Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
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Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
 
Woodrow Wilson
By Albert Frederick Wilson
 
After seeing Drinkwater’s Lincoln

I
WE weep over the dead Lincoln;
We bring tears
To the pretty playhouse.
 
We bring tears
To make a pleasant holiday.        5
 
For we must have our tears—
Tears gently mingled with laughter
And the muted clarinets.
 
We bring tears
For our holiday;        10
We weep over the dead Lincoln.
 
Yea, we are a people chosen—
Young, mighty and glorious!
 
So!
 
If we would have tears,        15
We must have woe
From out some woeful land;
Or write it from an epitaph,
Making of it a sweet melancholy.
 
II
We would have tears!
        20
Yea, this is no time for singing,
Or I should have voice
Beyond these penny-whistle tunes
Of Jack and Jill.
 
So I stand dumb        25
When they weep,
When they weep
Over the dead Lincoln.
 
III
But it is not because
I have not tried to sing.        30
 
Here in my New England hills,
With December on the pasture land,
I have walked all day
By the shores of Chimney Pond.
 
Yea, this is no time for singing.        35
 
For the white chill is on me,
And the black alder path is frozen.
 
The field-mouse scuttles
From the dried corn shock.
 
And on the new snow        40
Runs the trail
Of the liver-colored hound
That hunts all day
With toothless gums.
 
IV
This is no time for singing.
        45
 
And yet—
I cannot weep,
I cannot bring tears
To the dead Lincoln.
 
But if I could take my heart        50
From out this chill
I know full well
Where tears would flow.
 
V
We would have tears,
Gentle tears,        55
To make a pleasant holiday.
 
So?
 
Then come along with me,
And I shall find for you
A comedy as melancholy        60
As ever you could wish.
 
But you must bring
The muted clarinets.
 
VI: THE COMEDY

I think it is an old Morality,
Like Everyman        65
(I told you it was melancholy).
 
Sift through with muted clarinets!
 
My seat was so far back
I could not always get
The drift of it.        70
 
A curious play—
For no one knew who had the lines,
The players or the people.
 
And often it was just the chorus
With its burden—        75
A myriad host
Emptying from the shoulders
Of a myriad years,
Bringing each its myriad years.
 
Coming up—        80
 
Coming up from the unending valleys,
Singing:
 
“Hosanna!”
And “Hosanna!”
 
Singing, “Hosanna!”        85
To one who came.
 
VII: THE PLAYER

I thought I knew him by his face,
I thought I knew him by his dress,
I thought I knew him by his walk
And all those old familiar gestures        90
Of his hand and head.
 
I’d seen him so
A thousand times or more,
Walking from his class-room
Down a quiet college green,        95
With the students playing base-ball
All about him.
 
No silken robes transfigured him,
No sandaled feet,
No crown of light about his brow.        100
 
I said:
“It must be that the author,
Needing to explain the plot,
Has brought him here to introduce
The action, and the time and place.”        105
 
And I think that he
Had thought so too;
For he did not seem to know
Just what to do,
Just what to say,        110
Just when to speak the lines
The text had given him—
And so be gone.
 
For they were singing:
“Hosanna!”        115
 
And they would not let him go.
 
How could he know
There came the ox-carts
Bringing up a cross?
 
But when his vision cleared,        120
And he could see down that long road
To where the sky-line closed—
I think he knew.
 
For then he turned—
He turned, and buttoned up his coat,        125
And started out to meet them.
 
VIII
In that still moment,
Some one tittered down the aisle.
 
And some one laughed!
And some one gave a loud guffaw!        130
 
Then came the cat-calls
Back and forth across the house.
 
Who was this gaunt buffoon
Who made a mockery
Of such a part?        135
 
Where were the old tragedians
Of the voice and hand?
Where the trappings of this noble board?
Where the rolling organ-tones of salutation?
Where the strut and posture?        140
Where the studied smile
Bending for the crown of thorns?
Where the riven chest,
So that all might see
The slowly breaking heart?        145
 
Oh, sift through with muted clarinets!
 
For then, he turned—
He turned, and buttoned up his coat,
And started out to meet them!
 
IX
The little man beside me,
        150
With blue, mirthful eyes,
Laughed out until his face was red,
Crying:
 
“The same old buncombe
We got from Barnum!        155
The same old buncombe
In a high silk hat!”
 
And bending to my ear
He whispered:
 
“They can’t even see the chalk marks        160
On his old tweed vest!”
 
X
But all the while,
That myriad host
From down the valleys
Singing:        165
 
“Buddha! Confucius! Mohammed! Christ!
Buddha! Confucius! Mohammed! Christ!”
 
No matter who laughed,
No matter who scorned.
 
“Buddha! Confucius! Mohammed! Christ!”        170
 
Until at last
The little man with mirthful eyes,
Wearying of his laughter,
Cried:
 
“If he be a Messiah,        175
Let him save himself!”
 
And thought the words were new!
 
But no one left
His red plush seat
To follow up the hill.        180
 
XI: THE PLAY ENDS

So, when at last
They came out from the play,
One said: “A comedy indeed!”
 
And one:
“Who wrote the travesty?”        185
 
And one:
“It doesn’t go to music!”
 
And one:
“It doesn’t go to singing!”
 
And one:        190
“You will not find it
Written on an epitaph!”
 
XII
We bring tears
To the pretty playhouse;
We make a pleasant holiday,        195
We weep over the dead Lincoln.
 
But as for me!—
I think evermore
My feet shall follow
The trail of the liver-colored hound.        200
 
 
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