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NARRATIVE

THE SONG OF THE STRAYS

The highroad stretches straight and long, the onward path of life,
And up it troops a mighty throng, with hope and action rife,
They press with eager, earnest force, each brave, ambitious soul,
Nor falter in the upward course toward the shining goal,
But we, who are not brave, the ways that lead from out the din,
They please us and they tease us till at last we enter in.
The byways, the nigh-ways, that lead we know not where!
They shield us with their greenery, they wrap us from the glare,
The wood nymphs take us by the hand, the dryads all are kind,
While on the great procession plods and leaves us far behind.

The great men scorn the pleasant ways, they tread the scorching dust,

Through weary nights and sultry days they win because they must,
The weight of care they proudly bear toward the hilltop's crown
Nor think of pausing anywhere to lay their burden down.
But we, who are not great, the ways that lead from out the din,
They woo us, they undo us, till at last we enter in.
The narrow paths, the sparrow paths, all flecked with shade and sun!
Gay goblins dance and beckon where the purling waters run,
The wood thrush lilts, the blossom tilts, the scented grasses bind,
While on the great procession plods and leaves us far behind.

Mayhap that toil will bring the prize that tempts ambition still

To where the golden glory lies beyond the distant hill.
We vow today no more we'll stray in places green and sweet,
We'll follow on the dusty way through all the journey's heat.
We strive, but ah, the winding paths that lead from out the din,
They please us and they tease us till at last we enter in.
The flower paths, the bower paths, where love and laughter play!
They snare our feet from out the street, who fain would tread the way,
Through little paths of common life our wayward longings wind,
While on the great procession plods and leaves us far behind.



BILLY BLEEDER

"What are the toot-horns tooting for?" asked Autos-on-Parade.
"To call the bunch, to call the bunch," the old-time chauffeur said.
"What makes you look so queer, so queer?" asked Autos-on-Parade.
"I'm thinking I might get mine next," the old-time chauffeur said.

For they're hanging Billy Bleeder down beside the turnpike way,

The autos are in hollow square, all decorated gay;
They've drowned his grafting garage men and chased his cook away,
And they're hanging Billy Bleeder in the morning.

"What do you think he did to us?" asked Autos-on-Parade.

"I dare not say, I dare not say," the old-time chauffeur said.
"Where do you think he's going to?" asked Autos-on-Parade.
"It's not exactly Haarlem, sir," the old-time chauffeur said.

They are hanging Billy Bleeder; he that kept the roadhouse neat,

A hundred miles from anything to drink or yet to eat,
Yes, he'll swing in half a minute for a pirate and a cheat,
For they're hanging Billy Bleeder in the morning.

"He charged me ninety for repairs," said Autos-on-Parade.

"Repairs he never made at all," the old-time chauffeur said.
"He took my new magneto off," said Autos-on-Parade.
"He put an old one in its place," the old-time chauffeur said.

They're hanging Billy Bleeder just because he was so mean;

He soaked us fourteen dollars for a sandwich and a bean,
He charged us seven-forty for a pint of gasoline.
And they're hanging Billy Bleeder in the morning.

"What is that mote against the sun?" asked Autos-on-Parade.

"It's Billy's pin-head soul flew by," the old-time chauffeur said.
"What is that clanged so hard and hot?" asked Autos-on-Parade.
"It's not exactly Haarlem's gates," the old-time chauffeur said.

For they've done with Billy Bleeder, don't you hear the toot-horns toot?

The autos are in column and away you'll see them scoot;
They've done their proper duty by a mighty mean galoot,
For they've hanged Billy Bleeder in the morning





THE MESSAGE

Winds of the southern seas carry a message for me.
Over the miles where the soft sea smiles
On to a desolate lea;
Into the ears of those who wait in death and pain
Whisper the word that God has heard
And bid them hope again.
Winds of the southern seas give them a word today;
"The guns are near, the swords flash clear,
And they've painted the white ships gray."

Birds of the southern seas carry a message away,

While through your wings the shrill gale sings
On to a distant bay;
Under a cruel wreck cry to the dead that rot;
"Though long ye wait at the dastard's gate
Ye shall not be forgot."
Winds and birds of the sea give them a word today;
"The guns are near, the swords flash clear,
And they've painted the white ships gray."

Waves of the southern seas, far as your white crests roam

Carry the news of the churning screws
And the prows that shear the foam;
Loud on the waiting shore shout in the surf that beats,
Only the word that God has heard
And speaks in the plunging fleets.
Winds and birds and waves give them a word today;
"The guns are near, the swords flash clear,
And they've painted the white ships gray."





AT SAN JUAN HILL

The scorched chaparral reeks with smoke
That spluttering quick-fires spit;
Thirst wilts the line and hunger stabs,—
We draw our belts a bit.
Where murder stalks an awful God
Stands stark 'mid blood and flame;
Jehovah of the firing line
Guide thou mine aim.

Unseen strange fingers strip the thorn

And dig dun grooves along the hill
Where winds of death moan through the scrub,—
We crouch a little nearer still.
Limp-leaning, dumb, with glassing eyes
The captain watches not the game;
Jehovah of the firing line
Guide thou mine aim.

Through chattering Krags the three-inch field

Clangs in the ear like bells;
The mauser fire is limping now
Borne down by bursting shells,
The bugle screams the charge; o'er sands
That smoke with blood and sweat;
Jehovah of the firing line
Guide thou my bayonet.

Up and away; Like beating hail

Upon our front their volleys burst;
Let him whose hand or eye shall fail
Forever after be accurst!
We hold the dun-brown trenches, ugh!
A mauser rips the vital spark;
Jehovah of the firing line
We win—and all is dark.



HER SOLDIER VALENTINE

The wind blew in from the gulf today,
Soft with the swoon of the tropic isles,
While warm in my hand a letter lay
Bringing a message six thousand miles.
The jasmine swung in the thickets gloom
Its gold bells, rung in a keen delight,
And over my head the orange bloom
Showed the first of its creamy white,
For somebody wrote his heart in the lines
That only the wind and the jasmine knew,
A message of love from the Luzon pines.
Dear, was it you?

Last night I met, and we danced at the ball,

Officers brave in gold lace bright,
What do I care for the home guard all?
Give me the men who go forth and fight.
Soft light sparkled from many a gem,
Music wooed with its sensuous thrill,
Never a whit I cared for them,
But out in the moonlight white and still
A breath of jasmine touched my hair,
A thousand leagues to the west it flew
And kissed a soldier in khaki there.
Dear, was it you?

And ever the words I read today

Thrill my heart with a sob and a smile
The war is done and your ship is away,
Plunging the distance mile on mile.
Flowers that nod in the garden bed,
Leaves that whisper on bush and tree
Smile the word that the message said,
Sing it low in the wind to me,
Heaven is near to the hearts that wait,
Wait in faith till the dream comes true,
Someone stands at the garden gate.
Dear, is it you?




THE YANKEE VOLUNTEER

We got him from the custom house, we drew him from the bank,
We hauled him off the motor car a-turning of his crank;
We knew him tending looms and things where cotton yarn is spun,
And the next we heard about him he had got hisself a gun.
At the chuckle of the lever with his cheek against the butt,
We had him shooting mighty straight a-plunking foreign Scutt.
He stood right with the reg'lars from the Philippines to here,
For there ain't no Reuben whiskers on the Yankee volunteer.

You'll likely find him slow of speech, not easy to get mad,

But when you rise his dander he's the worst you ever had,
He sorter likes to get his sleep knee deep in mud and rain
So that's the way he took it in this cruel war with Spain.
He'll live on commissary wind till nations go to smash
And when his lunch is ended save the fragments up for hash.
Maybe some foreign critics found such actions kinder queer,
But there ain't no winged insects on the Yankee volunteer.
At the chuckle of the lever with the sun as hot as hate
We saw him pumping forty-fives and pumping mighty straight.
The reg'lars winked one eye and said; "He's getting into gear,
And there ain't no fungus growing on the Yankee volunteer."

We knew we had him plenty but talk about a jam,

You'd ought to seen him walk the wire to fight for Uncle Sam,
"We've got to lick some dagos and we kinder need a crowd,
Speak up," says Bill McKinley; and he spoke, almighty loud.
To the chuckle of the lever where the Mausers squeal and zip
He wandered over Cuba with the Don right on his hip.
"He's a booboo," says the reg'lars, "he's a hunkey dory dear."
Oh, there ain't no Reuben whiskers on the Yankee volunteer.



THE KEEPING OF THE ALAMO

There came a messenger in hot haste, a scout from the southern plain,
To Travis, Captain at Bexar, riding with might and main.
"There are six thousand Mexicans have crossed the Rio Grande,
With horse and foot and cannon they swarm, they are close at hand."

Seven score and five of Texans warded the town that day,

Seven score and five of Texans, and fearless men were they,
Yet a handful, with scant defences, and an army to hold at bay.
They were lank and tall, bold men of the plains,
Stern bred of a sterner land,
To wrestle with storm, to fight with drought,
To laugh at death, from the north or south,
Be it Indian spear or cannon's mouth,
A dashing, fearless band.
And lo! as they looked in their leaders' eyes there came the roll of a drum,
The clatter and tramp of horse and foot and an army's sullen hum
And the pickets came flying inward with the warning cry; "They come!"

"Now hasten to the Alamo, we may not hold the town,

But the Alamo has stout stone walls full hard to batter down,
And there," spake fearless Travis, "our twin-starred flag shall fly
Till we drive away these swart wolf dogs or dead in its shade we lie."
And a rousing cheer from the patriot band swept up to the listening sky.
And one has gone, brave Bonham, to scour the plains for aid;
"I'll return, with help or without it," he said, "be not afraid."
And presently they answered Santa Anna's call to yield
With a shot from a surly cannon that echoed far afield,
Till from the staff in the Mexican camp a blood red banner hung,
The flag that meant, "No quarter,"—and defiance back they flung.

There are Mexican guns to the north and south, they flash from the east and west,

Their infantry charge, long rank on rank, at their leaders' fierce behest,
And 'ever their glistening bayonets surge through the cannon's sulphurous breath,
And beat and fall away like waves from those walls rimmed round with death,
'Mid the ripple and rap of rifle shot and the great guns' sullen boom
And still they die to the taunting cry, "Come up to the front there's room!"
No bolder men than our Texans brave, and none so skilled as they
With rifle and pistol to watch and ward and hold a foe in play,
For none might win to the outer walls in the face of their fire that day.
Awhile the battle ceased as night fell soft on the southern plain,
But long in the glare of the torches flare their sappers worked might and main
And nearer the earthworks crept where at dawn their cannon flashed again.
Oh, little of rest and sleep was there for the bold beleaguered few
But every man had the strength of ten for the work that brave men do.
That out of their travail and death and pain should come the birth of a State,
While they boldly stood as heroes should in the stern front rank of fate.

Ten days the unequal fight went on in the glare of the pitiless sun,

Ten nights, and the round and placid moon looked down on the walls unwon,
While out in the desert, lean and far,
The gray wolf licked his chops at the war,
And fled at the boom of a gun,
There was Crockett, generous, dauntless soul, still first in the hottest fray
And Bowie of the long keen knife, vigilant night and day,
While fearless Travis led them; they cheered with valorous breath,
And still fought on tho' hope was gone and they knew the end was death.
There's a rush of shots in the darkness, a cheer in the outer camp,
A hubbub of reckless battle and a quick resistless tramp,
And five and thirty Texans break through to their comrades' aid
And one has come, brave Bonham, alone, but unafraid;
That is all, and the grim lines closer draw
And day and night the unequal war
By the dauntless band is stayed.

The Mexican troops mass north and south, the bugle shrilly calls,

And out of the husk of the morning dusk they break on the riven walls,
The tender breath of a Sabbath dawn blows fresh from the rosy sky,
But the patriot band to their ramparts stand for the time has come to die.
Yet twice with desperate valor the Mexican rush is stayed
While their bands ring forth the deguello, the cut-throat serenade.
They are overborne by thousands yet they fight till the last man falls
And the flag of Santa Anna is flung from the bloody walls,
And while each shot torn hero lies by his heap of slain
The murderous taunting deguello rings out across the plain.

In deadly pass Leonidas led his immortal Greeks,

Clear from a hundred hard fought fields old England's trumpet speaks,
But never knightlier battle stand was made by fighting men
Than made the Alamo that morn one dreadful slaughter pen.
Well may the bloody winner burn those battle shattered frames!
Their ashes scatter far and wide the seed of deathless flames
And still their fame shall ring as far as southern breezes blow
While Freedom stands with lifted hand upon the Alamo.




THE PHANTOM LINER

The fog lay thick on Georges Bank
Rolling deep fold on fold;
It dripped and dripped from the rigging dank
And the day sank dark and cold.

The watch stood close by the reeling rail

And listened into the gloom;
Was there a sound save the slatting sail
And the creak of the swaying boom?

Out of the dusk the great waves leapt

And shouldered darkly by
Till over their tops a murmur crept
That was neither of sea nor sky.

"Is it the churn of a steamer's screw?"

"Is it a wind that sighs?"
A shiver ran through the listening crew,
We looked in each other's eyes.

No engines throbbed, no whistle boomed,

No foam curled from her prow,
But out of the mist a liner loomed
Ten fathom from our bow.

Ten fathom from our bow she grew,

No man might speak or stir
As she leapt from the fog that softly drew
Like a white shroud over her.

We shut our teeth in grim despair,

Then, like one under a spell,
Right through her as she struck us fair
I saw the lift of a swell.

There was never a crash of splintered plank,

No rush of incoming tide,
There was never a tear in the mainsail dank
As her hull went through our side.

Unharmed we drifted down the night,

Right into the fog she drave
And through her as she passed from sight
I saw the lift of a wave.

Was it some ship long lost at sea

Whose wraith still sails the main,
Or the ghost of a wreck that is yet to be
In some wild hurricane?

Was it a warning to fishing boats

Of what the fog may hold
As over their decks it drips and floats
And swathes in its clinging fold?

I cannot tell, I only know

Our crew of eighteen men
Saw the gray form come, and saw it go
Into the night again.




THE WOMAN OR THE DEVIL

(This is a legend found in the early archives of Puritan
Boston. It teaches—well, it teaches a good many things.)

Jones' wife was tall and fair,
She had eyes of brightest blue,
And a wealth of sunny hair,
Cheeks to match the rose in hue;
More than this,—Fate's wildest freak,—

She was dumb, she could not speak!

People round about him cried;
"Fortune smiles on Jones' head;
What kind Fate to us denied
Has become his luck instead."
"Ah," cried one, "how I'd rejoice
If my wife would lose her voice!"

Poor old Jones! He did not know

How his blessing wore disguise;
He thought 'twas an awful blow,
Went his way with weeping eyes,
Mourning still from week to week
That his good wife could not speak.

Once he walked a lonesome way

Down beside a wicked wood
Where a sulphurous hollow lay
In a noisome solitude;
Here he found in fiendish revels
One of Satan's little devils.

The fiend saw with much surprise

How Jones came with face cast down.
"Why," said he, "these weeping eyes?
Why this countenance afrown?"
"Ah!" said good man Jones, "I come
Weeping that my wife is dumb."

What next passed between the two

Would be most unwise to state,
But quite soon Jones homeward flew
With a countenance elate,
And his neighbors heard the clack
Of his good wife—talking back.

Passed a week, and yet one more;

To the pool beside the wood
Came poor Jones, as once before,
And upon the brink he stood,
Flooding all the space beneath
With the passion of his grief.

Oilily it bubbled up

With a smell of sulphur rank,
Till from out the noisome cup
Where Jones stood upon the bank,
Rose above the steaming level
Once again the little devil.

"Oh, good Devil!" then cried Jones;

"Take away the boon you gave,
Sink again the woman's . tones
Underneath the brimstone wave.
How to make her talk you knew,
Shut her up, good Devil, do!"

But the devil answered, "No.

When a woman's dumb," quoth he;
One small fiend can let her go
As you've had a chance to see,
But all the devils in the pit
Couldn't shut her up one bit."

"Come with me, poor man," he said;

And the west wind murmuring
Where Jones stood with aching head
Seemed his wife's loud voice to bring;
"Come," he said; "no scolding ladies
Populate the depths of Hades."

Did Jones go or did he not,

Where the Stygian cauldrons mutter?
Other climes than that are hot,
Other things than brimstone sputter;
Did Jones stay or leave us then?
Ye shall say, ye married men.

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