Poetry Friday: 1928

I’m still dealing with this lingering cold (given how long this is taking, some might call it “malingering”, but I’m not faking, I swear!)—at this point, I can’t speak above a whisper.  Anyway, I hope to get some posting done on Wilder’s novel this week (as it’s break), but now it’s time for a poem.  I picked up Edna St. Vincent Millay’s The Buck in the Snow, published in 1928, and as I read more and more of her, I realize that she’s a poet who, when she “hits”, knocks it out of the park.  But when she misses….man, are we left with some uninteresting sing-song end rhyme.  This particular collection is, to my taste, mostly misses, but the following is a poem I thought had at least something going for it.  I’m curious how it goes over with all of you—without further ado, “Hangman’s Oak”:

Before the cock in the barnyard spoke,
Before it well was day,
Horror like a serpent from about the Hangman’s Oak
Uncoiled and slid away.

Pity and Peace were on the limb
That bore such bitter fruit.
Deep he lies, and the desperate blood of him
Befriends the innocent root.

Brother, I said to the air beneath the bough
Whence he had swung,
It will not be long for any of us now;
We do not grow young.

It will not be long for the knotter of ropes, not long
For the sheriff or for me,
Or for any of them that came five hundred strong
To see you swing from a tree.

Side by side together in the belly of Death
We sit without hope,
You, and I, and the mother that gave you breath,
And the tree, and the rope.


3 comments on “Poetry Friday: 1928

  1. Kim says:

    So eight months into this experiment are you pleased with the books you are reading? When AFI came out with the 100 best movies ever I tried to watch them all (and failed). I found that many were chosen for specific reasons that I as a non-film expert did not find nearly as interesting as the judges apparently did. Your project sounds like fun though. Keep plowing through, you can do it!

    • jwrosenzweig says:

      Hmmm, I’d say that all but two of the books I’ve read were at least worth the time it took to read them….and I’ve gotten enough joy out of slamming the two I disliked most that I can’t say I fully regret taking the time to read them. 🙂 I’ve only discovered perhaps two or three books I really would recommend aggressively to others (I was hoping the Pulitzers had a slightly higher success rate, I’ll admit), but in each case I’ve discovered an author that I would like to read other works by. Overall, I think I am pleased with the books, yes. Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. Brian McGuinness says:

    Norma read this to a few friends, then we walked to Edna’s stone and Norma sat on it and said, “You know, darling, many people say I read your poetry better than you…Now don’t turn over, darling.”

    My name is Brian McGuinness. I was a friend to Norma Millay, as she was to me. I met my friend Roscoe Lee Browne at Steepletop, Edna’s home. The kitchen was made in the 50s for Good Housekeeping mag. OMG.

    I have pictures.


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