Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE LAUGHERS, by LOUIS UNTERMEYER

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

THE LAUGHERS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Spring! / and her hidden bugles up the street
Last Line: Hailing the spring!
Alternate Author Name(s): Lewis, Michael
Subject(s): Spring

And her hidden bugles up the street.
Spring -- and the sweet
Laughter of winds at the crossing;
Laughter of birds and a fountain tossing
Its hair in abandoned ecstasies.
Laughter of trees.
Laughter of shop-girls that giggle and blush;
Laughter of the tug-boat's impertinent fife.
Laughter followed by a trembling hush --
Laughter of love, scarce whispered aloud.
Then, stilled by no sacredness or strife,
Laughter that leaps from the crowd;
Seizing the world in a rush.
Laughter of life. . . .

Earth takes deep breaths like a man who had feared he might smother,
Filling his lungs before bursting into a shout. . . .
Windows are opened -- curtains flying out;
Over the wash-lines women call to each other.
And, under the calling, there surges, too clearly to doubt,
Spring, with the noises
Of shrill, little voices;
Joining in "Tag" and the furious chase
Of "I-spy," "Red Rover" and "Prisoner's Base";
Of the roller-skates whir at the sidewalk's slope,
Of boys playing marbles and the girls skipping rope.
And there, down the avenue, behold,
The first true herald of the Spring --
The hand-organ gasping and wheezily murmuring
Its tunes ten-years old. . . .
And the music, trivial and tawdry, has freshness and magical swing.
And over and under it,
During and after --
The laughter
Of Spring! . . .

And lifted still
With the common thrill,
With the throbbing air, the tingling vapor,
That rose like strong and mingled wines;
I turn to my paper,
And read these lines:
"Now that the Spring is here,
The war enters its bloodiest phase. . . .
The men are impatient. . . .
Bad roads, storms and the rigors of the winter
Have held back the contending armies. . . .
But the recruits have arrived.
And are waiting only the first days of warm weather. . . .
There will be terrible fighting along the whole line --
Now that Spring has come."

I put the paper down. .
Something struck out the sun -- something unseen;
Something arose like a dark wave to drown
The golden streets with sickly green.
Something polluted the blossoming day
With the touch of decay.
The music thinned and died;
People seemed hollow-eyed.
Even the faces of children, where gaiety lingers,
Sagged and drooped like banners about to be furled --
And Silence laid its bony fingers
On the lips of the world . . .
A grisly quiet with the power to choke;
A quiet that only one thing broke;
One thing alone rose up thereafter . . .
Laughter of streams running red.
Laughter of evil things in the night;
Vultures carousing over the dead;
Laughter of ghouls.
Chuckling of idiots, cursed with sight.
Laughter of dark and horrible pools.
Scream of the bullets' rattling mirth,
Sweeping the earth.
Laugh of the cannon's poisonous breath. . . .
And over the shouts and the wreckage and crumbling
The raucous and rumbling
Laughter of death.
Death that arises to sing, --
Hailing the Spring!

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