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Toward the Gulf by Edgar Lee Masters

Part 3 out of 5

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Wisdom and peace and fair intent,
Are tedious as a tale twice told;
One thing increases being spent--
Perennial youth belongs to gold.

At Weehawken the soul set free,
Rules the high realm of Bunker Hill,
Drink life from that philosophy,
And flourish by the age's will.

If he shall toil to clear the field,
Fate's children seize the prosperous year;
Boldly he fashions some new shield,
And naked feels the victor's spear.

He rolls the world up into day,
He finds the grain, and gets the hull.
He sees his own mind in the sway,
And Progress tiptoes on his skull.

Angels and fiends behold the wrong,
And execrate his losing fight;
While Jove amidst the choral song
Smiles, and the heavens glow with light!


* * * * *

Trueblood is bewitched to write a drama--
Only one drama, then to die. Enough
To win the heights but once! He writes me letters,
These later days marked "Opened by the Censor,"
About his drama, asks me what I think
About this point of view, and that approach,
And whether to etch in his hero's soul
By etching in his hero's enemies,
Or luminate his hero by enshadowing
His hero's enemies. How shall I tell him
Which is the actual and the larger theme,
His hero or his hero's enemies?
And through it all I see that Trueblood's mind
Runs to the under-dog, the fallen Titan
The god misunderstood, the lover of man
Destroyed by heaven for his love of man.
In July, 1914, while in London
He took me to his house to dine and showed me
The verses as above. And while I read
He left the room, returned, I heard him move
The ash trays on the table where we sat
And set some object on the table.

As I looked up from reading I discovered
A skull and bony hand upon the table.
And Trueblood said: "Look at the loft brow!
And what a hand was this! A right hand too.
Those fingers in the flesh did miracles.
And when I have my hero's skull before me,
His hand that moulded peoples, I should write
The drama that possesses all my thought.
You'd think the spirit of the man would come
And show me how to find the key that fits
The story of his life, reveal its secret.
I know the secrets, but I want the secret.
You'd think his spirit out of gratitude
Would start me off. It's something, I insist,
To find a haven with a dramatist
After your bones have crossed the sea, and after
Passing from hand to hand they reach seclusion,
And reverent housing.

Dying in New York
He lay for ten years in a lonely grave
Somewhere along the Hudson, I believe.
No grave yard in the city would receive him.
Neither a banker nor a friend of banks,
Nor falling in a duel to awake
Indignant sorrow, space in Trinity
Was not so much as offered. He was poor,
And never had a tomb like Washington.
Of course he wasn't Washington--but still,
Study that skull a little! In ten years
A mad admirer living here in England
Went to America and dug him up,
And brought his bones to Liverpool. Just then
Our country was in turmoil over France--
(The details are so rich I lose my head,
And can't construct my acts.)--hell's flaming here,
And we are fighting back the roaring fire
That France had lighted. England would abort
The era she embraced. Here is a point
That vexes me in laying out the scenes,
And persons of the play. For parliament
Went into fury that these bones were here
On British soil. The city raged. They took
The poor town-crier, gave him nine months' prison
For crying on the streets the bones' arrival.
I'd like to put that crier in my play.
The scene of his arrest would thrill, in case
I put it on a background understood,
And showing why the fellow was arrested,
And what a high offence to heaven it was.
Then here's another thing: The monument
This zealous friend had planned was never raised.
The city wouldn't have it--you can guess
The brain that filled this skull and moved this hand
Had given England trouble. Yes, believe me!
He roused rebellion and he scattered pamphlets.
He had the English gift of writing pamphlets.
He stirred up peoples with his English gift
Against the mother country. How to show this
In action, not in talk, is difficult.

Well, then here is our friend who has these bones
And cannot honor them in burial.
And so he keeps them, then becomes a bankrupt.
And look! the bones pass to our friend's receiver.
Are they an asset? Our Lord Chancellor
Does not regard them so. I'd like to work
Some humor in my drama at this point,
And satirize his lordship just a little.
Though you can scarcely call a skull an asset
If it be of a man who helped to cost you
The loss of half the world. So the receiver
Cast out the bones and for a time a laborer
Took care of them. He sold them to a man
Who dealt in furniture. The empty coffin
About this time turned up in Guilford--then
It's 1854, the man is dead
Near forty years, when just the skull and hand
Are owned by Rev. Ainslie, who evades
All questions touching on that ownership,
And where the ribs, spine, arms and thigh bones are--
The rest in short.

And as for me--no matter
Who sold them, gave them to me, loaned them to me.
Behold the good right hand, behold the skull
Of _Thomas Paine_, theo-philanthropist,
Of Quaker parents, born in England! Look,
That is the hand that wrote the Crisis, wrote
The Age of Reason, Common Sense, and rallied
Americans against the mother country,
With just that English gift of pamphleteering.
You see I'd have to bring George Washington,
And James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson
Upon the stage, and put into their mouths
The eulogies they spoke on Thomas Paine,
To get before the audience that they thought
He did as much as any man to win
Your independence; that your Declaration
Was founded on his writings, even inspired
A clause against your negro slavery--how--
Look at this hand!--he was the first to write
_United States of America_--there's the hand
That was the first to write those words. Good Lord
This drama would out-last a Chinese drama
If I put all the story in. But tell me
What to omit, and what to stress?

And still
I'd have the greatest drama in the world
If I could prove he was dishonored, hunted,
Neglected, libeled, buried like a beast,
His bones dug up, thrown in and out of Chancery.
And show these horrors overtook Tom Paine
Because he was too great, and by this showing
Instruct the world to honor its torch bearers
For time to come. No? Well, that can't be done--
I know that; but it puzzles me to think
That Hamilton--we'll say, is so revered,
So lauded, toasted, all his papers studied
On tariffs and on banks, evoking ahs!
Great genius! and so forth--and there's the Crisis
And Common Sense which only little Shelleys
Haunting the dusty book shops read at all.
It wasn't that he liked his rum and drank
Too much at times, or chased a pretty skirt--
For Hamilton did that. Paine never mixed
In money matters to another's wrong
For his sake or a system's. Yes, I know
The world cares more for chastity and temperance
Than for a faultless life in money matters.
No use to dramatize that vital contrast,
The world to-day is what it always was.
But you don't call this Hamilton an artist
And Paine a mere logician and a wrangler?
Your artist soul gets limed in this mad world
As much as any. There is Leonardo--
The point's not here.

I think it's more like this:
Some men are Titans and some men are gods,
And some are gods who fall while climbing back
Up to Olympus whence they came. And some
While fighting for the race fall into holes
Where to return and rescue them is death.
Why look you here! You'd think America
Had gone to war to cheat the guillotine
Of Thomas Paine, in fiery gratitude.
He's there in France's national assembly,
And votes to save King Louis with this phrase:
Don't kill the man but kill the kingly office.
They think him faithless to the revolution
For words like these--and clap! the prison door
Shuts on our Thomas. So he writes a letter
To president--of what! to Washington
President of the United States of America,
A title which Paine coined in seventy-seven
Now lettered on a monstrous seal of state!
And Washington is silent, never answers,
And leaves our Thomas shivering in a cell,
Who hears the guillotine go slash and click!
Perhaps this is the nucleus of my drama.
Or else to show that Washington was wise
Respecting England's hatred of our Thomas,
And wise to lift no finger to save Thomas,
Incurring England's wrath, who hated Thomas
For pamphlets like the "Crisis" "Common Sense."
That may be just the story for my drama.
Old Homer satirized the human race
For warring for the rescue of a Cyprian.
But there's not stuff for satire in a war
Ensuing on the insult for the rescue
Of nothing but a fellow who wrote pamphlets,
And won a continent for the rescuer.
That's tragedy, the more so if the fellow
Likes rum and writes that Jesus was a man.
This crushing of poor Thomas in the hate
Of England and her power, America's
Great fear and lowered strength might make a drama
As showing how the more you do in life
The greater shall you suffer. This is true,
If what you battered down gets hold of you.
This drama almost drives me mad at times.
I have his story at my fingers' ends.
But it won't take a shape. It flies my hands.
I think I'll have to give it up. What's that?
Well, if an audience of to-day would turn
From seeing Thomas Paine upon the stage
What is the use to write it, if they'd turn
No matter how you wrote it? I believe
They wouldn't like it in America,
Nor England either, maybe--you are right!
A drama with no audience is a failure.
But here's this skull. What shall I do with it?
If I should have it cased in solid silver
There is no shrine to take it--no Cologne
For skulls like this.

Well, I must die sometime,
And who will get it then? Look at this skull!
This bony hand! Then look at me, my friend:
A man who has a theme the world despises!




Even as I see, and share with you in seeing,
The altar flame of your love's sacrifice;
And even as I bear before the hour the vision,
Your little hands in hospital and prison
Laid upon broken bodies, dying eyes,
So do I suffer for splendor of your being
Which leads you from me, and in separation
Lays on my breast the pain of memory.
Over your hands I bend
In silent adoration,
Dumb for a fear of sorrow without end,
Asking for consolation
Out of the sacrament of our separation,
And for some faithful word acceptable and true,
That I may know and keep the mystery:
That in this separation I go forth with you
And you to the world's end remain with me.

* * * * *

How may I justify the hope that rises
That I am giving you to a world of pain,
And am a part of your love's sacrifices?
Is it so little if I see you not again?
You will croon soldier lads to sleep,
Even to the last sleep of all.
But in this absence, as your love will keep
Your breast for me for comfort, if I fall,
So I, though far away, shall kneel by you
If the last hour approaches, to bedew
Your lips that from their infant wondering
Lisped of a heaven lost.
I shall kiss down your eyes, and count the cost
As mine, who gave you, by the tragic giving.
Go forth with spirit to death, and to the living
Bearing a solace in death.
God has breathed on you His transfiguring breath,--
You are transfigured
Before me, and I bow my head,
And leave you in the light that lights your way,
And shadows me. Even now the hour is sped,
And the hour we must obey--
Look you, I will go pray!

* * * * *


When you lie sleeping; golden hair
Tossed on your pillow, sea shell pink
Ears that nestle, I forbear
A moment while I look and think
How you are mine, and if I dare
To bend and kiss you lying there.

* * * * *

A Raphael in the flesh! Resist
I cannot, though to break your sleep
Is thoughtless of me--you are kissed
And roused from slumber dreamless, deep--
You rub away the slumber's mist,
You scold and almost weep.

* * * * *

It is too bad to wake you so,
Just for a kiss. But when awake
You sing and dance, nor seem to know
You slept a sleep too deep to break
From which I roused you long ago
For nothing but my passion's sake--
What though your heart should ache!

* * * * *


I arise in the silence of the dawn hour.
And softly steal out to the garden
Under the Favrile goblet of the dawning.
And a wind moves out of the south-land,
Like a film of silver,
And thrills with a far borne message
The flowers of the garden.
Poppies untie their scarlet hoods and wave them
To the south wind as he passes.
But the zinnias and calendulas,
In a mood of calm reserve, nod faintly
As the south wind whispers the secret
Of the dawn hour!

I stand in the silence of the dawn hour
In the garden,
As the star of morning fades.
Flying from scythes of air
The hare-bells, purples and golden glow
On the sand-hill back of the orchard
Race before the feet of the wind.
But clusters of oak-leaves over the yellow sand rim
Begin to flutter and glisten.
And in a moment, in a twinkled passion,
The blazing rapiers of the sun are flashed,
As he fences the lilac lights of the sky,
And drives them up where the ice of the melting moon
Is drowned in the waste of morning!

* * * * *

In the silence of the garden,
At the dawn hour
I turn and see you--
You who knew and followed,
You who knew the dawn hour,
And its sky like a Favrile goblet.
You who knew the south-wind
Bearing the secret of the morning
To waking gardens, fields and forests.
You in a gown of green, O footed Iris,
With eyes of dryad gray,
And the blown glory of unawakened tresses--
A phantom sprung out of the garden's enchantment,
In the silence of the dawn hour!

* * * * *

And here I behold you
Amid a trance of color, silent music,
The embodied spirit of the morning:
Wind from the south-land, flashing beams of the sun
Caught in the twinkling oak leaves:
Poppies who wave their untied hoods to the south wind;
And the imperious bows of zinnias and calendulas;
The star of morning drowned, and lights of lilac
Turned white for the woe of the moon;
And the silence of the dawn hour!

* * * * *

And there to take you in my arms and feel you
In the glory of the dawn hour,
Along the sinuous rhythm of flesh and flesh!
To know your spirit by that oneness
Of living and of love, in the twinkled passion
Of life re-lit and visioned.
In dryad eyes beholding
The dancing, leaping, touching hands and racing
Rapturous moment of the arisen sun;
And the first drop of day out of this cup of Favrile.
There to behold you,
Our spirits lost together
In the silence of the dawn hour!

* * * * *


France fallen! France arisen! France of the brave!
France of lost hopes! France of Promethean zeal!
Napoleon's France, that bruised the despot's heel
Of Europe, while the feudal world did rave.
Thou France that didst burst through the rock-bound grave
Which Germany and England joined to seal,
And undismayed didst seek the human weal,
Through which thou couldst thyself and others save--
The wreath of amaranth and eternal praise!
When every hand was 'gainst thee, so was ours.
Freedom remembers, and I can forget:--
Great are we by the faith our past betrays,
And noble now the great Republic flowers
Incarnate with the soul of Lafayette.


Gourgaud, these tears are tears--but look, this laugh,
How hearty and serene--you see a laugh
Which settles to a smile of lips and eyes
Makes tears just drops of water on the leaves
When rain falls from a sun-lit sky, my friend,
Drink to me, clasp my hand, embrace me, call me
Beloved Bertrand. Ha! I sigh for joy.
Look at our Paris, happy, whole, renewed,
Refreshed by youth, new dressed in human leaves,
Shaking its fresh blown blossoms to the world.
And here we sit grown old, of memories
Top-full--your hand--my breast is all afire
With happiness that warms, makes young again.

You see it is not what we saw to-day
That makes me spirit, rids me of the flesh:--
But all that I remember, we remember
Of what the world was, what it is to-day,
Beholding how it grows. Gourgaud, I see
Not in the rise of this man or of that,
Nor in a battle's issue, in the blow
That lifts or fells a nation--no, my friend,
God is not there, but in the living stream
Which sweeps in spite of eddies, undertows,
Cross-currents, what you will, to that result
Where stillness shows the star that fits the star
Of truth in spirits treasured, imaged, kept
Through sorrow, blood and death,--God moves in that
And there I find Him.

But these tears--for whom
Or what are tears? The Old Guard--oh, my friend
That melancholy remnant! And the horse,
White, to be sure, but not Marengo, wearing
The saddle and the bridle which he used.
My tears take quality for these pitiful things,
But other quality for the purple robe
Over the coffin lettered in pure gold
"Napoleon"--ah, the emperor at last
Come back to Paris! And his spirit looks
Over the land he loved, with what result?
Does just the army that acclaimed him rise
Which rose to hail him back from Elba?--no
All France acclaims him! Princes of the church,
And notables uncover! At the door
A herald cries "The Emperor!" Those assembled
Rise and do reverence to him. Look at Soult,
He hands the king the sword of Austerlitz,
The king turns to me, hands the sword to me,
I place it on the coffin--dear Gourgaud,
Embrace me, clasp my hand! I weep and laugh
For thinking that the Emperor is home;
For thinking I have laid upon his bed
The sword that makes inviolable his bed,
Since History stepped to where I stood and stands
To say forever: Here he rests, be still,
Bow down, pass by in reverence--the Ages
Like giant caryatides that look
With sleepless eyes upon the world and hold
With never tiring hands the Vault of Time,
Command your reverence.

What have we seen?
Why this, that every man, himself achieving
Exhausts the life that drives him to the work
Of self-expression, of the vision in him,
His reason for existence, as he sees it.
He may or may not mould the epic stuff
As he would wish, as lookers on have hope
His hands shall mould it, and by failing take--
For slip of hand, tough clay or blinking eye,
A cinder for that moment in the eye--
A world of blame; for hooting or dispraise
Have all his work misvalued for the time,
And pump his heart up harder to subdue
Envy, or fear or greed, in any case
He grows and leaves and blossoms, so consumes
His soul's endowment in the vision of life.
And thus of him. Why, there at Fontainebleau
He is a man full spent, he idles, sleeps,
Hears with dull ears: Down with the Corsican,
Up with the Bourbon lilies! Royalists,
Conspirators, and clericals may shout
Their hatred of him, but he sits for hours
Kicking the gravel with his little heel,
Which lately trampled sceptres in the mud.
Well, what was he at Waterloo?--you know:
That piercing spirit which at mid-day power
Knew all the maps of Europe--could unfold
A map and say here is the place, the way,
The road, the valley, hill, destroy them here.
Why, all his memory of maps was blurred
The night before he failed at Waterloo.
The Emperor was sick, my friend, we know it.
He could not ride a horse at Waterloo.
His soul was spent, that's all. But who was rested?
The dirty Bourbons skulking back to Paris,
Now that our giant democrat was sick.
Oh, yes, the dirty Bourbons skulked to Paris
Helped by the Duke and Blucher, damn their souls.

What is a man to do whose work is done
And does not feel so well, has cancer, say?
You know he could have reached America
After his fall at Waterloo. Good God!
If only he had done it! For they say
New Orleans is a city good to live in.
And he had ceded to America
Louisiana, which in time would curb
The English lion. But he didn't go there.
His mind was weakened else he had foreseen
The lion he had tangled, wounded, scourged
Would claw him if it got him, play with him
Before it killed him. Who was England then?--

An old, mad, blind, despised and dying king
Who lost a continent for the lust that slew
The Emperor--the world will say at last
It was no other. Who was England then?
A regent bad as husband, father, son,
Monarch and friend. But who was England then?
Great Castlereagh who cut his throat, but who
Had cut his country's long before. The duke--
Since Waterloo, and since the Emperor slept--
The English stoned the duke, he bars his windows
With iron 'gainst the mobs who break to fury,
To see the Duke waylay democracy.
The world's great conqueror's conqueror!--Eh bien!
Grips England after Waterloo, but when
The people see the duke for what he is:
A blocker of reform, a Tory sentry,
A spotless knight of ancient privilege,
They up and stone him, by the very deed
Stone him for wronging the democracy
The Emperor erected with the sword.
The world's great conqueror's conqueror--Oh, I sicken!
Odes are like head-stones, standing while the graves
Are guarded and kept up, but falling down
To ruin and erasure when the graves
Are left to sink. Hey! there you English poets,
Picking from daily libels, slanders, junk
Of metal for your tablets 'gainst the Emperor,
Melt up true metal at your peril, poets,
Sweet moralists, monopolists of God.
But who was England? Byron driven out,
And courts of chancery vile but sacrosanct,
Despoiling Shelley of his children; Southey,
The turn-coat panegyrist of King George,
An old, mad, blind, despised, dead king at last;
A realm of rotten boroughs massed to stop
The progress of democracy and chanting
To God Almighty hymns for Waterloo,
Which did not stop democracy, as they hoped.
For England of to-day is freer--why?
The revolution and the Emperor!
They quench the revolution, send Napoleon
To St. Helena--but the ashes soar
Grown finer, grown invisible at last.
And all the time a wind is blowing ashes,
And sifting them upon the spotless linen
Of kings and dukes in England till at last
They find themselves mistaken for the people.
Drink to me, clasp my hand, embrace me--_tiens_!
The Emperor is home again in France,
And Europe for democracy is thrilling.
Now don't you see the Emperor was sick,
The shadows falling slant across his mind
To write to such an England: "My career
Is ended and I come to sit me down
Before the fireside of the British people,
And claim protection from your Royal Highness"--
This to the regent--"as a generous foe
Most constant and most powerful"--I weep.
They tricked him Gourgaud. Once upon the ship,
He thinks he's bound for England, and why not?
They dine him, treat him like an Emperor.
And then they tack and sail to St. Helena,
Give him a cow shed for a residence.
Depute that thing Sir Hudson Lowe to watch him,
Spy on his torture, intercept his letters,
Step on his broken wings, and mock the film
Descending on those eyes of failing fire. ...

One day the packet brought to him a book
Inscribed by Hobhouse, "To the Emperor."
Lowe kept the book but when the Emperor learned
Lowe kept the book, because 'twas so inscribed,
The Emperor said--I stood near by--"Who gave you
The right to slur my title? In a few years
Yourself, Lord Castlereagh, the duke himself
Will be beneath oblivion's dust, remembered
For your indignities to me, that's all.
England expended millions on her libels
To poison Europe's mind and make my purpose
Obscure or bloody--how have they availed?
You have me here upon this scarp of rock,
But truth will pierce the clouds, 'tis like the sun
And like the sun it cannot be destroyed.
Your Wellingtons and Metternichs may dam
The liberal stream, but only to make stronger
The torrent when it breaks. "Is it not true?
That's why I weep and laugh to-day, my friend
And trust God as I have not trusted yet.
And then the Emperor said: "What have I claimed?
A portion of the royal blood of Europe?
A crown for blood's sake? No, my royal blood
Is dated from the field of Montenotte,
And from my mother there in Corsica,
And from the revolution. I'm a man
Who made himself because the people made me.
You understand as little as she did
When I had brought her back from Austria,
And riding through the streets of Paris pointed
Up to the window of the little room
Where I had lodged when I came from Brienne,
A poor boy with my way to make--as poor
As Andrew Jackson in America,
No more a despot than he is a despot.
Your England understands. I was a menace
Not as a despot, but as head and front,
Eyes, brain and leader of democracy,
Which like the messenger of God was marking
The doors of kings for slaughter. England lies.
Your England understands I had to hold
By rule compact a people drunk with rapture,
And torn by counter forces, had to fight
The royalists of Europe who beheld
Their peoples feverish from the great infection,
Who hoped to stamp the plague in France and stop
Its spread to them. Your England understands.
Save Castlereagh and Wellington and Southey.
But look you, sir, my roads, canals and harbors,
My schools, finance, my code, the manufactures
Arts, sciences I builded, democratic
Triumphs which I won will live for ages--
These are my witnesses, will testify
Forever what I was and meant to do.
The ideas which I brought to power will stifle
All royalty, all feudalism--look
They live in England, they illuminate
America, they will be faith, religion
For every people--these I kindled, carried
Their flaming torch through Europe as the chief
Torch bearer, soldier, representative."

You were not there, Gourgaud--but wait a minute,
I choke with tears and laughter. Listen now:
Sir Hudson Lowe looked at the Emperor
Contemptuous but not the less bewitched.
And when the Emperor finished, out he drawled
"You make me smile." Why that is memorable:
It should be carved upon Sir Hudson's stone.
He was a prophet, founder of the sect
Of smilers and of laughers through the world,
Smilers and laughers that the Emperor
Told every whit the truth. Look you at Europe,
What were it in this day except for France,
Napoleon's France, the revolution's France?
What will it be as time goes on but peoples
Made free through France?

I take the good and ill,
Think over how he lounged, lay late in bed,
Spent long hours in the bath, counted the hours,
Pale, broken, wracked with pain, insulted, watched,
His child torn from him, Josephine and wife
Silent or separate, waiting long for death,
Looking with filmed eyes upon his wings
Broken, upon the rocks stretched out to gain
A little sun, and crying to the sea
With broken voice--I weep when I remember
Such things which you and I from day to day
Beheld, nor could not mitigate. But then
There is that night of thunder, and the dawning
And all that day of storm and toward the evening
He says: "Deploy the eagles!" "Onward!" Well,
I leave the room and say to Steward there:
"The Emperor is dead." That very moment
A crash of thunder deafened us. You see
A great age boomed in thunder its renewal--
Drink to me, clasp my hand, embrace me, friend.


By the blue sky of a clear vision,
And by the white light of a great illumination,
And by the blood-red of brotherhood,
Draw the sword, O Republic!
Draw the sword!

For the light which is England,
And the resurrection which is Russia,
And the sorrow which is France,
And for peoples everywhere
Crying in bondage,
And in poverty!

You have been a leaven in the earth, O Republic!
And a watch-fire on the hill-top scattering sparks;
And an eagle clanging his wings on a cloud-wrapped promontory:
Now the leaven must be stirred,
And the brands themselves carried and touched
To the jungles and the black-forests.
Now the eaglets are grown, they are calling,
They are crying to each other from the peaks--
They are flapping their passionate wings in the sunlight,
Eager for battle!

As a strong man nurses his youth
To the day of trial;
But as a strong man nurses it no more
On the day of trial,
But exults and cries: For Victory, O Strength!
And for the glory of my City, O treasured youth!
You shall neither save your youth,
Nor hoard your strength
Beyond this hour, O Republic!

For you have sworn
By the passion of the Gaul,
And the strength of the Teuton,
And the will of the Saxon,
And the hunger of the Poor,
That the white man shall lie down by the black man,
And by the yellow man,
And all men shall be one spirit, as they are one flesh,
Through Wisdom, Liberty and Democracy.
And forasmuch as the earth cannot hold
Aught beside them,
You have dedicated the earth, O Republic,
To Wisdom, Liberty and Democracy!

By the Power that drives the soul to Freedom,
And by the Power that makes us love our fellows,
And by the Power that comforts us in death,
Dying for great races to come--
Draw the sword, O Republic!
Draw the Sword!


(Dedicated to Vachel Lindsay and in Memory of Richard E. Burke)

Said dear old Dick
To the colored waiter:
"Here, George! be quick
Roast beef and a potato.
I'm due at the courthouse at half-past one,
You black old scoundrel, get a move on you!
I want a pot of coffee and a graham bun.
This vinegar decanter'll make a groove on you,
You black-faced mandril, you grinning baboon--"
"Yas sah! Yas sah,"answered the coon.
"Now don't you talk back," said dear old Dick,
"Go and get my dinner or I'll show you a trick
With a plate, a tumbler or a silver castor,
Fuliginous monkey, sired by old Nick."
And the nigger all the time was moving round the table,
Rattling the silver things faster and faster--
"Yes sah! Yas sah, soon as I'se able
I'll bring yo' dinnah as shore as yo's bawn."
"Quit talking about it; hurry and be gone,
You low-down nigger," said dear old Dick.

Then I said to my friend: "Suppose he'd up and stick
A knife in your side for raggin' him so hard;
Or how would you relish some spit in your broth?
Or a little Paris green in your cheese for chard?
Or something in your coffee to make your stomach froth?
Or a bit of asafoetida hidden in your pie?
That's a gentlemanly nigger or he'd black your eye/'

Then dear old Dick made this long reply:
"You know, I love a nigger,
And I love this nigger.
I met him first on the train from California
Out of Kansas City; in the morning early
I walked through the diner, feeling upset
For a cup of coffee, looking rather surly.
And there sat this nigger by a table all dressed,
Waiting for the time to serve the omelet,
Buttered toast and coffee to the passengers.
And this is what he said in a fine southern way:
'Good mawnin,' sah, I hopes yo' had yo' rest,
I'm glad to see you on dis sunny day.'
Now think! here's a human who has no other cares
Except to please the white man, serve him when he's starving,
And who has as much fun when he sees you carving
The sirloin as you do, does this black man.
Just think for a minute, how the negroes excel,
Can you beat them with a banjo or a broiling pan?
There's music in their soul as original
As any breed of people in the whole wide earth;
They're elemental hope, heartiness, mirth.
There are only two things real American:
One is Christian Science, the other is the nigger.
Think it over for yourself and see if you can figure
Anything beside that is not imitation
Of something in Europe in this hybrid nation.
Return to this globe five hundred years hence--
You'll see how the fundamental color of the coon
In art, in music, has altered our tune;
We are destined to bow to their influence;
There's a whole cult of music in Dixie alone,
And that is America put into tone."

And dear old Dick gathered speed and said:
"Sometimes through Dvorak a vision arises
To the words of Merneptah whose hands were red:
'I shall live, I shall live, I shall grow, I shall grow,
I shall wake up in peace, I shall thrill with the glow
Of the life of Temu, the god who prizes
Favorite souls and the souls of kings.'
Now these are the words, and here is the dream,
No wonder you think I am seeing things:
The desert of Egypt shimmers in the gleam
Of the noonday sun on my dazzled sight.
And a giant negro as black as night
Is walking by a camel in a caravan.
His great back glistens with the streaming sweat.
The camel is ridden by a light-faced man,
A Greek perhaps, or Arabian.
And this giant negro is rhythmically swaying
With the rhythm of the camel's neck up and down.
He seems to be singing, rollicking, playing;
His ivory teeth are glistening, the Greek is listening
To the negro keeping time like a tabouret.
And what cares he for Memphis town,
Merneptah the bloody, or Books of the Dead,
Pyramids, philosophies of madness or dread?
A tune is in his heart, a reality:
The camel, the desert are things that be,
He's a negro slave, but his heart is free."

Just then the colored waiter brought in the dinner.
"Get a hustle on you, you miserable sinner,"
Said dear old Dick to the colored waiter.
"Heah's a nice piece of beef and a great big potato.
I hopes yo'll enjoy 'em sah, yas I do;
Heah's black mustahd greens, 'specially for yo',
And a fine piece of jowl that I swiped and took
From a dish set by, by the git-away cook.
I hope yo'll enjoy 'em, sah, yas I do."
"Well, George," Dick said, "if Gabriel blew
His horn this minute, you'd up and ascend
To wait on St. Peter world without end."


I saw a room where many feet were dancing.
The ceiling and the wall were mirrors glancing
Both flames of candles and the heaven's light,
Though windows there were none for air or flight.
The room was in a form polygonal
Reached by a little door and narrow hall.
One could behold them enter for the dance,
And waken as it were out of a trance,
And either singly or with some one whirl:
The old, the young, full livers, boy and girl.
And every panel of the room was just
A mirrored door through which a hand was thrust
Here, there, around the room, a soul to seize
Whereat a scream would rise, but no surcease
Of music or of dancing, save by him
Drawn through the mirrored panel to the dim
And unknown space behind the flashing mirrors,
And by his partner struck through by the terrors
Of sudden loss.

And looking I could see
That scarcely any dancer here could free
His eyes from off the mirrors, but would gaze
Upon himself or others, till a craze
Shone in his eyes thus to anticipate
The hand that took each dancer soon or late.
Some analyzed themselves, some only glanced,
Some stared and paled and then more madly danced.
One dancer only never looked at all.
He seemed soul captured by the carnival.
There were so many dancers there he loved,
He was so greatly by the music moved,
He had no time to study his own face
There in the mirrors as from place to place
He quickly danced.

Until I saw at last
This dancer by the whirling dancers cast
Face full against a mirrored panel where
Before he could look at himself or stare
He plunged through to the other side--and quick,
As water closes when you lift the stick,
The mirrored panel swung in place and left
No trace of him, as 'twere a magic trick.
But all his partners thus so soon bereft
Went dancing to the music as before.
But I saw faces in that mirrored door
Anatomizing their forced smiles and watching
Their faces over shoulders, even matching
Their terror with each other's to repress
A growing fear in seeing it was less
Than some one else's, or to ease despair
By looking in a face who did not care,
While watching for the hand that through some door
Caught a poor dancer from the dancing floor
With every time-beat of the orchestra.
What is this room of mirrors? Who can say?


What does one gain by living? What by dying
Is lost worth having? What the daily things
Lived through together make them worth the while
For their sakes or for life's? Where's the denying
Of souls through separation? There's your smile!
And your hands' touch! And the long day that brings
Half uttered nothings of delight! But then
Now that I see you not, and shall again
Touch you no more--memory can possess
Your soul's essential self, and none the less
You live with me. I therefore write to you
This letter just as if you were away
Upon a journey, or a holiday;
And so I'll put down everything that's new
In this secluded village, since you left. ...
Now let me think! Well, then, as I remember,
After ten days the lilacs burst in bloom.
We had spring all at once--the long December
Gave way to sunshine. Then we swept your room,
And laid your things away. And then one morning
I saw the mother robin giving warning
To little bills stuck just above the rim
Of that nest which you watched while being built,
Near where she sat, upon a leafless limb,
With folded wings against an April rain.
On June the tenth Edward and Julia married,
I did not go for fear of an old pain.
I was out on the porch as they drove by,
Coming from church. I think I never scanned
A girl's face with such sunny smiles upon it
Showing beneath the roses on her bonnet--
I went into the house to have a cry.
A few days later Kimbrough lost his wife.
Between housework and hoeing in the garden
I read Sir Thomas More and Goethe's life.
My heart was numb and still I had to harden
All memory or die. And just the same
As when you sat beside the window, passed
Larson, the cobbler, hollow-chested, lamed.
He did not die till late November came.
Things did not come as Doctor Jones forecast,
'Twas June when Mary Morgan had her child.
Her husband was in Monmouth at the time.
She had no milk, the baby is not well.
The Baptist Church has got a fine new bell.
And after harvest Joseph Clifford tiled
His bottom land. Then Judy Heaton's crime
Has shocked the village, for the monster killed
Glendora Wilson's father at his door--
A daughter's name was why the blood was spilled.
I could go on, but wherefore tell you more?
The world of men has gone its olden way
With war in Europe and the same routine
Of life among us that you knew when here.
This gossip is not idle, since I say
By means of it what I would tell you, dear:
I have been near you, dear, for I have been
Not with you through these things, but in despite
Of living them without you, therefore near
In spirit and in memory with you.

* * * * *

Do you remember that delightful Inn
At Chester and the Roman wall, and how
We walked from Avon clear to Kenilworth?
And afterward when you and I came down
To London, I forsook the murky town,
And left you to quaint ways and crowded places,
While I went on to Putney just to see
Old Swinburne and to look into his face's
Changeable lights and shadows and to seize on
A finer thing than any verse he wrote?
(Oh beautiful illusions of our youth!)
He did not see me gladly. Talked of treason
To England's greatness. What was Camden like?
Did old Walt Whitman smoke or did he drink?
And Longfellow was sweet, but couldn't think.
His mood was crusty. Lowell made him laugh!
Meantime Watts-Dunton came and broke in half
My visit, so I left.

The thing was this:
None of this talk was Swinburne any more
Than some child of his loins would take his hair,
Eyes, skin, from him in some pangenesis,--
His flesh was nothing but a poor affair,
A channel for the eternal stream--his flesh
Gave nothing closer, mind you, than his book,
But rather blurred it; even his eyes' look
Confused "Madonna Mia" from its fresh
And liquid meaning. So I knew at last
His real immortal self is in his verse.

* * * * *

Since you have gone I've thought of this so much.
I cannot lose you in this universe--
I first must lose myself. The essential touch
Of soul possession lies not in the walk
Of daily life on earth, nor in the talk
Of daily things, nor in the sight of eyes
Looking in other eyes, nor daily bread
Broken together, nor the hour of love
When flesh surrenders depths of things divine
Beyond all vision, as they were the dream
Of other planets, but without these even
In death and separation, there is heaven:
By just that unison and its memory
Which brought our lips together. To be free
From accidents of being, to be freeing
The soul from trammels on essential being,
Is to possess the loved one. I have strayed
Into the only heaven God has made:
That's where we know each other as we are,
In the bright ether of some quiet star,
Communing as two memories with each other.



How beautiful are the bodies of men--
The agonists!
Their hearts beat deep as a brazen gong
For their strength's behests.
Their arms are lithe as a seasoned thong
In games or tests
When they run or box or swim the long
Sea-waves crests
With their slender legs, and their hips so strong,
And their rounded chests.

I know a youth who raises his arms
Over his head.
He laughs and stretches and flouts alarms
Of flood or fire.
He springs renewed from a lusty bed
To his youth's desire.
He drowses, for April flames outspread
In his soul's attire.

The strength of men is for husbandry
Of woman's flesh:
Worker, soldier, magistrate
Of city or realm;
Artist, builder, wrestling Fate
Lest it overwhelm
The brood or the race, or the cherished state.
They sing at the helm
When the waters roar and the waves are great,
And the gale is fresh.

There are two miracles, women and men--
Yea, four there be:
A woman's flesh, and the strength of a man,
And God's decree.
And a babe from the womb in a little span
Ere the month be ten.
Their rapturous arms entwine and cling
In the depths of night;
He hunts for her face for his wondering,
And her eyes are bright.
A woman's flesh is soil, but the spring
Is man's delight.


How beautiful is the flesh of women--
Their throats, their breasts!
My wonder is a flame which burns,
A flame which rests;
It is a flame which no wind turns,
And a flame which quests.

I know a woman who has red lips,
Like coals which are fanned.
Her throat is tied narcissus, it dips
From her white-rose chin.
Her throat curves like a cloud to the land
Where her breasts begin.
I close my eyes when I put my hand
On her breast's white skin.

The flesh of women is like the sky
When bare is the moon:
Rhythm of backs, hollow of necks,
And sea-shell loins.
I know a woman whose splendors vex
Where the flesh joins--
A slope of light and a circumflex
Of clefts and coigns.
She thrills like the air when silence wrecks
An ended tune.

These are the things not made by hands in the earth:
Water and fire,
The air of heaven, and springs afresh,
And love's desire.
And a thing not made is a woman's flesh,
Sorrow and mirth!
She tightens the strings on the lyric lyre,
And she drips the wine.
Her breasts bud out as pink and nesh
As buds on the vine:
For fire and water and air are flesh,
And love is the shrine.


How beautiful is the human spirit
In its vase of clay!
It takes no thought of the chary dole
Of the light of day.
It labors and loves, as it were a soul
Whom the gods repay
With length of life, and a golden goal
At the end of the way.

There are souls I know who arch a dome,
And tunnel a hill.
They chisel in marble and fashion in chrome,
And measure the sky.
They find the good and destroy the ill,
And they bend and ply
The laws of nature out of a will
While the fates deny.

I wonder and worship the human spirit
When I behold
Numbers and symbols, and how they reach
Through steel and gold;
A harp, a battle-ship, thought and speech,
And an hour foretold.
It ponders its nature to turn and teach,
And itself to mould.

The human spirit is God, no doubt,
Is flesh made the word:
Jesus, Beethoven and Raphael,
And the souls who heard
Beyond the rim of the world the swell
Of an ocean stirred
By a Power on the waters inscrutable.
There are souls who gird
Their loins in faith that the world is well,
In a faith unblurred.
How beautiful is the human spirit--
The flesh made the word!


This way and that way measuring,
Sighting from tree to tree,
And from the bend of the river.
This must be the place where Black Eagle
Twelve hundred moons ago
Stood with folded arms,
While a Pottawatomie father
Plunged a knife in his heart,
For the murder of a son.
Black Eagle stood with folded arms,
Slim, erect, firm, unafraid,
Looking into the distance, across the river.
Then the knife flashed,
Then the knife crashed through his ribs
And into his heart.
And like a wounded eagle's wings
His arms fell, slowly unfolding,
And he sank to death without a groan!

And my name is Black Eagle too.
And I am of the spirit,
And perhaps of the blood
Of that Black Eagle of old.
I am naked and alone,
But very happy;
Being rich in spirit and in memories.
I am very strong.
I am very proud,
Brave, revengeful, passionate.
No longer deceived, keen of eye,
Wise in the ways of the tribes:
A knower of winds, mists, rains, snows, changes.
A knower of balsams, simples, blossoms, grains.
A knower of poisonous leaves, deadly fungus, herries.
A knower of harmless snakes,
And the livid copperhead.
Lastly a knower of the spirits,
For there are many spirits:
Spirits of hidden lakes,
And of pine forests.
Spirits of the dunes,
And of forested valleys.
Spirits of rivers, mountains, fields,
And great distances.
There are many spirits
Under the Great Spirit.
Him I know not.
Him I only feel
With closed eyes.
Or when I look from my bed of moss by the river
At a sky of stars,
When the leaves of the oak are asleep.
I will fill this birch bark full of writing
And hide it in the cleft of an oak,
Here where Black Eagle fell.
Decipher my story who can:

When I was a boy of fourteen
Tobacco Jim, who owned many dogs,
Rose from the door of his tent
And came to where we were running,
Young Coyote, Rattler, Little Fox,
And said to me in their hearing:
"You are the fastest of all.
Now run again, and let me see.
And if you can run
I will make you my runner,
I will care for you,
And you shall have pockets of gold." ...

And then we ran.
And the others lagged behind me,
Like smoke behind the wind.
But the faces of Young Coyote, Rattler, Little Fox
Grew dark.
They nudged each other.
They looked side-ways,
Toeing the earth in shame. ...
Then Tobacco Jim took me and trained me.
And he went here and there
To find a match.
And to get wagers of ponies, nuggets of copper,
And nuggets of gold.
And at last the match was made.

It was under a sky as blue as the cup of a harebell,
It was by a red and yellow mountain,
It was by a great river
That we ran.
Hundreds of Indians came to the race.
They babbled, smoked and quarreled.
And everyone carried a knife,
And everyone carried a gun.
And we runners--
How young we were and unknowing
What the race meant to them!
For we saw nothing but the track,
We saw nothing but our trainers
And the starters.
And I saw no one but Tobacco Jim.
But the Indians and the squaws saw much else,
They thought of the race in such different ways
From the way we thought of it.
For with me it was honor,
It was triumph,
It was fame.
It was the tender looks of Indian maidens
Wherever I went.
But now I know that to Tobacco Jim,
And the old fathers and young bucks
The race meant jugs of whiskey,
And new guns.
It meant a squaw,
A pony,
Or some rise in the life of the tribe.

So the shot of the starter rang at last,
And we were off.
I wore a band of yellow around my brow
With an eagle's feather in it,
And a red strap for my loins.
And as I ran the feather fluttered and sang:
"You are the swiftest runner, Black Eagle,
They are all behind you."
And they were all behind me,
As the cloud's shadow is behind
The bend of the grass under the wind.
But as we neared the end of the race
The onlookers, the gamblers, the old Indians,
And the young bucks,
Crowded close to the track--
I fell and lost.

Next day Tobacco Jim went about
Lamenting his losses.
And when I told him they tripped me
He cursed them.
But later he went about asking in whispers
If I was wise enough to throw the race.
Then suddenly he disappeared.
And we heard rumors of his riches,
Of his dogs and ponies,
And of the joyous life he was leading.

Then my father took me to New Mexico,
And here my life changed.
I was no longer the runner,
I had forgotten it all.
I had become a wise Indian.
I could do many things.
I could read the white man's writing
And write it.

And Indians flocked to me:
Billy the Pelican, Hooked Nosed Weasel,
Hungry Mole, Big Jawed Prophet,
And many others.
They flocked to me, for I could help them.
For the Great Spirit may pick a chief,
Or a leader.
But sometimes the chief rises
By using wise Indians like me
Who are rich in gifts and powers ...
But at least it is true:
All little great Indians
Who are after ponies,
Jugs of whiskey and soft blankets
Gain their ends through the gifts and powers
Of wise Indians like me.
They come to you and ask you to do this,
And to do that.
And you do it, because it would be small
Not to do it.
And until all the cards are laid on the table
You do not see what they were after,
And then you see:
They have won your friend away;
They have stolen your hill;
They have taken your place at the feast;
They are wearing your feathers;
They have much gold.
And you are tired, and without laughter.
And they drift away from you,
As Tobacco Jim went away from me.
And you hear of them as rich and great.
And then you move on to another place,
And another life.

Billy the Pelican has built him a board house
And lives in Guthrie.
Hook Nosed Weasel is a Justice of the Peace.
Hungry Mole had his picture in the Denver News;
He is helping the government
To reclaim stolen lands.
(Many have told me it was Hungry Mole
Who tripped me in the race.)
Big Jawed Prophet is very rich.
He has disappeared as an eagle
With a rabbit.
And I have come back here
Where twelve hundred moons ago
Black Eagle before me
Had the knife run through his ribs
And through his heart. ...

I will hide this writing
In the cleft of the oak
By this bend in the river.
Let him read who can:
I was a swift runner whom they tripped.



When the sea has devoured the ships,
And the spires and the towers
Have gone back to the hills.
And all the cities
Are one with the plains again.
And the beauty of bronze,
And the strength of steel
Are blown over silent continents,
As the desert sand is blown--
My dust with yours forever.


When folly and wisdom are no more,
And fire is no more,
Because man is no more;
When the dead world slowly spinning
Drifts and falls through the void--
My light with yours
In the Light of Lights forever!


Amid the din of cars and automobiles,
At the corner of a towering pile of granite,
Under the city's soaring brick and stone,
Where multitudes go hurrying by, you stand
With eyeless sockets playing on a flute.
And an old woman holds the cup for you,
Wherein a curious passer by at times
Casts a poor coin.

You are so blind you cannot see us men
As walking trees!
I fancy from the tune
You play upon the flute, you have a vision
Of leafy trees along a country road-side,
Where wheat is growing and the meadow-larks
Rise singing in the sun-shine!
In your darkness
You may see such things playing on your flute
Here in the granite ways of mad Chicago!

And here's another on a farther corner,
With head thrown back as if he searched the skies,
He's selling evening papers, what's to him
The flaring headlines? Yet he calls the news.
That is his flute, perhaps, for one can call,
Or play the flute in blindness.

Yet I think
It's neither news nor music with these blind ones--
Rather the hope of re-created eyes,
And a light out of death!
"How can it be," I hear them over and over,
"There never shall be eyes for me again?"


--_His Own Words_


* * * * *

Eagle, whose fearless
Flight in vast spaces
Clove the inane,
While we stood tearless,
White with rapt faces
In wonder and pain. ...

Heights could not awe you,
Depths could not stay you.
Anguished we saw you,
Saw Death way-lay you
Where the storm flings
Black clouds to thicken
Round France's defender!
Archangel stricken
From ramparts of splendor--
Shattered your wings! ...

But Lafayette called you,
Rochambeau beckoned.
Duty enthralled you.
For France you had reckoned
Her gift and your debt.
Dull hearts could harden
Half-gods could palter.
For you never pardon
If Liberty's altar
You chanced to forget. ...

Stricken archangel!
Ramparts of splendor
Keep you, evangel
Of souls who surrender
No banner unfurled
For ties ever living,
Where Freedom has bound them.
Praise and thanksgiving
For love which has crowned them--
Love frees the world! ...


Who is that calling through the night,
A wail that dies when the wind roars?
We heard it first on Shipley's Hill,
It faded out at Comingoer's.

Along five miles of wintry road
A horseman galloped with a cry,
"'Twas two o'clock," said Herman Pointer,
"When I heard clattering hoofs go by."

"I flung the winder up to listen;
I heerd him there on Gordon's Ridge;
I heerd the loose boards bump and rattle
When he went over Houghton's Bridge."

Said Roger Ragsdale: "I was doctorin'
A heifer in the barn, and then
My boy says: 'Pap, that's Billy Paris.'
'There,' says my boy, it is again."

"Says I: 'That kain't be Billy Paris,
We seed 'im at the Christmas tree.
It's two o'clock,' says I, 'and Billy
I seed go home with Emily.'

"'He is too old for galavantin'
Upon a night like this,' says I.
'Well, pap,' says he, 'I know that frosty,
Good-natured huskiness in that cry.'

"'It kain't be Billy,' says I, swabbin'
The heifer's tongue and mouth with brine,
'I never thought--it makes me shiver,
And goose-flesh up and down the spine.'"

Said Doggie Traylor: "When I heard it
I 'lowed 'twas Pin Hook's rowdy new 'uns.
Them Cashner boys was at the schoolhouse
Drinkin' there at the Christmas doin's."

Said Pete McCue: "I lit a candle
And held it up to the winder pane.
But when I heerd again the holler
'Twere half-way down the Bowman Lane."

Said Andy Ensley: "First I knowed
I thought he'd thump the door away.
I hopped from bed, and says, 'Who is it?'
'O, Emily,' I heard him say.

"And there stood Billy Paris tremblin',
His face so white, he looked so queer.
'O Andy'--and his voice went broken.
'Come in,' says I, 'and have a cheer.'

"'Sit by the fire,' I kicked the logs up,
'What brings you here?--I would be told.'
Says he. 'My hand just ... happened near hers,
It teched her hand ... and it war cold.

"'We got back from the Christmas doin's
And went to bed, and she was sayin',
(The clock struck ten) if it keeps snowin'
To-morrow there'll be splendid sleighin'.'

"'My hand teched hers, the clock struck two,
And then I thought I heerd her moan.
It war the wind, I guess, for Emily
War lyin' dead. ... She's thar alone.'

"I left him then to call my woman
To tell her that her mother died.
When we come back his voice was steady,
The big tears in his eyes was dried.

"He just sot there and quiet like
Talked 'bout the fishin' times they had,
And said for her to die on Christmas
Was somethin' 'bout it made him glad.

"He grew so cam he almost skeered us.
Says he: 'It's a fine Christmas over there.'
Says he: 'She was the lovingest woman
That ever walked this Vale of Care.'

"Says he: 'She allus laughed and sang,
I never heerd her once complain.'
Says he: "It's not so bad a Christmas
When she can go and have no pain.'

"Says he: 'The Christmas's good for her.'
Says he: ... 'Not very good for me.'
He hid his face then in his muffler
And sobbed and sobbed, 'O Emily.'"



What will happen, Widow La Rue?
For last night at three o'clock
You woke and saw by your window again
Amid the shadowy locust grove
The phantom of the old soldier:
A shadow of blue, like mercury light--
What will happen, Widow La Rue?

* * * * *

What may not happen
In this place of summer loneliness?
For neither the sunlight of July,
Nor the blue of the lake,
Nor the green boundaries of cool woodlands,
Nor the song of larks and thrushes,
Nor the bravuras of bobolinks,
Nor scents of hay new mown,
Nor the ox-blood sumach cones,
Nor the snow of nodding yarrow,
Nor clover blossoms on the dizzy crest
Of the bluff by the lake
Can take away the loneliness
Of this July by the lake!

* * * * *

Last night you saw the old soldier
By your window, Widow La Rue!
Or was it your husband you saw,
As he lay by the gate so long ago?
With the iris of his eyes so black,
And the white of his eyes so china-blue,
And specks of blood on his face,
Like a wall specked by a shake a brush;
And something like blubber or pinkish wax,
Hiding the gash in his throat----
The serum and blood blown up by the breath
From emptied lungs.


So Widow La Rue has gone to a friend
For the afternoon and the night,
Where the phantom will not come,
Where the phantom may be forgotten.
And scarcely has she turned the road,
Round the water-mill by the creek,
When the telephone rings and daughter Flora
Springs up from a drowsy chair
And the ennui of a book,
And runs to answer the call.
And her heart gives a bound,
And her heart stops still,
As she hears the voice, and a faintness courses
Quick as poison through all her frame.
And something like bees swarming in her breast
Comes to her throat in a surge of fear,
Rapture, passion, for what is the voice
But the voice of her lover?
And just because she is here alone
In this desolate summer-house by the lake;
And just because this man is forbidden
To cross her way, for a taint in his blood
Of drink, from a father who died of drink;
And just because he is in her thought
By night and day,
The voice of him heats her through like fire.
She sways from dizziness,
The telephone falls from her shaking hand. ...
He is in the village, is walking out,
He will be at the door in an hour.


The sun is half a hand above the lake
In a sky of lemon-dust down to the purple vastness.
On the dizzy crest of the bluff the balls of clover
Bow in the warm wind blowing across a meadow
Where hay-cocks stand new-piled by the harvesters
Clear to the forest of pine and beech at the meadow's end.
A robin on the tip of a poplar's spire
Sings to the sinking sun and the evening planet.
Over the olive green of the darkening forest
A thin moon slits the sky and down the road
Two lovers walk.

It is night when they reappear
From the forest, walking the hay-field over.
And the sky is so full of stars it seems
Like a field of buckwheat. And the lovers look up,
Then stand entranced under the silence of stars,
And in the silence of the scented hay-field
Blurred only by a lisp of the listless water
A hundred feet below.
And at last they sit by a cock of hay,
As warm as the nest of a bird,
Hand clasped in hand and silent,
Large-eyed and silent.

* * * * *

O, daughter Flora!
Delicious weakness is on you now,
With your lover's face above you.
You can scarcely lift your hand,
Or turn your head
Pillowed upon the fragrant hay.
You dare not open your moistened eyes
For fear of this sky of stars,
For fear of your lover's eyes.
The trance of nature has taken you
Rocked on creation's tide.
And the kinship you feel for this man,
Confessed this night--so often confessed
And wondered at--
Has coiled its final sorcery about you.
You do not know what it is,
Nor care what it is,
Nor care what fate is to come,--
The night has you.
You only move white, fainting hands
Against his strength, then let them fall.
Your lips are parted over set teeth;
A dewy moisture with the aroma of a woman's body
Maddens your lover,
And in a swift and terrible moment
The mystery of love is unveiled to you. ...

Then your lover sits up with a sigh.
But you lie there so still with closed eyes.
So content, scarcely breathing under that ocean of stars.
A night bird calls, and a vagrant zephyr
Stirs your uncoiled hair on your bare bosom,
But you do not move.
And the sun comes up at last
Finding you asleep in his arms,
There by the hay cock.
And he kisses your tears away,
And redeems his word of last night,
For down to the village you go
And take your vows before the Pastor there,
And then return to the summer house. ...
All is well.


Widow La Rue has returned
And is rocking on the porch--
What is about to happen?
For last night the phantom of the old soldier
Appeared to her again--
It followed her to the house of her friend,
And appeared again.
But more than ever was it her husband,
With the iris of his eyes so black,
And the white of his eyes so china-blue.
And while she thinks of it,
And wonders what is about to happen,
She hears laughter,
And looking up, beholds her daughter
And the forbidden lover.

* * * * *

And then the daughter and her husband
Come to the porch and the daughter says
"We have just been married in the village, mother;
Will you forgive us?
This is your son; you must kiss your son."
And Widow La Rue from her chair arises
And calmly takes her child in her arms,
And clasps his hand.
And after gazing upon him
Imperturbably as Clytemnestra looked
Upon returning Agamemnon,
With a light in her eyes which neither fathomed,
She kissed him,
And in a calm voice blessed them.
Then sent her daughter, singing,
On an errand back to the village
To market for dinner, saying:
"We'll talk over plans, my dear."


And the young husband
Rocks on the porch without a thought
Of the lightning about to strike.
And like Clytemnestra, Widow La Rue
Enters the house.
And while he is rocking, with all his spirit in a rythmic rapture,
The Widow La Rue takes a seat in the room
By a window back of the chair where he rocks,
And drawing the shade
She speaks:

"These two nights past I have seen the phantom of the old soldier
Who haunts the midnights
Of this summer loneliness.
And I knew that a doom was at hand. ...
You have married my daughter, and this is the doom. ...
O, God in heaven!"
Then a horror as of a writhing whiteness
Winds out of the July glare
And stops the flow of his blood,
As he hears from the re-echoing room
The voice of Widow La Rue
Moving darkly between banks
Of delirious fear and woe!

"Be calm till you hear me through. ...
Do not move, or enter here,
I am hiding my face from you. ...
Hear me through, and then fly.
I warned her against you, but how could I tell her
Why you were not for her?
But tell me now, have you come together?
No? Thank God for that. ...
For you must not come together. ...
Now listen while I whisper to you:
My daughter was born of a lawless love
For a man I loved before I married,
And when, for five years, no child came
I went to this man
And begged him to give me a child. ...
Well then ... the child was born, your wife as it seems. ...
And when my husband saw her,
And saw the likeness of this man in her face
He went out of the house, where they found him later
By the entrance gate
With the iris of his eyes so black,
And the white of his eyes so china-blue,
And specks of blood on his face,
Like a wall specked by a shake of a brush.
And something like blubber or pinkish wax
Hiding the gash in his throat--
The serum and blood blown up by the breath
From emptied lungs. Yes, there by the gate, O God!
Quit rocking your chair! Don't you understand?
Quit rocking your chair! Go! Go!
Leap from the bluff to the rocks on the shore!
Take down the sickle and end yourself!
You don't care, you say, for all I've told you?
Well, then, you see, you're older than Flora. ...
And her father died when she was a baby. ...
And you were four when your father died. ...
And her father died on the very day
That your father died,
At the verv same moment. ...
On the very same bed. ...
Don't you understand?"


He ceases to rock. He reels from the porch,
He runs and stumbles to reach the road.
He yells and curses and tears his hair.
He staggers and falls and rises and runs.
And Widow La Rue
With the eyes of Clytemnestra
Stands at the window and watches him
Running and tearing his hair.


She seems so calm when the daughter returns.
She only says: "He has gone to the meadow,
He will soon be back. ..."
But he never came back.

And the years went on till the daughter's hair
Was white as her mother's there in the grave.
She was known as the bride whom the bridegroom left
And didn't say good-bye.


I lectured last upon the morbus sacer,
Or falling sickness, epilepsy, of old
In Palestine and Greece so much ascribed
To deities or devils. To resume
We find it caused by morphological
Changes of the cortex cells. Sometimes,
More times, indeed, the anatomical
Basis, if one be, escapes detection.
For many functions of the cortex are
Unknown, as I have said.

And now remember
Mercier's analysis of heredity:
Besides direct transmission of unstable
Nervous systems, there remains the law
Hereditary of sanguinity.
Then here's another matter: Parents may
Have normal nervous systems, yet produce
Children of abnormal nerves and minds,
Caused by unsuitable sexual germs.
Let me repeat before I leave the matter
The factors in a perfect organization:
First quality in the germ producing matter;
Then quality in the sperm producing force,
And lastly relative fitness of the two.
We are but plants, however high we rise,
Whatever thoughts we have, or dreams we dream
We are but plants, and all we are and do

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