Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ECLOGUE, by JOHN CROWE RANSOM

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

ECLOGUE, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: Jane sneed began it: my poor john, alas!
Last Line: Beneath ground as above.
Subject(s): Life; Love - Marital; Wedded Love; Marriage - Love

JANE SNEED BEGAN IT: My poor John, alas!
Ten years ago, pretty it was in a ring
To run as boys and girls do in the grass --
At that time, leap and hollo and skip and sing
Came easily to pass.

And precious little innocents were we!
Said a boy, "Now shall we let her be the fox?"
Or a girl, "Now which of you will climb the tree?"
We were quick-foot the deer, strong-heart the ox,
Business-man the bee.

JOHN BLACK SAID: I'll interpret what you mean.
Our infant selves played happily with our others,
The cunning me and mine came not between,
Which like a sword is, O sweethearts and brothers
Numberless, who have seen.

JANE SNEED: I tell you what I used to do.
For joy I used to run by river or wood
To see with what speed all came trooping too;
Those days, I could not quit you if I would!
Nor yet quit me, could you.

JOHN BLACK RETURNED: But now, Jane, it appears,
We are sly travellers, keeping good lookout
Against the face whose ravage cries for tears;
Old friends, ill-met; and supposing I call out,
Draw nigh, friend of these years! --

Before he think of any reason why,
The features of that man resolve and burn
For one long look -- but then the flame must die.
The cold hearts in us mortally return,
We may not fructify.

JANE SNEED SAID BITTERLY: Why, John, you are right.
We were spendthrifts of joy when we were young,
But we became usurious, and in fright
Conceived that such a waste of days was wrong
For marchers unto night.

JOHN BLACK SAID: Yes, exactly, that was when
It happened. For Time involved us: in his toils
We learned to fear. And every day since then
We are mortals teasing for immortal spoils,
Desperate women and men.

JANE SNEED CONSENTED: It was nothing but this.
Love suffereth long, is kind -- but not in fear.
For boys run banded, and simple sweethearts kiss,
Till, on one day, the face of Death appear,
Then metamorphosis!

JOHN BLACK SAID: To explain mistrust and wars,
Theogony has a black witch with hell's broth;
Or a preposterous marriage of fleshless stars;
Or the Fiend's own naked person; or God worth
Fingering his red scars.

And Philosophy, an art of equal worth,
Tells of a flaw in the firmament -- spots in the sun --
A Third Day's error when the upheaving earth
Was young and prime -- a Fate reposed upon
The born, before their birth.

Not I, not you -- about these mysteries!
Something, John Black, came flapping out of hell
And wrought between us, and the chasm is
Digged -- and it digged it well.

That love has suffered a most fatal eclipse
All brotherhoods, filialities insecure;
Lovers compounding honey on their lips
With deep doubts to endure.

JANE SNEED SAID SLOWLY: I suppose it stands
Just so. Yet I can picture happiness --
Still wander lovers in the fairy lands
Who, when stalks Night the dark and fathomless,
Consort their little hands;

And well, John Black, those darkened lovers may,
For hands hold much of heat in little storage,
And eyes are flickerless torches good as day;
The flame of each to the other's flame cries Courage!
Soon heart to heart slide they.

Thus unafraid they keep the whole night through,
Till the sun of a sudden glowing through the brushes;
They wake and laugh, their eyes again are blue,
They run to the fields, and apprehend the thrushes,
And print the fairy dew.

This is a dream. We lovers mournfully
Exchange our bleak despairs. We are one part love
And nine parts bitter thought. As well might be
Beneath ground as above.

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