Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE WOOD-CUTTERS WIFE, by WILLIAM ROSE BENET



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THE WOOD-CUTTERS WIFE, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Times she'll sit quiet by the hearth
Last Line: That grows full glory, when she comes again.
Subject(s): Women


Times she'll sit quiet by the hearth, and times
She'll ripple with a fit of twinkling rhymes
And rise and pirouette and flirt her hand,
Strut jackdaw-like, or stamp a curt command
Or, from behind my chair, suddenly blind me;
Then, when I turn, be vanished from behind me.

Times she'll be docile as the gentlest thing
That ever blinked in fur or folded wing,
And then like lightning in the dead of night
Fill with wild, crackling, intermittent light
My mind and soul and senses -- and next be
Aloof, askance as a dryad in a tree.

Then she'll be gone for days; when next I turn,
There, coaxing yellow butter from the churn,
Rubbing to silver every pan of tin
Or conjuring color from the rooms within
Through innocent flowers, she'll hum about the house
Bright-eyed and secret as a velvet mouse.

'Tis not your will They do, no, nor the Will
That hushes Anselm's chapel overhill.
Something that drifts in clouds, that sings in rain,
That laughs in sunlight, shudders in the pain
Of desolate seas, or broods in basking earth
Governs Their melancholy and Their mirth.

Elusive still! Elusive as my reason
For trudging woodward in or out of season
To swing the ringing axe, as year by year
The inexplicable end draws slowly near,
And, in between, to think and think about it,
Life's puzzling dream, deride, believe -- and doubt it.

But if I leave her seriously alone
She comes quite near, pre-empts some woodland stone,
Spreads out her kirtle like a shimmering dress
And fills my mind's remorseful emptiness
With marvellous jewels made of words and wit
Till all my being sings because of it;

Sings of the way her bronze hair waves about
And how her amber-lighted eyes peer out;
Sings of her sudden laughter floating wild,
Of all her antics of a fairy child,
Of her uplifted head and swift, demure
Silence and awe, than purity more pure.

So I must scratch my head and drop my axe,
While in her hands my will is twisted wax;
So, when she goes, deaf, dumb, and blind I sit
Watching her empty armchair opposite,
Witched by evasive brightness in the brain
That grows full glory, when she comes again.





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