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TOWARD THE GULF
EDGAR LEE MASTERS
TOWARD THE GULF
THE LAKE BOATS
CITIES OF THE PLAIN
SAMUEL BUTLER, ET AL
DIALOGUE AT PERKO'S
HEAVEN IS BUT THE HOUR
VICTOR RAFOLSKI ON ART
TO-MORROW IS MY BIRTHDAY
SOMETHING BEYOND THE HILL
FRONT THE AGES WITH A SMILE
MIRAGE OF THE DESERT
THE GRAND RIVER MARSHES
IN THE GARDEN AT THE DAWN HOUR
BERTRAND AND GOURGAUD TALK OVER OLD TIMES
DRAW THE SWORD, O REPUBLIC
DEAR OLD DICK
THE ROOM OF MIRRORS
CANTICLE OF THE RACE
BLACK EAGLE RETURNS TO ST. JOE
MY LIGHT WITH YOURS
"I PAY MY DEBT FOR LAFAYETTE AND ROCHAMBEAU"
CHRISTMAS AT INDIAN POINT
WIDOW LA RUE
DR. SCUDDER'S CLINICAL LECTURE
THE EIGHTH CRUSADE
THE BISHOP'S DREAM OF THE HOLY SEPULCHRE
THE END OF THE SEARCH
TO WILLIAM MARION REEDY
It would have been fitting had I dedicated Spoon River Anthology to
you. Considerations of an intimate nature, not to mention a literary
encouragement which was before yours, crowded you from the page. Yet
you know that it was you who pressed upon my attention in June, 1909,
the Greek Anthology. It was from contemplation of its epitaphs that my
hand unconsciously strayed to the sketches of "Hod Putt," "Serepta The
Scold" ("Serepta Mason" in the book), "Amanda Barker" ("Amanda" in the
book), "Ollie McGee" and "The Unknown," the first written and the
first printed sketches of The Spoon River Anthology. The
_Mirror_ of May 29th, 1914, is their record.
I take one of the epigrams of Meleager with its sad revealment and
touch of irony and turn it from its prose form to a verse form, making
verses according to the breath pauses:
"The holy night and thou, O Lamp, we took as witness of our vows; and
before thee we swore, he that would love me always and I that I would
never leave him. We swore, and thou wert witness of our double
promise. But now he says that our vows were written on the running
waters. And thou, O Lamp, thou seest him in the arms of another."
In verse this epigram is as follows:
The holy night and thou,
We took as witness of our vows;
And before thee we swore,
He that would love me always
And I that I would never leave him.
And thou wert witness of our double promise.
But now he says that our vows were written on the running waters.
And thou, O Lamp,
Thou seest him in the arms of another.
It will be observed that iambic feet prevail in this translation. They
merely become noticeable and imperative when arranged in verses. But
so it is, even in the briefest and starkest rendering of these
epigrams from the Greek the humanism and dignity of the original
transfer themselves, making something, if less than verse, yet more
than prose; as Byron said of Sheridan's speeches, neither poetry nor
oratory, but better than either. It was no difficult matter to pass
from Chase Henry:
"In life I was the town drunkard.
When I died the priest denied me burial
In holy ground, etc."
to the use of standard measures, or rhythmical arrangements of iambics
or what not, and so to make a book, which for the first third required
a practiced voice or eye to yield the semblance of verse; and for the
last two-thirds, or nearly so, accommodated itself to the less
sensitive conception of the average reader. The prosody was allowed
to take care of itself under the emotional requirements and
inspiration of the moment. But there is nothing new in English
literature for some hundreds of years in combinations of dactyls,
anapests or trochees, and without rhyme. Nor did I discover to the
world that an iambic pentameter can be lopped to a tetrameter without
the verse ceasing to be an iambic; though it be no longer the blank
verse which has so ennobled English poetry. A great deal of unrhymed
poetry is yet to be written in the various standard rhythms and in
carefully fashioned metres.
But obviously a formal resuscitation of the Greek epigrams, ironical
and tender, satirical and sympathetic, as casual experiments in
unrelated themes would scarcely make the same appeal that an epic
rendition of modern life would do, and as it turned out actually
The response of the American press to Spoon River Anthology during the
summer of 1914 while it was appearing in the _Mirror_ is my
warrant for saying this. It was quoted and parodied during that time
in the country and in the metropolitan newspapers. _Current
Opinion_ in its issue of September, 1914, reproduced from the
_Mirror_ some of the poems. Though at this time the schematic
effect of the Anthology could not be measured, Edward J. Wheeler, that
devoted patron of the art and discriminating critic of its
manifestations, was attracted, I venture to say, by the substance of
"Griffy, The Cooper," for that is one of the poems from the Anthology
which he set forth in his column "The Voice of Living Poets" in the
issue referred to. _Poetry, A Magazine of Verse_, followed in
its issue of October, 1914, with a reprinting from the _Mirror_.
In a word, the Anthology went the rounds over the country before it
was issued in book form. And a reception was thus prepared for the
complete work not often falling to the lot of a literary production.
I must not omit an expression of my gratitude for the very high praise
which John Cowper Powys bestowed on the Anthology just before it
appeared in book form and the publicity which was given his lecture by
the _New York Times_. Nathan Haskell Dole printed an article in
the Boston _Transcript_ of June 30, 1915, in which he contrasted
the work with the Greek Anthology, pointing in particular to certain
epitaphs by Carphylides, Kallaischros and Pollianos. The critical
testimony of Miss Harriet Monroe in her editorial comments and in her
preface to "The New Poetry" has greatly strengthened the judgment of
to-day against a reversal at the hands of a later criticism.
This response to the Anthology while it was appearing in the
_Mirror_ and afterwards when put in the book was to nothing so
much as to the substance. It was accepted as a picture of our life in
America. It was interpreted as a transcript of the state of mind of
men and women here and elsewhere. You called it a Comedy Humaine in
your announcement of my identity as the author in the _Mirror_ of
November 20, 1914. If the epitaphic form gave added novelty I must
confess that the idea was suggested to me by the Greek Anthology. But
it was rather because of the Greek Anthology than from it that I
evolved the less harmonious epitaphs with which Spoon River Anthology
was commenced. As to metrical epitaphs it is needless to say that I
drew upon the legitimate materials of authentic English versification.
Up to the Spring of 1914, I had never allowed a Spring to pass without
reading Homer; and I feel that this familiarity had its influence both
as to form and spirit; but I shall not take the space now to pursue
this line of confessional.
What is the substance of which I have spoken if it be not the life
around us as we view it through eyes whose vision lies in heredity,
mode of life, understanding of ourselves and of our place and time?
You have lived much. As a critic and a student of the country no one
understands America better than you do. As a denizen of the west, but
as a surveyor of the east and west you have brought to the country's
interpretation a knowledge of its political and literary life as well
as a proficiency in the history of other lands and other times. You
have seen and watched the unfolding of forces that sprang up after the
Civil War. Those forces mounted in the eighties and exploded in free
silver in 1896. They began to hit through the directed marksmanship of
Theodore Roosevelt during his second term. You knew at first hand all
that went with these forces of human hope, futile or valiant endeavor,
articulate or inarticulate expression of the new birth. You saw and
lived, but in greater degree, what I have seen and lived. And with
this back-ground you inspired and instructed me in my analysis.
Standing by you confirmed or corrected my sculpturing of the clay
taken out of the soil from which we both came. You did this with an
eye familiar with the secrets of the last twenty years, familiar also
with the relation of those years to the time which preceded and bore
So it is, that not only because I could not dedicate Spoon River to
you, but for the larger reasons indicated, am I impelled to do you
whatever honor there may be in taking your name for this book. By this
outline confession, sometime perhaps to be filled in, do I make known
what your relation is to these interpretations of mine resulting from
a spirit, life, thought, environment which have similarly come to us
and have similarly affected us.
I call this book "Toward the Gulf," a title importing a continuation
of the attempts of Spoon River and The Great Valley to mirror the age
and the country in which we live. It does not matter which one of
these books carries your name and makes these acknowledgments; so far,
anyway, as the opportunity is concerned for expressing my appreciation
of your friendship and the great esteem and affectionate interest in
which I hold you.
EDGAR LEE MASTERS.
The following poems were first printed in the publications indicated:
Toward the Gulf, The Lake Boats, The Loom, Tomorrow is my
Birthday, Dear Old Dick, The Letter, My Light with Yours, Widow
LaRue, Neanderthal, in Reedy's Mirror.
Draw the Sword, Oh Republic, in the Independent.
Canticle of the Race, in Poetry, a Magazine of Verse.
Friar Yves, in the Cosmopolitan Magazine.
"I pay my debt for Lafayette and Rochambeau," in Fashions of
TOWARD THE GULF
_Dedicated to Theodore Roosevelt_
From the Cordilleran Highlands,
From the Height of Land
From the Lake of the Woods,
From Rainy Lake,
From Itasca's springs.
From the snow and the ice
Of the mountains,
Breathed on by the sun,
And given life,
Awakened by kisses of fire,
Moving, gliding as brightest hyaline
Down the cliffs,
Down the hills,
Over the stones.
Trickling as rills;
Swiftly running as mountain brooks;
Swirling through runnels of rock;
Curving in sphered silence
Around the long worn walls of granite gorges;
Storming through chasms;
And flowing for miles in quiet over the Titan basin
To the muddled waters of the mighty river,
Himself obeying the call of the gulf,
And the unfathomed urge of the sea!
* * * * *
Waters of mountain peaks,
Spirits of liberty
Leaving your pure retreats
For work in the world.
Soiling your crystal springs
With the waste that is whirled to your breast as you run,
Until you are foul as the crawling leviathan
That devours you,
And uses you to carry waste and earth
For the making of land at the gulf,
For the conquest of land for the feet of men.
* * * * *
De Soto, Marquette and La Salle
Planting your cross in vain,
Gaining neither gold nor ivory,
For France or Spain.
Making land alone
You could proclaim in the name of the cross
The dominion of kings over a world that was new.
But the river has altered its course:
There are fertile fields
For a thousand miles where the river flowed that you knew.
And there are liberty and democracy
For thousands of miles
Where in the name of kings, and for the cross
You tramped the tangles for treasure.
* * * * *
The Falls of St. Anthony tumble the waters
In laughter and tumult and roaring of voices,
Swirling, dancing, leaping, foaming,
Spirits of caverns, of canyons and gorges:
Waters tinctured by star-lights, sweetened by breezes
Blown over snows, out of the rosy northlands,
Through forests of pine and hemlock,
Whisperings of the Pacific grown symphonic.
Voices of freedom, restless, unconquered,
Mad with divinity, fearless and free:--
Hunters and choppers, warriors, revelers,
Laughers, dancers, fiddlers, freemen,
Climbing the crests of the Alleghenies,
Singing, chopping, hunting, fighting
Erupting into Kentucky and Tennessee,
Into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois,
Sweeping away the waste of the Indians,
As the river carries mud for the making of land.
And taking the land of Illinois from kings
And handing its allegiance to the Republic.
What riflemen with Daniel Boone for leader,
And conquerors with Clark for captain
Plunge down like melted snows
The rocks and chasms of forbidden mountains,
And make more land for freemen!
Clear-eyed, hard-muscled, dauntless hunters,
Choppers of forests and tillers of fields
Meet at last in a field of snow-white clover
To make wise laws for states,
And to teach their sons of the new West
That suffrage is the right of freemen.
Until the lion of Tennessee,
Who crushes king-craft near the gulf.
Where La Salle proclaimed the crown,
And the cross,
Is made the ruler of the republic
By freeman suffragans,
And winners of the West!
* * * * *
Father of Waters! Ever recurring symbol of wider freedom,
Even to the ocean girdled earth,
The out-worn rule of Florida rots your domain.
But the lion of Tennessee asks: Would you take from Spain
The land she has lost but in name?
It shall be done in a month if you loose my sword.
It was done as he said.
And the sick and drunken power of Spain that clung,
And sucked at the life of Chile, Peru, Argentina,
Loosened under the blows of San Martin and Bolivar,
Breathing the lightning thrown by Napoleon the Great
On the thrones of Europe.
Father of Waters! 'twas you who made us say:
No kings this side of the earth forever!
One-half of the earth shall be free
By our word and the might that is back of our word!
* * * * *
The falls of St. Anthony tumble the waters
In laughter and tumult and roaring of voices!
And the river moves in its winding channel toward the gulf,
Over the breast of De Soto,
By the swamp grave of La Salle!
The old days sleep, the lion of Tennessee sleeps
With Daniel Boone and the hunters,
The rifle men, the revelers,
The laughers and dancers and choppers
Who climbed the crests of the Alleghenies,
And poured themselves into Tennessee, Ohio,
Kentucky, Illinois, the bountiful West.
But the river never sleeps, the river flows forever,
Making land forever, reclaiming the wastes of the sea.
And the race never sleeps, the race moves on forever.
And wars must come, as the waters must sweep away
Drift-wood, dead wood, choking the strength of the river--
For Liberty never sleeps!
* * * * *
The lion of Tennessee sleeps!
And over the graves of the hunters and choppers
The tramp of troops is heard!
There is war again,
O, Father of Waters!
There is war, O, symbol of freedom!
They have chained your giant strength for the cause
Of trade in men.
But a man of the West, a denizen of your shore,
Compact, clear-eyed, nerved like a hunter,
Who knew no faster beat of the heart,
Except in charity, forgiveness, peace;
Generous, plain, democratic,
Scarcely appraising himself at full,
A spiritual rifleman and chopper,
Of the breed of Daniel Boone--
This man, your child, O, Father of Waters,
Waked from the winter sleep of a useless day
By the rising sun of a Freedom bright and strong,
Slipped like the loosened snows of your mountain streams
Into a channel of fate as sure as your own--
A fate which said: till the thing be done
Turn not back nor stop.
Ulysses of the great Atlantis,
Patient, silent, tireless, watchful, undismayed
Grant at Fort Donelson, Grant at Vicksburg,
Leading the sons of choppers and riflemen,
Pushing on as the hunters and farmers
Poured from the mountains into the West,
Freed you, Father of Waters,
To flow to the Gulf and be one
With the earth-engirdled tides of time.
And gave us states made ready for the hands
Hunters, choppers, tillers, fighters
For epochs vast and new
In Truth, in Liberty,
Posters from land to land and sea to sea
Till all the earth be free!
* * * * *
Ulysses of the great Atlantis,
Dream not of disaster,
Sleep the sleep of the brave
In your couch afar from the Father of Waters!
A new Ulysses arises,
Who turns not back, nor stops
Till the thing is done.
He cuts with one stroke of the sword
The stubborn neck that keeps the Gulf
And the Caribbean
From the luring Pacific.
Roosevelt the hunter, the pioneer,
Winner of greater wests
Till all the earth be free!
* * * * *
And forever as long as the river flows toward the Gulf
Ulysses reincarnate shall come
To guard our places of sleep,
Till East and West shall be one in the west of heaven and earth!
* * * * *
In an old print
I see a thicket of masts on the river.
But in the prints to be
There will be lake boats,
With port holes, funnels, rows of decks,
Huddled like swans by the docks,
Under the shadows of cliffs of brick.
And who will know from the prints to be,
When the Albatross and the Golden Eagle,
The flying craft which shall carry the vision
Of impatient lovers wounded by Spring
To the shaded rivers of Michigan,
That it was the Missouri, the Iowa,
And the City of Benton Harbor
Which lay huddled like swans by the docks?
You are not Lake Leman,
Walled in by Mt. Blanc.
One sees the whole world round you,
And beyond you, Lake Michigan.
And when the melodious winds of March
Wrinkle you and drive on the shore
The serpent rifts of sand and snow,
And sway the giant limbs of oaks,
Longing to bud,
The boats put forth for the ports that began to stir,
With the creak of reels unwinding the nets,
And the ring of the caulking wedge.
But in the June days--
The Alabama ploughs through liquid tons
Of sapphire waves.
She sinks from hills to valleys of water,
And rises again,
Like a swimming gull!
I wish a hundred years to come, and forever
All lovers could know the rapture
Of the lake boats sailing the first Spring days
To coverts of hepatica,
With the whole world sphering round you,
And the whole of the sky beyond you.
I knew the captain of the City of Grand Rapids.
He had sailed the seas as a boy.
And he stood on deck against the railing
Puffing a cigar,
Showing in his eyes the cinema flash of the sun on the waves.
It was June and life was easy. ...
One could lie on deck and sleep,
Or sit in the sun and dream.
People were walking the decks and talking,
Children were singing.
And down on the purser's deck
A man was dancing by himself,
Whirling around like a dervish.
And this captain said to me:
"No life is better than this.
I could live forever,
And do nothing but run this boat
From the dock at Chicago to the dock at Holland
And back again."
One time I went to Grand Haven
On the Alabama with Charley Shippey.
It was dawn, but white dawn only,
Under the reign of Leucothea,
As we volplaned, so it seemed, from the lake
Past the lighthouse into the river.
And afterward laughing and talking
Hurried to Van Dreezer's restaurant
(Charley knew him and talked of things
Unknown to me as he cooked the breakfast.)
Then we fished the mile's length of the pier
In a gale full of warmth and moisture
Which blew the gulls about like confetti,
And flapped like a flag the linen duster
Of a fisherman who paced the pier--
(Charley called him Rip Van Winkle).
The only thing that could be better
Than this day on the pier
Would be its counterpart in heaven,
As Swedenborg would say--
Charley is fishing somewhere now, I think.
There is a grove of oaks on a bluff by the river
At Berrien Springs.
There is a cottage that eyes the lake
Between pines and silver birches
At South Haven.
There is the inviolable wonder of wooded shore
Curving for miles at Saugatuck.
And at Holland a beach like Scheveningen's.
And at Charlevoix the sudden quaintness
Of an old-world place by the sea.
There are the hills around Elk Lake
Where the blue of the sky is so still and clear
It seems it was rubbed above them
By the swipe of a giant thumb.
And beyond these the little Traverse Bay
Where the roar of the breeze goes round
Like a roulette ball in the groove of the wheel,
Circling the bay,
And beyond these Mackinac and the Cheneaux Islands--
And beyond these a great mystery!--
Neither ice floes, nor winter's palsy
Stays the tide in the river.
And under the shadows of cliffs of brick
The lake boats
Huddled like swans
Turn and sigh like sleepers----
They are longing for the Spring!
CITIES OF THE PLAIN
Where are the cabalists, the insidious committees,
The panders who betray the idiot cities
For miles and miles toward the prairie sprawled,
Ignorant, soul-less, rich,
Smothered in fumes of pitch?
* * * * *
Rooms of mahogany in tall sky scrapers
See the unfolding and the folding up
Of ring-clipped papers,
And letters which keep drugged the public cup.
The walls hear whispers and the semi-tones
Of voices in the corner, over telephones
Muffled by Persian padding, gemmed with brass spittoons.
Butts of cigars are on the glass topped table,
And through the smoke, gracing the furtive Babel,
The bishop's picture blesses the picaroons,
Who start or stop the life of millions moving
Unconscious of obedience, the plastic
Yielders to satanic and dynastic
Hands of reproaching and approving.
* * * * *
Here come knights armed,
But with their arms concealed,
And rubber heeled.
Here priests and wavering want are charmed.
And shadows fall here like the shark's
In messages received or sent.
Signals are flying from the battlement.
And every president
Of rail, gas, coal and oil, the parks,
The receipt of custom knows, without a look,
Their meaning as the code is in no book.
The treasonous cracksmen of the city's wealth
Watch for the flags of stealth!
* * * * *
Acres of coal lie fenced along the tracks.
Tracks ribbon the streets, and beneath the streets
Wires for voices, fire, thwart the plebiscites,
And choke the counsels and symposiacs
Of dreamers who have pity for the backs
That bear and bleed.
All things are theirs: tracks, wires, streets and coal,
The church's creed,
The city's soul,
The city's sea girt loveliness,
The merciless and meretricious press.
* * * * *
Far up in a watch-tower, where the news is printed,
Gray faces and bright eyes, weary and cynical
Discuss fresh wonders of the old cabal.
But nothing of its work in type is hinted:
Taxes are high! The mentors of the town
Must keep their taxes down
On buildings, presses, stocks
In gas, oil, coal and docks.
The mahogany rooms conceal a spider man
Who holds the taxing bodies through the church,
And knights with arms concealed. The mentors search
The spider man, the master publican,
And for his friendship silence keep,
Letting him herd the populace like sheep
For self and for the insatiable desires
Of coal and tracks and wires,
Pick judges, legislators,
Or name his favorites, whom they name:
The slick and sinistral,
Servitors of the cabal,
For praise which seems the equivalent of fame:
Giving to the delicate handed crackers
Of priceless safes, the spiritual slackers,
The flash and thunder of front pages!
And the gulled millions stare and fling their wages
Where they are bidden, helpless and emasculate.
And the unilluminate,
Whose brows are brass,
Who weep on every Sabbath day
For Jesus riding on an ass,
Scarce know the ass is they,
Now ridden by his effigy,
The publican with Jesus' painted mask,
Along a way where fumes of odorless gas
First spur then fell them from the task.
* * * * *
Through the parade runs swift the psychic cackle
Like thorns beneath a boiling pot that crackle.
And the angels say to Yahveh looking down
From the alabaster railing, on the town,
O, cackle, cackle, cackle, crack and crack
We wish we had our little Sodom back!
Out of the mercury shimmer of glass
Over these daguerreotypes
The balloon-like spread of a skirt of silk emerges
With its little figure of flowers.
And the enameled glair of parted hair
Lies over the oval brow,
From under which eyes of fiery blackness
Look through you.
And the only repose of spirit shown
Is in the hands
Lying loosely one in the other,
Lightly clasped somewhat below the breast. ...
And in the companion folder of this case
Of gutta percha
Is the shape of a man.
His brow is oval too, but broader.
His nose is long, but thick at the tip.
His eyes are blue
Wherein faith burns her signal lights,
And flashes her convictions.
His mouth is tense, almost a slit.
And his face is a massive Calvinism
Resting on a stock tie.
They were married, you see.
The clasp on this gutta percha case
Locks them together.
They were locked together in life.
And a hasp of brass
Keeps their shadows face to face in the case
Which has been handed down--
(The pictures of noble ancestors,
Showing what strains of gentle blood
Flow in the third generation)--
From Massachusetts to Illinois. ...
Long ago it was over for them,
Massachusetts has done its part,
She raised the seed
And a wind blew it over to Illinois
Where it has mixed, multiplied, mutated
Until one soul comes forth:
But a soul all striped and streaked,
And a soul self-crossed and self-opposed,
As it were a tree which on one branch
Bears northern spies,
And on another thorn apples. ...
Come Weissmann, Von Baer and Schleiden,
And you Buffon and De Vries,
Come with your secrets of sea shore asters
Night-shade, henbanes, gloxinias,
Veronicas, snap-dragons, Danebrog,
And show us how they cross and change,
And become hybrids.
And show us what heredity is,
And how it works.
For the secret of these human beings
Locked in this gutta percha case
Is the secret of Mephistos and red Campions.
Let us lay out the facts as far as we can.
Her eyes were black,
His eyes were blue.
She saw through shadows, walls and doors,
She knew life and hungered for more.
But he lived in the mists, and climbed to high places
To feel clouds about his face, and get the lights
Of supernal sun-sets.
She was reason, and he was faith.
She had an illumination, but of the intellect.
And he had an illumination but of the soul.
And she saw God as merciless law,
And he knew God as divine love.
And she was a man, and he in part was a woman.
He stood in a pulpit and preached the Christ,
And the remission of sins by blood,
And the literal fall of man through Adam,
And the mystical and actual salvation of man
Through the coming of Christ.
And she sat in a pew shading her great eyes
To hide her scorn for it all.
She was crucified,
And raged to the last like the impenitent thief
Against the fate which wasted and trampled down
Her wisdom, sagacity, versatile skill,
Which would have piled up gold or honors
For a mate who knew that life is growth,
And health, and the satisfaction of wants,
And place and reputation and mansion houses,
And mahogany and silver,
And beautiful living.
She hated him, and hence she pitied him.
She was like the gardener with great pruners
Deciding to clip, sometimes not clipping
Just for the dread.
She had married him--but why?
Some inscrutable air
Wafted his pollen to her across a wide garden--
Some power had crossed them.
And here is the secret I think:
(As we would say here is electricity)
It is the vibration inhering in sex
That produces devils or angels,
And it is the sex reaction in men and women
That brings forth devils or angels,
And starts in them the germs of powers or passions,
Becoming loves, ferocities, gifts and weaknesses,
Till the stock dies out.
So now for their hybrid children:--
She gave birth to four daughters and one son.
But first what have we for the composition of these daughters?
Reason opposed and becoming keener therefor.
Faith mocked and drawing its mantel closer.
Love thwarted and becoming acid.
Hatred mounting too high and thinning into pity.
Hunger for life unappeased and becoming a stream under-ground
Where only blind things swim.
God year by year removing himself to remoter thrones
Of inexorable law.
God coming closer even while disease
And total blindness came between him and God
And defeated the mercy of God.
And a love and a trust growing deeper in him
As she in great thirst, hanging on the cross,
Mocked his crucifixion,
And talked philosophy between the spasms of pain,
Till at last she is all satirist,
And he is all saint.
And all the children were raised
After the strictest fashion in New England,
And made to join the church,
And attend its services.
And these were the children:
Janet was a religious fanatic and a virago,
She debated religion with her husband for ten years,
Then he refused to talk, and for twenty years
Scarcely spoke to her.
She died a convert to Catholicism.
They had two children:
The boy became a forgerer
Of notorious skill.
The daughter married, but was barren.
Miranda married a rich man
And spent his money so fast that he failed.
She lashed him with a scorpion tongue
And made him believe at last
With her incessant reasonings
That he was a fool, and so had failed.
In middle life he started over again,
But became tangled in a law-suit.
Because of these things he killed himself.
Louise was a nymphomaniac.
She was married twice.
Both husbands fled from her insatiable embraces.
At thirty-two she became a woman on a telephone list,
Subject to be called,
And for two years ran through a daily orgy of sex,
When blindness came on her, as it came on her father before her,
And she became a Christian Scientist,
And led an exemplary life.
Deborah was a Puritan of Puritans,
Her list of unmentionable things
Tabooed all the secrets of creation,
Leaving politics, religion, and human faults,
And the mistakes most people make,
And the natural depravity of man,
And his freedom to redeem himself if he chooses,
As the only subjects of conversation.
As a twister of words and meanings,
And a skilled welder of fallacies,
And a swift emerger from ineluctable traps of logic,
And a wit with an adder's tongue,
And a laugher,
And an unafraid facer of enemies,
She never knew her equal.
She was at once very cruel, and very tender,
Very selfish and very generous
Very little and very magnanimous.
Scrupulous as to the truth, and utterly disregardless of the truth.
Of the keenest intuitions, yet gullible,
Easily used at times, of erratic judgment,
Analytic but pursuing with incredible swiftness
The falsest trails to her own undoing--
All in all the strangest mixture of colors and scent
Derived from father and mother,
But mixed by whom, and how, and why?
Now for the son named Herman, rebel soul.
His brow was like a loaf of bread, his eyes
Turned from his father's blue to gray, his nose
Was like his mother's, skin was dark like hers.
His shapely body, hands and feet belonged
To some patrician face, not to Marat's.
And his was like Marat's, fanatical,
Materialistic, fierce, as it might guide
A reptile's crawl, but yet he crawled to peaks
Loving the hues of mists, but not the mists
His father loved. And being a rebel soul
He thought the world all wrong. A nothingness
Moving as malice marred the life of man.
'Twas man's great work to fight this Giant Fraud,
And all who praise and serve Him. 'Tis for man
To free the world from error, suffer, die
For liberty of thought. You see his mother
Is in possession of one part of him,
Or all of him for some time.
So he lives
Nursing the dream (like father he's a dreamer)
That genius fires him. All the while a gift
For analytics stored behind that brow,
That bulges like a loaf of bread, is all
Of which he well may boast above the man
He hates as but a slave of faith and fear.
He feeds luxurious doubt with Omar Khyam,
But for long years neglects the jug of wine.
And as for "thou" he does not wake for years,
Is a pure maiden when he weds, the grains
Run counter in him, end in knots at times.
He takes from father certain tastes and traits,
From mother certain others, one can see
His mother's sex re-actions to his father,
Not passed to him to make him celibate,
But holding back in sleeping passions which
Burst over bounds at last in lust, not love.
Not love since that great engine in the brow
Tears off the irised wings of love and bares
The poor worm's body where the wings had been:
What is it but desire? Such stuff in rhyme
In music over what is but desire,
And ends when that is satisfied!
He's a crank.
And follows all the psychic thrills which run
To cackles o'er the world. It's Looking Backward,
Or Robert Elsmere, Spencer's Social Statics,
It's socialism, Anarchism, Peace,
It's non-resistance with a swelling heart,
As who should say how truer to the faith
Of Jesus am I, without hope or faith,
Than churchmen. He's a prohibitionist,
The poor's protagonist, the knight at arms
Of fallen women, yelling at the rich
Whose wicked greed makes all the prostitutes--
No prostitutes without the wicked rich!
But as he ages, as the bitter days
Approach with perorations: O ye vipers,
The engine in him changes all the world,
Reverses all the wheels of thought behind.
For Nietzsche comes, and makes him superman.
He dumps the truth of Jesus over--there
It lies with his youth's textual skepticism,
And laughter at the supernatural.
Now what's the motivating principle
Of such a mind? In youth he sought for rules
Wherewith to trail and capture truths. He found it
In James McCosh's Logic, it was this:
Lex Exclusi Tertii aut Medii,
Law of Excluded Middle speaking plain:
A thing is true, or not true, never a third
Hypothesis, so God is or is not.
That's very good to start with, how to end
And how to know which of the two is false--
He hunted out the false, as mother did--
Requires a tool. He found it in this book,
Reductio ad absurdum; let us see
Excluded middle use reductio.
God is or God is not, but then what God?
Excluded Middle never sought a God
To suffer demolition at his hands
Except the God of Illinois, the God
Grown but a little with his followers
Since Moses lived and Peter fished. So now
God is or God is not. Let us assume
God is and use reductio ad absurdum,
Taking away the rotten props, the posts
That do not fit or hold, and let Him fall.
For if he falls, the other postulate
That God is not is demonstrated. See
A universe of truth pass on the way
Cleared by Excluded Middle through the stuff
Of thought and visible things, a way that lets
A greater God escape, uncaught by all
The nippers of reductio ad absurdum.
But to resume his argument was this:
God is or God is not, but if God is
Why pestilence and war, earthquake and famine?
He either wills them, or cannot prevent them,
But if he wills them God is evil, if
He can't prevent them, he is limited.
But God, you say, is good, omnipotent,
And here I prove Him evil, or too weak
To stay the evil. Having shown your God
Lacking in what makes God, the proposition
Which I oppose to this, that God is not
Stands proven. For as evil is most clear
In sickness, pain and death, it cannot be
There is a Power with strength to overcome them,
Yet suffers them to be.
And so this man
Went through the years of life, and stripped the fields
Of beauty and of thought with mandibles
Insatiable as the locust's, which devours
A season's care and labor in an hour.
He stripped these fields and ate them, but they made
No meat or fat for him. And so he lived
On his own thought, as starving men may live
On stored up fat. And so in time he starved.
The thought in him no longer fed his life,
And he had withered up the outer world
Of man and nature, stripped it to the bone,
Nothing but skull and cross-bones greeted him
Wherever he turned--the world became a bottle
Filled with a bitter essence he could drink
From long accustomed doses--labeled poison
And marked with skull and cross-bones. Could he laugh
As mother laughed? No more! He tried to find
The mother's laugh and secret for the laugh
Which kept her to the end--but did she laugh?
Or if she laughed, was it so hollow, forced
As all his laughter now was. He had proved
Too much for laughter. Nothing but himself
Remained to keep himself, he lived alone
Upon his stored up fat, now daily growing
To dangerous thinness.
So with love of woman.
He had found "thou" the jug of wine as well,
"Thou" "thou" had come and gone too many times.
For what is sex but touch of flesh, the hand
Is flesh and hands may touch, if so, the loins--
Reductio ad absurdum, O you fools,
Who see a wrong in touch of loins, no wrong
In clasp of hands. And so again, again
With his own tools of thought he bruised his hands
Until they grew too callous to perceive
When they were touched.
So by analysis
He turned on everything he once believed.
Let's make an end!
Men thought Excluded Middle
Was born for great things. Why that bulging brow
And analytic keen if not for greatness?
In those old days they thought so when he fought
For lofty things, a youthful radical
Come here to change the world! But now at last
He lectures in back halls to youths who are
What he was in his youth, to acid souls
Who must have bitterness, can take enough
To kill a healthy soul, as fiends for dope
Must have enough to kill a body clean.
And so upon a night Excluded Middle
Is lecturing to prove that life is evil,
Not worth the living--when his auditors
Behold him pale and sway and take his seat,
And later quit the hall, the lecture left
This had happened in a twinkling:
He had made life a punching bag, with fists,
Excluded Middle and Reductio,
Had whacked it back and forth. But just as often
As he had struck it with an argument
That it is not worth living, snap, the bag
Would fly back for another punch. For life
Just like a punching bag will stand your whacks
Of hatred and denial, let you punch
Almost at will. But sometime, like the bag,
The strap gives way, the bag flies up and falls
And lies upon the floor, you've knocked it out.
And this is what Excluded Middle does
This night, the strap breaks with his blows. He proves
His strength, his case and for the first he sees
Life is not worth the living. Life gives up,
Resists no more, flys back no more to him,
But hits the ceiling, snap the strap gives way!
The bag falls to the floor, and lies there still--
Who now shall pick it up, re-fasten it?
And so his color fades, it well may be
The crisis of a long neurosis, well
What caused it? But his eyes are wondrous clear
Perceiving life knocked out. His heart is sick,
He takes his seat, admiring friends swarm round him,
Conduct him to a carriage, he goes home
And sitting by the fire (O what is fire?
The miracle of fire dawns on his thought,
Fire has been near him all these years unseen,
How wonderful is fire!) which warms and soothes
Neuritic pains, he takes the rubber case
Which locks the images of father, mother.
And as he stares upon the oval brow,
The eyes of blue which flash the light of faith,
Preserved like dendrites in this silver shimmer,
Some spectral speculations fill his brain,
Float like a storm above the sorry wreck
Of all his logic tools, machines; for now
Since pains in back and shoulder like to father's
Fall to him at the age that father had them,
Father has entered him, has settled down
To live with him with those neuritic pangs.
Thus are his speculations. Over all
How comes it that a sudden feel of life,
Its wonder, terror, beauty is like father's?
As if the soul of father entered in him
And made the field of consciousness his own,
Emotions, powers of thought his instruments.
That is a horrible atavism, when
You find yourself reverting to a soul
You have not loved, despite yourself becoming
That other soul, and with an out-worn self
Crying for burial on your hands, a life
Not yours till now that waits your new found powers--
Live now or die indeed!
SAMUEL BUTLER ET AL.
Let me consider your emergence
From the milieu of our youth:
We have played all the afternoon, grown hungry.
No meal has been prepared, where have you been?
Toward sun's decline we see you down the path,
And run to meet you, and perhaps you smile,
Or take us in your arms. Perhaps again
You look at us, say nothing, are absorbed,
Or chide us for our dirty frocks or faces.
Of running wild without our meals
You do not speak.
Then in the house, seized with a sudden joy,
After removing gloves and hat, you run,
As with a winged descending flight, and cry,
Half song, half exclamation,
Seize one of us,
Crush one of us with mad embraces, bite
Ears of us in a rapture of affection.
"You shall have supper," then you say.
The stove lids rattle, wood's poked in the fire,
The kettle steams, pots boil, by seven o'clock
We sit down to a meal of hodge-podge stuff.
I understand now how your youth and spirits
Fought back the drabness of the village,
And wonder not you spent the afternoons
With such bright company as Eugenia Turner--
And I forgive you hunger, loneliness.
But when we asked you where you'd been,
Complained of loneliness and hunger, spoke of children
Who lived in order, sat down thrice a day
To cream and porridge, bread and meat.
We think to corner you--alas for us!
Your anger flashes swords! Reasons pour out
Like anvil sparks to justify your way:
"Your father's always gone--you selfish children,
You'd have me in the house from morn till night."
You put us in the wrong--our cause is routed.
We turn to bed unsatisfied in mind,
You've overwhelmed us, not convinced us.
Our sense of wrong defeat breeds resolution
To whip you out when minds grow strong.
Up in the moon-lit room without a light,
(The lamps have not been filled,)
We crawl in unmade beds.
We leave you pouring over paper backs.
We peek above your shoulder.
It is "The Lady in White" you read.
Next morning you are dead for sleep,
You've sat up more than half the night.
We have been playing hours when you arise,
It's nine o'clock when breakfast's served at last,
When school days come I'm always late to school.
Shy, hungry children scuffle at your door,
Eye through the crack, maybe, at nine o'clock,
Find father has returned during the night.
You are all happiness, his idlest word
Provokes your laughter.
He shows us rolls of precious money earned;
He's given you a silk dress, money too
For suits and shoes for us--all is forgiven.
You run about the house,
As with a winged descending flight and cry
Half song, half exclamation.
We're sick so much. But then no human soul
Could be more sweet when one of us is sick.
We run to colds, have measles, mumps, our throats
Are weak, the doctor says. If rooms were warmer,
And clothes were warmer, food more regular,
And sleep more regular, it might be different.
Then there's the well. You fear the water.
He laughs at you, we children drink the water,
Though it tastes bitter, shows white particles:
It may be shreds of rats drowned in the well.
The village has no drainage, blights and mildews
Get in our throats. I spend a certain spring
Bent over, yellow, coughing blood at times,
Sick to somnambulistic sense of things.
You blame him for the well, that's just one thing.
You seem to differ about everything--
You seem to hate each other--when you quarrel
We cry, take sides, sometimes are whipped
For taking sides.
Our broken school days lose us clues,
Some lesson has been missed, the final meaning
And wholeness of the grammar are disturbed--
That shall not be made up in all our life.
The children, save a few, are not our friends,
Some taunt us with your quarrels.
We learn great secrets scrawled in signs or words
Of foulness on the fences. So it is
An American village, in a great Republic,
Where men are free, where therefore goodness, wisdom
Must have their way!
We reach the budding age.
Sweet aches are in our breasts:
Is it spring, or God, or music, is it you?
I am all tenderness for you at times,
Then hate myself for feeling so, my flesh
Crawls by an instinct from you. You repel me
Sometimes with an insidious smile, a look.
What are these phantasies I have? They breed
Strange hatred for you, even while I feel
My soul's home is with you, must be with you
To find my soul's rest. ...
I must go back a little. At ten years
I play with Paula.
I plait her crowns of flowers, carry her books,
Defend her, watch her, choose her in the games.
You overhear us under the oak tree
Calling her doll our child. You catch my coat
And draw me in the house.
When I resist you whip me cruelly.
To think of whipping me at such time,
And mix the shame of smarting legs and back
With love of Paula!
So I lose Paula.
I am a man at last.
I now can master what you are and see
What you have been. You cannot rout me now,
Or put me in the wrong. Out of old wounds,
Remembrance of your baffling days,
I take great strength and show you
Where you have been untruthful, where a hater,
Where narrow, bitter, growing in on self,
Where you neglected us,
Where you heaped fast destruction on our father--
For now I know that you devoured his soul,
And that no soul that you could not devour
Could have its peace with you.
You've dwindled to a quiet word like this:
"You are unfilial." Which means at last
That I have conquered you, at least it means
That you could not devour me.
Yet am I blind to you? Let me confess
You are the world's whole cycle in yourself:
You can be summer rich and luminous;
You can be autumn, mellow, mystical;
You can be winter with a cheerful hearth;
You can be March, bitter, bright and hard,
Pouring sharp sleet, and showering cutting hail;
You can be April of the flying cloud,
And intermittent sun and musical air.
I am not you while being you,
While finding in myself so much of you.
It tears my other self, which is not you.
My tragedy is this: I do not love you.
Your tragedy is this: my other self
Which triumphs over you, you hate at heart.
Your solace is you have no faith in me.
All quiet now, no March days with you now,
Only the soft coals slumbering in your face,
I saw you totter over a ravine!
Your eyes averted, watching steps,
A light of resignation on your brow.
Your thin-spun hair all gray, blown by the wind
Which swayed the blossomed cherry trees,
Bent last year's reeds,
Shook early dandelions, and tossed a bird
That left a branch with song--
I saw you totter over a ravine!
What were you at the start?
What soul dissatisfaction, sense of wrong,
Of being thwarted, stung you?
What was your shrinking of the flesh;
What fear of being soiled, misunderstood,
What wrath for loneliness which constant hope
Saw turned to fine companionship;
What in your marriage, what in seeing me,
The fruit of marriage, recreated traits
Of face or spirit which you loathed;
What in your father and your mother,
And in the chromosomes from which you grew,
By what mitosis could result at last
In you, in issues of such moment,
In our dissevered beings,
In what the world will take from me
In children, in events?
All quiet now, no March days with you now,
Only the soft coals slumbering in your face,
I saw you totter over a ravine,
And back of you the Furies!
When the air of October is sweet and cold as the wine of apples
Hanging ungathered in frosted orchards along the Grand River,
I take the road that winds by the resting fields and wander
From Eastmanville to Nunica down to the Villa Crossing.
I look for old men to talk with, men as old as the orchards,
Men to tell me of ancient days, of those who built and planted,
Lichen gray, branch broken, bent and sighing,
Hobbling for warmth in the sun and for places to sit and smoke.
For there is a legend here, a tale of the croaking old ones
That Johnny Appleseed came here, planted some orchards around here,
When nothing was here but the pine trees, oaks and the beeches,
And nothing was here but the marshes, lake and the river.
Peter Van Zylen is ninety and this he tells me:
My father talked with Johnny Appleseed there on the hill-side,
There by the road on the way to Fruitport, saw him
Clearing pines and oaks for a place for an apple orchard.
Peter Van Zylen says: He got that name from the people
For carrying apple-seed with him and planting orchards
All the way from Ohio, through Indiana across here,
Planting orchards, they say, as far as Illinois.
Johnny Appleseed said, so my father told me:
I go to a place forgotten, the orchards will thrive and be here
For children to come, who will gather and eat hereafter.
And few will know who planted, and none will understand.
I laugh, said Johnny Appleseed: Some fellow buys this timber
Five years, perhaps from to-day, begins to clear for barley.
And here in the midst of the timber is hidden an apple orchard.
How did it come here? Lord! Who was it here before me?
Yes, I was here before him, to make these places of worship,
Labor and laughter and gain in the late October.
Why did I do it, eh? Some folks say I am crazy.
Where do my labors end? Far west, God only knows!
Said Johnny Appleseed there on the hill-side: Listen!
Beware the deceit of nurseries, sellers of seeds of the apple.
Think! You labor for years in trees not worth the raising.
You planted what you knew not, bitter or sour for sweet.
No luck more bitter than poor seed, but one as bitter:
The planting of perfect seed in soil that feeds and fails,
Nourishes for a little, and then goes spent forever.
Look to your seed, he said, and remember the soil.
And after that is the fight: the foe curled up at the root,
The scale that crumples and deadens, the moth in the blossoms
Becoming a life that coils at the core of a thing of beauty:
You bite your apple, a worm is crushed on your tongue!
And it's every bit the truth, said Peter Van Zylen.
So many things love an apple as well as ourselves.
A man must fight for the thing he loves, to possess it:
Apples, freedom, heaven, said Peter Van Zylen.
My brother, the god, and I grow sick
Of heaven's heights.
We plunge to the valley to hear the tick
Of days and nights.
We walk and loiter around the Loom
To see, if we may,
The Hand that smashes the beam in the gloon
To the shuttle's play;
Who grows the wool, who cards and spins,
Who clips and ties;
For the storied weave of the Gobelins,
Who draughts and dyes.
But whether you stand or walk around
You shall but hear
A murmuring life, as it were the sound
Of bees or a sphere.
No Hand is seen, but still you may feel
A pulse in the thread,
And thought in every lever and wheel
Where the shuttle sped,
Dripping the colors, as crushed and urged--
Is it cochineal?--
Shot from the shuttle, woven and merged
A tale to reveal.
Woven and wound in a bolt and dried
As it were a plan.
Closer I looked at the thread and cried
The thread is man!
Then my brother curious, strong and bold,
Tugged hard at the bolt
Of the woven life; for a length unrolled
The cryptic cloth.
He gasped for labor, blind for the moult
Of the up-winged moth.
While I saw a growth and a mad crusade
That the Loom had made;
Land and water and living things,
Till I grew afraid
For mouths and claws and devil wings,
And fangs and stings,
And tiger faces with eyes of hell
In caves and holes.
And eyes in terror and terrible
For awakened souls.
I stood above my brother, the god
Unwinding the roll.
And a tale came forth of the woven slain
Sequent and whole,
Of flint and bronze, trowel and hod,
The wheel and the plane,
The carven stone and the graven clod
Painted and baked.
And cromlechs, proving the human heart
Has always ached;
Till it puffed with blood and gave to art
The dream of the dome;
Till it broke and the blood shot up like fire
In tower and spire.
And here was the Persian, Jew and Goth
In the weave of the cloth;
Greek and Roman, Ghibelline, Guelph,
Angel and elf.
They were dyed in blood, tangled in dreams
Like a comet's streams.
And here were surfaces red and rough
In the finished stuff,
Where the knotted thread was proud and rebelled
As the shuttle proved
The fated warp and woof that held
When the shuttle moved;
And pressed the dye which ran to loss
In a deep maroon
Around an altar, oracle, cross
Or a crescent moon.
Around a face, a thought, a star
In a riot of war!
Then I said to my brother, the god, let be,
Though the thread be crushed,
And the living things in the tapestry
Be woven and hushed;
The Loom has a tale, you can see, to tell,
And a tale has told.
I love this Gobelin epical
Of scarlet and gold.
If the heart of a god may look in pride
At the wondrous weave
It is something better to Hands which guide--
I see and believe.
DIALOGUE AT PERKO'S
Look here, Jack:
You don't act natural. You have lost your laugh.
You haven't told me any stories. You
Just lie there half asleep. What's on your mind?
What time is it? Where is my watch?
Under your pillow! You don't think I'd take it.
Why, Jack, what talk for you.
Well, never mind,
Let's pack no ice.
What is the time?
Look over towards my dresser--
My clock says half-past eleven.
Listen to that--
That hurdy-gurdy's playing Holy Night,
And on this street.
And why not on this street?
You may be right. It may as well be played
Where you live as in front of where I work,
Some twenty stories up. I think you're right.
Say, Jack, what is the matter? Come! be gay.
Tell me some stories. Buy another bottle.
Just think you make a lot of money, Jack.
You're young and prominent. They all know you.
I hear your name all over town. I see
Your picture in the papers. What's the matter?
I've lost my job for one thing.
You don't mean it!
They used me and then fired me, same as you.
If you don't make the money, out you go.
Yes, out I go. But, there are other places.
On further down the street.
Not yet a while.
Not yet for me, but still the question is
Whether to fight it out for up or down,
Or run from everything, be free.
You can't do that.
No more than I.
Oh well perhaps, if a nice man came by
To marry me then I could get away.
It happens all the time. Last week in fact
Christ Perko married Rachel who lived here.
He's rich as cream.
What corresponds to marriage
To take me from slavery?
Money is everything.
Yes, everything and nothing.
Christ Perko's rich, Christ Perko runs this house,
The madam merely acts as figure-head;
Keeps check upon the girls and on the wine.
She's just the editor, and yet I'd rather
Be editor than owner. I was editor.
My Perko was the owner of a pulp mill,
Incorporate through some multi-millionaires,
And all our lesser writers were the girls,
Like you and Rachel.
But you know before
He married Rachel, he was lover to
The madam here.
The stories tally, for
The pulp mill took my first assistant editor
To wife by making him the editor.
And I was fired just as the madam here
Lost out with Perko.
This is growing funny...
Ahem! I'll ask you something--
As if I were a youth and you a girl--
How were you ruined first?
The same as you:
You ran away from school. It was romance.
You thought you loved this flashy travelling man.
And I--I loved adventure, loved the truth.
I wanted to destroy the force called "They."
There is no "They"--we're all together here,
And everyone must live, Christ Perko too,
The pulp-mill, the policeman, magistrate,
The alderman, the precinct captain too,
And you the girls, myself the editor,
And all the lesser writers. Here we are
Thrown in one integrated lot. You see
There is no "They," except the terms, the thought
Which ramifies and vivifies the whole. ...
So I came to the city, went to work
Reporting for a paper. Having said
There is no "They"--I've freed myself to say
What bitter things I choose. For how they drive you,
And terrify you, mock you, ridicule you,
And call you cub and greenhorn, send you round
To courts and dirty places, make you risk
Your body and your life, and make you watch
The rules about your writing; what's tabooed,
What names are to be cursed or to be praised,
What interests, policies to be subserved,
And what to undermine. So I went through,
Until I had a desk, wrote editorials--
Now said I to myself, I'm free at last.
But no, my manager, your madam, mark you,
Kept eye on me, for he was under watch
Of some Christ Perko. So my manager
Blue penciled me when I touched certain subjects.
But, as he was a just man, loved me too.
He gave me things to write where he could let
My conscience have full scope, as you might live
In this house where you saw the man you loved,
And no one else, though living in this hell.
For I lived in a hell, who saw around me
Such lying, hatred, malice, prostitution.
And when this offer came to be an editor
Of a great magazine, I seemed to feel
My courage and my virtue given reward.
Now, I should pass on poems, and on stories,
Creations of free souls. It was not so.
The poems and the stories one could see
Were written to be sold, to please a taste,
Placate a prejudice, keep still alive
An era dying, ready for the tomb,
Already smelling. And that was not all.
Just as the madam here must make report
To Perko, so the magazine had to run
To suit the pulp mill. As the madam here,
Assistant to Christ Perko, must keep friends
With alderman, policemen, magistrates,
So I was just a wheel in a machine
To keep it running with such larger wheels,
And by them run, of policies, and politics
Of State and Nation. Here was I locked in
And given dope to keep me still lest I
Cry out and wake the copper-who's the copper
For such as I was? If he heard me cry
How could he raid the magazine? If he raided
Where was the court to take me and the rest--
That's it, where is the court?
It seems to me
You're bad as I am.
I am worse than you:
I poison minds with thoughts they take as good.
I drug an era, make it foul or dull--
You only sicken bodies here and there.
But you know how it is. You have remorse,
You fight it down, hush it with sophistry.
You think about the world, about your fellows:
You see that everyone is selling self,
Little or much somehow. You feed your body,
Try to be hearty, take things as they come.
You take athletics, try to keep your strength,
As you hear music, laugh, drink wine, and smoke,
Are bathed and coifed to keep your beauty fresh.
And through it all the soul's and body's needs,
The pleasures, interests, passions of our life,
The cry that comes from somewhere: "Live, O Soul,
The time is passing," move and claim your strength.
Till you forget yourself, forget the boy
And man you were, forget the dreams you had,
The creed you wished to live by--yes, what's worse,
See dreams you had, grown tawdry, see your creed
Cracked through and crumbled like a falling house.
And then you say: What is the difference?
As you might ask what virtue is and why
Should woman keep it.
I have reached this place
Save for one truth I hold to, shall still hold to:
As long as I have breath: The man who sees not,
Or cares not for the Truth that keeps the world
From vast disintegration is a brute,
And marked for a brute's death--that is his hell.
'Twas loyalty to this truth that made me lose
My place as editor. For when they came
And tried to make me pass an article
To poison millions with, I said, "I won't,
I won't by God. I'll quit before I do."
And then they said, "You quit," and so I quit.
And so you took to drink and came to me!
And that's the same as if I came to you
And used you as an editor. I am nothing
But just a poor reporter in this house--
But now I quit.
Where are you going, Florence?
I'm going to a village or a farm
Where I'll get up at six instead of twelve,
Where I'll wear calico instead of silk,
And where there'll be no furnace in the house.
And where the carpet which has kept me here
And keeps you here as editor is not.
I'm going to economize my life
By freeing it of systems which grow rich
By using me, and for the privilege
Bestow these gaudy clothes and perfumed bed.
I hate you now, because I hate my life.
Wait! Wait a minute.
Dinah, call a cab!
I met Hosea Job on Randolph Street
Who said to me: "I'm going for the train,
I want you with me."
And it happened then
My mind was hard, as muscles of the back
Grow hard resisting cold or shock or strain
And need the osteopath to be made supple,
To give the nerves and streams of life a chance.
Hosea Job was just the osteopath
To loose, relax my mood. And so I said
"All right"--and went.
Hosea was a man
Whom nothing touched of danger, or of harm.
His life was just a rare-bit dream, where some one
Seems like to fall before a truck or train--
Instead he walks across them. Or you see
Shadows of falling things, great buildings topple,
Pianos skid like bulls from hellish corners
And chase the oblivious fool who stands and smiles.
The buildings slant and sway like monstrous searchlights,
But never touch him. And the mad piano
Comes up to him, puts down its angry head,
Runs out a friendly tongue and licks his hand,
And lows a symphony.
By which I mean
Hosea had some money, and would sign
A bond or note for any man who asked him.
He'd rent a house and leave it, rent another,
Then rent a farm, move out from town and in.
He'd have the leases of superfluous places
Cancelled some how, was never sued for rent.
One time he had a fancy he would see
South Africa, took ship with a load of mules,
First telegraphing home from New Orleans
He'd be back in the Spring. Likewise he went
To Klondike with the rush. I think he owned
More kinds of mining stock than there were mines.
He had more quaint, peculiar men for friends
Than one could think were living. He believed
In every doctrine in its time, that promised
Salvation for the world. He took no thought
For life or for to-morrow, or for health,
Slept with his windows closed, ate what he wished.
And if he cut his finger, let it go.
I offered him peroxide once, he laughed.
And when I asked him if his soul was saved
He only said: "I see things. I lie back
And take it easy. Nothing can go wrong
In any serious sense."
So many thought
Hosea was a nut, and others thought,
That I was just a nut for liking him.
And what would any man of business say
If he knew that I didn't ask a question,
But simply went with him to take the train
That day he asked me.
And the train had gone
Five miles or so when I said: "Where you going?"
Hosea answered, and it made me start--
Hosea answered simply, "We are going
To see Sir Galahad."
It made me start
To hear Hosea say this, for I thought
He was now really off. But, I looked at him
And saw his eyes were sane.
Who is Sir Galahad?"
"I'm going up to see Sir Galahad,
And sound him out about re-entering
The game and run for governor again."
So then I knew he was the man our fathers
Worked with and knew and called Sir Galahad,
Now in retirement fifteen years or so.
Well, I was twenty-five when he was famous.
Sir Galahad was forty then, and now
Must be some fifty-five while I am forty.
So flashed across my thought the matter of time
And ages. So I thought of all he did:
Of how he went from faith to faith in politics
And ran for every office up to governor,
And ran for governor four times or so,
And never was elected to an office.
He drew more bills to remedy injustice,
Improve the courts, relieve the poor, reform
Administration, than the legislature
Could read, much less digest or understand.
The people beat him and the leaders flogged him.
They shut the door against his face until
He had no place to go except a farm
Among the stony hills, and there he went.
And thither we were going to see the knight,
And call him from his solitude to the fight
Against injustice, greed.
So we got off
The train at Alden, just a little village
Of fifty houses lying beneath the sprawl
Of hills and hills. And here there was a stillness
Made lonelier by an anvil ringing, by
A plow-man's voice at intervals.
Engaged a horse and buggy, and we drove
And wound about a crooked road between
Great hills that stood together like the backs
Of elephants in a herd, where boulders lay
As thick as hail in places. Ruined pines
Stood like burnt matches. There was one which stuck
Against a single cloud so white it seemed
A bursted bale of cotton.
We reached the summit
And drove along past orchards, past a field
Level and green, kept like a garden, rich
Against the coming harvest. Here we met
A scarecrow man, driving a scarecrow horse
Hitched to a wobbly wagon. And we stopped,
The scarecrow stopped. The scarecrow and Hosea
Talked much of people and of farming--I
Sat listening, and I gathered from the talk,
And what Hosea told me as we drove,
That once this field so level and so green
The scarecrow owned. He had cleaned out the stumps,
And tried to farm it, failed, and lost the field,
But raged to lose it, thought he might succeed
In further time. Now having lost the field
So many years ago, could be a scarecrow,
And drive a scarecrow horse, yet laugh again
And have no care, the sorrow healed.
The clearing of the stumps was scarce a starter
Toward a field of profit. For in truth,
The soil possessed a secret which the scarecrow
Never went deep enough to learn about.
His problem was all stumps. Not solving that,
He sold it to a farmer who out-slaved
The busiest bee, but only half succeeded.
He tried to raise potatoes, made a failure.
He planted it in beans, had half a crop.
He sowed wheat once and reaped a stack of straw.
The secret of the soil eluded him.
And here Hosea laughed: "This fellow's failure
Was just the thing that gave another man
The secret of the soil. For he had studied
The properties of soils and fertilizers.
And when he heard the field had failed to raise
Potatoes, beans and wheat, he simply said:
There are other things to raise: the question is
Whether the soil is suited to the things
He tried to raise, or whether it needs building
To raise the things he tried to raise, or whether
It must be builded up for anything.
At least he said the field is clear of stumps.
Pass on your field, he said. If I lose out
I'll pass it on. The field is his, he said
Who can make something grow.
And so this field
Of waving wheat along which we were driving
Was just the very field the scarecrow man
Had failed to master, as that other man
Had failed to master after him.
Kept talking of this field as we drove on.
That field, he said, is economical
Of men compared with many fields. You see
It only used two men. To grub the stumps
Took all the scarecrow's strength. That other man
Ran off to Oklahoma from this field.
I have known fields that ate a dozen men
In country such as this. The field remains
And laughs and waits for some one who divines
The secret of the field. Some farmers live
To prove what can't be done, and narrow down
The guess of what is possible. It's right
A certain crop should prosper and another
Should fail, and when a farmer tries to raise
A crop before it's time, he wastes himself
And wastes the field to try.
We now were climbing
To higher hills and rockier fields. Hosea
Had fallen into silence. I was thinking
About Sir Galahad, was wondering
Which man he was, the scarecrow, or the farmer
Who didn't know the seed to sow, or whether
He might still prove the farmer raising wheat,
Now we were come to give him back the field