Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, MAKING SOAP IN VERMONT, by DANIEL LEAVENS CADY



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MAKING SOAP IN VERMONT, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Last thursday, down by slipshod hill
Last Line: To make and own a tub of soap.
Subject(s): Farm Life; Food & Eating; Mountain Life - Vermont; Soup; Vermont; Agriculture; Farmers


LAST Thursday, down by Slipshod Hill,
Jest south of Waterburyville,
There where the talc teams ebb and flow
With loads of steatitic snow—
The stuff that seems to take the place
Of water on a school girl's face,
Enough of which is dug and ground
Each year to fill Long Island Sound—
I saw a sight of health and hope,
To wit: a farmer making soap.

As quick as any duck can quack
My saponaceous days came back;
Old times uprose before my eye
And I was lost in thought and lye;
Again I felt the call to preach
I had when cleaning out the leach;
Again I longed to "fire" a train,
As when the soap was "right" to strain—
But why in Memory's backroom mope?
Let's get to work and make some soap.

The leach cleaned out and contents sowed
Upon the knoll there, next the road,
The winter ashes forth we brought
From here and there, and what a lot!
Each thing of iron, brass or tin
Was full as you could jam 'em in;
I've seen a pretty decent churn
Obliged to do a storage turn—
You see, a farmer has to cope
With forty things, a-making soap.

Then next we fellers had to bring
The water from the orchard spring;
Five trips a day, two pails a trip,
We fetched before the lye would drip;
Then six big pails for two days more,
Until it run three streams or four;
By then that lye could almost speak,
Beside it liquid fire is weak,
And when 'twould eat a piece of rope
We knew 'twas time to make the soap.

The mother 'gredients then we'd get
From out the woodhouse, where they set;
The ham stubs, knuckles, bacon rinds,
And bones and bits of many kinds;
Perhaps some headcheese, turning strong,
Or sassage that had lived too long;
All these within the cauldron fell
With hopes the fairies wished us well,
For powers beyond our mortal scope
Preside o'er mayonnaise and soap.

We next lit up the fire and stood
Around and "stirred" and knocked on wood;
We had a special rakestail hoe
With which to start an undertow,
And when the mess boiled up en masse
It looked as rich as Roman glass;
We'd cross our fingers then for fun
For who can tell when soap is done!
You've kinder got to guess and grope
And talk mysterious, making soap.

The straining basket then we took
A-down from off the girder hook,
The sides a-nothing much but slits,
The bottom gone and et to bits,
And stuffed it full of "hay and grain"
And then all hands commenced to strain;
We filled the old wood pails up good,
And lugged 'em where the soaptank stood,
And then with spinal cords aslope
We emptied in the fresh-laid soap.

But when that soap was ripe and dry
No Dutchman's cleanser need apply;
It only took one dishcloth swish
To purify the oatmeal dish;
The great big bubbles made of suds
Threw rainbows off, like diamond studs;
To clean a cut or stop a bruise,
There wan't no likelier thing to use—
'Twas worth the pains, 'twas health and hope
To make and own a tub of soap.





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