The Census Taker

1 came an errand one cloud-blowing evening To a slab-built, black-paper-covered house Of one room and one window and one door, The only dwelling in a waste cut over A hundred square miles round it in the mountains And that not dwelt in now by men or women. (It never had been dwelt in, though, by women, So what is this I make a sorrow of ) I came as census-taker to the waste To count the people in it and found none, None in the hundred miles, none in the house, Where I came last with some hope,...

The Bearer of Evil Tidings

The bearer of evil tidings, When he was halfway there, Remembered that evil tidings Were a dangerous thing to bear. So when he came to the parting Where one road led to the throne And one went off to the mountains And into the wild unknown, He took the one to the mountains. He ran through the Vale of Cashmere, He ran through the rhododendrons Till he came to the land of Pamir. And there in a precipice valley A girl of his age he met Took him home to her bower, Or he might be running yet. She...

Record Stride

And for back wall a crumbling old chimney (And that's what their toes are towards), I have a pair of shoes standing, Old rivals of sagging leather, Who once kept surpassing each other, But now live even together. They listen for me in the bedroom To ask me a thing or two About who is too old to go walking, With too much stress on the who. I wet one last year at Montauk For a hat I had to save. The other I wet at the Cliff House In an extra-vagant wave. Two entirely different grandchildren Got...

They Were Welcome to Their belief

Care may have thought it was care. They were welcome to their belief, The over important pair. No, it took all the snows that clung To the low roof over his bed, Beginning when he was young, To induce the one snow on his head. But whenever the roof came white The head in the dark below Was a shade less the color of night A shade more the color of snow. Grief may have thought it was grief. Care may have thought it was care. But neither one was the thief Of...

The Strong Are Saying Nothing

Hie soil now gets a rumpling soft and damp, And small regard to the future of any weed. The final flat of the hoe's approval stamp Is reserved for the bed of a few selected seed. There is seldom more than a man to a harrowed piece. Men work alone, their lots plowed far apart, One stringing a chain of seed in an open crease, And another stumbling after a halting cart. To the fresh and black of the squares of early mould The leafless bloom of a plum is fresh and white Though there's more than a...

The Figure a Voem JMakes

Abstraction is an old story with the philosophers, but it has been like a new toy in the hands of the artists of our day. Why can't we have any one quality of poetry we choose by itself We can have in thought. Then it will go hard if we can't in practice. Our lives for it. Granted no one but a humanist much cares how sound a poem is if it is only a sound. The sound is the gold in the ore. Then we will have the sound out alone and dispense with the inessential. We do till we make the discovery...

Our Singing Strength

It snowed in spring on earth so dry and warm The flakes could find no landing place to form. Hordes spent themselves to make it wet and cold, And still they failed of any lasting hold. They made no white impression on the black. They disappeared as if earth sent them back. Not till from separate flakes they changed at night To almost strips and tapes of ragged white Did grass and garden ground confess it snowed, And all go back to winter but the road. Next day the scene was piled and puiFed and...

Ten Mills

For fear it would make me conservative when old. The old dog barks backward without getting up. I can remember when he was a pup. This biplane is the shape of human flight. Its name might better be First Motor Kite. Its makers' name Time cannot get that wrong, For it was writ in heaven doubly Wright. Let me be the one To do what is done. Will the blight end the chestnut The farmers rather guess not. It keeps smouldering at the roots And sending up new shoots Till another parasite Shall come to...

The Whitetailed Hornet

Lhe white-tailed hornet lives in a balloon That floats against the ceiling of the woodshed. The exit he comes out at like a bullet Is like the pupil of a pointed gun. And having power to change his aim in flight, He comes out more unerring than a bullet. Verse could be written on the certainty With which he penetrates my best defense Of whirling hands and arms about the head To stab me in the sneeze-nerve of a nostril. Such is the instinct of it I allow. Yet how about the insect certainty That...

Drumlin Woodchuck

One thing has a shelving bank, Another a rotting plank, To give it cozier skies And make up for its lack of size. My own strategic retreat Is where two rocks almost meet, And still more secure and snug, A two-door burrow I dug. With those in mind at my back I can sit forth exposed to attack As one who shrewdly pretends That he and the world are friends. All we who prefer to live Have a little whistle we give, And flash, at the least alarm We dive down under the farm. We allow some time for...

Missive Missile

Some one in ancient Mas d'Azil Once took a little pebble wheel And dotted it with red for me, And sent it to me years and years A million years to be precise Across the barrier of ice Two round dots and a ripple streak, So vivid as to seem to speak. But what imperfectly appears Is whether the two dots were tears, Two tear drops, one for either eye, And the wave line a shaken sigh. But no, the color used is red. Not tears but drops of blood instead. The line must be a jagged blade. The sender...

The Vindictives

To his subjects to gather them more. And his subjects wrung all they could wring But when there seemed no more to bring, And strangled the wretch with a string. That a king might have hoped to compel Not a half, not a third, not a tithe. The king had scarce ceased to writhe, If gold pleased the conqueror, well, The conqueror henceforth should lack. They gave no more thought to the king. All joined in the game of hide-gold. They swore all the gold should go...

Leaf Treader

I have been treading on leaves all day until I am autumn-tired. God knows all the color and form of leaves I have trodden on and mired. Perhaps I have put forth too much strength and been too fierce from fear. I have safely trodden underfoot the leaves of another year. All summer long they were over head, more lifted up than I. To come to their final place in earth they had to pass me by. All summer long I thought I heard them threatening under their breath. And when they came it seemed with a...

Build SoilA Political Pastoral

The one you had the talk with, you remember, Hard times have struck me and I'm on the move I've had to give my interval farm up For interest, and I've bought a mountain farm For nothing down, all-out-doors of a place, All woods and pasture only fit for sheep. But sheep is what I'm going into next. At thirty cents a bushel. Give me sheep. I know wool's down to seven cents a pound. But I don't calculate to sell my wool. I didn't my potatoes. I consumed them....

The Lesson for Today

If this uncertain age in which we dwell Were really as dark as I hear sages tell, And I convinced that they were really sages, I should not curse myself with it to hell, But leaving not the chair I long have sat in, I should betake me back ten thousand pages To the world's undebatably dark ages, And getting up my mediaeval Latin, Seek converse common cause and brotherhood (By all that's liberal I should, I should) With poets who could calmly take the fate Of being born at once too early and...

The Lovely Shall Be Choosers

Th e Voice said, 'Hurl her down ' The Voices, 'How far down ' 'Seven levels of the world.' 'How much time have we ' 'Take twenty years. She would refuse love safe with wealth and honor The lovely shall be choosers, shall they Then let them choose ' Take up the task beyond her choosing.' Invisible hands crowded on her shoulder In broad round ear-rmgs, gold and jet with pearls The Voice asked, 'You can let her choose ' 'Yes, we can let her and still triumph.' 'Do it by joys, and leave her always...

Blue Ribbon at Amesbury

Such a fine pullet ought to go All coiffured to a winter show, And be exhibited, and win. The answer is this one has been And come with all her honors home. Her golden leg, her coral comb, Her fluff of plumage, white as chalk, Her style, were all the fancy's talk. It seems as if you must have heard. She scored an almost perfect bird. In her we*make ourselves acquainted With one a Sewell might have painted. Here common with the flock again, At home in her abiding pen, She lingers feeding at the...

On the Heart s Beginning to Cloud the Mind

That was maintained against the night, It seemed to me, by the people there, It would flutter and fall in half an hour But my heart was beginning to cloud my mind. That far light flickers because of trees. The people can burn it as long as they please They can leave it to someone else to tend. I should find it no more no less intense. When one will say, 'Let us put it out.' They can keep it burning as long as they please They can put it out whenever they please. One looks out last from the...

In Time of Cloudburst

Let the downpour roil and toil The worst it can do to me Is carry some garden soil A little nearer the sea. 'Tis the world-old way of the rain When it comes to a mountain farm To exact for a present gain A little of future harm. And the harm is none too sure, For when all that was rotted rich Shall be in the end scoured poor, When my garden has gone down ditch, Some force has but to apply, And summits shall be immersed, The bottom of seas raised dry The slope of the earth reversed. Then all I...

Blueberries

You ought to have seen what I saw on my way To the village, through Patterson's pasture to-day Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb, Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum In the cavernous pail of the first one to come And all ripe together, not some of them green And some of them ripe You ought to have seen ' 'I don't know what part of the pasture you mean.' ' You know where they cut off the woods let me see-It was two years ago or no can it be No longer than that and the following...

Voice Ways

But the weather is clear tonight, Thanks to a clearing rain. The mountains are brought up near The stars are brought out bright. Your old sweet-cynical strain Would come in like you here 'So we won't say nothing is clear.' I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches' broth A...