Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, GRANDFATHER WATTS'S PRIVATE FOURTH, by HENRY CUYLER BUNNER



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GRANDFATHER WATTS'S PRIVATE FOURTH, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Grandfather watts used to tell us boys
Last Line: And marched off home, nor'-west by nor'.
Subject(s): Fourth Of July; Independence Day


GRANDFATHER WATTS used to tell us boys
That a Fourth wa'n't a Fourth without any noise.
He would say, with a thump of his hickory stick,
That it made an American right down sick
To see his sons on the Nation's Day
Sit round, in a sort of a listless way,
With no oration and no train-band,
No fire-work show and no root-beer stand;
While his grandsons, before they were out of bibs,
Were ashamed—Great Scott!—to fire off squibs.

And so, each Independence morn,
Grandfather Watts took his powder-horn,
And the flint-lock shot-gun his father had
When he fought under Schuyler, a country lad;
And Grandfather Watts would start and tramp
Ten miles to the woods at Beaver Camp;
For Grandfather Watts used to say—and scowl—
That a decent chipmunk, or woodchuck, or owl
Was better company, friendly or shy,
Than folks who did n't keep Fourth of July.
And so he would pull his hat down on his brow,
And march for the woods, sou'-east by sou'.

But once—ah, long, long years ago,—
For Grandfather's gone where good men go,—
One hot, hot Fourth, by ways of our own
(Such short-cuts as boys have always known),
We hurried, and followed the dear old man
Beyond where the wilderness began—
To the deep black woods at the foot of the Hump;
And there was a clearing—and a stump.

A stump in the heart of a great wide wood,
And there on that stump our Grandfather stood,
Talking and shouting out there in the sun,
And firing that funny old flint-lock gun
Once in a minute—his head all bare—
Having his Fourth of July out there:
The Fourth of July that he used to know,
Back in eighteen-and-twenty or so!

First, with his face to the heavens blue,
He read the "Declaration" through;
And then, with gestures to left and right,
He made an oration erudite,
Full of words six syllables long—
And then our Grandfather burst into song!
And, scaring the squirrels in the-trees,
Gave "Hail, Columbia!" to the breeze.

And I tell you the old man never heard
When we joined in the chorus, word for word!
But he sang out strong to his bright blue sky;
And if voices joined in his Fourth of July,
He heard them as echoes from days gone by.

And when he had done, we all slipped back,
As still as we came, on our twisting track,
While words more clear than the flint-lock shots
Rang in our ears.
And Grandfather Watts?
He shouldered the gun his father bore,
And marched off home, nor'-west by nor'.





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