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V Chin to chest and nodding, The younger, startled by the elder’s prodding, Jerked back to waking with a hostile glare That softened to a silly grin. “We’re there!1 Wake up!” Black shouted. Leaving with a leap Some rabbit heaven of his broken sleep, The dog lit snarling, shook himself to clear The addled world, sat up and pricked an ear To point the question of an injured whine. “Where?” growled the Squire. “The Land of Corn and Wine!” Laughed Black; “and dark-eyed senoritas too! But here you squat, you lazy loafer you, And snooze!” “Why, Arthur, I was only thinking Of what’s the use in talking about drinking,” Explained the other. “Why not have a drink? You just don’t realize how hard I think When I think hard. To prove I was awake, I saw you all go swimming in that lake To scrub yourselves. I’ll bet you needed peeling! And I know all about the fellow stealing The horses at the come-to-glory meeting!2 Well then, we’re there! So how about some eating And maybe just a gurgle? Woo! I’m froze!” He shook himself, dog-fashion, as he ’rose, And, yawning, vanished creekward. Snapping brush Upon the treble3 of the harplike hush Plucked desultory4 discord. He returned Arm-laden;5 nursed the embers till they burned, Blue-stemming into blossom round the logs; Then moved the slashed hump6 nearer, with the dog’s High, whimpering approval. “There!” said he, Now pass the moonshine, so as I can see Your senoritas!”7 Edging nearer while The trio drank, the fourth, with tongueful smile Of ready gratitude, and both intense Ears focussed on the simmering succulence,8 Leaned hard as though his patience were a chain. The humblest, prayerful whimpers proving vain, He snapped the leash, and, with explosive barks, Made pointed, if not impious, remarks Upon the doings of Divinity.9 Whereat the youngest of the Trinity Gave heed at last and opened heaven’s gate. The Fork’s10 returning chatter, as they ate, Made bold against the canyon’s phasic11 moaning— Time troubling and Eternity intoning The never and forever that are one. It grew upon them when the feast was done; And each sat silent, suddenly alone, 257 The Song of Jed Smith Negotiating, as the dog the bone, Some all but meatless leaving of the past. A warwhoop shattering the spell at last, The lonely little worlds flowed back together. “I sure do like this California weather,” The Squire remarked, with hands before the flame. “I’ll need more educating, just the same, Before I see your senoritas clear. If yonder’s any pleasanter than here, I wonder why you beggars didn’t stay.” “Well, take the donkey and his bait12 of hay.” Black stroked his whiskers sagely. “Round the mill He chases fodder that is yonder still Regardless of how far or fast he goes. And why? Because a proper donkey knows If he just chases hard enough, he’ll beat it.13 And maybe, when he’s too done out to eat it, He’ll come to fodder14 heaven if he’s pious!”15 “Jed told me once God gave us goals to try us,” Said Evans; “living was a kind of weaning.16 We needed sugar-teats17 of worldly meaning For some unworldly purpose of the soul.18 It seemed the goal was learning that a goal Is just the fleeing shadow that you cast,19 Until pursuing teaches you at last What mattered was the light upon your back.”20 “Just like old ’Diah,” meditated Black, Scare breaking silence—“just the way he’d be When there was no one left but him and me And we’d be camping, maybe on the Snake.21 258 the song of jed smith All still, but for the sound the fire would make, And then you’d notice he was looking through you, That way he had.22 You wondered if he knew you. You wondered if you knew him, even more. And then he’d tell what he’d been groping for Down deep inside of him; and while he told, Like dreaming, something in him very old And gentle made you happy to be sad.23 For suddenly some precious thing you had Or thought you had or would have, wasn’t so; And yet the very hurt of letting go Was like a joy24 —till he turned young again. Just...


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MARC Record
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