Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, ULYSSES BUILDS HIS BED, by JEAN DE BOSSCHERE



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ULYSSES BUILDS HIS BED, by            
First Line: Glorious ulysses, returned from the war
Last Line: And the enraptured mothers smile.
Subject(s): Mythology - Classical; Statues; Stones; Ulysses; Walls; Granite; Rocks; Odysseus


Glorious Ulysses, returned from the war,
Chose a site in the city that smiled on his peace.
He was theirs; he had given himself with the peace.
All kept close tabs on him, and,
If he but put a hand over his eyes
They all cried out,
"He's thinking of treachery; he's proud;
Perhaps he thinks he honors us
Even by not looking at us. ...
We'll carve two new statues for you, Ulysses!
You'll have to stay with us."

But Ulysses had no thought of fleeing.
He knew mankind in the kitchen,
In the council-hall, on the battle-field;
He loved men, with their fish-scales,
Their fins on a sow's body
And the head is a duck's
And the claws are a cock's
And the sparrow's wings;
He loved their savor of bad gingerbread.
But often, in the evening, the cats' odor,
The odor was too strong,
And he could no longer embrace his friends.
"Let my statue and my thoughts stay with them," then he said.

On his property, around a sycamore
He raised a circling wall of stone and wood;
He cut a door as high as his forehead,
No wider than a man's shoulders,
Then he shut it with planks
As the five fingers of the hand hide a wound,
"As a foot laid on the vast buttocks of man,"
He said, but he blushed.
"As a cover over the world,
As a cover over a jar of cheese ripe with worms,"
He said, but he blushed,
And thrice he beat his chest.

The crowd looked at the wall:
It had no windows.
"Ulysses has no right to stick himself in a tomb."
Young Franklin caught hold of a sycamore branch,
Pulled himself up, and looked down over the wall.
He dropped back again to his sycophant-feet.
"Aha! He's sawing the trunk of the tree,"
He cried. "He's betraying us, he's selling us out;
He denies us."

"Ulysses! Ulysses! We have laid white roses at your statue,
Ulysses! Ulysses! We are hanging red roses at your door.
Ulysses, come forth that the citizens may behold you!"
He sawed the trunk.

From it he split some adorable planks
That you could fall in love with,
Planks more lovely than loaves of bread.
Ulysses, without iron nails,
Built his bed of the sycamore.

"Ulysses! Ulysses! The council is calling you!
We have told them what you did to the tree."
Had they given him the tree with the ground,
The tree from which young Franklin could watch him?
"He had no right,
No right,
Perhaps there's an underground passage.
He certainly is getting wireless messages.
Yes, he's communicating with the enemy."

With red and black Ulysses
Made signs of joy on the bed and on the door.
Then he laughed,
He laughed, and his heart
In the midst of the joyous air of his bosom,
Was as a sensuous rose that springs from bud.
It expanded like a sigh of everlasting peace.

Then, toward the sea
He bored a hole in the wall.
"I'll take a wife," he said.
"I know just what she'll be like, smooth and white
With neither chestnut, no, nor flaxen hair.
And with knowing eyes ardent as cats'.
But I want to see her on this day of exultation:
I have just to add a table, an altar, and a chest."

Ulysses looked out of the hole in the stone—
They were in thousands around the round wall
And he heard men asking,
"Is he armed?
You know how sly he was, even as a nursling,
How skilled in arms
And evil-doing!"
He saw that the men were loaded down with faggots,
There was a funeral pyre around the house.
The women poured over it the oil from their lamps
And the unguents of their adornment;
The cooks sprinkled the oil of their preserved fish,
The wheelwrights the pitch of their carts;
The boatmen brought over a cauldron of tar,
And a captain, decorated with his Sioux medals,
Thrust a flaming torch under the faggot-pile.
They roasted Ulysses
For he was truly theirs.

Far off his statues are being dragged to the sea;
A tinker buys them from the betrayed crowd;
He pays three guineas to drink in peace.
Ulysses roasts;
The maidens sing,
Flushed by the soaring flames,
And the enraptured mothers smile.





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