October 28, 2004

Hay poets born in the late nineteenth century.

R L Stevenson.Robert Richardson.
“A Haycart in the City”

Oscar Wilde.Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
“The Hayloft”

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
“Symphony in Yellow”

Carman Bliss.Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
“Impression du Matin”

Carman Bliss (1861-1929).
“The Blue Heron”

Katharine Tynan.Katharine Tynan (1861-1931).

Eva Gore-Booth.Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926).
“We Shall Be Changed”

Edward Thomas.Edward Thomas (1878-1917).

William Carlos Williams.William Carlos Williams (1883-1963).

D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).

D H Lawrence.D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).
“Leaves of Grass, Flowers of Grass”

Andrew Young (1885-1971).
“The Haystack”

Archibald MacLeish.Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982).
“New England Weather”

Edna St Vincent Millay.Aldridge. Robert Graves.Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).
“The Gardener in Haying Time”

Robert Graves (1895-1985).
“It's a Queer Time”

Unloading hay. c1895.An anthology clustered by birth-dates throws together such unlikely neighbors as: Stevenson’s bouncy childhood rhythms next to Wilde’s vivid impressionism; the naturalist nostalgia of Edward Thomas against the minimalism of William Carlos Williams and the earthiness of D. H. Lawrence; MacLeish’s wistful view of regional wisdom, Millay’s succinct domestic joke, and the tragic irony of Robert Graves. Among these luminaries are more obscure poets: the Australian Robert Richardson’s “Haycart in the City” though undistinguished is an excuse to show off the glowing George Bellow’s hay-cart in New York; an old fashioned New England lyric by Carman Bliss; Katharine Tynan’s bleak Irish ballad; Eva Gore-Booth’s little poem, like Dickinson’s, echoing the old Psalmist moral on mortality; and Andrew Young’s riddle-like verse on the haystack’s transient architecture. The illustrations are equally wide-ranging, including: Bruegel’s famous seasonal pair which Williams conflates into a single medieval memory; Dürer’s “Great Grass” next to Lawrence’s retort to Whitman; and finally, acknowledging the appalling timelessness and timeliness of the arts of war, the legendary Australian photographer Tim Page’s image of a dead Vietnamese insurgent half-buried in the soft hay to which “Queer Time” trench-war trauma drives Robert Graves.

Robert Richardson.
“A Haycart in the City”
From Miscellanies and Collections, 1750-1900: Australian Poets 1788-1888…(1888).

Bellows. New York. 1911.Not a breath was stirring
In the narrow street,
Hot on wall and pavement
Fell the sultry heat.
Sudden comes a hay-cart
Piled up wide and high,
Blocking up the causeway,
Shutting out the sky.

Sitting at my window---
Idle pen and brain---
Full into my vision
Comes the rustling wain,
And a balmy fragrance---
All the summer's breath---
Suddenly is wafted
From the street beneath.

Quick from lane and alley,
With a joyful shout,
Troops of pallid children
Scurrying, scrambling out!
[Page 418]
All to see that hay-cart
Swaying slowly by---
Like a yellow mountain
'Gainst the dusty sky.

And my thoughts go speeding
To the woods away,
Where the hawthorn hedges
Scent the summer day,
Where in beechen bowers
Lights fall dim and cool,
And the weeping-willows
Stoop to kiss the pool.

Far away to uplands,
Where the long day through
Sings the happy skylark,
Floating in the blue.
In the river meadows---
Ankle-deep in clover---
Fleeting clear and mellow,
Blackbirds hover over.

Who can tell the magic
Might of little things?
Now my dusky room is
Full of glancing wings.
Breath of blowing woodlands
Floats along the lane---
Woodland whispers, soothing
Tired heart and brain.

Wood, and singing river,
Bird and rustling tree---
All the green world seemeth
Present now with me.
[Page 419]
From that fragrant hay-cart
May the same thoughts flow
To the tired children
In the street below!

Johnson. In the Hay Loft. 1877.Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).
“The Hayloft”
from Collected poems (1950)

Through all the pleasant meadow-side
The grass grew shoulder-high,
Till the shining scythes went far and wide
And cut it down to dry.

These green and sweetly smelling crops
They led in waggons home;
And they piled them here in mountain tops
For mountaineers to roam.

Here is Mount Clear, Mount Rusty-Nail,
Mount Eagle and Mount High;
The mice that in these mountains dwell,
No happier are than I!

[Page 386]
O what a joy to clamber there,
O what a place for play,
With the sweet, the dim, the dusty air,
The happy hills of hay!

Hay Barge on the Thames.Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
“Symphony in Yellow”
from The works (1909).

An omnibus across the bridge
Crawls like a yellow butterfly,
And, here and there, a passer-by
Shows like a little restless midge.

Big barges full of yellow hay
Are moved against the shadowy wharf,
And, like a yellow silken scarf,
The thick fog hangs along the quay.

The yellow leaves begin to fade
And flutter from the Temple elms,
And at my feet the pale green Thames
Lies like a rod of rippled jade.

Hay Barge near London Bridge. 1886.Oscar Wilde (1854-1900).
“Impression du Matin”
from The works (1909).

The Thames nocturne of blue and gold
Changed to a Harmony in grey:
A barge with ochre-coloured hay
Dropt from the wharf: and chill and cold

The yellow fog came creeping down
The bridges, till the houses' walls
Seemed changed to shadows, and S. Paul's
Loomed like a bubble o'er the town.

Then suddenly arose the clang
Of waking life; the streets were stirred
With country waggons: and a bird
Flew to the glistening roofs and sang.

But one pale woman all alone,
The daylight kissing her wan hair,
Loitered beneath the gas lamps' flare,
With lips of flame and heart of stone.

Jones. Haying with Horses. 1974.Carman Bliss (1861-1929).
“The Blue Heron”
from April Airs: A Book of New England Lyrics (1916)

I see the great blue heron
Rising among the reeds
And floating down the wind,
Like a gliding sail
With the set of the stream.

I hear the two-horse mower
Clacking among the hay,
In the heat of a July noon,
And the driver's voice
As he turns his team.

I see the meadow lilies
Flecked with their darker tan,
The elms, and the great white clouds;
And all the world
Is a passing dream.

Ritch. Thatching Haystack, Ireland. 1987.Katharine Tynan (1861-1931).
from The Holy War (1916)

In Connaught, 1915

Aye, sure, it does always be rainin'
An' the hay lyin' out in the wet,
But what's the good o' complainin'?
It never made things better yet!
There'll be musty hay in the manger,
The cow's goin' dry, be mischance,
And the boy that went for a Ranger
Is lost on us---somewhere in France!

The father of him, it's heart-breakin'---
Wid a watery glint o' the sun,
It's out wid him, turnin' an' shakin'---
Then all the labour's undone.
There won't be much savin' in Connaught,
The winter'll be hungry and black,
But I wouldn't waste sorrow upon it
If only the boy could come back!

[Page 41]
There's a terrible cloud over Nephin,
An' the rain rushin' up from the say,
Och, what if the hay is past savin'?
I wouldn't be mindin' the hay.
'Tis the loss of the boy's bent me double,
An' the poor ould man is as bad;
I'm starvin' for him, an' the trouble,
The trouble's heavy and sad.

God's good and He'll send better weather,
The sun'll be shinin' again,
If Pat and me was together
I wouldn't be mindin' the rain.
No matter what weather was in it
I wouldn't care if he'd come.
But the heart o' me's cryin' this minit,
For the boy that'll never come home!

Ritch. Scything Grass, Spain. 1972.Eva Gore-Booth (1870-1926).
“We Shall Be Changed”
from Poems of Eva Gore-Booth: Complete Edition (1929)

The snake-weed and geranium flower
Nod in the scented sunshine blithe,
3 Soon finished is their little hour,
They fall beneath the scythe.
[Page 550]
The purple monkshood fine and tall,
The white and golden daisies gay,
Down amongst broken grasses fall,
And wither into hay.

Blue gentian and frail columbine
No man shall ever mow;
Their delicate bright dreams divine
God gathered long ago.

Haymakers' Lunch. 1916.Edward Thomas (1878-1917).
from Collected Poems (1979).

After night's thunder far away had rolled
The fiery day had a kernel sweet of cold,
And in the perfect blue the clouds uncurled,
Like the first gods before they made the world
And misery, swimming the stormless sea
In beauty and in divine gaiety.
The smooth white empty road was lightly strewn
With leaves---the holly's Autumn falls in June---
And fir cones standing up stiff in the heat.
The mill-foot water tumbled white and lit
With tossing crystals, happier than any crowd
Of children pouring out of school aloud.
And in the little thickets where a sleeper
For ever might lie lost, the nettle creeper
And garden-warbler sang unceasingly;
While over them shrill shrieked in his fierce glee
The swift with wings and tail as sharp and narrow
As if the bow had flown off with the arrow.
Only the scent of woodbine and hay new mown
Travelled the road. In the field sloping down,
Park-like, to where its willows showed the brook,
Haymakers rested. The tosser lay forsook
Out in the sun; and the long waggon stood
Without its team: it seemed it never would
Move from the shadow of that single yew.
The team, as still, until their task was due,
Beside the labourers enjoyed the shade
That three squat oaks mid-field together made
Upon a circle of grass and weed uncut,
And on the hollow, once a chalk pit, but
Now brimmed with nut and elder-flower so clean.
The men leaned on their rakes, about to begin,
But still. And all were silent. All was old,
This morning time, with a great age untold,
Older than Clare and Cobbett, Morland and Crome,
[Page 52]
Than, at the field's far edge, the farmer's home,
A white house crouched at the foot of a great tree.
Under the heavens that know not what years be
The men, the beasts, the trees, the implements
Uttered even what they will in times far hence---
All of us gone out of the reach of change---
Immortal in a picture of an old grange.

Bruegel. Haymaking. 1565. William Carlos Williams (1883-1963).
[from The Collected Poems Volume II 1939-1962 (1986).

The living quality of
the man's mind
stands out

[Page 389]
and its covert assertions
for art, art, art!

that the Renaissance
tried to absorb

Bruegel. Harvest. 1565.it remained a wheat field
over which the
wind played

men with scythes tumbling
the wheat in

the gleaners already busy
it was his own---

the patient horses no one
could take that
from him

Dessar. Summer Sunlight. 1894.D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).
from Complete Poems (1993).

If she would come to me here
Now the sunken swaths
Are glittering paths
To the sun, and the swallows cut clear
Into the setting sun! if she came to me here!

If she would come to me now,
Before the last-mown harebells are dead;
While that vetch-clump still burns red!
Before all the bats have dropped from the bough
To cool in the night; if she came to me now!

The horses are untackled, the chattering machine
Is still at last. If she would come
We could gather up the dry hay from
The hill-brow, and lie quite still, till the green
Sky ceased to quiver, and lost its active sheen.

I should like to drop
On the hay, with my head on her knee,
And lie dead still, while she
Breathed quiet above me; and the crop
Of stars grew silently.

I should like to lie still
As if I was dead; but feeling
Her hand go stealing
Over my face and my head, until
This ache was shed.

Durer. The Great Grass. 1503.D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).
“Leaves of Grass, Flowers of Grass”
from Complete Poems (1993).

Leaves of grass, what about leaves of grass?
Grass blossoms, grass has flowers, flowers of grass
dusty pollen of grass, tall grass in its midsummer maleness
hay-seed and tiny grain of grass, graminiferae
not far from the lily, the considerable lily;

even the blue-grass blossoms;
even the bison knew it;
even the stupidest farmer gathers his hay in bloom, in blossom
just before it seeds.

Only the best matters; even the cow knows it;
grass in blossom, blossoming grass, risen to its height and its natural pride
in its own splendour and its own feathery maleness
the grass, the grass.

Leaves of grass, what are leaves of grass, when at its best grass blossoms.

Lega. Farmhouse and Haystack. 1885.Andrew Young (1885-1971).
“The Haystack”
from Selected Poems (1998).

Too dense to have a door,
Window or fireplace or a floor,
They saw this cottage up,
Huge bricks of grass, clover and buttercup
Carting to byre and stable,
Where cow and horse will eat wall, roof and gable.

Smith. Hay Wagon in Barn, Rain. 2000.Archibald MacLeish (1892-1982).
“New England Weather”
from Collected Poems: 1917-1982 (1985).

Hay-time when the Boston forecast
calls for haying weather, hot and fair,
Conway people stick to garden chores
and nod toward nightfall at the cemetery:

that's where Sumner Boyden's lying now
and Sumner always told the town, if Boston
promised shine you'd better count on showers
'long toward evening with your hay crop lost.

He meant, no man can tell the weather
anywhere but where he's from:
you have to have the whole of it together,
bred in your bones---the way the wind-shifts come,

how dust feels on a hayfork handle
days when there'll be thunder up for sure,
and how the swallows skim, the cattle stand,
when blue stays blue and even clover cures.

He knew the Conway signs and when the Boston
forecast didn't, team went back to stalls
and chances were, by half-past four at most
we'd hear the thunder up toward Shelburne Falls.

It wasn't luck. New England weather
breeds New Englanders: that changing sky
is part of being born and drawing breath
and dying, maybe, where you're meant to die.

Ault. Haymaking, Oxfordshire.Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950).
“The Gardener in Haying Time”
from Collected Poems (1956).

I had a gardener. I had him until haying-time.
In haying-time they set him pitching hay.
I had two gardeners. I had them until haying-time.
In haying-time they set them pitching hay.
I had three gardeners. I had them until haying-time.
---Can life go on this way?

Page. Vietnam. 1965.Robert Graves (1895-1985).
“It's a Queer Time” [lines 11-18]
from Complete Poems Volume 1 (1999).

You're charging madly at them yelling 'Fag!'
When somehow something gives and your feet drag.
You fall and strike your head; yet feel no pain
And find...you're digging tunnels through the hay
In the Big Barn, 'cause it's a rainy day.
Oh springy hay, and lovely beams to climb!
You're back in the old sailor suit again.
It's a queer time.

Posted by Alan Ritch at October 28, 2004 01:27 PM