I was a boy when I heaid three red words a thousand Frenchmen died in the streets for: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity-I asked why men die Jor woкds.
I was older; men with mustaches, sideburns lilacs, told me the high golden words are: Mother, Home and Heaven-other older men with face decorations said: God, Duty, Immortality -they sang these threes slow from deep lungs.
Years ticked off their say-so on the great clocks of doom and damnation, soup and nuts: meteors flashed their say-so: and out of great Russia came three dusky syllables workmen took guns and went out to die for: Bread, Peace, Land.
And I met a marine of the U.S.A., a leatherneck with a girl on his knee for a memory in ports circling the earth and he said: tell me how to say three things and I always get by-gimme a plate of ham and eggs- how much?-and-do you love me, kid?
Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo. Shovel them under and let me work- I am the grass; I cover all. And pile them high at Gettysburg And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun. Shovel them under and let me work. Two years, ten years, and passengers ask the conductor: What place is this? Where are we now?
Lay me on an anvil, О God. Beat me and hammer me into a crowbar. Let me pry loose old walls. Let me lift and loosen old foundations. Lay me on an anvil, О God.
Beat me and hammer me into a steel spike Drive me into the girders that hold a skyscraper together Take red-hot rivets and fasten me into the central girders Let me be the great nail holding a skyscraper through blue nights into white stars.
I am riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains of the nation. Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people. (All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall pass to ashes.) I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he answers: “Omaha.”
Hog Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities; Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, Bareheaded, Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Building, breaking, rebuilding. Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth, Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse, and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing! Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
One face looks out from all his canvases, One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans: We found her hidden just behind those screens, That mirror gave back all her loveliness. A queen in opal or in ruby dress, A nameless girl in freshest summer-greens, A saint, an angel—every canvas means The same one meaning, neither more nor less. He feeds upon her face by day and night, And she with true kind eyes looks back on him, Fair as the moon and joyful as the light: Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim; No as she is, but was when hope shone bright; Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.
Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal. There where the vines cling crimson on the wall, And in the twilight wait for what will come The leaves will whisper there of her, and some, Like flying -words, will strike you as they fall; But go, and if you listen, she will call. Go to the western gate, Luke Havergal Luke Havergal.
No, there is not a dawn in eastern skies To rift the fiery night that's in your eyes; But there, where western glooms are gathering The dark will end the dark, if anything: God slays himself with every leaf that flies And hell is more than half of paradise No; there is not a dawn in eastern skies- In eastern skies.
Out of a grave I come to tell you this Out of a grave I come to quench the kiss I hat flames upon your forehead with a glow That blinds you to the way that you must go Yes, there is yet one way to where she is Bitter but one that faith may never miss Out of a grave I come to tell you this- To tell you this.
There is the western gate, Luke Havergal There are the crimson leaves upon the wall Go, for the winds are tearing them away, Nor think to riddle the dead words they sav Nor any more to feel them as they fall- But go, and if you trust her she will call 1 here is the western gate, Luke Havergal- Luke Havergal.
Cliff Klingenhagen had me in to dine With him one day; and after soup and meat, And all the other things there were to eat, Cliff took two glasses and filled one with wine And one with wormwood. Then, without a sign For me to choose at all, he took the draught Of bitterness himself, and lightly quaffed It off, and said the other one was mine.
And when I asked him what the deuce he meant By doing that, he only looked at me And smiled, and said it was a way of his. And though I knew the fellow, I have spent Long time a-wondering when I shall be As happy as Cliff Klingenhagen is.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, week and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore- While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. "'Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door- Only this and nothing more."
Ah, distinctly I remember, it was in the bleak December, And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow;-vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore- For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore- Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating, '"Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door- Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; - This it is and nothing more."
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, "Sir," said I, "or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you" - here I opened wide the door: - Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, "Lenore?" This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, "Lenore!" Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before. "Surely," said I, "surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore- Let my heart be still a moment, and this mystery explore; - 'Tis the wind and nothing more!"
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door- Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door- Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, "Though the crest be shorn and shaven, thou," I said, "art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore- Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning-little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door- Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as "Nevermore."
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing further then he uttered-not a feather then he fluttered- Till I scarcely more than muttered, "Other friends have flown before- On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before." Then the bird said, "Nevermore."
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, "Doubtless," said I, "what it utters is its only stock and store, Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore- Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore Of 'Never-nevermore.' "
But the Raven still beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore- What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking "Nevermore."
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core; This and more I sat divining, with my head at case reclining On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er, But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. "Wretch," I cried, "thy God hath lent thee-by these angels he hath sent thee Respite-respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore! Quaft, oh, quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! - Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted - On this home by Horror haunted-tell me truly, I implore- Is there-is there balm in Gilead?-tell me-tell me, I implore!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Prophet!" said I, "thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! By that Heaven that bends above us-by that God we both adore- Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore- Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore." Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
"Be that word our bird or fiend!" I shrieked, sign of parting,upstarting- "Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!-quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!" Quoth the Raven, "Nevermore."
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted-nevermore!
There's still a twilight of the night. The world's so young in its proceeding, That countless stars in sky abide, And each one, like the day, is bright, And if the Earth contained that might, She'd sleep through Easter in delight, Under the Psalter reading.
There's still a twilight of the night. It's far too early; it appears, That fields eternally subside, Right from crossroad to the side, And 'til the sunrise and the light, There is a thousand years.
The Mother Earth, of clothes deprived, Has nothing else to wear, To strikes the church bell through night Or echo choirs in the air.
And from the Maundy Thursday night Right 'til the Easter Eve, The water bores the coastal side And whirlpools heave.
The forest, in exposed expanse, To celebrate Christ's Holy times, As though in prayer, calmly stands, In gathered stems and trunks of pines.
And in the city, in one place, As if a mob commenced, The naked trees sincerely gaze Upon the Church's fence.
Their eyes are fully filled with rage. And their concern is heard. The gardens slowly leave their cage, The Earth shakes wildly in its range, They're burying the Lord.
A light is seen that dimly glows, Black kerchiefs and the candle rows, By weeping eyes-- And suddenly, there's a procession, With holy shroud of the Christ And every birch, with a concession, Along the entrance subsides.
They walk around the royal square, Along the sidewalk's edge. Into the vestibule with care, They bring the spring and springtime flair, A scent of Eucharist in the air And vernal rage.
And March is tossing snow around To beggars gathered on Church ground, As though a person just walked out, Opened the shrine, took what he found And gave it all away.
The singing lasts throughout the night, Those who have wept enough, they lastly, Calmly and gently stroll outside, Onto the land under the light, To read the Psalter or Apostles.
But after midnight, all will quiet, Hearing the vernal lecture, That if we wait just for a while, We'll cast His death into exile With holy resurrection.
The clamor ceased. I walked onto the stage. While leaning on a jamb, through cheers, I'm grasping in the echo's distant range What will occur during my years. The twilight of the night has gathered Like thousands of binoculars on me. If so you're willing, Father, I beg you, take this cup from me. I love your plan, so firm and stubborn And I agree to play this role. But as of now, there's another drama. This time, expel me, I implore. But, the predestined plot proceeds. I cannot alter the direction of my path. I am alone, all sinks in phariseeism. To live a life--is not an easy task.
Believe me, if all those endearing young charms, Which I gaze on so fondly today, Were to change by tomorrow, and fleet in my arms, Like fairy-gifts fading away, Thou wouldst still be adored, as this moment thou art, Let thy loveliness fade as it will, And around the dear ruin each wish of my heart Would entwine itself verdantly still.
It is not while beauty and youth are thine own, And thy cheeks unprofaned by a tear That the fervor and faith of a soul can be known, To which time will but make thee more dear; No, the heart that has truly loved never forgets, But as truly loves on to the close, As the sunflower turns on her god, when he sets, The same look which she turned when he rose.
To be able to see every side of every question; To be on every side, to be everything, to be nothing long; To pervert truth, to ride it for a purpose, To use great feelings and passions of the human family For base designs, for cunning ends, To wear a mask like the Greek actors- Your eight-page paper-behind which you huddle, Bawling through the megaphone of big type: "This is I, the giant." Thereby also living the life of a sneak-thief, Poisoned with the anonymous words Of your clandestine soul. To scratch dirt over scandal for money, And exhume it to the winds for revenge, Or to sell papers, Crushing reputations, or bodies, if need be, To win at any cost, save your own life. To glory in demoniac power, ditching civilization, As a paranoiac boy puts a log on the track And derails the express train. To be an editor, as I was. Then to lie here close by the river over the place Where the sewage flows from the village, And the empty cans and garbage are dumped, And abortions are hidden.
Where are Elmer, Herman, Bert, Tom and Charley, The weak of will, the strong of arm, the clown, the boozer, the fighter? All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One passed in a fever, One was burned in a mine, One was killed in a brawl, One died in a jail, One fell from a bridge toiling for children and wife All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are Ella, Kate, Mag, Lizzie and Edith, The tender heart, the simple soul, the loud, the proud, the happy one?- All, all are sleeping on the hill.
One died in shameful child-birth, One of a thwarted love, One at the hands of a brute in a brothel, One of a broken pride, in the search for heart's desire, One after life in a far-away London and Paris Was brought to her little space by Ella and Kate and Maggy- All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where are Uncle Isaac and Aunt Emily, And old Towny Kincaid and Sevigny Houghton, And Major Walker who had talked With venerable men of the revolution?- All, all are sleeping on the hill. They brought them dead sons from the war, And daughters whom life had crushed, And their children, fatherless, crying- All, all are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping on the hill.
Where is old Fiddler Jones Who played with life all his ninety years, Braving the sleet with hared breast, Drinking, rioting, thinking neither of wife nor kin, Nor gold, nor love, nor heaven? Lo! he babbles of the fish-frys of long ago, Of the horse-races of long ago at Clary's Grove, Of what Abe Lincoln said One time at Springfield.