Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, SWEET CLOVER, by EDGAR LEE MASTERS

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SWEET CLOVER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Only a few plants up - and not a blossom
Last Line: The doctor says he has tuberculosis.
Subject(s): Clover

Only a few plants up -- and not a blossom
My clover didn't catch. What is the matter?
Old John comes by. I show him my result.
Look, John! My clover patch is just a failure,
I wanted you to sow it. Now you see
What comes of letting Hunter do your work.
The ground was not plowed right, or disced perhaps,
Or harrowed fine enough, or too little seed
Was sown.

But John, who knows a clover field,
Pulls up a plant and cleans the roots of soil
And studies them.

He says, Look at the roots!
Hunter neglected to inoculate
The seed, for clover seed must always have
Clover bacteria to make it grow,
And blossom. In a thrifty field of clover
The roots are studded thick with tubercles,
Like little warts, made by bacteria.
And somehow these bacteria lay hold
Upon the nitrogen that fills the soil,
And make the plants grow, make them blossom too.
When Hunter sowed this field he was not well:
He should have hauled some top-soil to this field
From some old clover field, or made a culture
Of these bacteria and soaked the seed
In it before he sowed it.

As I said,
Hunter was sick when he was working here.
And then he ran away to Indiana
And left his wife and children. Now he's back.
His cough was just as bad in Indiana
As it is here. A cough is pretty hard
To run away from. Wife and children too
Are pretty hard to leave, since thought of them
Stays with a fellow and cannot be left.
Yes, Hunter's back, but he can't work for you.
He's straightening out his little farm and making
Provision for his family. Hunter's changed.
He is a better man. It almost seems
That Hunter's blossomed....

I am sorry for him.
The doctor says he has tuberculosis.

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