Verse > Anthologies > Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. > The Second Book of Modern Verse
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Jessie B. Rittenhouse, ed. (1869–1948).  The Second Book of Modern Verse.  1922.
 
Ballad of a Child
 
John G. Neihardt
 
 
YEARLY 1 thrilled the plum tree
With the mother-mood;
Every June the rose stock
Bore her wonder-child:
Every year the wheatlands        5
Reared a golden brood:
World of praying Rachaels,
Heard and reconciled!
 
“Poet,” said the plum tree’s
Singing white and green,        10
“What avails your mooning,
Can you fashion plums?”
“Dreamer,” crooned the wheatland’s
Rippling vocal sheen,
“See my golden children        15
Marching as with drums!”
 
“By a god begotten,”
Hymned the sunning vine,
“In my lyric children
Purple music flows!”        20
“Singer,” breathed the rose bush,
“Are they not divine?”
“Have you any daughters
Mighty as a rose?”
 
Happy, happy mothers!        25
Cruel, cruel words!
Mine are ghostly children,
Haunting all the ways;
Latent in the plum bloom,
Calling through the birds,        30
Romping with the wheat brood
In their shadow plays!
 
Gotten out of star-glint,
Mothered of the Moon;
Nurtured with the rose scent,        35
Wild elusive throng!
Something of the vine’s dream
Crept into a tune;
Something of the wheat-drone
Echoed in a song.        40
 
Once again the white fires
Smoked among the plums;
Once again the world-joy
Burst the crimson bud;
Golden-bannered wheat broods        45
Marched to fairy drums;
Once again the vineyard
Felt the Bacchic blood.
 
“Lo, he comes,—the dreamer”—
Crooned the whitened boughs,        50
“Quick with vernal love-fires—
Oh, at last he knows!
See the bursting plum bloom
There above his brows!”
“Boaster!” breathed the rose bush,        55
“’Tis a budding rose!”
 
Droned the glinting acres,
“In his soul, mayhap,
Something like a wheat-dream
Quickens into shape!”        60
Sang the sunning vineyard,
“Lo, the lyric sap
Sets his heart a-throbbing
Like a purple grape!”
 
Mother of the wheatlands,        65
Mother of the plums,
Mother of the vineyard—
All that loves and grows—
Such a living glory
To the dreamer comes,        70
Mystic as a wheat-song,
Mighty as a rose!
 
Star-glint, moon-glow,
Gathered in a mesh!
Spring-hope, white fire        75
By a kiss beguiled!
Something of the world-joy
Dreaming into flesh!
Bird-song, vine-thrill
Quickened to a child!        80
 
Note 1. Reprinted by permission of the publishers, from The Quest, by John G. Neihardt. Copyright, 1916, by The Macmillan Company. [back]
 

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