Famous Epic Poems
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The best famous Epic poems by international web poets. These are the best examples of epic poems.

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Tasker Norcross

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 “Whether all towns and all who live in them— 
So long as they be somewhere in this world 
That we in our complacency call ours— 
Are more or less the same, I leave to you.
I should say less.
Whether or not, meanwhile, We’ve all two legs—and as for that, we haven’t— There were three kinds of men where I was born: The good, the not so good, and Tasker Norcross.
Now there are two kinds.
” “Meaning, as I divine, Your friend is dead,” I ventured.
Ferguson, Who talked himself at last out of the world He censured, and is therefore silent now, Agreed indifferently: “My friends are dead— Or most of them.
” “Remember one that isn’t,” I said, protesting.
“Honor him for his ears; Treasure him also for his understanding.
” Ferguson sighed, and then talked on again: “You have an overgrown alacrity For saying nothing much and hearing less; And I’ve a thankless wonder, at the start, How much it is to you that I shall tell What I have now to say of Tasker Norcross, And how much to the air that is around you.
But given a patience that is not averse To the slow tragedies of haunted men— Horrors, in fact, if you’ve a skilful eye To know them at their firesides, or out walking,—” “Horrors,” I said, “are my necessity; And I would have them, for their best effect, Always out walking.
” Ferguson frowned at me: “The wisest of us are not those who laugh Before they know.
Most of us never know— Or the long toil of our mortality Would not be done.
Most of us never know— And there you have a reason to believe In God, if you may have no other.
Norcross, Or so I gather of his infirmity, Was given to know more than he should have known, And only God knows why.
See for yourself An old house full of ghosts of ancestors, Who did their best, or worst, and having done it, Died honorably; and each with a distinction That hardly would have been for him that had it, Had honor failed him wholly as a friend.
Honor that is a friend begets a friend.
Whether or not we love him, still we have him; And we must live somehow by what we have, Or then we die.
If you say chemistry, Then you must have your molecules in motion, And in their right abundance.
Failing either, You have not long to dance.
Failing a friend, A genius, or a madness, or a faith Larger than desperation, you are here For as much longer than you like as may be.
Imagining now, by way of an example, Myself a more or less remembered phantom— Again, I should say less—how many times A day should I come back to you? No answer.
Forgive me when I seem a little careless, But we must have examples, or be lucid Without them; and I question your adherence To such an undramatic narrative As this of mine, without the personal hook.
” “A time is given in Ecclesiastes For divers works,” I told him.
“Is there one For saying nothing in return for nothing? If not, there should be.
” I could feel his eyes, And they were like two cold inquiring points Of a sharp metal.
When I looked again, To see them shine, the cold that I had felt Was gone to make way for a smouldering Of lonely fire that I, as I knew then, Could never quench with kindness or with lies.
I should have done whatever there was to do For Ferguson, yet I could not have mourned In honesty for once around the clock The loss of him, for my sake or for his, Try as I might; nor would his ghost approve, Had I the power and the unthinking will To make him tread again without an aim The road that was behind him—and without The faith, or friend, or genius, or the madness That he contended was imperative.
After a silence that had been too long, “It may be quite as well we don’t,” he said; “As well, I mean, that we don’t always say it.
You know best what I mean, and I suppose You might have said it better.
What was that? Incorrigible? Am I incorrigible? Well, it’s a word; and a word has its use, Or, like a man, it will soon have a grave.
It’s a good word enough.
Incorrigible, May be, for all I know, the word for Norcross.
See for yourself that house of his again That he called home: An old house, painted white, Square as a box, and chillier than a tomb To look at or to live in.
There were trees— Too many of them, if such a thing may be— Before it and around it.
Down in front There was a road, a railroad, and a river; Then there were hills behind it, and more trees.
The thing would fairly stare at you through trees, Like a pale inmate out of a barred window With a green shade half down; and I dare say People who passed have said: ‘There’s where he lives.
We know him, but we do not seem to know That we remember any good of him, Or any evil that is interesting.
There you have all we know and all we care.
’ They might have said it in all sorts of ways; And then, if they perceived a cat, they might Or might not have remembered what they said.
The cat might have a personality— And maybe the same one the Lord left out Of Tasker Norcross, who, for lack of it, Saw the same sun go down year after year; All which at last was my discovery.
And only mine, so far as evidence Enlightens one more darkness.
You have known All round you, all your days, men who are nothing— Nothing, I mean, so far as time tells yet Of any other need it has of them Than to make sextons hardy—but no less Are to themselves incalculably something, And therefore to be cherished.
God, you see, Being sorry for them in their fashioning, Indemnified them with a quaint esteem Of self, and with illusions long as life.
You know them well, and you have smiled at them; And they, in their serenity, may have had Their time to smile at you.
Blessed are they That see themselves for what they never were Or were to be, and are, for their defect, At ease with mirrors and the dim remarks That pass their tranquil ears.
” “Come, come,” said I; “There may be names in your compendium That we are not yet all on fire for shouting.
Skin most of us of our mediocrity, We should have nothing then that we could scratch.
The picture smarts.
Cover it, if you please, And do so rather gently.
Now for Norcross.
” Ferguson closed his eyes in resignation, While a dead sigh came out of him.
“Good God!” He said, and said it only half aloud, As if he knew no longer now, nor cared, If one were there to listen: “Have I said nothing— Nothing at all—of Norcross? Do you mean To patronize him till his name becomes A toy made out of letters? If a name Is all you need, arrange an honest column Of all the people you have ever known That you have never liked.
You’ll have enough; And you’ll have mine, moreover.
No, not yet.
If I assume too many privileges, I pay, and I alone, for their assumption; By which, if I assume a darker knowledge Of Norcross than another, let the weight Of my injustice aggravate the load That is not on your shoulders.
When I came To know this fellow Norcross in his house, I found him as I found him in the street— No more, no less; indifferent, but no better.
‘Worse’ were not quite the word: he was not bad; He was not… well, he was not anything.
Has your invention ever entertained The picture of a dusty worm so dry That even the early bird would shake his head And fly on farther for another breakfast?” “But why forget the fortune of the worm,” I said, “if in the dryness you deplore Salvation centred and endured? Your Norcross May have been one for many to have envied.
” “Salvation? Fortune? Would the worm say that? He might; and therefore I dismiss the worm With all dry things but one.
Figures away, Do you begin to see this man a little? Do you begin to see him in the air, With all the vacant horrors of his outline For you to fill with more than it will hold? If so, you needn’t crown yourself at once With epic laurel if you seem to fill it.
Horrors, I say, for in the fires and forks Of a new hell—if one were not enough— I doubt if a new horror would have held him With a malignant ingenuity More to be feared than his before he died.
You smile, as if in doubt.
Well, smile again.
Now come into his house, along with me: The four square sombre things that you see first Around you are four walls that go as high As to the ceiling.
Norcross knew them well, And he knew others like them.
Fasten to that With all the claws of your intelligence; And hold the man before you in his house As if he were a white rat in a box, And one that knew himself to be no other.
I tell you twice that he knew all about it, That you may not forget the worst of all Our tragedies begin with what we know.
Could Norcross only not have known, I wonder How many would have blessed and envied him! Could he have had the usual eye for spots On others, and for none upon himself, I smile to ponder on the carriages That might as well as not have clogged the town In honor of his end.
For there was gold, You see, though all he needed was a little, And what he gave said nothing of who gave it.
He would have given it all if in return There might have been a more sufficient face To greet him when he shaved.
Though you insist It is the dower, and always, of our degree Not to be cursed with such invidious insight, Remember that you stand, you and your fancy, Now in his house; and since we are together, See for yourself and tell me what you see.
Tell me the best you see.
Make a slight noise Of recognition when you find a book That you would not as lief read upside down As otherwise, for example.
If there you fail, Observe the walls and lead me to the place, Where you are led.
If there you meet a picture That holds you near it for a longer time Than you are sorry, you may call it yours, And hang it in the dark of your remembrance, Where Norcross never sees.
How can he see That has no eyes to see? And as for music, He paid with empty wonder for the pangs Of his infrequent forced endurance of it; And having had no pleasure, paid no more For needless immolation, or for the sight Of those who heard what he was never to hear.
To see them listening was itself enough To make him suffer; and to watch worn eyes, On other days, of strangers who forgot Their sorrows and their failures and themselves Before a few mysterious odds and ends Of marble carted from the Parthenon— And all for seeing what he was never to see, Because it was alive and he was dead— Here was a wonder that was more profound Than any that was in fiddles and brass horns.
“He knew, and in his knowledge there was death.
He knew there was a region all around him That lay outside man’s havoc and affairs, And yet was not all hostile to their tumult, Where poets would have served and honored him, And saved him, had there been anything to save.
But there was nothing, and his tethered range Was only a small desert.
Kings of song Are not for thrones in deserts.
Towers of sound And flowers of sense are but a waste of heaven Where there is none to know them from the rocks And sand-grass of his own monotony That makes earth less than earth.
He could see that, And he could see no more.
The captured light That may have been or not, for all he cared, The song that is in sculpture was not his, But only, to his God-forgotten eyes, One more immortal nonsense in a world Where all was mortal, or had best be so, And so be done with.
‘Art,’ he would have said, ‘Is not life, and must therefore be a lie;’ And with a few profundities like that He would have controverted and dismissed The benefit of the Greeks.
He had heard of them, As he had heard of his aspiring soul— Never to the perceptible advantage, In his esteem, of either.
‘Faith,’ he said, Or would have said if he had thought of it, ‘Lives in the same house with Philosophy, Where the two feed on scraps and are forlorn As orphans after war.
He could see stars, On a clear night, but he had not an eye To see beyond them.
He could hear spoken words, But had no ear for silence when alone.
He could eat food of which he knew the savor, But had no palate for the Bread of Life, That human desperation, to his thinking, Made famous long ago, having no other.
Now do you see? Do you begin to see?” I told him that I did begin to see; And I was nearer than I should have been To laughing at his malign inclusiveness, When I considered that, with all our speed, We are not laughing yet at funerals.
I see him now as I could see him then, And I see now that it was good for me, As it was good for him, that I was quiet; For Time’s eye was on Ferguson, and the shaft Of its inquiring hesitancy had touched him, Or so I chose to fancy more than once Before he told of Norcross.
When the word Of his release (he would have called it so) Made half an inch of news, there were no tears That are recorded.
Women there may have been To wish him back, though I should say, not knowing, The few there were to mourn were not for love, And were not lovely.
Nothing of them, at least, Was in the meagre legend that I gathered Years after, when a chance of travel took me So near the region of his nativity That a few miles of leisure brought me there; For there I found a friendly citizen Who led me to his house among the trees That were above a railroad and a river.
Square as a box and chillier than a tomb It was indeed, to look at or to live in— All which had I been told.
“Ferguson died,” The stranger said, “and then there was an auction.
I live here, but I’ve never yet been warm.
Remember him? Yes, I remember him.
I knew him—as a man may know a tree— For twenty years.
He may have held himself A little high when he was here, but now … Yes, I remember Ferguson.
Oh, yes.
” Others, I found, remembered Ferguson, But none of them had heard of Tasker Norcross.


A Song of the Pen

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 Not for the love of women toil we, we of the craft, 
Not for the people's praise; 
Only because our goddess made us her own and laughed, 
Claiming us all our days, 
Claiming our best endeavour -- body and heart and brain 
Given with no reserve -- 
Niggard is she towards us, granting us little gain: 
Still, we are proud to serve.
Not unto us is given choice of the tasks we try, Gathering grain or chaff; One of her favoured servants toils at an epic high, One, that a child may laugh.
Yet if we serve her truly in our appointed place, Freely she doth accord Unto her faithful servants always this saving grace, Work is its own reward!


Kathleen

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 It was the steamer Alice May that sailed the Yukon foam.
And touched in every river camp from Dawson down to Nome.
It was her builder, owner, pilot, Captain Silas Geer, Who took her through the angry ice, the last boat of the year; Who patched her cracks with gunny sacks and wound her pipes with wire, And cut the spruce upon the banks to feed her boiler fire; Who headed her into the stream and bucked its mighty flow, And nosed her up the little creeks where no one else would go; Who bragged she had so small a draft, if dew were on the grass, With gallant heart and half a start his little boat would pass.
Aye, ships might come and ships might go, but steady every year The Alice May would chug away with Skipper Silas Geer.
Now though Cap geer had ne'er a fear the devil he could bilk, He owned a gastric ulcer and his grub was mostly milk.
He also owned a Jersey cow to furnish him the same, So soft and sleek and mild and meek, and Kathleen was her name.
And so his source of nourishment he got to love her so That everywhere the captain went the cow would also go; And though his sleeping quarters were ridiculously small, He roped a section of them off to make Kathleen a stall.
So every morn she'd wake him up with mellifluous moo, And he would pat her on the nose and go to wake the crew.
Then when he'd done his daily run and hitched on to the bank, She'd breath above his pillow till to soothing sleep he sank.
So up and down the river seeded sourdoughs would allow, They made a touching tableau, Captain Silas and his cow.
Now as the Captain puffed his pipe and Kathleen chewed her cud, There came to him a poetess, a Miss Belinda Budd.
"An epic I would write," said she, "about this mighty stream, And from your gallant bark 'twould be romantic as a dream.
" Somewhat amazed the Captain gazed at her and shook his head; "I'm sorry, Miss, but we don't take she passengers," he said.
"My boat's a freighter, we have no accommodation space For women-folk - my cabin is the only private palce.
It's eight foot small from wall to wall, and I have, anyhow, No room to spare, for half I share with Kathleen, That's my cow.
" The lady sighed, then soft replied: "I love your Yukon scene, And for its sake your room I'll take, and put up with Kathleen.
" Well, she was so dead set to go the Captain said: "By heck! I like your spunk; you take my bunk and I'll camp on the deck.
" So days went by then with a sigh she sought him so anew: "Oh, Captain Geer, Kathleen's a dear, but does she have to moo? In early morn like motor horn she bellows overhead, While all the night without respite she snores above my bed.
I know it's true she dotes on you, your smile she seems to miss; She leans so near I live in fear my brow she'll try to kiss.
Her fond regard makes it so hard my Pegasus to spur.
.
.
Oh, please be kind and try to find another place for her.
" Bereft of cheer was captain Geer; his face was glazed with gloom: He scratched his head: "There ain't," he said, "another inch of room.
With freight we're packed; it's stowed and stacked - why even on the deck.
There's seven salted sourdoughs and they're sleeping neck and neck.
I'm sorry, Miss, that Kathleen's kiss has put your muse to flight; I realize her amber eyes abstract you when you write.
I used to love them orbs above a-shining down on me, And when she'd chew my whickers you can't calculate my glee.
I ain't at all poetical, but gosh! I guess your plight, So I will try to plan what I can fix up for to-night.
" Thus while upon her berth the wan and weary Author Budd Bewailed her fate, Kathleen sedate above her chewed her cud; And as he sought with brain distraught a steady course to steer, Yet find a plan, a worried man was Captain Silas Geer.
Then suddenly alert was he, he hollerred to his mate; "Hi, Patsy, press our poetess to climb on deck and wait.
Hip-hip-hooray! Bid her be gay and never more despair; My search is crowned - by heck, I've found an answer to her prayer.
" To Patsy's yell like glad gazelle came bounding Bardess Budd; No more forlorn, with hope new-born she faced the foaming flood; While down the stair with eager air was seen to disappear, Like one inspired (by genius fired) exultant Captain Geer.
Then up he came with eye aflame and honest face aglow, And oh, how loud he laughed, as proud he led her down below.
"Now you may write by day or night upon our Yukon scene, For I," he cried, "have clarified the problem of Kathleen.
I thought a lot, then like a shot the remedy I found: I jest unhitched her rope and switched the loving creature round.
No more her moo will trouble you, you'll sleep right restful now.
Look, Lady, look! - I'm giving you.
.
.
the tail end of the cow.
"


MFingal - Canto III

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 Now warm with ministerial ire,
Fierce sallied forth our loyal 'Squire,
And on his striding steps attends
His desperate clan of Tory friends.
When sudden met his wrathful eye A pole ascending through the sky, Which numerous throngs of whiggish race Were raising in the market-place.
Not higher school-boy's kites aspire, Or royal mast, or country spire; Like spears at Brobdignagian tilting, Or Satan's walking-staff in Milton.
And on its top, the flag unfurl'd Waved triumph o'er the gazing world, Inscribed with inconsistent types Of Liberty and thirteen stripes.
Beneath, the crowd without delay The dedication-rites essay, And gladly pay, in antient fashion, The ceremonies of libation; While briskly to each patriot lip Walks eager round the inspiring flip: Delicious draught! whose powers inherit The quintessence of public spirit; Which whoso tastes, perceives his mind To nobler politics refined; Or roused to martial controversy, As from transforming cups of Circe; Or warm'd with Homer's nectar'd liquor, That fill'd the veins of gods with ichor.
At hand for new supplies in store, The tavern opes its friendly door, Whence to and fro the waiters run, Like bucket-men at fires in town.
Then with three shouts that tore the sky, 'Tis consecrate to Liberty.
To guard it from th' attacks of Tories, A grand Committee cull'd of four is; Who foremost on the patriot spot, Had brought the flip, and paid the shot.
By this, M'Fingal with his train Advanced upon th' adjacent plain, And full with loyalty possest, Pour'd forth the zeal, that fired his breast.
"What mad-brain'd rebel gave commission, To raise this May-pole of sedition? Like Babel, rear'd by bawling throngs, With like confusion too of tongues, To point at heaven and summon down The thunders of the British crown? Say, will this paltry Pole secure Your forfeit heads from Gage's power? Attack'd by heroes brave and crafty, Is this to stand your ark of safety; Or driven by Scottish laird and laddie, Think ye to rest beneath its shadow? When bombs, like fiery serpents, fly, And balls rush hissing through the sky, Will this vile Pole, devote to freedom, Save like the Jewish pole in Edom; Or like the brazen snake of Moses, Cure your crackt skulls and batter'd noses? "Ye dupes to every factious rogue And tavern-prating demagogue, Whose tongue but rings, with sound more full, On th' empty drumhead of his scull; Behold you not what noisy fools Use you, worse simpletons, for tools? For Liberty, in your own by-sense, Is but for crimes a patent license, To break of law th' Egyptian yoke, And throw the world in common stock; Reduce all grievances and ills To Magna Charta of your wills; Establish cheats and frauds and nonsense, Framed to the model of your conscience; Cry justice down, as out of fashion, And fix its scale of depreciation; Defy all creditors to trouble ye, And keep new years of Jewish jubilee; Drive judges out, like Aaron's calves, By jurisdiction of white staves, And make the bar and bench and steeple Submit t' our Sovereign Lord, The People; By plunder rise to power and glory, And brand all property, as Tory; Expose all wares to lawful seizures By mobbers or monopolizers; Break heads and windows and the peace, For your own interest and increase; Dispute and pray and fight and groan For public good, and mean your own; Prevent the law by fierce attacks From quitting scores upon your backs; Lay your old dread, the gallows, low, And seize the stocks, your ancient foe, And turn them to convenient engines To wreak your patriotic vengeance; While all, your rights who understand, Confess them in their owner's hand; And when by clamours and confusions, Your freedom's grown a public nuisance, Cry "Liberty," with powerful yearning, As he does "Fire!" whose house is burning; Though he already has much more Than he can find occasion for.
While every clown, that tills the plains, Though bankrupt in estate and brains, By this new light transform'd to traitor, Forsakes his plough to turn dictator, Starts an haranguing chief of Whigs, And drags you by the ears, like pigs.
All bluster, arm'd with factious licence, New-born at once to politicians.
Each leather-apron'd dunce, grown wise, Presents his forward face t' advise, And tatter'd legislators meet, From every workshop through the street.
His goose the tailor finds new use in, To patch and turn the Constitution; The blacksmith comes with sledge and grate To iron-bind the wheels of state; The quack forbears his patients' souse, To purge the Council and the House; The tinker quits his moulds and doxies, To cast assembly-men and proxies.
From dunghills deep of blackest hue, Your dirt-bred patriots spring to view, To wealth and power and honors rise, Like new-wing'd maggots changed to flies, And fluttering round in high parade, Strut in the robe, or gay cockade.
See Arnold quits, for ways more certain, His bankrupt-perj'ries for his fortune, Brews rum no longer in his store, Jockey and skipper now no more, Forsakes his warehouses and docks, And writs of slander for the pox; And cleansed by patriotism from shame, Grows General of the foremost name.
For in this ferment of the stream The dregs have work'd up to the brim, And by the rule of topsy-turvies, The scum stands foaming on the surface.
You've caused your pyramid t' ascend, And set it on the little end.
Like Hudibras, your empire's made, Whose crupper had o'ertopp'd his head.
You've push'd and turn'd the whole world up- Side down, and got yourselves at top, While all the great ones of your state Are crush'd beneath the popular weight; Nor can you boast, this present hour, The shadow of the form of power.
For what's your Congress or its end? A power, t' advise and recommend; To call forth troops, adjust your quotas-- And yet no soul is bound to notice; To pawn your faith to th' utmost limit, But cannot bind you to redeem it; And when in want no more in them lies, Than begging from your State-Assemblies; Can utter oracles of dread, Like friar Bacon's brazen head, But when a faction dares dispute 'em, Has ne'er an arm to execute 'em: As tho' you chose supreme dictators, And put them under conservators.
You've but pursued the self-same way With Shakespeare's Trinc'lo in the play; "You shall be Viceroys here, 'tis true, "But we'll be Viceroys over you.
" What wild confusion hence must ensue? Tho' common danger yet cements you: So some wreck'd vessel, all in shatters, Is held up by surrounding waters, But stranded, when the pressure ceases, Falls by its rottenness to pieces.
And fall it must! if wars were ended, You'll ne'er have sense enough to mend it: But creeping on, by low intrigues, Like vermin of a thousand legs, 'Twill find as short a life assign'd, As all things else of reptile kind.
Your Commonwealth's a common harlot, The property of every varlet; Which now in taste, and full employ, All sorts admire, as all enjoy: But soon a batter'd strumpet grown, You'll curse and drum her out of town.
Such is the government you chose; For this you bade the world be foes; For this, so mark'd for dissolution, You scorn the British Constitution, That constitution form'd by sages, The wonder of all modern ages; Which owns no failure in reality, Except corruption and venality; And merely proves the adage just, That best things spoil'd corrupt to worst: So man supreme in earthly station, And mighty lord of this creation, When once his corse is dead as herring, Becomes the most offensive carrion, And sooner breeds the plague, 'tis found, Than all beasts rotting on the ground.
Yet with republics to dismay us, You've call'd up Anarchy from chaos, With all the followers of her school, Uproar and Rage and wild Misrule: For whom this rout of Whigs distracted, And ravings dire of every crack'd head; These new-cast legislative engines Of County-meetings and Conventions; Committees vile of correspondence, And mobs, whose tricks have almost undone 's: While reason fails to check your course, And Loyalty's kick'd out of doors, And Folly, like inviting landlord, Hoists on your poles her royal standard; While the king's friends, in doleful dumps, Have worn their courage to the stumps, And leaving George in sad disaster, Most sinfully deny their master.
What furies raged when you, in sea, In shape of Indians, drown'd the tea; When your gay sparks, fatigued to watch it, Assumed the moggison and hatchet, With wampum'd blankets hid their laces, And like their sweethearts, primed their faces: While not a red-coat dared oppose, And scarce a Tory show'd his nose; While Hutchinson, for sure retreat, Manoeuvred to his country seat, And thence affrighted, in the suds, Stole off bareheaded through the woods.
"Have you not roused your mobs to join, And make Mandamus-men resign, Call'd forth each dufill-drest curmudgeon, With dirty trowsers and white bludgeon, Forced all our Councils through the land, To yield their necks at your command; While paleness marks their late disgraces, Through all their rueful length of faces? "Have you not caused as woeful work In our good city of New-York, When all the rabble, well cockaded, In triumph through the streets paraded, And mobb'd the Tories, scared their spouses, And ransack'd all the custom-houses; Made such a tumult, bluster, jarring, That mid the clash of tempests warring, Smith's weather-cock, in veers forlorn, Could hardly tell which way to turn? Burn'd effigies of higher powers, Contrived in planetary hours; As witches with clay-images Destroy or torture whom they please: Till fired with rage, th' ungrateful club Spared not your best friend, Beelzebub, O'erlook'd his favors, and forgot The reverence due his cloven foot, And in the selfsame furnace frying, Stew'd him, and North and Bute and Tryon? Did you not, in as vile and shallow way, Fright our poor Philadelphian, Galloway, Your Congress, when the loyal ribald Belied, berated and bescribbled? What ropes and halters did you send, Terrific emblems of his end, Till, least he'd hang in more than effigy, Fled in a fog the trembling refugee? Now rising in progression fatal, Have you not ventured to give battle? When Treason chaced our heroes troubled, With rusty gun, and leathern doublet; Turn'd all stone-walls and groves and bushes, To batteries arm'd with blunderbusses; And with deep wounds, that fate portend, Gaul'd many a Briton's latter end; Drove them to Boston, as in jail, Confined without mainprize or bail.
Were not these deeds enough betimes, To heap the measure of your crimes: But in this loyal town and dwelling, You raise these ensigns of rebellion? 'Tis done! fair Mercy shuts her door; And Vengeance now shall sleep no more.
Rise then, my friends, in terror rise, And sweep this scandal from the skies.
You'll see their Dagon, though well jointed, Will shrink before the Lord's anointed; And like old Jericho's proud wall, Before our ram's horns prostrate fall.
" This said, our 'Squire, yet undismay'd, Call'd forth the Constable to aid, And bade him read, in nearer station, The Riot-act and Proclamation.
He swift, advancing to the ring, Began, "Our Sovereign Lord, the King"-- When thousand clam'rous tongues he hears, And clubs and stones assail his ears.
To fly was vain; to fight was idle; By foes encompass'd in the middle, His hope, in stratagems, he found, And fell right craftily to ground; Then crept to seek an hiding place, 'Twas all he could, beneath a brace; Where soon the conq'ring crew espied him, And where he lurk'd, they caught and tied him.
At once with resolution fatal, Both Whigs and Tories rush'd to battle.
Instead of weapons, either band Seized on such arms as came to hand.
And as famed Ovid paints th' adventures Of wrangling Lapithæ and Centaurs, Who at their feast, by Bacchus led, Threw bottles at each other's head; And these arms failing in their scuffles, Attack'd with andirons, tongs and shovels: So clubs and billets, staves and stones Met fierce, encountering every sconce, And cover'd o'er with knobs and pains Each void receptacle for brains; Their clamours rend the skies around, The hills rebellow to the sound; And many a groan increas'd the din From batter'd nose and broken shin.
M'Fingal, rising at the word, Drew forth his old militia-sword; Thrice cried "King George," as erst in distress, Knights of romance invoked a mistress; And brandishing the blade in air, Struck terror through th' opposing war.
The Whigs, unsafe within the wind Of such commotion, shrunk behind.
With whirling steel around address'd, Fierce through their thickest throng he press'd, (Who roll'd on either side in arch, Like Red Sea waves in Israel's march) And like a meteor rushing through, Struck on their Pole a vengeful blow.
Around, the Whigs, of clubs and stones Discharged whole vollies, in platoons, That o'er in whistling fury fly; But not a foe dares venture nigh.
And now perhaps with glory crown'd Our 'Squire had fell'd the pole to ground, Had not some Pow'r, a whig at heart, Descended down and took their part; (Whether 'twere Pallas, Mars or Iris, 'Tis scarce worth while to make inquiries) Who at the nick of time alarming, Assumed the solemn form of Chairman, Address'd a Whig, in every scene The stoutest wrestler on the green, And pointed where the spade was found, Late used to set their pole in ground, And urged, with equal arms and might, To dare our 'Squire to single fight.
The Whig thus arm'd, untaught to yield, Advanced tremendous to the field: Nor did M'Fingal shun the foe, But stood to brave the desp'rate blow; While all the party gazed, suspended To see the deadly combat ended; And Jove in equal balance weigh'd The sword against the brandish'd spade, He weigh'd; but lighter than a dream, The sword flew up, and kick'd the beam.
Our 'Squire on tiptoe rising fair Lifts high a noble stroke in air, Which hung not, but like dreadful engines, Descended on his foe in vengeance.
But ah! in danger, with dishonor The sword perfidious fails its owner; That sword, which oft had stood its ground, By huge trainbands encircled round; And on the bench, with blade right loyal, Had won the day at many a trial, Of stones and clubs had braved th' alarms, Shrunk from these new Vulcanian arms.
The spade so temper'd from the sledge, Nor keen nor solid harm'd its edge, Now met it, from his arm of might, Descending with steep force to smite; The blade snapp'd short--and from his hand, With rust embrown'd the glittering sand.
Swift turn'd M'Fingal at the view, And call'd to aid th' attendant crew, In vain; the Tories all had run, When scarce the fight was well begun; Their setting wigs he saw decreas'd Far in th' horizon tow'rd the west.
Amazed he view'd the shameful sight, And saw no refuge, but in flight: But age unwieldy check'd his pace, Though fear had wing'd his flying race; For not a trifling prize at stake; No less than great M'Fingal's back.
With legs and arms he work'd his course, Like rider that outgoes his horse, And labor'd hard to get away, as Old Satan struggling on through chaos; Till looking back, he spied in rear The spade-arm'd chief advanced too near: Then stopp'd and seized a stone, that lay An ancient landmark near the way; Nor shall we as old bards have done, Affirm it weigh'd an hundred ton; But such a stone, as at a shift A modern might suffice to lift, Since men, to credit their enigmas, Are dwindled down to dwarfs and pigmies, And giants exiled with their cronies To Brobdignags and Patagonias.
But while our Hero turn'd him round, And tugg'd to raise it from the ground, The fatal spade discharged a blow Tremendous on his rear below: His bent knee fail'd, and void of strength Stretch'd on the ground his manly length.
Like ancient oak o'erturn'd, he lay, Or tower to tempests fall'n a prey, Or mountain sunk with all his pines, Or flow'r the plow to dust consigns, And more things else--but all men know 'em, If slightly versed in epic poem.
At once the crew, at this dread crisis, Fall on, and bind him, ere he rises; And with loud shouts and joyful soul, Conduct him prisoner to the pole.
When now the mob in lucky hour Had got their en'mies in their power, They first proceed, by grave command, To take the Constable in hand.
Then from the pole's sublimest top The active crew let down the rope, At once its other end in haste bind, And make it fast upon his waistband; Till like the earth, as stretch'd on tenter, He hung self-balanced on his centre.
Then upwards, all hands hoisting sail, They swung him, like a keg of ale, Till to the pinnacle in height He vaulted, like balloon or kite.
As Socrates of old at first did To aid philosophy get hoisted, And found his thoughts flow strangely clear, Swung in a basket in mid air: Our culprit thus, in purer sky, With like advantage raised his eye, And looking forth in prospect wide, His Tory errors clearly spied, And from his elevated station, With bawling voice began addressing.
"Good Gentlemen and friends and kin, For heaven's sake hear, if not for mine! I here renounce the Pope, the Turks, The King, the Devil and all their works; And will, set me but once at ease, Turn Whig or Christian, what you please; And always mind your rules so justly, Should I live long as old Methus'lah, I'll never join in British rage, Nor help Lord North, nor Gen'ral Gage; Nor lift my gun in future fights, Nor take away your Charter-rights; Nor overcome your new-raised levies, Destroy your towns, nor burn your navies; Nor cut your poles down while I've breath, Though raised more thick than hatchel-teeth: But leave King George and all his elves To do their conq'ring work themselves.
" This said, they lower'd him down in state, Spread at all points, like falling cat; But took a vote first on the question, That they'd accept this full confession, And to their fellowship and favor, Restore him on his good behaviour.
Not so our 'Squire submits to rule, But stood, heroic as a mule.
"You'll find it all in vain, quoth he, To play your rebel tricks on me.
All punishments, the world can render, Serve only to provoke th' offender; The will gains strength from treatment horrid, As hides grow harder when they're curried.
No man e'er felt the halter draw, With good opinion of the law; Or held in method orthodox His love of justice, in the stocks; Or fail'd to lose by sheriff's shears At once his loyalty and ears.
Have you made Murray look less big, Or smoked old Williams to a Whig? Did our mobb'd Ol'ver quit his station, Or heed his vows of resignation? Has Rivington, in dread of stripes, Ceased lying since you stole his types? And can you think my faith will alter, By tarring, whipping or the halter? I'll stand the worst; for recompense I trust King George and Providence.
And when with conquest gain'd I come, Array'd in law and terror home, Ye'll rue this inauspicious morn, And curse the day, when ye were born, In Job's high style of imprecations, With all his plagues, without his patience.
" Meanwhile beside the pole, the guard A Bench of Justice had prepared, Where sitting round in awful sort The grand Committee hold their Court; While all the crew, in silent awe, Wait from their lips the lore of law.
Few moments with deliberation They hold the solemn consultation; When soon in judgment all agree, And Clerk proclaims the dread decree; "That 'Squire M'Fingal having grown The vilest Tory in the town, And now in full examination Convicted by his own confession, Finding no tokens of repentance, This Court proceeds to render sentence: That first the Mob a slip-knot single Tie round the neck of said M'Fingal, And in due form do tar him next, And feather, as the law directs; Then through the town attendant ride him In cart with Constable beside him, And having held him up to shame, Bring to the pole, from whence he came.
" Forthwith the crowd proceed to deck With halter'd noose M'Fingal's neck, While he in peril of his soul Stood tied half-hanging to the pole; Then lifting high the ponderous jar, Pour'd o'er his head the smoaking tar.
With less profusion once was spread Oil on the Jewish monarch's head, That down his beard and vestments ran, And cover'd all his outward man.
As when (so Claudian sings) the Gods And earth-born Giants fell at odds, The stout Enceladus in malice Tore mountains up to throw at Pallas; And while he held them o'er his head, The river, from their fountains fed, Pour'd down his back its copious tide, And wore its channels in his hide: So from the high-raised urn the torrents Spread down his side their various currents; His flowing wig, as next the brim, First met and drank the sable stream; Adown his visage stern and grave Roll'd and adhered the viscid wave; With arms depending as he stood, Each cuff capacious holds the flood; From nose and chin's remotest end, The tarry icicles descend; Till all o'erspread, with colors gay, He glitter'd to the western ray, Like sleet-bound trees in wintry skies, Or Lapland idol carved in ice.
And now the feather-bag display'd Is waved in triumph o'er his head, And clouds him o'er with feathers missive, And down, upon the tar, adhesive: Not Maia's son, with wings for ears, Such plumage round his visage wears; Nor Milton's six-wing'd angel gathers Such superfluity of feathers.
Now all complete appears our 'Squire, Like Gorgon or Chimæra dire; Nor more could boast on Plato's plan To rank among the race of man, Or prove his claim to human nature, As a two-legg'd, unfeather'd creature.
Then on the fatal cart, in state They raised our grand Duumvirate.
And as at Rome a like committee, Who found an owl within their city, With solemn rites and grave processions At every shrine perform'd lustrations; And least infection might take place From such grim fowl with feather'd face, All Rome attends him through the street In triumph to his country seat: With like devotion all the choir Paraded round our awful 'Squire; In front the martial music comes Of horns and fiddles, fifes and drums, With jingling sound of carriage bells, And treble creak of rusted wheels.
Behind, the croud, in lengthen'd row With proud procession, closed the show.
And at fit periods every throat Combined in universal shout; And hail'd great Liberty in chorus, Or bawl'd 'confusion to the Tories.
' Not louder storm the welkin braves From clamors of conflicting waves; Less dire in Lybian wilds the noise When rav'ning lions lift their voice; Or triumphs at town-meetings made, On passing votes to regulate trade.
Thus having borne them round the town, Last at the pole they set them down; And to the tavern take their way To end in mirth the festal day.
And now the Mob, dispersed and gone, Left 'Squire and Constable alone.
The constable with rueful face Lean'd sad and solemn o'er a brace; And fast beside him, cheek by jowl, Stuck 'Squire M'Fingal 'gainst the pole, Glued by the tar t' his rear applied, Like barnacle on vessel's side.
But though his body lack'd physician, His spirit was in worse condition.
He found his fears of whips and ropes By many a drachm outweigh'd his hopes.
As men in jail without mainprize View every thing with other eyes, And all goes wrong in church and state, Seen through perspective of the grate: So now M'Fingal's Second-sight Beheld all things in gloomier light; His visual nerve, well purged with tar, Saw all the coming scenes of war.
As his prophetic soul grew stronger, He found he could hold in no longer.
First from the pole, as fierce he shook, His wig from pitchy durance broke, His mouth unglued, his feathers flutter'd, His tarr'd skirts crack'd, and thus he utter'd.
"Ah, Mr.
Constable, in vain We strive 'gainst wind and tide and rain! Behold my doom! this feathery omen Portends what dismal times are coming.
Now future scenes, before my eyes, And second-sighted forms arise.
I hear a voice, that calls away, And cries 'The Whigs will win the day.
' My beck'ning Genius gives command, And bids me fly the fatal land; Where changing name and constitution, Rebellion turns to Revolution, While Loyalty, oppress'd, in tears, Stands trembling for its neck and ears.
"Go, summon all our brethren, greeting, To muster at our usual meeting; There my prophetic voice shall warn 'em Of all things future that concern 'em, And scenes disclose on which, my friend, Their conduct and their lives depend.
There I--but first 'tis more of use, From this vile pole to set me loose; Then go with cautious steps and steady, While I steer home and make all ready.


MFingal - Canto II

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 The Sun, who never stops to dine,
Two hours had pass'd the mid-way line,
And driving at his usual rate,
Lash'd on his downward car of state.
And now expired the short vacation, And dinner o'er in epic fashion, While all the crew, beneath the trees, Eat pocket-pies, or bread and cheese, (Nor shall we, like old Homer, care To versify their bill of fare) Each active party, feasted well, Throng'd in, like sheep, at sound of bell; With equal spirit took their places, And meeting oped with three Oh Yesses: When first, the daring Whigs t' oppose, Again the great M'Fingal rose, Stretch'd magisterial arm amain, And thus resumed th' accusing strain.
"Ye Whigs attend, and hear affrighted The crimes whereof ye stand indicted; The sins and follies past all compass, That prove you guilty, or non compos.
I leave the verdict to your senses, And jury of your consciences; Which though they're neither good nor true, Must yet convict you and your crew.
"Ungrateful sons! a factious band, That rise against your parent land! Ye viper race, that burst in strife The genial womb that gave you life, Tear with sharp fangs and forked tongue The indulgent bowels whence ye sprung; And scorn the debt and obligation, You justly owe the British nation, Which, since you cannot pay, your crew Affect to swear was never due.
"Did not the deeds of England's primate First drive your fathers to this climate, Whom jails and fines and every ill Forced to their good against their will? Ye owe to their obliging temper The peopling your new-fangled empire, While every British act and canon Stood forth your causa sine qua non.
Who'd seen, except for these restraints, Your witches, quakers, whigs and saints, Or heard of Mather's famed Magnalia, If Charles and Laud had chanced to fail you? Did they not send your charters o'er, And give you lands you own'd before, Permit you all to spill your blood, And drive out heathens where you could; On these mild terms, that, conquest won, The realm you gain'd should be their own? And when of late attack'd by those, Whom her connection made your foes, Did they not then, distress'd by war, Send generals to your help from far, Whose aid you own'd, in terms less haughty, And thankfully o'erpaid your quota? Say, at what period did they grudge To send you Governor or Judge, With all their Missionary crew, To teach you law and gospel too? They brought all felons in the nation To help you on in population; Proposed their Bishops to surrender, And made their Priests a legal tender, Who only ask'd, in surplice clad, The simple tithe of all you had: And now, to keep all knaves in awe, Have sent their troops t' establish law, And with gunpowder, fire and ball, Reform your people, one and all.
Yet when their insolence and pride Have anger'd all the world beside; When fear and want at once invade, Can you refuse to lend them aid, And rather risk your heads in fight, Than gratefully throw in your mite? Can they for debts make satisfaction, Should they dispose their realm at auction, And sell off Britain's goods and land all To France and Spain, by inch of candle? Shall good King George, with want oppress'd, Insert his name in bankrupt list, And shut up shop, like failing merchant, That fears the bailiffs should make search in't; With poverty shall princes strive, And nobles lack whereon to live? Have they not rack'd their whole inventions To feed their brats on posts and pensions; Made their Scotch friends with taxes groan, And pick'd poor Ireland to the bone: Yet have on hand, as well deserving, Ten thousand bastards, left for starving? And can you now, with conscience clear, Refuse them an asylum here, And not maintain, in manner fitting, These genuine sons of mother Britain? "T' evade these crimes of blackest grain You prate of liberty in vain, And strive to hide your vile designs In terms abstruse, like school-divines.
"Your boasted patriotism is scarce, And country's love is but a farce: For after all the proofs you bring, We Tories know there's no such thing.
Hath not Dalrymple show'd in print, And Johnson too, there's nothing in't; Produced you demonstration ample, From others' and their own example, That self is still, in either faction, The only principle of action; The loadstone, whose attracting tether Keeps the politic world together: And spite of all your double dealing, We all are sure 'tis so, from feeling.
"Who heeds your babbling of transmitting Freedom to brats of your begetting, Or will proceed, as tho' there were a tie, And obligation to posterity? We get them, bear them, breed and nurse.
What has posterity done for us, That we, least they their rights should lose, Should trust our necks to gripe of noose? "And who believes you will not run? Ye're cowards, every mother's son; And if you offer to deny, We've witnesses to prove it by.
Attend th' opinion first, as referee, Of your old general, stout Sir Jeffery; Who swore that with five thousand foot He'd rout you all, and in pursuit Run thro' the land, as easily As camel thro' a needle's eye? Did not the mighty Colonel Grant Against your courage pour his rant, Affirm your universal failure In every principle of valour, And swear no scamperers e'er could match you, So swift, a bullet scarce could catch you? And will you not confess, in this A judge most competent he is; Well skill'd on running to decide, As what himself has often tried? 'Twould not methinks be labor lost, If you'd sit down and count the cost, And ere you call your Yankies out, First think what work you've set about.
Have you not roused, his force to try on, That grim old beast, the British Lion: And know you not, that at a sup He's large enough to eat you up? Have you survey'd his jaws beneath, Drawn inventories of his teeth, Or have you weigh'd, in even balance, His strength and magnitude of talons? His roar would change your boasts to fear, As easily, as sour small beer; And make your feet from dreadful fray, By native instinct run away.
Britain, depend on't, will take on her T' assert her dignity and honor, And ere she'd lose your share of pelf, Destroy your country, and herself.
For has not North declared they fight To gain substantial rev'nue by't, Denied he'd ever deign to treat, Till on your knees and at his feet? And feel you not a trifling ague From Van's "Delenda est Carthago? For this now Britain has projected, Think you she has not means t' effect it? Has she not set at work all engines To spirit up the native Indians, Send on your backs the tawney band, With each an hatchet in his hand, T' amuse themselves with scalping knives.
And butcher children and your wives; And paid them for your scalps at sale More than your heads would fetch by tale; That she might boast again with vanity, Her English national humanity? For now in its primeval sense This term, humanity, comprehends All things of which, on this side hell, The human mind is capable; And thus 'tis well, by writers sage, Applied to Britain and to Gage.
On this brave work to raise allies, She sent her duplicate of Guys, To drive at different parts at once on, Her stout Guy Carlton and Guy Johnson; To each of whom, to send again you, Old Guy of Warwick were a ninny, Though the dun cow he fell'd in war, These killcows are his betters far.
"And has she not essay'd her notes To rouse your slaves to cut your throats; Sent o'er ambassadors with guineas, To bribe your blacks in Carolinas? And has not Gage, her missionary, Turn'd many an Afric to a Tory; Made the New-England Bishop's see grow, By many a new-converted negro? As friends to government, when he Your slaves at Boston late set free, Enlisted them in black parade, Emboss'd with regimental red; While flared the epaulette, like flambeau, On Captain Cuff and Ensign Sambo: And were they not accounted then Among his very bravest men? And when such means she stoops to take, Think you she is not wide awake? As the good man of old in Job Own'd wondrous allies through the globe, Had brought the stones along the street To ratify a cov'nant meet, And every beast, from lice to lions, To join in leagues of strict alliance: Has she not cringed, in spite of pride, For like assistance, far and wide, Till all this formidable league rose Of Indians, British troops and Negroes? And can you break these triple bands By all your workmanship of hands? "Sir," quoth Honorius, "we presume You guess from past feats what's to come, And from the mighty deeds of Gage Foretell how fierce the war he'll wage.
You doubtless recollected here The annals of his first great year: While, wearying out the Tories' patience, He spent his breath in proclamations; While all his mighty noise and vapour Was used in wrangling upon paper, And boasted military fits Closed in the straining of his wits; While troops, in Boston commons placed, Laid nought, but quires of paper, waste; While strokes alternate stunn'd the nation, Protest, Address and Proclamation, And speech met speech, fib clash'd with fib, And Gage still answer'd, squib for squib.
"Though this not all his time was lost on; He fortified the town of Boston, Built breastworks, that might lend assistance To keep the patriots at a distance; For howsoe'er the rogues might scoff, He liked them best the farthest off; Works of important use to aid His courage, when he felt afraid, And whence right off, in manful station, He'd boldly pop his proclamation.
Our hearts must in our bosoms freeze, At such heroic deeds as these.
" "Vain," said the 'Squire, "you'll find to sneer At Gage's first triumphant year; For Providence, disposed to teaze us, Can use what instruments it pleases.
To pay a tax, at Peter's wish, His chief cashier was once a fish; An ass, in Balaam's sad disaster, Turn'd orator and saved his master; A goose, placed sentry on his station, Preserved old Rome from desolation; An English bishop's cur of late Disclosed rebellions 'gainst the state; So frogs croak'd Pharaoh to repentance, And lice delay'd the fatal sentence: And heaven can ruin you at pleasure, By Gage, as soon as by a Cæsar.
Yet did our hero in these days Pick up some laurel wreaths of praise.
And as the statuary of Seville Made his crackt saint an exc'llent devil; So though our war small triumph brings, We gain'd great fame in other things.
"Did not our troops show great discerning, And skill your various arts in learning? Outwent they not each native noodle By far, in playing Yankee-doodle, Which as 'twas your New-England tune, 'Twas marvellous they took so soon? And ere the year was fully through, Did not they learn to foot it too, And such a dance, as ne'er was known, For twenty miles on end lead down? Did they not lay their heads together, And gain your art to tar and feather, When Colonel Nesbit, thro' the town, In triumph bore the country-clown? Oh what a glorious work to sing The veteran troops of Britain's king, Adventuring for th' heroic laurel With bag of feathers and tar-barrel! To paint the cart where culprits ride, And Nesbitt marching at its side, Great executioner and proud, Like hangman high on Holborn road; And o'er the slow-drawn rumbling car, The waving ensigns of the war! As when a triumph Rome decreed For great Caligula's valiant deed, Who had subdued the British seas, By gath'ring cockles from their base; In pompous car the conq'ror bore His captive scallops from the shore, Ovations gain'd his crabs for fetching, And mighty feats of oyster-catching: 'Gainst Yankies thus the war begun, They tarr'd, and triumph'd over, one; And fought and boasted through the season, With force as great and equal reason.
"Yet thus though skill'd in vict'ry's toils, They boast, not unexpert, in wiles.
For gain'd they not an equal fame in The arts of secrecy and scheming; In stratagem show'd wondrous force, And modernized the Trojan horse, Play'd o'er again the tricks Ulyssean, In their famed Salem expedition? For as that horse, the poets tell ye, Bore Grecian armies in its belly, Till their full reckoning run, with joy Shrewd Sinon midwived them in Troy: So in one ship was Leslie bold Cramm'd with three hundred men in hold, Equipp'd for enterprize and sail, Like Jonas stow'd in womb of whale.
To Marblehead in depth of night The cautious vessel wing'd her flight.
And now the sabbath's silent day Call'd all your Yankies off to pray; Safe from each prying jealous neighbour, The scheme and vessel fell in labor.
Forth from its hollow womb pour'd hast'ly The Myrmidons of Colonel Leslie.
Not thicker o'er the blacken'd strand, The frogs detachment, rush'd to land, Furious by onset and surprize To storm th' entrenchment of the mice.
Through Salem straight, without delay, The bold battalion took its way, March'd o'er a bridge, in open sight Of several Yankies arm'd for fight; Then without loss of time or men, Veer'd round for Boston back again, And found so well their projects thrive, That every soul got home alive.
"Thus Gage's arms did fortune bless With triumph, safety and success.
But mercy is without dispute His first and darling attribute; So great, it far outwent and conquer'd His military skill at Concord.
There, when the war he chose to wage, Shone the benevolence of Gage; Sent troops to that ill-omen'd place, On errands mere of special grace; And all the work, he chose them for, Was to prevent a civil war; For which kind purpose he projected The only certain way t' effect it, To seize your powder, shot and arms, And all your means of doing harms; As prudent folks take knives away, Lest children cut themselves at play.
And yet, when this was all his scheme, The war you still will charge on him; And tho' he oft has swore and said it, Stick close to facts, and give no credit.
Think you, he wish'd you'd brave and beard him? Why, 'twas the very thing, that scared him.
He'd rather you should all have run, Than staid to fire a single gun.
So, for the civil war you lament, Faith, you yourselves must take the blame in't; For had you then, as he intended, Given up your arms, it must have ended: Since that's no war, each mortal knows, Where one side only gives the blows, And t'other bears them; on reflection The most we call it is correction.
Nor could the contest have gone higher, If you had ne'er return'd the fire: But when you shot, and not before, It then commenced a civil war.
Else Gage, to end this controversy, Had but corrected you in mercy; Whom mother Britain, old and wise, Sent o'er, the colonies to chastise; Command obedience on their peril Of ministerial whip and ferule; And since they ne'er must come of age, Govern'd and tutor'd them by Gage.
Still more, that mercy was their errand, The army's conduct makes apparent.
What though at Lexington you can say, They kill'd a few, they did not fancy; At Concord then with manful popping, Discharged a round, the ball to open; Yet when they saw your rebel rout Determined still to brave it out, Did they not show their love of peace, Their wish that discord straight might cease; Demonstrate, and by proofs uncommon, Their orders were to injure no man? For did not every regular run, As soon as e'er you fired a gun; Take the first shot you sent them, greeting, As meant their signal for retreating; And fearful, if they staid for sport, You might by accident be hurt, Convey themselves with speed away Full twenty miles in half a day; Race till their legs were grown so weary, They scarce sufficed their weight to carry? Whence Gage extols, from general hearsay, The great activity of Lord Percy; Whose brave example led them on, And spirited the troops to run; Who now may boast, at royal levees, A Yankee-chace worth forty Chevys.
"Yet you, as vile as they were kind, Pursued, like tygers, still behind; Fired on them at your will, and shut The town, as though you'd starve them out; And with parade preposterous hedged, Affect to hold them there besieged: Though Gage, whom proclamations call Your Gov'rnor and Vice-Admiral, Whose power gubernatorial still Extends as far as Bunker's hill, Whose admiralty reaches, clever, Near half a mile up Mistic river, Whose naval force yet keeps the seas, Can run away whene'er he'd please.
Nay, stern with rage grim Putnam boiling Plunder'd both Hogg and Noddle Island; Scared troops of Tories into town, Burn'd all their hay and houses down, And menaced Gage, unless he'd flee, To drive him headlong to the sea; As once, to faithless Jews a sign, The De'el, turn'd hog-reeve, did the swine.
"But now your triumphs all are o'er; For see from Britain's angry shore, With deadly hosts of valor join Her Howe, her Clinton and Burgoyne! As comets thro' th' affrighted skies Pour baleful ruin as they rise; As Ætna with infernal roar In conflagration sweeps the shore; Or as Abijah White, when sent Our Marshfield friends to represent, Himself while dread array involves, Commissions, pistols, swords, resolves, In awful pomp descending down Bore terror on the factious town: Not with less glory and affright, Parade these generals forth to fight.
No more each British colonel runs From whizzing beetles, as air-guns; Thinks horn-bugs bullets, or thro' fears Muskitoes takes for musketeers; Nor scapes, as if you'd gain'd supplies, From Beelzebub's whole host of flies.
No bug these warlike hearts appalls; They better know the sound of balls.
I hear the din of battle bray; The trump of horror marks its way.
I see afar the sack of cities, The gallows strung with Whig-committees; Your moderators triced, like vermin, And gate-posts graced with heads of chairmen; Your Congress for wave-off'rings hanging, And ladders throng'd with priests haranguing.
What pillories glad the Tories' eyes With patriot ears for sacrifice! What whipping-posts your chosen race Admit successive in embrace, While each bears off his sins, alack! Like Bunyan's pilgrim, on his back! Where then, when Tories scarce get clear, Shall Whigs and Congresses appear? What rocks and mountains will you call To wrap you over with their fall, And save your heads, in these sad weathers, From fire and sword, and tar and feathers? For lo! with British troops tar-bright, Again our Nesbitt heaves in sight; He comes, he comes, your lines to storm, And rig your troops in uniform.
To meet such heroes will ye brag, With fury arm'd, and feather-bag, Who wield their missile pitch and tar With engines new in British war? "Lo! where our mighty navy brings Destruction on her canvass wings, While through the deep the British thunder Shall sound th' alarm, to rob and plunder! As Phoebus first, so Homer speaks, When he march'd out t' attack the Greeks, 'Gainst mules sent forth his arrows fatal, And slew th' auxiliaries, their cattle: So where our ships shall stretch the keel, What vanquish'd oxen shall they steal! What heroes, rising from the deep, Invade your marshall'd hosts of sheep; Disperse whole troops of horse, and pressing, Make cows surrender at discretion; Attack your hens, like Alexanders, And regiments rout of geese and ganders; Or where united arms combine, Lead captive many a herd of swine! Then rush in dreadful fury down To fire on every seaport town; Display their glory and their wits, Fright helpless children into fits; And stoutly, from the unequal fray, Make many a woman run away.
"And can ye doubt, whene'er we please, Our chiefs shall boast such deeds as these? Have we not chiefs transcending far The old famed thunderbolts of war; Beyond the brave knight-errant fighters, Stiled swords of death, by novel-writers; Nor in romancing ages e'er rose So terrible a tier of heroes.
From Gage what sounds alarm the waves! How loud a blunderbuss is Graves! How Newport dreads the blustering sallies, That thunder from our popgun, Wallace, While noise in formidable strains, Spouts from his thimble-full of brains! I see you sink in awed surprise! I see our Tory brethren rise! And as the sect'ries Sandemanian, Our friends, describe their hoped millennium; Boast how the world in every region At once shall own their true religion, For heaven shall knock, with vengeance dread, All unbelievers on the head; And then their church, the meek in spirit, The earth, as promised, shall inherit From the dead wicked, as heirs male, Or next remainder-men in tail: Such ruin shall the Whigs oppress; Such spoils our Tory friends shall bless: While Confiscation at command Shall stalk in terror through the land, Shall give all whig-estates away, And call our brethren into play.
"And can you pause, or scruple more? These things are near you, at the door.
Behold! for though to reasoning blind, Signs of the times you still might mind, And view impending fate, as plain As you'd foretell a shower of rain.
"Hath not heaven warn'd you what must ensue.
And providence declared against you? Hung forth the dire portents of war By fires and beacons in the air; Alarm'd old women all around With fearful noises under ground, While earth, for many a hundred leagues, Groan'd with her dismal load of Whigs? Was there a meteor, far and wide, But muster'd on the Tory side; A star malign, that has not bent Its aspects for the parliament, Foreboding your defeat and misery, As once they fought against old Sisera? Was there a cloud, that spread the skies, But bore our armies of allies, While dreadful hosts of flame stood forth In baleful streamers from the north? Which plainly show'd what part they join'd: For North's the minister, ye mind; Whence oft your quibblers in gazettes On Northern blasts have strain'd their wits; And think you not, the clouds know how To make the pun, as well you? Did there arise an apparition, But grinn'd forth ruin to sedition; A death-watch, but has join'd our leagues, And click'd destruction to the Whigs? Heard ye not, when the wind was fair, At night our prophets in the air, Who, loud, like admiralty libel, Read awful chapters from the Bible, And war and plague and death denounced, And told you how you'd soon be trounced? I see, to join our conq'ring side, Heaven, earth and hell at once allied; See from your overthrow and end, The Tory paradise ascend, Like that new world, which claims its station, Beyond the final conflagration.
I see the day, that lots your share In utter darkness and despair; The day of joy, when North, our lord, His faithful fav'rites shall reward.
No Tory then shall set before him Small wish of 'Squire and Justice Quorum; But to his unmistaken eyes See lordships, posts and pensions rise.
"Awake to gladness then, ye Tories! Th' unbounded prospect lies before us.
The power, display'd in Gage's banners, Shall cut their fertile lands to manors; And o'er our happy conquer'd ground, Dispense estates and titles round.
Behold! the world shall stare at new setts Of home-made Earls in Massachusetts; Admire, array'd in ducal tassels, Your Ol'vers, Hutchinsons and Vassals; See join'd in ministerial work His Grace of Albany, and York.
What lordships from each carved estate, On our New-York Assembly wait! What titled Jauncys, Gales and Billops; Lord Brush, Lord Wilkins and Lord Philips! In wide-sleeved pomp of godly guise, What solemn rows of Bishops rise! Aloft a Cardinal's hat is spread O'er punster Cooper's reverend head.
In Vardell, that poetic zealot, I view a lawn-bedizen'd Prelate; While mitres fall, as 'tis their duty, On heads of Chandler and Auchmuty! Knights, Viscounts, Barons, shall ye meet, As thick as pebbles in the street; E'en I perhaps (heaven speed my claim!) Shall fix a Sir before my name.
For titles all our foreheads ache, For what blest changes can they make! Place Reverence, Grace and Excellence, Where neither claim'd the least pretence; Transform by patent's magic words Men, likest devils, into Lords; Whence commoners, to Peers translated, Are justly said to be created.
Now where commissioners you saw, Shall boards of nobles deal you law; Long-robed comptrollers judge your rights, And tide-waiters start up in knights.
While Whigs subdued, in slavish awe, Our wood shall hew, our water draw, And bless the mildness, when past hope, That saved their necks from noose of rope.
For since our leaders have decreed, Their blacks, who join us, shall be freed, To hang the conquer'd whigs, we all see, Would prove but weak, and thriftless policy, Except their Chiefs: the vulgar knaves Will do more good, preserved for slaves.
" "'Tis well," Honorius cried; "your scheme Has painted out a pretty dream.
We can't confute your second-sight; We shall be slaves and you a knight.
These things must come, but I divine, They'll come not in your day, nor mine.
"But, oh my friends, my brethren, hear; And turn for once th' attentive ear.
Ye see how prompt to aid our woes The tender mercies of our foes; Ye see with what unvaried rancour Still for our blood their minions hanker; Nor aught can sate their mad ambition, From us, but death, or worse, submission.
Shall these then riot in our spoil, Reap the glad harvest of our toil, Rise from their country's ruins proud, And roll their chariot-wheels in blood? See Gage, with inauspicious star, Has oped the gates of civil war, When streams of gore, from freemen slain, Encrimson'd Concord's fatal plain; Whose warning voice, with awful sound, Still cries, like Abel's, from the ground; And heaven, attentive to its call, Shall doom the proud oppressor's fall.
"Rise then, ere ruin swift surprize, To victory, to vengeance, rise.
Hark, how the distant din alarms; The echoing trumpet breathes, to arms.
From provinces remote afar, The sons of glory rouse to war.
'Tis Freedom calls! the raptured sound The Apalachian hills rebound.
The Georgian coasts her voice shall hear, And start from lethargies of fear.
From the parch'd zone, with glowing ray Where pours the sun intenser day, To shores where icy waters roll, And tremble to the glimm'ring pole, Inspired by freedom's heavenly charms, United nations wake to arms.
The star of conquest lights their way, And guides their vengeance on their prey.
Yes, though tyrannic force oppose, Still shall they triumph o'er their foes; Till heaven the happy land shall bless With safety, liberty and peace.
"And ye, whose souls of dastard mould Start at the bravery of the bold; To love your country who pretend, Yet want all spirit to defend; Who feel your fancies so prolific, Engend'ring visions whims terrific, O'errun with horrors of coercion, Fire, blood and thunder in reversion; King's standards, pill'ries, confiscations, And Gage's scare-crow proclamations; Who scarce could rouse, if caught in fray, Presence of mind to run away; See nought but halters rise to view, In all your dreams, and deem them true; And while these phantoms haunt your brains, Bow down your willing necks to chains.
Heavens! are ye sons of sires so great, Immortal in the fields of fate, Who braved all deaths, by land or sea, Who bled, who conquer'd, to be free? Hence coward souls, the worst disgrace Of our forefathers' valiant race; Hie homeward from the glorious field, There turn the wheel, the distaff wield; Act what ye are, nor dare to stain The warrior's arms with touch profane; There beg your more heroic wives To guard your own, your children's, lives; Beneath their aprons seek a screen, Nor dare to mingle more with men.
" As thus he spake, the Tories' anger Could now restrain itself no longer; Who tried before by many a freak, or Insulting noise, to stop the speaker; Swung th' un-oil'd hinge of each pew-door, Their feet kept shuffling on the floor; Made their disapprobation known By many a murmur, hum and groan, That to his speech supplied the place Of counterpart in thorough bass.
Thus bagpipes, while the tune they breathe, Still drone and grumble underneath; And thus the famed Demosthenes Harangued the rumbling of the seas, Held forth with elocution grave, To audience loud of wind and wave; And had a stiller congregation, Than Tories are, to hear th' oration.
The uproar now grew high and louder, As nearer thund'rings of a cloud are, And every soul with heart and voice Supplied his quota of the noise.
Each listening ear was set on torture, Each Tory bellowing, "Order, Order;" And some, with tongue not low or weak, Were clam'ring fast, for leave to speak; The Moderator, with great vi'lence, The cushion thump'd with, "Silence, Silence!" The Constable to every prater Bawl'd out, "Pray hear the moderator;" Some call'd the vote, and some in turn Were screaming high, "Adjourn, Adjourn.
" Not Chaos heard such jars and clashes, When all the el'ments fought for places.
The storm each moment fiercer grew; His sword the great M'Fingal drew, Prepared in either chance to share, To keep the peace, or aid the war.
Nor lack'd they each poetic being, Whom bards alone are skill'd in seeing; Plumed Victory stood perch'd on high, Upon the pulpit-canopy, To join, as is her custom tried, Like Indians, on the strongest side; The Destinies, with shears and distaff, Drew near their threads of life to twist off; The Furies 'gan to feast on blows, And broken head, and bloody nose: When on a sudden from without Arose a loud terrific shout; And straight the people all at once heard Of tongues an universal concert; Like Æsop's times, as fable runs, When every creature talk'd at once, Or like the variegated gabble, That crazed the carpenters of Babel.
Each party soon forsook the quarrel, And let the other go on parol, Eager to know what fearful matter Had conjured up such general clatter; And left the church in thin array, As though it had been lecture-day.
Our 'Squire M'Fingal straitway beckon'd The Constable to stand his second; And sallied forth with aspect fierce The crowd assembled to disperse.
The Moderator, out of view, Beneath the desk had lain perdue; Peep'd up his head to view the fray, Beheld the wranglers run away, And left alone, with solemn face Adjourn'd them without time or place.


Plutonian Ode

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 I

What new element before us unborn in nature? Is there
 a new thing under the Sun?
At last inquisitive Whitman a modern epic, detonative,
 Scientific theme
First penned unmindful by Doctor Seaborg with poison-
 ous hand, named for Death's planet through the 
 sea beyond Uranus
whose chthonic ore fathers this magma-teared Lord of 
 Hades, Sire of avenging Furies, billionaire Hell-
 King worshipped once
with black sheep throats cut, priests's face averted from
 underground mysteries in single temple at Eleusis,
Spring-green Persephone nuptialed to his inevitable
 Shade, Demeter mother of asphodel weeping dew,
her daughter stored in salty caverns under white snow, 
 black hail, grey winter rain or Polar ice, immemor-
 able seasons before
Fish flew in Heaven, before a Ram died by the starry
 bush, before the Bull stamped sky and earth
or Twins inscribed their memories in clay or Crab'd
 flood
washed memory from the skull, or Lion sniffed the
 lilac breeze in Eden--
Before the Great Year began turning its twelve signs,
 ere constellations wheeled for twenty-four thousand
 sunny years
slowly round their axis in Sagittarius, one hundred 
 sixty-seven thousand times returning to this night

Radioactive Nemesis were you there at the beginning 
 black dumb tongueless unsmelling blast of Disil-
 lusion?
I manifest your Baptismal Word after four billion years
I guess your birthday in Earthling Night, I salute your
 dreadful presence last majestic as the Gods,
Sabaot, Jehova, Astapheus, Adonaeus, Elohim, Iao, 
 Ialdabaoth, Aeon from Aeon born ignorant in an
 Abyss of Light,
Sophia's reflections glittering thoughtful galaxies, whirl-
 pools of starspume silver-thin as hairs of Einstein!
Father Whitman I celebrate a matter that renders Self
 oblivion!
Grand Subject that annihilates inky hands & pages'
 prayers, old orators' inspired Immortalities,
I begin your chant, openmouthed exhaling into spacious
 sky over silent mills at Hanford, Savannah River,
 Rocky Flats, Pantex, Burlington, Albuquerque
I yell thru Washington, South Carolina, Colorado, 
 Texas, Iowa, New Mexico,
Where nuclear reactors creat a new Thing under the 
 Sun, where Rockwell war-plants fabricate this death
 stuff trigger in nitrogen baths,
Hanger-Silas Mason assembles the terrified weapon
 secret by ten thousands, & where Manzano Moun-
 tain boasts to store
its dreadful decay through two hundred forty millenia
 while our Galaxy spirals around its nebulous core.
I enter your secret places with my mind, I speak with your presence, I roar your Lion Roar with mortal mouth.
One microgram inspired to one lung, ten pounds of heavy metal dust adrift slow motion over grey Alps the breadth of the planet, how long before your radiance speeds blight and death to sentient beings? Enter my body or not I carol my spirit inside you, Unnaproachable Weight, O heavy heavy Element awakened I vocalize your con- sciousness to six worlds I chant your absolute Vanity.
Yeah monster of Anger birthed in fear O most Ignorant matter ever created unnatural to Earth! Delusion of metal empires! Destroyer of lying Scientists! Devourer of covetous Generals, Incinerator of Armies & Melter of Wars! Judgement of judgements, Divine Wind over vengeful nations, Molester of Presidents, Death-Scandal of Capital politics! Ah civilizations stupidly indus- trious! Canker-Hex on multitudes learned or illiterate! Manu- factured Spectre of human reason! O solidified imago of practicioner in Black Arts I dare your reality, I challenge your very being! I publish your cause and effect! I turn the wheel of Mind on your three hundred tons! Your name enters mankind's ear! I embody your ultimate powers! My oratory advances on your vaunted Mystery! This breath dispels your braggart fears! I sing your form at last behind your concrete & iron walls inside your fortress of rubber & translucent silicon shields in filtered cabinets and baths of lathe oil, My voice resounds through robot glove boxes & ignot cans and echoes in electric vaults inert of atmo- sphere, I enter with spirit out loud into your fuel rod drums underground on soundless thrones and beds of lead O density! This weightless anthem trumpets transcendent through hidden chambers and breaks through iron doors into the Infernal Room! Over your dreadful vibration this measured harmony floats audible, these jubilant tones are honey and milk and wine-sweet water Poured on the stone black floor, these syllables are barley groats I scatter on the Reactor's core, I call your name with hollow vowels, I psalm your Fate close by, my breath near deathless ever at your side to Spell your destiny, I set this verse prophetic on your mausoleum walls to seal you up Eternally with Diamond Truth! O doomed Plutonium.
II The Bar surveys Plutonian history from midnight lit with Mercury Vapor streetlamps till in dawn's early light he contemplates a tranquil politic spaced out between Nations' thought-forms proliferating bureaucratic & horrific arm'd, Satanic industries projected sudden with Five Hundred Billion Dollar Strength around the world same time this text is set in Boulder, Colorado before front range of Rocky Mountains twelve miles north of Rocky Flats Nuclear Facility in United States of North America, Western Hemi- sphere of planet Earth six months and fourteen days around our Solar System in a Spiral Galaxy the local year after Dominion of the last God nineteen hundred seventy eight Completed as yellow hazed dawn clouds brighten East, Denver city white below Blue sky transparent rising empty deep & spacious to a morning star high over the balcony above some autos sat with wheels to curb downhill from Flatiron's jagged pine ridge, sunlit mountain meadows sloped to rust-red sandstone cliffs above brick townhouse roofs as sparrows waked whistling through Marine Street's summer green leafed trees.
III This ode to you O Poets and Orators to come, you father Whitman as I join your side, you Congress and American people, you present meditators, spiritual friends & teachers, you O Master of the Diamond Arts, Take this wheel of syllables in hand, these vowels and consonants to breath's end take this inhalation of black poison to your heart, breath out this blessing from your breast on our creation forests cities oceans deserts rocky flats and mountains in the Ten Directions pacify with exhalation, enrich this Plutonian Ode to explode its empty thunder through earthen thought-worlds Magnetize this howl with heartless compassion, destroy this mountain of Plutonium with ordinary mind and body speech, thus empower this Mind-guard spirit gone out, gone out, gone beyond, gone beyond me, Wake space, so Ah! July 14, 1978


LEnvoi

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 My job is done; my rhymes are ranked and ready,
 My word-battalions marching verse by verse;
Here stanza-companies are none too steady;
 There print-platoons are weak, but might be worse.
And as in marshalled order I review them, My type-brigades, unfearful of the fray, My eyes that seek their faults are seeing through them Immortal visions of an epic day.
It seems I'm in a giant bowling-alley; The hidden heavies round me crash and thud; A spire snaps like a pipe-stem in the valley; The rising sun is like a ball of blood.
Along the road the "fantassins" are pouring, And some are gay as fire, and some steel-stern.
.
.
.
Then back again I see the red tide pouring, Along the reeking road from Hebuterne.
And once again I seek Hill Sixty-Seven, The Hun lines grey and peaceful in my sight; When suddenly the rosy air is riven -- A "coal-box" blots the "boyou" on my right.
Or else to evil Carnoy I am stealing, Past sentinels who hail with bated breath; Where not a cigarette spark's dim revealing May hint our mission in that zone of death.
I see across the shrapnel-seeded meadows The jagged rubble-heap of La Boiselle; Blood-guilty Fricourt brooding in the shadows, And Thiepval's chateau empty as a shell.
Down Albert's riven streets the moon is leering; The Hanging Virgin takes its bitter ray; And all the road from Hamel I am hearing The silver rage of bugles over Bray.
Once more within the sky's deep sapphire hollow I sight a swimming Taube, a fairy thing; I watch the angry shell flame flash and follow In feather puffs that flick a tilted wing; And then it fades, with shrapnel mirror's flashing; The flashes bloom to blossoms lily gold; The batteries are rancorously crashing, And life is just as full as it can hold.
Oh spacious days of glory and of grieving! Oh sounding hours of lustre and of loss! Let us be glad we lived you, still believing The God who gave the cannon gave the Cross.
Let us be sure amid these seething passions, The lusts of blood and hate our souls abhor: The Power that Order out of Chaos fashions Smites fiercest in the wrath-red forge of War.
.
.
.
Have faith! Fight on! Amid the battle-hell Love triumphs, Freedom beacons, all is well.


The Revelation

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 The same old sprint in the morning, boys, to the same old din and smut;
Chained all day to the same old desk, down in the same old rut;
Posting the same old greasy books, catching the same old train:
Oh, how will I manage to stick it all, if I ever get back again?

We've bidden good-bye to life in a cage, we're finished with pushing a pen;
They're pumping us full of bellicose rage, they're showing us how to be men.
We're only beginning to find ourselves; we're wonders of brawn and thew; But when we go back to our Sissy jobs, -- oh, what are we going to do? For shoulders curved with the counter stoop will be carried erect and square; And faces white from the office light will be bronzed by the open air; And we'll walk with the stride of a new-born pride, with a new-found joy in our eyes, Scornful men who have diced with death under the naked skies.
And when we get back to the dreary grind, and the bald-headed boss's call, Don't you think that the dingy window-blind, and the dingier office wall, Will suddenly melt to a vision of space, of violent, flame-scarred night? Then .
.
.
oh, the joy of the danger-thrill, and oh, the roar of the fight! Don't you think as we peddle a card of pins the counter will fade away, And again we'll be seeing the sand-bag rims, and the barb-wire's misty grey? As a flat voice asks for a pound of tea, don't you fancy we'll hear instead The night-wind moan and the soothing drone of the packet that's overhead? Don't you guess that the things we're seeing now will haunt us through all the years; Heaven and hell rolled into one, glory and blood and tears; Life's pattern picked with a scarlet thread, where once we wove with a grey To remind us all how we played our part in the shock of an epic day? Oh, we're booked for the Great Adventure now, we're pledged to the Real Romance; We'll find ourselves or we'll lose ourselves somewhere in giddy old France; We'll know the zest of the fighter's life; the best that we have we'll give; We'll hunger and thirst; we'll die .
.
.
but first -- we'll live; by the gods, we'll live! We'll breathe free air and we'll bivouac under the starry sky; We'll march with men and we'll fight with men, and we'll see men laugh and die; We'll know such joy as we never dreamed; we'll fathom the deeps of pain: But the hardest bit of it all will be -- when we come back home again.
For some of us smirk in a chiffon shop, and some of us teach in a school; Some of us help with the seat of our pants to polish an office stool; The merits of somebody's soap or jam some of us seek to explain, But all of us wonder what we'll do when we have to go back again.


THREE SONGS FOR MAYDAY MORNING

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 ( I )


for ‘JC’ of the TLS

Nightmare of metropolitan amalgam

Grand Hotel and myself as a guest there

Lost with my room rifled, my belongings scattered,

Purse, diary and vital list of numbers gone – 

Vague sad memories of mam n’dad

Leeds 1942 back-to-back with shared outside lav.
Hosannas of sweet May mornings Whitsun glory of lilac blooming Sixty years on I run and run From death, from loss, from everyone.
Which are the paths I never ventured down, Or would they, too, be vain? O for the secret anima of Leeds girlhood A thousand times better than snide attacks in the TLS By ‘JC’.
Fuck you, Jock, you should be ashamed, Attacking Brenda Williams, who had a background Worse than yours, an alcoholic schizophrenic father And an Irish immigrant mother who died when Brenda was fifteen But still she managed to read Proust on her day off As a library girl, turned down by David Jenkins, ‘As rising star of the left’ for a place at Leeds To read theology started her as a protest poet Sitting out on the English lawn, mistaken for a snow sculpture In the depths of winter.
Her sit-in protest lasted seven months, Months, eight hours a day, her libellous verse scorching The academic groves of Leeds in sheets by the thousand, Mailed through the university's internal post.
She called The VC 'a mouse from the mountain'; Bishop of Durham to-be David Jenkins a wimp and worse and all in colourful verse And 'Guntrip's Ghost' went to every VC in England in a Single day.
When she sat on the English lawn Park Honan Flew paper aeroplanes with messages down and And when she was in Classics they took away her chair So she sat on the floor reading Virgil and the Chairman of the Department sent her an official Christmas card 'For six weeks on the university lawn, learning the Hebrew alphabet'.
And that was just the beginning: in Oxford Magdalen College School turned our son away for the Leeds protest so she Started again, in Magdalen Quad, sitting through Oxford's Worst ever winter and finally they arrested her on the Eve of the May Ball so she wrote 'Oxford from a Prison Cell' her most famous poem and her protest letter went in A single day to every MP and House of Lords Member and It was remembered years after and when nobody nominated Her for the Oxford Chair she took her own and sat there In the cold for almost a year, well-wishers pinning messages To the tree she sat under - "Tityre, tu patulae recubans Sub tegmine fagi" and twelve hundred and forty dons had "The Pain Clinic" in a single day and she was fourteen Times in the national press, a column in "The Guardian" And a whole page with a picture in the 'Times Higher' - "A Well Versed Protester" JC, if you call Myslexia’s editor a ‘kick-arse virago’ You’ve got to expect a few kicks back.
All this is but the dust We must shake from our feet Purple heather still with blossom In Haworth and I shall gather armfuls To toss them skywards and you, Madonna mia, I shall bed you there In blazing summer by High Wythens, Artist unbroken from the highest peak I raise my hands to heaven.
( II ) Sweet Anna, I do not know you from Eve But your zany zine in the post Is the best I’ve ever seen, inspiring this rant Against the cant of stuck-up cunts currying favour I name no name but if the Dutch cap fits Then wear it and share it.
Who thought at sixty one I’d have owned a watch Like this one, chased silver cased Quartz reflex Japanese movement And all for a fiver at the back of Leeds Market Where I wander in search of oil pastels Irish folk and cheap socks.
The TLS mocks our magazine With its sixties Cadillac pink Psychedelic cover and every page crimson Orange or mauve, revolutionary sonnets By Brenda Williams from her epic ‘Pain Clinic’ And my lacerating attacks on boring Bloodaxe Neil Ghastly and Anvil’s preciosity and all the Stuck-up arse-holes in their cubby-holes sending out Rejection slip by rote – LPW


The Gardener XXXVIII: My Love Once upon a Time

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 My love, once upon a time your poet
launched a great epic in his mind.
Alas, I was not careful, and it struck your ringing anklets and came to grief.
It broke up into scraps of songs and lay scattered at your feet.
All my cargo of the stories of old wars was tossed by the laughing waves and soaked in tears and sank.
You must make this loss good to me, my love.
If my claims to immortal fame after death are scattered, make me immortal while I live.
And I will not mourn for my loss nor blame you.


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