October 28, 2004

Hay poetry: checklist.

Over one hundred poems on hay are listed here. To find the text of a listed poem, click on the poet's name.

Early hay poems from Lydgate to Hood.

John Lydgate (c1370-c1451).
“That now is hay some-tyme was grase” c 1400.

Thomas Tusser (1524?-1580).
“Iulies Abstract”
from Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie 1580.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674).
“To Meadows”

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678 ).
Verses from “Upon Appleton House to my Lord Fairfax”

James Thomson (1700-1748).
"Summer" from The Seasons

Robert Dodsley (1703-1764).
“Agriculture. A Poem”

James Grahame (1765-1811).
“June” from British Georgics

Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842).
“The Hay-makers”

Thomas Hood (1799-1845).
“That Flesh is Grass is Now as Clear as Day”

Thomas Hood (1799-1845).
"Miss Killmansegg and Her Precious Leg. A Legend"

John Clare poems on hay.

John Clare (1793-1864).

John Clare (1793-1864).
“Haymaking” [sonnet]

John Clare (1793-1864).
“The Meadow Hay”

John Clare (1793-1864).
“To Julia”

John Clare (1793-1864).
“Ballad [We’ll walk among the the tedded hay]”

Hay poems in the vernacular of William Barnes.

William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Round Things”

William Barnes (1801-1886).

William Barnes (1801-1886).

William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Hay-Meaken. Nunchen Time”

William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Between Haymaking and Harvest”

Hay poets born in the early nineteenth century.

Robert Nicoll (1814-1837).
“The Making o’ the Hay”

Thomas English (1819-1902).

Dora Greenwell(1821-1882).

William Allingham(1824-1889).
“To the Author of 'Hesperides'”

Emily Dickinson(1830-1886).
“The Grass”

William Morris(1834-1896).
“The Half of Life Gone”

Andrew Lang(1844-1912).
"Scythe Song"

Will Carleton(1845-1912).
“The Boy in the Mow”

John Keegan Casey(1846-1870).
“The Making of the Hay”

George Barlow(1847-1914).
“The Hay-fields on the Cliff-top”

Michael Field(1848-1914).
“The Hayfield”

Marsh hay poems of John Frederic Herbin.

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Dyke”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Night-mower”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Sea Harvest”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“In the Rain”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“Aftermath” [sonnet]

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“Aftermath” ["August is hot in the flood of an ardent sun"]

Hay poets born in the late nineteenth century.

Robert Richardson.
“A Haycart in the City”

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

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

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

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

Katharine Tynan (1861-1931).

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

Edward Thomas (1878-1917).

William Carlos Williams (1883-1963).

D. H. Lawrence (1885-1930).

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

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

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

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

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

Frost on the hay.

Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Code”

Robert Frost (1874-1963).

Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Exposed Nest”

Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Death of the Hired Man”

Twentieth century hay poets born before 1940.

Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967).

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Sottoportico San Zaccaria”

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Rogation Days”

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).

E. J. Scovell (1907- ).
“The Half-Mown Meadow”

William Stafford (1907- ).

William Stafford (1907- ).
“American Gothic”

William Stafford (1907- ).
“An Argument Against The Empirical Method”

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).
"Eclogue by a Five-barred Gate"

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).
"Last before America"

William Everson (1912-1994).
"And Do the Indulgent Lovers"

Jean Garrigue (1912-1972).
"This Swallow's Empire"

Jean Garrigue (1912-1972).
“Invitation to a Hay”

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-).
“Haying Before Storm”

Maxine Kumin (1925-).

Hayden Carruth (1926-).
“The Baler”

Hayden Carruth (1926-).
“Emergency Haying”

James Arlington Wright (1927-).
“Lament for my Brother on a Hayrake”

Galway Kinnell (1927-).
“Farm Picture”

Thom Gunn (1929-2004).
“At the Back of the North Wind”

Gary Snyder (1930-).
“Hay for the Horses”

Hay poems by Hughes and Heaney.

Ted Hughes (1930-1998).

Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
“Feeding Out – Wintering Cattle at Twilight”

Ted Hughes (1930-1998).

Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
“Last Load”

Seamus Heaney (1939-).
“Storm on the Island”

Seamus Heaney (1939-).

Seamus Heaney (1939-).
The last lines of “The Loose Box”

Hay poems of the late twentieth century.

Tom Montag (1947-).
"Making Hay"

Bin Ramke (1947-).
“The Movement of Birds like Years”

Timothy Steele (1948-).

Paul Muldoon (1951-).

Paul Muldoon (1951-).
“The Plot”

Paul Muldoon (1951-).
“Third Epistle to Timothy” [part V]

John Kinsella (1963-).
“Wrapping the Hay”

John Kinsella (1963-).
“The Burning of the Haystacks”

Robert Kinsley.
"After Scything"

Chip Stringer.
“Where the hay is now comes to me”

Cristiane Jacox Kyle.
“Dialog in Jordan, Montana”

Jim Thomas .
“Hay Crop”

Philip Hodgins .
“Standard Hay Bales”

Tom Hansen.
“Haystack at Sunset near Giverny”

Charles Cantrell.

Dennis O’Driscoll.

Edwina Powell.

Chris Agee.
“Dark Hay”

Maureen Choi.

Amber West.
“The Hay Barn”

Michael Wolfe.
“Morning in Mostar : 1997”

Robert Pack.
“Baled Hay”

Hay poems in popular magazines, since 1798.

“Description of Hay-making”
Philadelphia Monthly Magazine v1 n5 (May 1798) p.284.

Thomas E. Garrett.
“Raking Hay”
The Aldine: The Art Journal of America v7 n7 (July 1, 1874).

Dora Reade Goodale.
Scribner’s Monthly v17 n1 (November 1878), p.86.

Samuel M. Peck.
“At the Making of the Hay”
Current Literature v1 n4 (October 1888) p.328.

Stanley Waterloo.
“A Load of Hay”
Current Literature v2 n2 (February 1889), p.172.

Zitella Cocke.
“Love-making in Hay-making”
Century Illustrated Magazine v40 n3 (July 1890) p. 480.

Katharine Pyle.
“In the Hay-Mow”
Harper’s Bazaar v33 (December 22 1900) p. 2170.

Alice E. Allen.
“Make Hay While the Sun Shines”
Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine v84, n500 (August 1909), p.262.

Witter Bynner.
“Hay Wagon”
Harper’s v158 (January, 1929), p. 249.

Robert Francis.
Harper’s v173 (July 1936), p. 165.

Elizabeth Coatsworth.
“Salt Hay”
Woman’s Home Companion v63 (October 1936) p. 35.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:35 PM

Hay poems in popular magazines since 1798.

“Description of Hay-making”
Philadelphia Monthly Magazine v1 n5 (May 1798) p.284.

Thomas E. Garrett.
“Raking Hay”
The Aldine: The Art Journal of America v7 n7 (July 1, 1874).

Dora Reade Goodale.
Scribner’s Monthly v17 n1 (November 1878), p.86.

Samuel M. Peck.
“At the Making of the Hay”
Current Literature v1 n4 (October 1888) p.328.

Stanley Waterloo.
“A Load of Hay”
Current Literature v2 n2 (February 1889), p.172.

Zitella Cocke.
“Love-making in Hay-making”
Century Illustrated Magazine v40 n3 (July 1890) p. 480.

Katharine Pyle.
“In the Hay-Mow”
Harper’s Bazaar v33 (December 22 1900) p. 2170.

Alice E. Allen.
“Make Hay While the Sun Shines”
Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine v84, n500 (August 1909), p.262.

Witter Bynner.
“Hay Wagon”
Harper’s v158 (January, 1929), p. 249.

Robert Francis.
Harper’s v173 (July 1936), p. 165.

Elizabeth Coatsworth, 1893-1990.
“Salt Hay”
Woman’s Home Companion v63 (October 1936) p. 35.

Hayin time postcard. 1910.Poems in popular magazines have their own category here, even though the older ones are virtually indistinguishable in themes and style from their counterparts in books and literary periodicals. The first one in particular is typical of the hay genre on both sides of the Atlantic during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. But bouncy rhymes and trite figures of speech persist in the magazines well into the decades when modernism had dismissed them from more serious contexts. Of particular interest are Waterloo’s hay-in-the-city quatrains, which echo several of the ideas in the Australian Richardson’s poem from roughly the same period. Since a couple of the turn-of-the-century pieces (by Cocke and Allen) resemble greeting card verse, pairing them with their contemporary popular postcards seems appropriate. The last poem included here, Coatsworth’s haunting and lyrical “Salt Hay,” recalls the New Brunswick marsh poems of Herbin from half-a-century earlier. Indeed many of these popular works are delightful in their unselfconscious, old-fashioned nostalgia, a trait, after all, underlying hundreds of the visual and literary occupants of this site.

Hearne. Landscape and Figures. 1783.Anonymous.
“Description of Hay-making”
Philadelphia Monthly Magazine v1 n5 (May 1798) p.284.

There see the mowers, to their half-done task,
Early returning, jocund, o’er the grass,
That yesterday they cut: with stone well-ply’d,
Bending, they whet the clear-resounding steel;
And now in order plac’d, step after step,
Slow following, with successive well-tim’d stroke,
The scythe they brandish: falling at their feet
In semicircle wide, a mingl’d heap
Of seedling stalks and flowers of various hues
In wild confusion lies, to bloom no more.
Meanwhile a num’rous train of men and boys,
And country maidens, bearing in their hands
The rural trophies, cheerfully begin
Their pleasing toil, and scatter far and wide,
With airy toss, the odoriferous hay;
Light burden! While as now the climbing sun,
In splendour clad, pours forth his sloping rays
Stronger, the field is all a moving scene
Of gaiety and business, mirth and toil.
Many the jokes, and frequent are the laughs,
Enlivening their labour: on the copse
Of yonder hedge, where gay the wild-rose blooms,
Is laid the copious can, with needful store
Of liquor fill’d and cover’d from the sight
Of busy flies. Full oft the heated swain
Thither is seen to pace, and from the cup
First take a long, deep draught: then to the fair,
Not asking, but whose warm flush’d cheeks betray
Her thirst, slow carrying, presents the cup
With awkward gallantry. Fatigued, the band
Awhile repose : the sun-burnt clown, robust,
Pulls on his knee his modest looking fair,
Pleas’d, and yet half asham’d: ah! Happy he,
If from her lips he gains at last the kiss,
With many struggles won; nor is ev’n she,
Tho’ her disorder’d locks with many a frown
Now she adjusts, displeas’d at heart to lose
The fragrant prize she wish’d not to withhold.
She seeks not to ensnare a captive train
Of lsaves, to grace the triumph of her eyes:
Nor, having won her lover’s faithful heart,
[p. 285]
To leave him, proud-exulting in his pains.
For him alone the riband gay is seen,
On Sundays streaming in her hat of straw,
Luring at church unwary eyes from pray’rs.
Still near her thro’ the field he strives to toil,
And oftm when unperceiv’d, they tell their love
In sidelong glances: language sweet! That speaks
In silence more than all th’affected fop,
Practis’d in flatt’ry’s artswith oily tongue,
Pours in his vainer fair’s deluded ears.
Here ’tis, that Love bestrews his pleasing joys,
Unblended with his cares : for hear no fears
Of rankling jealousy disturb the breast.
He knows his maiden true, as tho her swain;
And so shall each be prov’d, for Hymen soon
In bondage sweet shall join their willing hands.
Be kind, ye Southern breezes! Blow not yet,
Nor bid your train of gloomy clouds and show’rs
Unwelcome now, deform the tranquil sky!
But let the frequent wain, unslapp’d by rains,
Clear the dry hayfield of its dusky piles!

Clausen. The Mowers. 1891.Thomas E. Garrett.
“Raking Hay”
The Aldine: The Art Journal of America v7 n7 (July 1, 1874).

‘Twas in the days of mowing
With honest arm and scythe;
When neighbors helped in neighbors’ fields,
And harvest hands were blithe.
For me, I grew a stripling—
They called me half a hand—
Among the stalwart, sun-browned men
Who tilled the clover-land.

The rhythmic swing of sinews
Was regular and strong:
The even-measured mowing stroke
First set my soul to song.
Sweet music of the whetstones,
Like morning bells in chime,
Toned soothingly life’s harsher sounds—
My heart’s still beating time.

Right bravely marched the mowers
Knee-deep in flowering grass;
They ranged according to their skill
Like school-boys in a class.
And strength was brought to trial,
And strove with wrestler’s wroth—
Who could the smoothest stubble cut,
And who the widest swath!

How proudly strove the leader—
The swiftest and the best!
He held his place a cut or two
Ahead of all the rest;
Allowed no one to lead him
The breadth of brawny hand;--
A master of the mowing-craft,
He ruled the clover-land.

The morning beams came glancing
The fluttering tree-tops thro’,
Like golden bills of birs that bent
To sip the sparkling dew.
And then, in soft mid-morning,
Began the harvest-day,
And all hands—girls and boys and men—
Were merry making hay.

There came a choice of partners
Who could the best agree,
And lots were drawn by glances quick—
Kate always fell to me!
Now turn thy glass, O Mem’ry,
Upon that harvest-day,
Which poured its sunshine over me
And Katie making hay.

The morning call of luncheon
To grassy table laid,
Assembled all the haymakers
Beneath a lone tree’s shade;
A bliss of rest and breathing
By leafy fingers fanned—
And then another haying-heat
Raced o’er the clover-land.

We spread the swths commingling
In beds of rustling brown,
And rich field-odors floated up
On wings of feathery down.
Then rolled the ridgy windrows—
The triumphs of the day:
I dreamed o’er triumphs of a lie
With Katie raking hay.

She looked all-over-bonnet
Of gingham—blue and white—
Her face’s roses in the shade
Glanced out their own sweet light.
Her rake would get entangled
Sometimes, by locking mine,
And when she said: “Provoking thing!”
E’en quarreling was divine!

A spring of bubbling waters
Welled up in woodside cool,
And ever at the field’s-end hedge
Both thirsted for the pool.
She drank from out a goblet
I made her of my hands,
And, kneeling at her feet, I quaffed
From cup of golden sands.

The last load in the twilight
Dragged slowly towards the stack—
So like a great brown burly beast
With children on its back;
And flecky clouds hung over,
Of softest creamy hue,
Like handfuls plucked from cotton-bales
And dashed against the blue.

I’m dreaming now of hay-time.
The fields and skies are bright;
I see among the harvesters
A bonnet—blue and white—
And Katie’s face is in it,
A shade, it may be, tanned,
But ‘tis the fairest face of all
That grace the clover-land.

The clover-crop was gathered
In harvests long ago;
Another partner Katie chose
For life’s up-hill windrow.
But O, for all the sunshine
That ever blest a day—
The crown still shimmers over me
And Katie raking hay.

Cole. Haymaking.Dora Reade Goodale.
Scribner’s Monthly v17 n1 (November 1878), p.86.

Daisied meadows, fields of clover,
Grasses juicy, fresh and sweet;
In a day the wild bees hover
Over many a fragrant heap;
Windrows all the meads do cover,
Blossoms fall, and farmers reap;
In a month, and all is over,--
Stored away for winter’s keep.

Homer. Waiting for an Answer. 1872.Samuel M. Peck.
“At the Making of the Hay”
Current Literature v1 n4 (October 1888) p.328.

When the whip-poor-wills are calling,
And the apple-blooms are falling,
With a tender tint forestalling
Summer’s blush upon the grass;
Where the little stars are keeping
Watch above the meadow sleeping,
And the jack-o’-lantern’s peeping,
I will meet my bonnie lass.

I will seek her. I will find her.
I will slyly steal behind her;
And with kisses I will blind her
Till she sets the happy day!
And when the barley’s heading,
And the summer rose is shedding,
Oh, there’ll be a merry wedding
At the making of the hay!

Hay Wagon, Redmond. 1912.Stanley Waterloo.
“A Load of Hay”
Current Literature v2 n2 (February 1889), p.172.

A load of hay in the crowded street,
A whiff of the scent of clover,
A change of thought—vague—incomplete—
A living a young life over.
A day in August and clouds o white,
A shifting of light and shadow,
The hum of bees and the martin’s flight,
The meadow-larks and the meadow.

Strong arms of men and the yellow green
Of the swathes, the steady swinging
Of forms of laborers, strong and lean,
The scythes with their steely ringing,

The roar of trade and the newsboys’ call
And the dream of a moment’s over;
‘Twas a brain-wave came through the nose, and all
From a whiff of the scent of clover!

Break Away. 1909.Zitella Cocke.
“Love-making in Hay-making”
Century Illustrated Magazine v40 n3 (July 1890) p. 480.

Love’ time is his own,
In frigid or torrid or temperate zone.
In winter or summer or springtide, or whether
The sunshine is glorious or winds stretch their tether
To batter a city or play with a feather.
Love will have his way,
Whatever the weather;
And yet in the days that are gone, as to-day,
The making of love and the making of hay
Somehow go together.

Love’s way is his own,
In frigid or torrid or temperate zone.
And whether at noontide, at eve, or at morning,
He comes as he chooses, and comes without warning,
And prisons and harriers are but his scorning.
So love has his way
In spite of the weather;
But why in the present and past, tell me, pray,
Do making of love and the making of hay
Always go together?

Stilwell. In the Hay-mow. 1900.Katharine Pyle.
“In the Hay-Mow”
from Harper’s Bazaar v33 (December 22 1900) p. 2170

The horses stamp and champ their oats
Down in the stall below,
And through the open hay-mow door
The swallows come and go.

The sun is very bright outside;
The men shout far away;
And in the mow the children climb
And play among the hay.

Making Hay. 1908.Alice E. Allen.
“Make Hay While the Sun Shines”
from Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine v84, n500 (August 1909), p.262.

Maud Muller, in her brief hey-day,
Raked in the meadow, so they say,

And pretty Nan at break of dawn,
Gets up to mow her father’s lawn.

And oh, that mower’s creak and squeak!
Oblivion in vain I seek!

Though little birds to catch the worms
Must early rise, the sage affirms;

And though Maud’s face, so sweet and warm,
Quite took the Judge’s heart by storm,

Still, neighbor Nancy, just next door,
Please don’t disturb my morning snore.
Dream your sweet dreams, let me dream mine
Then, when the day grows fair and fine,

I’ll tell you what I’ll gladly do:
I’ll mow—and more—make love to you!

Payzant. Loading Hay. c1935.Witter Bynner.
“Hay Wagon”
from Harper’s v158 (January, 1929), p. 249.

On the road from Enfield, the other side of Lemster,
Or the other side of Newport, I can’t remember which,
We saw ahead a hay wagon topped by a teamster
And a fellow with a hay fork walking near the ditch.

Even in the distance they bore an air about them
Brighter than the New Hampshire iar. Fire had begun
To tingle in their golden hair—just as if without them
It would have been a dark day without any sun.

And this was their difference from ordinary people—
They had left their shirts behind them, they were brown and living men,
Who came with something in their eyes that doomed the village steeple.
New Hampshire, glory be to god was Indian again.

Hind. Harvesting Hay, New Brunswick. c1880.Robert Francis.
from Harper’s v173 (July 1936), p. 165.

All afternoon the hayricks have rolled by
With creaking wheels and the occasional swish
Of low tree-branches brushing against their sides.
The men up in the hay are silent. Sun
And the scent of hay and the swaying of the ricks
Have taken away all their desire for talking.
They have lost count of the loads already in.
They cannot count—they do not try to count
The loads to come. More hay lies cut and ready
To be loaded than even the longest afternoon
Can harvest.
Silent as bronze and color of bronze
To the hips, the haymen ride to the barn in waves
Of hay—New England Neptunes, each with his trident.
Along the beaches of the sky the cloud-surf
Mounts, masses—cloud heaped on cloud. The earth
Is heaped with hay. If a forkful falls from the load,
Nobody notices it. There is plenty of hay.

June, and the sun still high at suppertime.
After supper will still be afternoon
With ricks, a few, returning to the field—
Some farmers who will not trust a fair sky
Overnight. And when the sun is down
And the highest cloud pales and the evening coolness
Creeps up from the lowlands bringing the evening
Scent of hay and the sound of a dog barking,
There still will be, far down the field, figures
Moving dimly under the goldening moon.
To-night the moon will light the last load in.

Parker. Gathering salt hay.Elizabeth Coatsworth, 1893-1990.
“Salt Hay”
Woman’s Home Companion v63 (October 1936) p. 35.

This is the hay that no man planted,
This is the ground that was never plowed,
Watered by tides, cold and brackish,
Shadowed by fog and the sea-born cloud.
Here comes no sound of bobolink's singing,
Only the wail of the gull's long cry,
Where men now reap as they reap their meadows
Heaping the great gold stacks to dry.
All winter long when deep pile the snowdrifts,
And cattle stand in the dark all day,
Many a cow shall taste pale sea-weed
Twined in the stalks of the wild salt hay.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 02:11 PM

Hay poems of the late twentieth century.

Tom Montag.Tom Montag (1947-).
"Making Hay"

Bin Ramke.Bin Ramke (1947-).
“The Movement of Birds like Years”

Timothy Steele.Timothy Steele (1948-).

Paul Muldoon.Paul Muldoon (1951-).

Paul Muldoon (1951-).
“The Plot”

Paul Muldoon (1951-).
“Third Epistle to Timothy” [part V]

John Kinsella.John Kinsella (1963-).
“Wrapping the Hay”

John Kinsella (1963-).
“The Burning of the Haystacks”

Robert Kinsley.Robert Kinsley.
"After Scything"

Chip Stringer.
“Where the hay is now comes to me”

Cristiane Jacox Kyle.
“Dialog in Jordan, Montana”

Jim Thomas. Jim Thomas .
“Hay Crop”

Philip Hodgins. Philip Hodgins (1959-1995).
“Standard Hay Bales”

Tom Hansen.
“Haystack at Sunset near Giverny”

Charles Cantrell.

Dennis O'Driscoll.Dennis O’Driscoll.

Edwina Powell.

Chris Agee (1956- ).
“Dark Hay”

Amber West.Maureen Choi.

Amber West.
“The Hay Barn”

Michael Wolfe.Michael Wolfe.
“Morning in Mostar : 1997”

Robert Pack.
Robert Pack.
“Baled Hay”

Smith. Solitary man of the field. 1990.The term “late” which loosely categorizes the hay poems in this section is somewhat self-referential. All the poets here, even those already “late” themselves, are younger than I. The oldest, Tom Montag, having sent me a recent email, is one our newest “haymates.” His “Making Hay” is also an engaging mixture of the ancient (precise technical detail, worthy of eighteenth century Georgic poets) and modern (ragged typography and rhythm, worthy of William Carlos Williams). Gary Smith’s field of monumental yet modern bales complements his mood, but could equally have been paired with Agee’s “Dark Hay,” a piece evoking Heaney in its conflation of alphabets and architecture. And many of the other poems here echo themes we have already noted. Ramke and Powell equate of hay and sexuality, and Cantrell pungently connects the sharp smell of silage and the shock of sex. Kinsella’s catalog of modern artists (Escher, Koons, Christo) and pop culture (Alan Bates and Julie Christie) literally cuts to a hay-made injury, like Kinsley and Jim Thomas recalling the understated rural tragedies of Frost. Hodges and Hansen, like Kinsella, reference the visual arts (and simplify my task of illustration). Kyle’s bitterly shrinking bales of winter fodder, evoke Hughes and Heaney. O’Driscoll compiled a whole series hay’s familiar tropes (winter “withdrawals” from summer “riches”… “domes/ swept dreamily home”… “love-nest” and “escape hatch”). And “Rounding It Out” is Pack’s serene sonnetelle, conveying order in rhyme as traditional as the marsh hay sonnets of Herbin. Two poets fitting no clear pre-modern context are Chip Stringer who strings together powerful but private metaphors that have the logic of a dream, and the playful Paul Muldoon who makes of hay a mystical metaphor, an acrostic plot of alphabetic puns, and an excuse for moral self-deprecation. The right column illustrations are as varied as the texts. Among those which seem to work best are Kathleen McLaughlin’s Romanian stackers next to Kinsley, Weston’s phallic silos by Cantrell’s “Silage,” and the aerial abstractions of Patrick Bennett and Bill Garnett, paired respectively with Chris Agee and Edwina Powell. The section continues to grow into the twentyfirst century, thanks to the submissions of old and new poet pals. I am grateful to my dear friend, the pacific Muslim Michael Wolfe, for offering as a late entry his moving poem on Mostar. Its single "hayricks" line is married with tragic perfection to Gyori Antoine's photograph of a Kosovo coffin by a haystack. Tucked in before Michael's is a gently surreal piece by Maureen Choi, created initially as a UCSC writing exercise when she drew the word 'hay' from a cut up Maximus poem by Charles Olsen and then published in the campus literary journal Red Wheelbarrow. Finally there is a pantoum, generously written for this site by another new friend, a former editor of Red Wheelbarrow, Amber West. Amber once wrote a powerfully touching elegy to her late college roommate, Sarah Mercer, daughter of Carole Mercer, Eagle Point, Oregon rancher who frequently corresponds to this site. And so the circle grows.

Tom Montag (1947-).
“Making Hay”
from Making Hay and Other Poems (1975).

Smith. Bale Design.[Scattered over some twenty-eight pages, Montag's is certainly the longest poem on our subject, although his typographic layout liberally spreads white space in margins which are ragged both right and left. The piece is essentially a relentless first person narrative of the several phases of haying--cutting, raking, turning, baling, carting, stacking--a forty acre field of alfalfa. In the face of this exhausting evocation of repetitive and uncomfortable labor, the reader might infer that the size of the hayfield is much bigger than forty acres. But the author is precise, even statistical, in his account. In its detailed technical description, it resembles the manuals-in-verse of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Here, for example, is an extract on making and loading bales, occupying only two of the twenty-eight pages.]

sharper than
dry stems cuts
blue jeans cuts
my skin/ my thigh to
carry full weight, digging in & we
do not build the pyramids. we
build a load to ride rough ground,
to take
stones as we brunt them
without spilling/ bales on ground; put
one bale in place, underway &
my father
back the second/ first
bale parallel
to the end
of the rack,
bale next to
it/ right side
of the rack & the third
placed into center/ right
angles to the end
& fourth
& fifth
parallel to
the end/ again. & we are
underway. movement sound & move-
ment jerking as we move
over sharp stubble &
clumps of dirt/ hay
dust fills
our eyes & moisture
eyes/ catches, clean
the edge, slips out &
hay dust
catches it
there: particles float
on tension, small pieces
like driftwood along
the edge,
pulls moisture into air &
pulls air into updrafts &
once around the field/ half
a load before we
know it: my brother
says his arms are
tired: i tell him
hey i'll trade you
work you've got it
easy don't tell me
&my father's laughing: move-
ment sound movement-caught/ the knots
running through the needles
caught/ twine broken, we knew
it, & we are ready: stop
jump off the flat-rack, flip
open: pull out twine, pocket
knife to cut it, re-
thread it through, work
into place, work with
delicate fingers belied by
thickness,my father can
splice rope with
any sailor,no perfect
job; this is
not splicing/ threading through
& tying knots again, running
broken bales
onto ground. i pick up
the bunches, feed them
in again, careful
of drive-shaft, power-take-ff,
feed in the bales:metal
clanging/ sound in ears like cotton,
sound in hair, wind in hair, hay dust
in hair & eyes & salt in sweat cuts
eyes like cold air in winter &
the baler starts
tying knots/ up onto
the flat-rack, soon a load
& like a monument, it is
wide as the afternoon,
wider than the sun.

Smith. Figure with Hay Bale and Barn.Bin Ramke (1947-).
“The Movement of Birds like Years”
from The Difference between Night and Day (1978).

He saw brightly through the trees
a barn of cypress the morning he was twelve years old.
A crane whiter than possible in that angle of the sun
flew slower than history past the gray,
feathery planks. A barn beyond imagining, forbidden.

In twenty years nothing shone brighter, not women
nor the taste of the blade's edge in the mouth,
the sharp taste of steel which cuts saliva.
He hunted a little through the day,

he walked in circles, he shot
once. He felt the barn grow precious
in its light like a blister. He touched it
with his tongue.

He saw the last crane
fly to the nest that night, its feathers blue from the sun
going. He entered the high barn and knelt
behind bales of hay clean and full of themselves

he took himself in his hands
and watched pale women he could never know; imagined
blond ones in the loft, a choir watching. Not enough,
but something to block for a moment the light;

[Page 67 ]
his hand trembled when he finished. His own smell sharper
than the hay pushed him up the path home
but he turned once and looked at the barn in last light
as if women were there, waiting till he grew
a few more years.

Twenty years is enough
to destroy an abandoned barn. And the death

of a large white bird
in the shaft of sun through the trees makes him lonely.
So does the lock on his daughter's diary
opened with a hair-pin.

Timothy Steele (1948-).
from Sapphics Against Anger and Other Poems (1986).

Although the field lay cut in swaths,
Grass at the edge survived the crop:
Stiff stems, with lateral blades of leaf,
Dense cattail flower-spikes at the top.

If there was breeze and open sky,
We raked each swath into a row;
If not, we took the hay to dry
To the barn’s golden-showering mow.

The hay we forked there from the truck
Was thatched resilience where it fell,
And I took pleasure in the thought
The fresh hay’s name was mine as well.

Work was a soothing, rhythmic ache;
Hay stuck where skin or clothes were damp.
At length, the pickup truck would shake
Its last stack up the barn’s wood ramp.

Pumping a handpump’s iron arm,
I washed myself as best I could,
Then watched the acres of the farm
Draw lengthening shadows from the wood

Across the grass, which seemed a thing
In which the lonely and concealed
Had risen from its sorrowing
And flourished in the open field.

Lee. Illinois. 1947.Paul Muldoon (1951-).
from Hay (1998).

This much I know. Just as I'm about to make that right turn
off Province Line Road
I meet another beat-up Volvo
carrying a load

of hay. (More accurately, a bale of lucerne
on the roof rack,
a bale of lucerne or fescue or alfalfa.)
My hands are raw. I'm itching to cut the twine, to unpack

that hay-accordion, that hay-concertina.
It must be ten o'clock. There's still enough light
(not least from the glow

of the bales themselves) for a body to ascertain
that when one bursts, as now, something takes flight
from those hot and heavy box-pleats. This much, at least, I know.

Paul Muldoon (1951-).
“The Plot”
from Hay (1998).

He said, my pretty fair maid, if it is as you say,
I'll do my best endeavours in cutting of your hay,
For in your lovely countenance I never saw a frown,
So my lovely lass, I'll cut your grass, that's ne'er been trampled down.
Traditional ballad

Muldoon.  The plot on the page.

USDA. Phleum Pratense -- Timothy.Paul Muldoon (1951-).
“Third Epistle to Timothy” [part V]
from Hay (1998).

Building hay even now, even now drawing level with the team's head-brass,
buoyed up by nothing more than the ballast
of hay---meadow cat's-tail, lucerne, the leaf upon trodden leaf
of white clover and red---
drawing level now with the taper-blooms of a horse chestnut.
Already light in the head.
'Though you speak, young Muldoon ...' Cummins calls up from trimming the skirt
of the haycock, 'though you speak with the tongue
of an angel, I see you for what you are ... Malevolent.
Not only a member of the church malignant but a malevolent spirit.'

Medearis. Summer Hay. 1994.John Kinsella (1963-).
“Wrapping the Hay”
from The Hunt & other poems (1998).

The hay has just been stacked
in neat yellow bricks like some complex
puzzle that needs to be solved.

The sheds full, it sits alone out there
in the stark yellow paddock---pathetic edifice
waiting to be torched or blown away.

But it's got Escher written all over it
so there's a sense of the infinite.
Though early summer storms

can be pretty savage around here.
Lightning-struck trees along the roadsides
are testament to this. Dad reckons

we'd better get straight to it. Covering
the stack with blue plastic sheeting
and staking it deep in the ground.

School's just finished and next
year it'll be university in the city.
Art history. None of this landscape

stuff---give me Jeff Koons fucking
Cicciolina, those fleshy cybernauts
without a field or ear of wheat

in sight. So it's hard to get motivated
and Dad tells me I'm not too big
for a clip under the ear. I wonder

if he's joking but get out there
with my brothers and get stuck into it.
I tell them about Far from

the Madding Crowd and work up a sweat
thinking about Cicciolina. And how stylish
it would be to have a film version

[Page 53 ]
with Koons instead of Alan Bates.
But keeping Julie Christie as
Bathsheba Everdene. Gross!

The blue plastic flaps viciously
as the wind lifts. It cracks in our faces.
It catches my youngest brother

and slices his cheek. The blood
spray-paints they hay. He keeps
at it, swearing at the top of his voice.

Lightning highlights the installation
and for a dreadful moment
we seem to be furiously adrift

in the vast ocean of the paddock.
Over the hills where the storm's dark eye
dilates. The rain drives hard

and I forget about everything. Finally
the hay is wrapped. Christo appears
in my head and I keep him there.

Breton. Fire in a haystack. 1856.John Kinsella (1963-).
“The Burning of the Haystacks”
from Antipodes v16 i1 p.45 (June 2002).

Laved in the flame as in a Sacrament ...--Thomas Merton

There was a rash of burnings
that autumn--the arson squad
said circumstances were suspicious,
but there was a lack of evidence
to pursue a prosecution.

Always at evening, in heavy weather,
humidity insisting something happen.
Storms came later, but there was no lightning
to blame. And the pattern pushed
the odds out of orbit: with a bit

of imagination, you could make five
points with the town as the centre.
Pentacle, Pentecost, pent-up energy.
The wick lit, they just erupted,
traces of sap crackling like trees

rundown by bushfire. At a point
above the stacks a blue halo, wavering
circle that lopped down over the last light
of days just not right for seeding.
On the fifth occasion, the owners

of one property called on the Anglican
minister to do a blessing, and then, for good
measure, the Catholic priest. An old Aunt
suggested looking back into the Old
Testament, talking persistently

about Jerusalem belonging to all religions,
of plagues and desert and exile,
her long-dead husband's Jewish roots
lost to the fires, the hidden fuel
that feeds the burning of haystacks.

Fox. Winter Feeding.Cristiane Jacox Kyle.
“Dialog in Jordan, Montana” [II “The Days”]
from Bears Dancing in the Northern Air (1991).

The day we lost six calves, I came
home early, my fingers bitten
with blood, my voice locked up in shame
at the doorway. "Don't let the cold in
John," your eyes bit off my name

before I reached you, your chin
dropped down, your small wrists
arched as you knit, I listened
as the fire trembled and hissed,
the click of the needles chilling

my skin. I looked out the window.
The calves were already hidden
from me and magpies and crows.
I brushed the snow from my mittens,
called the dogs, headed back into the snow.

I count what we have left, how many calves
what cows, which bull has shrunk to half
his weight. I subtract pounds of feed, the last
bales of hay, weigh loss against loss,
calculating between piles of laundry,
your shirts, your thin socks, the sheets
hanging in the stale heat of the fire.

[Page 36 ]
What section are you in now? What fences
now need fixing? I watch your hands
gripping the rusting wire, your shadow
clinging, your eyes marking the last post
before you finish with the first.
You go back out there, quiet like a man.

McLaughlin. Taking down a Haystack. 2000. Robert Kinsley.
"After Scything"
from Field Stones (1997).

In the heat of the day,
farmers and farm hands

Lift fork loads of clover
in rhythm to the sound of bees
that hums in their ears like the future
of the horse drawn wagon whose dust
echoes the coming of machines. Still

in this sumer, 1949, my father is
working the top of the hayrick,
his muscle and bone, sweet as the smell,
strong as the hone of the bee. Caught
in this motion he doesn't feel himself
fall until he sees the ground and the set
aside hay fork sticking out of his thigh.

Then the man, who drives the wagon,
the one who pulls the fork from his leg,
takes his chew of tobacco and slaps it
on the wound, saying this will cure
anything and it does; my father
remembers those days of scything
his youth, like mine, when we were all
certain of cures for everything.

Wyeth. McVey's Barn. 1948.Chip Stringer.
“Where the hay is now comes to me.”
Antaeus #33 (1979), p.134.

Not in the barn, spare sided plank by no plank.
Under the old roof in the rain, barn swallows
make a bird wind in the collar beams.
I think what it would be to live here

And I see the needle of summer
poking its head this way. How the hay shoots
will sprout the earth then, almost anemones,
gold spines arching up, the cloud’s white water
ruffling them.

Through the heaved lungs of May, June, July,
the ridge board bending in my head,
hair winnows, kelp vines in the shallows
breaking surface then sailing landward,

Antennae touch ground and burn, fire
across August nights or, in a slower way: hay
into horse and horse fire, skull flowers
blooming in the loam at the sun drenched brain stem,
the blood there spurling
plum-dark as a mane shedding
a light shower.

Turman. Bales, Cemetery. 2004. Jim Thomas .
“Hay Crop”
English Journal (March 1985 v74), p93.

Just last year, gnarled as a hedge root,
Bill went sun to sun all summer long, worked
three hundred acres and eighty cows.
He and Mary liked lots o things and being
busy; their kids, grown up, were just the same.
Sometimes the old ones talked about cutting
down, taking it easy, but they didn’t.
The sun
That ordinary July day, had crisped the hay
new-mown by ten, to ready by one.
Bill felt the burning metal seat, shifted
his body, and drove out to the baler
waiting in the barn. He hooked it up, dragged
it out to the field, a great saucer spilling
windrows of red clover southwest. On the first round
down in a slough, the baler clogged: Bill stood
straining to clear it when dazzling glory
pinned him on his elbows to the hot steel:
he trembled there in that perfumed oven
until his knees gave way and h dripped flat
to the clipped stems where Mary found him, pulse
draining, struck dumb by the sun, a half hour
He sits under the maples now
and cries, not because he hurts or is mad
but because it ended and didn’t.

Thiebaud. Hay Bales. 1966.
Philip Hodgins.
“Standard Hay Bales”
Prairie Schooner (Summer 1990 v64 n2), p116.

Not the newies with their silly Van Gogh swirls
but the standard block of dessicated perfumes.
A fifty-acre paddock gridlocked with them,
each one as green and slow-bunched as a caterpillar,
the lasered space as chocked as a trail bike’s tread.
Only once there’s one diving on its either end
where the strong-armed baler baled dissent
(a digit raised against the uniformity on show)
while the rest is passive in its even traffic jam
which from above becomes a repetitious Pianola roll
then in 3D is more like mid-lines of tidy droppings.
A lane is kept aside on each mowed stretch
and well before the outside windrows are pressed
the carters start to gather there like formalists.

Monet. Meule, Soleil Couchant. 1891.Tom Hansen.
“Haystack at Sunset near Giverny”
Literary Review (Fall 1993).

An hour ago the slant light at Giverny articulated the stubble of wheat -
each separate stalk robed in an aura that eased it out of the chthonic
dark, into a flood tide of light.

But now (this hour, now) this minute, sunset lingers - then
surrenders ... The dying light: so numinous it blesses what it touches. A
field begins to quiver, then gives over to its other.

A sea of wheat (slow rise, slow tumble) laps the fogbound shore, where
trees and houses melt and run together like wet paint. A shape of hay:
so huge it sinks the shipwrecked sun.

The endless metamorphosis dreams on.

Weston. Barn and Silos, Fort Worth. 1941.Charles Cantrell.
Prairie Schooner (Summer 1997 v71 i2), p108.

You have to roll up the windows.
Silos, resembling bullets, point past a barn’s
red arches. The stench finds all vents.
Your eyes water. Hay, alfalfa, cornstalks…
Fermentation, up and down the silo—drip drip
and black rot, then fodder.

Look at the cows past fences.
Look at the house, lightning rods above the attic’s
blue shutters. Look at the man on a tractor
way off, his green and yellow cap. Green
on his boots, green under his fingernails…
Here come his green kids off the school bus
long after you’ve driven past. A boy
and girl about 12 and 13. Teach showed a film
about sex today—no faces, just body parts.
Someone whispered It’ll make you close your eyes.

The boy must cut firewood and bring in
the cows before he can play baseball.
After the green drips long into fall and winter
when the tractor backs up to the silo,
the stink then socks the lungs, clears his head
as he works a pitchfork, clarifies geometry
and baseball fusing in a dream of a curve
he finally knocks over the charged fence.

Before sleep the girl pictures some actor’s face
and wonders how her body moved.
The words the teacher muttered—vas deferens,
fallopian tubes—hung as heavy on the class
as looks the boys gave the girls.
And if the girl remembers her dreams, sex
may or may not show—one stalk working its way
into another inside the silver tip
under the stars she can see from her window,
and stares at when she hears her mother
cry out through the wall.

Libsohn. Putting Hay up in the Barn. 1945.Dennis O’Driscoll.
Yale Review (October, 1998, v86,n4) p.60.

Riches of hay were hoarded
away in the barn, a cache
stuffed under each mattress.

Withdrawals were made
all winter, forked out
from a frosty cart,

loose clumps poking
from the smoking
mouths of cattle

who itched long
alligator chins
on wattle posts.

Though ransacked,
whittled down,
the hay smelt yet

of dusty summer,
of the beehive domes
swept dreamily home

on a horse-drawn pulley-car,
listing hem brushing
against the uneven field

sides ripping on thorns
losing wisps to
a hedge-congested lane;

then unclasped, uncorseted
from twine bindings,
added to the stockpile

with sweaty, shirtless heaves
of men relieved
to have crammed each cavity

before the rodent-patter
of rain, creating a sanctuary
again, love nest,

escape hatch
for brooding hens
with dung-speckled eggs.

Ruminate on abundance
there some Sunday
after mass,

still in your suit,
rooted with wonder
to the ground.

Garnett. Windrowed Hay. 1975.Edwina Powell.
Southerly (Winter 1999 v59 i2), p57.

In the early morning
I walk through the paddocks of newly cut hay,
lying strand by strand, seed pods just forming,
the white clover starting to yellow,
still tender,
with a sweet and salty smell,
like I imagine your skin to be
after making love.

A moistness underfoot
tells me all this
as I slip a little
on bruised blades
of coxfoot, porto and rye.

In two days it will be turned, folded in
with rakes shuddering through,
and then, by late afternoon
rolled and baled,
with stalks and seed bleaching to white
on the bare ground,

and all through summer
as I walk past the tram,
there will be this pepper and salt smell,
and I will want to lie in the warmth,
my skin pricking
with the thought of you.

Bennett. Windrows, Nebraska.Chris Agee.
“Dark Hay”
The Southern Review (Autumn 2000 v36 i4), p731.

June grasses had burgeoned to monumental hay: slabs and beds
Printed in eights by the baler's sledge following its green coil
Of concentric windrows like stone spirals at New Grange or Radmilja

To a last comma near the midpoint of the O
Where those eight dolmens stand at Giant's Ring. Then stacked
Into stooks "like lambdas," they darkened

To outlines of Mayan temples gathering shadow
In the late light breaking
Low from floes and plateaux, dark quadrilaterals

On the lit immaculate nap of shaven stubble
That reminded me that art is dark
For all its shining genesis. Seeing in stone

The image of hay, I saw too the vision polarized to God's glyph
Vanishing midpoint into nothing
(Swan-necked, double-helix, bull's-eyes) on stelae swimming

In grass at the limestone necropolis on the road to Stolac
That passes the dumps of its razed mosques. Then, pausing to smoke,
Two men stood waiting to upend the last bales of an evening's work.

Tansini. Roll in the hay. 2002.
Maureen Choi.
Red Wheelbarrow(1998), p68.

ash only of form of existence
a whisper coaxes me to fade
into a color of bone a color of cotton
shall fade away
a lit cigarette
ashing into a crumble until the face
all the way up begins to form
back into existence

a me soulful without recognition
begins to exist in ashes of a past
past of lighting a cigarette
inhale smoke gives breath
breath gives life to me of bone
of cotton a self strutting
carrying myself torn into yourself
no longer nevermore

you strut by a bird
comes by hay

to the knees i feel the haystack rise
color of bone color of cotton
i begin existence inhaling
inhaling from the hips to waist
breasts the neck all the way
up comes out a whisper
song of straw silently strutting
by a haystack

with that whisper
the body begins to ash like a cigarette
beginning from feet
to knees then from
hips to waist
breasts neck all the way up
until a face crumbles
into a new complexion of ash

Unne. Inside an old barn.
Amber West.
“The Hay Barn”

Watch your step
in the barn’s attic.
Words are grails of memory.
Hay is not sturdy.

In the barn’s attic
atop bale pyramid
hay is not sturdy;
it cradles each leap or slip

from atop bale pyramid.
A feather hovers in the sleeper’s breath.
It cradles each leap or slip
appearing in its path.

A feather hovers in the sleeper’s breath
until cadence is broken by a gasp
appearing in its path,
itches scratched away.

Until cadence is broken by a gasp
words are grails of memory,
itches scratched away.
Watch your step.

Antoine. Situation in Kosovo. 1999.Michael Wolfe.
“Morning in Mostar: 1997 ”

For Erna Susic

In a pasture of trampled summer grass,
Near a barn used for hiding weapons in the old days,
Two young calves rear back in the moonlight.
Although they have no horns yet, the clash
Shakes stars
in a watering trough
Like heavy aircraft passing. Then for practice,
A hawk soars from a stag pine crown and circles.

The young calves turn and drink as the bird
Fades. So early, the sky’s first scrim of light
Seems to be rising on a dress rehearsal:
For the day to come, for the lead that will flow
Across a twice
demolished bridge,
While fire flings itself aloft
And tiny coffins hide behind the hayricks.

For make no mistake, this Balkan sun
Is everybody’s ally. Too faint at first
To take up sides in a dark valley, it will show
Its real colors later, proving
An equal friend
perhaps before breakfast
To the hand on the hilt and the eye in the crosshairs
Of every knife and rifle in the country.

Pack.  Rounding It Out. 1999.
Robert Pack.
“Baled Hay”
from Rounding it Out: A Cycle of Sonnetelles (1999).

Wheels of baled hay bask in October sun:
Gold circles strewn across a sloping field,
They seem arranged as if each one
Has found its place; together they appeal
To some glimpsed order in my mind
Preceding my chance pausing here--
A randomness that also seems designed.
Gold circles strewn across the sloping field
Evoke a silence deep as my deep fear
Of emptiness; I feel the scene requires
A listener who can respond with words, yet who
Prolongs the silence that I still desire,
Relieved as clacking crows come flashing through,
Whose blackness shows chance radiance of fire.
Yet stillness in the field remains for everyone:
Wheels of baled hay bask in the October sun.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:43 PM

Twentieth century hay poets born before 1940.

Patrick Kavanagh.Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967).

Kenneth Rexroth.Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Sottoportico San Zaccaria”

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Rogation Days”

Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).

William Stafford.Edith Joy Scovell (1907-1999).
“The Half-Mown Meadow”

William Stafford (1914-1937).

William Stafford (1914-1937).
“American Gothic”

William Stafford (1914-1937).
“An Argument Against The Empirical Method”

Louis MacNeice.Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).
"Eclogue by a Five-barred Gate"

Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).
William Everson."Last before America"

William Everson (1912-1994).
"And Do the Indulgent Lovers"

Jean Garrigue.Jean Garrigue (1912-1972).
"This Swallow's Empire"

Jean Garrigue (1912-1972).
“Invitation to a Hay”

Muriel Rukeyser (1913-).
Muriel Rukeyser.“Haying Before Storm”

Maxine Kumin.Maxine Kumin (1925-).
Hayden Carruth.“Hay”

Hayden Carruth (1926-).
“The Baler”

Hayden Carruth (1926-).
“Emergency Haying”

James A Wright.James Arlington Wright (1927-1980).
“Lament for my Brother on a Hayrake”

Galway Kinnell.<Galway Kinnell (1927-).
“Farm Picture”

Thom Gunn.Thom Gunn (1929-2004).
“At the Back of the North Wind”

Gary Snyder.Gary Snyder (1930-).
“Hay for the Horses”

Nash. Equivalents for the megaliths. 1934.This motley crew of twentieth century poets begins with Patrick Kavanagh whose “Shancoduff,” freshly observed but wintry in its mood, treats hay in passing, a relief package for cold calves. Like his countryman, Seamus Heaney, who, with Ted Hughes, deserves their own separate section, Kavanagh records moments of transient hope in an impoverished landscape. Elsewhere, in “The Great Hunger,” he wrote of “time stretched for the mowing of the hay”(Complete Poems, (1987), p. 87), and other “hay that had wings-/ the February fodder that hung itself on the black branches/ of the hill-top hedge.” (p. 98). In the heat of Rexroth’s Veneto, hay has the smell of sensuality, but the third of his poems here is austere and damp enough to merit a Connemaran illustration. Scovell’s half-cut meadow is made vivid by an extended marine metaphor, windrows seen as waves. Next to it, I put a nineteenth century William Turner watercolor, for its sea-like horizontality, but, for more dynamic hay-as-curling-surf, I also recommend Benton’s Wyoming Hay or Hind’s Harvesting Hay , used to illustrate a Robert Francis poem in another section. Since William Stafford’s second poem explicitly points to Grant Wood’s American Gothic couple, I used another Wood painting to accompany his “Hay-Cutters,” justified by the line “leaving the land its long windrows.” The two MacNeice selections have little in common but their hay references. The first, describing a dream similar to Graves’ in an earlier war, is both surreal and sensual; the Terzic painting echoes the former quality more than the latter. The second is the first verse of a longer poem, lyrically describing a traditional haymaking scene; for its companion I selected a photograph of hay-field, densely populated by men and women and children, from the year before MacNeice’s birth. Everson’s timeless “indulgent lovers” are set next to Altdorfer’s equally indulgent couple from four-and-a-half centuries earlier. The first of two poems by Jean Garrigue evoking an old barn and the hay that fills it has as its partner a classically austere photograph by Charles Sheeler, the “barn’s boards” rhythms echoing the meter of the verse and the “striped rows” of the source hayfield. The other Garrigue work is an urgent lyric, inviting a lover, not to work in the hay, but to share a “shaggy house” with “butter-yellow walls.” If the quiet courtship depicted in the recent painting by the Russian artist Svechnikov lacks Garrigue’s urgency, its central golden stack, directly behind the lovers, is equally romantic in the evening light. Muriel Rukeyser’s painterly “Haying Before Storm” is well illustrated by Kathleen McLaughlin’s magnificent photograph of a Romanian youth, heroically forking hay from cock to wagon, against a sky that feels “bruise-color” even in black and white. The air-born hay’s a blur, bridging the texture of the still rick and the stormy sky. Maxine Kumin has a pair of poems, one a long descriptive reminiscence, the other sharply elegiac. The precise observation of the first is as tough as the life it captures, notably in the Day three consonant-spitting description of the “old baler old baler cobbled from/ other parts, repaired last winter,/ cussed at in the shed in finger-/ splitting cold when rusted bolts/ resisted naval jelly, Coca-Cola, and/ had to be drilled out in gritty bits…” But the image I put to it pairs with the gentle interlude that follows, a memory of companionable cows and dogs, that mitigate the hardships of the Vermont dairy farm. “February is an elegy to the poet’s mother, solemn lines paired with the bale monument constructed in an Oakland gallery to commemorate those who died before their time. Hayden Carruth’s two hay poems mirror but reverse the shape of Kumin’s. The first is a short sneer at tourists like me who look over the fence at hayfields. So next to it is one of my shadowy self-portraits outlined next to a fine fresh bale. The other longer piece, contrasting the satisfying struggle of the “desk-worker” loading bales with the brutal sacrifice of harvesters in other cultures, is illustrated by a group of heroic Hutterites by Laura Wilson. The melancholy “Lament” by James Arlington Wright seems at first read to record a literal death. Repeated readings confirm the ancient equivalence of hay and death, but suggest that the lost brother may simply be a man “broken” by the hard labor of the farm. Kinnell’s “Farm Picture” is an equally bleak vignette, hay and farmer spoiled by the rigors of time. Menihan’s depression era painting “Barns” is equally unsentimental in its decay. The last two poems in this section by Gunn and Snyder juxtapose the dank bitterness of an English winter with the dusty heat of a California ranch. The contrast in climates is reflected in the Thomas photograph of the old barn in the rain and the bright Phil Paradise painting of a San Luis Obispo haying scene, but both poems are as pessimistic in mood as most the works that precede them in this section.

Ritch. Haystacks and Croft, County Galway. 1987.Patrick Kavanagh (1904-1967).

My black hills have never seen the sun rising,
Eternally they look north towards Armagh.
Lot's wife would not be salt if she had been
Incurious as my black hills that are happy
When dawn whitens Glassdrummond chapel.

My hills hoard the bright shillings of March
While the sun searches in every pocket.
They are my Alps and I have climbed the Matterhorn
With a sheaf of hay for three perishing calves
In the field under the Big Forth of Rocksavage.

The sleety winds fondle the rushy beards of Shancoduff
While the cattle-drovers sheltering in the Featherna Bush
Look up and say: ‘Who owns them hungry hills
That the water-hen and snipe must have forsaken?
A poet? Then by heavens he must be poor.'
I hear and is my heart not badly shaken?

Dawson. Venetian Hay Boat. 1914.Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Sottoportico San Zaccaria”
from The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (1966).

It rains on the roofs
As it rains in my poems
Under the thunder
We fit together like parts
Of a magic puzzle
Twelve winds beat the gulls from the sky
And tear the curtains
And lightning glisters
On your sweating breasts
Your face topples into dark
And the wind sounds like an army
Breaking through dry reeds
We spread our aching bodies in the window
And I can smell the odor of hay
In the female smell of Venice

Spiegel. Harvesters Cutting Hay, Dolomites. 1969.Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Rogation Days”
from The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (1966).

Under the orchards, under
The tree strung vines, little blue
Figures are making hay, high
On the steep hillsides above
Palladio's drowsy villas
And Tiepolo's swirling walls.
On the highest field they are
Still cutting with swinging scythes;
Down below they are tossing
The long swathes of hay to cure
In the sun; further down they
Are cocking it, or carrying
[Page 329 ]
It off in two-wheeled donkey carts.
The Venetian plain vanishes
In haze. The nearby Alps are
Indefinite blue smudges,
Capped with faint streaks of orange
Snow. Clouds of perfume roll up
The hillside in waves. All the birds
Sing. All the flowers bloom. Here
At a stone table like this,
On a little hill like this,
In a circle of cypress
And olive like this, the infinite
Visited Leopardi,
And ravished him and carried
Him off in the deep summer.
It would carry me off, too,
If I knew where I wanted
To go, or if I just wanted
To go nowhere at all.

Alexander. Sunset Sky, Bogland, Connemara.Kenneth Rexroth (1905-1982).
“Hojoki” [lines 42-53: “Summer”]
from The Collected Shorter Poems of Kenneth Rexroth (1966).

A thing unknown for years,
Rain falls heavily in June,
On the ripe cherries, and on
The half cut hay.
Above the glittering
Grey water of the inlet,
In the driving, light filled mist,
A blue heron
Catches mice in the green
And copper and citron swathes.
I walk on the rainy hills.
It is enough.

William Turner. Haymaking, near Oxford. c 1853.Edith Joy Scovell (1907-1999).
“The Half-Mown Meadow”
from Collected Poems (1988).

I walked in a half-mown flowering meadow by the sea's-
Edge of the grass, where yesterday the mower went.
Bloomy and purple as clover were the fog-grass and bent;
The field so wide, it broke on misty boundaries.

The stubble and mown hay were fresh like tidal sand
When at low tide I walked by that standing lake-waved sea;
The surface of the grass wore such fluidity,
Melting of plane in plane, as seemed unknown on land.

Our eyes rest on the sea like gulls and find a home
In that infinity. My eyes would not be called
By the small flags of ash-trees in the hedge, or belled
Flocking of children, from the sea where they had come,

Whose sky-reflecting waves, mantled with darkness under,
In waves' compulsive ways bred form on form of light;
Whose currents far from land carried fordone my sight;
All colour at the full as in a time of thunder.

Wood. Haying. 1939.William Stafford (1914-1937).
from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (1998).

Time tells them. They go along touching
the grass, the feathery ends. When it feels
just so, they start the mowing machine,
leaving the land its long windrows,
and air strokes the leaves dry.

Sometimes you begin to push; you want to
hurry the sun, have the hours expand, because
clouds come. Lightning looks out from their hearts.
You try to hope the clouds away.
"Some year we'll have perfect hay."

Wood. American Gothic. 1930.William Stafford (1914-1937).
“American Gothic”
from The Way It Is: New & Selected Poems (1998).

If we see better through tiny,
grim glasses, we like to wear
tiny, grim glasses.
Our parents willed us this
view. It's tundra? We love it.

We travel our kind of
Renaissance: barnfuls of hay,
whole voyages of corn, and
a book that flickers its
halo in the parlor.

Poverty plus confidence equals
pioneers. We never doubted.

Levinson. Needle in a haystack.William Stafford (1914-1937).
“An Argument Against The Empirical Method”
from Some haystacks don't even have any needle and other complete modern poems. New York: Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Co., 1969.

Some haystacks don't even have any needle.

Terzic. Villa Arkadien. 1980.Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).
"Eclogue by a Five-barred Gate" [lines 114-126]
from Collected Poems (1979).

Well, I dreamt it was a hot day, the territorials
Were out on melting asphalt under the howitzers,
The brass music bounced on the houses. Come
I heard cry as it were a water-nymph, come and fulfil me
And I sped floating, my feet plashing in the tops of the wheat
But my eyes were blind,
I found her with my hands lying on the drying hay,
Wet heat in the deeps of the hay, as my hand delved,
And I possessed her, gross and good like the hay,
And she went and my eyes regained sight and the sky was full of ladders
Angels ascending and descending with a shine like mackerel---
Now I come to tell it it sounds nonsense.

Haymaking, Wantage. 1906.Louis MacNeice (1907-1963).
"Last before America" [lines 1-5]
from Collected Poems (1979).

A spiral of green hay on the end of a rake:
The moment is sweat and sun-prick---children and old women
Big in a tiny field, midgets against the mountain,
So toy-like yet so purposed you could take
This for the Middle Ages.

Altdorfer. Lovers in a Hayfield. 1508.William Everson (1912-1994).
"And Do the Indulgent Lovers"
from The Residual Years: Poems 1934-1948: Volume I Of The Collected Poems(1997).

And do the indulgent lovers
Weave their arms in the April twilights,
Home from the river-runs,
From the straw beds in the hay heaps,
Broken of grass,
And marked maybe with the small sign
A woman leaves when her drouth has been broken?

Ask no man here.
The country girls may laugh in the leaves,
On the straw beds,
In the hay heaps,
But none here know it.

Ask no man here,
For he cannot tell,
But will speak instead of a dream,
Some snatch of his thoughts,
Sharpened to shape in his sleeping sight
And not anything more,
Being beyond that time,
And quite unable to say.
[August 15, 1943]

Sheeler. Side of a White Barn. 1917.Jean Garrigue (1912-1972).
"This Swallow's Empire"
from Selected Poems (1992).

Wrought by the odd desire for permanence
I'd hammer down that barn's boards one by one
The ivy's nudged apart and winds have sprung
And icy blows and summer's pounding suns.
Those gaping windows, too, and half-cracked panes,
The door that broke from its hinges leans against
The blackened exit mouth, and all such things
As let the rude rot in and thieving rain
I'd be so prompt to take defense against
And fortify and make so sound
You'd think it'd haunt me on some howling night
When all seems waste unless I could
To all that trouble say: this much will stand,
This swallows' empire for a little while
And bolts of hay in their warm cave
And drifts of straw upon the broad-beamed floor.
Though time must turn all waters for its mill
And nothing is but grist as we well know
What has withstood two hundred years
That rich resistance will do so
If obdurate work allows, for fifty more
For fifty more to house the hay
They cut and piled in stripèd rows
And will carry in before the sun's flower goes.

As if within this shelter here
For what the toppling wagons bring
From ricks in fields to fill the loft
With rustling fragrance and with warmth
There might be some more delicate thing
Dozing as in some attic in some spring
That shafts in through the windows in a dream
Of meadows in their prime unreaped, uncut,
Unreaped, uncut, and running with the wind---
The golden burn, the darksome gold or green.
[Page 63 ]
Pressed to the rafters all that airy weight
And caught within, now looking out,
Past time's compulsions in the massy dark,
Their golden heads and stalks of light.
I mean those summers of the foursquare fields
That memory by its strange persuasion yields,
And blazoning, from dim abandonment.

Svechnikov.  In the Neighborhood. 2003.Jean Garrigue (1912-1972).
“Invitation to a Hay”
from Selected Poems (1992).

A settlement of love
Is what I'd risk if you would.
A central fountain and a horse,
A little native elegance,
Some green-shuttered saffron buildings
And avenues of leaning trees
And an orchard close by
Divided from a field of hay
By a mouldering old wall
Snaking up a hill.
I'd have a garden primed
With beanflowers and chick peas
And in tubs lemon trees
Not to forget the marveled orange---
Where is a fruit so bright
And a stem so delicate?---
And days of blue air
That crowd the dark boughs of a grove
And other days as pale
As light in a birch grove---
Oh birch my very white
And original delight!
And back of us and all around
For the castle-haunting rooks
To fly to and fro from
The many-sided, dark-blue faced
Mountains, wrinkled, ravined, cleft
When they are not cast upon
By those pallors that beyond
Tell of a snowlight's origin.
And in this civil order
Ringed round by a wilderness
I'd have some very conical
And shaggy house of hay
To invite you in to stay
[Page 81 ]
As long as butter-yellow walls pleased you
And there you'd be with me
We'd live in a monument of hay
Mad as those who know
In love is all fantasy.
Your breast would be of burning gold
And its delicious heat
Would warm me day and night
While creatures of the wood
Might envy, if they could,
Our joy just as fine
As the improvising clouds
That as you look at them are gone
Or volatile as leaves in wind.
We'd go bird-nesting in clouds
And hunting down the meadow grass
For flowers or the smallest haunts
Of the young field mice.
And in this ancient landscape
Preponderant with moss,
Rambling walls and pinewoods
Of narrow alleys at the end of which
Daylight stares starkly through,
Our love alone would be new
Despite its ancient properties.
Aërial would we be
With love's finest courtesies,
By all that shapes of earth and air
Can subtilize the senses with
Until they have grown rapt
On emanations of a light
When fold on fold goes into
Five fathoms of a blue.
Our love would be endowed
By mountain and by cloud
[Page 82 ]
So long as we would stay
Alongside such ravines
And such slopes of terraced vines
Broken towers and bells
In a shaggy house of hay.
My dear, and will you be
Content to dwell with me
Eating of illusion
Daily and nightly?

McLaughlin. Petru and the Claie. 2000.Muriel Rukeyser (1913-).
“Haying Before Storm”
from The Collected Poems (1978).

This sky is unmistakable. Not lurid, not low, not black.
Illuminated and bruise-color, limitless, to the noon
Full of its floods to come. Under it, field, wheels, and mountain,
The valley scattered with friends, gathering in
Live-colored harvest, filling their arms; not seeming to hope
Not seeming to dread, doing.
I stand where I can see
Holding a small pitcher, coming in toward
The doers and the day.
These images are all
Themselves emerging : they face their moment, love or go down,
A blade of the strong hay stands like light before me.
The sky is a torment on our eyes, the sky
Will not wait for this golden, it will not wait for form.
There is hardly a moment to stand before the storm.
There is hardly time to lay hand to the great earth.
Or time to tell again what power shines past storm.

Streshinsky. Woman Sleeping in Hay near Cows. 1958.Maxine Kumin (1925-).
from Looking For Luck: Poems (1992).

Day One: Above the river I hear
the loud fields giving up their gold,
the giant scissors-clack of Ruddy and Ned's
antique machine laying the timothy
and brome in windrows to be tedded,
this fierce anthood that persists
in taking from and giving back to the land,
defying the chrome millennium
that has contempt for smallscale backbreak.

Three emeralds, these interlocked three fields
free-leased for the tending and brushing out,
tidied up every fall like a well-swept
thrifty kitchen, blackberry and sumac
held at bay, gray birch and popple
brought down, the wild cherry lopped,
and gloriously every March
the wide white satin stretch besmirched
with dripping cartloads of manure.

Day Two: Sun bakes the long lines dry.
Late afternoon clouds pile up to stir
the teased-up mass with a southerly breeze
and since the forecast's fair, Ruddy and Ned
relax, play-punch, kidding each other,
calling each other Shirley, a name neither
owns up to, although once Scots-common
[Page 26 ]
enough in New England back when
their patched rig was a modern invention.

Their dogs, four littermates,
Nutmeg, Cinnamon, Allspice and Mace,
Chessies with gums as pink as rubber
erasers and pink-rimmed eyes,
flat irises you can't look into,
their dogs, companionable roughnecks
always riding in the backs of their pickups
or panting, lying under them for shade,
look benignly on their sweating labors.

Day Three: The old baler cobbled from
other parts, repaired last winter,
cussed at in the shed in finger-
splitting cold when rusted bolts
resisted naval jelly, Coca-Cola, and
had to be drilled out in gritty bits,
now thunking like a good eggbeater
kicks the four-foot cubes off
onto the stubble for the pickups

and aggie trucks---that's our three-quarter ton
Dodge '67, slant-six engine
on its third clutch, with a new tie rod,
absent one door handle and an
intermittent taillight---
we'll carry fifty-two bales at a time
if they're pitched up and set on right.
[Page 27 ]
Grunters and haulers, all of us
in these late-August heroics.

Interlude: The summer I was eleven
I boarded on a dairy farm in Pennsylvania.
Mornings we rode the ponies bareback
up through eiderdowns of ground fog,
up through the strong-armed apple orchard
that snatched at us no matter how we ducked,
up to the cows' vasty pasture, hooting and calling
until they assembled in their secret order
and we escorted them down to the milking barn
where each one gravely entered her stanchion.
There was no pushing or shoving.
All was as solemn as Quaker Meeting.

My four were: Lily, Martha, Grace and May.
May had only three tits. I learned to say tit
as it is written here. I learned to spend
twenty minutes per cow and five more stripping,
which you do by dipping your fingers in milk
and then flattening the aforementioned tit
again and again between forefinger and thumb
as you slide down it in a firm and soothing motion.
If they don't trust you they won't let down.
They'll get mastitis and their agony will be
forever on your conscience. To this day
I could close my eyes and strip a cow correctly.

I came to love my black and white ladies.
I loved pressing my cheek against each flank
[Page 28 ]
as I milked. I almost came to love cowflops,
crisp at the edges, smelly pancakes.
I got pinkeye that summer, they say
I caught it from the cows, I almost lost the eye.
Meanwhile, we had squirt fights, cow to cow.
We squirted the waiting kittens full.
We drank milk warm from the pail,
thirsty and thoughtless of the mystery
we drank from the cow's dark body,
then filed in for breakfast.

They put up hay loose there, the old way,
forking it into the loft from the wagon rack
while the sweaty horses snorted and switched off flies
and the littlest kids were commanded to trample it flat
in between loads until the entire bay
was alight with its radiant sun-dried manna....
It was paradise up there with dusty sun motes
you could write your name in as they skirled and drifted down.
There were ropes we swung on and dropped from and shinnied up
and the smell of the place was heaven, hurling me back
to some unknown plateau, tears standing up in my eyes
and an ancient hunger in my throat, a hunger....

Perhaps in the last great turn of the wheel
I was some sort of grazing animal.
Perhaps---trundling hay in my own barn
tonight and salivating from the sweetness---
I will be again.... When I read Neruda's
we are approaching a great and common tenderness
my mind startles and connects to this
[Page 29 ]
all but obsolete small scene above the river
where unspectacular people secure
their bulky loads and drive away at dusk.

Allegiance to the land is tenderness.
The luck of two good cuttings in this climate.
Now clean down to the alders in the swale,
the fields begin an autumn flush of growth,
the steady work of setting roots, and then
as in a long exhale, go dormant.

Coppola et al. Circle of Memory. 2003.Maxine Kumin (1925-).
from Selected Poems (1997).

First waking to the gray
of linsey-woolsey cloth
the vivid spotted dogs
the red-fox cattle and
the meeker-colored horses
flattened in snow fog

first waking into gray
flecked with common cock-
crow unfolding the same
chilblain-bruised feet
the old shoulder ache
Mama every day

remembering how you won
the death you wished for
the death you sidled up to
remembering how

like a child in late afternoon
drained from the jubilant sledding
you were content to coast
the run-out to a stop

booted and capped in the barn
joy enters where I haul
a hay bale by its binding string
and with my free hand pull
your easy death along.

Ritch. Bale. Photographer's Shadow, Montana. 2004.Hayden Carruth (1926-).
“The Baler”
from Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (1992).

You tourist composed upon that fence
to watch the quaint farmer at his quaint task
come closer, bring your camera here
or fasten your telescopic lens
if you're too indolent; all I ask
is that when you go home you take
a close-up among your color slides
of vacationland, to show we pay the price
for hay, this actual panic: no politic fear
but tumbling wild waves down the windrows, tides
of crickets, grasshoppers, meadow mice,
and half-feathered sparrows, whipped by a bleeding snake.

Wilson. Stacking Bales of Hay. 1991.Hayden Carruth (1926-).
“Emergency Haying”
from From Snow and Rock, from Chaos (1973).

Coming home with the last load I ride standing
on the wagon tongue, behind the tractor
in hot exhaust, lank with sweat,

my arms strung
awkwardly along the hayrack, cruciform.
Almost 500 bales we've put up

this afternoon, Marshall and I.
And of course I think of another who hung
like this on another cross. My hands are torn

by baling twine, not nails, and my side is pierced
by my ulcer, not a lance. The acid in my throat
is only hayseed. Yet exhaustion and the way

my body hangs from twisted shoulders, suspended
on two points of pain in the rising
monoxide, recall that greater suffering.

Well, I change grip and the image
fades. It's been an unlucky summer. Heavy rains
brought on the grass tremendously, a monster crop,

but wet, always wet. Haying was long delayed.
Now is our last chance to bring in
the winter's feed, and Marshall needs help.

[Page 33 ]
We mow, rake, bale, and draw the bales
to the barn, these late, half-green,
improperly cured bales; some weigh 100 pounds

or more, yet must be lugged by the twine
across the field, tossed on the load, and then
at the barn unloaded on the conveyor

and distributed in the loft. I help---
I, the desk-servant, word-worker---
and hold up my end pretty well too; but God,

the close of day, how I fall down then. My hands
are sore, they flinch when I light my pipe.
I think of those who have done slave labor,

less able and less well prepared than I.
Rose Marie in the rye fields of Saxony,
her father in the camps of Moldavia

and the Crimea, all clerks and housekeepers
herded to the gaunt fields of torture. Hands
too bloodied cannot bear

even the touch of air, even
the touch of love. I have a friend
whose grandmother cut cane with a machete

[Page 34 ]
and cut and cut, until one day
she snicked her hand off and took it
and threw it grandly at the sky. Now

in September our New England mountains
under a clear sky for which we're thankful at last
begin to glow, maples, beeches, birches

in their first color. I look
beyond our famous hayfields to our famous hills,
to the notch where the sunset is beginning,

then in the other direction, eastward,
where a full new-risen moon like a pale
medallion hangs in a lavender cloud

beyond the barn. My eyes
sting with sweat and loveliness. And who
is the Christ now, who

if not I? It must be so. My strength
is legion. And I stand up high
on the wagon tongue in my whole bones to say

woe to you, watch out
you sons of bitches who would drive men and women
to the fields where they can only die.

Hay raking. 1910.James Arlington Wright (1927-1980).
“Lament for my Brother on a Hayrake”
from Collected Poems (1971).

Cool with the touch of autumn, waters break
Out of the pump at dawn to clear my eyes;
I leave the house, to face the sacrifice
Of hay, the drag and death. By day, by moon,
I have seen my younger brother wipe his face
And heave his arm on steel. He need not pass
Under the blade to waste his life and break;

The hunching of the body is enough
To violate his bones. That bright machine
Strips the revolving earth of more than grass;
Powered by the fire of summer, bundles fall
Folded to die beside a burlap shroud;
And so my broken brother may lie mown
Out of the wasted fallows, winds return,
Corn-yellow tassels of his hair blow down,
The summer bear him sideways in a bale
Of darkness to October's mow of cloud.

Menihan. Barns. 1937.Galway Kinnell (1927-).
“Farm Picture”
Three Books: Body Rags; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words; The Past (1993).

Black earth
turned up, clods
shining on their
western sides, hay
sprouting on top
of bales of spoiled
hay, an old
farmer bent far
over like Australopithecus
robustus, carrying two dented
pails of water out
to the hen yard.

Thomas. Barn, Cumbria. 1994.Thom Gunn (1929-2004).
“At the Back of the North Wind”
from The Sense of Movement (1957).

All summer's warmth was stored there in the hay;
Below, the troughs of water froze: the boy
Climbed nightly up the rungs behind the stalls
And planted deep between the clothes he heard
The kind wind bluster, but the last he knew
Was sharp and filled his head, the smell of hay.

Here wrapped within the cobbled mews he woke.
Passing from summer, climbing down through winter
He broke into an air that kept no season:
Denying change, for it was always there.
It nipped the memory numb, scalding away
The castle of winter and the smell of hay.

The ostlers knew, but did not tell him more
Than hay is what we turn to. Other smells,
Horses, leather, manure, fresh sweat, and sweet
Mortality, he found them on the North.
That was her sister, East, that shrilled all day
And swept the mews dead clean from wisps of hay.

Paradise. Ranch Near San Luis Obispo. c1935.Gary Snyder (1930-).
“Hay for the Horses”
From Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems (1958).

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
---The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds---
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:38 PM

Hay poems by Hughes and Heaney.

Ted Hughes.Ted Hughes (1930-1998).

Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
“Feeding Out – Wintering Cattle at Twilight”

Ted Hughes (1930-1998).

Seamus Heaney.Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
“Last Load”

Seamus Heaney (1939-).
“Storm on the Island”

Seamus Heaney (1939-).

Seamus Heaney (1939-).
Last lines of “The Loose Box”

Pendleton. Winter feed. 21st cent.Two modern poets, close friends rooted in the tough western margins of the British Isles, are represented here by six poems. Only two, Hughes’ "Hay" and “Last Load,” have haymaking at their cores, and another, Heaney’s “Storm on the Island” mentions hay only as something with which the “wizened earth has never troubled us.” The sequence derives its unity from the sense of elemental struggle, in which hay is the hard-won prize, that keeps the winter animals, including humans, alive and comforted. The poems are particularly rewarding to those of us who have shared similar experiences, so vivid is the personal evocation of the sounds and smells and shapes and textures of traditional rural life, recalled from Hughes’ Devonshire moorland and Heaney’s Mossbawn childhood. The brilliant photograph that stands by Hughes “Feeding Out” is, geographically, a perfect companion, since Eric Ravilious worked in the same county in the same bleak season. What makes Heaney a great poet is the fresh lyricism of language and the multiplicity of meaning. A spade is not just a spade, peat is not just peat, and hay is not just fodder for animal nutrition but fodder for deep thought. “Fodder,” like all good hay poems, can be read repeatedly. It helps to have pulled loose hay from the “tight vise” of a packed stack, or to recognize the rick’s domestic architecture and “weathered eaves” or to connect winter hay with the sweetness of summer swathes. The “loaves and fishes” reference sanctifies the life-giving fother as miraculous or even sacramental. It jars a bit to read of hay being wastefully used to “bed the stall” (but straw may have been less available when and where Seamus was a lad). Then the word “bed” prompts us to re-read the whole piece as sexual trope, or as yearning loneliness. None of the other images in my collection expressed the latter mood as well as the Umbrian peasant scratching hay from the base of a carved rick.

MacWeeney. Scything, Aran. 1993.Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
from Collected Poems (2003), p. 317-318.

The grass is happy
To run like the sea, to be glossed like a mink’s fur
By polishing wind.
Her heart is the weather.
She loves nobody
Least of all the farmer who leans on the gate.

The grass is happy
When the June sun roasts the foxgloves in the hedges.
She comes into her flower.
She lifts her skirts.
It does not concern her
The pondering farmer has begun to hope.

The grass is happy to open her scents, like a dress, through the county,
Drugging light hearts
To heavy betrothals
And next April’s fools,
While pensioners puzzle where life went so airily.

The grass is happy
When the spinner tumbles her, she silvers and she sweetens
Plain as a castle.
The hare looks for home
And the dusty farmer
For a hand-shaped cloud and a yellow evening.

Happy the grass
To be wooed by the farmer, who wins her and brings her to church in her beauty,
Bride of the Island.
Luckless the long-drawn
Aeons of Eden
Before he came to mow.

Ravilious. Farmer Carrying Hay down Road. 1978.Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
“Feeding Out – Wintering Cattle at Twilight”
from Collected Animal Poems (1995).

The wind is inside the hill.
The wood is a struggle---like a wood
Struggling through a wood. A panic
Only just holds off---every gust
Breaches the sky-walls and it seems, this time,
The whole sea of air will pour through,
The thunder will take deep hold, roots
Will have to come out, every loose thing
Will have to lift and go. And the cows, dark lumps of dusk
Stand waiting, like nails in a tin roof.
For the crucial moment, taking the strain
In their stirring stillness. As if their hooves
Held their field in place, held the hill
To its trembling shape. Night-thickness
Purples in the turmoil, making
Everything more alarming. Unidentifiable, tiny
Birds go past like elf-bolts.
Battling the hay-bales from me, the cows
Jostle and crush, like hulls blown from their moorings
And piling at the jetty. The wind
Has got inside their wintry buffalo skins,
Their wild woolly bulk-heads, their fierce, joyful breathings
And the reckless strength of their necks.
What do they care, their hooves
Are knee-deep in porage of earth---
The hay blows luminous tatters from their chewings,
A fiery loss, frittering downwind,
Snatched away over the near edge
Where the world becomes water
[Page 37 ]
Thundering like a flood-river at night.
They grunt happily, half-dissolved
On their steep, hurtling brink, as I flounder back
Towards headlights.

Poortsvliet. Cow about to calve. 1975.Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
from Moortown Diary (1989).

Looking at cows in their high-roofy roomy
Windy home, mid-afternoon idling,
Late winter, near spring, the fields not greening,
The wind North-East and sickening, the hay
Shrinking, the year growing. The parapets
Of toppled hay, the broken walls of hay,
The debris of hay. The peace of cattle
Mid-afternoon, cud-munching, eyelids lowered.
The deep platform of dung. Looking at cows
Sharing their trance, it was an anomalous
Blue plastic apron I noticed
Hitched under the tail of one cow
That went on munching, with angling ears. A glistening
Hanging sheet of blue-black. I thought
Of aprons over ewes' back-ends
To keep the ram out till it's timely. I thought
Of surgical aprons to keep cleanliness
Under the shit-fall. Crazily far thoughts
Proposed themselves as natural, and I almost
Looked away. Suddenly
The apron slithered, and a whole calf's
Buttocks and hind-legs---whose head and forefeet
Had been hidden from me by another cow---
Toppled out of its mother, and collapsed on the ground.
Leisurely, as she might be leisurely curious,
She turned, pulling her streamers of blood-tissue
Away from this lumpish jetsam. She nosed it
Where it lay like a still-birth in its tissues.
She began to nibble and lick. The jelly
[Page 24 ]
Shook its head and nosed the air. She gave it
The short small swallowed moo-grunts hungry cows
Give when they stand suddenly among plenty.
21 March 1975

Scaylea. Haying on the PIckering Farm. 1956.Ted Hughes (1930-1998).
“Last Load”
from Moortown Diary (1989).

Baled hay out in a field
Five miles from home. Barometer falling.
A muffler of still cloud padding the stillness.
The day after day of blue scorch up to yesterday,
The heavens of dazzling iron, that seemed unalterable,
Hard now to remember.

Now, tractor bounding along lanes, among echoes,
The trailer bouncing, all its iron shouting
Under sag-heavy leaves
That seem ready to drip with stillness.
Cheek in the air alert for the first speck.

You feel sure the rain's already started---
But for the tractor's din you'd hear it hushing
In all the leaves. But still not one drop
On your face or arm. You can't believe it.
Then hoicking bales, as if at a contest. Leaping
On and off the tractor as at a rodeo.

Hurling the bales higher. The loader on top
Dodging like a monkey. The fifth layer full
Then a teetering sixth. Then for a seventh
A row down the middle. And if a bale topples
You feel you've lost those seconds forever.
Then roping it all tight, like a hard loaf.

Then fast as you dare, watching the sky
And watching the load, and feeling the air darken
With wet electricity,
The load foaming through leaves, and wallowing

[Page 48 ]
Like a tug-boat meeting the open sea---
The tractor's front wheels rearing up, as you race,
And pawing the air. Then all hands
Pitching the bales off, in under a roof,
Anyhow, then back for the last load.

And now as you dash through the green light
You see between dark trees
On all the little emerald hills
The desperate loading, under the blue cloud.

Your sweat tracks through your dust, your shirt flaps chill,
And bales multiply out of each other
All down the shorn field ahead.
The faster you fling them up, the more there are of them---
Till suddenly the field's grey empty. It's finished.

And a tobacco reek breaks in your nostrils
As the rain begins
Softly and vertically silver, the whole sky softly
Falling into the stubble all round you

The trees shake out their masses, joyful,
Drinking the downpour.
The hills pearled, the whole distance drinking
And the earth-smell warm and thick as smoke

And you go, and over the whole land
Like singing heard across evening water
The tall loads are swaying towards their barns
Down the deep lanes.
20 June 1975

Cawthorne. Hay meadow. 1999. Seamus Heaney (1939-).
“Storm on the Island”
from Death of a Naturalist (1991).

We are prepared: we build our houses squat,
Sink walls in rock and roof them with good slate.
This wizened earth has never troubled us
With hay, so, as you see, there are no stacks
Or stooks that can be lost. Nor are there trees
Which might prove company when it blows full
Blast: you know what I mean---leaves and branches
Can raise a tragic chorus in a gale
So that you listen to the thing you fear
Forgetting that it pummels your house too.
But there are no trees, no natural shelter.
You might think that the sea is company,
Exploding comfortably down on the cliffs,
But no: when it begins, the flung spray hits
The very windows, spits like a tame cat
Turned savage. We just sit tight while wind dives
And strafes invisibly. Space is a salvo,
We are bombarded by the empty air.
Strange, it is a huge nothing that we fear.

Ritch. Haystacks, Umbria. 1985.Seamus Heaney (1939-).
from Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996 (1998).

Or, as we said,
fother, I open
my arms for it
again. But first

to draw from the tight
vise of a stack
the weathered eaves
of the stack itself

falling at your feet,
last summer's tumbled
swathes of grass
and meadowsweet

multiple as loaves
and fishes, a bundle
tossed over half-doors
or into mucky gaps.

These long nights
I would pull hay
for comfort, anything
to bed the stall.

Gypsy Ray. Moorehill Stable. 1994.Seamus Heaney (1939-).
The last lines of “The Loose Box”
from Electric Light (2001).

Michael Collins, ambushed at Beal na Blath,
At the pass of Flowers, at the Blossom Gap, his own
Bloom-drifted, softe Avernus-mouth,
Has nothing to hold on to and falls again
Willingly, lastly foreknowledgeably deep
Into the hay-floor that gave once in his childhood
Down through the bedded mouth of the loft trapdoor,
the loosening fodder-chute, the aftermath...

This has been told of Collins and retold
By his biographer:

One of his boy-deeds
Was to enter the hidden jaws of that hay crevasse
And get to his feet again and come unscathed
Through a dazzle of pollen scarves to breathe the air.
True or not true, the fall within his fall,
That drop through the flower-door lets him find his feet
In an underworld of understanding
Better than any newsreel lying-in-state
Or footage of the laden gun-carriage
And grim cortege could ever manage to

Or so it can be stated
In the must and drift of talk about the loose box.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:32 PM

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 01:27 PM

Frost on the hay.

Robert Frost.Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Code”

Robert Frost (1874-1963).

Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Exposed Nest”

Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Death of the Hired Man”

Minick. Pierce brothers. c1972.Frost lived so long into the twentieth century that his placement here among the late Victorians may seem odd. But his deceptively accessible, dark New England morality poems are a useful bridge from nineteenth century rustic nostalgia to modernist irony. I have included four Frost poems, each of which reveals a close familiarity with traditional haying, each written in colloquial English, and each with a strong tragicomic undertow. The marginal illustrations intentionally reflect these complex paradoxes: two of Kathleen McLaughlin’s brilliantly descriptive photographs of contemporary (though timeless) Romanian haymaking; a Winslow Homer allegory; and a children’s book illustration by Joseph Smith. The latter vividly depicts the traditional horse-drawn mower and a child’s excitement, but in the Jessie Haas story Mowing which Smith’s picture accompanies, Gramp lifts the cutter bar to save a killdeer’s nest, an outcome antithetical to Frost’s ruthless “champing over.”

McLaughlin. Unloading the Haystack at Home. 2000.Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Code”
from North of Boston (1914).

There were three in the meadow by the brook
Gathering up windrows, piling cocks of hay,
With an eye always lifted toward the west
Where an irregular sun-bordered cloud
Darkly advanced with a perpetual dagger
Flickering across its bosom. Suddenly
One helper, thrusting pitchfork in the ground,
Marched himself off the field and home. One stayed.
The town-bred farmer failed to understand.

"What is there wrong?"

"Something you just now said."

"What did I say?"

"About our taking pains."

[Page 81 ]
"To cock the hay?---because it's going to shower?"
I said that more than half an hour ago.
I said it to myself as much as you."

"You didn't know. But James is one big fool.
He thought you meant to find fault with his work.
That's what the average farmer would have meant.
James would take time, of course, to chew it over
Before he acted: he's just got round to act."

"He is a fool if that's the way he takes me."

"Don't let it bother you. You've found out something.
The hand that knows his business won't be told
To do work better or faster---those two things.
I'm as particular as any one:
Most likely I'd have served you just the same.
But I know you don't understand our ways.

[Page 82 ]
You were just talking what was in your mind,
What was in all our minds, and you weren't hinting.
Tell you a story of what happened once:
I was up here in Salem at a man's
Named Sanders with a gang of four or five
Doing the haying. No one liked the boss.
He was one of the kind sports call a spider,
All wiry arms and legs that spread out wavy
From a humped body nigh as big's a biscuit.
But work! that man could work, especially
If by so doing he could get more work
Out of his hired help. I'm not denying
He was hard on himself. I couldn't find
That he kept any hours---not for himself.
Daylight and lantern-light were one to him:
I've heard him pounding in the barn all night.
But what he liked was someone to encourage.
Them that he couldn't lead he'd get behind
And drive, the way you can, you know, in mowing---

[Page 83 ]
Keep at their heels and threaten to mow their legs off.
I'd seen about enough of his bulling tricks
(We call that bulling). I'd been watching him.
So when he paired off with me in the hayfield
To load the load, thinks I, Look out for trouble.
I built the load and topped it off; old Sanders
Combed it down with a rake and says, 'O. K.'
Everything went well till we reached the barn
With a big catch to empty in a bay.
You understand that meant the easy job
For the man up on top of throwing down
The hay and rolling it off wholesale,
Where on a mow it would have been slow lifting.
You wouldn't think a fellow'd need much urging
Under these circumstances, would you now?
But the old fool seizes his fork in both hands,
And looking up bewhiskered out of the pit,
Shouts like an army captain, 'Let her come!'

[Page 84 ]
Thinks I, D'ye mean it? 'What was that you said?'
I asked out loud, so's there'd be no mistake,
'Did you say, Let her come?' 'Yes, let her come.'
He said it over, but he said it softer.
Never you say a thing like that to a man,
Not if he values what he is. God, I'd as soon
Murdered him as left out his middle name.
I'd built the load and knew right where to find it.
Two or three forkfuls I picked lightly round for
Like meditating, and then I just dug in
And dumped the rackful on him in ten lots.
I looked over the side once in the dust
And caught sight of him treading-water-like,
Keeping his head above. 'Damn ye,' I says,
'That gets ye!' He squeaked like a squeezed rat.
That was the last I saw or heard of him.
I cleaned the rack and drove out to cool off.
As I sat mopping hayseed from my neck,

[Page 85 ]
And sort of waiting to be asked about it,
One of the boys sings out, 'Where's the old man?'
'I left him in the barn under the hay.
If ye want him, ye can go and dig him out.'
They realized from the way I swobbed my neck
More than was needed something must be up.
They headed for the barn; I stayed where I was.
They told me afterward. First they forked hay,
A lot of it, out into the barn floor.
Nothing! They listened for him. Not a rustle.
I guess they thought I'd spiked him in the temple
Before I buried him, or I couldn't have managed.
They excavated more. 'Go keep his wife
Out of the barn.' Someone looked in a window,
And curse me if he wasn't in the kitchen
Slumped way down in a chair, with both his feet
Stuck in the oven, the hottest day that summer.
He looked so clean disgusted from behind
[Page 86 ]
There was no one that dared to stir him up,
Or let him know that he was being looked at.
Apparently I hadn't buried him
(I may have knocked him down); but my just trying
To bury him had hurt his dignity.
He had gone to the house so's not to meet me.
He kept away from us all afternoon.
We tended to his hay. We saw him out
After a while picking peas in his garden:
He couldn't keep away from doing something."

"Weren't you relieved to find he wasn't dead?"

"No! and yet I don't know---it's hard to say.
I went about to kill him fair enough."

"You took an awkward way. Did he discharge you?"

"Discharge me? No! He knew I did just right."

Homer. Song of the Lark. 1876.Robert Frost (1874-1963).
from A Boy's Will (1915).

There was never a sound beside the wood but one,
And that was my long scythe whispering to the ground.
What was it it whispered? I knew not well myself;
Perhaps it was something about the heat of the sun,
Something, perhaps, about the lack of sound---
And that was why it whispered and did not speak.
It was no dream of the gift of idle hours,
Or easy gold at the hand of fay or elf:
Anything more than the truth would have seemed too weak
To the earnest love that laid the swale in rows,
Not without feeble-pointed spikes of flowers
(Pale orchises), and scared a bright green snake.
The fact is the sweetest dream that labor knows.
My long scythe whispered and left the hay to make.

Joseph Smith. Horse-mower. 1994.Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Exposed Nest” [extract]
from Mountain Interval (1924).

You were forever finding some new play.
So when I saw you down on hands and knees
In the meadow, busy with the new-cut hay,
Trying, I thought, to set it up on end,
I went to show you how to make it stay,
If that was your idea, against the breeze,
And, if you asked me, even help pretend
To make it root again and grow afresh.
But 'twas no make-believe with you to-day,
Nor was the grass itself your real concern,
Though I found your hand full of wilted fern,
Steel-bright June-grass, and blackening heads of clover.
'Twas a nest full of young birds on the ground
The cutter-bar had just gone champing over.

McLaughlin. Folding Hay. 2000.Robert Frost (1874-1963).
“The Death of the Hired Man” [extract]
from North of Boston (1914)

He said he couldn't make the boy believe
He could find water with a hazel prong---
[Page 19]
Which showed how much good school had ever done him.
He wanted to go over that. But most of all
He thinks if he could have another chance
To teach him how to build a load of hay---

"I know, that's Silas' one accomplishment.
He bundles every forkful in its place,
And tags and numbers it for future reference,
So he can find and easily dislodge it
In the unloading. Silas does that well.
He takes it out in bunches like big birds' nests.
You never see him standing on the hay
He's trying to lift, straining to lift himself."

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:20 PM

Marsh hay poems of John F. Herbin.

Viennau. Acadian salt marsh haying.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Dyke”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Night-mower”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Sea Harvest”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“In the Rain”

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“Aftermath” [sonnet]

John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“Aftermath” ["August is hot in the flood of an ardent sun"]

Cutler. Beached gundalow. 19th cent.Nova Scotian Herbin was a contemporary of two more famous artists (the painter Heade and the photographer Emerson) who spent much of their careers capturing the life and landscape of other marshes. Herbin romanticized the Acadian way of life, in which the gathering of salt hay was an intrinsic part, and his description of the work now seems melodramatic, but the lines that end the “Sea Harvest” sonnet (Soon high and dark above the marsh and tides,/ Stand the great hay-towers; as they loom and lean,/ Like turrets grim to mark the solitude) are a fine literary equivalent to Heade’s “Great Swamp” which I have put beside them.

Grigorescu. Oxen Pulling Hay-cart.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
from The Marshlands (1893).

From the soft dyke-road, crooked and waggon-worn,
Comes the great load of rustling scented hay,
Slow-drawn with heavy swing and creaky sway,
Through the cool freshness of the windless morn.
The oxen, yoked and sturdy, horn to horn,
Sharing the rest and toil of night and day,
Bend head and neck to the long hilly way,
By many a season's labor marked and torn.
On the broad sea of dyke, the gathering heat
Waves upward from the grass, where road on road
Is swept before the tramping of the teams.
And while the oxen rest beside the sweet
New hay, the loft receives the early load,
With hissing stir, among the dusty beams.

Moran. Mowing. 1887.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Dyke”
from The Marshlands (1893).

From dyke to hillside, sways the level sweep
Of all the ripened hay, in mid-July;
A tideless sea of rustling melody,
Beside the river-channels of the deep.
Astray and straggling, or in broken heap,
Where birdlings flutter, dark the fences lie.
Far off, the tortuous rush-grown creek is dry.
Where looms the leaning barn like ancient keep.
A Neptune cuts across the sea of green
With chariot-music trembling to the hills;
And as the horses swim the grass divides,
Showing to heaven where his way has been.
The sounding wheel that bares what Natures hides
Drowns the low nestling-cry, and ruthless kills.

Bastien-LePage. Mower Sharpening Scythe. 1878.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Night-mower”
from The Marshlands (1893).

In the soft dew-fall of an autumn night,
A solitary mower marks his way
With hissing scythe in the brine-savored hay,
Long ere the dawn is flooding into light.
While coward fear and doubting dim my sight,
I shame to hear the certain swing and play
Of the strong toiler's arm, or night or day,
Treading the hours through in faithful might.
Ever he glides with form invisible;
His ringing scythe oft filling the dark plain.
The moving murmur of the coming tide
Stirs the broad night, now full and palpable;
For wholesome pride and faith are mine again
Near the night-mower by the river-side.

Heade. Great Swamp. 1868.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“The Sea Harvest”
from The Marshlands (1893).

On the great sea-marsh where the eddies stray,
The mower strikes ere yet the dew is fled.
The salt-hay falls before his heavy tread,
Filling with odorous breath the whole green way.
On the tide's back, now with the broadened day,
Like a mild beast of burden slowly led,
The floating grass is meshed and gathered;
A great tide-harvest of salt-smelling hay.
Where herons stalk, and the shy mallard hides
In stillest haunts, is the man-worker seen---
Even the sea must garner for his good.
Soon high and dark above the marsh and tides,
Stand the great hay-towers; as they loom and lean,
Like turrets grim to mark the solitude.

Turner. Gundalow. 1889.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
from The Marshlands (1893).

From the marsh hay-fields, owned of sea and sky,
Come the wet scow-loads, drifting with the tide;
While fragmentary breezes curl and glide
Over the silver surface lazily.
With each dark burden builded broad and high,
The laden scows lean clumsy, side by side.
No ripples mark their passage; yet they ride
In to the creek's soft landing red and dry.
The tide-deserted creek glows in the sun;
And the wet scows now stranded on the shore
Gape dark and empty, near a loaded cart
Drawn by two sturdy oxen, white and dun,
Which, as the evening reddens more and more,
Bend to the driver's word, ready to start.

Heade. Marshfield Meadows. c1866.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“In the Rain”
from The Marshlands (1893).

With the new hay, a dripping, scented load,
Comes the slow ox-team with a noiseless tread
Through the thick rain with bent, unswerving head,
Toiling along the soft and silent road.
Across the marsh the ripened hay windrowed
Lies all deserted, where the toilers sped.
The dyke-road winding to the learning shed
Has but a solitary, hobbling toad.
Adown the wide and grass-grown village street,
The last dark phantom pair of steaming steeds
Leap headlong toward the open barn, with chains
That rattle louder than their rapid feet.
Until the tide has left the swaying reeds
High on the marsh, the morning through, it rains.

Joseph Smith. Mowed Field. 1994.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“Aftermath” [sonnet]
from The Marshlands (1893).

But late I saw the mower's marching sweep
Lay bare and dry from upland to the tide
The whole green dyke. Even the bright hill-side
In scattered rose and golden-rod lay deep.
Swift wheel the busy birds of prey, and leap
Through the bright sunlight nowhere now denied;
Where thick and close the shielding grasses dyed:
And the full barns the sweet hay-odors keep.
Then night shed tears on the uncovered fields,
Lying in barrenness, a stubbly waste;
Where, like a raging fire, the scythe has been.
To-day the aftermath renews and shields
All the denuded dykes with kindly haste;
And everywhere again the plains are green.

Turner.  Farmers Stacking Marsh Hay. 19th cent.John Frederic Herbin (1860-1923).
“Aftermath” ["August is hot in the flood of an ardent sun"]
from The Marshlands Second Edition (1899).

August is hot from the touch of an ardent sun,
Lolling and still in fields and windless places;
Idle all day like a woman with hair undone,
Her feet unshod, her bosom bare of laces.

All her passionate beauty and strength are here,
Complete, and grown to power beyond disguising.
Her flying days are short as the last draw near
And wane, September anear on wings uprising.

Hotter glow her burning eyes and harsh
Where the scythe has bared the grassy slopes and meadows;
On the breathless sea, and the stifled miles of marsh
Where spruce and willow lose the cool of shadows.

[Page 21 ]
Yet the dewy nights are sweet; and the lagging dawn
Awakes to the ringing scythe, like a heavy sleeper;
And the dyke-ward drift of the tide with the marsh-hay mown,
Drives off the cranes from the hidden creeks grown deeper.

As a tired troop of horses march in sleep
When the weary riders hear not the sounding sabres;
So comes the tide with the flooding march of the deep,
Across the marshes to the winding rivers.

And a ship like a gull swings off the anchoring clay,
And drifts with the fisher-craft from the nearer offing;
While the inshore flight of the gulls on the edge of day
Startles the silent flats with joyless laughing.

As the sea drifts in the toilers deep in the tide
Gather the grass, as fishermen drag the meshes---
Hunters surrounding the game on every side,
Till the spoil is captive in the binding leashes.

Trumpet-like the call of the herds long-blown
Wafts mellow and far to the drowse of the sense's hearing;
[Page 22 ]
The perfumes fresh from the marshy meadows flown
Bring taste of the tide whose overflow is nearing.

Still the meadows are the mower has shorn,
Where thistles stood, and perfumes fled from the flowers
And the stubble stark where the summer's yield was borne
Now seemeth dead to the sun and the touch of showers.

From the empty barns have the hollow echoes fled;
The lofts are loaded deep with the grassy sweetness.
The grain ungarnered and ripe swings lazy head,
And all the corn is bursting with its greatness.

Leaning hay-ricks dark rise everywhere
Across the meadows and the waters looming.
The higher tides flood the marshes unaware,
Among strange ways and newer channels roaming.

September comes to the bare burnt places, and cools
With gentle touch and breath, a glad new-comer;
Refreshing the languorous lakes and the dying pools
Before the advent of the Indian summer.

[Page 23 ]
Fragrant are the orchards ripe of fruit,
And fairest the flowers of September-bringing.
Songsters seem to be wording a second suit,
So eager and so joyful in their singing.

Primroses yet are blown, and the thistle abloom,
The August-flower bright from the bud its month gone over;
Asters smile near the rushes' damp and gloom;
A sweetness lingers near the thrifty clover.

The season will not die though all the dykes
Seemed to the roots destroyed by the ruthless mower:
Where now the cattle graze, and the marsh-hawk strikes,
Are the fields of aftermath of the secret sower.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:15 PM

Hay poets born in the early nineteenth century.

Robert Nicoll (1814-1837).
“The Making o’ the Hay”

Thomas English (1819-1902).

Dora Greenwell(1821-1882).

William Allingham.William Allingham(1824-1889).
“To the Author of 'Hesperides'”

Emily Dickinson.Emily Dickinson(1830-1886).
“The Grass”

William Morris.William Morris(1834-1896).
“The Half of Life Gone”

Andrew Lang(1844-1912).
"Scythe Song"

Will Carleton(1845-1912).
“The Boy in the Mow”

Grave of J K Casey.<John Keegan Casey(1846-1870).
“The Making of the Hay”

George Barlow(1847-1914).
“The Hay-fields on the Cliff-top”

Michael Field(1848-1914).
“The Hayfield”

Ritch. Haystack and capped cocks. 1987. This section reflects the widely diverse sensibility of a period of rapid cultural and social change. Beginning with the lilting Burns-like ballad of Robert Nicoll, our anthology is dominated by a sense of nostalgic loss in the face of industrial change (English, Greenwell, Morris, Casey, Field), but also includes: a playful, brief tribute to the romantic “Hayrick” (Robert Herrick); Emily Dickinson’s typically ambiguous envy of the mortal grass (returning to the Biblical trope mentioned above); Andrew Lang’s onomatopoeic “Scythe Song;” William Carleton’s sentimental tribute to “The boy in the mow” representing rural obscurity and disappointment; and George Barlow’s late romantic lines on love and death, the sweet hay and “the scentless sea.”

Hulme. Haymaking, Shetland.Robert Nicoll (1814-1837).
“The Making o’ the Hay”
from Poems (1842)

Across the rigs we'll wander
The new-mawn hay amang,
And hear the blackbird in the wood,
And gi'e it sang for sang.
We'll gi'e it sang for sang, we will,
For ilka heart is gay,
As lads and lasses trip alang,
At making o' the hay!

It is sae sweetly scented,
It seems a maiden's breath;
Aboon, the sun has wither'd it,
But there is green beneath.
But there is caller green beneath,
Come, lasses, foot away!
The heart is dowie can be cauld,
At making o' the hay!

Step lightly o'er, gang saftly by,
Mak' rig and furrow clean,
And coil it up in fragrant heaps,---
We maun ha'e done at e'en:---
We maun ha'e done at gloaming e'en;
And when the clouds grow gray,
Ilk lad may kiss his bonnie lass
Amang the new-made hay!

Hicks. Haymaker Raking. 1863.Thomas English (1819-1902).
from The select poems (1894)

Their homage men pay to the mowing machine
Which does all the work of a dozen as one,
And, cutting a passageway smoothly and keen,
Keeps steadily on till its labor is done;
But I like to remember the primitive way
When I joined with my fellows to gather the hay,
And labor was pleasantly tempered by play.

The sweep of the scythe as it came and it went,
And the fall at its swish of the green crescent swath;
The swing of the mower with body well-bent,
As the steel gave him room on its pitiless path:
The pause for a moment each haymaker made,
When the grass clogged a little and progress was stayed,
And the clickety-click as he whetted the blade.

The farmer behind with the fork in his grip
To scatter the ridges of grass to the light,
Grim, busy and steady, no smile on his lip,
And a hope that the work would be over by night;
His glances were cast now and then to the sky,
And in fear that some sign of a rain storm was nigh,
He watched every cloud that went lazily by.

The fun of the nooning out under the trees
Where the dainties I mowed as my scythe had the grass,
[Page 246]
Where I lolled back in hope of a puff of the breeze,
And saw the gay butterflies flutter and pass,
And laughed at some worn, but yet ever new joke,
And felt my heart beat with a trip-hammer stroke
When to her I loved dearly another one spoke.
The calm hush of noonday was pleasantly stirred
By the buzz of our voices, the noise of our glee;
And once in a lull cometh notes of a bird,
Undisturbed by our presence, far up in a tree.
We sat at our ease as we chatted and laughed,
While our mugs of cool switchel we carelessly quaffed,
And thought that Jove's nectar ne'er equalled the draught.

But the frolic next day was the best of it all,
When in windrows they raked the dried grass as it lay,
The girls with us then---there was one, Katy Ball,
Our neighbor's fair daughter, who helped with the hay.
I wore her sunbonnet and she wore my hat---
I dare say I looked like a great, awkward flat;
But what did I care at the moment for that?

For at night when we loaded our wains with the crop
Till they seemed like dark blots on a background of sky,
And Katy with me rode in one on the top,
What monarch in state was so happy as I?
With my darling, all blushes, enthroned by my side,
I sat there in tremulous pleasure and pride---
Dear Katy! ah, black was the day when she died!

A wonderful thing is your mowing machine,
That sweeps o'er the meadow in merciless way;
But I sigh for the scythe, curved and tempered and keen,
And the labor and joy of the earlier day;
[Page 247]
I sigh for the toil that was mingled with fun,
The contentment we felt when the end had been won,
And the sound, peaceful slumber when daylight was done.

The lush grass of Lehigh, it grows as of yore,
The hay smells as sweetly, the sun is as bright;
But all the old glory of hay-time is o'er,
And the toil of the season has lost its delight;
The scythe and the hay rake are hung up for show,
The fork gives the tedder its place in the row;
And gone are the joys of the loved long ago.

Mann. Day Dreams. 1882.Dora Greenwell(1821-1882).
from [Poems, in] Home thoughts and home scenes (1865)]

Many a long hard-working day
Life brings us! and many an hour of play;
But they never come now together.
Playing at work, and working in play,
As they came to us children among the hay,
In the breath of the warm June weather.

Oft with our little rakes at play,
Making believe at making hay,
With grave and steadfast endeavour;
Caught by an arm, and out of sight
Hurled and hidden, and buried light
In laughter and hay for ever.

Pissarro. Haymaking. 1895.William Allingham(1824-1889).
“To the Author of 'Hesperides'” [Robert Herrick}
from Poems (1850)

Hayrick some do spell thy name,
And thy verse approves the same;
For 'tis like fresh-scented hay,---
With country lasses in't at play.

Pissarro. Rest. 1882.Emily Dickinson(1830-1886).
“The Grass”
from Poems (1890)

The grass so little has to do,---
A sphere of simple green,
With only butterflies to brood,
And bees to entertain,

And stir all day to pretty tunes
The breezes fetch along,
And hold the sunshine in its lap
And bow to everything;

And thread the dews all night, like pearls,
And make itself so fine,---
A duchess were too common
For such a noticing.

[Page 79]
And even when it dies, to pass
In odors so divine,
As lowly spices gone to sleep,
Or amulets of pine.

And then to dwell in sovereign barns,
And dream the days away,---
The grass so little has to do,
I wish I were the hay!

Brown. Hayfield. 1855.William Morris(1834-1896).
“The Half of Life Gone”
from The Collected Works (1910-1911)

The days have slain the days, and the seasons have gone by
And brought me the summer again; and here on the grass I lie
As erst I lay and was glad ere I meddled with right and with wrong.
Wide lies the mead as of old, and the river is creeping along
By the side of the the elm-clad bank that turns its weedy stream;
And grey o'er its hither lip the quivering rushes gleam.
There is work in the mead as of old; they are eager at winning hay,
While every sun sets bright and begets a fairer day.

The forks shine white in the sun round the yellow red-wheeled wain,
Where the mountain of hay grows fast; and now from out of the lane
Comes the ox-team drawing another, comes the bailiff and the beer,
And thump, thump, goes the farmer's nag o'er the narrow bridge of the weir.
High up and light are the clouds, and though the swallows flit
So high o'er the sunlit earth, they are well a part of it,
And so, though high over them, are the wings of the wandering herne;
In measureless depths above him doth the fair sky quiver and burn;
The dear sun floods the land as the morning falls toward noon,
And a little wind is awake in the best of the latter June.

They are busy winning the hay, and the life and the picture they make,
If I were as once I was, I should deem it made for my sake;
For here if one need not work is a place for happy rest,
While one's thought wends over the world north, south, and east and west.
There are the men and the maids, and the wives and the gaffers grey
Of the fields I know so well, and but little changed are they
Since I was a lad amongst them; and yet how great is the change!
Strange are they grown unto me; yea I to myself am strange.
Their talk and their laughter mingling with the music of the meads
Has now no meaning to me to help or to hinder my needs,
So far from them have I drifted. And yet amidst of them goes
A part of myself, my boy, and of pleasure and pain he knows,
And deems it something strange, when he is other than glad.
Lo now! the woman that stoops and kisses the face of the lad,
And puts a rake in his hand and laughs in his laughing face.
[Page 198]
Whose is the voice that laughs in the old familiar place?
Whose should it be but my love's, if my love were yet on the earth?
Could she refrain from the fields where my joy and her joy had birth,
When I was there and her child, on the grass that knew her feet
'Mid the flowers that led her on when the summer eve was sweet?

No, no, it is she no longer; never again can she come
And behold the hay-wains creeping o'er the meadows of her home;
No more can she kiss her son or put the rake in his hand
That she handled a while agone in the midst of the haymaking band.
Her laughter is gone and her life; there is no such thing on the earth,
No share for me then in the stir, no share in the hurry and mirth.

Nay, let me look and believe that all these will vanish away,
At least when the night has fallen, and that she will be there 'mid the hay,
Happy and weary with work, waiting and longing for love.
There will she be, as of old, when the great moon hung above,
There will she rise to meet me, and my hands will she hasten to take,
And thence shall we wander away, and over the ancient bridge
By many a rose-hung hedgerow, till we reach the sun-burnt ridge
And the great trench digged by the Romans: there then awhile shall we stand,
To watch the dawn come creeping o'er the fragrant lovely land,
Till all the world awaketh, and draws us down, we twain,
To the deeds of the field and the fold and the merry summer's gain.

Scyther. 1903. Andrew Lang(1844-1912).
"Scythe Song"

Mowers, weary and brown, and blithe,
What is the word methinks ye know,
Endless over-word that the Scythe
Sings to the blades of the grass below?
Scythes that swing in the grass and clover,
Something still, they say as they pass;
What is the word that, over and over,
Sings the Scythe to the flowers and grass?

Hush, ah hush, the Scythes are saying,
Hush, and heed not, and fall asleep;
Hush, they say to the grasses swaying,
Hush, they sing to the clover deep!
Hush - 'tis the lullaby Time is singing -
Hush, and heed not, for all things pass,
Hush, ah hush! and the Scythes are swinging
Over the clover and over the grass!

Hassam. Hay Barn. 1920. Will Carleton(1845-1912).
“The Boy in the Mow”
from Rhymes of our planet (1895)

There glides through the barn's mammoth door
A sweet-scented hill-top of hay;
An athlete, with strength bubbling o'er,
Now flings it in forkfuls away.
Another is stowing it back,
With white pearls of toil on his brow;
And, treading the hay in his track,
Looms faintly the boy in the mow.

Through crevices often can he
View, past the old barn-wall of brown,
A river that leads to the sea---
A railway that drives to the town.
"Oh, when shall my fortune make hay,
In yon fields of splendor, and how?
'Twill wait for full many a day:
I'm only a boy in the mow."

A cloud, like a flag from the sky,
Is splendidly spread and unrolled;
[Page 99]
The sun reaches down from on high
To fringe it with silver and gold.
"Oh when will Heaven's mercy my name
As bright as those colors allow?
But Earth has no glory or fame
To waste on a boy in a mow."

A cloud in the west, like a pall,
Creeps upward, and hangs in the light;
It carries a gloom over all---
It looks like a part of the night.
With clamor the thunder-bolts swarm,
And trees bend in agony, now;
"'Tis thus, too, that Poverty's storm
Hangs over the boy in the mow!"

The clouds have flown into a dream,
The birds are discoursing in glee,
The smile of the sun is agleam
On river and hill-top and tree.
Look up to the Heavens, little lad,
And then to your earth-duties bow;
And some day both worlds may be glad
To honor the boy from the mow!

Synge. Haymaking, Wicklow. c1900.John Keegan Casey(1846-1870).
“The Making of the Hay”
from Reliques of John K. Casey (1878)]

'Tis just a year ago,
When my heart was light and free,
Where the Inny's waters flow
Thro' a vale in Annaly,
That amid a crowd I stept
Down the flowery meadow way,
And our young hearts---how they leapt
For the making of the hay.

There were foreheads hard and brown,
Ruddy cheeks and laughing eyes;
There were pale lips from the town,
Blushing 'neath our country skies;
There were smiles would coax a saint
When he kneels at eve to pray---
Oh! no words our joy could paint
At the making of the hay.

And we "tidded," and we raked,
Till we heard the evening bell,
Then our parting thirst we slaked
In the cool and crystal well;
[Page 164]
And young Gerald from the hill
Sang a ringing gladsome lay---
Oh! what joys our hearts did fill
At the making of the hay.

And a-clinging to my side,
With her brown hair in a curl---
On her cheeks the rosy tide---
Sat my own dear little girl:
Oh! the brightness of her glance,
And the soft words she did say,
Kept my senses in a trance
At the making of the hay.

As the stars rose clear and pale
Thro' the purple of the west,
And the cool winds thro' the vale
Fann'd the mower's weary breast,
Then fair Maggie parted me
Near the twining osier bays---
Oh! she cried, what fun had we
At the making of the hay.

'Tis but a year ago,
And my heart is full of care,
For the free and gladsome flow
Of the old time is not there:
Reft of hope, and friends, and home,
With affections dull and grey,
Sure my thoughts will backward roam
To the making of the hay.

Blake. Shaking the Hay on the Coast.George Barlow(1847-1914).
“The Hay-fields on the Cliff-top”
from The Marriage Before Death (1878).

Just as the hay-fields on the cliff-top draw
Seafarers---yea, two miles away from land!
Bringing sweet thoughts of many a leafy strand,
Making more hateful the fierce wind and raw
That smites those barren furrows which they plough---
Just as the scent of hay-fields makes the hand
Tremble upon the oar, the heart crave now
For fields where flowers and grass-blades do expand:---

So, Gertrude, far away thou drawest me
From life and labour, and their scentless sea---
[Page 154]
Sweeter than hay-fields is thy spirit-breath,
Which, loved one, lures me through the gulfs of death,
More wonderful the magic of thine eyes,
Convulsed at sight of which life swoons and dies.

Stocqueler. Hay Ride. 19th c.Michael Field(1848-1914).
“The Hayfield”
from The new minnesinger (1875)

'The last load is carried,
The meadow is mown;
Then why on the scythe-track
Still wanderest lone?

'The high-loaded wagon
Has wound round the hill;
But thou in the valley
Art lingering still.
'Dost think of the voices
So cheery, so blithe?
The bloom on the grasses?
The sweep of the scythe?

[Page 39]
'The joy of the children
A-rock on the hay?
The wind-wafted fragrance?
The laughter, the play?'

'The high-loaded wagon
Has wound round the hill;
But I in the valley
Am lingering still,

'To think of their sorrow,
Whose day's work is done,
Who are not called homeward
At set of the sun.

'Whose life's tale is ended,
Or e'er the life close;
To think, for a moment,
How bitter for those

'Who in the bare stubble
Must still linger on;
The burdens all carried,
The comrades all gone.'

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:06 PM

Hay poems in the vernacular of William Barnes.

William Barnes.William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Round Things”

William Barnes (1801-1886).

William Barnes (1801-1886).

William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Hay-Meaken. Nunchen Time”

William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Between Haymaking and Harvest”

Hodgson. Farmer's dream. 19th c.Barnes is notable for his attempt to capture the dialect of Dorset in verse, half-a-century before Hardy’s more famous literary evocation of the same region. Well-educated, as local teacher and curate, Barnes wrote with charming affection of the worklife and folkways of his rural neighbors. The line which concludes his poem on “Nunchen [lunch] Time” (the welcome hayfield rest period, subject of so many nineteenth century painters)--“I do like theäse wold teäles. Let's hear”--perfectly epitomizes his enthusiasm and attentiveness to oral traditions.

Ritch. Haystacks. County Clare. 1987.William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Round Things”
from Poems of Rural Life in Common English (1868)] [extract]

A fairy ring as round's the sun,
Beside the lea would bend its rim,
And near at hand the waves would run
Across the pond with rounded brim.
And there, by round-built ricks of hay,
By sun-heat burnt, by sunshine brown'd,
We met in merry ring, to play,
All springing on, and wheeling round.

Pissarro. Harvest at Montfoucault. 1876.William Barnes (1801-1886).
from Poems of Rural Life in Common English (1866)] [extract]

'Tis merry ov a zummer's day,
Where vo'k be out a-meäkèn hay;
Where men an' women, in a string,
Do ted or turn the grass, an' zing,
Wi' cheemèn vaïces, merry zongs,
A-tossèn o' their sheenèn prongs
Wi' eärms a-zwangèn left an' right,
In colour'd gowns an' shirt sleeves white;
Or, wider spread, a reäkèn round
The rwosy hedges o' the ground,
Where Sam do zee the speckled sneäke,
An' try to kill en wi' his reäke;
An' Poll do jump about an' squall,
To zee the twistèn slooworm crawl.

Tis merry when a gaÿ-tongued lot
Ov hay-meäkers be all a-squot,
On lightly-russlèn hay, a-spread
Below an elem's lofty head,
To rest their weary limbs an' munch
Their bit o' dinner, or their nunch;
[Page 58]
Where teethy reäkes do lie all round
By picks a-stuck up into ground.
An' wi' their vittles in their laps,
An' in their tinnèn cups their draps
O' cider sweet, or frothy eäle,
Their tongues do run wi' joke an' teäle.

An' when the zun, so low an' red,
Do sheen above the leafy head
O' zome broad tree, a-rizèn high
Avore the vi'ry western sky,
'Tis merry where all han's do goo
Athirt the grou'n, by two an' two,
A-reäkèn, over humps an' hollors.
The russlèn grass up into rollers.
An' woone do row it into line,
An' woone do clwose it up behine;
An' after them the little bwoys
Do stride an' fling their eärms all woys,
Wi' busy picks, an' proud young looks
A-meäkèn up their tiny pooks.
An' zoo 'tis merry out among
The vo'k in hay-vield all day long.

Wilson. Haymaking. 19th c.William Barnes (1801-1886).
from Poems of Rural Life in Common English (1866)]

'Tis merry ov a zummer's day,
When vo'k be out a-haulèn hay,
Where boughs, a-spread upon the ground,
Do meäke the staddle big an' round;
[Page 59]
An' grass do stand in pook, or lie
In long-backed weäles or parsels, dry.
There I do vind it stir my heart
To hear the frothèn hosses snort,
A-haulèn on, wi' sleek heäir'd hides,
The red-wheel'd waggon's deep-blue zides.
Aye; let me have woone cup o' drink,
An' hear the linky harness clink,
An' then my blood do run so warm,
An' put sich strangth 'ithin my eärm,
That I do long to toss a pick,
A-pitchèn or a-meäkèn rick.

The bwoy is at the hosse's head,
An' up upon the waggon bed
The lwoaders, strong o' eärm do stan',
At head, an' back at taïl, a man,
Wi' skill to build the lwoad upright
An' bind the vwolded corners tight;
An' at each zide o'm, sprack an' strong,
A pitcher wi' his long-stem'd prong,
Avore the best two women now
A-call'd to reäky after plough.

When I do pitchy, 'tis my pride
Vor Jenny Hine to reäke my zide,
An' zee her fling her reäke, an' reach
So vur, an' teäke in sich a streech;
An' I don't shatter hay, an' meäke
Mwore work than needs vor Jenny's reäke.
I'd sooner zee the weäles' high rows
Lik' hedges up above my nose,
[Page 60]
Than have light work myzelf, an' vind
Poor Jeäne a-beät an' left behind;
Vor she would sooner drop down dead,
Than let the pitchers get a-head.

'Tis merry at the rick to zee
How picks do wag, an' hay do vlee.
While woone's unlwoadèn, woone do teäke
The pitches in; an' zome do meäke
The lofty rick upright an' roun',
An' tread en hard, an' reäke en down,
An' tip en, when the zun do zet,
To shoot a sudden vall o' wet.
An' zoo 'tis merry any day
Where vo'k be out a-carrèn hay.

Radclyffe. Rest. 1870.William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Hay-Meaken. Nunchen Time”
from Poems of Rural Life in Common English Second Collection (1863)]

Back here, but now, the jobber John
Come by, an' cried, "Well done, zing on,
I thought as I come down the hill,
An' heärd your zongs a-ringèn sh'ill,
Who woudden like to come, an' fling
A peäir o' prongs where you did zing?"
Aye, aye, he woudden vind it plaÿ,
To work all day a-meäkèn hay,
Or pitchèn o't, to eärms a-spread
By lwoaders, yards above his head,
'T'ud meäke en wipe his drippèn brow.
Or else a-reäkèn a'ter plow.
[Page 8]
Or workèn, wi' his nimble pick,
A-stiffled wi' the hay, at rick.
Our Company would suit en best,
When we do teäke our bit o' rest,
At nunch, a-gather'd here below
The sheäde theäse wide-bough'd woak do drow,
Where hissèn froth mid rise, an' float
In horns o' eäle, to wet his droat.
Aye, if his swellèn han' could drag
A meat-slice vrom his dinner bag.
'T'ud meäke the busy little chap
Look rather glum, to zee his lap
Wi' all his meal ov woone dry crowst,
An' vinny cheese so dry as dowst.
Well, I dont grumble at my food,
'Tis wholesome, John, an' zoo 'tis good.
Whose reäke is that a-lyèn there?
Do look a bit the woo'se vor wear.
Oh! I mus' get the man to meäke
A tooth or two vor thik wold reäke,
'Tis leäbor lost to strike a stroke
Wi' him, wi' ha'f his teeth a-broke.
I should ha' thought your han' too fine
To break your reäke, if I broke mine.
[Page 9]
The ramsclaws thin'd his wooden gum
O' two teeth here, an' here were zome
That broke off when I reäk'd a patch
O' groun' wi' Jimmy, vor a match:
An' here's a gap where woone or two
Wer broke by Simon's clumsy shoe,
An' when I gi'ed his poll a poke,
Vor better luck, another broke.
In what a veag have you a-swung
Your pick, though, John? His stem's a-sprung.
When I an' Simon had a het
O' pookèn, yonder, vor a bet,
The prongs o'n gi'd a tump a poke,
An' then I vound the stem o'n broke,
But they do meäke the stems o' picks
O' stuff so brittle as a kicks.
There's poor wold Jeäne, wi' wrinkled skin,
A-tellèn, wi' her peakèd chin,
Zome teäle ov her young days, poor soul.
Do meäke the young-woones smile. 'Tis droll.
What is it? Stop, an' let's goo near.
I do like theäse wold teäles. Let's hear.

Ritch. Wiltshire Wheat. 2004.William Barnes (1801-1886).
“Between Haymaking and Harvest” [lines 10-27]
from Poems of Rural Life in Common English (1868)] [extract]

[Page 119 ]
Along the swath with even side,
The meadow flow'rs have fall'n and died,
And wither'd, rustling dry;
And in between the hay-wale's backs,
The waggon wheels have cut their tracks,
With loads of hay built high,
and bound,
And ev'ry rick with peakèd crown,
Is now down-toned to yellow brown,
And sunburnt, two-thirds round.
The clouds now ride at upper height,
Above the barley yellow white;
By lane and hedge; along
The fields of wheat, that ripen red,
And slowly reel, with giddy head,
In wind that streams full strong,
by copse,
And grass-field, where the cows lie down
Among the bent-grass, ruddy brown,
And thistles' purple tops.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 01:02 PM

Early hay poems from Lydgate to Hood.

John Lydgate (c1370-c1451).
“That now is hay some-tyme was grase” c 1400.

Thomas Tusser (1524?-1580).
“Iulies Abstract”
from Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie 1580.

Robert Herrick.Robert Herrick (1591-1674).
“To Meadows”

Andrew Marvell.Andrew Marvell (1621-1678 ).
Verses from “Upon Appleton House to my Lord Fairfax”

James Thomson (1700-1748).
"Summer" from The Seasons

James Thomson.<Robert Dodsley (1703-1764).
“Agriculture. A Poem”

James Grahame (1765-1811).
“June” from British Georgics

Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842).
“The Hay-makers”

Thomas Hood.Thomas Hood (1799-1845).
“That Flesh is Grass is Now as Clear as Day”

Thomas Hood (1799-1845).
"Miss Killmansegg and Her Precious Leg. A Legend"

Book of hours. c1250. This group of ten poems includes one from the early fifteenth century, one each from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and three each from the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The earliest by Lydgate echoes biblical metaphor, including several in the Psalms (e.g., “As for man, his days are as grass..” (Ps 103, line 15) and the more famous lines in Isaiah 40 (“All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:/ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass./ The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Our section on Bosch places this motif in folklore and painting, and, four centuries after Lydgate, Hood gives it an ironic, worldly twist. Between Lydgate and Hood are the familiar celebrations of haymaking as one of the archetypal activities of high summer (compare the visual themes of Bruegel and Rubens), prescriptions for good practice, and detailed descriptions of work and play in the hay, which appear in such parallel period paintings as the Dixton Manor panorama, dignified Stubbs tableaux, and cheerful romps of Rowlandson. Thanks to Robert Hanna who found and forwarded Herrick's melancholy meditation on mown meadows.

Bening. Haymaking and hunting. John Lydgate (c1370-c1451).
“That now is hay some-tyme was grase” c 1400.
from The Minor Poems part 2 Secular Poems. (1910-1934).
[lines 126-136]

Who clymbeth hyest gothe ofte base,
Ensample in medowes thow mayst se
That nowe is heye some tyme was grase.

Go forth anon, thou short dite,
Bydde folke not trust this worlde at all,
Bydde theme remembre on e cite
Which is a-bove celestiall;
Of precious stones bylt is the wall,
Who clymbeth theder gothe nevar base,
Out of that place may be no fall,
Ther is no heye but all fresh grase.

Bening. Haymaking. c 1525. Thomas Tusser (1524?-1580).
“Iulies Abstract”
from Five Hundred Pointes of Good Husbandrie 1580.
Go sirs, and away,
to ted and make hay.
If stormes drawes nie,
then cock apace crie.
Let hay still bide,
till well it be dride.
Hay made) away carrie,
no longer then tarrie.
Who best way titheth,
he best way thriueth.
Two good hay makers,
woorth twentie crakers.
Let dallops about,
be mowne and had out.
See hay doo looke greene,
see feeld ye rake cleene.

Robert Herrick (1591-1674).
Waite. Daisy field.“To Meadows”

YE have been fresh and green,
Ye have been fill'd with flowers,
And ye the walks have been
Where maids have spent their hours.

You have beheld how they
With wicker arks did come
To kiss and bear away
The richer cowslips home.

You've heard them sweetly sing,
And seen them in a round:
Each virgin like a spring,
With honeysuckles crown'd.

But now we see none here
Whose silv'ry feet did tread
And with dishevell'd hair
Adorn'd this smoother mead.

Like unthrifts, having spent
Your stock and needy grown,
You're left here to lament
Your poor estates, alone.

Andrew Marvell (1621-1678 ).
Verses from “Upon Appleton House to my Lord Fairfax”
from Miscellaneous poems (1681).
[lines 385-446]

Dixton Manor haymaking.XLIX
No Scene that turns with Engines strange
Does oftner then these Meadows change,
For when the Sun the Grass hath vext,
The tawny Mowers enter next;
[Page 90]
Who seem like Israelites to be,
Walking on foot through a green Sea.
To them the Grassy Deeps divide,
And crowd a Lane to either Side.
With whistling Sithe, and Elbow strong,
These Massacre the Grass along:
While one, unknowing, carves the Rail,
Whose yet unfeather'd Quils her fail.
The Edge all bloody from its Breast
He draws, and does his stroke detest;
Fearing the Flesh untimely mow'd
To him a Fate as black forebode.
Gainsborough. Landscape with peasant and horses. 1755.LI
But bloody Thestylis, that waites
To bring the mowing Camp their Cates,
Greedy as Kites has trust it up,
And forthwith means on it to sup:
When on another quick She lights,
And cryes, he call'd us Israelites;
But now, to make his saying true,
Rails rain for Quails, for Manna Dew.
Unhappy Birds! what does it boot
To build below the Grasses Root;
When Lowness is unsafe as Hight,
And Chance o'retakes what scapeth spight?
And now your Orphan Parents Call
Sounds your untimely Funeral.
Death-Trumpets creak in such a Note,
And 'tis the Sourdine in their Throat.
[Page 91]
Dixton Manor haymaking.LIII
Or sooner hatch or higher build:
The Mower now commands the Field;
In whose new Traverse seemeth wrought
A Camp of Battail newly fought:
Where, as the Meads with Hay, the Plain
Lyes quilted ore with Bodies slain:
The Women that with forks it fling,
Do represent the Pillaging.
And now the careless Victors play,
Dancing the Triumphs of the Hay;
Where every Mowers wholesome Heat
Smells like an Alexanders sweat.
Their Females fragrant as the Mead
Which they in Fairy Circles tread:
When at their Dances End they kiss,
Their new-made Hay not sweeter is.
Lens. Haymaking.LV
When after this 'tis pil'd in Cocks,
Like a calm Sea it shews the Rocks:
We wondring in the River near
How Boats among them safely steer.
Or, like the Desert Memphis Sand,
Short Pyramids of Hay do stand.
And such the Roman Camps do rise
In Hills for Soldiers Obsequies.
This Scene again withdrawing brings
A new and empty Face of things;
A levell'd space, as smooth and plain,
As Clothes for Lilly strecht to stain.
[Page 92]
The World when first created sure
Was such a Table rase and pure.

James Thomson (1700-1748).
from The Seasons from The Poetical Works (1830).[lines 352-370]

Dixton Manor haymaking.Now swarms the village o'er the jovial mead:
[Page 74 ]
The rustic youth, brown with meridian toil,
Healthful and strong; full as the summer-rose
Blown by prevailing suns, the ruddy maid,
Half naked, swelling on the sight, and all
Her kindled graces burning o'er her cheek.
E'en stooping age is here; and infant hands
Trail the long rake, or, with the fragrant load
O'ercharged, amid the kind oppression roll.
Wide flies the tedded grain; all in a row
Advancing broad, or wheeling round the field,
They spread the breathing harvest to the sun,
That throws refreshful round a rural smell:
Or, as they rake the green-appearing ground,
And drive the dusky wave along the mead,
The russet hay-cock rises thick behind,
In order gay. While heard from dale to dale,
Waking the breeze, resounds the blended voice
Of happy labour, love, and social glee.

Robert Dodsley (1703-1764).
“Agriculture. A Poem”
from Trifles (1777) CANTO THE THIRD.

ARGUMENT. Of hay-making. A method of preserving hay from being mow-burnt, or taking fire. ..

Stubbs. Haymakers. 1794.While thus at ease, beneath embellish'd shades,
We rove delighted; lo! the ripening mead
Calls forth the labouring hinds. In slanting rows,
With still-approaching step, and level'd stroke
[Page 135]
The early mower, bending o'er his scythe,
Lays low the slender grass; emblem of Man,
Falling beneath the ruthless hand of Time.
Then follows blithe, equipt with fork and rake,
In light array, the train of nymphs and swains.
Wide o'er the field, their labour seeming sport,
They toss the withering herbage. Light it flies,
Borne on the wings of Zephyr; whose soft gale,
Now while th' ascending sun's bright beam exhales
The grateful sweetness of the new-mown hay,
Breathing refreshment, fans the toiling swain.
And soon, the jocund dale and echoing hill
Resound with merriment. The simple jest,
The village tale of scandal, and the taunts
Of rude unpolish'd wit, raise sudden bursts
Of laughter from beneath the spreading oak,
Where thrown at ease, and shelter'd from the sun,
The plain repast, and wholesome bev'rage cheer
Their spirits. Light as air they spring, renew'd,
Wootton.  View of the Severn Valley.To social labour: soon the ponderous wain
Moves slowly onwards with its fragrant load,
And swells the barn capacious: or, to crown
Their toil, large tapering pyramids they build,
The magazines of Plenty, to ensure
From Winter's want the flocks, and lowing herds.

But do the threatning clouds precipitate
Thy work, and hurry to the field thy team,
Ere the sun's heat, or penetrating wind,
Hath drawn its moisture from the fading grass?
Or hath the bursting shower thy labours drench'd
With sudden innundation? Ah, with care
Accumulate thy load, or in the mow,
[Page 136]
Oudry. Ferme. 1750.Or on the rising rick. The smother'd damps,
Fermenting, glow within; and latent sparks
At length ingender'd, kindle by degrees,
Till, wide and wider spreading, they admit
The fatal blast, which instantly consumes,
In flames resistless, thy collected store.
This dire disaster to avoid, prepare
A hollow basket, or the concave round
Of some capacious vessel; to its sides
Affix a triple cord: then let the swains,
Full in the center of thy purpos'd heap,
Place the obtrusive barrier; raising still
As they advance, by its united bands,
The wide machine. Thus leaving in the midst
An empty space, the cooling air draws in,
And from the flame, or from offensive taints
Pernicious to thy cattle, saves their food.

James Grahame (1765-1811).
from British Georgics (1812).
[lines 1480-1607]

Hills. Studies of haymakers. c 1804.Hark! the whetstone rasps
Along the mower's scythe; for now's the time
[Page 101]
To reap the grassy mead,---ere yet the bee
Into the purple clover-flower can shoot
Her searching tube,---ere yet the playful imp
Chacing, waist-deep, the restless butterfly,
Can from the red flowers suck the honied juice;
Now every stalk and leaf is full distent
With richest sap; nor is the latent strength,
By which a second growth rivals the first,
Exhausted by the efflorescent stage.

Though other field-works at the twilight break
Of day begin, shunning the sultry hours,
Hay-harvest, first and last, demands the sun.
Not till his thirsty beam have sipped the dew
That glistering returns his morning smile,
The mower's scythe be heard: then equal ranged,
With crescent strokes that closely graze the ground,
The stooping band extend the ridgy swathes.
Ah! spare, thou pitying swain, a ridge-breadth round
The partridge nest! so shall no new-come lord---
[Page 102]
To ope a vista to some ivied tower---
Thy cottage raze; but when the day is done,
Atcherley. Scything.Still shall the twig-bowered seat, on which thy sire
Was wont at even-tide to talk, invite
Thy weary limbs; there peace and health shall bless
Thy frugal fare, served by the unhired hand,
That seeks no wages save a parent's smile.

To dry the swathe, and yet to save the sap,
Should be your double aim. Some, void of skill,
Believe, that by long bleaching in the sun
Their end is gained; but thus they scorch, not dry,
The fragrant wreaths. This ancient error shun.

Soon as the scythes the mid-way field have reached,
See old and young at distance due succeed;
The waning spinstress, and the buxom maid;
The boy rejoicing in the important toil,
And striving, though with yet unequal strength,
To match the best,---all, with inverted rakes,
[Page 103]
Toss the fresh wreath, and ted it lightly round,
With gleesome hearts, feeling the toil no task.
The very dogs seem smitten with the joy
Of this new merriment, this flowery work,
And, deeming all in sport, run, bark, and frisk,
Or toss, with buried snout, the tedded flakes.

Full soon the rake gains on the creeping scythe;
J. J. Wilson. Haymaking.And now the sun, with westering wheel, begins
To slope his course, when, half forespent, the band
Bethink themselves, 'tis time to pause from toil.
Straight to the hedge-row shade, with willing step,
Though slow, they wend,---and, seated on the sward
In peaceful circle, join the gray-haired sire,
In asking God to bless the daily bread
He bounteously bestows! with cheerful hearts
Their bread they eat, nor other beverage seek
Than what the milky pail unstinted gives.
Finished the brief repast, and thanks returned,
Some sleep the hour away, some talk and jeer,
[Page 104]
Hogarth. Landscape with haymakers. 1730s.While willing laughter, on the thread-bare jest,
Bestows the meed of wit; others, apart,
Hold whispering converse with the lass they love.
The younger wights, with busy eye, explore
The foggage, where, concealed with meikle art,
The brown bee's cups in rude-formed clusters lie:
Or, should they find a sable swarm's retreat,
Deep earthed, the mining spade must lay it bare.
Nor unresisting do the inmates yield
Their little state; forth, at the first alarm,
They swarming rush, and chacing, in long train,
The flying foe, deal sharp, not deadly wounds.
Rallied, at length, the assailants to the charge,
With doublets doffed, attack the stinging tribes,
And leaguering the porch, ruthless beat down
The issuing hosts, till, by degrees reduced,
Lambert. Longford Castle. 1743.The feeble remnant, 'mid their fated homes,
Await their hapless doom;---the insidious mine
Meanwhile proceeds, and soon (like human states)
[Page 105]
The little kingdom and its treasures lie
Prostrate and ruined 'neath the spoiler's hand.

While thus glides on the mid-day hour, the pause
Has not been useless; diligent the sun
(The time though short) already has prepared
The scattered verdure for the windrow waves.
First flat and low, till, as the day declines,
Now tossed, now side-long rolled, by many a rake,
Accumulating slow, waist high they swell.
One thing forget not,---that athwart the breeze
The rows be laid; for thus all through the heaps,
Quite loosely piled, the drying influence sifts.
Some leave them here to imbibe the midnight dews,
Dessar. Peasant Woman and Haystacks, Giverny. 1892.Or drenching shower, and day by day repeat,
For three full suns, the same unvaried course.
Be wiser thou, proportioning the time,
And quantity of labour, to the kind
And richness of the crop: Some grasses need
Much more of sun and breeze; the clover kinds,
[Page 106]
And chief the red, so succulent, require,
Unless well mingled with the lighter tribes,
Much spreading, tossing, rolling to and fro.

Others again, whate'er the grassy crop,
If one day's sun they gain, no longer trust
The fickle sky, but rear the verdant cock
Of size diminutive: these, with a little sheaf
Bound near the tops, and by the fingers combed,
Then circularly spread like bee-hive's thatch,
They shield from sudden rain and nightly dew.
So fenced, the little rows, if gently raised
From time to time, in seven days more may join
To rear the swelling tramprick, and defy
Both wind and rain. Beware, nor long delay
To pile the stack, on trees and boughs transverse,
From damp secured:---see, it surmounts the reach
Picard. Early Acadia.Of arms full-stretched;---then, from below, with forks
Up-poised, the fragrant heaps are spread,
[Page 107]
And trampled with much jest and merriment,
And hurtless falls of blythsome lad and lass.

To destine all your grassy crop to hay
Is thriftless husbandry. In summer drouths
Preserve a portion green for stake and stall;
For in the pasture-field, the biting flies
Unceasingly, though lashed away, return,
And still return, tormenting, to the charge;
Till, goaded past endurance, round the field
The maddened horse scours snorting, while the herd
Gallop in awkward guise, with tails erect,---
And, wildly bellowing, spite of hedge or ditch,
Rush to some neighbouring stream, and, plunging, lave
Their heaving sides.

Samuel Woodworth (1784-1842).
“The Hay-makers”
from The poetical works (1861)

Rowlandson.  Rural sports. 1814.It is sweet, love, to stray,
When the noon-tide is over,
Through the windrows of hay,
And the white-blossomed clover;
[Page 35]
Where each lass may partake
In the toil and the pleasure,
Keeping time, with the rake,
To the lark's tuneful measure.
Oh 'tis sweet thus to stray,
When the noon-tide is over,
Through the windrows of hay,
And the white-blossomed clover.

There the swains cut their paths
Through the sections assigned them,
Leaving sweet-scented swaths
Swelling gayly behind them.
Tender childhood and age,
Sturdy manhood and beauty,
All with ardor engage
In so pleasing a duty.
Oh 'tis sweet thus to stray,
When the noon-tide is over,
Through the windrows of hay,
And the white-blossomed clover.

Wood. Haying 1939.As the billow of grass
Over the meadow is driven,
By some rose-visaged lass
'Tis divided and riven,
When her swain lends his aid,
And the green hillock rises,
[Page 36]
Then the half-willing maid
With a sly kiss surprises.
Oh 'tis sweet thus to stray,
When the noon-tide is over,
Through the windrows of hay,
And the white blossomed clover.

See the gay romping elves,
Now the sweet task is over,
All amusing themselves,
On the balm-breathing clover;
There the swain whispers love
To his heart's dearest treasure,
Who affects to reprove,
While her eyes beam with pleasure.
Oh 'tis sweet thus to stray,
When the noon-tide is over,
Through the windrows of hay,
And the white-blossomed clover.

Hearn. Landscape and figures. 1783. Thomas Hood (1799-1845).
“That Flesh is Grass is Now as Clear as Day”
from The Complete Poetical Works (1906)

“That flesh is grass is now as clear as day,
To any but the merest purblind pup,
Death cuts it down, and then, to make her hay,
My Lady B--- comes and rakes it up.”

Mulready. Haymaking. 1846. Thomas Hood (1799-1845).
"Miss Killmansegg and Her Precious Leg. A Legend"
lines 1421-1427
from The Complete Poetical Works (1906)

“Who hath not felt that breath in the air,
A perfume and freshness strange and rare,
A warmth in the light, and a bliss everywhere,
When young hearts yearn together?
All sweets below, and all sunny above,
Oh! there's nothing in life like making love,
Save making hay in fine weather!”

Posted by Alan Ritch at 12:54 PM

John Clare poems on hay.

John Clare.John Clare (1793-1864).

John Clare (1793-1864).
“Haymaking” [sonnet]

John Clare (1793-1864).
“The Meadow Hay”

John Clare (1793-1864).
“To Julia”

John Clare (1793-1864).
“Ballad [We’ll walk among the the tedded hay]”

Dupre. Second crop. 19th c. Clare deserves his own section for his contribution to the Romantic movement of at least five poems on haymaking. All reflect his rural Northamptonshire childhood and all were written in the 1820s and 1830s. Sunnily optimistic, they sing of love and life in the English countryside and give no hint that the poet would spend the last decades of his life in an insane asylum.

John Clare (1793-1864).
from The Later Poems (1984).

Constable. Hayfield near East Bergholt. 1812.
Among the meadow hay cocks
'Tis beautiful to lie
When pleasantly the day looks
And gold like is the sky

How lovely looks the hay-swarth
When turning to the sun
How richly looks the dark path
When the rickings all are done

There's nothing looks more lovely
As a meadow field in cock
There's nothing sounds more sweetly
As the evenings six o' clock

There's nothing sounds so welcome
As their singing at their toil
Sweet maidens with tan'd faces
And bosoms fit to broil
Runciman. Allegro. 1773.
And its beautiful to look on
How the hay-cleared meadow lies
How the sun pours down his welcome heat
Like gold from yonder skies

[Page 282]
There's a calm upon the level
When the sun is getting low
Smooth as a lawn is the green level
Save where swarths their pointings shew

There the mother makes a journey
With a babbie at her breast
While the sun is fit to burn ye
On the sabath day at rest

There's nothing like such beauty
With a woman ere compares
Unless the love within her arms
The infant which she heirs.

Cox. Haymaking. 1810. John Clare (1793-1864).
“Haymaking” [sonnet]
from The Midsummer Cushion (1990)]

Tis haytime & the red complexioned sun
Was scarcely up ere blackbirds had begun
Along the meadow hedges here & there
To sing loud songs to the sweet smelling air
Where breath of flowers & grass & happy cow
Fling oer ones senses streams of fragrance now
While in some pleasant nook the swain & maid
Lean oer their rakes & loiter in the shade
Or bend a minute oer the bridge & throw
Crumbs in their leisure to the fish below
---Hark at that happy shout---& song between
Tis pleasures birthday in her meadow scene
What joy seems half so rich from pleasure won
As the loud laugh of maidens in the sun.

Brooke. Haymakers' lunch. John Clare (1793-1864).
“The Meadow Hay” [sonnet]
from The Midsummer Cushion (1990)

I often roam a minute from the path
Just to luxuriate on the new mown swath
& stretch me at my idle length along
Hum louder oer some melody or song
While passing stranger slackens in his pace
& turns to wonder what can haunt the place
Unthinking that an idle ryhmster lies
Buried in the sweet grass & feeding phantasys
This happy spirit of the joyous day
Stirs every pulse of life into the play
Of buoyant joy & extacy---I walk
& hear the very weeds to sing & talk
Of their delights as the delighted wind
Toys with them like playfellows ever kind.

Cameron. Going to the hay. 1858. John Clare (1793-1864).
“To Julia”
from The Later Poems (1984).

Dear Julia! now the new mown hay
Is littered o'er the narrow path,
We'll in the meadows spend the day,
And sit upon the scented swath;
We'll rest upon the fragrant hay,
Dear Julia! in the willows shade;
In fond affection spend the day:
And there I'll love my bonny maid

[Page 914 ]
The knap weed falls before the scythe,
And clumps of tawney meadow sweet,
Ploughmen in fallows, whistle blythe,
Where I, and bonny Julia meet.
How sweetly cool the river runs!
How richly green the flags appear!
More yellow than the brightest suns,
The sweetest place in all the year---
We'll gather lamb toes in the grass
Brown tanned and hot as Julia's face,
And Burnet flower, a tawney lass,
And rattles like a pencil case
That sound and rattles in the hand,
For which the village boys will run:
For these I'll sea[r]ch about the land,
And walk with Julia in the sun---
Dear Julia! now the new mown hay
Is littered oer the narrow path,
We'll in the meadows spend the day,
And walk among the scented swath,
Dear Julia! in the willow's shade,
We'll sit upon the fragrant hay,
And love, and live throughout the day.
To 'Julia Wiggington'

Dahling. At the garden fence. 1820. John Clare (1793-1864).
“Ballad [We’ll walk among the the tedded hay]”
from The Later Poems (1984).

We'll walk among the tedded hay,
That smells as sweet as flowers;
While the meadow water winds its way
Beneath the hawthorn bowers.

And when the bright green haycocks throw
Their shadows from the sun,
When thou art weary there we'll go,
And rest, the heat to shun.

[Page 383 ]
We'll to the hawthorn shades retire,
Where blooms the wild dog rose;
And smell the sweetly scented briar,
Where the shining river flows.
We'll talk o'er joys we once could prove,
And blithely spend the day,
For those pleasant dreams of early youth
Can never pass away.

June 18/44.

Posted by Alan Ritch at 12:26 PM