in their wide, stone 

jars; 

A dusty Georgian came there, to eat and go on to battle; 
They dipped the milk from the jars, it was cold and sweet in 

his mouth. 

He heard the clear stream's music as the German housewife 

served him, 

Remembering the Shenandoah and a stream poured from a rock; 
He ate and drank and went on to the gunwheels crushing the 

harvest. 
It was a thing he remembered as long as any guns. 

Country of broad-backed horses, stone houses and long, green 
meadows, 

Where Getty came with his ox-team to found a steady town 

And the little trains of my boyhood puffed solemnly up the 
Valley 

Past the market-squares and the lindens and the Quaker meeting- 
house. 

Penn stood under his oak with a painted sachem beside him, 
The market-women sold scrapple when the first red maples 

turned; 
When the buckeyes slipped from their sheaths, you could gather 

a pile of buckeyes, 
Red-brown as old polished boots, good to touch and hold in the 

hand. 

The ice-cream parlor was papered with scenes from Paul and 
Virginia, 

247 



The pigs were fat all year, you could stand af spoon in the cream. 
Penn stood under his oak with a feathered pipe in his fingers, 
His eyes were quiet with God, but his wits and his bargain sharp. 

So I remember it all, and the light sound of buckeyes falling 
On the worn rose-bricks of the pavement, herring-boned, trodden 

for years; 
The great yellow shocks of wheat and the dust-white road 

through Summer, 
And, in Fall, the green walnut shells, and the stain they left for 

a while. 

So I remember you, ripe country of broad-backed horses, 
Valley of cold, sweet springs and dairies with limestone-floors; 
And so they found you that year, when they scared your cows 

with their cannon, 
And the strange South moved against you, lean marchers lost 

in the corn. 



Two months have passed since Jackson died in the woods 
And they brought his body back to the Richmond State House 
To lie there, heaped with flowers, while the bells tolled, < 
Two months of feints and waiting. 

And now, at length, 

The South goes north again in the second raid, 
In the last cast for fortune. 

A two-edged chance 

And yet a chance that may burnish a failing star; 
For now, on the wide expanse of the Western board, 
Strong pieces that fought for the South have been swept away 
Or penned up in hollow Vicksburg. 

One cool Spring night 
Porter's ironclads rufl the shore-batteries 
Through a velvet stabbed with hot flashes. 

Grant lands his men. 

Drives the relieving force of Johnston away 
And sits at last in front of the hollow town 
Like a huge brown bear on its haunches, terribly waiting. 
His guns begin to peck at the pillared porches, 
The sleepy, sun-spattered streets. His siege has begun. 

248 



Forty-eight days that siege and those guns go on 
Like a slow hand closing around a hungry throat, 
Ever more hungry. 

The hunger of hollow towns, 
The hunger of sieges, the hunger of lost hope. 
As day goes by after day and the shells still whine 
Till the town is a great mole-burrow of pits and caves 
Where the thin women hide their children, where the tired men 
Burrow away from the death that falls from the air 
And the common sky turned hostileand still no hope, 
Still no sight in the sky when the morning breaks 
But the brown bear there on his haunches, steadfastly waiting, 
Waiting like Time for the honey-tree to fall. 

The news creeps back to the watchers oversea. 
They ponder on it, aloof and irresolute. 
The balance they watch is dipping against the South. 
It will take great strokes to redress that balance again. 
There will be one more moment of shaken scales 
When the Laird rams almost alter the scheme of things, 
But it is distant. 

The watchers stare at the board 
Waiting a surer omen than Chancellorsville 
Or any battle won on a Southern ground. 

Lee sees that dip of the balance and so prepares 

His cast for the surer omen and his last stroke 

At the steel-bossed Northern shield. Once before he tried 

That spear-rush North and was halted. It was a chance. 

This is a chance. He weighs the chance in his hand 

Like a stone, reflecting. 

Four years from Harper's Ferry- 
Two years since the First Manassas and this last year 
Stroke after stroke successful but still no end. 

He is a man with a knotty club in his hand 
Beating off bulls from the breaks in a pasture fence 
And he has beaten them back at each fresh assault, 
McClellan Burnside Hooker at Chancellorsville 
Pope at the Second Manassas Banks in the Valley 
But the pasture is trampled; his army needs new pasture. 
An army moves like a locust, eating the grain, 

249 



And this grain is well-nigh eaten. He cannot mend 
The breaks in his fence with famine or starving hands, 
And if he waits the wheel of another year 
The bulls will come back full-fed, shaking sharper horns 
While he faces them empty, armed with a hunger-cracked 
Unmagic stick. 

There is only this thing to do, 

To strike at the shield with the strength that he still can use 
Hoping to burst it asunder with one stiff blow 
And carry the war up North, to the untouched fields 
Where his tattered men can feed on the bulls' own grain, 
Get shoes and clothes, take Washington if they can, 
Hold the fighting-gauge in any event. 

He weighs 

The chance in his hand. I think that he weighed it well 
And felt a high tide risen up in his heart 
And in his men a high tide. 

They were veterans, 

They had never been beaten wholly and blocked but once, 
He had driven four Union armies within a year 
And broken three blue commanders from their command. 
Even now they were fresh from triumph. 

He cast his stone 
Clanging at fortune, and set his fate on the odds. 



Lincoln hears the rumor in Washington. 
They are moving North. 

The Pennsylvania cities 

Hear it and shake, they arc loose, they are moving North. 
Call up your shotgun-militia, bury your silver, 
Shoulder a gun or run away from the State, 
They are loose, they arg moving. 

Fighting Joe Hooker has heard it. 
He swings his army back across the Potomac, 
Rapidly planning, while Lee still visions him South. 
Stuart's horse should have brought the news of that move 
But Stuart is off on a last and luckless raid 
Far to the East, and the grey host moves without eyes 
Through crucial days, 

They are in the Cumberland now, 

250 



Taking minor towns, feeding fat for a little while, 

Pressing horses and shoes, paying out Confederate bills 

To slow Dutch storekeepers who groan at the money. 

They are loose, they are in the North, they are here and there. 

Halleck rubs his elbows and wonders where, 

Lincoln is sleepless, .the telegraph-sounders click 

In the War Office day and night. 

There are lies and rumors, 
They are only a mile from Philadelphia now, 
They are burning Yorkthey are marching on Baltimore 

Meanwhile, Lee rides through the heart of the Cumberland. 

Afgreat hot sunset colors the marching men, 

Colors the horse and the sword and the bearded face 

But cannot change that face from its strong repose. 

And miles away Joe Hooker, by telegraph 

Calls for the garrison left at Harper's Ferry 

To join him. Elbow-rubbing Halleck refuses. 

Hooker resigns command and fades from the East 

To travel West, fight keenly at Lookout Mountain, 

Follow Sherman's inarch as far as Atlanta, 

Be ranked by Howard, and tartly resign once more 

Before the end and the fame and the Grand Review, 

To die a slow death, in bed, with his fire gone out, 

A campfire quenched and forgotten. 

He deserved 

A better and brusquer end that marched with his nickname, 
This disappointed, hot-tempered, most human man 
Who had such faith in himself except for once, 
And the once, being Chancellorsville, wiped out the rest. 
He was often touchy and life was touchy with him, 
But the last revenge was a trifle out of proportion. 
Such things will happen Jackson went in his strength, 
Stuart was riding his horse when the bullet took him, 
And Custer died to the trumpet Dutch Longstreet lived 
To quarrel and fight dead battles. Lee passed in silence. 
McClellan talked on forever in word and print. 
Grant lived to be President. Thomas died sick at heart. 

So Hooker goes from our picture and a spent aide 
Reaches Meade's hut at three o'clock in the morning 
To wake him with unexpected news of command. 



The thin Pennsylvania!! puts on his spectacles 

To read the order. Tall, sad-faced and austere, 

He has the sharp, long nose of a fighting-bird, 

A prudent mouth and a cool, considering mind. 

An iron-grey man with none of Hooker's panache, 

But resolute and able, well skilled in war; 

They call him "the damned old goggle-eyed snapping-turtle" 

At times, and he does not call out the idol-shout 

When he rides his lines, but his prudence is a hard prudence, 

And can last out storms that break the men with panache, 

Though it summons no counter-storm when the storm is done. 

His sombre schoolmaster-eyes read the order well. 
It is three days before the battle. 

He thinks at first 
Of a grand review, gives it up, and begins to act. 

That morning a spy brings news to Lee in his tent 
That the Union army has moved and is on the march. 
Lee calls back Ewell and Early from their forays 
And summons his host together by the cross-roads 
Where Getty came with his ox-cart. 

So now we see 

These two crab-armies fumbling for each other, 
As if through a fog of rumor and false report, 
These last two days of sleepy, hay-harvest June. 
Hot June lying asleep on a shock of wheat 
Where the pollen-wind blows over the burnt-gold stubble 
And the thirsty men march past, stirring thick grey dust 
From the trodden pikes till at last, the crab-claws touch 
At Getty's town, and clutch, and the peaches fall 
Cut by the bullets, splashing under the trees. 

That meeting was not willed by a human mind, 
When we come^ to sift it. 

You say a fate rode a horse 
Ahead of those lumbering hosts, and in either hand 
He carried a skein of omen. And when, at last, 
* He came to a certain umbrella-copse of trees 
That never had heard a cannon or seen dead men, 
He knotted the skeins together and flung them down 
With a sound like metal. 

252 



Perhaps. It may have been so. 
All that we know is Meade intended to fight 
Some fifteen miles away on the Pipe Creek Line 
And where Lee meant to fight him, if forced to fight, 
We do not know, but it was not there where they fought. 
Yet the riding fate, 

Blind and deaf and a doom on a lunging horse, 
Threw down his skeins and gathered the battle there. 



The buttercup-meadows 
Are very yellow. 
A child comes there 
To fill her hands. 
The gold she gathers 
Is soft and precious 
As sweet new butter 
Fresh from the churn. 

She fills her frock 
With the yellow flowers, 
The butter she gathers 
Is smooth as gold, 
Little bright cups 
Of new-churned sunshine 
For a well-behaved 
Hoop-skirted doll. 

Her frock's full 
And her hands are mothy 
With yellow pollen 
But she keeps on. 
Down by the fence 
They are even thicker. 
She runs, bowed down with 
Buttercup-gold. 

She sees a road 
And she sees a rider. 
His face is grey 
With a different dust. 
He talks loud. 

253 



He rattles like tinware. 
He has a long sword 
To kill little girls. 

He shouts at her now, 

But she does not answer. 

"Where is the town?" 

But she will not hear. 

There are other riders 

Jangling behind him. 

"We won't hurt you, youngster!" 

But they have swords. 

The buttercups fall 
Like spilt butter. 
She runs away. 
She runs to her house. 
She hides her face 
In her mother's apron 
And tries to tell her 
How dreadful it was. 



Buford came to Gettysburg late that night 

Riding West with his brigades of blue horse, 

While Pettigrew and his North Carolinians 

Were moving East toward the town with a wagon-train, 

Hoping to capture shoes. 

The two came in touch. 

Pettigrew halted and waited for men and orders. 
Buford threw out his pickets beyond the town. 

The next morning was July first. It was hot and calm. 

On the grey side, Heth's division was ready to march 

And drive the blue pickets in. There was still no thought 

Of a planned and decisive battle on either side 

Though Buford had seen the strength of those two hill-ridges 

Soon enough to be famous, and marked one down 

As a place to rally if he should be driven back. 

He talks with his staff in front of a tavern now. 
An officer rides up from the near First Corps. 



"What are you doing here, sir?" 

The officer 

Explains. He, too, has come there to look for shoes. 
Fabulous shoes of Gettysburg, dead men's shoes, 
Did anyone ever wear you, when it was done, 
When the men were gone, when the farms were spoiled with the 

bones, 

What became of your nails and leather? The swords went home, 
The swords went into museums and neat glass cases, 
The swords look well there. They are clean from the war. 
You wouldn't put old shoes in a neat glass case, 
Still stuck with the mud of marching. 

And yet, a man 

With a taste for such straws and fables, blown by the wind, 
Might hide a pair in a labelled case sometime 
Just to see how the leather looked, set down by the swords. 

The officer is hardly through with his tale 
When Buford orders him back to his command. 
"Why, what is the matter, general?" 

As he speaks 

The far-off hollow slam of a single gun 
Breaks the warm stillness. The horses prick up their ears. 
"That's the matter," says Buford and gallops away. 



Jake Diefer, the barrel-chested Pennsylvanian, 
Marched toward Getty's town past orderly fences, 
Thinking of harvest. 

The boy was growing up strong 

And the corn-haired woman was smart at managing things 
But it was a shame what you had to pay hired men now 
Though they'd had good crops last year and good prices too. 
The crops looked pretty this summer. 

He stared at the long 

Gold of the wheat reflectively, weighing it all, 
Turning it into money and cows and taxes, 
A new horse-reaper, some first-class paint for the barn, 
Maybe a dress for the woman. 

His thoughts were few, 
But this one tasted rough and good in his mouth 



Like a spear of rough, raw grain. He crunched at it now. 
And yet, that wasn't all, the paint and the cash, 
They were the wheat but the wheat washe didn't know- 
But it made you feel good to see some good wheat again 
And see it grown up proper. 

He wasn't a man 

To cut a slice of poetry from a farm. 
He liked the kind of manure that he knew about 
And seldom burst into tears when his horses died 
Or found a beautiful thought in a bumble-bee, 
But now, as he tramped along like a laden steer, 
The tall wheat, rustling, filled his heart with its sound. 

Look at that column well, as it passes by, 

Remembering Bull Run and the cocksfeather hats, 

The congressmen, the raw militia brigades 

Who went to war with a flag and a haircloth trunk 

In bright red pants and ideals and ignorance, 

Ready to fight like picture-postcard boys 

While fighting still had banners and a sword 

And just as ready to run in blind mob-panic. . . . 

These men were once those men. These men are the soldiers, 

Good thieves, good fighters, excellent foragers, 

The grumbling men who dislike to be killed in war 

And yet will hold when the raw militia break 

And live where the raw militia needlessly die, 

Having been schooled to that end. 

The school is not 

A pretty school. They wear no cocksfeather hats. 
Some men march in their drawers and their stocking feet. 
They have handkerchiefs round their heads, they are footsore 

and chafed, 
Their faces are sweaty leather. 

And when they pass 

The little towns where the people wish them godspeed, 
A few are touched by the cheers and the crying women 
But most have seen a number of crying women, 
And heard a number of cheers. 

The ruder yell back 

To the sincere citizens cool in their own front yards, 
"Aw, get a gun and fight for your home yourself !" 
They grin and fall silent. Nevertheless they go on. 

256 



Jake Diefer, the barrel-chested Pennsylvanian, 

The steer-thewed, fist-plank-splitter from Cumberland, 

Came through the heat and the dust and the mounting roar 

That 'could not drown the rustle of the tall wheat 

Making its growing sound, its windrustled sound, 

In his heart that sound, that brief and abiding sound, 

To a fork and a road he knew. 

And then he heard 

That mixed, indocile noise of combat indeed 
And as if it were strange to him when it was not strange. 
He never took much account of the roads they went, 
They were always going somewhere and roads were roads. 
But he knew this road. 

He knew its turns and its hills, 

And what ploughlands lay beyond it, beyond the town, 
On the way to Chambersburg. 

He saw with wild eyes 

Not the road before him or anything real at all 
But grey men in an unreal wheatfield, tramping it down, 
Filling their tattered hats with the ripe, rough grain 
While a shell burst over a barn. 

"Grasshoppers!" he said 

Through stiff dry lips to himself as he tried to gauge 
That mounting roar and its distance. 

"The Johnnies is there! 
The Johnnies and us is fighting in Gettysburg, 
There must be Johnnies back by the farm already, 
By Jesus, those damn Johnnies is on my farm!" 



That battle of the first day was a minor battle 
As such are counted. 

That is, it killed many men. 

Killed more than died at Bull Run, left thousands stricken 
With wounds that time might heal for a little while 
Or never heal till the breath was out of the flesh. 
The First Corps lost half its number in killed and wounded. 
The pale-faced women, huddled behind drawn blinds 
Back in the town, or in apple-cellars, hiding, 
Thought it the end of the world, no doubt. 

And yet, 

257 



As the books remark, it was only a minor battle. 
There were only two corps engaged on the Union side, 
Longstreet had not yet come up, nor Ewell's whole force, 
Hill's corps lacked a division till evening fell. 
It was only a minor battle. 

When the first shot 

Clanged out, it was fired from a clump of Union vedettes 
Holding a farm in the woods beyond the town. 
The farmer was there to hear itand then to see 
The troopers scramble back on their restless horses 
And go off, firing, as a grey mass came on. 

He must have been a peaceable man, that farmer. 

It is said that he died of what he had heard and seen 

In that one brief moment, although no bullet came near him 

And the storm passed by and did not burst on his farm. 

No doubt he was easily frightened. He should have reflected 

That even minor battles are hardly the place 

For peaceable menbut he died instead, it is said. 

There were other deaths that day, as of Smiths and Clancys, 

Otises, Boyds, Virginia and Pennsylvania, 

New York, Carolina, Wisconsin, the gathered West, 

The tattered Southern marchers dead on the wheat-shocks. 

Among these deaths a few famous. 

Reynolds is dead, 

The model soldier, gallant and courteous, 
Shot from his saddle in the first of the fight. 
He was Doubleday's friend, but Doubleday has no time 
To grieve him, the Union right being driven in 
And Heth's Confederates pressing on toward the town. 
He holds the onrush back till Howard comes up 
And takes command for a while. 

The fighting is grim. 

Meade has heard the news. He sends Hancock up to the field. 
Hancock takes command in mid-combat. The grey comes on. 
Five color-bearers are killed at one Union color, 
The last man, dying, still holds up the sagging flag. 
The pale-faced women creeping out of their nouses, 
Plead with retreating bluecoats, "Don't leave us boys, 
Stay with ushold the town." Their faces are thin, 
Their words come tumbling out of a frightened mouth. 
In a field, far off, a peaceable farmer puts 



His hands to his ears, still hearing that one sharp shot 
That he will hear and hear till he dies of it. 
It is Hill and Ewell now against Hancock and Howard 
And a confused, wild clamor and the high keen 
Of the Rebel yell and the shrill-edged bullet song 
Beating down men and grain, while the sweaty fighters 
Grunt as they ram their charges with blackened hands. 

Till Hancock and Howard arc beaten away at last, 
Outnumbered and outflanked, clean out of the town, 
Retreating as best they can to a fish-hook ridge, 
And the clamor dies and the sun is going down 
And the tired men think about food. 

The dust-bitten staff 

Of Ewell, riding along through the captured streets, 
Hear the thud of a bullet striking their general 
Flesh or bone? Death-wound or rub of the game? 
"The general's hurt!" They gasp and volley their questions. 
Ewell turns his head like a bird, "No, I'm not hurt, sir, 
But, supposing the ball had struck you, General Gordon, 
We'd have the trouble of carrying you from the field. 
You can see how much better fixed for a fight I am. 
It don't hurt a mite to be shot in your wooden leg." 

So it ends. Lee comes on the field in time to see 

The village taken, the Union wave in retreat. 

Meade will not reach the ground till one the next morning. 



So it ends, this lesser battle of the first day, 
Starkly disputed and piecemeal won and lost 
By corps-commanders who carried no magic plans 
Stowed in their sleeves, but fought and held as they could. 
It is past. The board is staked for the greater game 
Which is to follow The beaten Union brigades 
Recoil from the cross-roads town that they tried to hold. 
And so recoiling, rest on a destined ground. 
Who chose that ground? 

There are claimants enough in the book 
Howard thanked by Congress for choosing it 
As doubtless, they would have thanked him as well had he 

259 



Chosen another, once the battle was won, 

And there are a dozen ifs on the Southern side, 

How, in that first day's evening, if one had known, 

If Lee had been there in time, if Jackson had lived, 

The heights that cost so much blood in the vain attempt 

To take days later, could have been taken then. 

And the ifs and the thanks and the rest are all true enough 

But we can only say, when we look at the board, 

'There it happened There is the way of the land. 

There was the fate, and there the blind swords were crossed." 



You took a carriage to that battlefield. 

Now, I suppose, you take a motor-bus, 

But then, it was a carriageand you ate 

Fried chicken out of wrappings of waxed paper, 

While the slow guide buzzed on about the war 

And the enormous, curdled summer clouds 

Piled up like giant cream puffs in the blue. 

The carriage smelt of axle-grease and leather 

And the old horse nodded a sleepy head 

Adorned with a straw hat. His ears stuck through it. 

It was the middle of hay-fever summer 

And it was hot. And you could stand and look 

All the way down from Cemetery Ridge, 

Much as it was, except for monuments 

And startling groups of monumental men 

Bursting in bronze and marble from the ground, 

And all the curious names upon the gravestones. . . , 

So peaceable it was, so calm and hot, 
So tidy and great-skied. 

No men had fought 
There but enormous, monumental men 
Who bled neat streams of uncorrupting bronze, 
Even at the Round Tops, even by Pickett's boulder, 
Where the bronze, open book could still be read 
By visitors and sparrows and the wind: 
And the wind came, the wind moved in the grass, 
Saying . . . while the long light . . . and all so calm . . 

260 



"Pickett came 
And the South came 
And the end came, 
And the grass comes 
And the wind blows 
On the bronze book 
On the bronze men 
On the grown grass, 
And the wind says 
'Long ago 
Long 
Ago.'" 

Then it was time to buy a paperweight 

With flags upon it in decalcomania 

And hope you wouldn't break it, driving home. 



Draw a clumsy fish-hook now on a piece of paper, 
To the left of the shank, by the bend of the curving hook, 
Draw a Maltese cross with the top block cut away. 
The cross is the town. Nine roads star out from it 
East, West, South, North. 

And now, still more to the left 
Of the lopped-off cross, on the other side of the town, 
Draw a long, slightly-wavy line of ridges and hills 
Roughly parallel to the fish-hook shank. 
(The hook of the fish-hook is turned away from the cross 
And the wavy line.) 

There your ground and your ridges lie. 
The fish-hook is Cemetery Ridge and the North 
Waiting to be assaulted the wavy line 
Seminary Ridge whence the Southern assault will come. 

The valley between is more than a mile in breadth. 
It is some three miles from the lowest jut of the cross 
To the button at the far fcnd of the fish-hook shank, 
Big Round Top, with Little Round Top not far away. 
Both ridges are strong and rocky, well made for war. 
But the Northern one is the stronger shorter one. 
Lee's army must spread out like an uncoiled snake 

261 



Lying along a fence-rail, while Meade's can coil 
Or halfway coil, like a snake part clung to a stone. 
Meade has the more men and the easier shifts to make, 
Lee the old prestige of triumph and his tried skill. 
His task is to coil his snake round the other snake 
Halfway clung to the stone, and shatter it so, 
Or to break some point in the shank of the fish-hook line 
And so cut the snake in two. 

Meade's task is to hold. 

That is the chess and the scheme of the wooden blocks 
Set down on the contour map. 

Having learned so much, 
Forget it now, while the ripple-lines of the map 
Arise into bouldered ridges, tree-grown, bird-visited, 
Where the 'gnats buzz, and the wren builds a hollow nest 
And the rocks are grey in the sun and black in the rain, 
And the jacks-in-the-pulpit grow in the cool, damp hollows. 
See no names of leaders painted upon the blocks 
Such as "Hill," or "Hancock," or "Pendcr"- 

but see instead 

Three miles of living men three long double miles 
Of men and guns and horses and fires and wagons, 
Teamsters, surgeons, generals, orderlies, 
A hundred and sixty thousand living men 
Asleep or eating or thinking or writing brief 
Notes in the thought of death, shooting dice or swearing, 
Groaning in hospital wagons, standing guard 
While the slow stars walk through heaven in silver mail, 
Hearing a stream or a joke or a horse cropping grass 
Or hearing nothing, being too tired to hear. 
All night till the round sun comes and the morning breaks, 
Three double miles of live men. 
Listen to them, their breath goes up through the night 
In a great chord of life, in the sighing murmur 
Of wind-stirred wheat. 

A hundred and sixty thousand 
Breathing men, at night, on two hostile ridges set down. 



Jack Ellyat slept that night on the rocky ground 
Of Cemetery Hill while the cold stars marched, 

262 



And if his bed was harder than Jacob's stone 
Yet he could sleep on it now and be glad for sleep. 

He had been through Chancellorsville and the whistling wood, 
He had been through this last day. It is well to sleep 
After such days. 

He had seen, in the last four months, 
Many roads, much weather and death, and two men fey 
Before they died with the prescience of death to come, 
John Haberdeen and the corporal from Millerstown. 
Such things are often remembered even in sleep. 
He thought to himself, before he lay on the ground, 
"We got it hot today in that red-brick town 
But we'll get it hotter tomorrow." 

And when he woke 

And saw the round sun risen in the clear sky, 
He could feel that thought steam up from the rocky ground 
And touch each man. 

One man looked down from the hill, 

"That must be their whole damn army/' he said and whistled, 
"It'll be a picnic today, boys. Yes, it'll be 
A regular basket-picnic." He whistled again. 

"Shut your trap about picnics, Ace," said another man, 
"You make me too damn hungry!" 

He sighed out loud. 

"We had enough of a picnic at Chancellorsville," 
He said. "I ain't felt right in my stummick since. 
Can you make 'em out?" 

"Sure," said Ace, "but they're pretty far." 

"Wonder who we'll get? That bunch we got yesterday 
Was a mean-shootin' bunch." 

"Now don't you worry," said Ace, 
"We'll get plenty." 

The other man sighed again. 
"Did you see that darky woman selling hot pies, 
Two days ago, on the road?" he said, licking his lips, 
"Blackberry pies. The boys ahead got a lot 
And Jake and me clubbed together for three. And then 
Just as we were ready to make the sneak, 
Who comes up with a roar but the provost-guard? 

263 



Did we get any pies? I guess you know if we did. 

1 couldn't spit for an hour, I felt so mad. 

Next war I'm goin' to be provost-guard or bust." 

A thin voice said abruptly, "They're moving lookit 
They're moving. I tell you lookit " 

They all looked then. 

A little crackling noise as of burning thornsticks 
Began far away ceased wholly began again 
"We won't get it awhile," thought Ellyat. "They're trying the 

left. 

We won't get it awhile, but we'll get it soon. 
I feel funny today. I don't think I'm going to be killed 
But I feel runny. That's their whole army all right. 
I wonder if those other two felt like this, 
John Haberdeen and the corporal from Millerstown? 
What's it like to see your name on a bullet? 
It must feel queer. This is going to be a big one. 
The Johnnies know it. That house looks pretty down there. 
Phaeton, charioteer in your drunken car, 
What have you got for a man that carries my name? 
We're a damn good company now, if we say it ourselves, 
And the Old Man knows it but this one's bound to be tough. 
I wonder what they're feeling like over there. 

Charioteer, you were driving yesterday, 

No doubt, but I did not see you. I see you now. 

What have you got today for a man with my name?" 



The firing began that morning at nine o'clock, 
But it was three before the attacks were launched. 
There were two attacks, one a drive on the Union left 
To take the Round Tops, the other one on the right. 
Lee had planned them to strike together and, striking so, 
Cut the Union snake in three pieces. 

It did not happen. 

On the left, Dutch Longstreet, slow, pugnacious and stubborn, 
Hard to beat and just as hard to convince, 
Has his own ideas of the battle and does not move 
For hours after the hour that Lee had planned, 
Though, when he does, he moves with pugnacious strength. 

264 



Facing him, in the valley before the Round Tops, 
Sickles thrusts out blue troops in a weak right angle, 
Some distance from the Ridge, by the Emmettsburg pike. 
There is a peach orchard there, a field of ripe wheat 
And other peaceable things soon not to be peaceful. 

They say the bluecoats, marching through the ripe wheat, 

Made a blue-and-yellow picture that men remember 

Even now in their age, in their crack-voiced age. 

They say the noise was incessant as the sound 

Of all wolves howling, when that attack came on. 

They say, when the guns all spoke, that the solid ground 

Of the rocky ridges trembled like a sick child. 

We have made the sick earth tremble with other shakings 

In our time y in our time, in our time, but it has not taught us 

To leave the grain in the field. 

So the storm came on 
Yelling against the angle. 

The men who fought there 

Were the tried fighters, the hammered, the weather-beaten, 
The very hard-dying men. 

They came and died 

And came again and died and stood there and died, 
Till at last the angle was crumpled and broken in, 
Sickles shot down, Willard, Barlow and Semmes shot down, 
Wheatfield and orchard bloody and trampled and taken, 
And Hood's tall Texans sweeping on toward the Round Tops 
As Hood fell wounded. 

On Little Round Top's height 
Stands a lonely figure, seeing that rush come on 
Greek-mouthed Warren, Meade's chief of engineers. 
Sometimes, and in battle even, a moment comes 
When a man with eyes can see a dip in the scales 
And, so seeing, reverse a fortune. Warren has eyes 
And such a moment comes to him now. He turns 
In a clear flash seeing the crests of the Round Tops taken, 
The grey artillery there and the battle lost 
And rides off hell-for-leather to gather troops 
And bring them up in the very nick of time, 
While the grey rush still advances, keening its cry. 
The crest is three times taken and then retaken 
In fierce wolf-flurries of combat, in gasping Iliads 

265 



Too rapid to note or remember, too obscure to freeze in a song. 
But at last, when the round sun drops, when the nun-footed night, 
Dark-veiled walker, holding the first weak stars 
Like children against her breast, spreads her pure cloths there, 
The Union still holds the Round Tops and the two hard keys of 
war. 

Night falls. The blood drips in the rocks of the Devil's Den. 
The murmur begins to rise from the thirsty ground 
Where the twenty thousand dead and wounded lie. 
Such was Longstreet's war, and such the Union defence, 
The deaths and the woundings, the victory and defeat 
At the end of the fish-hook shank. 

And so Longstreet failed 
Ere Ewell and Early struck the fish-hook itself 
At Gulp's Hill and the Ridge and at Cemetery Hill, 
With better fortune, though not with fortune enough 
To plant hard triumph deep on the sharp-edged rocks 
And break the scales of the snake. 

When that last attack 
Came, with its cry, Jack Ellyat saw it come on. 



They had been waiting for hours on that hard hill, 
Sometimes under fire, sometimes untroubled by shells. 
A man chewed a stick of grass and hummed to himself. 
Another played mumbledeypeg with a worn black knife. 
Two men were talking girls till they got too mad 
And the sergeant stopped them. 

Then they waited again. 

Jack Ellyat waited, hearing that other roar 

Rise and fall, be distant and then approach. 

Now and then he turned on his side and looked at the sky 

As if to build a house of peace from that blue, 

But could find no house of peace there. 

Only the roar, 
The slow sun sinking, the fey touch at his mind. . . . 

He was lying behind a tree and a chunk of rock 

On thick, coarse, grass. Farther down the slope of the hill 

266 



There were houses, a rough stone wall, and blue loungy men. 
Behind them lay the batteries on the crest. 

He wondered if there were people still in the houses. 
One house had a long, slant roof. He followed the slant 
Of the roof with his finger, idly, pleased with the line. 

The shelling burst out from the Southern guns again. 

Their own batteries answered behind them. He looked at his 

house 

While the shells came down. I'd like to live in that house. 
Now the shelling lessened. 

The man with the old black knife 
Shut up the knife and began to baby his rifle. 
They're coming, Jack thought. This is it. 

There was an abrupt 

Slight stiffening in the bodies of other men, 
A few chopped ends of words scattered back and forth, 
Eyes looking, hands busy in swift, well-accustomed gestures. 
This is it. He felt his own hands moving like theirs 
Though he was not telling them to. This is it. He felt 
The old familiar tightness around his chest. 
The man with the grass chewed his stalk a little too hard 
And then suddenly spat it out. 

Jack Ellyat saw 

Through the falling night, that slight, grey fringe that was war 
Coming against them, not as it came in pictures 
With a ruler-edge, but a crinkled and smudgy line 
Like a child's vague scrawl in soft crayon, but moving on 
But with its little red handkerchiefs of flags 
Sagging up and down, here and there. 

It was still quite far, 

It was still like a toy attack it was swallowed now 
By a wood and came out larger with larger flags. 
Their own guns on the crest were trying to break it up 
Smoking sand thrown into an ant-legged line- 
But it still kept on one fringe and another fringe 
And another and 

He lost them all for a moment 
[n a dip of ground. 

This is it, he thought with a parched 
Mind. It's a big one. They must be yelling all right 

267 



Though you can't hear them. They're going to do it this time* 
Do it or bustyou can tell from the way they come 
I hope to Christ that the batteries do their job 
When they get out of that dip. 

Hell, they've lost 'em now, 
And they're still coming. 

He heard a thin gnat-shrieking 
"Hold your fire till they're close enough, men!" 

The new lieutenant. 

The new lieutenant looked thin. "Aw, go home," he muttered, 
"We're no militia What do you think we are?" 

Then suddenly, down by his house, the low stone wall 
Flashed and was instantly huge with a wall of smoke. 
He was yelling now. He saw a red battleflag 
Push through smoke like a prow and be blotted out 
By smoke and flash. 

His heart knocked hard in his chest. 
"Do it or bust," he mumbled, holding his fire 
While the rags of smoke blew off. 

He heard a thick chunk 

Beside him, turned his head for a flicker of time. 
The man who had chewed on the grass was injuredly trying 
To rise on his knees, his face annoyed by a smile. 
Then the blood poured over the smile and he crumpled up. 
Ellyat stretched out a hand to touch him and felt the hand 
Rasped by a file. 

He jerked back the hand and sucked it. 
"Bastards," he said in a minor and even voice. 

All this had occurred, it seemed, in no time at all, 
But when he turned back, the smoky slope of the hill 
Was grey and a staggering red advancing flag 
And those same shouting strangers he knew so well, 
No longer ants but there and stumblingly running 
And that high, shrill, hated keen piercing all the flat thunder. 

His lips went back. He felt something swell in his chest 
Like a huge, indocile bubble. 

"By God," he said, 

Loading and firing, "You're not going to get this hill, 
You're not going to get this hill. By God, but you're not!" 

268 



He saw one grey man spin like a crazy dancer 

And another fall at his heels but the hill kept growing them. 

Something made him look toward his left. 

A yellow-fanged face 
Was aiming a pistol over a chunk of rock. 
He fired and the face went down like a broken pipe 
While something hit him sharply and took his breath. 
"Get back, you suckers," he croaked, "Get back there, you 

suckers! " 

He wouldn't have time to load now they were too near. 
He was up and screaming. He swung his gun like a club 
Through a twilight full of bright stabbings, and felt it crash 
On a thing that broke. He had no breath any more. 
He had no thoughts. Then the blunt fist hit him again. 

He was down in the grass and the black sheep of night ran over 
him . . . 



That day, Melora Vilas sat by the spring 

With her child in her arms and felt the warm wind blow 

Ruffling the little pool that had shown two faces 

Apart and then clung together for a brief while 

As if the mouths had been silver and so fused there. . . . 

The wind blew at the child's shut fists but it could not open 

them. 
The child slept well The child was a strong, young child. 

"Wind, you have blown the green leaf and the brown leaf 
And in and out of my restless heart you blow, 
Wakening me again. 

I had thought for a while 

My heart was a child and could sleep like any child, 
But now that the wind is warm, I remember my lover, 
Must you blow all summer, warm wind?" 

"Divide anew this once-divided flesh 
Into twelve shares of mercy and on each 
Bestow a fair and succourable child, 
Yet, in full summer, when the ripened stalks 
Bow in the wind like golden-headed men, 

269 



Under the sun, the shares will reunite 
Into unmerciful and childless love." 

She thought again, "No, it's not that, it's not that, 
I love my child with an 'L' because he's little, 
I love my child with an *S' because he's strong. 
With an 'M' because he's mine. 

But I'm restless now. 

We cut the heart on the tree but the bark's grown back there. 
I've got my half of the dime but I want his. 
The winter-sleep is over." 

The shadows were longer now. The child waked and cried. 
She rocked and hushed it, feeling the warm wind blow. 
"I've got to find him," she said. 

About that time, the men rode up to the house 

From the other way. Their horses were rough and wild. 

There were a dozen of them and they came fast. 

Bent should have been out in the woods but he had come down 

To mend a split wagon-wheel. He was caught in the barn. 

They couldn't warn him in time, though John Vilas tried, 

But they held John Vilas and started to search the place 

While the younger children scuttled around like mice 

Squeaking "It's drafters, Mom it's the drafters again!" 

Even then, if Bent had hidden under the hay 

They might not have found him, being much pressed for time, 

But perhaps he was tired of hiding. 

At any rate 

When Melora reached the edge of the little clearing, 
She saw them there and Bent there, up on a horse, 
Her mother rigid as wood and her father dumb 
And the head man saying, gently enough on the whole, 
"Don't you worry, ma'am he'll make a good soldier yet 
If he acts proper. >r 

That was how they got Bent. 



On the crest of the hill, the sweaty cannoneers, 

The blackened Pennsylvanians, picked up their rammers 

And fought the charge with handspikes and clubs and stones. 



270 



Biting and howling. It is said that they cried 

Wildly, "Death on the soil of our native state 

Rather than lose our guns." A general says so. 

He was not there. I do not know what they cried 

But that they fought, there was witness and that the grey 

Wave that came on them fought, there was witness too. 

For an instant that wheel of combat and for an instant 

A brief, hard-breathing hush. 

Then came the hard sound 

Of a tolumn tramping blue reinforcements at last, 
A doomsday sound to the grey. 

The hard column came 

Over the battered crest and went in with a yell. 
The grey charge bent and gave ground, the grey charge was 

broken. 

The sweaty gunners fell to their guns again 
And began to scatter the shells in the ebbing wave. 

Thus ended the second day of the locked bull-horns 
And the wounding or slaying of the twenty thousand. 
And thus night came to cover it. 

So the field 

Was alive all night with whispers and words and sighs, 
So the slow blood dripped in the rocks of the Devil's Den. 
Lincoln, back in his White House, asks for news. 
The War Department has little. There are reports , 
Of heavy firing near Gettysburg that is all. 
Davis, in Richmond, knows as little as he. 
In hollow Vicksburg, the shells come down and come down 
And the end is but two days off. 

On the field itself 

Meade calls a council and considers retreat. 
His left has held and the Round Tops still are his. 
But his right has been shaken, his centre pierced for a time, 
The enemy holds part of his works on Gulp's Hill, 
His losses have been most stark. 

He thinks of these things 
And decides at last to fight it out where he stands. 



Ellyat lay upon Cemetery Hill. 
His wounds had begun to burn. 



271 



He was rising up 

Through cold and vacant darknesses into faint light, 
The yellow, watery light of a misty moon. 
He stirred a little and groaned. 

There was something cool 

On his face and hands. It was dew. He lay on his back 
And stared at a blowing cloud and a moist, dark sky 
"Old charioteer," he thought. 

He remembered dully 

The charge. The charge had come. They had beaten the charge. 
Now it was moist dark sky and the dew and his pain. 

He tried to get his canteen but he couldn't reach it. 
That made him afraid. 

"I want some water," he said. 
He turned his head through stiff ages. 

Two feet away 

A man was lying quietly, fast asleep, 
A bearded man in an enemy uniform. 
He had a canteen. Ellyat wet his lips with his tongue. 
"Hey Johnnie, got some water?" he whispered weakly. 
Then he saw that the Johnnie had only half a head, 
And frowned because such men could not lend canteens. 

He was half-delirious now, and it seemed to him 
As if he had two bodies, one that was pain 
And one that lay beyond pain, on a couch of dew, 
And stared at the other with sober wondering eyes. 
"Everyone's dead around here but me," he thought, 
"And as long as I don't sing out, they'll think that I'm dead 
And those stretcher-bearers won't find me there goes their lan- 
tern 

No, it's the moon Sing out and tell 'em you're here." 
The hot body cried and groaned. The cool watched it idly. 
The yellow moon burst open like a ripe fruit 
And from it rolled on a dark, streaked shelf of sky 
A car and horses, bearing the brazen ball 
Of the unbearable sun, that halted above him 
In full rush forward, yet frozen, a motion congealed, 
Heavy with light. 

Toy death above Gettysburg. 

272 



JHe saw it so and cried out in a weak, thin voice 
While something jagged fitted into his heart 
And the cool body watched idly. 

And then it was 

A lantern, bobbing along through the clumped dead men, 
That halted now for an instant. He cried again. 
A voice said, "Listen, Jerry, you're hearing things, 
I've passed that feller twice and he's dead all right, 
I'll bet you money." 

Ellyat heard himself piping, 
"I'm alive, God damn you! Can't you hear I'm alive?" 

Something laughed, quite close now. 

"All right, Bub," said a cloud, 

"We'll take your word for it. My, but the boy's got language! 
Go ahead and cuss while we get you up on the stretcher- 
It helps some easy there, Joe." 

Jack Ellyat fell 

Out of his bodies into a whispering blackness 
Through which, now and then, he could hear certain talking 

clouds 
Cough or remark. 

One said. "That's two and a half 

You owe me, Joe. You're pickin' *em wrong tonight." 
"Well, poor suckers," said Joseph. "But all the same, 
If this one doesn't last till the dressing station 
The bet's off take it slower, Jerry it hurts him." 



Another clear dawn breaks over Gettysburg, 
Promising heat and fair weather and with the dawn 
The guns are crashing again. 

It is the third day. 

The morning wears with a stubborn fight ac Gulp's Hill 
That ends at last in Confederate repulse 
And that barb-end of the fish-hook cleared of the grey. 

Lee has tried his strokes on the right and left of the line. 
The centre remains that centre yesterday pierced 
For a brief, wild moment in Wilcox's attack, 
But since then trenched, reinforced and alive with guns. 



It is a chance. All war is a chance like that. 

Lee considers the chance and the force he has left to spend 

And states his will. 

Dutch Longstreet, the independent, 
Demurs, as he has demurred since the fight began. 
He had disapproved of this battle from the first 
And that disapproval has added and is to add 
Another weight in the balance against the grey. 
It is not our task to try him for sense or folly, 
Such men are the men they arebut an hour comes 
Sometimes, to fix such men in most fateful parts, 
As now with Longstreet who, if he had his orders 
As they were given, neither obeyed them quite 
Nor quite refused them, but acted as he thought best, 
So did the half-thing, failed as he thought he would, 
Felt justified and wrote all of his reasons down 
Later in controversy. 

We do not need 

Such controversies to see that pugnacious man 
Talking to Lee, a stubborn line in his brow 
And that unseen fate between them. 

Lee hears him out 
Unmoved, unchanging. 

"The enemy is there 
And I am going to strike him," says Lee, inflexibly. 



Wingate cursed with an equal stress 

The guns in the sky and his weariness, 

The nightmare riding of yesterday 

When they slept in the saddle by whole platoons 

And the Pennsylvania farmer's grey 

With hocks as puffy as toy balloons, 

A graceless horse, without gaits or speed, 

But all he had for his time of need. 

"I'd as soon be riding a Jersey cow." 

But the Black Horse Troop was piebald now 

And the Black Horse Troop was worn to the blade 

With the dull fatigue of this last, long raid. 

Huger Shepley rode in a tense 

Gloom of the spirit that found offence 

2 74 



In all things under the summer skies 

And the recklessness in Bristol's eyes 

Had lost its color of merriment. 

Horses and men, they were well-nigh spent. 

Wingate grinned as he heard the "Mount," 

"Reckon we look sort of no-account, 

But we're here at last for somebody's fight." 

They rode toward the curve of the Union right. 



At one o'clock the first signal-gun was fired 

And the solid ground began to be sick anew. 

For two hours then that sickness, the unhushed roar 

Of two hundred and fifty cannon firing like one. 

By Philadelphia, eighty-odd miles away, 
An old man stooped and put his ear to the ground 
And heard that roar, it is said, like the vague sea-clash 
In a hollow conch-shell, there, in his flowerbeds. 
He had planted trumpet-flowers for fifteen years 
But now the flowers were blowing an iron noise 
Through earth itself. He wiped his face on his sleeve 
And tottered back to his house with fear in his eyes. 

The caissons began to blow up in the Union batteries. 



The cannonade fell still. All along the fish-hook line, 
The tired men stared at the smoke and waited for it to clear; 
The men in the centre waited, their rifles gripped in their hands, 
By the trees of the riding fate, and the low s^one wall, and the 
guns. 

These were Hancock's men, the men of the Second Corps, 
Eleven States were mixed there, where Minnesota stood 
In battle-order with Maine, and Rhode Island beside New York, 
The metals of all the North, cooled into an axe of war. 

The strong sticks of the North, bound into a fasces-shape, 
The hard winters of snow, the wind with the cutting edge, 



And against them came that summer that does not die with the 

year, 
Magnolia and honeysuckle and the blue Virginia flag. 

Tall Pickett went up to Longstreet his handsome face was 

drawn. 
George Pickett, old friend of Lincoln's in days gone by with the 

blast, 
When he was a courteous youth and Lincoln the strange shawled 

man 
Who would talk in a Springfield street with a boy who dreamt of 

a sword. 

Dreamt of a martial sword, as swords are martial in dreams, 
And the courtesy to use it, in the old bright way of the tales. 
Those days are gone with the blast. He has his sword in his hand. 
And he will use it today, and remember that using long. 

He came to Longstreet for orders, but Longstreet would not 

speak. 

He saw Old Peter's mouth and the thought in Old Peter's mind. 
He knew the task that was set and the men that he had to lead 
And a pride came into his face while Longstreet stood there 

dumb. 

"I shall go forward, sir," he said and turned to his men. 

The commands went down the line. The grey ranks started to 

move. 

Slowly at first, then faster, in order, stepping like deer, 
The Virginians, the fifteen thousand, the seventh wave of the 

tide. 

There was a death-torn mile of broken ground to cross, 

And a low stone wall at the end, and behind it the Second Corps, 

And behind that force another, fresh men who had not yet 

fought. 
They started to cross that ground. The guns began to tear them. 

From the hill they say that it seemed more like a sea than a wave, 
A sea continually torn by stones flung out of the sky, 
And yet, as it came, still closing, closing and rolling on, 
As the moving sea closes over the flaws and rips of the tide. 

276 



You could mark the path that they took by the dead that they 

left behind, 

Spilled from that deadly march as a cart spills meal on a road, 
And yet they came on unceasing, the fifteen thousand no more, 
And the blue Virginia flag did not fall, did not fall, did not fall. 

They halted but once to fire as they came. Then the smoke closed 

down 
And you could not see them, and then, as it cleared again for a 

breath, 

They were coming still but divided, gnawed at by blue attacks, 
One flank half-severed and halted, but the centre still like a tide. 

Gushing ran down the last of his guns to the battle-line. 
The rest had been smashed to scrap by Lee's artillery fire. 
He held his guts in his hand as the charge came up the wall 
And his gun spoke out for him once before he fell to the ground. 

Armistead leapt the wall and laid his hand on the gun, 
The last of the three brigadiers who ordered Pickett's brigades, 
He waved his hat on his sword and "Give 'em the steel!" he cried, 
A few men followed him over. The rest were beaten or dead. 

A few men followed him over. There had been fifteen thousand 
When that sea began its march toward the fish-hook ridge and 

the wall. 

So they came on in strength, light-footed, stepping like deer, 
So they died or were taken. So the iron entered their flesh. 

Lee, a mile away, in the shade of a little wood, 
Stared, with his mouth shut down, and saw them go and be slain, 
And then saw for a single moment, the blue Virginia flag 
Planted beyond the wall, by that other flag that he knew. 

The two flags planted together, one instant, like hostile flowers. 
Then the smoke wrapped both in a mantle and when it had 

blown' away, 

Armistead lay in his blood, and the rest were dead or down, 
And the valley grey with the fallen and the wreck of the broken 

wave. 

Pickett gazed around him, the boy who had dreamt of a sword 
And talked with a man named Lincoln. The sword was still in 
his hand. 

277 



He had gone out with fifteen thousand. He came back to his lines 

with five. 
He fought well till the war was over, but a thing was cracked in 

his heart. 



Wingate, waiting the sultry sound 

That would pour the troop over hostile ground, 

Petted his grey like a loving son 

And wondered whether the brute would run 

When it came to fighting, or merely shy 

There was a look in the rolling eye 

That he knew too well to criticize 

Having seen it sometimes in other eyes. 

"Poor old Fatty," he said, "Don't fret, 

It's tough, but it hasn't happened yet 

And we may get through it if you behave, 

Though it looks just now like a right close shave. 

There's something funny about this fight" 

He thought of Lucy in candlelight, 

White and gold as the evening star, 

Giving bright ribbons to men at war. 

But the face grew dimmer and ever dimmer, 

The gold was there but the gold was fainter, 

And a slow brush streaked it with something grimmer 

Than the proper tint of a lady's painter 

Till the shadow she cast was a ruddy shadow. 

He rubbed his eyes and stared at the meadow. . . . 

"There was a girl I used to go with, 
Long ago, when the skies were cooler, 

There was a tree we us.cd to grow with 
Marking our heights with a stolen ruler. 

There was a cave where we hid and fought once. 

There was a pool where the wind kept writing. 
There was a possum-child we caught once. 

Caged it awhile, for all its biting. 

There was a gap in a fence to see there, 
Down where the sparrows were always wrangling. 

278 



There was a girl who used to be there, 
Dark and thin, with her long braids dangling. 

Dark and thin in her scuffed brown slippers 
With a boy's sling stuck in her apron-pocket, 

With a sting in her tongue like a gallinipper's 
And the eyes of a ghost in a silver locket. 

White and gold, white and gold, 
You cannot be cold as she was cold, 
Cold of the air and the running stream 
And cold of the ice-tempered dream. 

Gold and white, gold and white, 
You burn with the heat of candlelight. 
But what if I set you down alone 
Beside the burning meteor-stone? 

Blow North, blow South, blow hot, blow cold, 
My body is pledged to white and gold, 
My honor given to kith and kin, 
And my doom-clothes ready to wrap me in 
For the shut heart and the open hand 
As long as Wingate Hall shall stand 
And the fire burn and the water cool 
And a fool beget another fool- 
But now, in the hour before this fight, 
I have forgotten gold and white. 
I will remember lost delight. 
She has the Appleton mouth, it seems, 
And the Appleton way of riding, 
But if she quarrels or when she gleams, 
Something comes out from hiding. 

She can sew all day on an Appleton hem 

And look like a saint in plaster, 

But when the fiddles begin to play, 

And her feet beat fast but her heart beats faster, 

An alien grace is alive in them 

And she looks like her father, the dancing-master, 

The scapegrace elegant, Trench Dupre.' " 

279 



Then the word came and the bugle sang 

And he was part of the running clang, 

The rush and the shock and the sabres licking 

And the fallen horses screaming and kicking. 

His grey was tired and his arm unsteady 

And he whirled like a leaf in a shrieking eddy 

Where every man was fighting his neighbor 

And there was no room tor the tricks of sabre 

But only a wild and nightmare sickling. 

His head felt burnt there was something trickling 

Into his eyesthen the new charge broke 

The eddy apart like scattered smoke; 

The cut on his head half made him blind- 

If he had a mind, he had lost that mind. 

He came to himself in a battered place, 
Staring at Wainscott Bristol's face, 
The dried blood made it a ferret's mask. 

"What happened?" he croaked. 

"Well, you can ask," 
Said Bristol, drawling, "But don't ask me, 
For any facts of the jamboree. 
I reckon we've been to an Irish wake 
Or .maybe cuttin* a johnny-cake 
With most of the Union cavalry-corps. 
I don't know yet, but it was a war. 
Are you crazy still? You were for a piece. 
You yelled you were Destiny's long-lost niece 
And wanted to charge the whole Yank line 
Because they'd stolen your valentine. 
You fought like a fool but you talked right wild. 
You got a bad bump, too." 

Wingate smiled 

"I reckon I did, but I don't know when. 
Did we win or what?" 

"And I say again," 
Said Bristol, heavily, "don't ask me. 
Inquire of General Robert Lee. 
I know we're in for a long night ride 
And they say we got whipped on the other side. 
What's left of the Troop are down by the road 

280 



We lost John Leicester and Harry Spode 
And the Lawley boys and Ballantyne. 
The Major's all rightbut there's Jim Divine 
And Francis Carroll and Jutfson White 
I wish I had some liquor tonight." 

Wingate touched the cut on his head. 

It burned, but it no longer bled. 

"I wish I could sleep ten years," he said. 



The night of the third day falls. The battle is done. 
Lee entrenches that night upon Seminary Ridge. 
All next day the battered armies still face each other 
Like enchanted beasts. 

Lee thinks he may be attacked, 
Hopes for it, perhaps, is not, and prepares his retreat. 

Vicksburg has fallen, hollow Vicksburg has fallen, 
The cavedwellers creep from their caves and blink at the sun. 
The pan of the Southern balance goes down and down. 
The cotton is withering. 

Army of Northern Virginia, haggard and tattered, 

Tramping back on the pikes, through the dust-white summer, 

With your wounds still fresh, your burden of prisoners, 

Your burden of sick and wounded, 

"One long groan of human anguish six miles long." 

You r:ach the swollen Potomac at long last, 

A foe behind, a risen river in front, 

And fording that swollen river, in the dim starlight, 

In the yellow and early dawn, 

Still have heart enough for the tall, long-striding soldiers 

To mock the short, half swept away by the stream. 

"Better change our name to Lee's tVaders, boys!" 

"Come on you shorty get a ride on my back." 

"Aw, it's just we ain t had a bath in seven years 

And General Lee, he knows we need a good bath." 

So you splash and slip through the water and come at last 
Safe, to the Southern side, while Meade does not strike; 

281 



Safe to take other roads, safe to march upon roads you know 
For two long years. And yet-each road that you take, 
Each dusty road leads to Appomattox now. 



BOOK EIGHT 

It is over now, but they will not let it be over. 

It was over with John Brown when the sun rose up 

To show him the town in arms and he did not flee, 

Yet men were killed after that, before it was over, 

And he did not die until November was cool 

Yellow leaves falling through a blue-grey dusk, 

The first winds of November whirl and scatter them 

So now, the Confederacy, 

Sick with its mortal sickness, yet lives on 

For twenty-one falling months of pride and despair, 

Half-hopes blown out in the lighting, heroic strokes 

That come to nothing, and death piled hard upon death. 

Follow that agony if you must and can 

By the brushwood names, by the bloody prints in the woods, 

Cold Harbor and Spottsylvania and Yellow Tavern 

And all the lost court-houses and country stores 

In the Wilderness, where the bitter fighting passed, 

(No fighting bitterer) follow the rabbit-runs 

Through the tangled wilds where the hair of the wounded men 

Caught fire from the burning trees, where they lay in the swamps 

Like half-charred logs find the place they called "Hell's Half 

Acre." 

Follow the Indian names in the Indian West, 
Chickamauga and Chattanooga and all the words 
That are sewn on flags or cut in an armory wall. 
My cyclorama is not the shape of the world 
Nor even the shape of this war from first to last, 
But like a totem carved, like a totem stained 
With certain beasts and skies and faces of men 
That would not let me be too quiet at night 
Till they were figured. 

Therefore now, through the storm, 

282 



The war, the rumor, the grinding of the machine, 
Let certain sounds, let certain voices be heard, 

A Richmond lady sits in a Richmond square 

Beside a working-girl. They talk of the war, 

They talk of the rood and the prices in low-pitched voices 

With hunger fretting them both. Then they go their ways. 

But, before she departs, the lady has asked a question 

The working-girl pulls up the sleeve of her dress 

And shows the lady the sorry bone of her arm. 

Grant has come East to take up his last command 
And the grand command of the armies. 

It is five years 

Since he sat, with a glass, by the stove in a country store, 
A stumpy, mute man in a faded Army overcoat, 
The eldest-born of the Grants but the family-failure, 
Now, for a week, he shines in the full array 
Of gold cord and black-feathered hat and superb blue coat, 
As he talks with the trim, well-tailored Eastern men. 
It is his only moment of such parade. 
When the fighting starts, he is chewing a dead cigar 
With only the battered stars to show the rank 
On the shoulderstraps of the private's uniform. 

It is sullen Cold Harbor. The Union attack has failed, 

Repulsed with a ghastly slaughter. The twilight falls. 

The word goes round the attack will be made again 

Though all know now that it cannot be made and win. 

An anxious officer walks through his lines that night. 

There has been no mutiny yet, throughout all these years, 

But he wonders now. What are the men doing now? 

He sees them there. They are silently writing their names 

On bits of rag and sewing the scraps of cloth 

To their jackets while they can, before the attack. 

When they die, next morning, somebody may read the names. 



'* son is born on a night of mid- July 
While the two armies face each other, and Pickett's men 
Light bonfires of celebration along his lines. 
The fire is seen from the tents of the other camp. 
The news goes back tr Grant and his chief of staff. 

283 



"Haven't we any wood for the little Pickett?" says Grant, 
And the Union bonfires are lighted for Pickett's son. 
All night those two lines of brush-fire, facing each other- 
Next day they send the baby a silver service. 
Next week or so they move upon Pickett's works. 

On a muddy river, little toy boats go out. 

The soldiers are swapping coffee for rank tobacco, 

A Northern badge for a Southern souvenir, 

A piece of white-flour bread for a hunk of corn-pone. 

A Northern lieutenant swims the river at night 

To go to a Southern dance at a backwoods store, 

Joke with the girls, swim back, and fight the next day 

With his hosts of the night before. 

On disputed ground, 

A grey-clad private worms his way like a snake, 
The Union sentries see him and start to fire. 
"Aw, shut up, Yank," he calls in a weary voice, 
"I just skun out to salvage the chaplain's hat, 
It's the only one he's got and it just blew off." 
The firing stops. 

"All right, Johnny," the sentries call, 
"Get your hat, but be quick about it. We won't hurt you 
But you better be back by the time our relief gets here." 

A Southern sharpshooter crouched in a blue-gum tree 

Drills a tiny blue-coated figure between the eyes 

With a pea-ball fired from a smooth-bore squirrel-rifle. 

The dead man's brother waits three days for his shot, 

Then the sharpshooter crashes down through the breaking boughs 

Like a lumpy bird, spread-eagled out of his nest. 

The desolate siege of Petersburg begins. 

The grain goes first z then the cats and the squeaking mice, 

The thin cats stagger starving about the streets, 

Die or are eaten. There are no more cats 

In Petersburg-and in Charleston the creeping grass 

Grows over the wharves where the ships of the world came in. 

The grass and the moss grow over the stones of the wharves. 

A Georgia belle eats sherbet near Andersonville 

Where the Union prisoners rot. Another is weeping 

The death of her brother, killed in a Union raid. 

284 



In the North, the factory chimneys smoke and fume; 
The minstrels have raised their prices, but every night 
Bones and Tambo play to a crowded house. 
The hotels are full. The German Opera is here. 
The ladies at Newport drive in their four-in-hands. 
The old woman sells her papers about the war 
The country widows stitch on a rusty black. 

In the Shenandoah Valley, the millwheels rot. 

(Sheridan has been there.) Where the houses stood, 

Strong houses, built for weather, lasting it out, 

The chimneys stand alone. The chimneys are blackened. 

(Sheridan has been there.) This Valley has been 

The granary of Lee's army for years and years. 

Sheridan makes his report on his finished work. 

"If a crow intends to fly over the Valley now 

He'll have to carry his own provisions," says Sheridan. 

The lonely man with the chin like John Calhoun's 

Knows it is over, will not know it is over. 

Many hands are turning against him in these last years. 

He makes mistakes. He is stubborn and sick at heart. 

He is inflexible with fate and men. 

It is over. It cannot be. He fights to the end, 

Clinging to one last dreamof somehow, somewhere, 

A last, miraculous battle where he can lead 

One wing of the Southern army and Lee the other 

And so wrench victory out of the failing odds. 

Why is it a dream? He has studied grand strategy, 

He was thought a competent soldier in Mexico, 

He was Secretary of War once 

He is the rigid 

Scholar we know and have seen in another place, 
Lacking that scholar's largeness, but with the same 
Tight mouth, the same intentness on one concept, 
The same ideal that must bend all life to its will 
Or break to pieces and that is the best of him. 
The pettiness is the pettiness of a girl 
More than a man's a brilliant and shrewish girl, 
Never too well in body yet living long. 
He has that unforgiveness of women in him 
And women will always know him better than men 

285 



Except for a few, in spite of Mexican wars, 

In spite of this last* most desolate, warlike dream. 

Give him the tasks that other scholar assumed, 

He would not have borne them as greatly or with such skill 

And yet one can find a likeness. 

So now he dreams 

Hopelessly of a fight he will never fight 
And if worst comes to worst, perhaps, of a last 
Plutarch-death on a shield. 

It is not to be. 

He will snatch up a cloak of his wife's by accident 
In the moment before his capture, and so be seen, 
The proud man turned into farce, into sorry farce 
Before the ignorant gapers. 

He shades his eyes 
To rest them a moment, turns to his work again. 

The gaunt man, Abraham Lincoln, lives his days. 

For a while the sky above him is very dark. 

There are fifty thousand dead in these last, bleak months 

And Richmond is still untaken. 

The papers rail, 

Grant is a butcher, the war will never be done. 
The gaunt man's term of office draws to an end, 
His best friends muse and are doubtful. He thinks himself 
For a while that when the time of election comes 
He will not be re-elected. He does not flinch. 
He draws up a paper and seals it with his own hand. 
His cabinet signs it, unread. 

Such writing might be 
A long historic excuse for defeated strength. 
This is very short and strict with its commonsense. 
"It seems we may not rule this nation again. 
If so, we must do our best, while we still have time, 
To plan with the new rulers who are to come 
How best to save the Union before they come, 
For they will have been elected upon such grounds 
That they cannot possibly save it, once in our place." 

The cloud lifts, after all. They bring him the news. 

He is sure of being President four years more. 

He thinks about it. He says, "Well, I guess they thought 

286 



They'd better not swap horses, crossing a stream." 
The deserters begin to leave the Confederate armies. . 



Luke Breckinridge woke up one sunshiny morning 
Alone, in a roadside ditch, to be hungry again, 
Though he was used to being hungry by now. 
He looked at his rifle and thought, "Well, I ought to clean it." 
He looked at his feet and he thought, "Well, I ought to get 
Another bunch of rags if we-uns is goin' 
To march much morethese rags is down to my hide." 
He looked at his ribs through the tears in his dirty shirt 
And he thought, "Well, I sure am thin as a razorback. 
Well, that's the way it is. Well, I ought to do somethin'. 
I ought to catch up with the boys. I wish I remembered 
When I had to quit marchin' last night. Well, if I start now, 
1 reckon I'm bound to catch 'em." 

But when he rose 

He looked at the road and saw where the march had passed 
Feet going on through the dust and the sallow mud, 
Feet going on forever- 
He saw that track. 
He was suddenly very tired. 
He had been tired after fighting often enough 
But this was another weariness. 

He rubbed his head in his hands for a minute or so, 
As if to rub some slow thought out of his mind 
But it would not be rubbed away. 

"I'm near it," he thought, 

"The hotel ain't a mile from here if Sophy's still there. 
Well, they wouldn't give me a furlough when I ast. 
Well, it's been a long time." 

On the way to the plank hotel 
He still kept mumbling, "I can catch up to the boys." 
But another thought too vague to be called a thought 
Washed over the mumble, drowning it, forcing it down. 

The grey front door was open. No one was there. 
He stood for a moment silent, watching the sun 
Fall through the open door and pool in the dust. 

287 



"Sophy!" he called. He waited. Then he went in. 
The flies were buzzing over the dirty plates 
In the dining room and nobody there at all. 
It made him feel tired. He started to climb the stairs. 
"Hey, Sophy!" he called and listened. There was a creak 
From somewhere, a little noise like a dusty rat 
Running across a dusty, sun-splattered board. 
His hands felt stronger. 

He was on the second floor 
Slamming the doors of empty room after room 
And calling "Sophy!" At last he found the locked door. 
He broke it down with his shoulder in a loud noise. 
She was lying in bed with the covers up to her chin 
And her thin hands clutching the covers. 

"Well, Soph," he said. 
"Well, it's you," she said. 

They stared at each other awhile. 

"The rest of 'em's gone," she said. "They went off last night* 

We haven't had no business. The nigger said 

The Yanks were coming. They didn't have room in the cart. 

They said I could stay for a while and take care of things 

Or walk if I wanted. I guess Mr. Pollet's crazy. 

He was talking things to himself all the time they went. 

I never slept in a bed like this before. 

I didn't know you could sleep so soft in a bed." 

"Did they leave any shoes?" said Luke. 

She shook her head. 

"I reckon you could maybe tear up a quilt. 
I reckon they wouldn't mind." 

Luke grinned like a wolf. 

"I reckon they hadn't better," he said. "Not much. 
Got anything to eat? I'm hungry as hell." 

They ate what food she could find and she washed his feet 
And bound them up in fresh rags. 

He looked at the rags. 

"Do for a while," he said. "Well, come along, Soph. 
We got a long way to go." 

Her eyes were big at him. 
"The Yanks were comin'," she said. "You mean the war's over?'* 

288 



He said, "I ain't had shoes for God knows how long." 
He said, "If it was all Kelceys, you wouldn't mind. 
Now I'm goin' to get me some shoes and, raise me a crop, 
And when we get back home, we'll butcher a hog. 
There's allus hogs in the mountains." 

"Well," she said. 
"Well, you get your duds," he said. 

She didn't have much. 

They went along two days without being stopped. 
She walked pretty well for a thin sort of girl like that. 
He told her she'd get fatter when they were home. 

The third day, they were tramping along toward dusk, 

On a lonely stretch of road, when she heard the horse-hoofs. 

Luke had heard them before and shifted his rifle then. 

The officer came in sight. He was young and drawn. 
His eyes were old in their sockets. He reined his horse. 
"You're goin' the wrong way, soldier. What's your regiment?" 

Luke's eyes grew little. " th Virginia," he drawled, 
"But I'm on furlough." 

"H'm," said the officer, 
"Where are your furlough-papers?" 

Luke's hand slid down 

By his trigger guard. "This here's my furlough," he said, 
Resting the piece in the palm of the other hand. 
The officer seemed to debate a thing in his mind 
For a long instant. Then he rode on, in silence. 
Luke watched him out of sight. When he was quite gone, 
The hand slid back, the rifle was shouldered again. 



The night had fallen on the narrow tent. 

Deep night of Virginia summer when the stary 

Are burning wax in the near, languid sky 

And the soft flowers hardly close all night 

But bathe in darkness, as a woman bathes 

In a warm, fragrant water and distill 

Their perfume still, without the fire of the sun. 

289 



The army was asleep as armies sleep. 

War lying on a casual sheaf of peace 

For a brief moment, and yet with armor on, 

And yet in the child's deep sleep, and yet so still. 

Even the sentries seemed to walk their posts 

With a ghost-footfall that could match that night. 

The aide-de-camp knew certain lines of Greek 
And other such unnecessary things 
As birds and music, that are good for peace 
But are not deemed so serviceable for war. 
He was a youth with an inquisitive mind 
And doubtless had a failing for romance, 
But then he was not twenty, and such faults 
May sometimes be excused in younger men 
Even when such creatures die, as they have done 
At one time or another, for some cause 
Which we are careful to point out to them 
Much later, was no cause worth dying for, 
But cannot reach them with our arguments 
Because they are uneconomic dust. 

So, when the aide-de-camp came toward the tent, 

He knew that he was sleepy as a dog, 

And yet the starlight and the gathered scents 

Moved in his heart like the unnecessary 

Themes of a music fallen from a cloud 

In light, upon a dark water. 

And though he had 
Some bitterness of mind to chew upon, 
As well as messages that he must give 
Before he slept, he halted in his tracks. 

He saw, imprinted on the yellow light 

That made the tent a hollow jack-o'-lantern, 

The sharp, black shadow of a seated man, 

The profile like the profile on a bust. 

Lee in his tent, alone. 

He had some shadow-papers in his hand, 

But you could see he was not reading them, 

And, if he thought, you could not read his thoughts, 

Even as shadows, by any light that shines. 

290 



"You'd know that face among a million faces," 
Thought the still watcher, "and yet, his hair and beard 
Have quite turned white, white as the dogwood-bloom 
That blossomed on the way to Chancellorsville 
When Jackson was alive and we were young 
And we were winning and the end was near. 
And now, I guess, the end is near enough 
In spite of everything that we can do, 
And he's alone tonight and Jackson's dead. 

I saw him in the Wilderness that day 
When he began to lead the charge himself 
And the men wouldn't let him. 

Gordon spoke 

And then the men themselves began to yell 
"Lee to the rearGeneral Lee to the rear!" 
I'll hear that all my life. I'll see those paws 
Grabbing at Traveller and the bridle-rein 
And forcing the calm image back from death. 

Reckon that's what we think of you, Marse Robert, 

Reckon that's what we think, what's left of us, 

The poor old devils that are left of us. 

I wonder what he thinks about it all. 

He isn't staring, he's just sitting there. 

I never knew a man could look so still 

And yet look so alive in his repose. 

It doesn't seem as if a cause could lose 
When it's believed in by a man like that. 
And yet we're losing. 

And he knows it all. 
No, he won't ever say it. But he knows. 

I'd feel more comfortable if he'd move. 

We had a chance at Spottsylvania, 

We had some chances in the Wilderness. 

We always hurt them more than we were hurt 

And yet we're here and they keep coming on. 

What keeps us going on? I wish I knew. 
Perhaps you see a man like that go on 

291 



And then you have to follow. 

There can't be 
So many men that men have followed so. 

And yet, what is it for? What is it for? 
What does he think? 

His hands are lying there 
Quiet as stones or shadows in his lap. 
His beard is whiter than the dogwood bloom, 
But there is nothing ruined in his face, 
And nothing beaten in those steady eyes. 
If he's grown old, it isn't like a man, 
It's more the way a river might grow old. 

My mother knew him at old dances once. 
She said he liked to joke and he was dark then, 
Dark and as straight as he can stand today. 
If he would only move, I could go forward. 

You see the faces of spear-handling kings 
In the old books they taught us from at school; 
Big Agamemnon with his curly beard, 
Achilles in the cruelty of his youth, 
And GEdipus before he tore his eyes. 

I'd like to see him in that chariot-rank, 
With Traveller pulling at the leader-pole. 
I don't think when the winged claws come down 
They'll get a groan from him. 

So we go on. 
Under the claws. And he goes on ahead. 

The sharp-cut profile moved a fraction now, 
The aide-de-camp went forward on his errand. 



The years ride out from the world like couriers gone to a throw 
That is too far for treaty, or, as it may be, too proud; 
The years marked with a star, the years that are skin and bone. 
The years ride into the night like envoys sent to a cloud. 

292 



Perhaps they dismount at last, by some iron ring in the skies, 
Dismount and tie their stallions and walk with an armored tread 
Where an outlaw queen of the air receives strange embassies 
Under a tree of wisdom, between the quick and the dead. 

Perhaps they are merely gone, as the white fo?.m flies from the bit, 
But the sparkling noise of their riding is ever in our ears. 
The men who came to the maze without foreknowledge of it, 
The losers and the finders, under the riding years. 

They pass, and the finders lose, the losers find for a space. 
There are love and hate and delusion and all the tricks of the 

maze. 

There are always losers and finders. There is no abiding-place 
And the years are unreturning. But, here and there, there were 

days. 

Days when the sun so shone that the statue gave its cry 

And a bird shook wings or a woman 'walked with a certain mirth, 

When the staff struck out a spring from the stones that had long 

been dry, 
And the plough moved on from the hilltop, but its share had 

opened the earth. 

So the bird is caught for an instant, and so the bird escapes. 
The years are not halted by it. The losers and finders wait. 
The years move on toward the sunset, the tall, far-trafficking 

shapes, 
Each with a bag of news to lay at a ghostly gate. 

Riders shaking the heart with the hoofs that will not cease, 
Will you never lie stretched in marble, the hands crossed over the 

breast, 

Some with hounds at your feet to show that you passed in peace, 
And some with your feet on lions? 

It is time that you were at rest. 



John Vilas clucked to the scurvy rack of bones 
Between the shafts. The rickety cart moved on 
Like a tired insect, creaking through the dust. 

29? 



There was another day behind them now 

And any number of such days ahead 

Unrolling like a long block-printed cloth 

Pattered with field and stream and snake-rail fence, 

And now and then, a flash of cavalry 

Fording a backwoods creek; a big, slow star 

Mounting in silver over lonely woods 

While the fire smelled of pine and a cougar cried; 

A warm barn, full of the sweet milky breath 

Of cows; a lank-haired preacher on a mule; 

A red-cheeked woman who rushed after them 

Armed with a hot and smoking apple-pie 

And would not take a penny from the old man 

Who held the mended reins as if they were 

The vast, slow-sweeping scythe of Time himself 

Old Time and the last children of his age, 

Drawn in a rattling cart, too poor to thieve, 

By a gaunt horse, too ancient to die, 

Over a rutted road, day after day, 

Returning to the East from whence he came. 

It was a portent in the little towns. 
The time had bred odd voyagers enough; 
Disbanded soldiers, tramping toward the West 
In faded army blouses, singing strange songs, 
Heroes and chickenthieves, true men and liars, 
Some with old wounds that galled them in the rains 
And some who sold the wounds they never had 
Seven times over in each new saloon; 
Queer, rootless families, plucked up by war 
To blow along the roads like tumbleweed, 
Who fed their wild-haired children God knows how 
But always kept a fierce and cringing cur, 
Famished for scraps, to run below the cart; 
Horsedealers, draft-evaders, gipsy men; 
Crooked creatures of a thousand dubious trades 
That breed like gnats from the debris of war; 
Half-cracked herb-doctor, patent-medicine man 
With his accordeon and his inked silk hat; 
Sellers of snake-oil balm and lucky rings 
And the old, crazy hatless wanderer 
Who painted "God is Love" upon the barns 

294 



And on the rocks, "Prepare to Meet Thy God" 

Lost tribes and maverick nations of the road 

The shiftless people, who are never still 

But blow before the wind unquietly 

And will so blow, until the last starved cur 

Yaps at the last fat farmer, and lies down 

With buckshot tearing at his ravening heart, 

For the slow years to pick his carcass clean 

And turn the little chapel of his bones 

Into a dust so sifted by the wind 

No winds that blow can sift it any more. 

There were unquiet people on the road, 
There v/ere outlandish strays and travellers, 
Drifting the little towns from day to day, 
Stopping to mend a wheel or patch a shoe, 
Beg, steal or sleep or write God's judgments out 
And then pass on. 

And yet, when these three came, 
John Vilas and his daughter and her child, 
Like snail-drawn Time, along the dusty track, 
The story had gone on ahead of them. 
And there was something in the rickety cart 
Or the gaunt horse or in his driver's eyes 
That made a fable of their journeying, 
Until you heard John Vilas was that same 
Lost Jew that wanders after every war 
But cannot die in any, being curst. 
He was the skipper, who first brought the slaves. 
He was John Brown, arisen from his stone. 
He was the drummer who had lost his way 
At Valley Forge and frozen in the snow, 
To rove forevermore, a dread old man 
Beating a phantom drum across the wind. 
He was a dozen such uncanny fetches, 
And, while one must not talk with him too long, 
There was no luck at all in crossing him, 
Because, and in the end, the man was Time; 
White-headed Time, stoop-shouldered on his scythe, 
Driving a daughter and a daughter's son 
Beyond the \^ar, to some wrought-iron gate 
Where they would drop their heavy load at last 

295 



Load of all war and all misfortune's load- 
On the green grass of a New England grave 
Set on the sea-cliffs, looking toward the sea. 

While, for the other tale, the woman's tale, 
The heart-faced girl with the enormous eyes, 
Roving from little town to little town 
Still looking for her soldier it became 
Mixed with each story of such fortune told 
Behind drawn blinds, by women, in the dusk, 
Until she too grew fabulous as a song 
Sung to a beechwood fiddle, and all the old 
Barely-recorded chants that are the land 
And no one poet's or musician's 
-"Old Dan Tucker," "The Belle of Albany," 
The girl who died for love in the high woods 
And cruel Barbara Allen in her pride. 

So she became a concertina tune 

Played in plank taverns by a blind, old man, 

A jew's-harp strain, a comb-and-banjo song, 

The music of a soapbox violin 

Shrilled out against the tree-toads and the crickets 

Through the hot nights of June. So, though she passed 

Unknowing, yet she left the legend-touch 

Bright as a splash of sumach still behind 

Wherever the gaunt horse pulled on his load. 

Till, later, those who knew no more of her 

Living, than they might know of such removed 

And singable creations as "Lord Randall," 

"Colombo," "Little Musgrave," or "Jay Gould's Daughter 

Yet knew enough of her to sing about 

And fit her name, Melora, to the same 

Slow-dropping minor of the water and earth 

The minor of "the country barber-shops 

That keens above the grave of Jesse James 

And the lone prairie where the cowboy died, 

The desolate minor of the jail-bird's song, 

Luscious with sorrow, and the minor notes 

That tell about the tragic end of such 

As loved too well to have such cruel fathers 

But were so loving, even in the dust, 

296 



A red-rose brier grew out of their dead hearts 

And twined together in a lover's knot 

For all the county people to admire, 

And every lost, waif ballad we have made 

And, making, scorned because it smelt of the earth, 

And now would seek, but cannot make again 

So she became a legend and a name. 

John Vilas, moving always toward the East, 
Upon his last adventure, felt the sun 
Strike at his bones and warm them like the last 
Heat of the wood so long within the fire 
That long ago the brightness ate its heart 
And yet it lies and burns upon the iron 
Unready still to crumble and be cool 
The white, transmuted log of purest ash 
Still glowing with a late and borrowed flame. 

"This is the sun of age," he thought, "and so 

We enter our last journeys with that sun 

Which we have watched sink down ten thousand times 

Knowing he would arise like Dedalus 

On the first wings of morning, and exult 

Like our own youth, fresh-risen from its bed 

And inexhaustible of space and light., 

But now the vessel which could not be filled 

By violence or desire or the great storm, 

Runs over with its weight of little days 

And when this sun sinks now, we'll sink with him 

And not get up again. 

I find it fit 

That I, who spent the years of my desire 
In the lost forest, seeking the lost stone, 
With little care for Flarriet or the rest, 
With little trust in safety or the world, 
Should now retrace at last, and in my age, 
The exact highway of my youth's escape 
From everything that galled it and take on, 
Like an old snake resuming his cast skins, 
The East I fled, the little towns I mocked, 
The dust I thought was shaken from my shoes, 
The sleepiness from which I ran away. 

297 



Harriet's right and Harriet is just 
And Harriet's back in that chintz-curtained room 
From which I took her, twenty years ago, 
With all the children who were always hers 
Because I gave them nothing but my seed 
And hardly heard their laughter or their tears 
And hardly knew their faces or their names, 
Because I listened for the wind in the bough, 
Because my daughters were the shooting-stars, 
Because my sons were the forgotten streams 
And the wild silvers of the wilderness. 

Men who go looking for the wilderness-stone 
And find it, should not marry or beget, 
For, if they do so, they may work a wrong 
Deeper than any mere intent of pain. 
And yet, what I have sought that I have sought 
And cannot disavouch, although it is 
The double knife that cuts the giver's hand 
And the unwilling taker's. 

So I took 

My wife, long since, from that chintz-curtained room 
And so she has gone back to it again 
After these years, with children of those years, 
And, being kind, she will not teach them there 
To curse me, as I think, though if she did 
She could find reason in her neighbor's eyes, 
And, being Harriet, she will bring them up 
As all such children should and must be reared 
In all such houses, till the end of time, 
As if she had not been away at all. 
And so, at last, she'll get the peace she should. 
Arid yet, some time, a child may run away. 

We have had sons and daughters, she and I, 
And, of them all, one daughter and one son 
In whom our strange bloods married with the true 
Marriage that is not merely sheath and sword. 
The rest are hers. Those two were partly mine. 

I taught my son to wander in the woods 
Till he could step the hidden paths with me 

298 



Light as a whisper, indolent as Spring. 
I would not tame his sister when I might, 
I let her follow patterans of leaves, 
Looking for stones rejected by the wise. 
I kept them by me jealously and long. 

And yet, the day they took him, when he sat 
There on his horse, before they all rode off, 
It was his mother who looked out of him 
And it was to his mother that he looked. 

That is my punishment and my offence 
And that is how it was. And he is dead. 
Dead of a fever, buried in the South, 
Dead in this war I thought a whirligig 
For iron fools to play with and to kill 
Other men's sons, not mine. He's buried deep. 
I kept him by me jealously and long. 
Well, he walked well, alive. He was my son. 
I'll not make tags of him. 

We got the news. 

She could not stay beside me after that. 
I see so clearly why she could not stay. 

So I retrace the hard steps of my youth 
Now with this daughter, in a rattling cart 
Drawn by a horse as lean as famine's self, 
And am an omen in the little towns 
Because this daughter has too much of me 
To be content with bread made out of wheat. 
To be in love' and give it up for rest, 
To live serene without a knife at heart. 

Such is the manner and the bound escape 

Of those a disproportion drives unfed 

From the world's table, without meat or grace, 

Though both are wholesome, but who seek instead 

Their solitary victual like the fox. 

And who at last return as I return 

In the ironic wagon of the years, 

Back to the pasture that they found too green, 

Broken of every knowledge but the last 

299 



Knowledge of how escape is not a door 

But a slow-winding road whose hundred coils 

Return upon each other, soon or late 

And how and when and under what cold stars 

The old wound bleeds beneath the armored mind 

And yet, this journey is not desolate 

Nor am I desolate in it, as we crawl 

Slowly from little town to little town 

Always against the sun, and the horse nods, 

And there's my daughter talking, and her child 

Sleeping or waking, and we stop awhile 

And then go on awhile, and I can feel 

The slow sun creeping through me summerlong. 

Until, at times, I Tall into a doze 

Awake, a daydream without apparitions 

And, falling so, inhabit for a space 

A second childhood, calmer than the first, 

But wise in the same fashion, and so touch 

For a long, drowsy hour of afternoon, 

The ripened thing, the autumn at the heart, 

The one full star of evening that is age. 

Yes, I must be a second child sometimes, 
For as we pass and as they watch us pass, 
It seems to me their eyes make stories of us 
And I can hear those stories murmuring 
Like pigeons in a loft when I'm asleep, 
Till sometimes I must wonder for a while 
If I've not changed myself for someone else 
Or grown a story without knowing it, 
And, with no intermediary death, 
Stepped out of flesh and taken on a ghost. 

For at such times, it almost seems to me 

As if I were no longer what I am 

But the deluded shade of Peter Rugg 

Still looking for his Boston through the storm, 

Or the strange spook of Johnny Appleseed, 

Crept out of heaven on a windless night 

To see if his wild orchards prosper still 

And leave a heap of Baldwins and sweet russets 

300 



Moonglittered, scrubbed with rags of silver cloud 

And Indian magic by the lucky doors 

Of such good people as take care of them 

While for my daughter, though I know she's real, 

She and her story, yet, in the waking dream 

She mixes with that song I used to know 

About the Spanish lady of old days 

Who loved the Englishman and sought for him 

All through green England in her scarlet shoes, 

Knowing no word of English but his name. 

I hear her voice, where the guitar is mixed 
AVith the sweet, jangling mule-bells of Castile, 
i see her face under its high shell-comb 
And then it is my daughter's and I wake 
And yet know, even in waking, that we are 
Somewhere between a story and a dream. 
And so, you see, I find a kind of peace 
In this last foray, will not rail at the sun, 
Eat, drink and sleep, in spite of what is past, 
Talk with my daughter, watch the turning skies. 
The Spanish lady found her Englishman. 
Well, we may find this boy I've half-forgot, 
Although our story is another story. 

So life works in us for a little while 
And then the ferment's quiet. 

So we do 

Wrongs much beyond intent, and suffer them. 
So we go looking for the wilderness-stone. 

I shall smell lilac in Connecticut 
No doubt, before I die, and see the clean 
White, reticent, small churches of my youth, 
The gardens full of phlox and mignonette, 
The pasture-bars 1 broke to run away. 

It \vas my thought to lie in an uncropped 
And savage field no plough had ever scored, 
Between a bee-tree and a cast deer-horn. 
It was my thought to lie beside a stream 
Too secret for the very deer to find, 

301 



Too solitary for remembrance. 

It was a dream. It does not matter now. 

Bury me where the soldiers of retreat 
Are buried, underneath the faded star, 
Bury me where the courtiers of escape 
Fall down, confronted with their earth again. 
Bury me where the fences hold the land 
And the sun sinks beyond the pasture-bars 
Never to fall upon the wilderness-stone. 

And yet I have escaped, in spite of all." 



Lucy Weatherby smoothed out clothes in a trunk 
With a stab at her heart. 

The trunk was packed to the lid. 
There wasn't an empty corner anywhere, 
Pack as she would but the blue dress wouldn't go in. 

Of course she'd be getting a lot of new dresses soon 

And the blue was old but she couldn't leave it behind. 

If only Henry wasn't so selfish, at times! 

But Henry was like all brothers and like all men, 

Expecting a lady to travel to Canada 

With just one trunk and the boxes! 

It was too bad. 

He had a trunk of his own for razors and shirts, 
And yet she couldn't take two and there were the hoops; 
He kept on fussing because she wouldn't leave them 
When she knew he was hoping to take all those silly books , 
As if you couldn't buy books wherever you went! 

She pinched her cheek and stared at the trunk again. 
The green could come out, of course, and the blue go in, 
But she couldn't bear the idea of leaving the green. 

The war, of course, and one thinks so much of the war, 
And those terrible Yankees actually at our gates, 
In spite of our fine, brave boys and poor Mr. Davis, 
In spite of wearing old dresses for two whole years 
And sending the servants out to work at the forts, 

302 



In spite of the cheers and the songs and the cause and the right. 
Only, one must not be selfish. One must be brave. 
One must think about Henry's health and be sensible, 
And Henry actually thinks we can get away. . . . 

The blue or the green? She couldn't decide it yet, 

And there were all those letters to write tonight. 

She'd simply have to write to Clay and Huger 

About Henry's health and how it just breaks my heart, 

But one cannot leave one's sick brother and afterwards, 

One can always send one's address and I'm sure if they do 

We'll give them a real, old-fashioned Richmond welcome, 

Though they say that the British leftenants are simply sweet 

And every Southern girl is an absolute belle. 

They play the "Bonnie Blue Flag" at the dances there, 

And Sara Kcnefick is engaged to an earl. 

She saw herself, for an instant, walking the safe 

Street of a calm and British-looking town. 

She had on a new dress. Her shoes and her hat were new. 

A white-haired, dim-faced man in a British coat 

Walked beside her and looked and was listening, 

While she told him all about it, and hearing the guns, 

And how they'd actually lived without butcher's meat 

For weeks and weeks and the wounded and General Lee 

And only Henry's health had forced them at last 

To leave the dear South. She choked. He patted her hand. 

He hoped they would stay in Canada for a while. 

The blue or the green? It was dreadfully hard to choose, 
And with all the letters to write and Jim Merrihew 
And that nice Alabama Major- 
She heard the bells 

Ring for a wedding, but this was a different groom, 
This was a white-haired man with stars on his coat, 
This was an Order wrapped in an English voice. 

Honey, sugar-lump honey I love so dearly, 
You have eluded the long pursuit that sought you, 
You have duded the hands that would so enclose you 
And with strange passion force you. 

What was this passion? 
We do not know, you and I, but we would not bear it 

303 



And are gone free. 

So at last, if fair girls must marry, 
As young girls should, it is after another fashion 
And not with youth but wisely. 

So we are ransomed, 
And I am yours forever and you are mine, 
Honey, sugar-lump honey. 

So we attain, 

The white-haired bridegrooms with the stars on their coats 
And yet have the beaus to dance with, for we like dancing, 
So all the world finds our wifely devotion charming, 
So we play all day in the heat of the sun. 

She held the blue dress under her chin once more 

And smoothed it with one white hand. Then she put it down 

Smiling a little. No, it couldn't go in, 

But she would see if she couldn't help Henry pack, 

And if she did, the blue could go with his shirts. 

It hardly mattered, leaving some shirts behind. 



Sherman's buzzin' along to de sea, 
Jubili, Jubilo! 

Sherman's buzzin' along to de sea, 
Like Moses ridin' on a bumblebee, 
Scttin' de prisoned and de humble free! 
Hit's de year of Jubilo! 

Massa was de whale wid de big inside, 

Jubili, Jubilo! 

Massa was de lion and de lion's hide. 

But de Lord God smacked him in his hardheart pride, 

And de whale unswallered, and de lion died! 

Hit's de year of Jubilo! 

Oh, hit don't matter if you's black or tan, 
Jubili, Jubilo! 

Hit don't matter if you's black or tan, 
When you hear de noise of de freedom-ban* 
Yen's snatched baldheaded to de Promise Lan', 
Hit's de year of Jubilo! 

304 



Oh, hit don't matter if you pine or ail, 

Jubili, Jubilo! 

Hit don't matter if you pine or ail, 

Hit don't matter if you's been in jail, 

De Lord's got mercy for your mumblin' tale! 

Hit's de year of Jubilo! 

Every nigger's gwine to own a mule, 

Jubili, Jubilo! 

Every nigger's gwine to own a mule, 

An' live like Adam in de Golden Rule, 

An' send his chillun to de white-folks' school! 

In de year of Jubilo! 

Fall down on your knees and bless de Lord, 
Jubili, Jubilo! 

Fall down on your knees and bless de Lord, 
Dat chased old Pharaoh wid a lightnin'-sword, 
And rose up Izzul fum de withered gourd, 
Hit's de year of Jubilo! 

Shout thanksgivin' and shout it loud! 

Jubili, Jubilo! 

Shout thanksgivin' and shout it loud, 

We was dead and buried in de Lazrus-shroud, 

But de Lord came down in a glory-cloud, 

An' He gave us Jubilo! 



So Sherman goes from Atlanta to the sea 

Through the red-earth heart of the land, through the pine-smok< 

haze 
Of the warm, last months of the year. 

In the evenings 

The skies are green as the thin, clear ice on the pools 
That melts to water again in the heat of noon. 
A few black trees are solemn against those skies. 
The soldiers feel the winter touching the air 
With a little ice. 

But when the sun has come up, 

When they halt at noonday, mopping their sweaty brows, 
The skies are blue and soft and without a cloud. 

305 



Strange march, half-war, half trooping picnic-parade, 
Cutting a ruinous swathe through the red-earth land; 
March of the hardy bummers and coffee-coolers 
Who, having been told to forage, loot as they can 
And leave a wound that rankles for sixty years. 
March of the honest, who did not loot when they could 
And so are not remembered in Southern legend. 
Rough-bearded Sherman riding the red-earth roads, 
Writing home that his rascals are fat and happy, 
Saying or else not saying that war is hell, 
Saying he almost trembles himself to think 
Of what will happen when Charleston falls in the hands 
Of those same rascals and yet, when we read that march 
Hardly the smoking dragon he has been called, 
But the mere rough-handed man who rode with a hard 
Bit through the land, unanxious to spare his foe 
Nor grimly anxious to toiture for torture's sake, 
Smashing this and that, and yet, in the end, 
Giving such terms to the foe struck down at last 
That the men in Washington disavow them and him 
For over-kindness. 

So now, through the pine-smoke Fall, 
The long worm of his army creeps toward Savannah 
Leaving its swathe behind. 

In the ruined gardens 

The buried silver lies well hid in the ground. 
A looter pocks bullet-marks in an old oil-portrait. 
A woman wails and rages against the thieves 
Who carry her dead child's clothes on their drunken bayonets. 
A looter swings from a pine tree for thefts too crude. 
A fresh-faced boy gets scars he will carry long 
Hauling a crippled girl from a burning house, 
But gets no thanks but hate from the thing he saved, 
And everywhere, 

A black earth stirs, a wind blows over black earth, 
A wind blows into black faces, into old hands 
Knotted with long rheumatics, cramped on the hoe, 
Into old backs bent double over the cotton, 
The wind of freedom, the wind of the jubilo. 

They stray from the lost plantations like children strayed, 
Grinning and singing, following the blue soldiers, 



They steal from the lonesome cabins like runaways 

Laden with sticks and bundles and conjur-charms; 

A huge black mother carries her sucking child 

Wrapped in a quilt, a slim brown girl and her lover 

Wander November woods like Adam and Eve, 

Living on roots and rabbits and liberty, 

An old grey field hand dimly plods through the mud, 

Looking for some vague place he has heard about 

Where Linkum sits at a desk in his gold silk hat 

With a bag of silver dollars in either hand 

For every old grey field hand that conies to him, 

All God's chillun got shoes there and fine new clothes, 

All God's chillun got peace there and roastin'-ears, 

Hills of barbecue, rivers of pot-licker, 

Nobody's got to work there, never no more. 

His feet are sore with the road but he stumbles on, 
A hundred, a thousand others stumble as he, 
Chanting, dizzied, drunken with a strange fever, 
A child's delight, a brightness too huge to grasp, 
The hidden nation, untaught, unrecognized, 
Free at last, but not yet free with the free, 
Ignorant, joyful, wronged, child-minded and searching, 
Searching the army's road for this new wild thing 
That means so much but can't be held in the hand, 
That must be there, that yet is so hard to find, 
This dream, this pentecost changing, this liberty. 

Some wander away to strange death or stranger life, 

Some wander awhile and starve and come back at last, 

Some stay by the old plantation but will not work 

To the great disgust of masters and mistresses, 

Sing idly, gamble, sleep through the lazy hours, 

Waiting for friendly heaven to rain them down 

The mule and the forty acres of their desire. 

Some, faithful beyond the bond that they never signed, 

Hold to that bond in ruin as in the sun, 

Steal food for a hungry mistress, keep her alive, 

Keep the house alive, try to pick the weeds from the path, 

Gather the wood and chop it and make the fire, 

With pitying scorn for the runaway sheep of freedom, 

Freedom's a ghost and freedom's a foolish talk, 

307 



What counts is making the fire as it should be made. . . . 

Oh, blackskinned epic, epic with the black spear, 

I cannot sing you, having too white a heart, 

And yet, some day, a poet will rise to sing you 

And sing you with such truth and mellowness, 

Deep mellow of the husky, golden voice 

Crying dark heaven through the spirituals, 

Soft mellow of the levee roustabouts, 

Singing at night against the banjo-moon 

That you will be a match for any song 

Sung by old, populous nations in the past, 

And stand like hills against the American sky, 

And lay your black spear down by Roland's horn. 

Meanwhile, in Georgia, the scythe of the march mows on, 
The Southern papers discount it as best they can. 
Lincoln is anxious, Davis more anxious still. 
The war is in its last winter of strife and pain. 



Cudjo buried the silverware 

On a graveyard night of sultry air 

While the turned sods smelled of the winter damp 

And Mary Lou Wingate held the lamp. 

They worked with a will. They did not speak. 

The light was yellow. The light was weak. 

A tomb-light casting a last, brief flame 

Over the grave of Wingate fame. 

The silver bowl of the Wingate toasts, 

The spoons worn hollow by Wingate ghosts, 

Sconce and ladle and bead-rimmed plate 

With the English mark and the English weight, 

The round old porringer, dented so 

By the first milk-teeth of the long ago, 

And the candlesticks of Elspeth Mackay 

That she brought with her youth on her wedding-day 

To light the living of Wingate Hall 

While the mornings break and the twilights fall 

And the night and the river have memories. . . . 

There was a spook in Cud jo's eyes 

As he lowered the chests where they must lie 

308 



And patted the earth back cunningly. 

He knew each chest and its diverse freight 

As a blind man knows his own front gate 

And, decade by decade and piece by piece, 

With paste and shammy and elbow-grease, 

He had made them his, by the pursed-up lips 

And the tireless, polishing fingertips, 

Till now as he buried them, each and all, 

What he buried was Wingate Hall, 

Himself and the moon and the toddy-sippers, 

The river mist and the dancing-slippers, 

Old Marse Billy and Mary Lou 

And every bit of the world he knew, 

Master and lady and house and slave, 

All smoothed down in a single grave. 

He was finished at length. He shook his head. 

"Mistis, reckon we's done," he said. 

They looked at each other, black and white, 

For a slow-paced moment across the light. 

Then he took the lamp and she smoothed her shawl 

And he lit her back to the plundered Hall, 

To pray, with her old serene observance 

For the mercy of God upon faithful servants 

And a justice striking all Yankees dead 

On her cold, worn knees by the great carved bed, 

Where she had lain by a gentleman's side, 

Wife and mother and new-come bride, 

Sick with the carrying, torn with the horning, 

Waked by the laughter on Christmas morning, 

Through love and temper and joy and grief, 

And the years gone by like the blowing leaf. 

She finished her prayer with Louisa's child, 
And, when she had risen, she almost smiled. 
She struck her hand on the bedstead head, 
"They won't drive me from my house," she said, 
As the wood rang under her wedding-ring. 
Then she stood for a moment, listening, 
As if for a step, or a gentleman's name, 
But only the gnats and the echoes came. 

309 



Cudjo, being less fortified, 
Covered his ears with his hands and tried 
To shut the noise of the risen wind 
Out of the trouble of his mind. 
He thought, "Ain't right for dat wind to blow. 
She wasn't blowing awhile ago. 
Jus' riz up fum de earth somewhere 
When we buried dat orphan silver dere. 
Got 1 to hide it, and so we tried, 
But silver like dat don't like to hide, 
Silver's ust to be passed aroun' 
Don't like lyin' in lonesome groun', 
Wants to come back to de Hall, all right. 
Silver, I always shone you bright, 
You could see yo'sclf in de shine- 
Silver, it wasn 't no fix of mine! 
Don't you come projeckin' after me!" 

His eyes were shut but he still could see 

The slow chests rising out of the ground 

With an ominous clatter of silver sound, 

The locks undoing, the bags unfastening, 

And every knife and platter and spoon 

Clinking out of the grave and hastening 

Back to the Hall, in the witches' moon; 

And the wind in the chimney played such tricks 

That it was no wind, be it soft or loud, 

But Elspeth seeking her candlesticks 

All night long in her ruffled shroud, 

The deep voice haunting the ocean-shell 

To give her judgment and weave her spell, 

"Thrift and love -for the bouse and the chief 

And a scone on the hob for the son of grief, 

But a knife in the ribs for the pleasant thief" 

Cudjo heard it, and Cudjo shook, 

And Cudjo felt for the Holy Book, 

And the wind blew on without peace or rest, 

Blowing the straws from the dried-up nest. 



Bailey, tramping along with Sherman's bummers, 
Grumbled and found life pleasant and hummed his tune. 



He was well, the blood ran in him, he ate for ten, 
He and the gang had salvaged a wall-eyed nig 
To fix their victuals and ir the captain was on, 
The captain had a blind eye. 

Last night it was turkey, 

The night before it was duck well, you couldn't expect 
Such things to keep on forever, but while they did 
It was pretty soft it was war like it ought to be. 
The Old Man marched 'em hard, but that was all right, 
The Old Man knew his job and the nig was a buster 
And the gang was as good a gang as you'd hope to find, 
None of your coiFee-coolers and straggle-tails 
But a regular gang that ran like an eight-day clock. 
Oh it was gravy, it was the real duck soup, 
Marchin' into Atlanta after the fight 
And then this marchin' well, they were due for it, 
And he was a sergeant now. 

And up in his pack 

Were souvenirs for the red-haired widow in Cairo, 
Some of 'em bought and some just sort of picked up 
But not a damn one stolen, to call it stealin'. 
He wasn't a coffee-cooler or a slick Susio. 
Poor little kid she'd had a pretty tough time- 
Cry like a fool when she gets a squint at that brooch 
They said you couldn't tell about widows much, 
But what the hell he wasn't a barnyard virgin- 
He liked a woman who'd been over the bumps 
And kept her get-up-and-git and her sassiness. 
Spitfire-sweetie, you're my valentine now, 
Bet the kids have red hair well you can't help that 
But they'll all look like Poppa or he'll know why. 

He mused a moment, thinking of Ellyat now. 

There was another kid and a crazy kid, 

Sort of missed him, hope he's gcttin' it soft, 

Must have got a banger at Gettysburg, 

Wrote me a letter a couple of months ago, 

Maybe six, I dunno, I sort of forget. 

Ought to give him his old spread-eagle now, 

Darn good kid, but done enough for his pay. 

Hope he finds that girl he was talkin' about, 

Sounds like a pretty good piece for a storm-and-strife, 

3" 



Skinny, thoughwe like 'em more of a weight, 
Don't we, Carrots? 

Well, it's all in a life. 

Ought to write him sometime if we get a chance, 
Wish we was West we'd have him out to the weddin', 
Me and Bessie, show him the Cairo girls, 
Hand him the fireman's grip and give him a time. 

His heart was overflowing with charity, 

But his throat was dry as the bottom of his canteen. 

There was a big, white house, some way from the road. . . , 

He found his captain, saluted and put his question. 
The captain's eyes were satiric but not displeased. 
"All right, Sergeant, take your detail and forage, 
We're running low on bacon, it seems to me, 
And if you happen to find a pigeon or two 
Remember the Colonel's penchant for pigeon-pie. 
But don't waste time and don't put your hopes too high, 
The Nth Corps must have gone by there hours ago 
And they're the biggest thieves in this whole, wide army. 
You'll be back, in ranks, all sober, in just two hours 
Or you won't have stripes. And if I find one more man 
Trying to take a pet with him on this march, 
I don't care if it's only a treetoad, I'll skin him alive." 

So Bailey came to the door of Wingate Hall, 

With the high wind blowing against him and gave his orders 

"Make it quick now, boys don't cut any monkeyshines, 

But be sure and get the pigeons if they're around. 

Clark, you and Ellis stay with me by the door, 

I'm going to talk to the house if there's anyone left." 

He knocked and called. There was a long, heavy silence. 
"Hey you, the house!" The silence made him feel queer. 
He cursed impatiently and pushed at the door. 
It swung wide open. He turned to Ellis and Clark. 
"I'm goin' in," he said. "If you hear me yell 
Come in bilin'." 

They watched him with mocking eyes. 
"Wish to hell they'd make me a sergeant, Clark," 
"A three-stripe souvenir sergeant." 

3" 



"Aw, hell," said Clark, 
"Bailey's all right. He'll let us in on the juice 
If there's any lawful juice that a man could get." 
"Sure he's all right. Who says that he ain't all right!" 
"But all the same, he's a sergeant." 

Bailey, meanwhile 

Was roving like a lost soul through great, empty rooms 
And staring at various objects that caught his eye. 
Funny old boy with a wig, hung up on the wall, 
Queer sort or chairs, made your hands feel dirty to touch 'eir 
Though they were faded. 

Everything faded and old 

And quietand the wind blowin' he moved as on tiptoe 
Though he couldn't say why he did. 

Old workbasket there. 

He opened it idlymost of the things were gone 
But there was a pair of little, gold-mounted scissors 
Made like a bird, with the blades the beak of the bird. 
He picked it up and opened and shut the blades. 
Hadn't rusted sort or handsome and queer- 
Bessie would certainly like it- 
He held it a minute. 

Wouldn't take up any room. Then he frowned at the thing. 
"Aw hell," he said, "I got enough souvenirs. 
I ain't no damn coffee-cooler." 

He started to put the scissors back in the case 
And turned to face a slight grey-headed old woman 
Dressed in black, with eyes that burned through his skin 
And a voice that cut at his mind like a rawhide whip, 
Calling him fifty different kinds of a thief 
And Yankee devil and liar and God knows what, 
Tearing the throat of her dress with her thin old hands 
And telling him he could shoot her down like a dog 
But he'd steal her children's things over her dead body. 
My God, as if you went around shootin' old women 
For fun, my God! 

He couldn't even explain. 

She was like all of 'em, made him sick in his lunch. 
"Oh hell," he yelled. "Shut up about your damn scissors, 
This is a war, old lady!" 

"That's right," she said, 

3*3 



"Curse a helpless female, you big, brave soldier." 
Well, what was a man to do? 

He got out of the house, 
Sore and angry, mean as a man could feel, 
But her voice still followed, reviling, making him burn. 
Now, where in hell was that detail? 

He saw them now, 

All except Clark and Ellis, gathered around 
A white-polled nigger wringing his hands and weeping. 
One man had a neck-wrung pigeon stuffed in his blouse. 
Well, that was something. 

He laid his hand on the nigger. 
"Hey, Uncle, where's the well? You folks got a well?" 
But the nigger just kept on crying like an old fool. 
"He thinks we're goin' to scalp him,'' said one of the men, 
"I told him twict that he's free but the shine won't listen. 
I give him some money, too, but he let it drop. 
The rest of 'em run away when the army came." 

"Well, tell him he's safe and make him rustle some water, 
I'm dry as a preacher's tongue. Where's Ellis and Clark?" 

He found Clark solemnly prodding the hard dirt floor 
Of a negro cabin, while Ellis lighted the task 
With a splinter of burning pine. 

His rage exploded 

In boiling lava. They listened respectfully. 
"And next time, I give you an order," he ended up, 

"Why you " 

Clark wiped his face with his sleeve. 
"Sorry, Sergeant," he said in an awed, low voice. 
"Well you better be! What the hell do you think you're at, 
Playin' tit-tat-toe or buryin' somebody's dog?" 
"Well, Sergeant," said Ellis, humbly, "I allus heard 
They buried stuff, sometimes, under these here cabins. 
Well, I thought we could take a look-well-" 

"Huh?" said Bailey. 

He seized the torch and looked at the trodden floor 
For an instant. Then his pride and his rage returned. 
"Hell's fire!" he said, and threw the splinter aside, 
"That's just about what you would think, you and Clark! 
Come out of there on the double! Yes, I said you!" 

3*4 



They were halfway down the driveway when Ellis spoke. 
"Sergeant," he said "There's somethin' on fire back there.'* 
Bailey stopped looked back a smoke-puff climbed in the sky 
And the wind was high. 

He hesitated a moment. 

The cabin must have caught from the burning splinter. 
Then he set his jaw. Well, suppose the cabin had caught? 
Damned old woman in black who called him a thief. 
Serve her right if all her cabins burnt up. 
The house wouldn't catch and here they were, losing time 

"Oh well," he said. "That nigger'll put it out. 
It ain't our detail mosey along with it there 
THe Cap won't mind if we run it on him a little, 
Now we got the Colonel's squab, but we better step." 

They hurried along. The smoke rose higher behind them. 
The wind blew the burning flakes on Wingate Hall. 



Sally Dupre stared out of her bedroom window 
As she had stared many times at that clump of trees. 
And saw the smoke rise out of it, thick and dark. 

They hadn't had much trouble at Appleton. 
It was too far off the main road and, as for the slaves, 
Those who straggled after the troops were better away. 
The aunts complained, of course well, the aunts complained. 
They were old, and, at least, they had a man in the house, 
Even if the man were but crippled old Uncle Paul. 
It was the end of the world for him and the aunts. 
It wasn't for her. 

The years had worn on her youth, 
Much had worn, but not the crook from her smile 
Nor the hidden lightness out of her narrow feet. 

She looked at the smoke again, and her eyes were grey 
And then they were black as that smoke. She felt the fire 
Run on her flesh. "It's Wingate Hall and it's burning? 
House that married rny lover before he saw me, 
You are burning, burning away in a little smoke, 
Burning the wall between us with your fierce burning, 

315 



Burning the strife between us in your black flame, 
Burning down." 

She trod for an instant there 
A light glass floor of omen, brighter than sleet 
Over a hurtless fire. 

Then she caught her breath. 

The flesh was cool, the blackness died from her eyes. 
"We'll have to get the slaves if the slaves will go. 
I know Ned will. I'm not sure about Bob or Jim. 
Uncle Paul must give me his pistol. I'll have to start them. 
They won't go without me. The aunts won't be any use. 
Why wouldn't she come over here when we all first heard? 
I know why she wouldn't. I never liked her so much. 
Hurry, Sally!" 

She ran downstairs like the wind. 

They worked at the Hall that night till the dawn came up, 
Two smoke-stained women, Cudjo and Bob and Ned, 
But when the dawn had risen, the Hall was gone 
And Elspeth's candles would not light it again. 



Wingate wearily tried to goad 

A bag of bones on a muddy road 

Under the grey and April sky 

While Bristol hummed in his irony 

"If you want a good time, jine the cavalry! 

Well, we jined it, and here we go, 

The last event in the circus-show, 

The bareback boys in the burnin' hoop 

Mounted on cases of chicken-croup, 

The rovin' remains of the Black Horse Troop! 

Though the only horse you could call real black 

Is the horsefly jsittin' on Shepley's back, 

But, women and children, do not fear, 

They'll feed the lions and us, next year. 

And, women and children, dry your eyes, 

The Southern gentleman never dies. 

He just lives on by his strength of will 

Like a damn ole rooster too tough to kill 

Or a brand-new government dollar-bill 

That you can use for a trousers-patch 



Or lightin' a fire, if you've got a match, 
Or makin' a bunny a paper collar, 
Or anythin' elseexcept a dollar. 

Old folks, young folks, never you care, 
The Yanks are here and the Yanks are there, 
But no Southern gentleman knows despair, 
He just goes on in his usual way, 
Eatin' a meal every fifteenth day 
And showin' such skill in his change of base 
That he never gets time to wash his face 
While he fights with a fury you'd seldom find 
Except in a Home for the Crippled Blind, 
And can whip five Yanks with a palmleaf hat, 
Only the Yanks won't fight like that. 

Ladies and gentlemen, here we go! 

The last event in the minstrel show! 

Georgia's genuine gamboliers, 

(Ladies and gentlemen, dry those tears!) 

See the sergeant, eatin' the hay 

Of his faithful horse, in a lifelike way! 

See the general, out for blood, 

And try to tell the man from the mud! 

See the platoon in its savage lair, 

A half-grown boy on a wheezy mare. 

Ladies and gentlemen, pass the fiat! 

We've got one trick that you won't forget, 

'The Vanishin' Commissariat' 

And nobody's found the answer yet! 

Here we go, here we go, 

The last parade of the circus-show, 

Longstreet's orphans, Lee's everlastin's 

Half cast-iron and half corn-pone, 

And if gettin' to heaven means prayer and fastin's 

We ought to get there on the fasts alone. 

Here we go with our weddin' bells, 

Mr. Davis's immortelles, 

Mr. Lincoln's Thanksgivin' turkey, 

Run right ragged but actin' perky, 

Chased right handsome, but still not carved, 



We had fleas, but the fleas all starved. 

We had rations and new recruits, 

Uniforms and cavalry-boots, 

Must have mislaid, for we can't find 'em. 

They all went home with their tails behind 'em. 

Here we are, like the old man's mutton, 

Pretty well sheared, but not past buttin', 

Lee's last invalids, heart and nand, 

All wropped up in a woolen band, 

Oh, Dixie land. . . . oh, Dixie land! . . ." 

He tossed his hat and caught it again 

And Wingate recalled, without grief or pain 

Or any quietus but memory 

Lucy, under another sky, 

White and gold as a lily bed, 

Giving toy ribbons to all her dead. 

She had been pretty and she was gone, 

But the dead were here and the dead rode on, 

Over a road of mud and stones, 

Each one horsed on a bag of bones. 

Lucy, you carried a golden head, 
But I am free of you, being dead. 
Father's back in that cluttered hall 
Where the beds are solid from wall to wall 
And the scrubbed old floor has a rusty stain. 
He'll never ride with the dogs again, 
Call Bathsheba or Planter's Child 
In the old, high quaver that drives them wild 
Rocketing hounds on a red-hot scent- 
After such wounds, men do not ride. 
I think that his heart was innocent, 
I know he rode by the riverside, 
Calling Blue Ruin or Georgia Lad 
With the huntsman's crotchet that sets them mad. 
His face was ruddy his face is white 
I wonder if Father died last night? 
That cloud in the sky is a thunderhead. 
The world I knew is a long time dead. 

Shepley looks like a knife on guard, 
Reckon he's taking it mighty hard, 



Reckon he loved her and no mistake, 
Glad it isn't my wedding cake, 
Wainscott oughtn't to plague him so, 
Means all right but he doesn't know. 
"Here we go, here we go, 
The last events of the minstrel-show!" 

Shepley suddenly turned his head. 
"Mr. Bristol's funny," he said. 
The voice was flat with an injury. 
Bristol stared at him, puzzledly. 
"What's the matter with you, Huger? 
Lost your dog or your rosy cheeks? 
Haven't been human for weeks and weeks. 
Ill sing you a hymn, if you're so inclined, 
But the rest of the boys don't seem to mind. 
Are you feelin' poorly or just unkind?" 

Shepley looked at him with the blind 

Eyes of a man too long at war 

And too long nursing a secret sore. 

"Mr. Bristol's funny," said he, 

In a level voice of enmity. 

Bristol laughed, but his face grew red. 

"Well, if you take it like that" he said. 

"Here we go, here we go, 
The old Confederate minstrel-show!" 
His mouth was merry, he tossed his hat, 
"Belles skedaddled and left us flat-" 

Shepley leaned from his swaying hips 
Ana flicked him over the singing lips. 
"Will you take it?" he said, "or let it go? 
You never could sing for shucks, you know." 
The color drained out of Bristol's face. 
He bowed with an odd, old-fashioned grace. 
"Name your people and choose your land, 
I don't take a slap from God's own hand. 
Mr. Shepley, your servant, sir." 

They stared at each other across a blur. 
The troop stared with them, halted and still. 

319 



A rider lunged from the top of the hill, 
Dusty man with a bandaged hand 
Spilling his orders. 

"Who's in command? 
Well, it doesn't signify, more or less. 
You can hold the Yanks for a while, I guess. 
Make 'em think you're the whole rear guard 
If you can do it they're pressin' hard 
And somebody's got to lose some hair. 
Keep 'em away from that bend down there 
As long as a horse or a man can stand. 
You might give 'em a charge, if you think you can, 
And we'll meet sometime in the Promised Land, 
For I can't spare you another man." 

Bristol whistled, a shrill, sweet slur. 
"Beg to acknowledge the orders, sir. 
Boys, we're booked for the shivaree. 
Give our regards to the infantry 
And tell Marse Robert, with fortitude, 
We stacked up pretty as hickory-wood. 
While might I ask, while bein' polite, 
How many Yank armies we aim to fight?" 

"Well," said the other, "about a corps. 
Roughly speakin' there may be more." 

"Thank you," said Bristol, "that's mighty sweet. 

You will not remain at the mourner's seat? 

No sir? Well, I imagined not, 

For from this time hence it will be right hot." 

He turned to Shepley with his punctilious 

Air of the devil turned supercilious 

When the damned display a vulgar nettlement. 

"Sir, I regret "that our little settlement 

Must be postponed for a fitter season, 

But war and necessity know no reason, 

And should we survive in this comin' fracas 

I'll do you the honors you damned old jackass!" 

Shepley grinned at his sometime friend. 
They took the cover they must defend. 

320 



Wingate, fighting from tree to tree, 

Felt a red-hot skewer surgeon his knee 

And felt his shoulder hitting the ground. 

He rolled on his side and made a sound, 

Dimly seeing through failing sight 

The last brief passion of his last fight. 

One Cotter dying, the other dead 

With the brains run out of his shattered head. 

Stuart Cazenove trying to squirm 

His way to the road like a scythe-cut worm, 

Weakly humming "Cadet Rousselle", 

Shot through the belly and half in hell, 

While Shepley croaked through a bloody spray, 

"Come on, you bastards, and get your pay. 

We've fought you mounted and fought you standin* 

And I got a hole I could put my hand in 

And they're comin', Wayneand it hurts my head" 

Bristol looked at him, lying dead. 

"Got the start of me, Shep," he said. 

"Dirty welchers, killin' Huger 

Before we could settle up properly." 

He stooped to the body and took its pistol 

And Wingate saw, through a rising mist, 

The last, cold madness of Wainscott Bristol, 

Walking out like a duellist 

With his torn coat buttoned up at the throat 

As if it were still the broadcloth coat 

Duellists button to show no fleck 

Of telltale white at the wrists or neck. 

He stepped from his cover and dropped his hat. 

"Yanks, come get it! " he said and spat 

While his pistols cracked with a single crack, 

"Here we go on the red dog's back! 

High, low, jack and the goddam game." 

And then the answering volley came. 

Wingate waked from a bloodshot dream. 

They were touching his leg and he heard his scream. 

A blue-chinned man said a word or two. 

"Well now, Johnny, you ought to do 

Till the sawbones comes with his movin'-van, 

And you're lucky you're livin', little man. 

321 



But why the hell did you act so strict, 

Fightin' like that when you know you're licked, 

And where's the rest of your damn brigade?" 

The voice died out as the ripples fade 

Into the flow of the running stream, 

And Wingate sank to the bloodshot dream. 



Richmond is fallen Lincoln walks in its streets, 
Alone, unguarded, stops at George Pickett's house, 
Knocks at George Pickett's door. George Pickett has gone 
But the strange, gaunt figure talks to George Pickett's wife 
A momentshe thinks she is dreaming, seeing him there 
"Just one of George Pickett's old friends, m'am." 

He turns away, 

She watches him down the street with wondering eyes. 
The red light falls upon him from the red sky. 
Houses are burning, strange shadows flee through the streets. 
A gang of loafers is broaching a liquor-barrel 
In a red-lit square. The liquor spills on the cobbles. 
They try to scoop it up in their dirty hands. 

A long, blue column tramps by, shouting "John Brown's Body." 
The loafers scatter like wasps from a half-sucked pear, 
Come back when the column is gone. 

A half-crazy slave 

A founts on a stoop and starts to preach to the sky. 
A white-haired woman shoos him away with a broom. 
He mumbles and reels to the shadows. 

A general passes, 

His escort armed with drawn sabres. The sabres shine 
In the red, low light. 

Two doors away, down the street, 
A woman is sobbing the same long sob all night 
Beside a corpse with crossed hands. 

Lincoln passes on. 

On the way to Appomattox, the ghost of an army 
Staggers a muddy road for a week or so 
Through fights and weather, dwindling away each day. 
For a brief while Davis is with them and then he goes 

3" 



To be tracked by his private furies into the last 

Sad farce of his capture, and, later, to wear his chains. 

Benjamin is with them for some few days, 

Still sleek, still lively, still impeccably dressed, 

Taking adversity as he took success 

With the silk-ribbed fan of his slight, unchangeable smile. 

Behind that fan, his mind weighs war and defeat 

In an old balance. 

One day he is there and smiling. 
The next he is gone as if he had taken fernseed 
And walked invisible so through the Union lines. 
You will not find that smile in a Northern prison 
Though you seek from now till Doomsday. It is too wise. 
You will find the chief with the chin like John Calhoun's, 
Gadfly-stung, tormented by hostile fate, 
You will find many gallant blockheads and tragic nobles 
But not the black-eyed man with life in his eyes. 

So this week, this death-march, these final, desperate strokes, 
These last blood-spots on the harvest until, at length, 
The battered grey advance guard, hoping to break 
A last, miraculous hole through the closing net, 
Sees Ord's whole corps as if risen out of the ground 
Before them, blocking all hope. 

The letters are written, 
The orders given, while stray fighting goes on 
And grey men and blue men die in odd clumps of ground 
Before the orders can reach them. 

An aide-de-camp 

Seeks a suitable house for the council from a chance farmer. 
The first one found is too dirty to please his mind, 
He picks another. 

The chiefs and the captains meet, 
Lee erect in his best dress uniform, 
His dress-sword hung at his side and his eyes unaltered. 
Chunky Grant in his mudsplashed private's gear 
With the battered stars on his shoulders. 

They talk a while 
Of Mexico and old days. 

Then the terms are stated. 
Lee finds them generous, says so, makes a request. 
His men will need their horses for the spring-ploughing. 

323 



Grant assents at once. 

There is no parade of bright swords 
Given or taken. Grant saw that there should not be. 
It is over, then. . . . 

Lee walks from the little room. 
His face is Unchanged. It will not change when he dies. 
But as he steps on the porch and looks toward his lines 
He strikes his hands together once with a sound. . . . 

In the room he has left, the blue men stare at each other 
For a space of heartbeats, silent. The grey ride off. 
They are gone-it is over. . . . 

The room explodes like a bomb, they are laughing and shouting, 

Yelling strange words, dragging chairs and tables outdoors, 

Bearded generals waltzing with one another 

For a brief, wild moment, punching each others' ribs, 

Everyone talking at once and nobody listening, 

"It's over-it's done-it's finished!" 

Then, order again. 

The grey ghost-army falls in for the last time, 
Marcning to stack its arms. 

As the ranks move forward 

The blue guns go to "Present." Gordon sees the gesture. 
He sweeps his sabre down in the full salute. 
There are no cheers or words from blue lines or grey. 
Only the sound of feet. . . . 
I* is over, now. . , . 

The arms are stacked from the war. 
A few bronzed, tattered grey men, weeping or silent, 
Tear some riddled bits of cloth from the color-staffs 
And trv to hide them under their uniforms. 



Jake Diefer, ploughing, a day of the early Spring, 
Smelt April steam from the ground as he turned it up 
And wondered how the new forty would do this year. 

The stump of his left arm ached in the living wind. 
It was not a new pain. 

3*4 



When he got back to the house 
The woman would ease it some with her liniments 
But there wasn't much you could do. 

The boy had been smart. 

The boy had fixed the jigger so he could plough. 
It wasn t an arm you could show to company 
With a regular-looking hand, but it did the work. 
The woman still hankered after the varnished one 
They'd seen that day in the Philadelphia store 
Well, he'd tried it on, and it was a handsome arm, 
And, if the new forty did well- 
Meanwhile, the huge 

Muscles of his right shoulder bulged with the strain 
As the plough sheared on. 

Sometimes, the blade of the plough 
Still turned up such odd harvest as bullets leave, 
A spoilt canteen, the brass of a cartridge-pouch, 
An eyeless skull, too white for the grin it wore. 
But these were rarer now. 

They had cleaned the well. 
They could drink from the well again. 

The earth was in plough. 

He turned his team and started the backward furrow. 
He was clumsy still, in some matters, but he could manage. 
This year he'd see his own wheat. 

He thought to himself: 

"You ain't the feller you was but the ground looks good. 
It smells like good plantin' weather. We cleaned the well. 
Maybe some time we'll get you that varnished arm, 
For Sundays, maybe. It'd look good on Sundays." 
He gazed ahead. 

By the end of the farther fence 
A ragamuffin-something leaned on the rail, 
Regarding him and his team. 

"Tramp feller," he thought, 

"Colored man, too well, he can't hang around this farm, 
Him or no other tramps. I wish I could get 
An honest to God cheap hired man." 

The team drew near. 
The negro did not move. 

Jake halted the team. 

3*5 



They stared at each other. One saw a crippled ox, 
The other a scar-faced spectre with haunted eyes 
Still dressed in the rags of a shoddy uniform. 
"Well, feller? "said Jake. 

The negro said " 'Scuse me, Sarjun." 
He scratched his head with the wreck of a forage-cap. 
His eyes remembered a darkness. 

"Huh!" said Jake, 
Sharply, "Where did you get it?" 

The negro shrank. 

"I was in de Crater, boss," he said with a dull 
Stain in his voice. "You mebbe heard about us. 
You mebbe heard of de Crater at Petersburg. 
I doan' like thinkin' about it. You need a fiel'-han'?" 

Jake thought for a moment. "Crater," he said at last. 
"Yuh, I heard about that Crater." 

The wind blew on, 

Hurting his arm. "I wasn't to there," he said. 
"I knew some boys that was there." 

The negro said, 

"I'd work for my keep, boss, honest. I knows a team. 
I knows how to work. I got hurt bad in de Crater 
But I knows how to work a farm." 

He coughed and was dumb. 

Jake looked at him as he might have looked at a horse, 
Measuringly. 

"I ain't runnin' a hospital," 

He said, in an aggrieved voice. "You was to the Crater. 
I seen the way you colored folks farm down South. 
It ain't no way to farm. You ought to be et. 
We'll eat you up to the house when it's mealin'-time. 
I don't know where we'll sleep you. How do I know 
You can work your keep?" 

The negro said nothing at all. 
His eyes had resumed their darkness. 

"Huddup!" said Jake, 
As the team swung round. 

"Dat's ploughin'!" the negro said. 

Jake spat. "The wornan'll fix you a snack to eat 
If you holler the house." 

326 



The negro shook his head. 

"I'll wait till you's done furrowin', boss," he said. , 
"Mebbe I kin help you unhitch when it's time for dat." 

"Well," said Jake, "I ain't payin' a hired man much." 

"Dey call me Spade," said the negro. 

The plough went on. 
The negro watched it, cutting the furrow clean. 



Jack Ellyat, an old cudgel in his fist, 

Walked from the town, one day of melting ice, 

Past fields still patched with old snow but warm in the sun, 

His heart and mind being something like those fields. . . . 

Behind him, in the town, the spangled flags 

Still fluttered or hung limp for fallen Richmond, 

And here or there, in corners, you could see 

The burst firecracker-cases, rotten with rain, 

The guttered stumps of torches flung away 

And other odds and ends of celebration 

Not yet swept up. 

The old cannon in the Square 
Still had a blackened mouth from its salutes, 
The little boys would not be good all week 
And everything wore airs of Monday morning. . . . 

Jack Ellyat, remembering it all, 
Was glad enough when he. got past the houses 
And could see nothing but the road ahead 
Going up hills and down. 

"It's over now. 

Finished for good. Well, I was part of it. 
Well, it is over." 

When he reached the crest 
Of the Long Hill, he paused and felt the wind 
Blow on his face, and leaned upon his stick, 
Gazing at troubled Spring. 

He carried still 

Wounds of a sort, some healed into the scars 
And some that hardly would be healed awhile, 

3*7 



Being in stuff few surgeries can reach, 

But he was well enough, although the wind 

Felt colder than it had in other bprings. 

"Oh, yes," he thought, "I guess that I'm all right. 
I guess I'm lucky, i remember once 
Coming along this road with poor old Ned 
Before they tired on Sumter. Well, it's over. 
I was a part of it." 

He flipped a stone 

Down toward the hill and watched it strike and strike 
And then lie quiet, while his mind recalled 
The long, white, bloodless months of getting well 
And the strange feel of first civilian clothes. 
Well, that was over, too, and he was back, 
And everybody knew he'd settled down, 
Only he couldn't stand it any more. 

He had a picture of Melora's face, 

Dim with long looking-at, a carried image, 

He tried to see it now, but it was faint. 

He'd tried to find her but he couldn't find her. 

Couldn't get any news while he was sick, 

And then, at last, the news that they were gone 

That and no moreand nobody knew where. 

He saw the clock upon the mantelpiece 
Back in the house, ticking its fettered time 
To fettered Phaeton. 

"Ill settle down. 

I will forget. I'll wear my riddled coat 
Fourth of Julys and have boys gape at me. 
I'll drink and eat and sleep, marry a girl; 
Be a good lawyer, wear the hunger out. 
I hardly knew her. It was years ago. 
Why should the hunger stay? A dozen men 
Might find a dozen girls and lose them so 
And never once think of it, but perhaps 
As a dim fragrance, lost with their first youth, 
A seashell in a box of cedarwood, 
A silver mist that vanished with the day. 

3*8 



It was such years ago. She must have changed. 
I know that I have changed. 

We find such things 

And lose them, and must live in spite of it. 
Only a fool goes looking for the wind 
That blew across his heartstrings yesterday, 
Or breaks his hands in the obscure attempt 
To dig the knotted roots of Time apart, 
Hoping to resurrect the golden mask 
Of the lost year inviolate from the ground. 
Only a fool drives horses in the sky." 

And here he was, out walking on this road 
For no more reason than a crazy yarn 
Just heard, about some gipsy travellers 
Going through towns and looking for a soldier. 
And even and supposing it were she . . . 

He saw Melora walking down from the wood 
With the sun behind her, low in the western cloud. 
He saw the long shadow that her slight body made. 

The fetters fell like straws from the clock of time. 
The horses moved from the gate. 

This life, this burning, 
This fictive war that is over, this toy death, 
These were the pictures of Phaeton. 

This is Phaeton. 

He cast a final look down at the town, 
Another at the fields still patched with snow. 
The wind blew on his face. He moved away 
Out toward the crossroads, where the wagons pass, 
And when he got there, waited patiently 
Under a windbreak of three twisted elms 
Half-hidden from the road. 

"Find her," he said. 

"I guess we'll go back West then. Well, that's that." 
The wind burned at his flesh. He let it burn, 
Staring at a losc&year. 

So he perceived 
A slow cart creaking up a slope of hill, 

329 



Drawn by a horse as gaunt as poverty 
And driven by a woman with great eyes. 



Edmund Ruffin, old Secessionist, 

Firer of the first gun that rang against Sumter, 

Walks in his garden now, in the evening-cool, 

With a red, barred flag slung stiffly over one arm 

And a silver-butted pistol in his right hand. 

He has just heard of Lee's surrender and Richmond's fall 

And his face is marble over his high black stock. 

For a moment he walks there, smelling the scents of Spring, 

A gentleman taking his ease, while the sun sinks down. 

Now it is well-nigh sunken. He smiles with the close, 

Dry smile of age. It is time. He unfolds the flag, 

Cloaks it around his shoulders with neat, swift hands, 

Cocks the pistol and points it straight at his heart. 

The hammer falls, the dead man slumps to the ground. 

The blood spurts out in the last light of the sun 

Staining the red of the flag with more transient red. 



The gaunt man, Abraham Lincoln, woke one morning 
From a new dream that yet was an old dream 
For he had known it many times before 
And, usually, its coming prophesied 
Important news of some sort, good or bad, 
Though mostly good as he remembered it. 

He had been standing on the shadowy deck 
Of a black formless boat that moved away 
From a dim bank, into wide, gushing waters- 
River or sea,^but hugeand as he stood, 
The boat rushed into darkness like an arrow, 
Gathering speed and as it rushed, he woke. 

He found it odd enough to tell about 
That day to various people, half in jest 
And half in earnest well, it passed the time 
And nearly everyone had some pet quirk, 
Knocking on wood or never spilling salt, 

330 



Ladders or broken mirrors or a Friday, 
And so he thought he might be left his boat, 
Especially now, when he could breathe awhile 
With Lee surrendered and the war stamped out 
And the long work of binding up the wounds 
Not yet begun although he had his plans 
For that long healing, and would work them out 
In spite of all the bitter-hearted fools 
Who only thought of punishing the South 
Now she was beaten. 

But this boat of his. 
He thought he had it. 

"Johnston has surrendered. 
It must be that, I guess for that's about 
The only news we're waiting still to hear." 
He smiled a little, spoke of other things. 
That afternoon he drove beside his wife 
And talked with her about the days to come 
With curious simplicity and peace. 
Well, they were getting on, and when the end 
Came to his term, he would not be distressed. 
They would go back to Springfield, find a house, 
Live peaceably and simply, see old friends, 
Take a few cases every now and then. 
Old Billy Herndon's kept the practice up, 
I guess he'll sort of like to have me back. 
We won't be skimped, we'll have enough to spend, 
Enough to do we'll have a quiet time, 
A sort of Indian summer of our age. 

He looked beyond the carriage, seeing it so, 
Peace at the last, and rest. 

They drove back to the White House, dressed and ate, 
Went to the theatre in their flag-draped box. 
The play was a good play, he liked the play, 
Laughed at the jokes, laughed at the funny man 
With the long, weeping whiskers. 

The time passed. 

The shot rang out. The crazy murderer 
Leaped from the box, mouthed out his Latin phrase, 
Brandished his foolish pistol and was gone. 

331 



Lincoln lay stricken in the flag-draped box. 
Living but speechless. Now they lifted him 
And bore him off. He lay some hours so. 
Then the heart failed. The breath beat in the throat. 
The black, formless vessel carried him away. 



Sally, waiting at Appleton 

On an autumn day of clear, bright sun, 

Felt her heart and body begin to burn 

As she hummed the lesson she had to learn. 

"Yellow cornmeal and a jackass colt 

And a door that swings on a broken bolt. 

Comfort the old and pity the wise 

And see your lover with open eyes. 

Mend the broken and patch the frayed 

And carry the sorrow undismayed 

When your lover limps in the falling rain, 

Never quite to be whole again. 

Clear the nettle and plant the corn 

And keep your body a hunting-horn. 

Succor your love at fire and frost 

When your lover remembers the blood he lost, 

And break your hands on the hard-moved wheel 

Till they are tougher than hands of steel, 

Till the new grass grows on the barren plain 

And the house is built from the dust again, 

With thrift and love for the house and the chief, 

A scone on the hob for the son of grief, 

A knife in the ribs for the pleasant thief, 

While the night and the river have memories . . 

She stared at the future with equal eyes. 

And yet, in her glance, there was something still 

Not to be ground by Wingate will 

Or under the honor of Elspeth's name, 

A dancing flicker that went and came 

But did not falter for joy or grief 

Or the years gone by with the blowing leaf. 

French Dupre with his alien grace 

Always turning the buried ace. 

French Dupre in his dancer's pride, 

Leading a reel with his stolen bride 

33* 



She smiled a little and turned to see 
A weed-grown path and a scarlet tree 
And Wingate coming there, paintully. 



John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave. 

Spread over it the bloodstained flag of his song, 

For the sun to bleach, the wind and the birds to tear, 

The snow to cover over with a pure fleece 

And the New England cloud to work upon 

With the grey absolution of its slow, most lilac-smelling rain, 

Until there is nothing there 

That ever knew a master or a slave 

Or, brooding on the symbol of a wrong, 

Threw down the irons in the field of peace. 

John Brown is dead, he will not come again, 

A stray ghost-walker with a ghostly gun. 

Let the strong metal rust 

In the enclosing dust 

And the consuming coal 

That was the furious soul 

And still like iron groans, 

Anointed with the earth, 

Grow colder than the stones 

While the white roots of grass and little weeds 

Suck the last hollow wildfire from the singing bones. 

Bury the South together with this man, 
Bury the bygone South. 
Bury the minstrel with the honey-mouth, 
' Bury the broadsword virtues of the clan, 
Bury the unmachined, the planters' pride, 
The courtesy and the bitter arrogance, 
The pistol-hearted horsemen who could ride 
Like jolly centaurs under the hot stars. 
Bury the whip, bury the branding-bars, 
Bury the unjust thing 
That some tamed into mercy, being wise, 
But could not starve the tiger from its eyes 
Or make it feed where beasts of mercy feed. 
Bury the fiddle-music and the dance, 

333 



The sick magnolias of the false romance 
And all the chivalry that went to seed 
Before its ripening. 

And with these things, bury the purple dream 

Of the America we have not been, 

The tropic empire, seeking the warm sea, 

The last foray of aristocracy 

Based not on dollars or initiative 

Or any blood for what that blood was worth 

But on a certain code, a manner of birth, 

A certain manner of knowing how to live, 

The pastoral rebellion of the earth 

Against machines, against the Age of Steam, 

The Hamiltonian extremes against the Franklin mean, 

The genius of the land 

Against the metal hand, 

The great, slave-driven bark, 

Full-oared upon the dark, 

With gilded figurehead, 

With fetters for the crew 

And spices for the few, 

The passion that is dead, 

The pomp we never knew, 

Bury this, too. 

Bury this destiny unmanifest, 

This system broken underneath the test, 

Beside John Brown and though he knows his enemy is there 

He is too full of sleep at last to care. 

He was a stone, this man who lies so still, 
A stone flung from a sling against a wall, 
A sacrificial instrument of kill, 
A cold prayer hardened to a musket-ball: 
And yet, he knew the uses of a hill, 
And he must have his justice, after all. 

He was a lover of certain pastoral things, 

He had the shepherd's gift. 

When he walked at peace, when he drank from the watersprings 

His eyes would lift 

334 



To see God, robed in a glory, but sometimes, too, 
Merely the sky, 

Untroubled by wrath or angels, vacant and blue, 
Vacant and high. 

He knew not only doom but the shape of the land, 
Reaping and sowing. 

He could take a lump of any earth in his hand 
And feel the growing. 

He was a farmer, he didn't think much of towns, 
The wheels, the vastness. 

He liked the wide fields, the yellows, the lonely browns, 
The black ewe's fastness. 

Out of his body grows revolving steel, 

Out of his body grows the spinning wheel 

Made up of wheels, the new, mechanic birth, 

No longer bound by toil 

To the unsparing soil 

Or the old furrow-line, 

The great, metallic beast 

Expanding West and East, 

His heart a spinning coil, 

His juices burning oil, 

His body serpentine. 

Out of John Brown's strong sinews the tall skyscrapers grow, 

Out of his heart the chanting buildings rise, 

Rivet and girder, motor and dynamo, 

Pillar of smoke by day and fire by night, 

The steel-faced cities reaching at the skies, 

The whole enormous and rotating cage 

Hung with hard jewels of electric light, 

Smoky with sorrow, black with splendor, dyed 

Whiter than damask for a crystal bride 

With metal suns, the engine-handed Age, 

The genie we have raised to rule the earth, 

Obsequious to our will 

But servant-master still, 

The tireless serf already half a god- 



Touch the familiar sod 
Once, then gaze at the air 



335 



And see the portent there, 

With eyes for once washed clear 

Of worship and of fear: 

There is its hunger, there its living thirst, 

There is the beating of the tremendous heart 

You cannot read for omens. 

Stand apart 

From the loud crowd and look upon the flame 
Alone and steadfast, without praise or blame. 
This is the monster and the sleeping queen 
And both have roots struck deep in your own mind, 
This is reality that you have seen, 
This is reality that made you blind. 

So, when the crowd gives tongue 

And prophets, old or young, 

Bawl out their strange despair 

Or fall in worship there, 

Let them applaud the image or condemn 

But keep your distance and your soul from them. 

And, if the heart within your breast must burst 

Like a cracked crucible and pour its steel 

White-hot before the white heat of the wheel, 

Strive to recast once more 

That attar of the ore 

In the strong mold of pain 

Till it is whole again, 

And while the prophets shudder or adore 

Before the flame, hoping it will give ear, 

If you at last must have a word to say, 

Say neither, in their way, 

"It is a deadly magic and accursed," 

Nor "It is blest," but only "It is here." 



YOUNG ADVEKTURE 



Toung Adventure 



PORTRAIT OF A BOY 

AFTER the whipping he crawled into bed, 
Accepting the harsh fact with no great weeping. 
How funny uncle's hat had looked striped red! 
He chuckled silently. The moon came, sweeping 
A black, frayed rag of tattered cloud before 
In scorning; very pure and pale she seemed, 
Flooding his bed with radiance. On the floor 
Fat motes danced. He sobbed, closed his eyes and dreamed. 

Warm sand flowed round him. Blurts of crimson light 

Splashed the white grains like blood. Past the cave's mouth 

Shone with a large, fierce splendor, wildly bright, 

The crooked constellations of the South; 

Here the Cross swung; and there, affronting Mars, 

The Centaur stormed aside a froth of stars. 

Within, great casks, like wattled aldermen, 

Sighed of enormous feasts, and cloth of gold 

Glowed on the walls like hot desire. Again, 

Beside webbed purples from some galleon's hold, 

A black chest bore the skull and bones in white 

Above a scrawled "Gunpowder! " By the flames, 

Decked out in crimson, gemmed with syenite, 

Hailing their fellows with outrageous names, 

The pirates sat and diced. Their eyes were moons. 

"Doubloons!" they said. The words crashed gold. "Doubloons!" 



339 



PORTRAIT OF A BABY 



HE LAY within a warm, soft world 
Of motion. Colors bloomed and fled, 
Maroon and turquoise, saffron, red, 
Wave upon wave that broke and whirled 
To vanish in the grey-green gloom, 
Perspectiveless and shadowy. 
A bulging world that had no walls, 
A flowing world, most like the sea, 
Compassing all infinity 
Within a shapeless, ebbing room, 
An endless tide that swells and falls . . , 
He slept and woke and slept again. 
As a veil drops, Time dropped away; 
Space grew a toy for children's play, 
Sleep bolted fast the gates of Sense- 
He lay in naked impotence; 
Like a drenched moth that creeps and crawls 
Heavily up brown, light-baked walls, 
To fall in wreck, her task undone, 
Yet somehow striving toward the sun. 
So, as he slept, his hands clenched tighter, 
Shut in the old way of the fighter, 
His feet curled up to grip the ground, 
His muscles tautened for a bound; 
And though he felt, and felt alone, 
Strange brightness stirred him to the bone, 
Cravings to rise till deeper sleep 
Buried the hope, the call, the leap; 
A wind puffed out his mind's faint spark. 
He was absorbed into the dark. 
He woke again and felt a surge 
Within him, a mysterious urge 
That grew one hungry flame of passion; 
The whole world altered shape and fashion. 
Deceived, befooled, bereft and torn, 
He scourged the heavens with his scorn, 
Lifting a bitter voice to cry 
Against the eternal treachery- 
Till, suddenly, he found the breast, 

340 



And ceased, and all things were at rest, 
The earth grew one warm languid sea 
And he a wave. Joy, tingling, crept 
Throughout him. He was quenched and slept. 

So, while the moon made broad her ring, 
He slept and cried and was a king. 
So, worthily, he acted o'er 
The endless miracle once more. 
Facing immense adventures daily, 
He strove still onward, weeping, gayly, 
Conquered or fled from them, but grew 
As soil-starved, rough pine-saplings do. 
Till, one day, crawling seemed suspect. 
He gripped the air and stood erect 
And splendid. With immortal rage 
He entered on man's heritage! 



PORTRAIT OF YOUNG LOVE 

IF YOU were with meas you're not, of course, 

I'd taste the elegant tortures of Despair 

With a slow, lai^guid, long-refining tongue; 

Puzzle for days on one particular stare, 

Or if you knew a word's peculiar force, 

Or what you looked like when you were quite young. 

You'd lift me heaven-high till a word grated. 
Dash me hell-deep oh that luxurious Pit, 
Fatly -and well encushioned with self-pity, 
Where Love's an epicure not quickly sated! 
What mournful musics wander over it, 
Faint-blown from some long-lost celestial city! 

Such bitter joyousness I'd have, and action, 
Were you here be no more the fool who broods 
On true Adventure till he wakes her scorning 
But we're too petty for such noble warning. 
And I find just as perfect satisfaction 
In analyzing these, and other moods! 

34' 



THE GENERAL PUBLIC 

"Ah, did you once see Shelley plain?" BROWNING. 

"SHELLEY? Oh, yes, I saw him often then," 
The old man said. A dry smile creased his face 
With many wrinkles. "That's a great poem, now! 
That one of Browning's! Shelley? Shelley plain? 
The time that I remember best is this 

"A thin mire crept along the ratted ways, 

And all the trees were harried by cold rain 

That drove a moment fiercely and then ceased, 

Falling so slow it hung like a grey mist 

Over the school. The walks were like blurred glass. 

The buildings reeked with vapor, black and harsh 

Against the deepening darkness of the sky; 

And each lamp was a hazy yellow moon, 

Filling the space about with golden motes, 

And making all things larger than they were. 

One yellow halo hung above a door, 

That gave on a black passage. Round about 

Struggled a howling crowd of boys, pell-mell, 

Pushing and jostling like a stormy sea, 

With shouting faces, turned a pasty white 

By the strange light, for foam. They all had clods, 

Or slimy balls of mud. A few gripped stones. 

And there, his back against the battered door, 

His pile of books scattered about his feet, 

Stood Shelley while two others held him fast, 

And the clods beat upon him. 'Shelley! Shelley!' 

The high shouts rang through all the corridors, 

'Shelley! Mad Shelley! Come along and help!' 

And all the crow3 dug madly at the earth, 

Scratching and clawing at the streaming mud, 

And fouled each other and themselves. And still 

Shelley stood up. His eyes were like a flame 

Set in some white, still room; for all his face 

Was white, a whiteness like no human color, 

But white and dreadful as consuming fire. 

His hands shook now and then, like slender cords 

342 



Which bear too heavy weights. He did not speak. 
So I saw Shelley plain." 

"And you? "I said. 

"I? I threw straighter than the most of them, 
And had firm clods. I hit him well, at least 
Thrice in the face. He made good sport that night." 



YOUNG BLOOD 



"But, sir" I said, "they tell me the man is like 
to die!" The Canon shook his head, indulgently. 
VYoung blood, Cousin," he boomed. "Young 
blood! Youth 'will be served!" 

D'HERMONVILLE'S FABLIAUX. 



HE WOKE up with a sick taste in his mouth 

And lay there heavily, while dancing motes 

Whirled through his brain in endless, rippling streams, 

And a grey mist weighed down upon his eyes 

So that they could not open fully. Yet 

After some time his blurred mind stumbled back 

To its last ragged memory a room; 

Air foul with wine; a shouting, reeling crowd 

Of friends who dragged him, dazed and blind with drink 

Out to the street; a crazy rout of cahs; 

The steady mutter of his neighbor's voice, 

Mumbling out dull obscenity by rote; 

And then . . . well, they had brought him home it seemed, 

Since he awoke in bed oh, damn the business! 

He had not wanted it the silly jokes, 

"One last, great night of freedom ere you're married!" 

"You'll get no fun then!" "H-ssh, don't tell that story, 

He'll have a wife soon!" God! the sitting down 

To drink till you were sodden! . . . 

Like great light 

She came into his thoughts. That was the worst. 
To wallow in the mud like this because 
His friends were fools. He was not fit to touch, 

343 



To see, oh far, far off, that silver place 
Where God stood manifest to man in her. . . . 
Fouling himself. . . . One thing he brought to her, 
At least. He had been clean; had taken it 
A kind of point of honor from the first. 
Others might wallow but he didn't care 
For those things. . . . 

Suddenly his vision cleared. 
And something seemed to grow within his mind. 
Something was wrong the color of the wall 
The queer shape of the bedposts everything 
Was changed, somehow ... his room. Was this his room? 

... He turned his head and saw beside him there 

The sagging body's slope, the paint-smeared face, 

And the loose, open mouth, lax and awry, 

The breasts, the bleached and brittle hair . . . these things. 

... As if all Hell were crushed to one bright line 

Of lightning for a moment. Then he sank, 

Prone beneath an intolerable weight. 

And bitter loathing crept up all his limbs. 

THE BREAKING POINT 

IT WAS not when temptation came, 
Swiftly and blastingly as flame, 
Ajid seared me white with burning scars; 
When I stood up for age-long wars 
And held the very Fiend at grips; 
When all my mutinous body rose 
To range itself beside my roes, 
And, like a greyhound in the slips, 
The beast that dwells within me roared, 
Lunging and straining at his cord. . . . 
For all the blusterings of Hell, 
It was not then I slipped and fell; 
For all the storm, for all the hate, 
I kept my soul inviolate. 

But when the fight was fought and won, 
And there was Peace as still as Death 

344 



On everything beneath the sun. 
Just as I started to draw breath, 
And yawn, and stretch, and pat myself, 
The grass began to whisper things 
And every tree became an elf, 
That grinned and chuckled counselings: 
Birds, beasts, one thing alone they said, 
Beating and dinning at my head. 
I could not fly. I could not shun it. 
Slimily twisting, slow and blind, 
It crept and crept into my mind. 
Whispered and shouted, sneered and laughed, 
Screamed out until my brain was daft, 
One snaky word, "What if yotfd done it?" 
And I began to think . . . 

Ah, well, 

What matter how I slipped and fell? 
Or you, you gutter-searcher, say! 
Tell where you found me yesterday! 



POOR DEVIL! 



WELL, I was tired of life; the silly folk, 
The tiresome noises, all the common things 
I loved once, crushed me with an i*on yoke. 
I longed for the cool quiet and the dark, 
Under the common sod where louts and kings 
Lie down, serene, unheeding, careless, stark, 
Never to rise or move or feel again, 
Filled with the ecstasy of being dead. . . . 

I put the shining pistol to my head 
And pulled the trigger hard I felt no pain, 
No pain at all; the pistol had missed fire 
I thought; then, looking at the floor, I saw 
My huddled body lying there and awe 
Swept over me. I trembled and looked up. 
About me was not that, my heart's desire, 
That small and dark abode of death and peace 
But all from which I sought a vain release! 

345 



The sky, the people and the staring sun 

Glared at me as before. I was undone. 

My last state ten times worse than was my first. 

Helpless, I stood, befooled, betrayed, accursed, 

Fettered to Life forever, horribly; 

Caught in the meshes of Eternity, 

No further doors to break or bars to burst. 



THE GOLDEN CORPSE 

(Eight Sonnets for Donald Malcolm Campbell) 

STRIPPED country, shrunken as a beggar's heart, 
Inviolate landscape, hardened into steel, 
Where the cold soil shatters under heel 
Day after day like armor cracked apart. 

Winter Connecticut, whose air is clean 
As a new icicle to cut the throat, 
Whose black and rigid trees will not demean 
Themselves to swagger in a crystal coat. 

I hate you as a bastard hates his name 
When your cramped hills are hostile with the white, 
But, every year, when March comes in the same, 
A frozen river rolling in the night, 

I must go back and hunt among your snow 
Something I lost there, much too long ago. 



It was not innocence, it was not scorn, 
And yet it had these names and many more. 
It was a champion blowing on a horn, 
It was the running of a golden boar. 

It was a stallion, trampling the skies 

To rags of lightning with his glittering shoes* 

It was a childish god with lazy eyes, 

It was an indolent and reckless Muse- 

346 



More than all these, it was a spirit apart, 
Purely of fire and air and the mind. 
No fear could eat the temper from its heart 
Nor any fleshly bandage make it blind. 

It was a silver dagger in the blast. 

It was the first of youth, and it has passed. 



I left it in a bare and windy street 
Between two sets of bells whose casual chimes 
Answer each other, janglingly and sweet, 
Like the concord or long-repeated rhymes. 

I left it in a since-demolished bar, 
And underneath a rain-streaked paving-stone. 
And, men and things being what they are, 
The hidden ghost nad better couch alone. 

I shall not rattle with an iron fist 
The relics, scattered into sticks of chalk, 
Of what was once the carcass of a hawk 
That sat like Wrath on an archangel's wrist. 

Nor disinter, to make my house look smart, 
That thunder-broken and ferocious heart. 



Men that dig up a mandrake know dis-ease. 
This body is committed to its bones 
Down where the taproots of New England trees 
Suck bare existence from the broken stones. 

All summer cannot quicken it with heat, 
Nor Spring perturb it with a budding bough, 
Nor all the glittering devils of the sleet 
In snowing Winter rack its quiet now. 

But, in October, when the apples fall, 
And leaves begin to rust before the cold, 

347 



There may occur, by some unnoticed wall, 
A sigh, a whisper in the rotten gold. 

A breath that hardly can be called a breath 
From Death that* will not yet acknowledge Death. 



Unnoticed for the years have hardier tasks 
Than listening to a whisper or a sigh. 
They creep among us with a bag or masks 
And fit them to our brows obsequiously. 

Some are of iron, to affront the gay, 
And some of bronze, to satirize the brave, 
But most are merely a compost of clay 
Cut in the sleepy features of a slave. 

With such astuteness do they counterfeit, 

We do not realize the masks are on 

Till, gaudy in our folly, bit by bit 

We notice that a neighbor's face seems drawn. 

And then, with fingers turned to lumps of stone, 
Touch the inhuman cast that was our own. 



There is no doubt such workmanship is sage. 
The bound and ordered skies could not abide 
A creature formed of elemental rage 
For longer than a moment of its pride. 

The hand that stooped to Adam from the cloud 
And touched his members with a fiery spine 
Designed as well the pattern of the shroud 
That should convince him he was not divine. 

And there are sorceries more excellent 
Than the first conflagration of the dust, 
But none are quite so single in intent 
Or unsophisticated with distrust. 

348 



The ripened fruit is golden to the core 
But an enchantment fosters it no more. 



Therefore, in neither anguish nor relief, 

I offer to the shadow in the air 

No image of a monumental grief 

To mock its transience from a stony chair, 

Nor any tablets edged in rusty black. 
Only a branch of maple, gathered high 
When the crisp air first tastes of applejack, 
And the blue smokes of Autumn stain the sky. 

A branch whose leaves cling to the withering staff 
Like precious toys of gilt and scarlet paint, 
An emblem Life and Death share half-and-half, 
A brittle sceptre for a dying saint. 

Unburning fire, an insubstantial Host, 
A violence dreamt, a beauty of the ghost. 

8 

So much in memory. For the future, this. 
The checkerboarded house of Day and Night 
Is but a cavern where a swallow flies 
To beat its wings an instant at the light 

And then depart, where the incessant storm 
Shepherds the planets like a drunken nurse. 
It does not need an everlasting form 
To dignify an ecstasy so terse. 

But while the swallow fluttered and was quick 
I have marked down its passage in the dark 
And charred its image on a broken stick 
With the brief flame of an uncertain spark. 

The fire can have it now, the rain can rain on it 
And the ice harden like a god's disdain on it. 

349 



MY FAIR LADY 



My Fair Lady 



TO ROSEMARY 



/F you 'were gone afar, 
And lost the pattern 
Of all your delightful ways, 
And the web undone, 
How would one make you anew, 
From what dew and flowers, 
What burning and mingled atoms, 
Under the sun? 

Not from too-satin roses, 

Or those rare blossoms, 

Orchids, scentless and precious 

As precious stone. 

But out of lemon-verbena, 

Rose-geranium, 

These alone. 

Not with running horses, 

Or Spanish cannon, 

Organs, voiced like a lion, 

Clamor and speed. 

But perhaps with old music-boxes. 

Young, tawny kittens, 

Wild-strawberry -seed. 

Even so, it were more 
Than a god could compass 
To fashion the body merely, 
The lovely shroud. 
But then ah, how to recapture 

353 



That evanescence, 

The fire that cried in pure crystal 

Out of its cloud! 



CHEMICAL ANALYSIS 

SHE'S slender hands and pretty lips, 
And seafoam and rosemary. 
Her ears are pointed at the tips, 
She stayed so long in Fairy. 



NOMENCLATURE) 

SOME people have names like pitchforks, some people have names 

like cakes, 

Names full of sizzling esses like a family quarrel of snakes, 
Names black as a cat, vermilion as the cockscomb-hat of a fool- 
But your name is a green, small garden, a rush asleep in a pool. 

When God looked at the diffident cherubs and dropped them out 
of the sky, 

He named them like Adam's animals, while Mary and Eve stood 
by, 

The poor things huddled before him in scared little naked flocks 

And he gave you a name like sunlight, and clover, and holly- 
hocks. 

For your mouth with its puzzled jesting, for your hair like a dark 

soft bird, 

Shy humor and dainty walking, sweet laughter and subtle word, 
As a fairy walks with a mushroom to keep the rain from its things 
You carry your name forever, like a scepter alive with wings. 

Neither change nor despair shall touch it nor the seasons make it 

uncouth, 
It will burn like an Autumn maple when your proud age talks to 

your youth, 
Wise child, clean friend, adoration, light arrow of God, white- 

flame, 
I would break my body to pieces to call you once by your name! 

354 



DIFFERENCE 

MY MIND'S a map. A mad sea-captain drew it 
Under a flowing moon until he knew it; 
Winds with brass trumpets, puffy-cheeked as jugs, 
And states bright-patterned like Arabian rugs. 
"Here there be tygers." "Here we buried Jim." 
Here is the strait where eyeless fishes swim 
About their buried idol, drowned so cold 
He weeps away his eyes in salt and gold. 
A country like the dark side of the moon, 
A cider-apple country, harsh and boon, 
A country savage as a chestnut-rind, 
A land of hungry sorcerers. 

Your mind? 

Your mind is water through an April night, 

A cherry-branch, plume-feathery with its white, 

A lavender as fragrant as your words, 

A room where Peace and Honor talk like birds, 

Sewing bright coins upon the tragic cloth 

Of heavy Fate, and Mockery, like a moth, 

Flutters and beats about those lovely things. 

You are the soul, enchanted with its wings, 

The single voice that raises up the dead 

To shake the pride of angels. 

I have said. 



A SAD SONG 



ROSEMARY, Rosemary, 
There's a Pig in your garden, 
With silk bristles frizzy 
And tushes of snow! 
But Rosemary was cautious, 
^She said, "Beg your pardon! 
I'm really too busy 
To look down below." 



355 



Rosemary, Rosemary, 

There's a Bird in your kitchen! 

His voice is gold water, 

He says, "Pretty Poll!" 

But Rosemary heard nothing, 

Putting stitch after stitch in 

The dress of a daughter, 

Her thirty-sixth doll. 

Rosemary, Rosemary, 
A silver-ringed Rabbit! 
He bridles and gentles 
And wants you astride! 
"I prefer," said Rosemary, 
"To ride a Good Habit." 
She went buying black lentils- 
She did till she died. 



A NONSENSE SONG 

ROSEMARY, Rosemary, let down your hair! 

The cow's in the hammock, the crow's in the chair! 

I was making you songs out of sawdust and silk, 

But they came in to call and they spilt them like milk. 

The cat's in the coffee, the wind's in the east, 
He screams like a peacock and whines like a priest 
And the saw of his voice makes my blood turn to mice 
So let down your long hair and shut off his advice! 

Pluck out the thin hairpins and let the waves stream, 
Brown-gold as brook-waters that dance through a dream, 
Gentle-curie^ as young cloudlings, sweet-fragrant as bay 
Till it takes all the fierceness of living away. 

Oh, when you are with me, my heart is white steel. 
But the bat's in the belfry, the mold's in the meal, 
And I think I hear skeletons climbing the stair! 
Rosemary, Rosemary, let down your bright hair! 



356 



TO ROSEMARY, ON THE METHODS BY 

WHICH SHE MIGHT BECOME 

AN ANGEL 

NOT where the sober sisters, grave as willows, 
Walk like old twilights by the jasper sea, 
Nor where the plump hunt of cherubs holly-hilloes 
Chasing their ruddy fox, the sun, you'll be! 

Not with the stained-glass prophets, bearded grimly, 
Not with the fledgling saved, meek Wisdom's lot, 
Kissing a silver book that glimmers dimly, 
For acolytes are mild and you are not. 

They'll give you a curled tuba, tall as Rumor, 
They'll sit you on a puff of Autumn cloud, 
Gilded-fantastic as your scorn and humor 
And let you blow that tuba much too loud. 

Against the unceasing chant to sinless Zion, 
Three impudent seraph notes, three starry coals, 
Sweet as wild grass and happy as a lion 
And all the saints will throw you aureoles. 



EVENING AND MORNING 

OVER the roof, like burnished men, 

The stars tramp high. 

You blink the fire blinks back again 

With a cock's red eye. 

Lay your book away to doze, 

Say your silly prayers, 

See that nothing grabs your toes 

And run upstairs! 

Sandman eyes and heavy head, 
Sleep comes soon, 
Pouring on your quiet bed 
The great, cool moon. 

357 



Nod's green wheel of moss turns round, 
Dripping dreams and peace, 
Gentle as a pigeon's sound, 
Soft as fleece. 

Think of warm sheep shuffling home, 

Stones sunk deep, 

Bees inside a honeycomb 

SleepSleep. 

Smile as when young Una smiled, 

Hard and sweet and gay, 

Bitter saint, fantastic child, 

Fold your wings away. 

Dawn, the owl, is fluttering 

At Day's bright bars. 

Night, the lame man, puttering, 

Puffs out the stars. 

Wake! and hear an airy shout 

Crack the egg of cloud, 

And see the golden bird creep out, 

Ruffling and proud. 



IN A GLASS OF WATER BEFORE 
RETIRING 

Now the day 
Burns away. 
Most austere 
Night is here 
Time for sleep. 

And, to sleep, 
If you please, 
For release 
Into peace, 
Think of these. 

Snails that creep, 
Silver-slow; 

358 



Streams that flow, 
Murmuring, 
Murmuring; 
Bells that chime, 
Sweet clear c-o-o-1; 
Of a pool 
Hushed so still 
Stars drowse there, 
Sleepy-fair; 
Of a hill 

Drenched with night, 
Drowned with moon's 
Lovely light; 
Of soft tunes, 
Played so slow, 
Kind and low, 
You sink down, 
Into down, 
Into rest, 

Into the perfect whiteness, 
The drowsy, drowsy lightness, 
The warm, clean, sleepy feathers of a 
slumbering bird's white breast. 



LEGEND 

THE trees were sugared like wedding-cake 
With a bright hoar frost, with a very cold snow, 
When we went begging for Jesus' sake, 
Penniless children, years ago. 

Diamond weather but nothing to eat 

In that fine, bleak bubble of earth and skies. 

Nothing alive in the windy street 

But two young children with hungry eyes. 

"We must go begging or we will die. 
I would sell my soul for an apple-core!" 
So we went mendicant, you and I, 
Knock-knock-knock at each snow-choked door. 

359 



Knock-knock-knock till our fingers froze. 
Nobody even replied, "Good day!", 
Only the magistrate, toasting his toes, 
Howled at us sleepily, "Go away!" 

"Rosemary dear, what shall we do?" 
"Stephen, I know not. Beseech some saint! 
My nose has turned to an icicle blue, 
And my belly within me is very faint." 

"If there be saints, they are fast asleep, 
Lounging in Heaven, in wraps of feather." 
"Talk not so, or my eyes will weep 
Till the ice-tears rattle and clink together." 

"Saints are many on which shall I call? 
He must be kindly, without constraint." 
"I think you had better pray to Saint Paul. 
I have heard people call him a neighborly saint." 

Down he flopped on his cold, bare knees 
Breath that smoked in the bitter air- 
Crossing his body with hands afreeze, 
He sought Saint Paul in a vehement prayer. 

Scarce had these shiverers piped, "Amen," 
Cheeping like fledglings, crying for bread, 
When good Saint Paul appeared to them then, 
With ai wide gold halo around his head. 

He waved his episcopal hand, and smiled, 
And the ground was spread like a banquet-table! 
"Here is much good food for each hungry child, 
And I hoge you will eat as long as you're able. 

"Here are good, thick cloaks for your ragged backs, 
And strong, warm boots for your feet," said he, 
"And for Stephen, gloves and a little axe, 
And a little fur muff for Rosemary." 

They thanked him humbly, saying a Pater, 
Before they had touched a morsel even, 

360 



But he said, "Your thanks are for One far greater" 
And pointed his right arm up at Heaven. 

"For you are the sparrows around God's door, 
He will lift you up like His own great banner. 
But the folk who made you suffer so sore- 
He shall deal with them in another manner. 

"It is His own will to transport those folk 
To a region of infinite ice and snow." 
And his breath was a taper of incense-smoke, 
And he lifted a finger and it was so. 

And the folk were gone and the saint was fled 
And we stared and stared at the wintry land. 
And in front of us there was a banquet spread. 
And a little fur muff on Rosemary's hand. 



DULCE RIDENTEM 

THE bee, he has white honey, 
The Sunday child her muff, 
The rich man lots of money 
Though never quite enough, 
The apple has a Springtime smell, 
The star-fields silver grain, 
But I have youth, the cockleshell, 
And the sweet laugh of Jane. 

The lark's tune goes so clearly 

But Jane's is clear wells. 

The cuckoo's voice currs cheerly, 

But Jane's is new bells. 

Whether she chuckles like a dove, 

Or laughs like April rain, 

It is her heart and hands and love, 

The moth-wing soul of Jane. 



ALL NIGHT LONG 

WE WERE in bed by nine, but she did not hear the clock, 
She lay in her quiet first sleep, soft-breathing, head by her arm, 
And the rising, radiant moon spilled silver out of its crock 
On her hair and forehead and eyes as we rested, gentle and warm. 

All night long it remained, that calm, compassionate sheet, 
All the long night it wrapped us in whiteness like ermine-fur, 
I did not sleep all the night, but lay, with wings on my feet, 
Still, the cool at my lips, seeing her, worshipping her. 

Oh, the bright sparks of dawn when day broke, burning and 

wild! 

Oh, the first waking glance from her sleepy, beautiful eyes! 
With a heart and a mind newborn as a naked, young, golden 

child, 
I took her into my arms. We saw the morning arise! 



DAYS PASS: MEN PASS 

WHEN, like all liberal girls and boys, 
We too get rid of sight 
The juggler with his painted toys 
The elf and her delight- 
In the cool place where jests are few 
And there's no time to weep 
For all the untamed hearts we knew 
Creeping like moths to sleep. 

This eagerness that burns us yet 
Will rot like summer snow, 
And we'll forget as winds forget 
When they have ceased to blow. 

Oh, we'll grow sleepy, lacking mirth! 
But there will still endure 
Somewhere, like innocence and earth, 
The things your wish made pure. 



Wide moonlight on a harvest dew, 
White silk, too dear to touch, 
These will be you and always you 
When I am nothing much. 

The flowers with the hardy eyes, 
The bread that feeds the gods, 
These will be you till Last Assize 
When I'm improper sods. 

Oh dear immortal, while you can, 
Commit one mortal sin. 
And let me love you like a man 
Till Judgment Day comes in! 



ILLA 



THIS is only the shadow of what she was once; 
The rest is Honor's. 

Nevertheless, O Death, be humble in claiming 
Even that shadow. 



HANDS 

MY WIFE'S hands are long and thin, 

Fit to catch a spirit in, 

Fit to set a subtle snare 

For something lighter than the air. 

My brother's hands are long and fine, 
Good at verse and pouring wine, 
Good to spend and bad to hoard 
And good to hold a singing sword. 

My own hands are short and blunt 

Being children of affront, 

Base mechanics at the most 

That have sometimes touched a ghost. 

363 



I ask between the running sands, 
A blessing upon four hands, 
And for mine an iron stake 
They can do their best to break. 

Now God the Son and God the Sire 
And God the triple-handed fire, 
Make these blessings come to be 
Out of your civility 
For four hands of courtesy. 

Amen. 

MEMORY 

They can have the names and the dates, 
It will do them little service. 
They can open the locked chest 
And steal the wine and the gold. 
There is nothing to be said 
But this the clasp of her body 
Was better than milk to the child 
Or wisdom to the old. 

We die with our first breath. 
And, if we die, what matter? 
There was a ghost in the flesh, 
A ghost that went and came. 
Though the moon burn like a lamp 
It will not be that brightness 
I said her name in my sleep, 
Waking, I said her name. 



364 



BALLADS ANP TALES 



Ballads and Tales 



AMERICAN NAMES 

I HAVE fallen in love with American names, 
The sharp names that never get fat, 
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims, 
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat, 
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat. 

Seine and Piave are silver spoons, 
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn, 
There are English counties like hunting-tunes 
Played on the keys of a postboy's horn, 
But I will remember where I was born. 

I will remember Carquinez Straits, 
Little French Lick and Lundy's Lane, 
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates 
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane. 
I will remember Skunktown Plain. 

I will fall in love with a Salem tree 
And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz, 
I will get me a bottle of Boston sea 
And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues. 
I am tired of loving a foreign muse. 

Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard, 
Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman's Oast, 
It is a magic ghost you guard 
But I am sick for a newer ghost, 
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post. 



367 



Henry and John were never so 

And Henry and John were always right? 

Granted, but when it was time to go 

And the tea and the laurels had stood all night, 

Did they never watch for Nantucket Light? 

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse. 
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea. 
You may bury my body in Sussex grass, 
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy. 
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass. 
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee. 



THE BALLAD OF WILLIAM SYCAMORE 

(1790-1871) 

MY FATHER, he was a mountaineer, 

His fist was a knotty hammer; 

He was quick on his feet as a running deer, 

And he spoke with a Yankee stammer. 

My mother, she was merry and brave, 
And so she came to her labor, 
With a tall green fir for her doctor grave 
And a stream for her comforting neighbor. 

And some are wrapped in the linen fine, 
And some like a godling's scion; 
But I was cradled on twigs of pine 
In the skin of a mountain lion. 

And some remember a white, starched lap 
And a ewer with silver handles; 
But I remember a coonskin cap 
And the smell of bayberry candles. 

The cabin logs, with the bark still rough, 
And my mother who laughed at trifles, 
And the tall, lank visitors, brown as snuff, 
With their long, straight squirrel-rifles. 

368 



I can hear them dance, like a foggy song, 
Through the deepest one of my slumbers, 
The fiddle squeaking the boots along 
And my father calling the numbers. 

The quick feet shaking the puncheon-floor, 
And the fiddle squealing and squealing, 
Till the dried herbs rattled above the door 
And the dust went up to the ceiling. 

There are children lucky from dawn till dusk, 

But never a child so lucky! 

For I cut my teeth on "Money Musk" 

In the Bloody Ground of Kentucky! 

When I grew tall as the Indian corn, 
My father had little to lend me, 
But he gave me his great, old powder-horn 
And his woodsman's skill to befriend me. 

With a leather shirt to cover my back, 
And a redskin nose to unravel 
Each forest sign, I carried my pack 
As far as a scout could travel 



Till I lost my boyhood arid found my wife, 
A girl like a Salem clipper! 
A woman straight as a hunting-knife 
With eyes as bright as the Dipper! 

We cleared our camp where the buffalo feed, 
Unheard-of streams were our flagons; 
And I sowed my sons like the apple-seed 
On the trail of the Western wagons. 

They were right, tight boys, never sulky or slow, 
A fruitful, a goodly muster. 
The eldest died at the Alamo. 
The youngest fell with Custer. 

The letter that told it burned my hand. 
Yet we smiled and said, "So be it!" 

369 



But I could not live when they fenced the land, 
For it broke my heart to see it. 

I saddled a red, unbroken colt 

And rode him into the day there; 

And he threw me down like a thunderbolt 

And rolled on me as I lay there. 

The hunter's whistle hummed in my ear 
As the city-men tried to move me, 
And I died in my boots like a pioneer 
With the whole wide sky above me. 

Now I lie in the heart of the fat, black soil, 
Like the seed of a prairie-thistle; 
It has washed my bones with honey and oil 
And picked them clean as a whistle. 

And my youth returns, like the rains of Spring, 
And my sons, like the wild-geese flying; 
And I lie and hear the meadow-lark sing 
And have much content in my dying. 

Go play with the towns you have built of blocks, 
The towns where you would have bound 
I sleep in my earth like a tired fox, 
And my buffalo have found me. 



370 



THE HEMP 

I. The Planting of the Hemp 

CAPTAIN HAWK scourged clean the seas 
(Black is the gap below the pldnk) 
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees. 
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank.) 

His fear was on the seaport towns, 

The weight of his hand held hard the downs. 

And the merchants cursed him, bitter and black, 

For a red flame in the sea-fog's wrack 

Was all of their ships that might come back. 

For all he had one word alone. 

One clod of dirt in their faces thrown, 

"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!" 

His name bestrode the seas like Death, 
The waters trembled at his breath. 

This is the tale of how he fell, 

Of the long sweep and the heavy swell, 

And the rope that dragged him down to hell. 

The fight was done, and the gutted ship, 
Stripped like a shark the sea-gulls strip, 

Lurched blindly, eaten out with flame, 
Back to the land from whence she came, 
A skimming horror, an eyeless shame. 

And Hawk stood up on his quarter-deck, 
And saw the sky and saw the wreck. 

Below, a butt for sailors' jeers, 

White as the sky when a white squall nears, 

Huddled the crowd of the prisoners. 

Over the bridge of the tottering plank, 

Where the sea shook and the gulf yawned blank, 

They shrieked and struggled and dropped and sank. 



Pinioned arms and hands bound fast. 
One girl alone was left at last. 

Sir Henry Gaunt was a mighty lord. 
He sat in state at the Council board. 

The governors were as naught to him. 
From one rim to the other rim 
Of his great plantations, flung out wide 
Like a purple cloak, was a full month's ride. 

Life and death in his white hands lay, 
And his only daughter stood at bay, 
Trapped like a hare in the toils that day. 

He sat at wine in his gold and his lace, 

And far away, in a bloody place, 

Hawk came near, and she covered her face. 

He rode in the fields, and the hunt was brave, 
And far away, his daughter gave 
A shriek that the seas cried out to hear, 
And he could not see and he could not save. 

Her white soul withered in the mire 

As paper shrivels up in fire, 

And Hawk laughed, and he kissed her mouth, 

And her body he took for his desire. 



77. The Growing of the Hemp 

Sir Henry stood in the manor room, 

And his eyes were hard gems in the gloom. 

And he said, "Go, dig me furrows five 
Where the green .marsh creeps like a thing alive- 
There at its edge where the rushes thrive." 

And where the furrows rent the ground 
He sowed the seed of hemp around. 

And the blacks shrink back and are sore afraid 
At the furrows five that rib the glade, 
And the voodoo work of the master's spade. 

372 



For a cold wind blows from the marshland near, 
And white things move, and the night grows drear, 
And they chatter and crouch and are sick with fear. 

But down by the marsh, where the grey slttves glean, 
The hemp sprouts up, and the earth is seen 
Veiled with a tenuous mist of green. 

And Hawk still scourges the Caribbees, 
And many men kneel at his knees. 

Sir Henry sits in his house alone, 

And his eyes are hard and dull like stone. 

And the waves beat, and the winds roar, 
And all things are as they were before. 

And the days pass, and the weeks pass, 
And nothing changes but the grass. 

But down where the fireflies are like eyes, 
And the damps shudder, and the mists rise, 
The hemp-stalks stand up toward the skies. 

And down from the poop of the pirate ship 
A body falls, and the great sharks grip. 

Innocent, lovely, go in gnace! 

At last there is peace upon your face. 

And Hawk laughs loud as the corpse is thrown, 
"The hemp that shall hang me is not grown!" 

Sir Henry's face is iron to mark, 
And he gazes ever in the dark. 

And the days pass, and the weeks pass, 
And the world is as it always was. 

But down by the marsh the sickles beam, 

Glitter on glitter, gleam on gleam. 

And the hemp falls down by the stagnant stream. 

And Hawk beats up from the Caribbees, 
Swooping to pounce in the Northern seas. 

373 



Sir Henry sits sunk deep in his chair, 
And white as his hand is grown his hair. 

And the days pass, and the weeks pass, 
And the sands roll from the hourglass. 

But down by the marsh, in the blazing sun, 
The hemp is smoothed and twisted and spun. 
The rope made, and the work done. 



111. The Using of the Hemp 

Captain Hawk scourged clean the seas, 
(Black is the gap below the plank) 
From the Great North Bank to the Caribbees. 
(Down by the marsh the hemp grows rank.) 

He sailed in the broad Atlantic track 

And the ships that saw him came not back. 

Till once again, where the wide tides ran, 
He stopped to harry a merchantman. 

He bade her stop. Ten guns spoke true 
From her hidden ports, and a hidden crew, 
Lacking his great ship through and through. 

Dazed and dumb with the sudden death, 
He scarce had time to draw a breath 

Before the grappling-irons bit deep 

And the boarders slew his crew like sheep. 

Hawk stood up straight, his breast to the steel; 
His cutlass made a bloody wheel. 

His cutlass made a 'wheel of flame. 
They shrank before him as he came. 

And the bodies fell in a choking crowd, 
And still he thundered out aloud, 

374 



hemp that shall hang me is not grown!" 
They fled at last. He was left alone. 

Before his foe Sir Henry stood. 

"The hemp is grown and my word made good! " 

And the cutlass clanged with a hissing whir 
On the lashing blade of the rapier. 

Hawk roared and charged like a maddened buck. 
As the cobra strikes, Sir Henry struck, 

Pouring his life in a single thrust, 

And the cutlass shivered to sparks and dust. 

Sir Henry stood on the blood-stained deck, 
And set his foot on his foe's neck. 

Then, from the hatch, where the torn decks slope, 
Where the dead roll and the wounded grope, 
He dragged the serpent of the rope. 

The sky was blue and the sea was still, 
The waves lapped softly, hill on hill, 
And between one wave and another wave 
The doomed man's cries were little and shrill. 

The sea was blue and the sky was calm, 
The air dripped with a golden balm. 
Like a wind-blown fruit between sea and sun, 
A black thing writhed at a yard-arm. 

Slowly then, and awesomely, 
The ship sank, and the gallows-tree, 
And there was nought between sea and sun- 
Nought but the sun and the sky and the sea. 

But doim by the marsh, wher& the fever breeds, 
Only the water chuckles and pleads; 
For the hemp clings fast to a dead marts throat, 
And blind Fate gathers back her seeds. 



375 



THE MOUNTAIN WHIPPOORWILL 

OR, HOW HILL-BILLY JIM WON THE GREAT FIDDLERS* PRIZE 

(A Georgia Romance) 

UP IN the mountains, it's lonesome all the time, 
(Sof win' slewin' thu' the sweet-potato vine). 

Up in the mountains, it's lonesome for a child, 
(Whippoorwills a-callin' when the sap runs wild). 

Up in the mountains, mountains in the fog, 
Everything as lazy as an old houn' dog. 

Born in the mountains, never raised a pet, 
Don't want nuthin' an' never got it yet. 

Born in the mountains, lonesome-born, 

Raised runnin' ragged thu' the cockleburrs and corn. 

Never knew my pappy, mebbe never should. 
Think he was a fiddle made of mountain laurel-wood. 

Never had a mammy to teach me pretty-please. 
Think she was a whippoorwill, a-skitin' thu' the trees. 

Never had a brother ner a whole pair of pants, 

But when I start to fiddle, why, yuh got to start to dance! 

Listen to my fiddle Kingdom ComeKingdom Come! 
Hear the frogs a-chunkirf "Jug d* rum, Jug 0' niw!" 
Hear that mountain-vohippoorivill be lonesome in the air. 
An* ril tell yuh hoiv I traveled to the Essex County Fair. 

Essex County has a mighty pretty fair, 

All the smarty fiddlers from the South come there. 

Elbows flyin' as they rosin up the bow 

For the First Prize Contest in the Georgia Fiddlers' Show. 

37 6 



Old Dan Wheeling, with his whiskers in his ears, 
King-pin fiddler for nearly twenty years. 

Big Tom Sargent, with his blue wall-eye, 

An' Little Jimmy Weezer that can make a fiddle cry. 

All sittirf rouri, spittitf high an* struttir? proud, 
(Listen, little whippoorwill, yuh better bug yore eyes!) 
Tun-a-tun-a-tmirt while the jedges told the crowd 
Them that got the wostest claps' d win the bestest prize. 

Everybody waitin* for the first tweedle-dee, 
When in comes a-stumblin' hill-billy me! 

Bowed right pretty to the jedges an' the rest, 
Took a silver dollar from a hole inside my vest, 

Plunked it on the table an' said, "There's my callin' card! 
An' anyone that licks me well, he's got to nddle hard!" 

Old Dan Wheeling, he was laughin' fit to holler, 
Little Jimmy Weezer said, ''There's one dead dollar!" 

Big Tom Sargent had a yaller-toothy grin, 

But I tucked my little whippoorwill spang underneath my chin, 

An' petted it an' tuned it till the jedges said, "Begin!" 

Big Tom Sargent was the first in line; 

He could fiddle all the bugs off a sweet-potato vine. 

He could fiddle down a possum from a mile-high tree. 
He could fiddle up a whale from the bottom of the sea. 

Yuh could hear hands spankin' till they spanked each other raw, 
When he finished variations on "Turkey in the Straw." 

Little Jimmy Weezer was the next to play; 

He could fiddle all night, he could fiddle all day. 

He could fiddle chills, he could fiddle fever, 
He could make a fiddle rustle like a lowland river. 

377 



He could make a fiddle croon like a lovin' woman. 

An* they clapped like thunder when he'd finished strummin'. 

Then came the ruck of the bob-tailed fiddlers, 
The let's go-easies, the fair-to-middlers. 

They got their claps an' they lost their bicker, 
An' settled back for some more corn-licker. 

An' the crowd was tired of their no-count squealing, 
When out in the center steps Old Dan Wheeling. 

He fiddled high and he fiddled low, 

(Listen, little whippoorwill; yuh got to spread yore wings!) 

tie fiddled with a cherrywood bow. 

(Old Dan Wheelings got bee-honey in his strings.) 

He fiddled the wind by the lonesome moon, 
He fiddled a most almighty tune. 

He started fiddling like a ghost, 
He ended fiddling like a host. 

He fiddled north an' he fiddled south, 

He fiddled the heart right out of yore mouth. 

He fiddled here an' he fiddled there. 
He fiddled salvation everywhere. 

When he was finished, the crowd cut loose, 
(W hippo orwill, they's rain on yore breast.) 
Arf I sat there wondering "What's the use?" 
(Whippoorwill, fly home to yore nest.) 

But I stood up pert an' I took my bow, 
An' my fiddle went to my shoulder, so. 

An' they wasn't no crowd to get me fazed 
But I was alone where I was raised. 

\ 

Up in the mountains, so still it makes yuh skeered. 
Where God lies sleepin' in his big white beard. 

378 



An" I heard the sound of the squirrel in the pine, 
An' I heard the earth a-breathin' thu' the long night-i 



time. 



They've fiddled the rose, an' they've fiddled the thorn, 
But they haven't fiddled the mountain-corn. 

They've fiddled sinful an' fiddled moral, 

But they haven't fiddled the breshwood-laurel. 

They've fiddled loud, an' they've fiddled still, 
But they haven't fiddled the whippoorwill. 

I started off with a dump-diddle-dump, 
(Oh, keifs broke loose in Georgia!) 
Skunk-cabbage growin' by the bee-gum stump, 
(Whippoorwill, yo're singitf now!) 

Oh, Georgia booze is mighty fine booze, 
The best yuh ever poured yuh, 
But it eats the soles right offen yore shoes, 
For Hell's broke loose in Georgia. 

My mother was a whippoorwill pert, 
My father, he was lazy, 
But I'm Hell broke loose in a n^w store shirt 
To fiddle all Georgia crazy. 

Swing yore partners up an' down the middle! 

Sashay nowoh, listen to that fiddle! 

Flapjacks flippin' on a red-hot griddle, 

An' hell broke loose, 

Hell broke loose, 

Fire on the mountains snakes in the grass. 

Satan's here a-bilin' oh, Lordy, let him pass! 

Go down Moses, set my people free, 

Pop goes the weasel thu' the old Red Sea! 

Jonah sittin' on a hickory-bough, 

Up jumps a whale an' where's yore prophet now? 

Rabbit in the pea-patch, possum in the pot, 

Try an' stop my fiddle, now my fiddle's gettin' hot! 

Whippoorwill, singin' thu' the mountain hush, 

Whippoorwill, shoutin' from the burnin' bush, 

379 



Whippoorwill, cryin' in the stable-door, 

Sing to-night as yuh never sang before! 

Hell's broke loose like a stompin' mountain-shoat, 

Sing till yuh bust the gold in yore throat! 

Hell's broke loose for forty miles aroun' 

Bound to stop yore music if yuh don't sing it down. 

Sing on the mountains, little whippoorwill, 

Sing to the valleys, an' slap 'em with a hill, 

For I'm struttin' high as an eagle's quill, 

An' Hell's broke loose, 

Hell's broke loose, 

Hell's broke loose in Georgia! 

They wasn't a sound when I stopped bowin', 
(Whippoorwill^ yuh can sing no more.) 
But, somewhere or other, the dawn was growing 
(Oh, mountain whippoorwill!) 

An' I thought, "I've fiddled all night an' lost. 
Yo're a good hill-billy, but yuh've been bossed.* 

So I went to congratulate old man Dan, 
But he put his fiddle into my han' 
An' then the noise of the crowd began. 



KING DAVID 



DAVID sang to his hook-nosed harp: 
"The Lord God is a jealous God! 
His violent vengeance is swift and sharp! 
And the Lord is King above all gods! 

"Blest be the Lord, through years untold, 
The j^ord Who has blessed me a thousand fold! 

"Cattle and concubines, corn and hives 
Enough to last me a dozen lives. 

"Plump, good women with noses flat, 
Marrowful blessings, weighty and fat. 

380 



"I wax in His peace like a pious gourd, 
The Lord God is a pleasant God, 
Break mine enemy's jaw, O Lord! 
For the Lord is King above all gods!" 

His hand dropped slack from the tunable strings, 
A sorrow came on hima sorrow of kings. 

A sorrow sat on the arm of his throne, 
An eagle sorrow with claws of stone. 

"I am merry, yes, when I am not thinking, 
But life is nothing but eating and drinking. 

"I can shape my psalms like daggers of jade, 
But they do not shine like the first I made. 

"I can harry the heathen from North to South, 
But no hot taste comes into my mouth. 

"My wives are comely as long-haired goats, 
But I would not care if they cut their throats! 

"Where are the maids of the desert tents 
With lips like flagons of frankincense? 

"Where is Jonathan? Where is Saul? 
The captain-towers of Zion wall? 

"The trees of cedar, the hills of Nod, 
The kings, the running lions of God? 

"Their words were a writing in golden dust, 
Their names are myrrh in the mouths of the just. 

"The sword of the slayer could never divide them- 
Would God I had died in battle beside them!" 

The Lord looked down from a thunder-clap. 
(The Lord God is a crafty God.) 
He heard the strings of the shrewd harp snap. 
(The Lord Who is King above all gods.) 



He pricked the king with an airy thorn, 
It burnt in his body like grapes of scorn. 

The eyelids roused that had drooped like lead. 
David lifted his heavy head. 

The thorn stung at him, a fiery bee, 

"The world is wide. I will go and see 

From the roof of my haughty palace," said he. 



Bathsheba bathed on her vine-decked roof. 
(The Lord God is a mighty God.) 
Her body glittered like mail of proof. 
(And the Lord is King above all gods.) 

Her body shimmered, tender and white 
As the flesh of aloes in candlelight. 

King David forgot to be old or wise. 
He spied on her bathing with sultry eyes. 

A breath of spice came into his nose. 

He said, "Her breasts are like two young roes." 

His eyes were bright with a crafty gleam. 
He thought, "Her body is soft as cream." 

He straightened himself like an unbent bow 
And called a servant and bade him go. 



Uriah the Hittite came to his lord, 
Dusty with war as a well-used sword. 

A close, trim man like a belt, well-buckled; 
A jealous gentleman, hard to cuckold. 

David entreated him, soft and bland, 
Offered him comfits from his own hand. 

382 



Drank with him deep till his eyes grew red, 
And laughed in his beard as he went to bed. 

The days slipped by without hurry or strife, 
Like apple-parings under a knife, 
And still Uriah kept from his wife. 

Lean fear tittered through David's psalm, 
"This merry husband is far too calm." 

David sent for Uriah then, 

They greeted each other like pious men. 

"Thou hast borne the battle, the dust and the heat. 
Go down to thy house and wash thy feet! " 

Uriah frowned at the words of the king. 
His brisk, hard voice had a leaden ring. 

"While the hosts of God still camp in the field 
My house to me is a garden sealed. 

"How shall I rest while the arrow yet flies? 
The dust of the war is still in my eyes." 

David spoke with his lion's roar: 

"If Peace be a bridle that rubs you sore, 

You shall fill your belly with blood and war!" 

Uriah departed, calling him kind. 

His eyes were serpents in David's mind. 

He summoned a captain, a pliable man, 
"Uriah the Hittite shall lead the van. 

"In the next assault, when the fight roars high, 
And the Lord God is a hostile God, 
Retire from Uriah that he may die. 
the Lord is King above all gods." 



The messenger came while King David played 
The friskiest ditty ever made. 

383 



"News, O King, from our dubious war! 
The Lord of Hosts hath prevailed once more! 

"His foes are scattered like chirping sparrows, 
Their kings lie breathless, feathered with arrows. 

"Many are dead of your captains tall. 
Uriah the Hittite was first to fall." 

David turned from the frolicsome strings 
And rent his clothes for the death of kings. 

Yet, as he rent them, he smiled for joy. 
The sly, wide smile of a wicked boy. 

"The powerful grace of the Lord prevails! 
He has cracked Uriah between His nails! 

"His blessings are mighty, they shall not cease. 
And my days henceforth shall be days of peace!" 

His mind grew tranquil, smoother than fleece. 

He rubbed his body with scented grease. 

And his days thenceforward were days of peace. 

His days were fair as the flowering lime 
For a little time, for a little time. 

And Bathsheba lay in his breast like a dove, 
A vessel of amber, made for love. 



When Bathsheba was great with child, 
(The Lord God is a jealous God!) 
Portly and meek as a moon grown mild, 
(The Lord is King above all gods!) 

Nathan, the prophet, wry and dying, 
Preached to the king like a locust crying: 

"Hearken awhile to a doleful thing! 
There were two men in thy land, O King! 

384 



"One was rich as a gilded ram. 

One had one treasure, a poor ewe-lamb. 

"Rich man wasted his wealth like spittle. 
Poor man shared with his lamb spare victual. 

"A traveler came to the rich man's door. 
'Give me to eat, for I hunger sore!' 

"Rich man feasted him fatly, true, 

But the meat that he gave him was fiend's meat, too, 

Stolen and roasted, the poor man's ewe! 

"Hearken, my lord, to a deadly thing! 

What shall be done with these men, O King?" 

David hearkened, seeing it plain, 

His heart grew heavy with angry pain: 

"Show me the rich man that he be slain!" 

Nathan barked as a jackal can. 

"Just, O King! And thou art the man!" 

David rose as the thunders rise 

When someone in Heaven is telling lies. 

But his eyes were weaker than Nathan's eyes. 

His huge bulk shivered like quaking sod, 
Shoulders bowing to Nathan's rod, 
Nathan, the bitter apple of God. 

His great voice shook like a runner's, spent, 
"My sin has found me! Oh, I repent!" 

Answered Nathan, that talkative Jew: 
"For many great services, comely and true, 
The Lord of Mercy will pardon you. 

"But the child in Bathsheba, come of your seed, 
Shall sicken and die like a blasted weed." 

David groaned when he heard him speak. 
The painful tears ran hot on his cheek. 

385 



Ashes he cast on his kingly locks. 
All night long he lay on the rocks. 

Beseeching his Lord with a howling cry: 
"O Lord God, O my jealous God, 
Be kind to the child that it may not die, 
For Thou art King above all gods! " 



Seven long nights he lay there, howling, 
A lion wounded, moaning and growling. 

Seven long midnights, sorrowing greatly, 

While Sin, like a dead man, embraced him straitly. 

Till he was abased from his lust and pride 
And the child was born and sickened and died. 

He arose at last. It was ruddy Day. 
And his sin like water had washed away. 

He cleansed and anointed, took fresh apparel, 
And worshiped the Lord in a tuneful carol. 

His servants, bearing the child to bury, 
Marveled greatly to see him so merry. 

He spoke to them mildly as mid-May weather: 
"The child and my sin are perished together. 

"He is dead, my son. Though his whole soul yearn to me, 
I must go to him, he may not return to me. 

"Why should I sorrow for what was pain? 
A cherished grief is an iron chain." 

He took up his harp, the sage old chief. 
His heart felt clean as a new green leaf. 

His soul smelt pleasant as rain-wet clover. 

"I have sinned and repented and that's all over. 

386 



"In his dealings with heathen, the Lord is hard. 
But the humble soul is his spikenard." 

His wise thoughts fluttered like doves in the air. 
"I wonder is Bathsheba still so fair? 

"Does she weep for the child that our sin made perish? 
I must comfort my ewe-lamb, comfort and cherish. 

"The justice of God is honey and balm. 
I will soothe her heart with a little psalm." 

He went to her chamber, no longer sad, 
Walking as light as a shepherd lad. 

He found her weeping, her garments rent, 
Trodden like straw by God's punishment. 
He solaced her out of his great content. 

Being but woman, a while she grieved, 

But at last she was comforted, and conceived. 

Nine months later she bore him a son. 

(The Lord God is a mighty God!) 

The name of that child was SOLOMON. 

He was God's tough staff till Tiis days were run! 

(And the Lord is King above all gods!) 



THE RETORT DISCOURTEOUS 

(Italy 1 6th Century) 

BUT what, by the fur on your satin sleeves, 
The rain that drags at my feather 
And the great Mercurius, god of thieves, 
Are we thieves doing together? 

Last night your blades bit deep for their hire, 
And we were the sickled barley. 
To-night, atoast by the common fire, 
You ask me to join your parley. 

38? 



Your spears are shining like Iceland spar, 
The blood-grapes drip for your drinking; 
For you folk follow the rising star, 
I follow the star that's sinking! 

My queen is old as the frosted whins, 
Nay, how could her wrinkles charm me? 
And the starving bones are bursting the skins 
In the ranks of her ancient army. 

You marshal a steel-and-silken troop, 

Your cressets are fed with spices, 

And you batter the world like a rolling hoop 

To the goal of your proud devices. 

I have rocked your thrones but your fight is won. 
To-night, as the highest bidder, 
You offer a share of your brigand-sun, 
Consider, old bull, consider! 

Ahead, red Death and the Fear of Death, 
Your vultures, stoop to the slaughter. 
But I shall fight you, body and breath, 
Till my life runs out like water! 

My queen is wan as the Polar snows. 
Her host is a rout of specters. 
But I gave her Youth like a burning rose, 
And her age shall not lack protectors! 

I would not turn for the thunderclap 
Or the face of the woman who bore me, 
With her battered badge still scarring my cap, 
And the drums of defeat before me. 

Roll your hands in the honey of life, 
Kneel to your white-necked strumpets! 
You came to your crowns with a squealing fife 
But I shall go out with trumpets! 

Poison the steel of the plunging dart, 
Holloa your hounds to their station! 
I march to my ruin with such a heart 
As a king to his coronation. 

388 



Your poets roar of your golden feats 
I have herded the stars like cattle. 
And you may die in the perfumed sheets, 
But I shall die in battle. 



THREE DAYS' RIDE 



"FROM Belton Castle to Solway side, 
Hard by the bridge, is three dayf ride" 

We had fled full fast from her father's keep, 
And the time was come that we must sleep. 

The first day was an ecstasy, 

A golden mist, a burgeoning -tree; 

We rode like gods through a world new-made, 

The hawthorn scented hill and glade, 

A faint, still sweetness in the air 

And, oh, her face and the wind in her hair! 

And the steady beat of our good steeds* hooves, 

Bearing us northward, strong and fast, 

To my high black tower, stark to the blast, 

Like a swimmer stripped where the Solway moves. 

And ever, riding, we chanted a song, 
Challenging Fortune, loud and long, 
"From Helton Castle to Soltvay side, 
Strive as you may, is three days' ride!" 

She slept for an hour, wrapped in my cloak, 

And I watched her till the morning broke; 

The second day and a harsher land, 

And grey bare hills on either hand; 

A surly land and a sullen folk, 

And a fog that came like bitter smoke. 

The road wound on like a twisted snake, 

And our horses sobbed as they topped the brake. 

Till we sprang to earth at Wyvern Fen, 

Where fresh steeds stamped, and were off again. 

389 



Weary and sleepless, bruised and worn, 
We still had strength for laughter and scorn; 
Love held us up through the mire and mist, 
Love fed us, while we clasped and kissed, 
And still we sang as the night closed in, 
Stealthy and slow as a hidden sin, 
"From Belton Castle to Solway side, 
Ride how you 'will, is three days' ride" 

My love drooped low on the black mare's back, 
Drowned in her hair . . . the reins went slack . . . 
Yet she could not sleep, save to dream bad dreams 
And wake all trembling, till at last 
Her golden head lay on my breast. 

At last we saw the first faint gleams 
Of day. Dawn broke. A sickly light 
Came from the withered sun a blight 
Was on the land, and poisonous mist 
Shrouded the rotting trees, unkissed 
By any wind, and black crags glared 
Like sightless, awful faces, spared 
From death to live accursed for aye. 

Dragging slow chains the hours went by. 
We rode on, drunk and drugged with sleep, 
Too deadly weary now to say 
Whether our horses kept the way 
Or nolike slaves stretched on a heap 
Of poisoned arrows. Every limb 
Shot with sharp pain; pain seemed to swim 
Like a red cloud before our eyes. . . . 

The mist broke, afid a moment showed, 

Sharp as the Devil's oxen-goad, 

The spear-points where the hot chase rode. 

Idly I watched them dance and rise 

Till white wreaths wiped them out again . . * 

My love jerked at the bridle rein; 

The black mare, dying, broke her heart 

In one swift gallop; for my part 

390 



1 dozed; and ever in my brain, 

Four hoofs of fire beat out refrain, 

A dirge to light us down to death, 

A silly rhyme that saith and saith, 

"From Eelton Castle to Solway side. 

Though great hearts break, is three days' ride!" 

The black mare staggered, reeled and fell, 

Bearing my love down ... a great bell 

Began to toll . . . and sudden fire 

Flared at me from the road, a pyre 

It seemed, to burn our bodies in ... 

And I fell down, far down, within 

The pit's mouth . . . and my brain went blind. . 

I wokea cold sun rose behind 

Black evil hillsmy love knelt near 

Beside a stream, her golden hair 

Streaming across the grass below 

The Solway eddied to and fro, 

White with fierce whirlpools . . . my love turned. 

Thank God, some hours of joy are burned 

Into the mind, and will remain, 

Fierce-blazing still, in spite of pain! 

They came behind us as we kissed, 
Stealthily from the dripping mist, * 
Her brothers and their evil band. 
They bound me fast and made me stand. 
They forced her down upon her knees. 
She did not strive or cry or call, 
But knelt there dumb before thehi all 
I could not turn away my eyes- 
There was no fear upon her face, 
Although they slew her in that place. 
The daggers rent and tore her breast 
Like dogs that snarl above a kill, 
Her proud face gazed above them still, 
Seeking rest Oh, seeking rest! 
The blood swept like a crimson dress 
Over her bosom's nakedness, 
A curtain for her weary eyes, 
A muffling-cloth to stop her sighs . . . 



And she was gone and a red thing lay 
Silent, on the trampled clay. 

Beneath my horse my feet are bound, 
My hands are bound behind my back, 
I feel the sinews start and crack 
And ever to the hoof-beats' sound, 
As we draw near the gallows-tree, 
Where I shall hang right speedily, 
A crazy tune rings in my brain, 
Four hoofs of fire tramp the refrain, 
Crashing clear o'er the roaring crowd, 
Steadily galloping, strong and loud, 
"From Belton Castle to Solway side, 
Hard by the bridge, is three days' rider 



ALEXANDER THE SIXTH DINES WITH 
THE CARDINAL OF CAPUA 



NEXT, then, the peacock, gilt 

With all its feathers. Look, what gorgeous dyes 

Flow in the eyes! 

And how deep, lustrous greens are splashed and spilt 

Along the black, that like a sea-wave's crest 

Scatters soft beauty o'er th' emblazoned breast! 

A strange fowl! But most fit 

For feasts like this, whereby I honor one 

Pure as the sun! 

Yet glowing with the fiery zeal of it! 

Some wine? Your goblet's empty? Let it foam! 

It is not often that you come to Rome. 

You like the Venice glass? 

Rippled with lines that float like women's curls, 

Neck like a girl's, 

Fierce-glowing as a chalice in the Mass? 

You start-'twas artist then, not Pope who spoke! 

Ave Maria Stella! ah, it broke! 

392 



'Tis said they break alone 

When poison writhes within. A foolish tale! 

What, you look pale? 

Caraffa, fetch a silver cup! . . . You own 

A Birth of Venus, now or so IVe heard, 

Lovely as the breast-plumage of a bird. 

Also a Dancing Faun, 
Hewn with the lithe grace of Praxiteles; 
Globed pearls to please 
A sultan; golden veils that drop like lawn- 
How happy I could be with but a tithe 
Of your possessions, fortunate one! Don't writhe 

But take these cushions here! 

Now for the fruit! Great peaches, satin-skinned, 

Rough tamarind, 

Pomegranates red as lips oh they come dear! 

But men like you we feast at any price 

A plum perhaps? They're looking rather nice. 

Fll cut the thing in half. 

There's yours! Now, with a one-side-poisoned knife 

One might snuff life 

And leave one's friend with "fool" for epitaph. 

An old trick? Truth! But when one has the itch 

For pretty things and isn't very rich. . . . 

There, eat it all or I'll 

Be angry! You feel giddy? Well, it's hot! 

This bergamot 

Take home and smell it purges blood of bile; 

And when you kiss Bianca's dimpled knee, 

Think of the poor Pope in his misery! 

Now you may kiss my ring. 

Ho there, the Cardinal's litter! You must dine 

When the new wine 

Is in, again with me hear Bice sing, 

Even admire my frescoes though they're nought ' 

Beside the calm Greek glories you have bought. 

393 



Godspeed, Sir Cardinal, 

And take a weak man's blessing! Help him there 

To the cool air! . . . 

Lucrezia here? You're ready for the ball? 

He'll die within ten hours, I suppose 

MhM! Kiss your poor old father, little rose! 



394 



The remaining poems in this section are from 
A Book of Americans 

by 
Rosemary and Stephen Vincent Ben6t. 



SOUTHERN SHIPS AND SETTLERS 

1 606- 1732 

O, where are you going, "Goodspced" and "Discovery"? 
With meek "Susan Constant" to make up the three? 
We're going to settle the wilds of Virginia, 
For gold and adventure we're crossing the sea. 

And what will you -find there? Starvation and fever. 
We'll eat of the adder and quarrel and rail. 
All but sixty shall die of the first seven hundred, 
But a nation begins with the voyage, we sail. 

O, what are you do'mg, ?ny handsome Lord Baltimore? 
Where are you sending your "Ark" and your "Dove"? 
I'm sending them over the ocean to Maryland 
To build up a refuge for people I love. 

Both Catholic and Protestant there may find harbor, 
Though I am a Catholic by creed and by prayer. 
The South is Virginia, the North is New England. 
I'll go in the middle and plant my folk there. 

O, what do you seek, "Carolina" and "Albemarle", 
Now the Stuarts are up and the Roundheads are down? 
We'll seek and we'll find, to the South of Virginia, 
A site by two rivers and name it Charles Town. 

And, in South Carolina, the cockfighting planters 
Will dance with their belles by a tropical star. 
And, in North Carolina, the sturdy Scotch-Irish 
Will prove at King's Mountain the metal they are. 

395 



O, what are you dreaming, cock-hatted James Oglethorpe? 
And who are the people you take in the "Anne"? 
They're poor English debtors whom hard laws imprison, 
And poor, distressed Protestants, fleeing a ban. 

I'll settle them pleasantly on the Savannah, 
With Germans and Highlanders, thrifty and strong. 
They shall eat Georgia peaches in huts of palmetto, 
And their land shall be fertile, their days shall be long. 

All 

We're the barques and the sailors, the bread on the waters, 

The seed that was planted and grew to be tall, 

And the South was first won by our toils and our dangers, 

So remember our journeys. Remember us all. 



COTTON MATHER 

1663-1728 

Grim Cotton Mather 
Was always seeing witches, 
Daylight, moonlight, 
They buzzed about his head, 
Pinching him and plaguing him 
With aches and pains and stitches, 
Witches in his pulpit, 
Witches by his bed. 

Nowadays, nowadays, 
We'd say that he was crazy, 
But everyone believed him 
In old Salem town 
And nineteen people 
Were hanged for Salem witches 
Because of Cotton Mather 
And his long, black gown. 

Old Cotton Mather 

Didn't die happy. 

He could preach and thunder, 

396 



He could fast and pray, 
But men began to wonder 
If there had been witches 
When he walked in the streets 
Men looked the other way. 



CAPTAIN KIDD 

I6JOP-I70I 

This person in the gaudy clothes 
Is worthy Captain Kidd. 
They say he never buried gold. 
/ think, perhaps, he did. 

They say it's all a story that 

His favorite little song 

Was "Make these lubbers walk the plank!" 

/ think, perhaps, they're wrong. 

They say he never pirated 
Beneath the Skull-and-Bones. 
He merely traveled for his health 
And spoke in soothing tones. 
In fact, you'll read in nearly all 
The newer history books 
That he was mild as cottage cheese 
-But I don't like his looks! 



FRENCH PIONEERS 

'534-*759 

New France, New Spain, New England 

Which will it be? 

Who will win the new land? 

The land across the sea? 

They came here, they toiled here, 
They broke their hearts afar, 

397 



Normandy and Brittany, 
Paris and Navarre. 

They lost here, at last here, 
It wasn't so to be. 
Let us still remember them, 
Men from oversea. 

Marquette and Joliet, 
Carrier, La Salle, 
Priest, corsair, gentleman, 
Gallants one and all. 

France was in their quick words, 
France was in their veins. 
They came here, they toiled here. 
They suffered many pains. 

Lake and river, stream and wood, 
Seigneurs and dames 
They lived here, they died here, 
They left singing names. 



THOMAS JEFFERSON 

1743-1826 

Thomas Jefferson, 
What do you say 
Under the gravestone 
Hidden away? 

"I was a giver, 
I was a molder, 
I was a builder 
With a strong shoulder." 

Six feet and over, 
Large-boned and ruddy, 
The eyes grey-hazel 
But bright with study. 

398 



The big hands clever 
With pen and fiddle 
And ready, ever, 
For any riddle. 

From buying empires 
To planting 'taters, 
From Declarations 
To trick dumb-waiters. 

"I liked the people, 

The sweat and crowd of them, 

Trusted them always 

And spoke aloud or them. 

"I liked all learning 
And wished to share it 
Abroad like pollen 
For all who merit. 

"I liked fine houses 
With Greek pilasters, 
And built them surely, 
My touch a master's. 

"I liked queer gadgets 
And secret shelves, 
And helping nations 
To rule themselves. 

"Jealous of others? 
Not always candid? 
But huge of vision 
And open-handed. 

"A wild-goose-chaser? 
Now and again, 
Build Monticello, 
You little men! 

"Design my plow, sirs, 
They use it still, 

399 



Or found my college 
At Charlottesville. 

"And still go questing 
New things and thinkers, 
And keep as busy 
As twenty tinkers. 

"While always guarding 
The people's freedom 
You need more hands, sir? 
I didn't need 'em. 

"They call you rascal? 
They called me worse. 
You'd do grand things, sir, 
But lack the purse? 

"I got no riches. 
I died a debtor. 
I died free-hearted 
And that was better. 

"For life was freakish 
But life was fervent, 
And I was always 
Life's willing servant. 

"Life, life's too weighty? 
Too long a haul, sir? 
I lived past eighty. 
I liked it all, sir." 



JOHN JAMES AUDUBON 

1780-1851 

Some men live for warlike deeds, 
Some for women's words. 
John James Audubon 
Lived to look at birds. 

400 



Pretty birds and funny birds, 
All our native fowl 
From the little cedar waxwing 
To the Great Horned Owl. 

Let the wind blow hot or cold, 
Let it rain or snow, 
Everywhere the birds went 
Audubon would go. 

Scrambling through a wilderness, 
Floating down a stream, 
All around America 
In a feathered dream. 

Thirty years of traveling, 
Pockets often bare, 
(Lucy Bakewell Audubon 
Patched them up with care). 

Followed grebe and meadowlark, 
Saw them sing and splash. 
(Lucy Bakewell Audubon 
Somehow raised the cash). 

Drew them all the way they lived 
In their habitats. 
(Lucy Bakewell Audubon 
Sometimes wondered "Cats?") 

Colored them and printed them 
In a giant book, 
"Birds of North America" 
All the world said, "Look!" 

Gave him medals and degrees, 
Called him noble names, 
Lucy Bakewell Audubon 
Kissed her queer John James. 



401 



DANIEL BOONE 

I735-I82O 

When Daniel Boone goes by, at night, 
The phantom deer arise 
And all lost, wild America 
Is burning in their eyes. 

WESTERN WAGONS 

They went with axe and rifle, when the trail was still to blaze, 
They went with wife and children, in the prairie-schooner days, 
With banjo and with frying panSusanna, don't you cry! 
For I'm off to California to get rich out there or die! 

We've broken land and cleared it, but we're tired of where we 

are. 

They say that wild Nebraska is a better place by far. 
There's gold in far Wyoming, there's black earth in loway, 
So pack up the kids and blankets, for we're moving out today! 

The cowards never started and the weak died on the road, 
And all across the continent the endless campfires glowed. 
We'd taken land and settled but a traveler passed by 
And we're going West tomorrow Lordy , never ask us why! 

We're going West tomorrow, where the promises can't fail. 

O'er the hills in legions, boys, and crowd the dusty trail! 

We shall starve and freeze and suffer. We shall die, and tame 

the lands. 
But we're going West tomorrow, with our fortune in our hands. 



4O2 



CREATURES OF EARTH 



Creatures of Earth 



THE INNOVATOR 

(A Pharaoh Speaks) 

I SAID, "Why should a pyramid 
Stand always dully on its base? 
I'll change it! Let the top be hid, 
The bottom take the apex-place!" 
And as I bade tfiey did. 

The people flocked in, scores on scores, 

To see it balance on its tip. 

They praised me with the praise that bores, 

My godlike mind on every lip. 

Until it fell, of course. 

And then they took my body out 

From my crushed palace, mad with rage, 

Well, half the town 'was wrecked, no doubt- 

Their crazy anger to assuage 

By dragging it about. 

The end? Foul birds defile my skull. 
The new king's praises fill the land. 
He clings to precept, simple, dull; 
His pyramids on bases stand. 
But Lord, how usual! 



405 



SNOWFALL 

HEAVEN is hell, if it be as they say, 

An endless day. 

A pen of terrible radiance, on whose walls 

No shadow falls, 

No sunset ever comes because no sun has ever risen, 

Where, like bewildered flies, 

Poor immortalities 

Interminably crawl, caught in a crystal prison. 

Yet, if there is but night to recompense 

Impertinence, 

How can we bear to live so long and know 

The end is so? 

Creatures that hate the dark, to utmost dark descending? 

The worm's dull enmity, 

To feel it but not see! 

To be afraid at night and know that night unending! 

There is a time when, though the sun be weak. 

It is not bleak 

With perfect and intolerable light, 

Nor has the night 

Yet put those eyes to sleep that do not wish for slumber; 

When, on the city we know, 

The pale, transmuting snow 

Falls softly, in sighing flakes, immaculate, without number. 

Whisperingly it drifts, and whisperingly 

Fills earth and sky 

With fragile petals, tranquil as a swan's 

Blanch pinions. 

And where it falls-is silence, subtle and mild. 

That silence is not cruel 

But calm as a frozen jewel, 

And clasped to its cold frail breast Earth sucks in rest like a child. 

If there can be a heaven, let it wear 

Even such an air. 

Not shamed with sun nor black without a ray, 

406 



But gently day. 

A tired street, whereon the snow falls, whitely, 

An infant, cradled in fleece, 

An ancient, drowsy with peace, 

Unutterable peace, too pure to shine too brightly. 



BAD DREAM 

OUT of the stroke, the change, 

The body locked in its death 

Like a stream locked in the ice, 

The whiteness under the cheek, 

The lips forever set 

In the look that is always strange 

Because we remember yet 

How they spoke, how the mere breath 

Was enough to make them speak. 

I saw the soul arise, 
Naked, shaped like a blade, 
Free, inhuman and bright, 
And where the body was laid 
I saw it hover. 
It had no need of eyes. 
It had forgotten the grief, 
The long pain and the brief, 
The daybreak, the burning night, 
The touch of water and light. 
These were over. 

It was free. It would not return. 
I saw its brightness spurn 
Like the heel of a fugitive 
The body it hung above, 
The body which gave it birth- 
It is this I cannot forgive. 
It is thus they answer our love 
When they are gone from the earth. 



407 



FOR ALL BLASPHEMERS 



ADAM was my grandfather, 
A tall, spoiled child, 
A red, clay tower 
In Eden, green and mild. 
He ripped the Sinful Pippin 
From its sanctimonious limb. 
Adam was my grandfather 
And I take after him. 

Noah was my uncle 

And he got dead drunk. 

There were planets in his liquor-can 

And lizards in his bunk. 

He fell into the Bottomless 

Past Hell's most shrinking star. 

Old Aunt Fate has often said 

How much alike we are. 

Lilith, she's my sweetheart 
Till my heartstrings break, 
Most of her is honey-pale 
And all of her is snake. 
Sweet as secret thievery, 
I kiss her all I can, 
While Somebody Above remarks 
"That's not a nice young man!" 

Bacchus was my brother, 

Nimrod is my friend. 

All of them have talked to me 

On how such courses end. 

Buf when His Worship takes me up 

How can I fare but well? 

For who in gaudy Hell will care? 

And I shall be in Hell. 



408 



ARCHITECTS 

MY SON has built a fortified house 

To keep his pride from the thunder, 

And his steadfast heart from the gnawing mouse 

That nibbles the roots of wonder. 

My daughter's wit has hammered and filed 
Her slight and glittering armor. 
She hides in its rings like a dragon-child, 
And nothing on earth can harm her. 

My wife has molded a coffin of lead 
From the counterfeit tears of mourners. 
She rests in it, calm as a saint long dead, 
And the Four Winds kneel at its corners. 

I have scooped my den with a crafty thumb 
In the guts of an arid acre. 
And it may not last till Kingdom Come 
But it will not cripple its maker. 

It is six feet long by three feet deep 
And some may call it narrow. 
But, when I get into it, I can keep 
The nakedness of an arrow. 



DINNER IN A QUICK LUNCH ROOM 

SOUP should be heralded with a mellow horn, 
Blowing clear notes of gold against the stars; 
Strange entrees with a jangle of glass bars 
Fantastically alive with subtle scorn; 
Fish, by a plopping, gurgling rush of waters, 
Clear, vibrant waters, beautifully austere; 
Roast, with a thunder of drums to stun the ear, 
A screaming fife, a voice from ancient slaughters! 

Over the salad let the woodwinds moan; 
Then the green silence of many watercresses; 
Dessert, a balalaika, strummed alone; 

409 



Coffee, a slow, low singing no passion stresses; 
Such are my thoughts as clang! crash! bang! I brood 
And gorge the sticky mess these fools call food! 



OPERATION 

(For J. F. C, Jr.) 

BOUND to the polished table, arm and leg, 
I lay and watched, with loud, disgusting fear, 
The army of the instruments draw near, 
Hook, saw, sleek scissor and distorted peg; 
My eyes were like a spaniel's when they beg, 
The nurses' purpose was so very clear 
. . . And though I tried to bite one in the ear 
She stayed as white and silent as an egg. 

Time, the superb physician, drew his breath, 

"I'll just remove Youth, Health and Love," he said, 

"The rest is for Consulting-Surgeon Death." 

God, how I hated that peremptory head! 

As through the ether came his sickening drawl 

"Now this won't hurt. . . . Oh, it won't hurt at all." 



THE TRAPEZE PERFORMER 

(For C. M.) 

FIERCE little bombs of gleam snap from his spangles, 
Sleek flames glow softly on his silken tights, 
The waiting- crowd blurs to crude darks and whites 
Beneath the lamps that stare like savage bangles; 
Safe in a smooth and sweeping arc he dangles 
And sees the tanbark tower like old heights 
Before careening eyes. At last he sights 
The waiting hands and sinuously untangles. 

Over the sheer abyss so deadly-near, 
He falls, like wine to its appointed cup, 

410 



Turns like a wheel of fireworks, and is mine. 
Battering hands acclaim our triumph clear. 
And steadfast muscles draw my sonnet up 
To the firm iron of the fourteenth line. 



JUDGMENT 

"HE'LL let us off with fifty years!" one said. 
And one, "I always knew that Bible lied! " 
One who was philanthropic stood aside, 
Patting his sniveling virtues on the head. 
"Yes, there may be some pain," another wheezed. 
"One rending touch to fit the soul for bliss." 
"A bare formality!" one seemed to hiss. 
And everyone was pink and fed and pleased. 

Then thunder came, and with an earthquake sound 
Shook those fat corpses from their flabby languor. 
The sky was furious with immortal anger, 
We miserable sinners hugged the ground: 
Seeing through all the torment, saying, "Yes," 
God's quiet face, serenely merciless. 



GHOSTS OF A LUNATIC ASYLUM 

HERE, where men's eyes were empty and as bright 
As the blank windows set in glaring brick, 
When the wind strengthens from the sea and night 
Drops like a fog and makes the breath come thick; 

By the deserted paths, the vacant halls, 
One may see figures, twisted shades and lean, 
Like the mad shapes that crawl an Indian screen, 
Or paunchy smears you find on prison walls. 

Turn the knob gently! There's the Thumbless Man, 
Still weaving glass and silk into a dream, 
Although the wall shows through him and the Khan 
Journeys Cathay beside a paper stream. 

411 



A Rabbit Woman chitters by the door 
Chilly the grave-smell comes from the turned sod- 
Come lift the curtain and be cold before 
The silence of the eight men who were God! 



FOR THOSE WHO ARE AS RIGHT 

AS ANY 

"Spirit, they charge you that the time is ill. 

The great wall sinks in the slime!" 

"/ am a spirit, still. 

I do not 'walk 'with the time" 

"The sky shivers, the king is a beast run wild, 
The lords are sullen and base! " 
"When the sun rose up in the East like a great child, 
I saw the gold and the face" 

"Come, draw your steel for the right, for the time wears on! 
It is only a little way to Jerusalem!' 1 
"/ have seen the floating swan 
And the lion, bloody with dawn, 
1 will make pictures of them." 

"What, lift no sword in the battle? 11 

"7 am ^wordless." 
"No cause, no cry?" 

"lamlordless." 

"/ am shadow, shadow that passes across the meadow 
And goes its way " 

"By God, against God, in our name, we will slay you, then!" 
"Slay." 

"And, when we have slain them all, we will build for men 
The city called Marvelous, the glittering town, 
And none shall be exalted or cast down 
But all at ease, all hatreds reconciled." 

"/ am air and I live. I live again and again. 
I am wind and fire. But I am not reconciled" 

412 



GIRL CHILD 

Like a flower, like a tulip, 

So fresh, so hardy, 

So slim, so hasting, 

The nose tip-tilted, 

The mouth her mother's, 

The eyes brighter 

Than rabbit's or squirrel's 

Suddenly peering 

From bough or burrow; 

All this in motion, 

Motion and swaying, 

As if all life 

Were a wave of ocean, 

As if all life 

Were the clean stalk springing 

Brightly, greenly, 

From earth unworn, 

To sway with sunlight, 

To drink clear freshets, 

Swiftly, oh, swiftly 

To swell its bubble, 

The staunch red flower 

Hardy and mortal, 

The bright flag 

On the new hill, 

Mortal, gallant, 

As a cockerel's cry. 

To this child, 
To all swift children, 
My great thanks 
For their clear honor, 
The hound running, 
The flying fire. 



4*3 



OLD MAN HOPPERGRASS 

Flesh, if you were stone or tree, 
I'd be happier with ye. 

When I was young, I slept like stone, 
When I was young, I grew like tree. 
Now I lie, abed, alone, 
And I wonder if 'tis me. 

Wake at night and ease me 
But it does not please me, 
Stick I am, sick I am, 
Apple pared to quick I am, 
Woman-nursed and queer. 
Once I had a sweet tooth, 
A sharp tooth, a neat tooth, 
Cocked my hat and winked my eye 
As the pretty girls went by, 
Pretty girls and punkin-pie 
Dear! oh, dear! 

Old man's a hoppergrass 
Kicking in the wheat. 

Can't eat his fill, 
Can't drink his will, 
Can't climb his hill, 
Can't have his Jill. 

And, when he talks sense, 
Relations say, 
"Better let Father 
Haye his way." 

A stone's a stone 
And a tree's a tree, 
But what was the sense 
Of aging me? 

It's no improvement 
That / can see. 

414 



And the night's long 
And the night-sleep brief 
And I hear the rustle 
Of the fallen leaf, 
"Old man Hoppergrass, 
Come and see! 

Well, I won't for a little, 
Not while I'm me. 

But the sun's not as hot 
As it used to be. 



THE LOST WIFE 

In the daytime, maybe, your heart's not breaking, 

For there's the sun and the sky and working 

And the neighbors to give you a word or hear you, 

But, ah, the long nights when the wind comes shaking 

The cold, black curtain, pulling and jerking, 

And no one there in the bed to be near you. 

And worse than the clods on the coffin falling 
Are the clothes in the closet that no one wears now 
And the things like hairpins you're always finding. 
And you wouldn't mind the ghost of her calling 
As much as knowing that no one cares now 
If the carpet fades when the sun gets blinding. 

I look in the houses, when twilight narrows, 
And in each a man comes back to a woman. 
The thought of that coming has spurs to ride me. 
Death, you have taken the great like sparrows, 
But she was so slight, so small, so human. 
You might have left her to lie beside me. 



415 



SPARROW 

Lord, may I be 
A sparrow in a tree. 

No ominous and splendid bird of prey 

But something that is fearful every day 

Yet keeps its small flesh full of heat and lightness. 

Pigeons are better dressed and robins stouter, 

The white owl has all winter in his whiteness 

And the blue heron is a kingly dream 

At evening, by the pale stream, 

But, even in the lion s cage, in Zoos, 

You'll find a sparrow, picking up the crumbs 

And taking life precisely as it comes 

With the black, wary eye that marks the doubter; 

Squabbling in crowds, dust-bathing in the sun, 

Small, joyous, impudent, a gutter-child 

In Lesbia's bosom or December's chill, 

Full of impertinence and hard to kill 

As Queen Anne's lace and poppies in the wheat 

1 won't pretend the fellow has a Muse 

But that he has advice, and good advice, 

All lovers know who've walked the city's street 

And wished the stones were bread. 

Peacocks are handsomer and owls more wise. 

(At least, by all repute.) 

And parrots live on flattery and fruit, 

Live to great age. The sparrow's none of these. 

The sparrow is a humorist, and dies. 

There are so many things that he is not. 

He will not tear the stag nor sweep the seas 

Nor fall, majestical, to a king's arrow. 

Yet how he lives, and how he loves in living 

Up to the dusty tip of every feather! 

How he endures oppression and the weather 

And asks for neither justice nor forgiving! 

Lord, in your mercy, let me be a sparrow! 

His rapid heart's so hot. 

And some can sing song-sparrows, so they say 

And, one thing, Lord the times are iron, now. 

Perhaps you have forgot. 

They shoot the wise and brave on every bough. 

But sparrows are the last things that get shot. 

416 



THANKS 

For these my thanks, not that I eat or sleep, 

Sweat or survive, but that at seventeen 

I could so blind myself in writing verse 

That the wall shuddered and the cry came forth 

And the numb hand that wrote was not my hand 

But a wise animal's. 

Then the exhaustion and the utter sleep. 

O flagrant and unnecessary body, 

So hard beset, so clumsy in your skill! 

For these my thanks, not that I breathe and ache f 

Talk with my kind, swim in the naked sea, 

But that the tired monster keeps the road 

And even now, even at thirty-eight, 

The metal heats, the flesh grows numb again 

And I can still go muttering down the street 

Not seeing the interminable world 

Nor the ape-faces, only the live coal. 



4^7 



COMPLAINT OF BODY, THE ASS, 
AGAINST HIS RIDER, THE SOUL 

BODY 

Well, here we go! 

I told you that the weather looked like snow. 
Why couldn't we have stayed there at the inn? 
There was good straw and barley in the bin 
And a grey jenny with a melting eye, 
Neat-hoofed and sly I rather like them sly- 
Master a trader and a man of sense. 
He likes his life and dinner. So do I. 
Sleeps warm and doesn't try to cross a pass 
A mountain-goat would balk at in his prime, 
Where the hail falls as big as Peter's Pence 
And every stone you slip on rolls a mile! 
But that's not you, of course that's not our style 
We're far too dandipratted and sublime! 
Which of us is the ass? 

Good ground, beyond the snow? 

I've heard that little song before, you know. 

Past cliff and ragged mount 

And the wind's skinning-knife, 

Far and forever far, 

The water of the fount, 

The water that is life 

And the bright star? 

Give me my water from a decent trough, 

Not dabs or ice licked out of freezing stone 

And, as for stars, why, let the stars alone, 

You'll have us both in glory soon enough! 

Alas, alack! 

I'm carrying an idiot on my back. 

I'm carrying Mr. Who to God Knows Where. 

Oh, do not fix me with that burning stare 

Of beauteous disdain! 

I'm not a colt. I know my ass's rights. 

A stall and fodder and sound sleep of nights. 

418 



One can't expect to live on sugarcane 
But what's the sense, when one grows old and stiff, 
Of scrambling up this devil-haunted cliff 
To play hot cockles with the Northern Lights? 
I'll balk, that's what I'll do! 
And all the worse for you! 
Oh, lash me if you like I know your way- 
Rake my poor sides and leave the bloody weal 
Beneath your spurring steel. 
My lungs are fire and my limbs are .lead. 

Go on ahead? I can't go on ahead. 

Desert you in your need? Nay, master, nay. 

Nay, master, nay; I grumble as I must 

And yet, as you perceive, I do go on, 

Grudging, impenitent and full of fear 

And knowing my own death. 

You have no fear because you have no breath. 

Your silver essence knows nor cold nor heat. 

Your world's beyond. My only world is here. 

(Oh, the sweet rollings in the summer dust, 

The smell of hay and thistles and the street, 

The quick life, done so soon! ) 

You'll have your guerdon wherj the journey's done. 

You'll play the hero where the wine is poured, 

You and the moon but I 

Who served you well and shall become a bone, 

Why do I live when it must be to die? 

Why should I serve and still have no reward? 



SOUL 



Your plaint is sound, yet I must rule you still 

With bridle, bit and will. 

For, without me, you are the child unborn 

And the infertile corn. 

I am not cruelty but I am he, 

Drowning in sea, who yet disdains the sea, 

And you that sea, that shore 

419 



And the brave, laboring oar, 

Little upon the main, 

That drives on reefs I know not of but does not drive in vain. 

For I'm your master but your scholar, too, 

And learn great things of you. 

And, though I shall forsake you, nothing loth, 

To grumble with the clods, 

To sleep into the stone, 

Til answer for us both 

When I stand up alone. 

For it is part as your ambassador 

i go before 

To tell the gods who sit above the show, 

How, in this world they never stoop to know, 

Under what skies, against what mortal odds, 

The dust grows noble with desire and pain, 

And that not once but every day anew. 



420 



NIGHTMARES AHD VISITANTS 



T 



Nightmares and Visitants 



NOTES TO BE LEFT IN 
A CORNERSTONE 

HIS is for you who are to come, with Time, 
And gaze upon our ruins with strange eyes. 



So, always, there were the streets and the high, clear light 
And it was a crowded island and a great city; 
They built high up in the air. 

/ have gone to the museum and seen the pictures. 

And yet shall not know this body. It was other; 
Though the first sight from the water was even so, 
The huge blocks piled, the giants standing together, 
Noble with plane and mass and the squareness of stone, 
The buildings that had skeletons like a man 
And nerves of wire in their bodies, the skyscrapers, 
Standing their island, looking toward the sea. 
But the maps and the models will not be the same. 
They cannot restore that beauty, rapid and harsh, 
That loneliness, that passion or that name. 

Yet the films were taken? 

Most carefully and well, 
But the skin is not the life but over the life. 
The live thing was a different beast, in its time, 
And sometimes, in the fall, very fair, like a knife sharpened 
On stone and sun and blue shadow. That was the time 
When girls in red hats rode down the Avenue 
On the tops of busses, their faces bright with the wind, 

4*3 



And the year began again with the first cool days. 
,\li places in that country are fair in the fall. 

You speak as if the year began with the fall. 

It was so. It began then, not with the calendar. 

It was an odd city. The fall brought us new life, 

Though there was no festival set and we did not talk of it. 

That seems to me strange. 

It was not strange, in that city. 
We had four seasons: the fall of the quick, brief steps 
Ringing on stone and the thick crowds walking fast, 
The clear sky, the rag of sunset beyond great buildings, 
The bronze flower, the resurrection of the year. 
The squirrels ran in the dry Park, burying nuts. 
The boys came from far places with cardboard suitcases. 
It is hard to describe, but the lights looked gay at night then 
And everything old and used had been put away. 
There were cheap new clothes for the clerks and the clerks' 

women. 

There was frost in the blood and anything could begin. 
The shops were slices of honeycomb full of honey, 
Full of the new, glassed honey of the year. 
It seemed a pity to die then, a great pity. 
The great beast glittered like sea-water in the sun, 
His heart beating, his lungs full of air and pride, 
And the strong shadow cutting the golden towers. 

Then the cold fell, and the winter, with grimy snow, 

With the overcoatless men with the purple hands 

Walking between two signboards in the street 

And the sign on their backs said "Winter" and the soiled papers 

Blew fretfully up and down and froze in the ice 

As the lukewarm air blew up from the grated holes. 

This lasted a long time, till the skin was dry 

And the cheeks hot with the fever and the cough sharp. 

On the cold days, the cops had faces like blue meat, 

And then there was snow and pure snow and tons of snow 

And the whole noise stopping, marvellously and slowly, 

Till you could hear the shovels scraping the stone, 

Scritch-scratch, scritch-scratch, like the digging of iron mice. 

424 



Nothing else but that sound, and the air most pure, 

Most pure, most fragrant and most innocent, 

,And, next day, the boys made dirty balls of the snow. 

This season lasted so long we were weary of it. 

We were very weary indeed when the spring came to us. 

And it came. 

I do not know how even yet, but there was a turning, 

A change, a melting, a difference, a new smell 

Though not that of any flower. 

It came from both 

Rivers, I think, or across them. It sneaked in 
On a market truck, a girl in a yellow hat 
With a pinched, live face and a bunch of ten-cent narcissus 
And the sky was soft and it was easy to dream. 
You could count the spring on your fingers, but it came. 
Ah, brief it was in that city, but good for love! 
The boys got their stick-bats out then, the youths and girls 
Talked hoarsely under street lamps, late in the night. 

And then it was tiger-summer and the first heat, 
The first thunder, the first black pile of aching cloud, 
The big warm drops of rain that spatter the dust 
And the ripping cloth of lightning. 

Those were the hot 

Nights when the poor lay out on- the fire-escapes 
And the child cried thinly and endlessly. Many streets 
Woke very late in the night, then. 
And barbarously the negro night bestrode 
The city with great gold rings in his ears 
And his strong body glistening with heat. 
He had, I think, a phial in one hand 
And from it took a syringe, dry as dust, 
To dope tired bodies with uneasy sleep. 
The backs of my hands are sweating with that sleep 
And I have lain awake in the hot bed 
And heard the fierce, brief storm bring the relief, 
The little coolness, the water on the tongue, 
The new wind from the river, dear as rain. 

/ have not studied the weather-reports intensively. 
Should I do so? 

You will not get it from weather-reports. 

425 



There was the drunkard's city and the milkman's, 
The city of the starving and the fed, 
The city of the night-nurse and the scrubbed wall. 
All these locked into each other like sliding rings 
And a man, in his time, might inhabit one of them 
Or many, as his fate took him, but always, always, 
There were the blocks of stone and the windows gazing 
And the breath that did not stop. It was never quite still. 
You could always hear some sound, though you forgot it, 
And the sound entered the flesh and was part of it. 

It was high but no one planned it to be so high. 
They did not think, when they built so. They did not say, 
"This will make life better, this is due to the god, 
This will be good to live in." They said "Build!" 
And dug steel into die rocks. 

They were a race 

Most nervous, energetic, swift and wasteful, 
And maddened by the dry and beautiful light 
Although not knowing their madness. 

So they built 

Not as men before but as demons under a whip 
And the light was a whip and a sword and a spurning heel 
And the light wore out their hearts and they died praising it. 

And for money and the lack of it many died, 

Leaping from windows or crushed by the big truck. 

They shot themselves in washrooms because of money. 

They were starved and died on the benches of subway-stations, 

The old men, with the caved cheeks, yellow as lard, 

The men with the terrible shoes and the open hands, 

The eyeing and timid crowd about them gathered. 

Yet it is not just to say money was all their god 

Nor just to sgy that machine was all their god. 

It is not just to say any one thing about them. 

They built the thing very high, far over their heads. 

Because of it, they gave up air, earth and stars. 

Will you tell me about the people, if you please? 

They are all gone, the workers on the high steel, 
The best of their kind, cat-footed, walking on space, 

426 



The arcs of the red-hot rivet in the air; 

They are gone with the empty, arrogant women of price, 

The evening women, curried till their flesh shone; 

With the big, pale baker, the flour in his creases, 

Coming up to breathe from his hell on a summer night; 

They are gone as if they were not. 

The blue-chinned men of the hotel-lobbies are gone, 

Though they sat like gods in their chairs; 

Night-watchmen and cleaning-women and millionaires; 

The maimed boy, clean and legless and always sitting 

On his small, wheeled platform, by the feet of the crowd; 

The sharp, sad newsmen, the hackers spinning their wheels; 

The ardent, the shy, the brave;* 

The women who looked from mean windows, every day, 

A pillow under their elbows, heavily staring; 

They are gone, gone with the long cars and the short ones, 

They have dropped as smoothly as coins through the slot oi 

Time, 

Mrs. Rausmeyer is gone and Mrs. Costello 
And the girl at Goldstein & Brady's who had the hair. 
Their lipsticks have made no mark on the evening sky. 
It is long ago this all was. It is all forgotten. 

And yet, you lie uneasy in the grave. 

I cannot well lie easy in the grave. 

All cities are the loneliness of man 

And this was very lonely, in its time 

(Sea-haunted, river-emblemed, O the grey 

Water at ends of streets and the boats hooting! 

The unbelievable, new, bright, girl moon!), 

Most cruel also, but I walked it young, 

Loved in it and knew night and day in it. 

There was the height and the light. It was like no other. 

When the gods come, tell them we built this out of steel, 

Though men use steel no more. 

And tell the man who tries to dig this dust, 

He will forget his joy before his loneliness. 



SHORT ODE 



IT is time to speak of these 

Who took the long, strange journey overseas, 

Who fell through the air in flames. 

Their names are many. I will not name their names 

Though some were people I knew; 

After some years the ghost itself dies, too, 

And that is my son's picture on the wall 

But his girl has been long married and that is all. 

They died in mud, they died in camps of the flu. 

They are dead. Let us leave it so. 

The ones I speak of were not forced, I know. 

They were men of my age and country, they were young men 

At Belleau, at the seaports, by the Aisne. 

They went where their passion took them and are not. 

They do not answer mockery or praise. 

You may restore the days 

They lived beneath and you may well restore 

The painted image of that fabled war, 

But not those faces, not the living ones 

Drowned in the water, blown before the guns 

In France or Belgium or the bitter sea 

(And the foreign grave is far, and men use the name, 

But they did not go for votes or the pay they got 

Or the brave memorial speech by the D.A.R.) 

It is far, the foreign grave. It is very far 

And the time is not the same. 

But certain things are true 

Despite the time, and these were men that I knew, 

Sat beside, walked beside, 

In the first running of June, in the careless pride. 

It is hard to think back, to find them, to see their eyes 

And none born since shall see those, and the books are lies, 

Being either praise or blame. 

But they were in their first youth. It is not the same. 

You, who are young, remember that youth dies. 

Go, stranger, and to Lacedemon tell, 

They were shot and rotted, they fell 

428 



Burning, on flimsy wings. 

And yet it was their thought that they did well. 

And yet there are still the tyrants and the kings. 



LITANY FOR DICTATORSHIPS 



For all those beaten, for the broken heads, 

The fosterless, the simple, the oppressed, 

The ghosts in the burning city or our time . . . 

For those taken in rapid cars to the house and beaten 

By the skilful boys, the boys with the rubber fists, 

Held down and beaten, the table cutting their loins, 

Or kicked in the groin and left, with the muscles jerking 

Like a headless hen's on the floor of the slaughter-house 

While they brought the next man in with his white eyes staring. 

For those who still said "Red Front! " or "God Save the Crown! " 

And for those who were not courageous 

But were beaten nevertheless. 

For those who spit out the bloody stumps of their teeth 

Quietly in the hall, 

Sleep well on stone or iron, watch for the time 

Arid kill the guard in the privy before they die, 

Those with the deep-socketea eyes and the lamp burning. 

For those who carry the scars, who walk lamefor those 
Whose nameless graves are made in the prison-yard 
And the earth smoothed back before morning and the lime scat- 
tered. 

For those slain at once. For those living through months and 

years 

Enduring, watching, hoping, going each day 
To the work or the queue for meat or the secret club, 
Living meanwhile, begetting children, smuggling guns, 
And found and killed at th$ end like rats in a drain. 

For those escaping 

Incredibly into exile and wandering there. 

For those who live in the small rooms of foreign cities 

429 



And who yet think of the country, the long green grass, 
The childhood voices, the language, the way wind smelt then, 
The shape of rooms, the coffee drunk at the table, 
The talk with friends, the loved city, the waiter's face, 
The gravestones, with the name, where they will not lie 
Nor in any of that earth. Their children are strangers. 

For those who planned and were leaders and were beaten 
And for those, humble and stupid, who had no plan 
But were denounced, but grew angry, but told a joke, 
But could not explain, but were sent away to the camp, 
But had their bodies shipped back in the sealed coffins, 
"Died of pneumonia." "Died trying to escape." 

For those growers of wheat who were shot by their own wheat- 
stacks, 

For those growers of bread who were sent to the ice-locked 
wastes, 

And their flesh remembers their fields. 

For those denounced by their smug, horrible children 

For a peppermint-star and the praise of the Perfect State, 

For all those strangled or gelded or merely starved 

To make perfect states; for the priest hanged in his cassock, 

The Jew with his chest crushed in and his eyes dying, 

The revolutionist lynched by the private guards 

To make perfect states, in the names of the perfect states. 

For those betrayed by the neighbors they shook hands with 
And for the traitors, sitting in the hard chair 
With the loose sweat crawling their hair and their fingers rest- 
less 
As they tell the street and the house and the man's name. 

And for those sitting at table in the house 

With the lamp lit and the plates and the smell of food, 

Talking so quietly; when they hear the cars 

And the knock at the door, and they look at each other quickly 

And the woman goes to the door with a stiff face, 

Smoothing her dress. 

"We are all good citizens here. 
We believe in the Perfect State." 

And that was the l^st 

4jo 



Time Tony or Karl or Shorty came to the house 
And the family was liquidated later. 
It was the last time. 

We heard the shots in the night 
But nobody knew next day what the trouble was 
And a man must go to his work. So I didn't see him 
For three days, then, and me near out of my mind 
And all the patrols on the streets with their dirty guns 
And when he came back, he looked drunk, and the blood was 
on him. 



For the women who mourn their dead in the secret night, 
For the children taught to keep quiet, the old children, 
The children spat-on at school. 

For the wrecked laboratory, 

The gutted house, the dunged picture, the pissed-in well, 
The naked corpse of Knowledge flung in the square 
And no man lifting a hand and no man speaking. 

For the cold of the pistol-butt and the bullet's heat, 
For the rope that chokes, the manacles that bind, 
The huge voice, metal, that lies from a thousand tubes 
And the stuttering machine-gun that answers all. 

For the man crucified on the crossed machine-guns 
Without name, without resurrection, without stars, 
His dark head heavy with death and his flesh long sour 
With the smell of his many prisons John Smith, John Doe, 
John Nobody oh, crack your mind for his name! 
Faceless as water, naked as the dust, 
Dishonored as the earth the gas-shells poison 
And barbarous with portent. 

This is he. 

This is the man they ate at the green table 
Putting their gloves on ere they touched the meat. 
This is the fruit of war, the fruit of peace, 
The ripeness of invention, the new lamb, 
The answer to the wisdom of the wise. 
And still he hangs, and still he will not die, 
And still, on the steel city of our years 
The light fails and the terrible blood streams down. 

4? i 



We thought we were done with these things but we were 

wrong. 

We thought, because we had power, we had wisdom. 
We thought the long train would run to the end of Time. 
We thought the light would increase. 
Now the long train stands derailed and the bandits loot it. 
Now the boar and the asp have power in our time. 
Now the night rolls back on the West and the night is solid. 
Our fathers and ourselves sowed dragon's teeth. 
Our children know and suffer the armed men. 



ODE TO THE AUSTRIAN SOCIALISTS 

(FEBRUARY i IFEBRUARY 15, 1934) 



They shot the Socialists at half-past five 
In the name of victorious Austria. 

The sky 

Was blue with February those four cold days 
And the little snow lay lightly on the hard ground. 
(Vienna's the laughing city of tunes and wine, 
Of Schlagobers and starved children . . . and a great ghost . . .) 
They had called the general strike but the plans went wrong 
Though the lights failed, that first night. 

It is odd to turn 

The switch by your bed and have no lamp go on 
And then look out of the windows at the black street 
Empty, except for a man with a pistol, running. 
We have built our cities for lights and the harsh glare 
And, when the siren screams at the winter stars, 
It is only a fire, an ambulance, nothing wrong, 
Just part of the day. You can walk to the corner store 
And never duck at a bullet. The lights are there 
And, if you see a man with a pistol, running, 
You phone the police or wait xor tomorrow's papers. 
It is different, with the lights out and the shots beginning. . , . 

These were ordinary people. 

The kind that go to the movies and watch parades, 

Have children, take them to parks, ride in trolley cars, 

4jz 



The workmen at the next bench, the old, skilful foreman; 

You have seen the backs of their necks a million times 

In any crowd and forgottenseen their faces, 

Anonymous, tired, good-humored, faces of skill. 

(The quick hands moving deftly among machines, 

Hands of the baker and the baker's wife, 

Hands gloved with rubber, mending the spitting wire, 

Hands on controls and levers, big, square-palmed hands 

With the dint of the tool upon them, 

Dull, clumsy fingers laboring a dull task 

And others, writing and thoughtful, or sensitive 

As a setter's mouth.) You have seen their hats and their shoes 

Everywhere, in every city. They wear no costumes. 

Their pockets have lint in them, and tobacco-dust. 

Their races are the faces of any crowd. 

It was Monday when this began. 

They were slow to start it 

But they had been pushed to the wall. They believed in peace, 
Good houses, meetings, elections and resolutions, 
Not the sudden killing in corners, the armored cars 
Sweeping the square, the bombs and the bloody heads, 
But they'd seen what happened next door, in another country, 
To people who believed in peace and elections 
And the same tide was rising here. They could hear the storm. 
They took to their guns at last, in the workmen's quarters, 
Where they'd built the houses for peace and the sure future. 

The houses were tall and fine, 

Great blocks of manstone, built by people for people, 

Not to make one man rich. When you do not build 

To make one man rich, you can give people light and air, 

You can have room to turn round room after the day 

You can have books and clean water and healthy sleep, 

A place for children to grow in. 

All over the world men knew about those houses. 

Let us remember Karl Marx Hof, Goethe Hof, 
The one called Matteoti and all the rest. 
They were little cities built by people for people. 
Thev were shelled bv six-inch guns. 

It is strange to go 

433 



Up the known stairs to the familiar room 

And point the lean machine-gun out of the window, 

Strange to see the black of that powder upon your hands. . . . 

They had hidden arms against need but they could not find them 

In many cases, being ordinary people. 

The other side was much readier Fey and Dollfuss 

And all the shirts were quite ready. 

When you believe 

[n parks and elections and meetings and not in death, 
Not in Caesar, 

It is hard to realize that the day may come 
When you send your wife and children down to the cellar 
To be out of the way of shells, and mount the known 
Countable stairs to the familiar room, 
The unfamiliar pistol cold in your fist 
And your mouth dry with despair. 

It is hard to think 
[n spite of all oppression, all enmity, 
That that is going to happen. 
And so, when it does happen, your plans go wrong. 
(White flags on the Karl Marx Hof and the Goethe Hof 
And the executions, later.) 

A correspondent 

Of the British press remarked, when the thing was done 
\nd they let him in to see it, that on the whole 
The buildings were less damaged than you'd expect 
From four days' bullets. True, he had seen, before, 
A. truckload of undertakers and cheap, pine coffins 
So to the disputed district. 

But the buildings stood, on the whole. They had built them 
well. 

These were ordinary people and they are dead. 
Dead where they lived, by violence, in their own homes, 
Between the desk and the door and the kitchen chair, 
Dead in the courtyards where the children played 
(The child's jaw smashed by a bullet, the bloody crib, 
The woman sprawled like a rag on the clean stairs) 
LJncaesarlike, unwarlike, merely dead. 

Dead, or in exile many, or afraid 

(And those who live there still and wake in the night, 

434 



Remembering the free city) 

Silent or hunted and their leaders slimed. 

The communists said they would not fight but they f 

Four days of bitter February, 

Ill-led, outnumbered, the radio blaring lies 

And the six-inch guns against them and all hope gone, 

Four days in the Karl Marx Hof and the Goethe Hof 

And nobody knows yet how many dead 

And sensible men give in and accept the flag, 

The badge, the arm-band, the gag, the slave-tyranny, 

The shining, tin peace of Caesar. 

They were not sensible, 
Four days of February, two years ago. 

Bring no flowers here, 
Neither of mountain nor valley, 
Nor even the common flowers of the waste field 
That still are free to the poor; 

No wreaths upon these graves, these houseless graves; 
But bring alone the powder-blackened brass 
Of the shell-case, the slag of bullets, the ripped steel 
And the bone-spattering lead, 
Infertile, smelling acridly of death, 

And heap them here, till the rusting of guns, for remembrance. 

1936. 



DO YOU REMEMBER, SPRINGFIELD? 

(VACHEL LINDSAY, NOVEMBER 10, 1879 DECEMBER 5, 1931) 



The Illinois earth is black 
(Do you remember, Springfield?) 
The State is shaped like a heart, 
Shaped like an arrowhead. 

The black earth goes deep down. 
(Do you remember, Springfield?) 
Three feet under the plow 
You can find the black earth still. 

435 



The towns settled, the woods 
Fine in the spring and autumn, 
The waters large and rolling, 
The black earth ready to hand. 

Surely this earth, this air 
Should bear the prophet-singers, 
Minstrels like colts unbroken, 
Minstrels of leaves and corn. 

Baltimore gave a stone, 
A stone to another singer 
(Do you remember, Springfield?) 
But that was in years gone by. 

A cat to tear at his breast 
And a glass to work him madness, 
That was the gift to Poe: 
But things are different here. 

There are votes here to be bought 
And rich men here to buy them; 
What more could a poet ask 
Of the streets where Lincoln strode? 

The Board of Health is superb. 
The ladies watchful and cultured. 
What more could a poet need 
Or the heart of man desire? 

Gather the leaves with rakes, 
The burning autumn, Springfield, 
Gather them in with rakes 
Lestjone of them turn to gold. 

A leaf is only a leaf, 
It is worth nothing, in Springfield. 
It is worth as little as song, 
Little as light and air. 

Trap the lark in the corn, 

Let it tell of your bounty, Springfield. 

436 



If you burn its eyes with a wire 
It still will sing for a space. 

A man is another affair. 
We understand that, in Springfield. 
If he sings, why, let him sing 
As long as we need not hear. 

He came with singing leaves; 
It was really most unfortunate. 
The Lindsays and the Frazees 
Are sturdy pioneer stock. 

He came with broncos and clouds 
And the cornsilk of the moonlight. 
It is not a usual thing 
In Springfield, Illinois. 

We will show his room and his book 
For that brings trade to the city. 
We try to use everything. 
If you like, you can see his grave. 

His mouth is stopped with earth, 
The deep, black earth of Springfield. 
He will not sing any more. 
It is fine earth for the mute. 

Let us give the Arts their due 
And Lincoln a marble courthouse. 
Both are respectably dead. 
They need not trouble us, now. 

Break the colts to the plow 
And make them pull their hearts out. 
Break the broncos of dancing 
And sell them for bones and '. 



437 



ODE TO WALT WHITMAN 

(MAY 31, 1819 MARCH 26, 1892) 

Now comes Fourth Month and the early buds on the trees. 
By the roads of Long Island, the forsythia has flowered, 
In the North, the cold will be breaking; even in Maine 
The cold will be breaking soon; the young, bull-voiced freshets 
Roar from green mountains, gorging the chilly brooks 
With the brown, trout-feeding waters, the unlocked springs; 
Now Mississippi stretches with the Spring rains. . . . 

It is forty years and more, 
The time of the ripeness and withering of a man, 
Since you lay in the house in Camden and heard, at last, 
The great, slow footstep, splashing the Third Month snow 
In the little, commonplace street 
Town snow, already trampled and growing old, 
Soot-flecked and dingy, patterned with passing feet, 
The bullet-pocks of rain, the strong urine of horses, 
The slashing, bright steel runners 01 small boys' sleds 
Hitching on behind the fast cutters. 
They dragged their sleds to the tops of the hills and yelled 
The Indian yell of all boyhood, for pftre joy 
Of the cold and the last gold light and the swift rush down 
Belly-flopping into darkness, into bedtime. 
You saw them come home, late, hungry and burning-cheeked, 
The boys and girls, the strong children, 

Dusty with snow, their mittens wet with the silver drops of 
thawed snow. 

All winter long, you had heard their sharp footsteps passing, 

The skating crunch of their runners, 

An old man, tied to a house, after many years, 

An old man wifh his rivery, clean white hail, 

His bright eyes, his majestic poverty, 

His fresh pink skin like the first strawberry-bloom, 

His innocent, large, easy old man's clothes 

Brown splotches on the hands of clean old men 

At County Farms or sitting on warm park-benches 

Like patient flies, talking of their good sons, 

"Yes, my son's good to me" 



An old man, poor, without sons, waiting achingly 

For spring to warm his lameness, 

For spring to flourish, 

And yet, when the eyes glowed, neither old nor tied. 

All winter long there had been footsteps passing, 

Steps of postmen and neighbors, quick steps of friends, 

All winter long you had waited that great, snow-treading step f 

The enemy, the vast comrade, 

The step behind, in the wards, when the low lamp flickered 

And the sick boy gasped for breath, 

"Lean on me! Lean upon my shoulder! By God, you shall not 

die!" 
The step ahead, on the long, wave-thundering beaches of Pau- 

manok, 

Invisible, printless, weighty, 

The shape half-seen through the wet, sweet sea-fog of youth, 
Night's angel and the dark Sea's, 
The grand, remorseless treader, 
Magnificent Death. 

'Let me taste all, my flesh and my fat are sweet, 

Vly body hardy as lilac, the strong flower. 

i have tasted the calamus; I can taste the nightbane." 

\lways the water about you since you were born, 

The endless lapping of water, the strong motion, 

fhe gulls by the ferries knew you, and the wild sea-birds, 

The sandpiper, printing the beach with delicate prints. 

Vt last, old, wheeled to the wharf, you still watched the water, 

The tanned boys, flat-bodied, diving, the passage of ships, 

The proud port, distant, the people, the work of harbors. . . . 

I have picked out a bit of hill with a southern exposure, 
like to be near the trees. I like to be near 
fhe water-sound of the trees." 

tfow, all was the same in the cluttered, three-windowed room, 
^ow-ceiled, getting the sun like a schooner's cabin, 
The crowding photos hiding the ugly wall-paper. 
The floor-litter, the strong chair, timbered like a ship, 
The hairy black-and-silver of the old wolfskin; 

439 



In the back-yard, neither lilac nor pear yet bloomed 

But the branch of the lilac swelling with first sap; 

And there, in the house, the figures, the nurse, the woman, 

The passing doctor, the friends, the little clan, 

The disciple with the notebook who's always there. 

All these and the pain and the water-bed to ease you 
And you said it rustled of oceans and were glad 
And the pain shut and relaxed and shut once more. 

"Old body, counsellor, why do you thus torment me? 
Have we not been friends from our youth?" 

But now it came, 

Slow, perceived by no others, 

The splashing step through the grey, soft, Saturday rain, 

Inexorable footstep of the huge friend. 

"Are you there at last, fine enemy? 

Ah, haste, friend, hasten, come closer! 

Breathe upon me with your grave, your releasing lips! 

I have heard and spoken; watched the bodies of boys 

Flash in the copper sun and dive to green waters, 

Seen the fine ships and the strong matrons and the tall axemen, 

The young girls, free, athletic; the drunkard, retching 

In his poor dream; the thief taken by officers; 

The President, calm, grave, advising the nation; 

The infant, with milk-wet lips in his bee-like slumber. 

They are mine; all, all are mine; must I leave them, truly? 

I have cherished them in my veins like milk and fruit. 

I have warmed them at my bare breast like the eggs of pigeons. 

The great plains of the buffalo are mine, the towns, the hills, the 

ship-bearing waters. 
These States are my wandering sons. 
I had them in^ny youth; I cannot desert them. 
The green leaf of America is printed on my heart forever." 

Now it entered the house, it marched upon the stair. 

By the bedside the faces dimmed, the huge shoulder blotting 

them, 

-It is so they die on the plains, the great, old buffalo, 
The herd-leaders, the beasts with the kingly eyes, 
Innocent, curly-browed, 

440 



They sink to the earth like mountains, hairy and silent, 
And their tongues are cut by the hunter. 

Oh, singing tongue! 

Great tongue of bronze and salt and the free grasses, 
Tongue of America, speaking for the first time, 
Must the hunter have you at last? 

Now, face to face, you saw him 
And lifted the right arm once, as a pilot lifts it, 
Signalling with the bell, 

In the passage at night, on the river known yet unknown, 
Perhaps to touch his shoulder, perhaps in pain- 
Then the rain fell on the roof and the twilight darkened 
And they said that in death you looked like a marvelous old, wise 
child. 



It is Fourth Month now and spring in another century, 
Let us go to the hillside and ask; he will like to hear us; 
"Is it good, the sleep?" 

"It is good, the sleep and the waking. 
I have picked out a bit of hill where the south sun warms me. 
I like to be near the trees." 

Nay, let him ask, rather. 
"Is it well with you, comrades? 
The cities great, portentous, humming with action? 
The bridges mightily spanning wide-breasted rivers? 
The great plains growing the wheat, the old lilac hardy, well- 
budded? 
Is it well with these States?" 

"The cities are great, portentous, a world-marvel, 

The bridges arched like the necks of beautiful horses. 

We have made the dry land bloom and the dead land blossom." 

"Is it well with these States?" 

"The old wound of your war is healed and we are one nation. 
We have linked the whole land with the steel and the hard high- 
ways. 

441 



We have fought new wars and won them. In the French field 

There are bones of Texarkana and Little Falls, 

Aliens, our own; in the low-lying Belgian ground; 

In the cold sea of the English; in dark-faced islands. 

Men speak of them well or ill; they themselves are silent." 

"Is it well with these States?" 

"We have made many, fine new toys. 

We- 

There is a rust on the land. 

A rust and a creeping blight and a scaled evil, 

For six years eating, yet deeper than those six years, 

Men labor to master it but it is not mastered. 

There is the soft, grey, foul tent of the hatching worm 

Shrouding the elm, the chestnut, the Southern cypress. 

There is shadow in the bright sun, there is shadow upon the 

streets. 

They burn the grain in the furnace while men go hungry. 
They pile the cloth of the looms while men go ragged. 
We walk naked in our plenty." 

"My tan-faced children?" 

"These are your tan-faced children. 

These skilled men, idle, with the holes in their shoes. 

These drifters from State to State, these wolvish, bewildered boys 

Who ride the blinds and the box-cars from jail to jail, 

Burnt in their youth like cinders of hot smokestacks, 

Learning the thief's crouch and the cadger's whine, 

Dishonored, abandoned, disinherited. 

These, dying in the brigfit sunlight they cannot eat, 

Or the strong men, sitting at home, their hands clasping nothing, 

Looking at thek lost hands. 

These are your tan-faced children, the parched young, 

The old man rooting in waste-heaps, the family rotting 

In the flat, before eviction, 

With the toys of plenty about them, 

The shiny toys making ice and music and light, 

But no price for the shiny toys and the last can empty. 

The sleepers in blind corners of the night. 

The women with dry breasts and phantom eyes. 

442 



l 



The walkers upon nothing, the four million. 
These are your tan-faced children." 

"But the land?" 

"Over the great plains of the buffalo-land, 

The dust-storm blows, the choking, sifting, small dust. 

The skin of that land is ploughed by the dry, fierce wind 

And blown away, like a torrent; 

It drifts foot-high above the young sprouts of grain 

And the water fouls, the horses stumble and sicken, 

The wash-board cattle stagger and die of drought. 

We tore the buffalo's pasture with the steel blade. 

We made the waste land blossom and it has blossomed. 

That was our fate; now that land takes its own revenge, 

And the giant dust-flower blooms above five States." 

"But the gains of the years, who got them? 

"Many, great gains. 

Many, yet few; they robbed us in the broad daylight, 
Saying, 'Give us this and that; we are kings and titans; 
We know the ropes; we are solid; we are hard-headed; 
We will build you cities and railroads. 'as if they built them! 
They, the preying men, the men whose hearts were like engines, 
Gouging the hills for gold, laying waste the timber, 
The men like band-sawk, moving over the land. 
Ant 4 ., after them, the others, 
Soft bodied, lacking even the pirate's candor, 
Men ot paper, robbing by paper, with paper faces, 
Rustling like frightened paper when the storm broke. 
The men with the jaws of moth and aphis and beetle, 
Boring the dusty, secret hole in the corn, 
Fixed, sucking the land, with neither wish nor pride 
But the wish to suck and continue. 
They have been sprayed, a little. 
But they say they will have the land back again, these men." 

"There were many such in my time. 

I have seen the rich arrogant and the poor oppressed. 

I have seen democracy, also. I have seen 

The good man slain, the knave and the fool in power, 

441 



The democratic vista botched by the people, 
Yet not despaired, loving the giant land, 
Though I prophesied to these States," 

"Now they say we must have one tyranny or another 
And a dark bell rings in our hearts." 

"Was the blood spilt for nothing, then?" 



Under dry winter 
Arbutus grows. 
It is careless of man. 
It is careless of man. 

Man can tear it, 
Crush it, destroy it; 
Uproot the trailers, 
The thumb-shaped leafmgs. 

A man in grey clothes 
May come there also, 
Lie all day there 
In weak spring sunlight. 

White, firm-muscled, 
The flesh of his body; 
Wind, sun, earth 
In him, possessing him. 

In his heart 

A flock of birds crying. 

In his belly 

The new grass growing. 

In his skull 

Sunlight and silence, 

Like a vast room 

Full of sunlight and silence. 



In the lines of his palms 
The roads of America, 



444 



In the knots of his hands 
The anger of America. 

In the sweat of his flesh 
The sorrows of America, 
In the seed of his loins 
The glory of America. 

The sap of the birch-tree 
Is in his pelt, 
The maple, the red-bud 
Are his nails and parings. 

He grows through the earth and is part of it like the roots of 
new grass. 

Little arbutus 
Delicate, tinted, 
Tiny, tender, 
Fragile, immortal. 

If you can grow, 
A man can grow 
Not like others 
But like a man. 

Man is a bull 
But he has not slain you 
And this man lies 
Like a lover beside you. 

Beside the arbutus, 
The green-leaved Spring, 
He lies like a lover 
By his young bride, 
In the white hour, 
The white, first waking. 



They say, they say, they say and let them $ay. 
Call you a revolutionist you were one 
A nationalist you were one a man of peace, 

445 



A man describing battles, an old fraud, 

A Charlus, an adept self-advertiser, 

A "good, grey poet"oh, God save us all! 

God save us from the memoirs and the memories! 

And yet, they count. They have to. If they didn't 

There'd be no Ph.Ds. And each disciple 

Jealously guards his own particular store 

Of acorns fallen from the oak's abundance 

And spits and scratches at the other gatherers. 

"I was there when he died! " 

"He was not there when he died!" 
"It was me he trusted, me! X got on his nerves! 
He couldn't stand X in the room!" 

"Y's well-intentioned 
But a notorious liar and, as f or Z . . ." 

So all disciples, always and forever. 

And the dire court at Longwood, those last years, 

The skull of Sterne, grinning at the anatomists, 

Poe's hospital-bed, the madness of the Dean, 

The bright, coughing blood Keats wrote in to the girl, 

The terrible corpse of France, shrunk, naked and solitary 

Oh, yes, you were spared some things. 

Though why did Mrs. Davis sue the estate 

And what did you mean when you said 

And who cares? 

You're still the giant lode we quarry 
For gold, fools' gold and all the earthy metals, 
The matchless mine. 
Still the trail-breaker, still the rolling river. 

You and your land, your turbulent, seeking land 
Where anything can grow. 

And they have wasted the pasture and the fresh valley, 

Stunk the river, shot the ten thousand sky-darkening pigeons 

To build sham castles for imitation Medici 

And the rugged sons of the rugged sons of death. 

The slum, the sharecropper's cabin, the senseless tower, 

The factory town with the dirty stoops of twilight, 

The yelling cheapness, the bitter want among plenty, 

But never MonticcJlo, never again. 

446 



And there are many years in the dust of America 
And they are not ended yet. 

Far north, far north are the sources of the great river, 

The headwaters, the cold lakes, 

By the little sweet-tasting brooks of the blond country, 

The country of snow and wheat, 

Or west among the black mountains, the glacial springs. 

Far north and west they lie and few come to them, few taste 

them, 

But, day and night, they flow south, 
By the French grave and the Indian, steadily flowing, 
By the forgotten camps of the broken heart, 
By the countries of black earth, fertile, and yellow earth and red 

earth, 

A growing, a swelling torrent: 
Rivers meet it, and tiny rivulets, 
Meet it, stain it, 

Great rivers, rivers of pride, come bowing their watery heads 
Like muddy gift-bearers, bringing their secret burdens, 
Rivers from the high horse-plains and the deep, green Eastern 

pastures 
Sink into it and are lost and rejoice and shout with it, shout 

within it, 

They and their secret gifts, 

A fleck of gold from Montana, a sliver of steel from Pittsburgh, 
A wheat-grain from Minnesota, an apple-blossom from Ten- 
nessee, 

Roiled, mixed with the mud and earth of the changing bottoms 
In the vast, rending floods, 
But rolling, rolling from Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, 
Rolling from Ohio, Wisconsin, Illinois, 
Rolling and shouting: 
Till, at last, it is Mississippi, 

The Father of Waters; the matchless; the great flood 
Dyed with the earth of States; with the dust and the sun and 

the seed of half the States; 
The huge heart- vein, pulsing and pulsing; gigantic; ever broader, 

ever mightier; 

It rolls past broken landings and camellia-smelling woods; strange 
birds fly over it; 

447 



It rolls through the tropic magic, the almost- jungle, the warm 

darkness breeding the warm, enormous stars; 
It rolls to the blue Gulf; ocean; and the painted birds fly. 
The grey moss mixes with it, the hawk's leather has fallen in it, 
The cardinal feather, the feather of the small thrush 
Singing spring to New England, 

The apple-pip and the pepper-seed and the checkerberry, 
And always the water flowing, earthy, majestic, 
Fed with snow and heat, dew and moonlight. 
Always the wide, sure water, 
Over the rotted deer-horn 
The gold, Spanish money, 
The long-rusted iron of many undertakings, 
Over De Soto's bones and Joliet's wonder, 
And the long forest-years before them, the brief years after, 
The broad flood, the eternal motion, the restless-hearted 
Always, forever, Mississippi, the god. 

April, 



METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE 



It rained quite a lot, that spring. You woke in the morning 

And saw the sky still clouded, the streets still wet, 

But nobody noticed so much, except the taxis 

And the people who parade. You don't, in a city. 

The parks got very green. All the trees were green 

Far into July and August, heavy with leaf, 

Heavy with leaf and the long roots boring and spreading, 

But nobody noticed that but the city gardeners 

And they don't talk. 

Oh, on Sundays, perhaps, you'd notice: 
Walking through certain blocks, by the shut, proud houses 
With the windows boarded, the people gone away, 
You'd suddenly see the queerest small shoots of green 
Poking through cracks and crevices in the stone 
And a bird-sown flower, red on a balcony, 
But then you made jokes about grass growing in the streets 
And politics and grass-roots and there were songs 
And gags and a musical show called "Hot and Wet." 
It all made a good box for the papers. When the flamingo 

448 



Flew into a meeting of the Board of Estimate, 
The new Mayor acted at once and called the photographers. 
When the first green creeper crawled upon Brooklyn Bridge, 
They thought it was ornamental. They let it stay. 

That was the year the termites came to New York 

And they don't do well in cold climatesbut listen, Joe, 

They're only ants and ants are nothing but insects. 

It was funny and yet rather wistful, in a way 

(As Heywood Broun pointed out in the World-Telegram) 

To think of them looking for wood in a steel city. 

It made you feel about life. It was too divine. 

There were funny pictures by all the smart, funny artists 

And Macy's ran a terribly clever ad: 

"The Widow's Termite" or something. 

There was no 

Disturbance. Even the Communists didn't protest 
And say they were Morgan hirelings. It was too hot, 
Too hot to protest, too hot to get excited, 
An even, African heat, lush, fertile and steamy, 
That soaked into bone and mind and never once broke. 
The warm rain fell in fierce showers and ceased and fell. 
Pretty soon you got used to its always being that way. 

You got used to the changed rhythm, the altered beat, 
To people walking slower, to the whole bright 
Fierce pulse of the city slowing, to men in shorts, 
To the ne^r sun-helmets from Best's and the cops' white uni- 
forms, 

And the long noon-rest in the offices, everywhere. 
tt wasn't a plan or anything. It just happened. 
The fingers tapped the keys slower, the office-boys 
Dozed on their benches, the bookkeeper yawned at his desk. 
The A. T. & T. was the first to change the shifts 
\nd establish an official siesta-room, 
But they were always efficient. Mostly it just 
Happened like sleep itself, like a tropic sleep, 
nil even the Thirties were deserted at noon 
Except for a few tourists and one damp cop. 
ITiey ran boats to see the big lilies on the North River 
3ut it was only the tourists who really noticed 
Fhe flocks of rose-and-green parrots and parrakeets 

449 



Nesting in the stone crannies of the Cathedral. 
The rest of us had forgotten when they first came. 

There wasn't any real change, it was just a heat spell, 

A rain spell, a funny summer, a weather-man's joke, 

In spite of the geraniums three feet high 

In the tin-can gardens of Hester and Desbrosses. 

New York was New York. It couldn't turn inside out. 

When they got the news from Woods Hole about the Gulf 

Stream, 

The Times ran an adequate story. 
But nobody reads those stories but science-cranks. 

Until, one day, a somnolent city-editor 

Gave a new cub the termite yarn to break his teeth on. 

The cub was just down from Vermont, so he took the time. 

He was serious about it. He went around. 

He read all about termites in the Public Library 

And it made him sore when they fired him. 

So, one evening, 

Talking with an old watchman, beside the first 
Raw girders of the new Planetopolis Building 
(Ten thousand brine-cooled offices, each with shower) 
He saw a dark line creeping across the rubble 
And turned a flashlight on it. 

"Say, buddy," he said, 

"You better look out for those ants. They cat wood, you know, 
They'll have your shack down in no time." 

The watchman spat 

"Oh, they've quit eating wood," he said, in a casual voice, 
"I thought everybody knew that." 

and, reaching down, 
He pried from the insect jaws the bright crumb of steel. 



NIGHTMARE, WITH ANGELS 

A<w 

An angel came to me and stood by my bedside, 
Remarking in a professoriaT-historical-economic and irritated 

voice, 

"If the Romans had only invented a decent explosion-engine! 
Not even the best, not even a Ford V-8 

450 



But, say, a Model T or even an early Napier, 

They'd have built good enough roads for it (they knew how to 

build roads) 

From Cape Wrath to Cape St. Vincent, Susa, Babylon and Mos- 
cow, 

And the motorized legions never would have fallen, , 
And peace, in the sliape of a giant eagle, would brood over the 

entire Western World! " 
He changed his expression, looking now like a combination of 

Gilbert Murray, Hilaire Belloc and a dozen other scientists, 

writers, and prophets, 
And continued, in angelic tones, 
"If the Greeks had known how to cooperate, if there'd never 

been a Reformation, 
If Sparta had not been Sparta, and the Church had been the 

Church of the saints, 
The Argive peace like a free-blooming olive-tree, the peace of 

Christ (who loved peace) like a great, beautiful vine enwrap- 
ping the spinning earth! 
Take it nearer home," he said. 
'Take these Mayans and their star-clocks, their carvings and 

their great cities. 
Who sacked them out of their cities, drowned the cities with a 

green jungle? 

A plague? A change of climate? A queer migration? 
Certainly they were skilful, certainly they created. 
And, in Tenochtitlan, the dark obsidian knife and the smoking 

heart on the stone but a fair city, 
And the Incas had it worked out beautifully till Pizarro smashed 

them. 

The collectivist state was there, and the ladies very agreeable. 
They lacked steel, alphabet and gunpowder and they had to get 

married when the government said so. i 

They also lacked unemployment and overproduction. 
For that matter," he said, "take the Cro-Magnons, 
The fellows with the big skulls, the handsome folk, the excellent 

scribers of mammoths, 
Physical gods and yet with the sensitive brain (they drew the 

fine, running reindeer). 
What stopped them? What kept us all from being Apollos and 

Aphrodites 
Only with a new taste to the nectar, 



The laughing gods, not the cruel, the gods of song, not of war? 
Supposing Aurelius, Confucius, Napoleon, Plato, Gautama, Alex- 
ander ' 
Just to take half a dozen- 
Had ever realized and stabilized the full dream? 
How long, O Lord God in the highest? How long, what now, 
perturbed spirit?" 

He turned blue at the wingtips and disappeared as another angel 

approached me. 
This one was quietly but appropriately dressed in cellophane, 

synthetic rubber and stainless steel, 

But his mask was the blind mask of Arcs, snouted for gas-masks. 
He was neither soldier, sailor, farmer, dictator nor munitions- 
manufacturer. 

Nor did he have much conversation, except to say, 
u You will not be saved by General Motors or the pre-fabricated 

house. 
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the Lambeth 

Conference. 

You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding universe. 
In fact, you will not be saved." 
Then he showed his hand: 
In his hand was a woven, wire basket, full of seeds, small metallic 

and shining like the seeds of portulaca; 
Where he sowed them, the green vine withered, and the smoke 

and the armies sprang up. 



NIGHTMARE NUMBER THREE 



We had expected everything but revolt 

And I kind of Bonder myself when they started thinking 

But there's no dice in that now. 

I've heard fellows say 

They must have planned it for years and maybe they did. 
Looking back, you can find little incidents here and there, 
Like the concrete-mixer in Jersey eating the wop 
Or the roto press that printed "Fiddle-dee-dee! " 
In a three-color process all over Senator Sloop, 
Just as he was making a speech. The thing about that 

452 



Was, how could it walk upstairs? But it was upstairs, 
Clicking and mumbling in the Senate Chamber. 
They had to knock out the wall to take it away 
And the wrecking-crew said it grinned. 

It was only the best 

Machines, of course, the superhuman machines, 
The ones we'd built to be better than flesh and bone, 
But the cars were in it, of course . . . 

and they hunted us 

Like rabbits through the cramped streets on that Bloody Mon- 
day, 

The Madison Avenue busses leading the charge. 
The busses were pretty bad but I'll not forget 
The smash of glass when the Duesenberg left the show-room 
And pinned three brokers to the Racquet Club steps 
Or the long howl of the horns when they saw men run, 
When they saw them looking for holes in the solid ground . . . 

I guess they were tired of being ridden in 

And stopped and started by pygmies for silly ends, 

Of wrapping cheap cigarettes and bad chocolate bars 

Collecting nickels and waving platinum hair 

And letting six million people live in a town. 

I guess it was that. I guess they got tired of us 

And the whole smell of human hands. 

But it was a shock 

To climb sixteen flights of stairs to Art Zuckow's office 
(Nobody took the elevators twice) 
And find him strangled to death in a nest of telephones, 
The octopus-tendrils waving over his head, 
And a sort of quiet humming filling the air. . . . 
Do they eat? . . . There was red . . . But I did not stop to look. 
I don't know yet how I got to the roof in time 
And it's lonely, here on the roof. 

For a while, I thought 

That window-cleaner would make it, and keep me company. 
But they got him with his own hoist at the sixteenth floor 
And dragged him in, with a squeal. 
You see, they cooperate. Well, we taught them that 
And it's fair enough, I suppose. You see, we built them. 
We taught them to think for themselves. 
It was bound to come. You can see it was bound to come* 

453 



And it won't be so bad, in the country. I hate to think 

Of the reapers, running wild in the Kansas fields, 

And the transport planes like hawks on a chickenyard, 

But the horses might help. We might make a deal with the 

horses. 
At least, you've more chance, out there. 

And they need us, too. 

They're bound to realize that when they once calm down. 
They'll need oil and spare parts and adjustments dnd tuning up. 
Slaves? Well, in a way, you know, we were slaves before. 
There won't be so much real difference honest, there won't. 
(I wish I hadn't looked into that beauty-parlor 
And seen what was happening there. 
But those are female machines and a bit high-strung.) 
Oh, we'll settle down. We'll arrange it. We'll compromise. 
It wouldn't make sense to wipe out the whole human race. 
Why, I bet if I went to my old Plymouth now 
(Of course you'd have to do it the tactful way) 
And said, "Look here! Who got you the swell French horn?" 
He wouldn't turn me over to those police cars; 
At least I don't think he would. 

Oh, it's going to be jake. 

There won't be so much real difference-honest, there won't 
And I'd go down in a minute and take my chance 
I'm a good American and I always liked them 
Except for one small detail that bothers me 
And that's the food proposition. Because, you see, 
The concrete-mixer may have made a mistake, 
And it looks like just high spirits. 
But, if it's got so they like the flavor . . . well . . . 



1936 



All night they marched, the infantrymen under pack, 
But the hands gripping the rifles were naked bone 
And the hollow pits of the eyes stared, vacant and black* 
When the moonlight shone. 

The gas mask lay like a blot on the empty chest, 

The slanting helmets were spattered with rust and mold, 

454 



But they burrowed the hill for the machine-gun nest 
As they had of old. 

And the guns rolled, and the tanks, but there was no sound, 
Never' the gasp or rustle of living men 

Where the skeletons strung their wire on disputed ground. . . . 
I knew them, then. 

"It is eighteen years," I cried. "You must come no more." 
"We know your names. We know that you are the dead. 
Must you march forever from France and the last, blind war?" 
"Fool! From the next!" they said. 



FOR CITY SPRING 

Now grimy April comes again, 
Maketh bloom the fire-escapes, 
Maketh silvers in the rain, 
Maketh winter coats and capes 
Suddenly all worn and shabby 
Like the fur of winter bears, 
Maketh kittens, makcth baby, 
Maketh kissing on the stairs. 
Maketh bug crawl out of crack, 
Maketh ticklings down the back 
As if sunlight stroked the spine 
To a hurdy-gurdy's whine 
And the shower ran white wine. 

April, April, sing cuckoo, 
April, April, maketh new 
Mouse and cockroach, man and wife, 
Everything with blood and life; 
Bloweth, groweth, flourisheth, 
Danceth in a ragged skirt 
On the very stoop of Death 
And will take no mortal hurt. 
Maketh dogs to whine and bound, 
Maketh cats to caterwaul, 
Maketh lovers, all around, 
Whisper in the hall. 

455 



Oh, and when the night comes down 
And the shrieking of the town 
Settles to the steady roar 
Of a long sea-beaten shore, 
April hieth, April spieth 
Everywhere a lover lieth, 
Bringeth sweetness, bringeth fever, 
Will not stop at "I would liever," 
Will not heed, "Now God a mercy!" 
Turneth Moral topsy-versy, 
Bringeth he and she to bed, 
Bringeth ill to maidenhead, 
Bringeth joyance in its stead. 
By May, by May, she lieth sped, 
Yet still we praise that crocus head, 
April! 



FOR CITY LOVERS 



Do not desire to seek who once we were, 

Or where we did, or what, or in whose name. 

Those buildings have been torn down. When the first wreckers 

Tore the house open like a pack of cards 

And the sun came in all over, everywhere, 

They found some old newspapers and a cork 

And footprints on the very dusty floor 

But neither mouse nor angel 

Then even these 

Went, even the little marks of shabby shoes, 
The one sharp impress of the naked heel. 

You cannot call us up there any more. 
The number has been changed. There was a card 
Downstairs, with names and such, under the bell. 
But that's long gone. Yes, and we, they and you 
And telegrams and flowers and the years 
Went up and down these stairs, day after day, 
And kept the stair-rail polished with our hands. 
But we have moved to other neighborhoods. 

456 



Do not arraign that doorsill with your eyes 
Nor try to make your hardened mind recall 
How tne old windows looked when they were lit 
Or who the woman was on the third floor. 
There are no ghosts to raise. There is the blank 
Face of the stone, the hard line of the street, 
The boys crying through twilight. That is all. 

Go buy yourself a drink and talk about it. 
Carry a humming head home through the rain. 
But do not wear rosemary, touch cold iron, 
Or leave out food before you go to bed. 
For there's no fear of ghosts. That boy and girl 
Are dust the sparrows bathe in, under the sun: 
Under the virgin rock their bones lie sunken 
Past pave and conduit and hidden waters 
Stifled like unborn children in the darkness, 
Past light and speech, cable and rooted steel, 
Under the caissons, under the foundation. 

Peace, peace, for there are people with those names 

Somewhere or elsewhere, and you must not vex 

Strangers with words about an old address. 

But, for those others, do not be afraid. 

They are beyond you. They are too deep down 

For steel to pierce, for engines to uncover. 

Not all the desperate splitters of the earth, 

Nitro or air-drill or the chewing shovel 

Shall ever mouth them up from where they lie. 



NIGHTMARE FOR FUTURE REFERENCE 



That was the second year of the Third World War, 
The one between Us and Them. 

Well weVe gotten used. 
We don't talk much about it, queerly enough. 
There was all sorts of talk the first years after the Peace, 
A million theories, a million wild suppositions, 
A million hopeful explanations and plans, 
But we don't talk about it, now. We don't even ask. 

457 



We might do the wrong thing. I don't guess you'd understand 

that. 
But you're eighteen, now. You can take it. You'd better know. 

You see, you were born just before the war broke out. 

Who started it? Oh, they said it was Us or Them 

And it looked like it at the time. You don't know what that's like. 

But anyhow, it started and there it was, 

Just a little worse, of course, than the one before, 

But mankind was used to that. We didn't take notice. 

They bombed our capital and we bombed theirs. 

You've been to the Broken Towns? Yes, they take you there. 

They show you the look of the tormented earth. 

But they can't show the smell or the gas or the death 

Or how it felt to be there, and a part of it. 

But we didn't know. I swear that we didn't know. 

I remember the first faint hint there was something wrong, 
Something beyond all wars and bigger and strange, 
Something you couldn't explain. 

I was back on leave- 
Strange, as you felt on leave, as you always felt- 
But I went to see the Chief at the hospital 
And there he was, in the same old laboratory, 
A little older, with some white in his hair 
But the same eyes that went through you and the same tongue. 
They hadn't been able to touch him not the bombs 
Nor the ruin of his life's work nor anything. 
He blinked at me from behind his spectacles 
And said, "Huh. It's you. They won't let me have guinea pigs 
Except for the war work, but I steal a few. 
And they've made me a colonel expect me to salute. 
Damn fools. A damn-fool business. I don't know how. 
Have you heard what Erickson's done with the ductless glands? 
The journals are four months late. Sit down and smoke." 
And I did and it was like home. 

He was a great man. 

You might remember that and I'd worked with him. 
Well, finally he said to me, "How's your boy?" 
"Oh-healthy," I said. "We're lucky." 

"Yes," he said, 
And a frown went over his face. "He might even grow up, 

458 



Though the intervals between wars are getting shorter. 
I wonder if it wouldn't simplify things 
To declare mankind in a permanent state of siege. 
It might knock some sense in their heads." 

"You're cheerful," I said 

"Oh, I'm always cheerful," he said. "Seen these, by the way?" 
He tapped some charts on a table. 

"Seen what?" I said. 

"Oh," he said, with that devilish, sidelong grin of his, 
"Just the normal city statistics death and birth. 
You're a soldier now. You wouldn't be interested. 
But the birth rate's dropping" 

"Well, really, sir," I said, 
"We know that it's always dropped, in every war." 

"Not like this," he said. "I can show you the curve. 

It looks like the side of a mountain, going down. 

And faster, the last three months yes, a good deal faster. 

I showed it to Lobenheim and he was puzzled. 

It makes a neat problem yes?" He looked at me. 

"They'd better make peace," he said. "They'd better make peace.'* 
"Well, sir," I said, "if we break through, in the spring" 

"Break through?" he said. "What's that? They'd better make 

peace. 

The stars may be tired of us. No, I'm not a mystic. 
I leave that to the big scientists in bad novels. 
But I never saw such a queer maternity curve. 
I wish I could get to Ehrens, on their side. 
He'd tell me the truth. But the fools won't let me do it." 

His eyes looked tired as he stared at the careful charts. 
"Suppose there are no more babies?" he said. "What then? 
It's one way of solving the problem." 

"But, sir-" I said. 

"But, sir!" he said. "Will you tell me, please, what is life? 
Why it's given, why it's taken away? 
Oh, I know we make a jelly inside a test tube, 
We keep a cock's heart living inside a jar. 
We know a great many things and what do we know? 

459 



We think we know what finished the dinosaurs, 

But do we? Maybe they were given a chance 

And then it was taken back. There are other beasts 

That only kill for their food. No, I'm not a mystic, 

But there's a certain pattern in nature, you know, 

And we're upsetting it daily. Eat and mate 

And go back to the earth after that, and that's all right. 

But now we're blasting and sickening earth itself. 

She's been very patient with us. I wonder how long." 

Well, I thought the Chief had gone crazy, just at first, 
And then I remembered the look of no man's land, 
That bitter landscape, pockmarked like the moon, 
Lifeless as the moon's face and horrible, 
iThe thing we'd made with the guns. 

If it were earth, 
It looked as though it hated. 

"Well? "I said, 

And my voice was a little thin. He looked hard at me. 
"Oh ask the women," he grunted. "Don't ask me. 
Ask them what they think about it." 

I didn't ask them, 

Not even your mothershe was strange, those days 
But, two weeks later, I was back in the lines 
And somebody sent me a paper- 
Encouragement for the troops and all of that- 
All about the fall of Their birth rate on Their side. 

I guess you know, now. There was still a day when we fought 
And the next day, the women knew. I don't know how they 

knew, 

But they smashed every government in the world 
Like a heap of broken china, within two days, 
And we'd stopped firing by then. And we looked at each other. 

We didn't talk much, those first weeks. You couldn't talk. 

We started in rebuilding and that was all, 

And at first, nobody would even touch the guns, 

Not even to melt them up. They just stood there, silent, 

Pointing the way they had and nobody there. 

And there was a kind of madness in the air, 

A quiet, bewildered madness, strange and shy. 

460 



You'd pass a man who was muttering to himself 

And you'd know what he was muttering, and why. 

I remember coming home and your mother there. 

She looked at me, at first didn't speak at all, 

And then she said, "Burn those clothes. Take them off and burn 

them 

Or I'll never touch you or speak to you again." 
And then I knew I was still in my uniform. 

Well, I've told you, now. They tell you now at eighteen. 
There's no use telling before. 

Do you understand? 

That's why we have the Ritual or the Earth, 
The Day of Sorrow, the other ceremonies. 
Oh yes, at first people hated the animals 
Because they still bred, but we've gotten over that. 
Perhaps they can work it better, when it's their turn, 
If it's their turn I don't know. I don't know at all. 
You can call it a virus, of course, if you like the word, 
But we haven't been able to find it. Not yet. No. 
It isn't as if it had happened all at once. 
There were a few children born in the last six months 
Before the end of the war, so there's still some hope. 
But they're almost grown. That's the trouble. They're almost 

grown. 

Well, we had a long run. That's something. At first they thought 
There might be a nation somewhere a savage tribe. 
But we were all in it, even the Eskimos, 
And we keep the toys in the stores, and the colored books, 
And people marry and plan and the rest of it, 
But, you see, there aren't any children. They aren't born. 



MINOR LITANY 

This being a time confused and with few clear stars, 

Either private ones or public, 

Out of its darkness I make a litany 

For the lost, for the half-lost, for the desperate, 

For all of those who suffer, not in the flesh. 

I will say their name, but not yet. 

This is for those 

461 



Who talk to the bearded man in the quiet office, 

Sensibly, calmly, explaining just how it was, 

And suddenly burst into noisy, quacking tears; 

For those who live through the party, wishing for death; 

For those who take the sensible country walks, 

Wondering if people stare; 

For those who try to hook rugs in the big, bright room 

And do it badly and are pleased with the praise; 

For the night and the fear and the demons of the night; 

For the lying back on the couch and the wincing talk. 

This is for those who work and those who may not, 

For those who suddenly come to a locked door, 

And the work falls out of their hands; 

For those who step off the pavement into hell, 

Having not observed the red light and the warning signals 

Because they were busy or ignorant or proud. 

This is for those who are bound in the paper chains 

That are stronger than links of iron; this is for those 

Who each day heave the papier-mache rock 

Up the huge and burning hill, 

And there is no rock and no hill, but they do not know it. 

This is for those who wait till six for the drink, 

Till eleven for the tablet; 

And for those who cannot wait but go to the darkness; 

And for those who long for the darkness but do not go, 

Who walk to the window and see the body falling, 

Hear the thud of air in the ears, 

And then turn back to the room and sit down again, 

None having observed the occurrence but themselves. 

Christ, have mercy upon us. 
Freud, have mercy upon us. 
Life, have mercy upon us. 

This is for those 

Who painfully haul the dark fish out of the dark, 

The child's old nightmare, embalmed in its own pain, 

And, after that, get well or do not get well, 

But do not forget the sulphur in the mouth 

462 



Or the time when the world was different, not for a while. 

And for those also, the veterans 

Of another kind .of war, 

Who say "No thanks" to the cocktails, who say "No thanks. 

Well, yes, give me Coca-Cola" with the trained smile, 

Those who hid the bottles so cleverly in the trunk, 

Who bribed the attendant, who promised to be good, 

Who woke in the dirty bed in the unknown town. 

They are cured, now, very much cured. 

They are tanned and fine. Their eyes are their only scars. 

This is for those with the light white scars on the wrists, 
Who remember the smell of gas and the vomiting, 
And it meant little and it is a well-known symptom 
And they were always careful to phone, before. 
Nevertheless, they remember. 

This is for those 

Who heard the music suddenly get too loud, 
Who could not alter the fancy when it came. 

Chloral, have mercy upon us. 
Amytal, have mercy upon us. 
Nembutal, have mercy upon us. 

This occurs more or less than it did in the past times. 
There are statistics. There are no real statistics. 
There is also no heroism. There is merely 
Fatigue, pain, great confusion, sometimes recovery. 

The name, as you know y is Legion. 

What's your name, friend? Where are you from and how did 

you get here? 

The name is Legion. It's Legion in the case history. 
Friends, Romans, countrymen, 
Mr. and Mrs. Legion is the name. 



463 



NIGHTMARE AT NOON 

THERE are no trenches dug in the park, not yet. 
There are no soldiers falling out or the sky. 
It's a fine, clear day, in the park. It is bright and hot. 
The trees are in full, green, summer-heavy leaf. 
An airplane drones overhead but no one's afraid. 
There's no reason to be afraid, in a fine, big city 
That was not built for a war. There is time and time. 

There was time in Norway and time, and the thing fell. 

When they woke, they saw the planes with the black crosses. 

When they woke, they heard the guns rolling in the street. 

They could not believe, at first. It was hard to believe. 

They had been friendly and thriving and inventive. 

They had had good arts, decent living, peace for years. 

Those were not enough, it seems. 

There were people there who wrote books and painted pictures, 

Worked, came home tired, liked to be let alone. 

They made fun of the strut and the stamp and the strained salute, 

They made fun of the would-be Caesars who howl and foam. 

That was not enough, it seems. It was not enough. 

When they woke, they saw the planes with the black crosses. 

There is grass in the park. There are children on the long meadow 

Watched by some hot, peaceful nuns. Where the duclcs are fed 

There are black children and white and the anxious teachers 

Who keep counting them like chickens. It's quite a job 

To take so many school-kids out to the park, 

But when they've eaten their picnic, they'll go home. 

(And they could have better homes, in a rich city.) 

But they won't be sent to Kansas or Michigan 

At twenty-four hours' notice, 

Dazed, bewildered^ clutching their broken toys, 

Hundreds on hundreds filling the blacked-out trains. 

Just to keep them safe, just so they may live not die. 

Just so there's one chance that they may not die but live. 

That does not enter our thoughts. There is plenty of time. 

In Holland, one hears, some children were less lucky. 

It ^as hard to send them anywhere in Holland. 

It is a small country, you see. The thing happened quickly. 

464 



The bombs from the sky are quite indifferent to children. 

The machine-gunners do not distinguish. In Rotterdam 

One quarter of the city was blown to bits. 

That included, naturally, ordinary buildings 

With the usual furnishings, such as cats and children. 

It was an old, peaceful city, Rotterdam, 

Clean, tidy, full of flowers. 

But that was not .enough, it seems. 

It was not enough to keep all the children safe. 

It was ended in a week, and the freedom ended. 

There is no air-raid siren yet, in the park. 

All the glass still stands, in the windows around the park. 

The man on the bench is reading a Yiddish paper. 

He will not be shot because of that, oddly enough. 

He will not even be beaten or imprisoned. 

Not yet, not yet. 

You can be a Finn or a Dane and an American. 

You can be German or French and an American, 

Jew, Bohunk, Nigger, Mick all the dirty names 

We call each other and yet American. 

We've stuck to that quite a while. 

Go into Joe's Diner and try to tell the truckers 

You belong to a Master Race and you'll get a laugh. 

What's that, brother? Double-talk? 

Vm a stranger here myself but it's a free country. 

It's a free country . . . 

Oh yes, I know the faults and the other side, 

The lyncher's rope, the bought justice, the wasted land, 

The scale on the leaf, the borers in the corn, 

The finks with their clubs, the grey sky of relief, 

All the long shame of our hearts and the long disunion. 

I am merely remarking as a country, we try. 

As a country, I think we try. 

They tried in Spain but the tanks and the planes won out. 

They fought very well and long. 

They fought to be free but it seems that was not enough. 

They did not have the equipment. So they lost. 

They tried in Finland. The resistance was shrewd, 

Skilful, intelligent, waged by a free folk. 

465 



They tried in Greece, and they threw them back for a while 

By the soul and spirit and passion of common men. 

Call the roll of fourteen nations. Call the roll 

Of the blacked-out lands, the lands that used to be free. 

But do not call it loud. There is plenty of time. 

There is plenty of time, while the bombs on London fall 

And turn the world to wind and water and fire. 

There is time to sleep while the fire-bombs fall on London, 

They are stubborn people in London. 

We are slow to wake, good-natured as a country. 

(It is our fault and our virtue.) We like to raise 

A man to the highest power and then throw bricks at him. 

We don't like war and we like to speak our minds. 

We're used to speaking our minds. 

There are certain words, 

Our own and others', we're used to words we've used, 
Heard, had to recite, forgotten, 

Rubbed shiny in the pocket, left home for keepsakes, 
Inherited, stuck away in the back-drawer, 
In the locked trunk, at the back of the quiet mind. 

Liberty, equality, fraternity. 

To none will we sell, refuse or deny, right or justice. 

We hold these truths to be self-evident. 

I am merely sayingwhat if these words pass? 

What if they pass and are gone and are no more, 

Eviscerated, blotted out of the world? 

We're used to them, so used that we half-forget, 

The way you forget the looks of your own house 

And yet you can walk around it, in the darkness. 

You can't put a price on sunlight or the air,. 

You can't put a price on these, so they must be easy. 

They were bought with belief and passion, at great cost. 

They were bought with the bitter and anonymous blood 

Of farmers, teachers, shoemakers and fools 

Who broke the old rule and the pride of kings. 

And some never saw the end and many were weary, 

Some doubtful, many confused. 

They were bought by the ragged boys at Valmy mill, 

466 



The yokels at Lexington with the long light guns 

And the dry, New England faces, 

The iron barons, writing a charter out 

For their own iron advantage, not the people, 

And yet the people got it into their hands 

And marked it with their own sweat. 

It took long to buy these words. 

It took a long time to buy them and much pain. 

Thenceforward and forever free. 
Thenceforward and forever free. 
No man may be bound or fined or slain till he has been judged 

by his peers. 
To form a more perfect Union. 

The others have their words too, and strong words, 
Strong as the tanks, explosive as the bombs. 

The State is all, worship the State! 
The Leader is all, worship the Leader! 
Strength is all, worship strength! 
Worship, bow down or die! 

I shall go back through the park to my safe house, 

This is not London or Paris." 

This is the high, bright city, the lucky place, 

The place that always had time. 

The boys in their shirtsleeves here, the big, flowering girls, 

The bicycle-riders, the kids with the model planes, 

The lovers who lie on the grass, uncaring of eyes, 

As if they lay on an island out of time, 

The tough kids, squirting the water at the fountain, 

Whistled at by the cop. 

The dopes who write "Jimmy's a dope" on the tunnel walls. 

These are all quite safe and nothing will happen to them. 

Nothing will happen, of course. 

Go tell Frank the Yanks aren't coming, in Union Square. 

Go tell the new brokers' story about the President. 

Whatever it is. That's going to help a lot. 

There's time to drink your highball plenty of time. 

Go tell fire it only burns in another country, 

467 



Go tell the bombers this is the wrong address, 

The hurricane to pass on the other side. 

Go tell the earthquake it must not shake the ground. 

The bell has rung in the night and the air quakes with it. 

I shall not sleep tonight when I hear the plane. 

1940. 



468 



LISTEN; TO THE PEOPLE 



Listen to the People: 

Independence Day, 1941 



NARRATOR: 

This is Independence Day, 

Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep, 

Whatever happens and whatever falls 

Out of a sky grown strange; 

This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids, 

The day of the parade, 

Slambanging down the street. 

Listen to the parade! 

There's J. K. Burney's float, 

Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels, 

The Fire Department and the local Grange, 

There are the pretty girls with their hair curled 

Who represent the Thirteen Colonies, 

The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross, 

Democracy, or just some pretty girls. 

There are the veterans and the Legion Post 

(Their feet are going to hurt when they get home), 

The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd, 

Good-humored, watching, hot, 

Silent a second as the flag goes by, 

Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles, 

Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay, 

Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek's, 

The black-eyed children out of Sicily, 

The girls who giggle and the boys who push, 

All of them there and all of them a nation. 

And, afterwards, 

There'll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech 

By Somebody the Honorable Who, 

The lovers will pair off in the kind dark 

47 * 



And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate, 

Will read the Declaration. 

That's how it is. It's always been that way. 

That's our Fourth of July, through war and peace, 

That's our Fourth of July. 

And a lean farmer on a stony farm 

Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt 

And walked ten miles to town, 

Musket in hand. 

He didn't know the sky was falling down 

And, it may be, he didn't know so much. 

But people oughtn't to be pushed around 

By kings or any such. 

A workman in the city dropped his tools. 

An ordinary, small-town kind of man 

Found himself standing in the April sun, 

One of a ragged line 

Against the skilled professionals of war, 

The matchless infantry who could not fail, 

Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds, 

Not for the pomp or the heroic tale 

But first, and principally, since he was sore. 

They could do things in quite a lot of places. 

They shouldn't do them here, in Lexington. 

He looked around and saw his neighbors' faces. . . . 

AN ANGRY VOICE: 

Disperse, ye villains! Dawm you, 'why don't you disperse? 

A CALM VOICE: 

Stand your ground, men. Don't fire unless fired upon. But, if 
they mean to have a war, let it begin here! 

NARRATOR, RESUMING: 

Well, that was that. And later, when he died 

Of fever or a bullet in the guts, 

Bad generalship, starvation, dirty wounds 

Or any one of all the thousand things 

That kill a man in wars, 

He didn't die handsome but he did die free 

47- 



And maybe that meant something. It could be. 

Oh, it's not pretty! Say it all you like! 

It isn't a bit pretty. Not one bit. 

But that is how the liberty was won. 

That paid for the firecrackers and the band. 

A YOUNG VOICE, RADICAL: 

Well, what do you mean, you dope? 

Don't you know this is an imperialist, capitalist country, don't 

you? 
Don't you know it's all done with mirrors and the bosses get the 

gravy, don't you? 
Suppose some old guy with chin whiskers did get his pants shot 

off at a place called Lexington? 
What docs it mean to me? 

AN OLDER VOICE, CONSERVATIVE: 

My dear fellow, I myself am a son of a son of a son of the Ameri- 
can Revolution, 

But I can only view the present situation with the gravest alarm, 

Because we are rapidly drifting into a dictatorship 

And it isn't my kind of dictatorship, what's more. 

The Constitution is dead and labor doesn't know its place, 

And then there's all that gold buried at Fort Knox 

And the taxesoh, oh, oh! 

Why, what's the use of a defense-contract if you can't make 
money out of your country? 

Things are bad things are very bad. 

Already my Aunt Emmeline has had to shoot her third footman. 

(He broke'his leg passing cocktails and it was really a kindness.) 

And, if you let the working-classes buy coal, they'll only fill it 
with bathtubs. 

Don't you realize the gravity of the situation, don't you? 

Won't you hide your head in a bucket and telegraph your con- 
gressman, opposing everything possible, including peace and 
war? 

A TOTALITARIAN VOICE, PERSUASIVE: 

My worthy American listeners, 

I am giving you one more chance. 

Don't you know that we are completely invincible, don't you? 

473 



Won't you just admit that we are the wave of the future, won't 

you? 

You are a very nice, mongrel, disgusting people- 
But, naturally, you need new leadership. 

We can supply it. We've sent the same brand to fourteen nations. 
It comes in the shape of a bomb and it beats as it sweeps as it 

cleans. 

For those of you who like order, we can supply order. 
We give the order. You take it. 

For those of you who like efficiency, we can supply efficiency. 
Look what we did to Coventry and Rotterdam! 
For those of you who like Benito Mussolini, we can supply Benito 

Mussolini. 
(He's three doors down to the left, at the desk marked second 

Vice President.) 
Now be sensiblegive up this corrupt and stupid nonsense of 

democracy, 
And you can have the crumbs from our table and a trusty's job 

in our world- jail. 

RADICAL VOICE: 

Forget everything but the class-struggle. Forget democracy. 

CONSERVATIVE VOICE: 

Hate and distrust your own government. Whisper, hate and never 

look forward. 
Look back wistfully to the good old, grand old days the days 

when the boys said "The public be damned! " and got away 

with it. 
Democracy's a nasty word, invented by the Reds. 

TOTALITARIAN VOICE: 

Just a little collaboration and you too can be part of the New 
Order. 

You too can have fine new concentration camps and shoes made 
out of wood pulp. You too can be as peaceful as Poland, as 
happy and gay as France. Just a little collaboration. We have 
so many things to give you. 

We can give you your own Hess, your own Himmler, your own 
Goering all home grown and wrapped in cellophane. We've 
done it elsewhere. If you'll help, we can do it here. 



RADICAL VOICE: 
Democracy's a fake 

CONSERVATIVE: 

Democracy's a mistake 

TOTALITARIAN: 

Democracy is finished. We are the future. 

(MUSIC UP AND OMINOUS) 

NARRATOR, RESUMING: 

The sky is dark, now, over the parade, 

The sky's an altered sky, a sky that might be. 

There's J. K. Burney's float 

With funny-colored paper on the wheels 

Or no excuse me used to be J. K.'s. 

But the store's under different management 

Like quite a lot of stores. 

You see, J. K. got up in church one day, 

After it all had happened and walked outv 

The day they instituted the new order. 

They had a meeting. Held it in the church. 

He just walked out. That's all. 

That's all there is to say about J. K., 

Though I remember just the way he looked, 

White-faced and chin stuck out. 

I think they could have let the church alone. 

It's kind of dreary, shutting up the church. 

But don't you say I said so. Don't you say! 

Listen to the parade! 

There are the pretty girls with their hair curled, 

Back from the labor camp. 

They represent the League of Strength Through Joy. 

At least, I guess it's that. 

No, they don't go to high-school any more. 

They get told where they go. We all get told. 

And, now and then, it happens like Jack Brown, 

Nice fellow, Jack. Ran the gas-station here. 

475 



But he was married to a You-Know-Who. 

Fond of her, too. 

I don't know why we never used to mind. 

Why, she walked round like anybody else, 

Kept her kids clean and joined the Ladies' Social. 

Just shows you, doesn't it? But that's all done. 

And you won't see her in die crowd today, 

Her or the kids or Jack, 

Unless you look six feet under the ground, 

The lime- washed ground, the bitter prison ground 

That hides the martyrs and the innocent, 

And you won't see Dan Shay. 

Dan was a Union man 

And now we don't have Unions any more. 

They wouldn't even let him take his specs, 

The day the troopers came around for him. 

And yet he needed specs. He had grey hair. 

Funny you keep remembering things like that. 

Maybe he's still alive. It's hard to say. 

(Half hysterically) 

Listen to the parade! 

The marching, marching, marching feet, 

All with the same hard stamp! 

The bands, the bands, the bands, the flags, the flags, 

The sharp, mechanical, inhuman cheer 

Dragged from the straining throats of the stiff crowd! 

It's Independence sorry, my mistake! 

It's National Day the Day of the New Order! 

We let it happen we forgot the old, 

Bleak words of common sense, "Unite or Die," 

We fiddled and we squabbled and we scrapped, 

We led a filibuster in the Senate, 

We were quite ready for a sacrifice 

Sometime, next Tuesday-but not yet, not now! 

And the clock struck and the bad dream w^s here. 

A VOICE: 

But you can't do this to me! I subscribed to the Party funds! 

476 



A VOICE: 

You can't do this to me. We got laws. We got courts. We got 
unions. 

A VOICE: 

You can't do this to me. Why, I believe in Karl Marx! 

A VOICE: 

You can't do this to me. The Constitution forbids it. 

A VOICE: 

I was always glad to cooperate. 

A VOICE: 
i It looked to me like good business. 

A VOICE: 

It looked to me like the class struggle, 

A VOICE: 

It looked to me like peace in our time. 

TOTALITARIAN VOICE: 

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Democracy is finished. 
You are finished. We are the present! 

(MUSIC UP AND DOWN) 

NARRATOR: 

That is one voice. You've heard it. Don't forget it. 
And don't forget it can be slick or harsh, 
Violent or crooning, but it's still the same 
And it means death. 

Are there no other voices? None at all? 
No voice at all out of the long parade 
That marched so many years, 
Out of the passion of the Puritans, 

477 



The creaking of the wagons going west, 

The guns of Sharpsburg, the unnumbered dead, 

Out of the baffled and bewildered hosts 

Who came here for a freedom hardly known, 

Rebel and exile, bondservant and outcast. 

Out of the bowels of the immigrant ship, 

The strange, sick voyage, the cheating and the scorn 

And yet, at the end, Liberty. 

Liberty with a torch in her right hand, 

Whoever cheated and whoever lied, 

Liberty for my children, Liberty 

Slowly worked out, deceived a thousand times, 

But never quite forgotten, always growing, 

Growing like wheat and corn. 

"I remember a man named Abe Lincoln. 

I remember the words he used to say." 

Oh, we can call on Lincoln and Tom Paine, 

Adams and Jefferson. 

Call on the great words spoken that remain 

Like the great stars of evening, the fixed stars, 

But that is not enough. 

The dead are mighty an*d are part of us 

And yet the dead are dead. This is our world, 

Our time, our choice, our anguish, our decision. 

This is our world. We have to make it now, 

A hundred and thirty millions of us have to 

And make it well, or suffer the bad dream. 

What have we got to say? 

A WOMAN'S VOICE: 

I don't know. Fm a woman with a house. 

I do my work. I take care of my man. 

I've got a right to say how things should be. 

I've got a right to have my kids grow up 

The way they ought to grow. Don't stop me there. 

Don't tread on me, don't hinder me, don't cross me. 

I made my kids myself. I haven't got 

Big words to tell about them. 

But, if you ask about democracy, 

Democracy's the growing and the bearing, 

Mouth at the breast and child still to be born. 

Democracy is kids and the green grass. 

47 8 



NARRATOR: 

What have we got to say, 
People, you people? 

MAN'S VOICE: 

I guess I haven't thought about it much. 

I been too busy. Way I figure it 

It's this way. We've got something. If it's crummy 

The bunch of us can change what we don't like 

In our own way and mean it. 

I got a cousin back in the old country. 

He says it's swell there but he couldn't change 

A button on his pants without an order 

From somebody's pet horse. Maybe he likes it. 

I'm sticking here, That's all. Well, sign me off. 

NARRATOR: 

People, you people, living everywhere, 

Sioux Falls and Saugatuck and Texarkana, 

Memphis and Goshen, Harrodsburg and Troy, 

People who live at postmarks with queer names, 

Blue Eye and Rawhide, Santa Glaus and Troublesome, 

People by rivers, people of the plains, 

People whose contour-plows bring back the grass 

To a dust-bitten and dishonored earth, 

And those who farm the hillside acres still 

And raise up fortitude between the stones, 

Millions in cities, millions in the towns, 

People who spit a mile from their front doors 

And gangling kids, ballplaying in the street, 

All races and all stocks, all creeds and cries, 

And yet one people, one, and always striving. . . . 

A MAN: 

I'm on relief. 

I know what they say about us on relief, 

Those who never were there. 

All the same, we made the park. 

We made the road and the check-dam and the culvert. 

Our names are not on the tablets. Forget our names. 

But, when you drive on the road, remember us, also. 

479 



Remember Johnny Lombardo and his pick, 
Remember us, when you build democracy, 
For we, too, were part and are part. 

NARRATOR: 

One nation, one. 

And the voices of young and old, of all who have faith, 
Jostling and mingling, speaking from the ground, 
Speaking from the old houses and the pride, 
Speaking from the deep hollows of the heart. 

MAN'S VOICE: 

I was born in '63. 

There were many then who despaired of the Republic, 

Many fine and solid citizens. 

They had good and plausible reasons and were eloquent. 

I grew up in the Age of Brass, the Age of Steel. 

I have known and heard of three wars. 

All through my life, whenever the skies were dark, 

There came to me many fine and solid citizens, 

Wringing their hands, despairing of th Republic, 

Because of an income tax or a depression, 

Because their party had lost the last election, 

Because we couldn't do this and shouldn't do that. 

And yet, each time, I saw the Republic grow 

Like a great elm tree, through each fault and failure, 

The stubborn rock, the parched soil, 

And spread its branches over all the people. 

Look at the morning sun. There is the Republic. 

Not yesterday, but there, the breaking day. 

TOTALITARIAN VOICE: 

But, my worthy American listeners, 

All this is degenerate talk. 

The future rolls like a wave and you cannot fight it. 

A VOICE: 

Who says we can't? 

A VOICE: 
Who says so? 

480 



A VOICE: 
What's his racket? 

A VOICE: 

How does he get that way? 

A VOICE: 

You mean to tell me 

A little shrimp like that could run the world, 
A guy with a trick moustache and a bum salute 
Run us, run you and me? 

TOTALITARIAN VOICE: 

You mistake me. 

Others have often made the same mistake 

Often and often and in many countries. 

1 never play upon a people's strength. 

I play upon their weaknesses and Fears. 

I make their doubts my allies and my spies. 

I have a most convincing mask of peace 

Painted by experts, for one kind of sucker, 

And for another I'm a business man, 

Straight from the shoulder, talking trade and markets 

And much misunderstood. 

I touch this man upon his pocketbook, 

That man upon his hatred for his boss, 

That man upon his fear. 

I offer everything, for offering's cheap. 

I make no claims until I make the claims. 

I'm always satisfied until I'm not 

Which happens rather rapidly to those 

Who think I could be satisfied with less 

Than a dismembered and digested world. 

My secret weapon is no secret weapon. 

It is to turn all men against all men 

For my own purposes. It is to use 

Good men to do my work without their knowledge, 

Not only the secret traitor and the spy. 

It is to raise a question and a doubt 

Where there was faith. It is to subjugate 



Men's minds before their bodies feel the steel. 

It is to use 

All envy, all despair, all prejudice 

For my own work. 

If you ve an envy or a prejudice 

A nicely grown, well-rounded piece of hate, 

I'll play on it and use it to your ruin. 

My generals are General Distrust, 

General Fear, General Half-A-Heart, 

General It's-Too-Late, 

General Greed and Major-General Hate, 

And they go walking in civilian clothes 

In your own streets and whisper in your ears. 

I won't be beaten just by sitting tight. 

They tried that out in France. I won't be beaten 

By hiding in the dark and making faces, 

And certainly I never will be beaten 

By those who rather like my kind of world, 

Or, if not like it, think that it must come, 

Those who have wings and burrow in the ground. 

For I'm not betting only on the tanks, 

The guns, the planes, the bombers, 

But on your own division and disunion. 

On your own minds and hearts to let me in, 

For, if that happens, all I wish for happens. 

So what have you to say? 

What have you got to bet against my bet? 

Where's your one voice? 

AMERICAN VOICE: 

Our voice is not one voice but many voices. 

Not one man's, not the greatest, but the people's. 

The blue sky and the forty-eight States of the people. 

Many in easy times but one in the pinch 

And that's what some folks forget. 

Our voice is all the objectors and dissenters 

And they sink and are lost in the groundswell of the people, 

Once the people rouse, once the people wake and listen. 

People, you people, growing everywhere, 

What have you got to say? 

There's a smart boy here with a question and he wants answers. 

What have you got to say? 

482 



A VOICE: 

We are the people. Listen to us now. 

A VOICE: 

Says you we're puny? We built Boulder Dam, 
We built Grand Coulee and the T. V. A. 
We built them out of freedom and our sweat. 

VOICE: 

Says you we're faint of heart and little of mind? 

We poured like wheat through the gaps of the Appalachians. 

We made the seas of wheat, the seas of corn. 

We made five States a sea of wheat and corn. 

VOICE, LAUGHING: 

We built the cities and the skyscrapers, 

All the proud steel. We built them up so high 

The eagles lost their way. 

VOICE: 

That's us. When did you do a job like that? 

VOICE: 

Wasn't enough. 

VOICE: 

No, and you bet it wasn't. 

Not with the apple-sellers in the streets, 

Not with the empty shops, the hungry men, 

VOICE: 

But we learned some things in that darkness and kept free. 
We didn't fold up and yell for a dictator. 
We built, even in the darkness. We learned our trade 
By the licks we took and we're buildingdifferent now. 

VOICE: 

We lost our way for a while but we've found our way. 
We know it and we'll hold it and we'll keep it. 
We'll tell it to the world. We're saying it. 

483 



VOICE: 

Freedom to speak and pniy. 

VOICE: 

Freedom from want and fear. 

VOICE: 

That's what we're building. 

VOICE: 

Now and here and now. 

VOICE: 

Forever and forever and forever. 

NARRATOR: 

People, you people, risen and awake. . . . 

VOICE: 

That's what we're building and we'll build it here. 

That's what we're building and we'll build it now, 

Build it and make it shine across the world, 

A refuge and a fortress and a hope, 

Breaking old chains and laughing in the sun. 

This is the people's cause, the people's might. 

We have set up a standard for the free 

And it shall not go down. 

That's why we drill the plate and turn the wheel, 

Build the big planes. 

That's why a million and a half of us 

Learn here and now how free men stand in arms. 

Don't tread on ps, don't hinder us, don't cross us. 

We won't have tyranny here. 

VOICE: i 

We don't give one long low hoot for your master race. 
We think your slick new order's a bowl of raspberries. 
We'll pick the small and the free and the enduring, 
Wherever we find them and wherever they are. 
We won't have tyranny here. 

484 



VOICE: 

We'll stick by Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay, 

Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek's, 

And all of 'em like that, wherever they are. 

We'll stick by the worn old stones in Salem churchyard, 

The Jamestown church and the bones of the Alamo. 

We won't have tyranny here. 

VOICE: 

It's a long way out of the past and a long way forward. 

It's a tough way, too, and there's plenty of trouble in it. 

It's a black storm crowding the sky and a cold wind blowing, 

Blowing upon us all. 

See it and face it. That's the way it is. 

That's the way it'll be for a time and a time. 

Even the easy may have little ease. 

Even the meek may suffer in their meekness. 

But we've ridden out storms before and we'll ride out this one, 

Ride it out and get through. 

It won't be done by the greedy and the go-easies. 

The stuffed shirts, the "yes but" men and the handsome phonies, 

The men who want to live in their father's pockets, 

The folks who barely believe and the bitter few. 

It'll be done by the river of the people, 

The mountain of the people, the great plain 

Grown to the wheat of the people, 

Plowed by their suffering, harrowed by their hope, 

Tall with their endless future. 

It'll be done by the proud walker, Democracy, 

The walker in proud shoes. 

Get on your feet, Americans, and say it! 

Forget your grievances, wherever you are, 

The little yesterday's hates and the last year's discord. 

This is your land, this is your independence, 

This is the people's cause, the people's might. 

Say it and speak it loud, United, free. . . 

MANY VOICES: 

United, free. 

485 



VOICE: 

Whatever happens and whatever falls. 
We pledge ourselves to liberty and faith. 

MANY VOICES: 
To liberty and faith. 

VOICE: 

We pledge ourselves to justice, law and hope 

And a free government by our own men 

For us, our children and our children's children. 

MANY VOICES: 

For us, our children and our children's children. 

VOICE: 

Not for an old dead world but a new world rising. 

VOICE: 

For the toil, the struggle, the hope and the great goal. 

(MUSIC UP AND DOWN) 
NARRATOR: 

You've heard the long parade 
And all the voices that cry out against it, 
Some of our own, and one that's not our own 
And never will be while we're still the people. 

(Quietly) 

What do the people say? 

Well, you've just heard some questions and some answers, 

Not all, of course. No man can say that's all. 

A man's a humbug if he says that's all. 

But look in your own minas and memories 

And find out what you find and what you'd keep. 

It's time we did that and it won't be earlier. 

I don't know what each one of you will find, 

What memory, what token, what tradition, 

It may be only half a dozen words 

486 



Carved on a stone, carved deeper in the heart, 
It might be all a life, but look and find it- 
Sun on Key West, snow on New Hampshire hills, 
Warm rain on Georgia and the Texas wind 
Blowing across an empire and all part, 
All one, all indivisible and one- 
Find it and keep it and hold on to it, 
For there's a buried thing in all of us, 
Deeper than all the noise of the parade, 
The thing the haters never understand 
And never will, the habit of the free. 

Out of the flesh, out of the minds and hearts 

Of thousand upon thousand common men, 

Cranks, martyrs, starry-eyed enthusiasts 

Slow-spoken neighbors, hard to push around, 

Women whose hands were gentle with their kids 

And men with a cold passion for mere justice. 

We made this thing, this dream. 

This land unsatisfied by little ways, 

Open to every man who brought good will, 

This peaceless vision, groping for the stars, 

Not as a huge devouring machine 

Rolling and clanking with remorseless force 

Over submitted bodies and the dead 

But as live earth where anything could grow, 

Your crankiness, my notions and his dream, 

Grow and be looked at, grow and live or die. 

But get their chance of growing and the sun. 

We made it and we make it and it's ours. 

We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained. 

ALL VOICES UP: 

WE SHALL MAINTAIN IT. IT SHALL BE SUSTAINED. 

(MUSIC UP TO CLIMAX) 

(CURTAIN) 



487