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Poem by Duncan Campbell Scott
Sun on the mountain, Shade in the valley, Ripple and lightness Leaping along the world, Sun, like a gold sword Plucked from the scabbard, Striking the wheat-fields, Splendid and lusty, Close-standing, full-headed, Toppling with plenty; Shade, like a buckler Kindly and ample, Sweeping the wheat-fields Darkening and tossing; There on the world-rim Winds break and gather Heaping the mist For the pyre of the sunset; And still as a shadow, In the dim westward, A cloud sloop of amethyst Moored to the world With cables of rain. Acres of gold wheat Stir in the sunshine, Rounding the hill-top, Crested with plenty, Filling the valley, Brimmed with abundance, Wind in the wheat-field Eddying and settling, Swaying it, sweeping it, Lifting the rich heads, Tossing them soothingly Twinkle and shimmer The lights and the shadowings, Nimble as moonlight Astir in the mere. Laden with odors Of peace and of plenty, Soft comes the wind From the ranks of the wheat-field, Bearing a promise Of harvest and sickle-time, Opulent threshing-floors Dusty and dim With the whirl of the flail, And wagons of bread, Sown-laden and lumbering Through the gateways of cities. When will the reapers Strike in their sickles, Bending and grasping, Shearing and spreading; When will the gleaners Searching the stubble Take the last wheat-heads Home in their arms ? Ask not the question! - Something tremendous Moves to the answer. Hunger and poverty Heaped like the ocean Welters and mutters, Hold back the sickles! Millions of children Born to their mothers' womb, Starved at the nipple, cry,-- Ours is the harvest! Millions of women Learned in the tragical Secrets of poverty, Sweated and beaten, cry,-- Hold back the sickles! Millions of men With a vestige of manhood, Wild-eyed and gaunt-throated, Shout with a leonine Accent of anger, Leaves us the wheat-fields! When will the reapers Strike in their sickles? Ask not the question; Something tremendous Moves to the answer. Long have they sharpened Their fiery, impetuous Sickles of carnage, Welded them aeons Ago in the mountains Of suffering and anguish; Hearts were their hammers Blood was their fire, Sorrow their anvil, (Trusty the sickle Tempered with tears;) Time they had plenty- Harvests and harvests Passed them in agony, Only a half-filled Ear for their lot; Man that has taken God for a master Made him a law, Mocked him and cursed him, Set up this hunger, Called it necessity, Put in the blameless mouth Juda's language: The poor ye have with you Always, unending. But up from the impotent Anguish of children, Up from the labor Fruitless, unmeaning, Of millions of mothers, Hugely necessitous, Grew by a just law Stern and implacable, Art born of poverty, The making of sickles Meet for the harvest. And now to the wheat-fields Come the weird reapers Armed with their sickles, Whipping them keenly In the fresh-air fields, Wild with the joy of them, Finding them trusty, Hilted with teen. Swarming like ants, The Idea for captain, No banners, no bugles, Only a terrible Ground-bass of gathering Tempest and fury, Only a tossing Of arms and of garments; Sexless and featureless, (Only the children Different among them, Crawling between their feet, Borne on their shoulders;) Rolling their shaggy heads Wild with the unheard-of Drug of the sunshine; Tears that had eaten The half of their eyelids Dry on their cheeks; Blood in their stiffened hair Clouted and darkened; Down in their cavern hearts Hunger the tiger, Leaping, exulting; Sighs that had choked them Burst into triumphing; On they come, Victory! Up to the wheat-fields, Dreamed of in visions Bred by the hunger, Seen for the first time Splendid and golden; On they come fluctuant, Seething and breaking, Weltering like fire In the pit of the earthquake, Bursting in heaps With the sudden intractable Lust of the hunger: Then when they see them- The miles of the harvest White in the sunshine, Rushing and stumbling, With the mighty and clamorous Cry of a people Starved from creation, Hurl themselves onward, Deep in the wheat-fields, Weeping like children, After ages and ages, Back at the mother the earth. Night in the valley, Gloom on the mountain, Wind in the wheat, Far to the southward The flutter of lightning, The shudder of thunder; But high at the zenith, A cluster of stars Glimmers and throbs In the gasp of the midnight, Steady and absolute, Ancient and sure.
Duncan Campbell Scott
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