NORTH OF BOSTON
by Robert Frost
THIS BOOK OF PEOPLE
I'm going out to clean the pasture spring;
I'll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clearI may):
I sha'n't be gone long.- You come too.
I'm going out to fetch the little calf
That's standing by the mother. It's so young
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I sha'n't be gone long.- You come too.
Mending Wall *001
SOMETHING there is that doesn't love a wall
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding
To please the yelping dogs. The gaps I mean
No one has seen them made or heard them made
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbour know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
"Stay where you are until our backs are turned!"
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Ohjust another kind of out-door game
One on a side. It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pinesI tell him.
He only says"Good fences make good neighbours."
Spring is the mischief in meand I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
$"Why 4 do they make good neighbours? Isn't it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall
That wants it down." I could say "Elves" to him
But it's not elves exactlyand I'd rather
He said it for himself. I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each handlike an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father's saying
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again"Good fences make good neighbours."
The Death of the Hired Man
MARY sat musing on the lamp-flame at the table
Waiting for Warren. When she heard his step
She ran on tip-toe down the darkened passage
To meet him in the doorway with the news
And put him on his guard. "Silas is back."
She pushed him outward with her through the door
And shut it after her. "Be kind" she said.
She took the market things from Warren's arms
And set them on the porchthen drew him down
To sit beside her on the wooden steps.
"When was I ever anything but kind to him?
But I'll not have the fellow back" he said.
"I told him so last hayingdidn't I?
'If he left then' I said'that ended it.'
What good is he? Who else will harbour him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there's no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
'He thinks he ought to earn a little pay
Enough at least to buy tobacco with
So he won't have to beg and be beholden.'
'All right' I say'I can't afford to pay
Any fixed wagesthough I wish I could.'
'Someone else can.' 'Then someone else will have to.'
I shouldn't mind his bettering himself
If that was what it was. You can be certain
When he begins like that; there's someone at him
Trying to coax him off with pocket-money-
In haying timewhen any help is scarce.
In winter he comes back to us. I'm done."
"Sh! not so loud: he'll hear you" Mary said.
"I want him to: he'll have to soon or late."
"He's worn out. He's asleep beside the stove.
When I came up from Rowe's I found him here
Huddled against the barn-door fast asleep
A miserable sightand frighteningtoo-
You needn't smile- I didn't recognise him-
I wasn't looking for him- and he's changed.
Wait till you see."
"Where did you say he'd been?"
"He didn't say. I dragged him to the house
And gave him tea and tried to make him smoke.
I tried to make him talk about his travels.
Nothing would do: he just kept nodding off."
"What did he say? Did he say anything?"
He said he'd come to ditch the meadow for me."
"But did he? I just want to know."
"Of course he did. What would you have him say?
Surely you wouldn't grudge the poor old man
Some humble way to save his self-respect.
He addedif you really care to know
He meant to clear the upper pasturetoo.
That sounds like something you have heard before?
WarrenI wish you could have heard the way
He jumbled everything. I stopped to look
Two or three times- he made me feel so queer-
To see if he was talking in his sleep.
He ran on Harold Wilson- you remember-
The boy you had in haying four years since.
He's finished schooland teaching in his college.
Silas declares you'll have to get him back.
He says they two will make a team for work:
Between them they will lay this farm as smooth!
The way he mixed that in with other things.
He thinks young Wilson a likely ladthough daft
On education- you know how they fought
All through July under the blazing sun
Silas up on the cart to build the load
Harold along beside to pitch it on."
"YesI took care to keep well out of earshot."
"Wellthose days trouble Silas like a dream.
You wouldn't think they would. How some things linger!
Harold's young college boy's assurance piqued him.
After so many years he still keeps finding
Good arguments he sees he might have used.
I sympathise. I know just how it feels
To think of the right thing to say too late.
Harold's associated in his mind with Latin.
He asked me what I thought of Harold's saying
He studied Latin like the violin
Because he liked it- that an argument!
He said he couldn't make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong-
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay-"
"I knowthat's Silas' one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place
And tags and numbers it for future reference
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds' nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He's trying to liftstraining to lift himself."
"He thinks if he could teach him thathe'd be
Some good perhaps to someone in the world.
He hates to see a boy the fool of books.
Poor Silasso concerned for other folk
And nothing to look backward to with pride
And nothing to look forward to with hope
So now and never any different."
Part of a moon was falling down the west
Dragging the whole sky with it to the hills.
Its light poured softly in her lap. She saw
And spread her apron to it. She put out her hand
Among the harp-like morning-glory strings
Taut with the dew from garden bed to eaves
As if she played unheard the tenderness
That wrought on him beside her in the night.
"Warren" she said"he has come home to die:
You needn't be afraid he'll leave you this time."
"Home" he mocked gently.
"Yeswhat else but home?
It all depends on what you mean by home.
Of course he's nothing to usany more
Than was the hound that came a stranger to us
Out of the woodsworn out upon the trail."
"Home is the place wherewhen you have to go there
They have to take you in."
"I should have called it
Something you somehow haven't to deserve."
Warren leaned out and took a step or two
Picked up a little stickand brought it back
And broke it in his hand and tossed it by.
"Silas has better claim on us you think
Than on his brother? Thirteen little miles
As the road winds would bring him to his door.
Silas has walked that far no doubt to-day
Why didn't he go there? His brother's rich
A somebody- director in the bank."
He never told us that."
"We know it though."
"I think his brother ought to helpof course.
I'll see to that if there is need. He ought of right
To take him inand might be willing to-
He may be better than appearances.
But have some pity on Silas. Do you think
If he'd had any pride in claiming kin
Or anything he looked for from his brother
He'd keep so still about him all this time?"
"I wonder what's between them."
"I can tell you.
Silas is what he is- we wouldn't mind him-
But just the kind that kinsfolk can't abide.
He never did a thing so very bad.
He don't know why he isn't quite as good
As anyone. He won't be made ashamed
To please his brotherworthless though he is."
$"I 4 can't think Si ever hurt anyone."
"Nobut he hurt my heart the way he lay
And rolled his old head on that sharp-edged chair-back.
He wouldn't let me put him on the lounge.
You must go in and see what you can do.
I made the bed up for him there to-night.
You'll be surprised at him- how much he's broken.
His working days are done; I'm sure of it."
"I'd not be in a hurry to say that."
"I haven't been. Golooksee for yourself.
ButWarrenplease remember how it is:
He's come to help you ditch the meadow.
He has a plan. You mustn't laugh at him.
He may not speak of itand then he may.
I'll sit and see if that small sailing cloud
Will hit or miss the moon."
It hit the moon.
Then there were three theremaking a dim row
The moonthe little silver cloudand she.
Warren returned- too soonit seemed to her
Slipped to her sidecaught up her hand and waited.
"Warren" she questioned.
"Dead" was all he answered.
THE mountain held the town as in a shadow.
I saw so much before I slept there once:
I noticed that I missed stars in the west
Where its black body cut into the sky.
Near me it seemed: I felt it like a wall
Behind which I was sheltered from a wind.
And yet between the town and it I found
When I walked forth at dawn to see new things
Were fieldsa riverand beyondmore fields.
The river at the time was fallen away
And made a widespread brawl on cobble-stones;
But the signs showed what it had done in spring;
Good grass-land gullied outand in the grass
Ridges of sandand driftwood stripped of bark.
I crossed the river and swung round the mountain.
And there I met a man who moved so slow
With white-faced oxen in a heavy cart
It seemed no harm to stop him altogether.
"What town is this?" I asked.
Then I was wrong: the town of my sojourn
Beyond the bridgewas not that of the mountain
But only felt at night its shadowy presence.
"Where is your village? Very far from here?"
"There is no village- only scattered farms.
We were but sixty voters last election.
We can't in nature grow to many more:
That thing takes all the room!" He moved his goad.
The mountain stood there to be pointed at.
Pasture ran up the side a little way
And then there was a wall of trees with trunks:
After that only tops of treesand cliffs
Imperfectly concealed among the leaves.
A dry ravine emerged from under boughs
Into the pasture.
"That looks like a path.
Is that the way to reach the top from here?-
Not for this morningbut some other time:
I must be getting back to breakfast now."
"I don't advise your trying from this side.
There is no proper pathbut those that2have 4
Been upI understandhave climbed from Ladd's.
That's five miles back. You can't mistake the place:
They logged it there last winter some way up.
I'd take youbut I'm bound the other way."
"You've never climbed it?"
"I've been on the sides
Deer-hunting and trout-fishing. There's a brook
That starts up on it somewhere- I've heard say
Right on the toptip-top- a curious thing.
But what would interest you about the brook
It's always cold in summerwarm in winter.
One of the great sights going is to see
It steam in winter like an ox's breath
Until the bushes all along its banks
Are inch-deep with the frosty spines and bristles-
You know the kind. Then let the sun shine on it!"
"There ought to be a view around the world
From such a mountain- if it isn't wooded
Clear to the top." I saw through leafy screens
Great granite terraces in sun and shadow
Shelves one could rest a knee on getting up-
With depths behind him sheer a hundred feet;
Or turn and sit on and look out and down
With little ferns in crevices at his elbow.
"As to that I can't say. But there's the spring
Right on the summitalmost like a fountain.
That ought to be worth seeing."
"If it's there.
You never saw it?"
"I guess there's no doubt
About its being there. I never saw it.
It may not be right on the very top:
It wouldn't have to be a long way down
To have some head of water from above
And a2good distance 4 down might not be noticed
By anyone who'd come a long way up.
One time I asked a fellow climbing it
To look and tell me later how it was." -
"What did he say?"
"He said there was a lake
Somewhere in Ireland on a mountain top."
"But a lake's different. What about the spring?"
"He never got up high enough to see.
That's why I don't advise your trying this side.
He tried this side. I've always meant to go
And look myselfbut you know how it is:
It doesn't seem so much to climb a mountain
You've worked around the foot of all your life.
What would I do? Go in my overalls
With a big stickthe same as when the cows
Haven't come down to the bars at milking time?
Or with a shotgun for a stray black bear?
'Twouldn't seem real to climb for climbing it."
"I shouldn't climb it if I didn't want to-
Not for the sake of climbing. What's its name?"
"We call it Hor: I don't know if that's right."
"Can one walk around it? Would it be too far?"
"You can drive round and keep in Lunenburg
But it's as much as ever you can do
The boundary lines keep in so close to it.
Hor is the townshipand the township's Hor-
$And 4 a few houses sprinkled round the foot
Like boulders broken off the upper cliff
Rolled out a little farther than the rest."
"Warm in Decembercold in Juneyou say?"
"I don't suppose the water's changed at all.
You and I know enough to know it's warm
Compared with coldand cold compared with warm.
But all the fun's in how you say a thing."
"You've lived here all your life?"
"Ever since Hor
Was no bigger than a-" WhatI did not hear.
He drew the oxen toward him with light touches
Of his slim goad on nose and offside flank
Gave them their marching orders and was moving.
A Hundred Collars
LANCASTER bore him- such a little town
Such a great man. It doesn't see him often
Of late yearsthough he keeps the old homestead
And sends the children down there with their mother
To run wild in the summer- a little wild.
Sometimes he joins them for a day or two
And sees old friends he somehow can't get near.
They meet him in the general store at night
Pre-occupied with formidable mail
Rifling a printed letter as he talks.
They seem afraid. He wouldn't have it so:
Though a great scholarhe's a democrat
If not at heartat least on principle.
Lately when coming up to Lancaster
His train being late he missed another train
And had four hours to wait at Woodsville Junction
After eleven o'clock at night. Too tired
To think of sitting such an ordeal out
He turned to the hotel to find a bed.
"No room" the night clerk said. "Unless-"
Woodsville's a place of shrieks and wandering lamps
And cars that shock and rattle- and2one 4 hotel.
"You say 'unless.'"
"Unless you wouldn't mind
Sharing a room with someone else."
"Who is it?"
"So I should hope. What kind of man?"
"I know him: he's all right. A man's a man.
Separate beds of course you understand."
The night clerk blinked his eyes and dared him on.
"Who's that man sleeping in the office chair?
Has he had the refusal of my chance?"
"He was afraid of being robbed or murdered.
What do you say?"
"I'll have to have a bed."
The night clerk led him up three flights of stairs
And down a narrow passage full of doors
At the last one of which he knocked and entered.
"Lafehere's a fellow wants to share your room."
"Show him this way. I'm not afraid of him.
I'm not so drunk I can't take care of myself."
The night clerk clapped a bedstead on the foot.
"This will be yours. Good-night" he saidand went.
"Lafe was the nameI think?"
You got it the first time. And yours?"
Hold onthere's something I don't think of now
That I had on my mind to ask the first
Man that knew anything I happened in with.
I'll I ask later- don't let me forget it."
The Doctor looked at Lafe and looked away.
A man? A brute. Naked above the waist
He sat there creased and shining in the light
Fumbling the buttons in a well-starched shirt.
"I'm moving into a size-larger shirt.
I've felt mean lately; mean's no name for it.
I just found what the matter was to-night:
I've been a-choking like a nursery tree
When it outgrows the wire band of its name tag.
I blamed it on the hot spell we've been having.
'Twas nothing but my foolish hanging back
Not liking to own up I'd grown a size.
Number eighteen this is. What size do you wear?"
The Doctor caught his throat convulsively.
"Oh- ah- fourteen- fourteen."
"Fourteen! You say so!
I can remember when I wore fourteen.
And come to think I must have back at home
More than a hundred collarssize fourteen.
Too bad to waste them all. You ought to have them.
They're yours and welcome; let me send them to you.
What makes you stand there on one leg like that?
You're not much furtherer than where Kike left you.
You act as if you wished you hadn't come.
Sit down or lie downfriend; you make me nervous."
The Doctor made a subdued dash for it
And propped himself at bay against a pillow.
"Not that waywith your shoes on Kike's white bed.
You can't rest that way. Let me pull your shoes off."
"Don't touch meplease- I saydon't touch meplease.
I'll not be put to bed by youmy man."
"Just as you say. Have it your own way then.
'My man' is it? You talk like a professor.
Speaking of who's afraid of whohowever
I'm thinking I have more to lose than you
If anything should happen to be wrong.
Who wants to cut your number fourteen throat!
Let's have a show down as an evidence
Of good faith. There is ninety dollars.
Comeif you're not afraid."
$"I' 4m not afraid.
There's five: that's all I carry."
"I can search you?
Where are you moving over to? Stay still.
You'd better tuck your money under you
And sleep on it the way I always do
When I'm with people I don't trust at night."
"Will you believe me if I put it there
Right on the counterpane- that I do trust you?"
"You'd say soMister Man.- I'm a collector.
My ninety isn't mine- you won't think that.
I pick it up a dollar at a time
All round the country for the2Weekly News4
Published in Bow. You know the2Weekly News?" 4
"Known it since I was young."
"Then you know me.
Now we are getting on together- talking.
I'm sort of Something for it at the front.
My business is to find what people want:
They pay for itand so they ought to have it.
Fairbankshe says to me- he's editor-
Feel out the public sentiment- he says.
A good deal comes on me when all is said.
The only trouble is we disagree
In politics: I'm Vermont Democrat-
You know what that issort of double-dyed;
The2News 4 has always been Republican.
Fairbankshe says to me'Help us this year'
Meaning by us their ticket. 'No' I says
'I can't and won't. You've been in long enough:
It's time you turned around and boosted us.
You'll have to pay me more than ten a week
If I'm expected to elect Bill Taft.
I doubt if I could do it anyway.'"
"You seem to shape the paper's policy"
You see I'm in with everybodyknow 'em all.
I almost know their farms as well as they do."
"You drive around? It must be pleasant work."
"It's businessbut I can't say it's not fun.
What I like best's the lay of different farms
Coming out on them from a stretch of woods
Or over a hill or round a sudden corner.
I like to find folks getting out in spring
Raking the dooryardworking near the house.
Later they get out further in the fields.
Everything's shut sometimes except the barn;
The family's all away in some back meadow.
There's a hay load a-coming- when it comes.
And later still they all get driven in:
The fields are stripped to lawnthe garden patches
Stripped to bare groundthe apple trees
To whips and poles. There's nobody about.
The chimneythoughkeeps up a good brisk smoking.
And I lie back and ride. I take the reins
Only when someone's comingand the mare
Stops when she likes: I tell her when to go.
I've spoiled Jemima in more ways than one.
She's got so she turns in at every house
As if she had some sort of curvature
No matter if I have no errand there.
She thinks I'm sociable. I maybe am.
It's seldom I get down except for mealsthough.
Folks entertain me from the kitchen doorstep
All in a family row down to the youngest."
"One would suppose they might not be as glad
To see you as you are to see them."
Because I want their dollar. I don't want
Anything they've not got. I never dun.
I'm thereand they can pay me if they like.
I go nowhere on purpose: I happen by.
Sorry there is no cup to give you a drink.
I drink out of the bottle- not your style.
Mayn't I offer you-?"
"Just as you say. Here's looking at you then.-
And now I'm leaving you a little while.
You'll rest easier when I'm goneperhaps-
Lie down- let yourself go and get some sleep.
But first- let's see- what was I going to ask you?
Those collars- who shall I address them to
Suppose you aren't awake when I come back?"
"ReallyfriendI can't let you. You- may need them."
"Not till I shrinkwhen they'll be out of style."
"But really I- I have so many collars."
"I don't know who I rather would have have them.
They're only turning yellow where they are.
But you're the doctoras the saying is.
I'll put the light out. Don't you wait for me:
I've just begun the night. You get some sleep.
I'll knock so-fashion and peep round the door
When I come back so you'll know who it is.
There's nothing I'm afraid of like scared people.
I don't want you should shoot me in the head.
What am I doing carrying off this bottle?
There nowyou get some sleep."
He shut the door.
The Doctor slid a little down the pillow.
HE saw her from the bottom of the stairs
Before she saw him. She was starting down
Looking back over her shoulder at some fear.
She took a doubtful step and then undid it
To raise herself and look again. He spoke
Advancing toward her: "What is it you see
From up there always- for I want to know."
She turned and sank upon her skirts at that
And her face changed from terrified to dull.
He said to gain time: "What is it you see"
Mounting until she cowered under him.
"I will find out now- you must tell medear."
Shein her placerefused him any help
With the least stiffening of her neck and silence.
She let him looksure that he wouldn't see
Blind creature; and a while he didn't see.
But at last he murmured"Oh" and again"Oh."
"What is it- what?" she said.
"Just that I see."
"You don't" she challenged. "Tell me what it is."
"The wonder is I didn't see at once.
I never noticed it from here before.
I must be wonted to it- that's the reason.
The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroomis it?
There are three stones of slate and one of marble
Broad-shouldered little slabs there in the sunlight
On the sidehill. We haven't to mind2those. 4
But I understand: it is not the stones
But the child's mound-"
"Don'tdon'tdon'tdon't" she cried.
She withdrew shrinking from beneath his arm
That rested on the banisterand slid downstairs;
And turned on him with such a daunting look
He said twice over before he knew himself
"Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?"
"Not you! Ohwhere's my hat? OhI don't need it!
I must get out of here. I must get air.
I don't know rightly whether any man can."
"Amy! Don't go to someone else this time.
Listen to me. I won't come down the stairs."
He sat and fixed his chin between his fists.
"There's something I should like to ask youdear."
"You don't know how to ask it."
Her fingers moved the latch for all reply.
"My words are nearly always an offence.
I don't know how to speak of anything
So as to please you. But I might be taught
I should suppose. I can't say I see how.
A man must partly give up being a man
With women-folk. We could have some arrangement
By which I'd bind myself to keep hands off
Anything special you're a-mind to name.
Though I don't like such things 'twixt those that love.
Two that don't love can't live together without them.
But two that do can't live together with them."
She moved the latch a little. "Don't- don't go.
Don't carry it to someone else this time.
Tell me about it if it's something human.
Let me into your grief. I'm not so much
Unlike other folks as your standing there
Apart would make me out. Give me my chance.
I do thinkthoughyou overdo it a little.
What was it brought you up to think it the thing
To take your mother-loss of a first child
So inconsolably- in the face of love.
You'd think his memory might be satisfied-"
"There you go sneering now!"
"I'm notI'm not!
You make me angry. I'll come down to you.
Godwhat a woman! And it's come to this
A man can't speak of his own child that's dead."
"You can't because you don't know how.
If you had any feelingsyou that dug
With your own hand- how could you?- his little grave;
I saw you from that very window there
Making the gravel leap and leap in air
Leap uplike thatlike thatand land so lightly
And roll back down the mound beside the hole.
I thoughtWho is that man? I didn't know you.
And I crept down the stairs and up the stairs
To look againand still your spade kept lifting.
Then you came in. I heard your rumbling voice
Out in the kitchenand I don't know why
But I went near to see with my own eyes.
You could sit there with the stains on your shoes
Of the fresh earth from your own baby's grave
And talk about your everyday concerns.
You had stood the spade up against the wall
Outside there in the entryfor I saw it."
"I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed.
I'm cursed. Godif I don't believe I'm cursed."
"I can repeat the very words you were saying.
'Three foggy mornings and one rainy day
Will rot the best birch fence a man can build.'
Think of ittalk like that at such a time!
What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlour?
You2couldn't 4 care! The nearest friends can go
With anyone to deathcomes so far short
They might as well not try to go at all.
Nofrom the time when one is sick to death
One is aloneand he dies more alone.
Friends make pretence of following to the grave
But before one is in ittheir minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life
And living peopleand things they understand.
But the world's evil. I won't have grief so
If I can change it. OhI won'tI won't!"
"Thereyou have said it all and you feel better.
You won't go now. You're crying. Close the door.
The heart's gone out of it: why keep it up?
Amy! There's someone coming down the road!"
$"You 4- ohyou think the talk is all. I must go-
Somewhere out of this house. How can I make you-"
"If- you- do!" She was opening the door wider.
"Where do you mean to go? First tell me that.
I'll follow and bring you back by force. I2will!"- 4
The Black Cottage
WE chanced in passing by that afternoon
To catch it in a sort of special picture
Among tar-banded ancient cherry trees
Set well back from the road in rank lodged grass
The little cottage we were speaking of
A front with just a door between two windows
Fresh painted by the shower a velvet black.
We pausedthe minister and Ito look.
He made as if to hold it at arm's length
Or put the leaves aside that framed it in.
"Pretty" he said. "Come in. No one will care."
The path was a vague parting in the grass
That led us to a weathered window-sill.
We pressed our faces to the pane. "You see" he said
"Everything's as she left it when she died.
Her sons won't sell the house or the things in it.
They say they mean to come and summer here
Where they were boys. They haven't come this year.
They live so far away- one is out west-
It will be hard for them to keep their word.
Anyway they won't have the place disturbed."
A buttoned hair-cloth lounge spread scrolling arms
Under a crayon portrait on the wall
Done sadly from an old daguerreotype.
"That was the father as he went to war.
She alwayswhen she talked about war
Sooner or later came and leanedhalf knelt
Against the lounge beside itthough I doubt
If such unlifelike lines kept power to stir
Anything in her after all the years.
He fell at Gettysburg or Fredericksburg
I ought to know- it makes a difference which:
Fredericksburg wasn't Gettysburgof course.
But what I'm getting to is how forsaken
A little cottage this has always seemed;
Since she went more than everbut before-
I don't mean altogether by the lives
That had gone out of itthe father first
Then the two sonstill she was left alone.
(Nothing could draw her after those two sons.
She valued the considerate neglect
She had at some cost taught them after years.)
I mean by the world's having passed it by-
As we almost got by this afternoon.
It always seems to me a sort of mark
To measure how far fifty years have brought us.
Why not sit down if you are in no haste?
These doorsteps seldom have a visitor.
The warping boards pull out their own old nails
With none to tread and put them in their place.
She had her own idea of thingsthe old lady.
And she liked talk. She had seen Garrison
And Whittierand had her story of them.
One wasn't long in learning that she thought
Whatever else the Civil War was for
It wasn't just to keep the States together
Nor just to free the slavesthough it did both.
She wouldn't have believed those ends enough
To have given outright for them all she gave.
Her giving somehow touched the principle
That all men are created free and equal.
And to hear her quaint phrases- so removed
From the world's view to-day of all those things.
That's a hard mystery of Jefferson's.
What did he mean? Of course the easy way
Is to decide it simply isn't true.
It may not be. I heard a fellow say so.
But never mindthe Welshman got it planted
Where it will trouble us a thousand years.
Each age will have to reconsider it.
You couldn't tell her what the West was saying
And what the South to her serene belief.
She had some art of hearing and yet not
Hearing the latter wisdom of the world.
White was the only race she ever knew.
Black she had scarcely seenand yellow never.
But how could they be made so very unlike
By the same hand working in the same stuff?
She had supposed the war decided that.
What are you going to do with such a person?
Strange how such innocence gets its own way.
I shouldn't be surprised if in this world
It were the force that would at last prevail.
Do you know but for her there was a time
When to please younger members of the church
Or rather say non-members in the church
Whom we all have to think of nowadays
I would have changed the Creed a very little?
Not that she ever had to ask me not to;
It never got so far as that; but the bare thought
Of her old tremulous bonnet in the pew
And of her half asleep was too much for me.
WhyI might wake her up and startle her.
It was the words 'descended into Hades'
That seemed too pagan to our liberal youth.
You know they suffered from a general onslaught.
And wellif they weren't true why keep right on
Saying them like the heathen? We could drop them.
Only- there was the bonnet in the pew.
Such a phrase couldn't have meant much to her.
But suppose she had missed it from the Creed
As a child misses the unsaid Good-night
And falls asleep with heartache- how should2I 4 feel?
I'm just as glad she made me keep hands off
Fordear mewhy abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enoughand not a doubt
It will turn true againfor so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.
As I sit hereand oftentimesI wish
I could be monarch of a desert land
I could devote and dedicate forever
To the truths we keep coming back and back to.
So desert it would have to beso walled
By mountain ranges half in summer snow
No one would covet it or think it worth
The pains of conquering to force change on.
Scattered oases where men dweltbut mostly
Sand dunes held loosely in tamarisk
Blown over and over themselves in idleness.
Sand grains should sugar in the natal dew
The babe born to the desertthe sand storm
Retard mid-waste my cowering caravans-
"There are bees in this wall." He struck the clapboards
Fierce heads looked out; small bodies pivoted.
We rose to go. Sunset blazed on the windows.
"YOU ought to have seen what I saw on my way
To the villagethrough Mortenson's pasture to-day:
Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb
Real sky-blueand heavyand ready to drum
In the cavernous pail of the first one to come!
And all ripe togethernot 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 fall
The fire ran and burned it all up but the wall."
"Whythere hasn't been time for the bushes to grow.
That's always the way with the blueberriesthough:
There may not have been the ghost of a sign
Of them anywhere under the shade of the pine
But get the pine out of the wayyou may burn
The pasture all over until not a fern
Or grass-blade is leftnot to mention a stick
And prestothey're up all around you as thick
And hard to explain as a conjuror's trick."
"It must be on charcoal they fatten their fruit.
I taste in them sometimes the flavour of soot.
And after all really they're ebony skinned:
The blue's but a mist from the breath of the wind
A tarnish that goes at a touch of the hand
And less than the tan with which pickers are tanned."
"Does Mortenson know what he hasdo you think?"
"He may and not care and so leave the chewink
To gather them for him- you know what he is.
He won't make the fact that they're rightfully his
An excuse for keeping us other folk out."
"I wonder you didn't see Loren about."
"The best of it was that I did. Do you know
I was just getting through what the field had to show
And over the wall and into the road
When who should come bywith a democrat-load
Of all the young chattering Lorens alive
But Lorenthe fatherlyout for a drive."
"He saw youthen? What did he do? Did he frown?"
"He just kept nodding his head up and down.
You know how politely he always goes by.
But he thought a big thought- I could tell by his eye-
Which being expressedmight be this in effect:
'I have left those there berriesI shrewdly suspect
To ripen too long. I am greatly to blame.'"
"He's a thriftier person than some I could name."
"He seems to be thrifty; and hasn't he need
With the mouths of all those young Lorens to feed?
He has brought them all up on wild berriesthey say
Like birds. They store a great many away.
They eat them the year roundand those they don't eat
They sell in the store and buy shoes for their feet."
"Who cares what they say? It's a nice way to live
Just taking what Nature is willing to give
Not forcing her hand with harrow and plow."
"I wish you had seen his perpetual bow-
And the air of the youngsters! Not one of them turned
And they looked so solemn-absurdly concerned."
"I wish I knew half what the flock of them know
Of where all the berries and other things grow
Cranberries in bogs and raspberries on top
Of the boulder-strewn mountainand when they will crop.
I met them one day and each had a flower
Stuck into his berries as fresh as a shower;
Some strange kind- they told me it hadn't a name."
"I've told you how once not long after we came
I almost provoked poor Loren to mirth
By going to him of all people on earth
To ask if he knew any fruit to be had
For the picking. The rascalhe said he'd be glad
To tell if he knew. But the year had been bad.
There2had 4 been some berries- but those were all gone.
He didn't say where they had been. He went on:
'I'm sure- I'm sure'- as polite as could be.
He spoke to his wife in the door'Let me see
Mame2we 4 don't know any good berrying place?'
It was all he could do to keep a straight face."
"If he thinks all the fruit that grows wild is for him
He'll find he's mistaken. See herefor a whim
We'll pick in the Mortensons' pasture this year.
We'll go in the morningthat isif it's clear
And the sun shines out warm: the vines must be wet.
It's so long since I picked I almost forget
How we used to pick berries: we took one look round
Then sank out of sight like trolls underground
And saw nothing more of each otheror heard
Unless when you said I was keeping a bird
Away from its nestand I said it was you.
'Wellone of us is.' For complaining it flew
Around and around us. And then for a while
We pickedtill I feared you had wandered a mile
And I thought I had lost you. I lifted a shout
Too loud for the distance you wereit turned out
For when you made answeryour voice was as low
As talking- you stood up beside meyou know."
"We sha'n't have the place to ourselves to enjoy-
Not likelywhen all the young Lorens deploy.
They'll be there to-morrowor even to-night.
They won't be too friendly- they may be polite-
To people they look on as having no right
To pick where they're picking. But we won't complain.
You ought to have seen how it looked in the rain
The fruit mixed with water in layers of leaves
Like two kinds of jewelsa vision for thieves."
A Servant to Servants
I DIDN'T make you know how glad I was
To have you come and camp here on our land.
I promised myself to get down some day
And see the way you livedbut I don't know!
With a houseful of hungry men to feed
I guess you'd find.... It seems to me
I can't express my feelings any more
Than I can raise my voice or want to lift
My hand (ohI can lift it when I have to).
Did ever you feel so? I hope you never.
It's got so I don't even know for sure
Whether I2am 4 gladsorryor anything.
There's nothing but a voice-like left inside
That seems to tell me how I ought to feel
And would feel if I wasn't all gone wrong.
You take the lake. I look and look at it.
I see it's a fairpretty sheet of water.
I stand and make myself repeat out loud
The advantages it hasso long and narrow
Like a deep piece of some old running river
Cut short off at both ends. It lies five miles
Straight away through the mountain notch
From the sink window where I wash the plates
And all our storms come up toward the house
Drawing the slow waves whiter and whiter and whiter.
It took my mind off doughnuts and soda biscuit
To step outdoors and take the water dazzle
A sunny morningor take the rising wind
About my face and body and through my wrapper
When a storm threatened from the Dragon's Den
And a cold chill shivered across the lake.
I see it's a fairpretty sheet of water
Our Willoughby! How did you hear of it?
I expectthougheveryone's heard of it.
In a book about ferns? Listen to that!
You let things more like feathers regulate
Your going and coming. And you like it here?
I can see how you might. But I don't know!
It would be different if more people came
For then there would be business. As it is
The cottages Len builtsometimes we rent them
Sometimes we don't. We've a good piece of shore
That ought to be worth somethingand may yet.
But I don't count on it as much as Len.
He looks on the bright side of everything
Including me. He thinks I'll be all right
With doctoring. But it's not medicine-
Lowe is the only doctor's dared to say so-
It's rest I want- thereI have said it out-
From cooking meals for hungry hired men
And washing dishes after them- from doing
Things over and over that just won't stay done.
By good rights I ought not to have so much
Put on mebut there seems no other way.
Len says one steady pull more ought to do it.
He says the best way out is always through.
And I agree to thator in so far
As that I can see no way out but through-
Leastways for me- and then they'll be convinced.
It's not that Len don't want the best for me.
It was his plan our moving over in
Beside the lake from where that day I showed you
We used to live- ten miles from anywhere.
We didn't change without some sacrifice
But Len went at it to make up the loss.
His work's a man'sof coursefrom sun to sun
But he works when he works as hard as I do-
Though there's small profit in comparisons.
(Women and men will make them all the same.)
But work ain't all. Len undertakes too much.
He's into everything in town. This year
It's highwaysand he's got too many men
Around him to look after that make waste.
They take advantage of him shamefully
And proudtooof themselves for doing so.
We have four here to boardgreat good-for-nothings
Sprawling about the kitchen with their talk
While I fry their bacon. Much they care!
No more put out in what they do or say
Than if I wasn't in the room at all.
Coming and going all the timethey are:
I don't learn what their names arelet alone
Their charactersor whether they are safe
To have inside the house with doors unlocked.
I'm not afraid of themthoughif they're not
Afraid of me. There's two can play at that.
I have my fancies: it runs in the family.
My father's brother wasn't right. They kept him
Locked up for years back there at the old farm.
I've been away once- yesI've been away.
The State Asylum. I was prejudiced;
I wouldn't have sent anyone of mine there;
You know the old idea- the only asylum
Was the poorhouseand those who could afford
Rather than send their folks to such a place
Kept them at home; and it does seem more human.
But it's not so: the place is the asylum.
There they have every means proper to do with
And you aren't darkening other people's lives-
Worse than no good to themand they no good
To you in your condition; you can't know
Affection or the want of it in that state.
I've heard too much of the old-fashioned way.
My father's brotherhe went mad quite young.
Some thought he had been bitten by a dog
Because his violence took on the form
Of carrying his pillow in his teeth;
But it's more likely he was crossed in love
Or so the story goes. It was some girl.
Anyway all he talked about was love.
They soon saw he would do someone a mischief
If he wa'n't kept strict watch ofand it ended
In father's building him a sort of cage
Or room within a roomof hickory poles
Like stanchions in the barnfrom floor to ceiling-
A narrow passage all the way around.
Anything they put in for furniture
He'd tear to pieceseven a bed to lie on.
So they made the place comfortable with straw
Like a beast's stallto ease their consciences.
Of course they had to feed him without dishes.
They tried to keep him clothedbut he paraded
With his clothes on his arm- all of his clothes.
Cruel- it sounds. I 'spose they did the best
They knew. And just when he was at the height
Father and mother marriedand mother came
A brideto help take care of such a creature
And accommodate her young life to his.
That was what marrying father meant to her.
She had to lie and hear love things made dreadful
By his shouts in the night. He'd shout and shout
Until the strength was shouted out of him
And his voice died down slowly from exhaustion.
He'd pull his bars apart like bow and bowstring
And let them go and make them twang until
His hands had worn them smooth as any oxbow.
And then he'd crow as if he thought that child's play-
The only fun he had. I've heard them saythough
They found a way to put a stop to it.
He was before my time- I never saw him;
But the pen stayed exactly as it was
There in the upper chamber in the ell
A sort of catch-all full of attic clutter.
I often think of the smooth hickory bars.
It got so I would say- you knowhalf fooling-
"It's time I took my turn upstairs in jail"-
Just as you will till it becomes a habit.
No wonder I was glad to get away.
Mind youI waited till Len said the word.
I didn't want the blame if things went wrong.
I was glad thoughno endwhen we moved out
And I looked to be happyand I was
As I saidfor a while- but I don't know!
Somehow the change wore out like a prescription.
And there's more to it than just window-views
And living by a lake. I'm past such help-
Unless Len took the notionwhich he won't
And I won't ask him- it's not sure enough.
I 'spose I've got to go the road I'm going:
Other folks have toand why shouldn't I?
I almost think if I could do like you
Drop everything and live out on the ground-
But it might become nightI shouldn't like it
Or a long rain. I should soon get enough
And be glad of a good roof overhead.
I've lain awake thinking of youI'll warrant
More than you have yourselfsome of these nights.
The wonder was the tents weren't snatched away
From over you as you lay in your beds.
I haven't courage for a risk like that.
Bless youof courseyou're keeping me from work
But the thing of it isI need to2be 4 kept.
There's work enough to do- there's always that;
But behind's behind. The worst that you can do
Is set me back a little more behind.
I sha'n't catch up in this worldanyway.
I'd2rather 4 you'd not go unless you must.
MY long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside itand there may be two of three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It meltedand I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear
Stem end and blossom end
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch
Cherish in handlift downand not let fall.
That struck the earth
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of minewhatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleepas I describe its coming on
Or just some human sleep.
THERE were three in the meadow by the brook
Gathering up windrowspiling cocks of hay
With an eye always lifted toward the west
Where an irregular sun-bordered cloud
Darkly advanced with a perpetual dagger
Flickering across its bosom. Suddenly
One helperthrusting pitchfork in the ground
Marched himself off the field and home. One stayed.
The town-bred farmer failed to understand.
"What is there wrong?"
"Something you just now said."
"What did I say?"
"About our taking pains."
"To cock the hay?- because it's going to shower?
I said that more than half an hour ago.
I said it to myself as much as you."
"You didn't know. But James is one big fool.
He thought you meant to find fault with his work.
That's what the average farmer would have meant.
James would take timeof courseto chew it over
Before he acted: he's just got round to act."
"He's a fool if that's the way he takes me."
"Don't let it bother you. You've found out something.
The hand that knows his business won't be told
To do work better or faster- those two things.
I'm as particular as anyone:
Most likely I'd have served you just the same.
But I know you don't understand our ways.
You were just talking what was in your mind
What was in all our mindsand you weren't hinting.
Tell you a story of what happened once:
I was up here in Salem at a man's
Named Sanders with a gang of four or five
Doing the haying. No one liked the boss.
He was one of the kind sports call a spider
All wiry arms and legs that spread out wavy
From a humped body nigh as big's a biscuit.
But work! that man could workespecially
If by so doing he could get more work
Out of his hired help. I'm not denying
He was hard on himself. I couldn't find
That he kept any hours- not for himself.
Daylight and lantern-light were one to him:
I've heard him pounding in the barn all night.
But what he liked was someone to encourage.
Them that he couldn't lead he'd get behind
And drivethe way you canyou knowin mowing-
Keep at their heels and threaten to mow their legs off.
I'd seen about enough of his bulling tricks
(We call that bulling). I'd been watching him.
So when he paired off with me in the hayfield
To load the loadthinks ILook out for trouble.
I built the load and topped it off; old Sanders
Combed it down with a rake and says'O.K.'
Everything went well till we reached the barn
With a big catch to empty in a bay.
You understand that meant the easy job
For the man up on top of throwing2down 4
The hay and rolling it off wholesale
Where on a mow it would have been slow lifting.
You wouldn't think a fellow'd need much urging
Under these circumstanceswould you now?
But the old fool seizes his fork in both hands
And looking up bewhiskered out of the pit
Shouts like an army captain'Let her come!'
Thinks ID'ye mean it? 'What was that you said?'
I asked out loudso there'd be no mistake
'Did you sayLet her come?' 'Yeslet her come.'
He said it overbut he said it softer.
Never you say a thing like that to a man
Not if he values what he is. GodI'd as soon
Murdered him as left out his middle name.
I'd built the load and knew right where to find it.
Two or three forkfuls I picked lightly round for
Like meditatingand then I just dug in
And dumped the rackful on him in ten lots.
I looked over the side once in the dust
And caught sight of him treading-water-like
Keeping his head above. 'Damn ye' I says
'That gets ye!' He squeaked like a squeezed rat.
That was the last I saw or heard of him.
I cleaned the rack and drove out to cool off.
As I sat mopping hayseed from my neck
And sort of waiting to be asked about it
One of the boys sings out'Where's the old man?'
'I left him in the barn under the hay.
If ye want himye can go and dig him out.'
They realized from the way I swobbed my neck
More than was needed something must be up.
They headed for the barn; I stayed where I was.
They told me afterward. First they forked hay
A lot of itout into the barn floor.
Nothing! They listened for him. Not a rustle.
I guess they thought I'd spiked him in the temple
Before I buried himor I couldn't have managed.
They excavated more. 'Go keep his wife
Out of the barn.' Someone looked in a window
And curse me if he wasn't in the kitchen
Slumped way down in a chairwith both his feet
Stuck in the oventhe hottest day that summer.
He looked so clean disgusted from behind
There was no one that dared to stir him up
Or let him know that he was being looked at.
Apparently I hadn't buried him
(I may have knocked him down); but my just trying
To bury him had hurt his dignity.
He had gone to the house so's not to meet me.
He kept away from us all afternoon.
We tended to his hay. We saw him out
After a while picking peas in his garden:
He couldn't keep away from doing something."
"Weren't you relieved to find he wasn't dead?"
"No! and yet I don't know- it's hard to say.
I went about to kill him fair enough."
"You took an awkward way. Did he discharge you?"
"Discharge me? No! He knew I did just right."
The Generations of Men
A GOVERNOR it was proclaimed this time
When all who would come seeking in New Hampshire
Ancestral memories might come together.
And those of the name Stark gathered in Bow
A rock-strewn town where farming has fallen off
And sprout-lands flourish where the axe has gone.
Someone had literally run to earth
In an old cellar hole in a by-road
The origin of all the family there.
Thence they were sprungso numerous a tribe
That now not all the houses left in town
Made shift to shelter them without the help
Of here and there a tent in grove and orchard.
They were at Bowbut that was not enough:
Nothing would do but they must fix a day
To stand together on the crater's verge
That turned them on the worldand try to fathom
The past and get some strangeness out of it.
But rain spoiled all. The day began uncertain
With clouds low trailing and moments of rain that misted.
The young folk held some hope out to each other
Till well toward noon when the storm settled down
With a swish in the grass. "What if the others
Are there" they said. "It isn't going to rain."
Only one from a farm not far away
Strolled thithernot expecting he would find
Anyone elsebut out of idleness.
Oneand one otheryesfor there were two.
The second round the curving hillside road
Was a girl; and she halted some way off
To reconnoitreand then made up her mind
At least to pass by and see who he was
And perhaps hear some word about the weather.
This was some Stark she didn't know. He nodded.
"No fete to-day" he said.
"It looks that way"
She swept the heavensturning on her heel.
"I only idled down."
"I idled down."
Provision there had been for just such meeting
Of stranger cousinsin a family tree
Drawn on a sort of passport with the branch
Of the one bearing it done in detail-
Some zealous one's laborious device.
She made a sudden movement toward her bodice
As one who clasps her heart. They laughed together.
"Stark?" he inquired. "No matter for the proof."
"YesStark. And you?"
"I'm Stark." He drew his passport.
"You know we might not be and still be cousins:
The town is full of ChasesLowesand Baileys
All claiming some priority in Starkness.
My mother was a Laneyet might have married
Anyone upon earth and still her children
Would have been Starksand doubtless here to-day."
"You riddle with your genealogy
Like a Viola. I don't follow you."
"I only mean my mother was a Stark
Several times overand by marrying father
No more than brought us back into the name."
"One ought not to be thrown into confusion
By a plain statement of relationship
But I own what you say makes my head spin.
You take my card- you seem so good at such things-
And see if you can reckon our cousinship.
Why not take seats here on the cellar wall
And dangle feet among the raspberry vines?"
"Under the shelter of the family tree."
"Just so- that ought to be enough protection."
"Not from the rain. I think it's going to rain."
"Noit's misting; let's be fair.
Does the rain seem to you to cool the eyes?"
The situation was like this: the road
Bowed outward on the mountain half-way up
And disappeared and ended not far off.
No one went home that way. The only house
Beyond where they were was a shattered seedpod.
And below roared a brook hidden in trees
The sound of which was silence for the place.
This he sat listening to till she gave judgment.
"On father's sideit seemswe're- let me see-"
"Don't be too technical.- You have three cards."
"Four cardsone yoursthree mineone for each branch
Of the Stark family I'm a member of."
"D'you know a person so related to herself
Is supposed to be mad."
"I may be mad."
"You look sositting out here in the rain
Studying genealogy with me
You never saw before. What will we come to
With all this pride of ancestrywe Yankees?
I think we're all mad. Tell me why we're here
Drawn into town about this cellar hole
Like wild geese on a lake before a storm?
What do we see in such a holeI wonder."
"The Indians had a myth of Chicamoztoc
Which means The Seven Caves that We Came out of.
This is the pit from which we Starks were digged."
"You must be learned. That's what you see in it?"
"And what do you see?"
"Yeswhat2do 4 I see?
First let me look. I see raspberry vines-"
"Ohif you're going to use your eyesjust hear
What2I 4 see. It's a littlelittle boy
As pale and dim as a match flame in the sun;
He's groping in the cellar after jam
He thinks it's dark and it's flooded with daylight."
He's nothing. Listen. When I lean like this
I can make out old Grandsir Stark distinctly-
With his pipe in his mouth and his brown jug-
Bless youit isn't Grandsir Starkit's Granny
But the pipe's there and smoking and the jug.
She's after ciderthe old girlshe's thirsty;
Here's hoping she gets her drink and gets out safely."
"Tell me about her. Does she look like me?"
"She shouldshouldn't sheyou're so many times
Over descended from her. I believe
She does look like you. Stay the way you are.
The nose is just the sameand so's the chin-
Making allowancemaking due allowance."
"You poordeargreatgreatgreatgreat Granny!"
"See that you get her greatness right. Don't stint her."
"Yesits importantthough you think it isn't.
I won't be teased. But see how wet I am."
"Yesyou must go; we can't stay here for ever.
But wait until I give you a hand up.
A bead of silver water more or less
Strung on your hair won't hurt your summer looks.
I wanted to try something with the noise
That the brook raises in the empty valley.
We have seen visions- now consult the voices.
Something I must have learned riding in trains
When I was young. I used the roar
To set the voices speaking out of it
Speaking or singingand the band-music playing.
Perhaps you have the art of what I mean.
I've never listened in among the sounds
That a brook makes in such a wild descent.
It ought to give a purer oracle."
"It's as you throw a picture on a screen:
The meaning of it all is out of you;
The voices give you what you wish to hear."
"Strangelyit's anything they wish to give."
"Then I don't know. It must be strange enough.
I wonder if it's not your make-believe.
What do you think you're like to hear to-day?"
"From the sense of our having been together-
But why take time for what I'm like to hear?
I'll tell you what the voices really say.
You will do very well right where you are
A little longer. I mustn't feel too hurried
Or I can't give myself to hear the voices."
"Is this some trance you are withdrawing into?"
"You must be very still; you mustn't talk."
"I'll hardly breathe."
"The voices seem to say-"
"Don't! The voices seem to say:
Call her Nausicaathe unafraid
Of an acquaintance made adventurously."
"I let you say that- on consideration."
"I don't see very well how you can help it.
You want the truth. I speak but by the voices.
You see they know I haven't had your name
Though what a name should matter between us-"
"I shall suspect-"
"Be good. The voices say:
Call her Nausicaaand take a timber
That you shall find lies in the cellar charred
Among the raspberriesand hew and shape it
For a door-sill or other corner piece
In a new cottage on the ancient spot.
The life is not yet all gone out of it.
And come and make your summer dwelling here
And perhaps she will comestill unafraid
And sit before you in the open door
With flowers in her lap until they fade
But not come in across the sacred sill-"
"I wonder where your oracle is tending.
You can see that there's something wrong with it
Or it would speak in dialect. Whose voice
Does it purport to speak in? Not old Grandsir's
Nor Granny'ssurely. Call up one of them.
They have best right to be heard in this place."
"You seem so partial to our great-grandmother
(Nine times removed. Correct me if I err.)
You will be likely to regard as sacred
Anything she may say. But let me warn you
Folks in her day were given to plain speaking.
You think you'd best tempt her at such a time?"
"It rests with us always to cut her off."
"Well thenit's Granny speaking: 'I dunnow!
Mebbe I'm wrong to take it as I do.
There ain't no names quite like the old ones though
Nor never will be to my way of thinking.
One mustn't bear too hard on the new comers
But there's a dite too many of them for comfort.
I should feel easier if I could see
More of the salt wherewith they're to be salted.
Sonyou do as you're told! You take the timber-
It's as sound as the day when it was cut-
And begin over-' Thereshe'd better stop.
You can see what is troubling Grannythough.
But don't you think we sometimes make too much
Of the old stock? What counts is the ideals
And those will bear some keeping still about."
"I can see we are going to be good friends."
"I like your 'going to be.' You said just now
It's going to rain."
"I knowand it was raining.
I let you say all that. But I must go now."
"You let me say it? on consideration?
How shall we say good-bye in such a case?"
"How shall we?"
"Will you leave the way to me?"
"NoI don't trust your eyes. You've said enough.
Now give me your hand up.- Pick me that flower."
"Where shall we meet again?"
"Nowhere but here
Once more before we meet elsewhere."
"It ought to be in rain. Sometime in rain.
In rain to-morrowshall weif it rains?
But if we mustin sunshine." So she went.
$I LET myself in at the kitchen door. 4
"It's you"2she said. 4 "I can't get up. Forgive me
Not answering your knock. I can no more
Let people in than I can keep them out.
I'm getting too old for my sizeI tell them.
My fingers are about all I've the use of
So's to take any comfort. I can sew:
I help out with this beadwork what I can."
"That's a smart pair of pumps you're beading there.
Who are they for?"
"You mean?- ohfor some miss.
I can't keep track of other people's daughters.
Lordif I were to dream of everyone
Whose shoes I primped to dance in!"
"And where's John?"
"Haven't you seen him? Strange what set you off
To come to his house when he's gone to yours.
You can't have passed each other. I know what:
He must have changed his mind and gone to Garlands.
He won't be long in that case. You can wait.
Though what good you can beor anyone-
It's gone so far. You've heard? Estelle's run off."
"Yeswhat's it all about? When did she go?"
"Two weeks since."
"She's in earnestit appears."
"I'm sure she won't come back. She's hiding somewhere.
I don't know where myself. John thinks I do.
He thinks I only have to say the word
And she'll come back. Butbless youI'm her mother-
I can't talk to herandLordif I could!"
"It will go hard with John. What will he do?
He can't find anyone to take her place."
"Ohif you ask me thatwhat2will 4 he do?
He gets some sort of bakeshop meals together
With me to sit and tell him everything
What's wanted and how much and where it is.
But when I'm gone- of course I can't stay here:
Estelle's to take me when she's settled down.
He and I only hinder one another.
I tell them they can't get me through the doorthough:
I've been built in here like a big church organ.
We've been here fifteen years."
"That's a long time
To live together and then pull apart.
How do you see him living when you're gone?
Two of you out will leave an empty house."
"I don't just see him living many years
Left here with nothing but the furniture.
I hate to think of the old place when we're gone
With the brook going by below the yard
And no one here but hens blowing about.
If he could sell the placebut thenhe can't:
No one will ever live on it again.
It's too run down. This is the last of it.
What I think he will dois let things smash.
He'll sort of swear the time away. He's awful!
I never saw a man let family troubles
Make so much difference in his man's affairs.
He's just dropped everything. He's like a child.
I blame his being brought up by his mother.
He's got hay down that's been rained on three times.
He hoed a little yesterday for me:
I thought the growing things would do him good.
Something went wrong. I saw him throw the hoe
Sky-high with both hands. I can see it now-
Come here- I'll show you- in that apple tree.
That's no way for a man to do at his age:
He's fifty-fiveyou knowif he's a day."
"Aren't you afraid of him? What's that gun for?"
"Ohthat's been there for hawks since chicken-time.
John Hall touch me! Not if he knows his friends.
I'll say that for himJohn's no threatener
Like some men folk. No one's afraid of him;
All ishe's made up his mind not to stand
What he has got to stand."
"Where is Estelle?
Couldn't one talk to her? What does she say?
You say you don't know where she is."
"Nor want to!
She thinks if it was bad to live with him
It must be right to leave him."
"Which is wrong!"
"Yesbut he should have married her."
"The strain's been too much for her all these years:
I can't explain it any other way.
It's different with a manat least with John:
He knows he's kinder than the run of men.
Better than married ought to be as good
As married- that's what he has always said.
I know the way he's felt- but all the same!"
"I wonder why he doesn't marry her
And end it."
"Too late now: she wouldn't have him.
He's given her time to think of something else.
That's his mistake. The dear knows my interest
Has been to keep the thing from breaking up.
This is a good home: I don't ask for better.
But when I've said'Why shouldn't they be married'
He'd say'Why should they?' no more words than that."
"And after all why should they? John's been fair
I take it. What was his was always hers.
There was no quarrel about property."
"Reason enoughthere was no property.
A friend or two as good as own the farm
Such as it is. It isn't worth the mortgage."
"I mean Estelle has always held the purse."
"The rights of that are harder to get at.
I guess Estelle and I have filled the purse.
'Twas we let him have moneynot he us.
John's a bad farmer. I'm not blaming him.
Take it year inyear outhe doesn't make much.
We came here for a home for meyou know
Estelle to do the housework for the board
Of both of us. But look how it turns out:
She seems to have the houseworkand besides
Half of the outdoor workthough as for that
He'd say she does it more because she likes it.
You see our pretty things are all outdoors.
Our hens and cows and pigs are always better
Than folks like us have any business with.
Farmers around twice as well off as we
Haven't as good. They don't go with the farm.
One thing you can't help liking about John
He's fond of nice things- too fondsome would say.
But Estelle don't complain: she's like him there.
She wants our hens to be the best there are.
You never saw this room before a show
Full of lankshiveryhalf-drowned birds
In separate coopshaving their plumage done.
The smell of the wet feathers in the heat!
You spoke of John's not being safe to stay with.
You don't know what a gentle lot we are:
We wouldn't hurt a hen! You ought to see us
Moving a flock of hens from place to place.
We're not allowed to take them upside down
All we can hold together by the legs.
Two at a time's the ruleone on each arm
No matter how far and how many times
We have to go."
"You mean that's John's idea."
"And we live up to it; or I don't know
What childishness he wouldn't give way to.
He manages to keep the upper hand
On his own farm. He's boss. But as to hens:
We fence our flowers in and the hens range.
Nothing's too good for them. We say it pays.
John likes to tell the offers he has had
Twenty for this cocktwenty-five for that.
He never takes the money. If they're worth
That much to sellthey're worth as much to keep.
Bless youit's all expensethough. Reach me down
The little tin box on the cupboard shelf
The upper shelfthe tin box. That's the one.
I'll show you. Here you are."
For fifty dollars for one Langshang cock-
Receipted. And the cock is in the yard."
"Not in a glass casethen?"
"He'd need a tall one:
He can eat off a barrel from the ground.
He's been in a glass caseas you may say
The Crystal PalaceLondon. He's imported.
John bought himand we paid the bill with beads-
WampumI call it. Mindwe don't complain.
But you seedon't youwe take care of him."
"And like ittoo. It makes it all the worse."
"It seems as if. And that's not all: he's helpless
In ways that I can hardly tell you of.
Sometimes he gets possessed to keep accounts
To see where all the money goes so fast.
You know how men will be ridiculous.
But it's just fun the way he gets bedeviled-
If he's untidy nowwhat will he be-?"
"It makes it all the worse. You must be blind."
"Estelle's the one. You needn't talk to me."
"Can't you and I get to the root of it?
What's the real trouble? What will satisfy her?"
"It's as I say: she's turned from himthat's all."
"But whywhen she's well off? Is it the neighbours
Being cut off from friends?"
"We have our friends.
That isn't it. Folks aren't afraid of us."
"She's let it worry her. You stood the strain
And you're her mother."
"But I didn't always.
I didn't relish it along at first.
But I got wonted to it. And besides-
John said I was too old to have grandchildren.
But what's the use of talking when it's done?
She won't come back- it's worse than that- she can't."
"Why do you speak like that? What do you know?
What do you mean?- she's done harm to herself?"
"I mean she's married- married someone else."
"You don't believe me."
Only too well. I knew there must be something!
So that was what was back. She's badthat's all!"
"Bad to get married when she had the chance?"
"Nonsense! See what she's done! But whowho-"
"Who'd marry her straight out of such a mess?
Say it right out- no matter for her mother.
The man was found. I'd better name no names.
John himself won't imagine who he is."
"Then it's all up. I think I'll get away.
You'll be expecting John. I pity Estelle;
I suppose she deserves some pitytoo.
You ought to have the kitchen to yourself
To break it to him. You may have the job."
"You needn't think you're going to get away.
John's almost here. I've had my eye on someone
Coming down Ryan's Hill. I thought 'twas him.
Here he is now. This box! Put it away.
And this bill."
"What's the hurry? He'll unhitch."
"Nohe won'teither. He'll just drop the reins
And turn Doll out to pasturerig and all.
She won't get far before the wheels hang up
On something- there's no harm. Seethere he is!
Mybut he looks as if he must have heard!"
$John threw the door wide but he didn't enter. 4
"How are youneighbour? Just the man I'm after.
Isn't it Hell"2he said. 4 "I want to know.
Come out here if you want to hear me talk.
I'll talk to youold womanafterward.
I've got some news that maybe isn't news.
What are they trying to do to methese two?"
"Do go along with him and stop his shouting."
$She raised her voice against the closing door: 4
"Who wants to hear your newsyou- dreadful fool?"
A LANTERN-LIGHT from deeper in the barn
Shone on a man and woman in the door
And threw their lurching shadows on a house
Near byall dark in every glossy window.
A horse's hoof pawed once the hollow floor
And the back of the gig they stood beside
Moved in a little. The man grasped a wheel
The woman spoke out sharply"Whoastand still!"
"I saw it just as plain as a white plate"
She said"as the light on the dashboard ran
Along the bushes at the roadside- a man's face.
You2must 4 have seen it too."
"I didn't see it."
"Are you sure-"
"-it was a face?"
"JoelI'll have to look. I can't go in
I can'tand leave a thing like that unsettled.
Doors locked and curtains drawn will make no difference.
I always have felt strange when we came home
To the dark house after so long an absence
And the key rattled loudly into place
Seemed to warn someone to be getting out
At one door as we entered at another.
What if I'm rightand someone all the time-
Don't hold my arm!"
"I say it's someone passing."
"You speak as if this were a travelled road.
You forget where we are. What is beyond
That he'd be going to or coming from
At such an hour of nightand on foot too.
What was he standing still for in the bushes?"
"It's not so very late- it's only dark.
There's more in it than you're inclined to say.
Did he look like-?"
"He looked like anyone.
I'll never rest to-night unless I know.
Give me the lantern."
"You don't want the lantern."
She pushed past him and got it for herself.
"You're not to come" she said. "This is my business.
If the time's come to face itI'm the one
To put it the right way. He'd never dare-
Listen! He kicked a stone. Hear thathear that!
He's coming towards us. Joel2go 4 in- please.
Hark!- I don't hear him now. But please go in."
"In the first place you can't make me believe it's-"
"It is- or someone else he's sent to watch.
And now's the time to have it out with him
While we know definitely where he is.
Let him get off and he'll be everywhere
Around uslooking out of trees and bushes
Till I sha'n't dare to set a foot outdoors.
And I can't stand it. Joellet me go!"
"But it's nonsense to think he'd care enough."
"You mean you couldn't understand his caring.
Ohbut you see he hadn't had enough-
JoelI won't- I won't- I promise you.
We mustn't say hard things. You mustn't either."
"I'll be the oneif anybody goes!
But you give him the advantage with this light.
What couldn't he do to us standing here!
And if to see was what he wantedwhy
He has seen all there was to see and gone."
He appeared to forget to keep his hold
But advanced with her as she crossed the grass.
"What do you want?" she cried to all the dark.
She stretched up tall to overlook the light
That hung in both hands hot against her skirt.
"There's no one; so you're wrong" he said.
What do you want?" she criedand then herself
Was startled when an answer really came.
"Nothing." It came from well along the road.
She reached a hand to Joel for support:
The smell of scorching woollen made her faint.
"What are you doing round this house at night?"
"Nothing." A pause: there seemed no more to say.
And then the voice again: "You seem afraid.
I saw by the way you whipped up the horse.
I'll just come forward in the lantern-light
And let you see."
"Yesdo.- Joelgo back!"
She stood her ground against the noisy steps
That came onbut her body rocked a little.
"You see" the voice said.
"Oh." She looked and looked.
"You don't see- I've a child here by the hand."
"What's a child doing at this time of night-?"
"Out walking. Every child should have the memory
Of at least one long-after-bedtime walk.
"Then I should think you'd try to find
Somewhere to walk-"
"The highway as it happens-
We're stopping for the fortnight down at Dean's."
"But if that's all- Joel- you realize-
You won't think anything. You understand?
You understand that we have to be careful.
This is a veryvery lonely place.
Joel!" She spoke as if she couldn't turn.
The swinging lantern lengthened to the ground
It touchedit struck itclattered and went out.
"WILLISI didn't want you here to-day:
The lawyer's coming for the company.
I'm going to sell my soulorratherfeet.
Five hundred dollars for the pairyou know."
"With you the feet have nearly been the soul;
And if you're going to sell them to the devil
I want to see you do it. When's he coming?"
"I half suspect you knewand came on purpose
To try to help me drive a better bargain."
"Wellif it's true! Yours are no common feet.
The lawyer don't know what it is he's buying:
So many miles you might have walked you won't walk.
You haven't run your forty orchids down.
What does he think?- How2are 4 the blessed feet?
The doctor's sure you're going to walk again?"
"He thinks I'll hobble. It's both legs and feet."
"They must be terrible- I mean to look at."
"I haven't dared to look at them uncovered.
Through the bed blankets I remind myself
Of a starfish laid out with rigid points."
"The wonder is it hadn't been your head."
"It's hard to tell you how I managed it.
When I saw the shaft had me by the coat
I didn't try too long to pull away
Or fumble for my knife to cut away
I just embraced the shaft and rode it out-
Till Weiss shut off the water in the wheel-pit.
That's how I think I didn't lose my head.
But my legs got their knocks against the ceiling."
"Awful. Why didn't they throw off the belt
Instead of going clear down in the wheel-pit?"
"They say some time was wasted on the belt-
Old streak of leather- doesn't love me much
Because I make him spit fire at my knuckles
The way Ben Franklin used to make the kite-string.
That must be it. Some days he won't stay on.
That day a woman couldn't coax him off.
He's on his rounds now with his tail in his mouth
Snatched right and left across the silver pulleys.
Everything goes the same without me there.
You can hear the small buzz saws whinethe big saw
Caterwaul to the hills around the village
As they both bite the wood. It's all our music.
One ought as a good villager to like it.
No doubt it has a sort of prosperous sound
And it's our life."
"Yeswhen it's not our death."
"You make that sound as if it wasn't so
With everything. What we live by we die by.
I wonder where my lawyer is. His train's in.
I want this over with; I'm hot and tired."
"You're getting ready to do something foolish."
"Watch for himwill youWill? You let him in.
I'd rather Mrs. Corbin didn't know;
I've boarded here so longshe thinks she owns me.
You're bad enough to manage without her."
"And I'm going to be worse instead of better.
You've got to tell me how far this is gone:
Have you agreed to any price?"
Five hundred- five- five! Onetwothreefourfive.
You needn't look at me."
"I don't believe you."
"I told youWilliswhen you first came in.
Don't you be hard on me. I have to take
What I can get. You see they have the feet
Which gives them the advantage in the trade.
I can't get back the feet in any case."
"But your flowersmanyou're selling out your flowers."
"Yesthat's one way to put it- all the flowers
Of every kind everywhere in this region
For the next forty summers- call it forty.
But I'm not selling thoseI'm giving them;
They never earned me so much as one cent:
Money can't pay me for the loss of them.
Nothe five hundred was the sum they named
To pay the doctor's bill and tide me over.
It's that or fightand I don't want to fight-
I just want to get settled in my life
Such as it's going to beand know the worst
Or best- it may not be so bad. The firm
Promise me all the shooks I want to nail."
"But what about your flora of the valley?"
"You have me there. But that- you didn't think
That was worth money to me? Still I own
It goes against me not to finish it
For the friends it might bring me. By the way
I had a letter from Burroughs- did I tell you?-
About my2Cypripedium reginae; 4
He says it's not reported so far north.
There! there's the bell. He's rung. But you go down
And bring him upand don't let Mrs. Corbin.-
Ohwellwe'll soon be through with it. I'm tired."
Willis brought up besides the Boston lawyer
A little barefoot girl who in the noise
Of heavy footsteps in the old frame house
And baritone importance of the lawyer
Stood for a while unnoticed with her hands
Shyly behind her.
"Welland how is Mister-"
The lawyer was already in his satchel
As if for papers that might bear the name
He hadn't at command. "You must excuse me
I dropped in at the mill and was detained."
"Looking roundI suppose" said Willis.
"Hear anything that might prove useful?"
The Broken One saw Anne. "Whyhere is Anne.
What do you wantdear? Comestand by the bed;
Tell me what is it?" Anne just wagged her dress
With both hands held behind her. "Guess" she said.
"Ohguess which hand? Mymy! Once on a time
I knew a lovely way to tell for certain
By looking in the ears. But I forget it.
Erlet me see. I think I'll take the right.
That's sure to be right even if it's wrong.
Comehold it out. Don't change.- A Ram's Horn orchid!
A Ram's Horn! What would I have gotI wonder
If I had chosen left. Hold out the left.
Another Ram's Horn! Where did you find those
Under what beech treeon what woodchuck's knoll?"
Anne looked at the large lawyer at her side
And thought she wouldn't venture on so much.
"Were there no others?"
"There were four or five.
I knew you wouldn't let me pick them all."
"I wouldn't- so I wouldn't. You're the girl!
You see Anne has her lesson learned by heart."
"I wanted there should be some there next year."
"Of course you did. You left the rest for seed
And for the backwoods woodchuck. You're the girl!
A Ram's Horn orchid seedpod for a woodchuck
Sounds something like. Better than farmer's beans
To a discriminating appetite
Though the Ram's Horn is seldom to be had
In bushel lots- doesn't come on the market.
ButAnneI'm troubled; have you told me all?
You're hiding something. That's as bad as lying.
You ask this lawyer man. And it's not safe
With a lawyer at hand to find you out.
Nothing is hidden from some peopleAnne.
You don't tell me that where you found a Ram's Horn
You didn't find a Yellow Lady's Slipper.
What did I tell you? What? I'd blushI would.
Don't you defend yourself. If it was there
Where is it nowthe Yellow Lady's Slipper?"
"Wellwait- it's common- it's too2common." 4
The Purple Lady's Slipper's commoner."
"I didn't bring a Purple Lady's Slipper
To2You 4- to you I mean- they're both too common."
The lawyer gave a laugh among his papers
As if with some idea that she had scored.
"I've broken Anne of gathering bouquets.
It's not fair to the child. It can't be helped though:
Pressed into service means pressed out of shape.
Somehow I'll make it right with her- she'll see.
She's going to do my scouting in the field
Over stone walls and all along a wood
And by a river bank for water flowers
The floating Heartwith small leaf like a heart
And at the2sinus 4 under water a fist
Of little fingers all kept down but one
And that thrust up to blossom in the sun
As if to say'You! You're the Heart's desire.'
Anne has a way with flowers to take the place
Of that she's lost: she goes down on one knee
And lifts their faces by the chin to hers
And says their namesand leaves them where they are."
The lawyer wore a watch the case of which
Was cunningly devised to make a noise
Like a small pistol when he snapped it shut
At such a time as this. He snapped it now.
"WellAnnegodearie. Our affair will wait.
The lawyer man is thinking of his train.
He wants to give me lots and lots of money
Before he goesbecause I hurt myself
And it may take him I don't know how long.
But put our flowers in water first. Willhelp her:
The pitcher's too full for her. There's no cup?
Just hook them on the inside of the pitcher.
Now run.- Get out your documents! You see
I have to keep on the good side of Anne.
I'm a great boy to think of number one.
And you can't blame me in the place I'm in.
Who will take care of my necessities
Unless I do?"
"A pretty interlude"
The lawyer said. "I'm sorrybut my train-
Luckily terms are all agreed upon.
You only have to sign your name. Right- there."
"YouWillstop making faces. Come round here
Where you can't make them. What is it you want?
I'll put you out with Anne. Be good or go."
"You don't mean you will sign that thing unread?"
"Make yourself useful thenand read it for me.
Isn't it something I have seen before?"
"You'll find it is. Let your friend look at it."
"Yesbut all that takes timeand I'm as much
In haste to get it over with as you.
But read itread it. That's rightdraw the curtain:
Half the time I don't know what's troubling me.-
What do you sayWill? Don't you be a fool
You! crumpling folkses legal documents.
Out with it if you've any real objection."
"Five hundred dollars!"
"What would you think right?"
"A thousand wouldn't be a cent too much;
You know itMr. Lawyer. The sin is
Accepting anything before he knows
Whether he's ever going to walk again.
It smells to me like a dishonest trick."
"I think- I think- from what I heard to-day-
And saw myself- he would be ill-advised-"
"What did you hearfor instance?" Willis said.
"Now the place where the accident occurred-"
The Broken One was twisted in his bed.
"This is between you two apparently.
Where I come in is what I want to know.
You stand up to it like a pair of cocks.
Go outdoors if you want to fight. Spare me.
When you come backI'll have the papers signed.
Will pencil do? Thenpleaseyour fountain pen.
One of you hold my head up from the pillow."
Willis flung off the bed. "I wash my hands-
I'm no match- noand don't pretend to be-"
The lawyer gravely capped his fountain pen.
"You're doing the wise thing: you won't regret it.
We're very sorry for you."
"Who's2we? 4- some stockholders in Boston?
I'll go outdoorsby gadand won't come back."
"Willisbring Anne back with you when you come.
Yes. Thanks for caring. Don't mind Will: he's savage.
He thinks you ought to pay me for my flowers.
You don't know what I mean about the flowers.
Don't stop to try to now. You'll miss your train.
Good-bye." He flung his arms around his face.
OUT walking in the frozen swamp one grey day
I paused and said"I will turn back from here.
NoI will go on farther- and we shall see."
The hard snow held mesave where now and then
One foot went down. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what2he 4 thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather-
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maplecut and split
And piled- and measuredfour by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year's snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year's cutting
Or even last year's or the year's before.
The wood was grey and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growingand on one a stake and prop
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himselfthe labour of his axe
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.
I HAD for my winter evening walk-
No one at all with whom to talk
But I had the cottages in a row
Up to their shining eyes in snow.
And I thought I had the folk within:
I had the sound of a violin;
I had a glimpse through curtain laces
Of youthful forms and youthful faces.
I had such company outward bound.
I went till there were no cottages found.
I turned and repentedbut coming back
I saw no window but that was black.
Over the snow my creaking feet
Disturbed the slumbering village street
Like profanationby your leave
At ten o'clock of a winter eve.