Into My Own
One of my wishes is that those dark trees,
So old and firm they scarcely show the breeze,
Were not, as ’twere, the merest mask of gloom,
But stretched away unto th eedge of doom.
I should not be withheld but that some day
into their vastness I should steal away,
Fearless of ever finding open land,
or highway where the slow wheel pours the sand.
I do not see why I should e’er turn back,
Or those should not set forth upon my track
To overtake me, who should miss me here
And long to know if still I held them dear.
They would not find me changed from him the knew–
Only more sure of all I though was true.
|Let us be thankful, Lord, for little things –
The song of birds, the rapture of the rose;
Cloud-dappled skies, the laugh of limpid springs,
Drowned sunbeams and the perfume April blows;
Bronze wheat a-shimmer, purple shade of trees –
Let us be thankful, Lord of Life, for these!
Let us be praiseful, Sire, for simple sights; –
Let us be grateful, God, for health serene,
Robert W. Service
I took a contract to bury the body of blasphemous Bill MacKie,
Whenever, wherever or whatsoever the manner of death he die–
Whether he die in the light o’ day or under the peak-faced moon;
In cabin or dance-hall, camp or dive, mucklucks or patent shoon;
On velvet tundra or virgin peak, by glacier, drift or draw;
In muskeg hollow or canyon gloom, by avalanche, fang or claw;
By battle, murder or sudden wealth, by pestilence, hooch or lead–
I swore on the Book I would follow and look till I found my tombless dead.
For Bill was a dainty kind of cuss, and his mind was mighty sot
On a dinky patch with flowers and grass in a civilized bone-yard lot.
And where he died or how he died, it didn’t matter a damn
So long as he had a grave with frills and a tombstone “epigram”.
So I promised him, and he paid the price in good cheechako coin
(Which the same I blowed in that very night down in the Tenderloin).
Then I painted a three-foot slab of pine: “Here lies poor Bill MacKie”,
And I hung it up on my cabin wall and I waited for Bill to die.
Years passed away, and at last one day came a squaw with a story strange,
Of a long-deserted line of traps ‘way back of the Bighorn range;
Of a little hut by the great divide, and a white man stiff and still,
Lying there by his lonesome self, and I figured it must be Bill.
So I thought of the contract I’d made with him, and I took down from the shelf
The swell black box with the silver plate he’d picked out for hisself;
And I packed it full of grub and “hooch”, and I slung it on the sleigh;
Then I harnessed up my team of dogs and was off at dawn of day.
You know what it’s like in the Yukon wild when it’s sixty-nine below;
When the ice-worms wriggle their purple heads through the crust of the pale blue snow;
When the pine-trees crack like little guns in the silence of the wood,
And the icicles hang down like tusks under the parka hood;
When the stove-pipe smoke breaks sudden off, and the sky is weirdly lit,
And the careless feel of a bit of steel burns like a red-hot spit;
When the mercury is a frozen ball, and the frost-fiend stalks to kill–
Well, it was just like that that day when I set out to look for Bill.
Oh, the awful hush that seemed to crush me down on every hand,
As I blundered blind with a trail to find through that blank and bitter land;
Half dazed, half crazed in the winter wild, with its grim heart-breaking woes,
And the ruthless strife for a grip on life that only the sourdough knows!
North by the compass, North I pressed; river and peak and plain
Passed like a dream I slept to lose and I waked to dream again.
River and plain and mighty peak–and who could stand unawed?
As their summits blazed, he could stand undazed at the foot of the throne of God.
North, aye, North, through a land accurst, shunned by the scouring brutes,
And all I heard was my own harsh word and the whine of the malamutes,
Till at last I came to a cabin squat, built in the side of a hill,
And I burst in the door, and there on the floor, frozen to death, lay Bill.
Ice, white ice, like a winding-sheet, sheathing each smoke-grimed wall;
Ice on the stove-pipe, ice on the bed, ice gleaming over all;
Sparkling ice on the dead man’s chest, glittering ice in his hair,
Ice on his fingers, ice in his heart, ice in his glassy stare;
Hard as a log and trussed like a frog, with his arms and legs outspread.
I gazed at the coffin I’d brought for him, and I gazed at the gruesome dead,
And at last I spoke: “Bill liked his joke; but still, goldarn his eyes,
A man had ought to consider his mates in the way he goes and dies.”
Have you ever stood in an Arctic hut in the shadow of the Pole,
With a little coffin six by three and a grief you can’t control?
Have you ever sat by a frozen corpse that looks at you with a grin,
And that seems to say: “You may try all day, but you’ll never jam me in”?
I’m not a man of the quitting kind, but I never felt so blue
As I sat there gazing at that stiff and studying what I’d do.
Then I rose and I kicked off the husky dogs that were nosing round about,
And I lit a roaring fire in the stove, and I started to thaw Bill out.
Well, I thawed and thawed for thirteen days, but it didn’t seem no good;
His arms and legs stuck out like pegs, as if they was made of wood.
Till at last I said: “It ain’t no use–he’s froze too hard to thaw;
He’s obstinate, and he won’t lie straight, so I guess I got to–saw.”
So I sawed off poor Bill’s arms and legs, and I laid him snug and straight
In the little coffin he picked hisself, with the dinky silver plate;
And I came nigh near to shedding a tear as I nailed him safely down;
Then I stowed him away in my Yukon sleigh, and I started back to town.
So I buried him as the contract was in a narrow grave and deep,
And there he’s waiting the Great Clean-up, when the Judgment sluice-heads sweep;
And I smoke my pipe and I meditate in the light of the Midnight Sun,
And sometimes I wonder if they was, the awful things I done.
And as I sit and the parson talks, expounding of the Law,
I often think of poor old Bill–and how hard he was to saw.
Robert W. Service
Simple Gifts 19th century, Shaker hymn
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free, ’tis the gift to come down where you ought to be, And when we find ourselves in the place just right, It will be in the valley of love and delight.
To my Dear Wife
God made a heart of gold,
Shining and sweet and true,
Gave it a home of fairest mould,
Blest it and called it, You.
God gave the roses its grace of glow
And the lark its radiant glee,
But better than all, I know, I know
God gave you, Heart, to me.
Robert W. Service
(Copyright by Dodd Mead Company)
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
When you’re lost in the Wild, and you’re scared as a child,
“You’re sick of the game!” Well, now, that’s a shame.
Robert W. Service
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not shouting, “I’ve been saved!”
I’m whispering, “I get lost! That’s why I chose this way”When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t speak with human pride
I’m confessing that I stumble-needing God to be my guide
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not trying to be strong
I’m professing that I’m weak and pray for strength to carry onWhen I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not bragging of success
I’m admitting that I’ve failed and cannot ever pay the debt
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I don’t think I know it all
I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taughtWhen I say, “I am a Christian,” I’m not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible but God believes I’m worth it
When I say, “I am a Christian,” I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name When I say, “I am a Christian,” I do not wish to judge
I have no authority–I only know I’m lovedCopyright 1988 Carol Wimmer
Note: this poem has been slightly modified and widely circlated as either, author unknown or attributed to Maya Angelou (as I did). I have posted the original above with the correct attribution to Carol Wimmer. http://www.carolwimmer.com/ has both the original poem and the history of the poem. Sorry for my mis-attribution Carol!