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II Now the jug went round The glowing circle, while the fat hump browned And spluttered, dripping. Night, immense and still, With stars keen-whetted1 by the mountain chill, Dreamed deep around the trio, snugly housed In living light. From where the horses browsed, The blowing loudened in a lapse of speech. A wolf howled, and the farthest empty reach Of vastness mourned, as though God dreamed in vain And ’wakened, filling with a wail of pain The nightmare void of uncreated good.2 The dog whined, bristling. Cozy in the wood, The tongued flame purred content. Again the bright, Brief moment vanquished the appalling night Of timelessness. The youngest laughed,3 and said: “Is this a wake?4 If one of us is dead, Just count me in among the other two And cut a chunk of meat!” “A rendezvous,” Mused Evans, with a far, unfocussed gaze Upon the other. “Ghosts of better days,5 With laughters never to be laughed again, And singing from the lips of lusty men Gone dust forever! Listen! Can you hear? I ought to know. I’ve heard them year by year With every June!”6 “Well, let them drink with us!” The youngest chuckled. “Bob, you loony cuss, I like you; but you always lived too far Above the belly where the doin’s are That make men happy.7 This child ought to know!” With jug presented, “Spooks of long ago,” He mocked, “here’s looking at you!8 Bye and bye We’ll be as dead as you! But now, we’re dry, And men at that! Tough luck to be a ghost! Old-timers, skoal!9 Here’s how!” He drank the toast And snorted.10 “Squire,” laughed Black, “as Milton wrote, The place for education—mind, I quote!— The place for education in your head Ain’t there at all!11 According to old12 Jed, Bob’s half a poet! Why, that look of his Can see what never was and really is Because it isn’t—if you get the way My stick floats!13 It was on the Snake one day.14 Alone and far from home, we sat there glum, Remembering how many friends had come To crow meat since we crossed the Great Divide;15 And, after long, he looked at me and sighed And said: ‘I wish I knew where Evans went.16 215 The Song of Jed Smith The man’s a scholar. Only accident Has made him less than poet.’17 Who but he Was like to know?” The Squire laughed merrily. “Be easy with me, Art, until I’m tight. You’ll be surprised, come later in the night, And nothing in the jug, how clear and quick I get the drift of any crazy stick A man can float! Why, Boys, I used to grieve And weep for men too sober to believe Black Harris when squared away to lie,18 And me well educated! Hope to die, I could believe him better when he lied! You mind his forest that was putrified?19 Him peeking through that underbrush of hair And whiskers at the whole gang howling there, Short-breatht with meat and three sheets in the wind, Save only Jed, the man that never sinned, Stone-sober, looking down his long, thin nose!20 You mind? Old Harris and the ’Rapahoes21 Hell-bent for hair—and plenty!—had a race. The old man won, and came upon a place Where trees soared taller than a tree can soar, And then some taller! And the queerest roar Ran high among them—pines in stormy weather— And like a million castanets together, The green leaves clicked, though not a zephyr stirred. And in the branches, on his holy word, Queer birds, like none this side of Jordan,22 sang. ‘And would ye think,’ says he, ‘the whole shebang Was putrified!’ ‘It must’ve made a smell 216 the song of jed smith To kill a polecat!’ someone says. ‘Aw, hell!” Says he, disgusted; ‘How could such rock be?23 The place was putrified, and every tree Was agate and the birds was agate too! That roar up yonder was a wind that blew Before God’s whiskers sprouted24 —yes, and man Was only mud yet. When the place began To putrify, the thing came on so strong And fast, it caught that wind and every song Them birds was singing at the time, you see!’”25 The far-flung...


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