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The poem meme

October 24th, 2004 (11:09 pm)

I liked the poem meme when I saw it come around, but I didn't get around to doing anything with it. So here's two: one by Frost, and one I wrote. The Frost one is better, of course, but it's long, so I'll put it behind a cut.

Two Tramps in Mud Time

by Robert Frost

Out of the mud two strangers came,
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim,
By hailing cheerily, "Hit them hard!"
I knew pretty well why he hung behind,
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping-block,
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as the cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose to my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day:
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You're one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off the frozen peak,
And you're two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight,
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is still snowing a flake,
And he knew winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn't blue,
But he wouldn't advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summer-time with a witching-wand,
In every wheel-rut's now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don't forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath,
That will steal forth after sun is set,
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my work,
These two must make me love it more,
By coming with what they came to ask.
You'd think I'd never had felt before:
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip on earth of outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the woods two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber-camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
They judged me by their appropriate tool:
Except as a fellow handled an ax,
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said:
They knew they had but to stay their stay,
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man's work for gain.
My right might be love, but theirs was need;
And where the two exist in twain,
Theirs was the better right--agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation,
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done,
For Heaven and the future's sakes.

The Rainbow's Heart

by John Stracke

Now mists of rain meet shallow sunbeams bright,
These drops of water which their bonds have curved;
A million mirrored prisms bend the light,
And bounce it back for my eyes to observe.

Each color bends by its distinct degree,
And so each shade appears in its own band,
To form the wonder there for all to see:
Another rainbow, undesigned, unplanned.

It strikes us all, lays claim to ev'ry heart;
The youngest child will for its beauty yearn.
Yet, though itself is simple, potent art,
Still can it be more wondrous if we learn.

The rainbow seals Sir Isaac's covenant:
That all of Nature's beauty can make sense.

I wrote this one after reading Dawkins's Unweaving the Rainbow, in which, at one point, he laments the fact that people think science can't be poetic. His title comes from some famous example, who accused Newton of "unweaving the rainbow" (when he explained how it worked). So I set out to write a sonnet about how the rainbow works.