Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, A MEMORY OF BRITTANY, by ROBERT UNDERWOOD JOHNSON



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A MEMORY OF BRITTANY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Know you drowsy pont aven
Last Line: By remembering pont aven.)
Subject(s): Brittany, France


I

KNOW you drowsy Pont Aven,
Once the shaggy painter's den,
Still beloved of painter sleek;
Where a morning is a week;
Where the clear stream's litany --
Older than old Brittany --
Murmurs droningly between
Two half-towns of gray and green
Snugly tucked among the hills;
Where a dozen lazy mills
Slowly turn, and grudgingly
Creeps the river to the sea?
(In wakeful nights I'll sleep again
By remembering Pont Aven.)

II

AH, ere you begin to scoff
See the Pont Avennaise' coiffe,
Snow-white over pink or blue,
Gaily set upon her crown,
As though she set her cap for you;
While coquettish ends fall down
To the wide, ribbed linen, set
Round her round neck brown and strong --
Half collar and half epaulette --
Making Hogarth's line along
Either shoulder. (Queens, go hide
Your envy of the Breton bride.)
Breton gallants need no lure
To the beechen Bois d'Amour
Where she walks so light and free, --
Bringing to my memory
Her who made, when all had gone,
A processional of one.
(Heart, when thou art saddest, then
Think of her and Pont Aven.)

III

BUT there's something more to say
Of our Bretonne, comely, gay:
Ready to the calls of life,
Joyous mother, faithful wife;
Knowing nothing of the pity
Lavished on her by the city --
Nothing of the "Where?" and "Whence?"
That make our life of outward sense
An interchange of discontents.
Love of country, love of soil,
Face of patience, hand of toil,
Smile of kindness, humble faith,
Good for life and good for death.
Fail the harvest, land or sea,
Ne'er shall fail her industry.
O'er her needle she will bend.
As her comrade and her friend.
(Oh, if friends prove false, shall I
Unto fate or Heaven cry?
No, I'll courage find again
By remembering Pont Aven.)





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