The Poster-Painter's Masterpiece
'Let us paint a landscape in June,' he cried;
'A Landscape in high June.'
And the poster-painter swelled with pride
And trilled a merry tune.
And he painted five cows in Antwerp blue
(For he was a poster-painter true),
And the grass they browsed was a light écru
And a dark maroon.
And the foot of one cow was in the sky,
And her horns were pink and green;
Her amber tail it curled on high--
A bright and beauteous scene.
And a lavender river flowed at her feet
With gamboge lilies fragrant and sweet,
But some were the color of powdered peat,
Some light marine.
And another cow's tail was round the sun
(Her horns hung limply down);
And her tail was white as wool new-spun,
And the sun was a neutral brown.
In the drab background was a pale-blue lamb
Who stood by the side of her turquoise dam,
And the sky--a pink parallelogram--
On the lamb closed down.
And the rhomboid hills were of ochre hue
With trees of lilac white,
And rectilinear forests grew
In a limpid cochineal light.
An isosceles lake spread fair and pink,
And, gathered about its damask brink,
Triangular swans came down to drink
With glad delight.
Then a milkmaid came with cheeks of dun
And a smile of dark maroon,
One arm was on the setting sun,
One on the rising moon.
And she seemed to float from a Nile-green sky,
With an ebony arm and an ivory eye,
And her gown swelled from a point on high,
Like a pink balloon.
But all the things the painter drew
'Twere hard to tell--
The cow, the sky, the swans of blue,
Lamb, maid, he painted well.
But which was the cow and which the maid,
And which were the swans or the trees of shade,
And which were the sky or the hills, I'm afraid,
No soul could tell.
The Town Of Hay
THE TOWN of Hay is far away,
The town of Hay is far;
Between its hills of green and gray
Its winding meadows are.
Within the quiet town of Hay
Is many a quiet glen,
And there by many a shaded way
Are homes of quiet men:
And there are many hearts alway
That turn with longing, night and day,
Back to the town of Hay.
Within that good old town of Hay
There was no pride of birth,
And no man there pursued his way
A stranger in the earth;
And none were high and none were low,
Of golden hair or gray,
And each would grieve at other’s woe
Down in the town of Hay;
And many a world-scorned soul to-day
Mid crowded thousands far away
Weeps for the town of Hay.
A road leads from the town of Hay
Forth to a world of din,
And winds and wanders far away,—
And many walked therein;
Far in the crowds of toil and stress
Their restless footsteps stray,—
Their souls have lost the quietness
Of that old town of Hay;
But in some respite of the fray,
In transient dreams they float away,
Back to the town of Hay.
Old men are in that town of Hay,
Amid its quiet trees,
Who dream of strong sons far away
Upon the stormy seas;
Old mothers, when the twilight dew
The woodbine leaves have pearled,
Dream of their boys who wander through
The wideness of the world:
And tears fall in the twilight gray,
And prayers go up at close of day
In that old town of Hay.
A hillside in the town of Hay
Is slanting toward the sun,
And gathered ’neath its headstones gray
Are sleepers, one by one;
And there are tears in distant lands,
And grief too deep for tears,
And farewells waved from phantom hands
Across the gulf of years:
And when they place that headstone gray,
It crushes hearts so far away
From that old town of Hay
One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then two hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way;
And then a wise bell-wether sheep
Pursued the trail o’er vale and steep,
And drew the flock behind him, too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o’er hill and glade,
Through those old woods a path was made;
And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about
And uttered words of righteous wrath
Because ‘twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed -- do not laugh --
The first migrations of that calf,
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.
This forest path became a lane,
That bent, and turned, and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half
They trod the footsteps of that calf.
The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street,
And this, before men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.
Each day a hundred thousand rout
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o’er his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent
To well-established precedent.
A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf-paths of the mind,
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
But how the wise old wood-gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach --
But I am not ordained to preach.
'How is business?' asks the young man of the Spirit of the Years;
'Tell me of the modern output from the factories of fate,
And what jobs are waiting for me, waiting for me and my peers.
What's the outlook? What's the prospect? Are the wages small or great?'
'Business growing, more men needed,' says the Spirit of the Years,
'Jobs are waiting for right workmen,--and I hope you are the men,--
Grand hard work and ample wages, work piled up in great arrears--
'Don't see any job particular?' Listen, and I'll tell you then.
'There are commonwealths to govern, there are senates to be swayed,
There are new states still undreamed of to be founded,
New empires in far oceans to be moulded--who's afraid?--
And a couple polar oceans to be sounded.
Come on, ye jolly empire-builders, here is work for you to do,
And we don't propose to get along without it.
Here's the little job of building this old planet over new,
And it's time to do the business. Get about it.
'Get to work, ye world-repairers. Steel the age and guide the years,
Shame the antique men with bigness of your own;
Grow ye larger men than Plutarch's and the old long-whiskered seers;
Show the world a million kings without a throne.
'What's your business?' Empire-building, founding hierarchies for the soul,
Principalities and powers for the mind,
Bringing ever-narrowing chaos under cosmical control,
Building highways through its marsh-lands for mankind.
'Sow the lonely plains with cities; thread the flowerless land with streams;
Go to thinking thoughts unthought-of, following where your genius leads,
Seeing visions, hearing voices, following stars, and dreaming dreams,
And then bid your dreams and visions bloom and flower into deeds.
'What's your business?' Shaping eras, making epochs, building States,
Wakening slumbering rebellions in the soul,
Leading men and founding systems, grappling with the elder fates
Till the younger fates shall greaten and assume the old control.
''Business rushing?' Fairly lively. There's a world to clean and sweep,
Cluttered up with wars and armies; 'tis your work to brush 'em out;
Bid the fierce clinch-fisted nations clasp their hands across the deep;
Wipe the tired world of armies; 'tis a fair day's work no doubt.
'Business rushing?' Something doing. You've a contract on your hands
To wipe out the world's distinctions,--country, color, caste, and birth,--
And to make one human family of a thousand alien lands,
Nourishing a billion brothers with no foreigner on earth.
'Have you learned yet,' says the Zeitgeist, 'the old secret of the soul?
Make the sleepy sphinx give answer, for her riddle's long unguessed.
Tell the riddle; clear the mystery; bid the midnight dark uproll;
Let the thought with which the ages long have travailed be expressd.
Go and find the Northwest Passage through the far seas of the mind,--
There, where man and God are mingled in the darkness, go and learn.
Sail forth on that bournless ocean, shrouded, chartless, undefined:
Pluck its mystery from that darkness; pluck its mystery and return.
''What's your business?' Finding out things that no other man could find,--
Things concealed by jealous Nature under locks, behind the bars;
Building paved and guttered highways for the onward march of mind
Through the spaces 'twixt the planets to the secrets of the stars.
'What's your business?' Think like Plato,--he did not exhaust all thought;
Preach like Savonarola; rule like Alfred; do not shirk;
Paint like Raphael and Titian; build like Angelo--why not?
Sing like Shakespeare. 'How is business?' Rather lively. Get to work!'