Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, BREAD, by MAURICE BOUCHOR



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BREAD, by            
First Line: O bread of men, earth's immemorial fruit
Last Line: To-morrow with the feast of love.
Subject(s): Bread


O BREAD of men, Earth's immemorial fruit,
Since first the sower, lone and resolute.
To furrowed loam committed thee,
How hast thou pulsed the grain, the blade and leaf,
The tender ear, soon ripe for scythe and sheaf,
And brought them to maturity?

By what iron will didst thou the tiny seed
Inter within the bare and silent mead,
Its soul with spirit to inspire?
How didst thou draw the life-blood of the mould
To proffer this white bread encased with gold,
Embraced and purified by fire?

Yet all for naught had been thy noble stress
Without the fending of Man's faithfulness,
Conserving glebe and warding glade;
All naught save for the sun and freshening dew,
The balsamed air of uplands breathing through
The valleys tilled by plough and spade.

Ne'er had this bread from meagre grain been grown
Had not the lowing kine raked root and stone,
Constrained to work by human will;
If gleaming scythe or hurrying mill had ceased
Or had the flour lacked water, salt and yeast,
Or oven slept in rust and chill.

All these, O Bread, were midwives at thy birth;
Yet men of shrivelled heart and swollen girth
Thy worth can nowise estimate.
The tyrant who enslaves humanity,
The Dives heaping wealth o'er misery . . .
Ah, let them sneer and keep their hate!

The husbandman who toileth morn and eve
The crowning of his labours can perceive
In loaves of humanising bread.
Thou art his morning's psalm and evening prayer;
He sees in thee all striving wheresoe'er
Requited, joyed and fed.

As, when thou hast been absent, thy return
Brings happiness, so anguished bosoms yearn
When housewives moan: "The bread is dear!"
Grant us to see thy peace with tranquil eyes;
Endue us with thy wisdom that supplies
Soul nourishment with corporal cheer.

Bread made for all and here for all, true Guide,
Lead us unto that bourne love-sanctified,
Where men forget to rend and tear.
Inspire our hearts with hate of lust and strife,
Wherein we snatch from mouths the bread of life,
And teach our hands our joy to share.

Speak, that our hearts may echo thine appeal;
For justice and for truth awake our zeal,
O Bread, that e'er the paupers crave.
Bid us go forth, alleviating woe,
Until the roseate dawn of freedom glow
And bread the empty panniers stave.

Until in harmony serenely blent
The world as one receive the sacrament
And thou, O joyous wheaten flower,
Assemblest at one board the future's fold
Far from the vultures, ravenous for gold,
And men break bread in happy hour.

Say unto them: "I was the seed which slept
In the wide and naked field by tempests swept,
Yet I withstood the hail and sleet:
Crept upward to the sun and filled with sap;
Bore golden fruit, which lay in Nature's lap
When scythe and sickle did retreat.

"And, 'spite the flails of circumstance, I lived,
Cut, flagellated, moistened, dried and sieved,
Immured within the stifling sack,
Borne out of barns unto the river's side
Till, there released, the ponderous stone 'gan chide,
Grinding the while to clapper's clack.

"Of what I was the grating mill took toll;
But in its dust my spirit slumbered whole:
Dreaming, I slept till I was proven,
When, lifted up, one whom I did not know
Made moist my flour and kneaded it to dough
And plunged me in the glowing oven.

"I shuddered on the shovel's fiery span
And from me all my energy outran.
I fell; my last resistance broke.
I died, and then . . . my metamorphosis!
My soul dispirited passed into this
Wherewith to higher life I woke.

"Now am I bread imparting life to all.
With joy into the famished mouths I fall;
O men, in you I live again.
Your lot is like to mine, and harmonised,
Though mown and beaten now and brutalised,
The future shall dissolve its bane.

"Ye die a thousand times, yet live anew,
And in this hour of stress I counsel you;
Both talisman and charm I give:
Bend to the task, ye toilers 'neath the sun!
By me the long-sought victory shall be won.
Partake of me! Yea, eat and live!"

Thus saith the bread to him with ears to hear.
O heed his grave, sweet message rising clear
From fires that flare beneath, above.
Vouchsafe life's bread! Cry: "Whosoever will!"
And verily Earth's vastiness shall fill
To-morrow with the Feast of Love.





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