Butchered to Make a Dutchman’s Holiday

We present this work in honor of the poet’s 155th birthday.

Harry ‘Breaker’ Morant
Australian
1864 – 1902

 

In prison cell I sadly sit,
A dammed crestfallen chappie,
And own to you I feel a bit—
A little bit—unhappy.

It really ain’t the place nor time
To reel off rhyming diction ;
But yet we’ll write a final rhyme
While waiting crucifixion.

No matter what end they decide
Quick-lime? or boiling oil? sir
We’ll do our best when crucified
To finish off in style, sir !

But we bequeath a parting tip
For sound advice of such men
Who come across in transport ship
To polish off the Dutchmen.

If you encounter any Boers
You really must not loot ‘em,
And, if you wish to leave these shores,
For pity’s sake, don’t shoot ‘em.

And if you’d earn a D.S.O.,
Why every British sinner
Should know the proper way to go
Is: Ask the Boer to dinner.

Let’s toss a bumper down our throat
Before we pass to heaven,
And toast: “The trim-set petticoat
We leave behind in Devon.”

Sonnet 43

Elizabeth Barrett Browning
English
1806 – 1861

 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! — and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

The Famine and Its Aftermath

Nagarjun
Indian
1911 – 1998

 

For many days, the hearth wept – the millstone lay, forlorn
For many days, the one-eyed dog slept beside them
For many days, the lizards kept vigil on the wall
For many days, even the mice were as if defeated

For many days, even the mice were as if defeated
Smoke billowed above the courtyard, after many days
The eyes of the household shone again, after many days
The black crow cleaned its feathers, after many days.

A Visit from St. Nicholas

We present this work in honor of St. Nicholas’ Day.

Clement Clarke Moore
American
1779 – 1863

 

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! On, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

His eyes — how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

The Cattle Thief

E. Pauline Johnson
Canadian
1861 – 1913

 

They were coming across the prairie, they were galloping hard and fast;
For the eyes of those desperate riders had sighted their man at last—
Sighted him off to Eastward, where the Cree encampment lay,
Where the cotton woods fringed the river, miles and miles away.
Mistake him? Never! Mistake him? the famous Eagle Chief!
That terror to all the settlers, that desperate Cattle Thief—
That monstrous, fearless Indian, who lorded it over the plain,
Who thieved and raided, and scouted, who rode like a hurricane!
But they’ve tracked him across the prairie; they’ve followed him hard and fast;
For those desperate English settlers have sighted their man at last.

Up they wheeled to the tepees, all their British blood aflame,
Bent on bullets and bloodshed, bent on bringing down their game;
But they searched in vain for the Cattle Thief: that lion had left his lair,
And they cursed like a troop of demons—for the women alone were there.
“The sneaking Indian coward,” they hissed; “he hides while yet he can;
He’ll come in the night for cattle, but he’s scared to face a man.”
“Never!” and up from the cotton woods rang the voice of Eagle Chief;
And right out into the open stepped, unarmed, the Cattle Thief.
Was that the game they had coveted? Scarce fifty years had rolled
Over that fleshless, hungry frame, starved to the bone and old;
Over that wrinkled, tawny skin, unfed by the warmth of blood.
Over those hungry, hollow eyes that glared for the sight of food.

He turned, like a hunted lion: “I know not fear,” said he;
And the words outleapt from his shrunken lips in the language of the Cree.
“I’ll fight you, white-skins, one by one, till I kill you all,” he said;
But the threat was scarcely uttered, ere a dozen balls of lead
Whizzed through the air about him like a shower of metal rain,
And the gaunt old Indian Cattle Thief dropped dead on the open plain.
And that band of cursing settlers gave one triumphant yell,
And rushed like a pack of demons on the body that writhed and fell.
“Cut the fiend up into inches, throw his carcass on the plain;
Let the wolves eat the cursed Indian, he’d have treated us the same.”
A dozen hands responded, a dozen knives gleamed high,
But the first stroke was arrested by a woman’s strange, wild cry.
And out into the open, with a courage past belief,
She dashed, and spread her blanket o’er the corpse of the Cattle Thief;
And the words outleapt from her shrunken lips in the language of the Cree,
“If you mean to touch that body, you must cut your way through me.”
And that band of cursing settlers dropped backward one by one,
For they knew that an Indian woman roused, was a woman to let alone.
And then she raved in a frenzy that they scarcely understood,
Raved of the wrongs she had suffered since her earliest babyhood:
“Stand back, stand back, you white-skins, touch that dead man to your shame;
You have stolen my father’s spirit, but his body I only claim.
You have killed him, but you shall not dare to touch him now he’s dead.
You have cursed, and called him a Cattle Thief, though you robbed him first of bread—
Robbed him and robbed my people—look there, at that shrunken face,
Starved with a hollow hunger, we owe to you and your race.
What have you left to us of land, what have you left of game,
What have you brought but evil, and curses since you came?
How have you paid us for our game? how paid us for our land?
By a book, to save our souls from the sins you brought in your other hand.
Go back with your new religion, we never have understood
Your robbing an Indian’s body, and mocking his soul with food.
Go back with your new religion, and find—if find you can—
The honest man you have ever made from out a starving man.
You say your cattle are not ours, your meat is not our meat;
When you pay for the land you live in, we’ll pay for the meat we eat.
Give back our land and our country, give back our herds of game;
Give back the furs and the forests that were ours before you came;
Give back the peace and the plenty. Then come with your new belief,
And blame, if you dare, the hunger that drove him to be a thief.”

Hymn to Roma

Melinno
Greek
c. 150 B.C.

 

Hail to Roma, the war-god’s daughter
Warrior queen in a golden girdle,
Your Heaven here on earth, eternal
And unassailable.

On you alone, our ancient of days,
Fate has bestowed this royal glory
Of unbroken rule, sovereign strength
To lead where all follow.

For under your yoke, by your strong reins,
The great back of earth and foam-white seas
Are bent; without a falter your steer
The cities of all men.

But time’s great span can topple us all;
Life sways us one way, then another
You alone sail on fair winds of rule
And never alter course.

For you alone have borne strong warriors,
Great spearman, springing up unbidden
Like Demeter’s fruitful ears of corn,
A crop of mortal men.

Requiem

We present this work in honor of the 125th anniversary of the poet’s death.

Robert Louis Stevenson
Scots
1850 – 1894

 

Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you grave for me;
“Here he lies where he longed to be,
Home is the sailor, home from sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.”