Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, NATURE AND NECESSITY, by FREDERICK GODDARD TUCKERMAN

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

NATURE AND NECESSITY, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: Where shall we sleep tonight?' the woods hang heavier
Last Line: Straight through the storms of fate to reach our goal!
Subject(s): Forests; Nature

"Where shall we sleep tonight?" The woods hang leavier
And we have far to get.
Your ankle's sprained, my shoulder carries weight:
This gun which has for hours been growing heavier--
No pad or epaulet--
Bears downward like a bar from Gaza's gate!

Where sleep? why here, where boughs shake down their loose hair.
We'll take of sleep our fill
On amber breathing beds, red drifted spines,
Hillocks, and littered heaps, like matted moosehair.
We'll lie in slumber chill
Or wake and brood till the great morning shines.

Nothing can harm thee here, nothing come near thee
By want or wonder stirred--
Save drifting owl or weakeyed whippoorwill.
Sad Weekoalis! did the chieftain hear thee
Afar, thou spirit bird,
And turn his footstep from thy haunted hill?

"But no!" you say, "this is no place for stopping!
The house we left behind,
Where we could get no speech or aught command
May yet be gained. The night is dark and dropping,
The paths are hard to find,--
Lost and belated woods on every hand!"

Well go! and yet, as you began with us,
Better keep on, or pass
The night here. Take that girl too, for your test:
That little ragged girl who ran with us
Begging and whining as
A partridge runs to guide you from her nest;

Now buffets at your feet, now falls she down
Because her brood is hatched.
I think 'twould move a heart of stone to see,
A heart of adamant or chalcedon,
How pitifully she
Wept with one eye, and with the other watched.

You saw his hutch beside the cherry tree
And heard his drunken song,
Though at our coming, something chicked and cowed;
How could he speak or hear, in faith and verity?
A mitten on his tongue,
In either ear a whizzing locust loud?

But here we've shelter without rant or rumpus,
Though hard to leave, I fear,
For even by day you could not see the sun.
With hardly light left now to read your compass,
'Twill soon be midnight here,
Though outside, yet the daylight is not done.

What then? We breathe and taste; none sweeter can
Wild scents the woodwinds waft.
Even the little wanderer's gamy trail,
Infecting a whole countryside, seems better than
Ill odors of drain and draught
Rising round human roofs ere rain prevail.

Yet I have felt--and you will wonder straightway
Or laugh, such words to win--
How strange a charm in some lone house we find:
What tears seem in the grass about the gateway!
What aching pathos in
The clothes hung forth to beat in tossing wind!

Yes, let us walk slow, favoring your ankle,
And I will strive to tell
What I have heard of him, your wished-for host.
Pause not, nor let the recollection rankle;
You have not had your will:
Much have you gained thereby and little lost.

When first he came into this section, hiring
A hand to build and clear,
He brought his wife, a damsel little skilled,
Felled a small space, enough for winter firing,
Made out that hut to rear,
And, spectre-harried, ceased to clear or build.

Yes, cleared for action: built too, rough stockading
With slits to fire through;
Prepared to sell his life, and not for naught!
And though no offer came, kept still parading
Ghosts, devils, marching too--
In fact the man with fear was just distraught.

"What at?" Why loneliness, or too much thinking.
The spirits of the waste
Knocked nightly at his door: such things have been
And till he burned his fence and fell to drinking
He scarce could touch or taste
But that a ghostly hand would pass between.

A chipping bird, a common catbird mewing,
He heard with secret awe;
Was "feared for Indians" too, kept his eye skinned,
Put out his vestal pipe and held to chewing
For fear the wake should draw
And smelt a brush-heap fire in every wind.

But nothing Indian came but Indian summer:
Faint shadow, twilight moon,
And far blue vapors on the dreaming pine.
So he turned in by day and took a rummer,
Believed the sun, the moon,
And wondered why the stars forgot to shine!

And now,--you're surely better of your lameness--
In his dismantled fort
He drinks and raves, scouts Satan and his crew.
The wife? She died of want of talk and sameness,
Nothing to see, in short,
And children miss not what they never knew.

Poor things indeed! I would my tale were merrier;
Yet 'tis no tale, but just
Amidst, without beginning or yet end.
But when cold blows, and even those woods get drearier,
How they may live, or must,
I dare not think: but warm you may depend--

Hung up like bats, those selfish self-supporters,
Or trunk-enharbored bear;
Like flitch of bacon in a reeky flue,
Or spider housed in kitchen chimney quarters,
Or cobweb in cow's ear,
Or all; the fancy needs not to be new

So it be warm! Though cold and covetous
You scarce could wish to share
That darkling den, rank as woodpecker's hole
With five white eggs within; but rather buffet us--
Let luckless be aware!--
Straight through the storms of fate to reach our goal!

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