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RELIGION & SOCIAL COMMENTARY


God's plan made a hopeful beginning
But man spoiled his chances by sinning.
      We trust that the story
      Will end in God's glory,
But at present the other side's winning.
--Anonymous

SPRINGHILL
Peggy Seeger (1935--)
In the town of Springhill, Nova Scotia,
Down in the heart of the Cumberland Mine
There's blood on the coal, and the miners lie
In the roads that never saw sun or sky,
Roads that never saw sun or sky.

Down at the coal face, the miners workin',
Rattle of the belt and the cutter's blade.
Rumble of rock and the walls close 'round;
Living and the dead men two miles down,
Living and the dead men two miles down.

Twelve men lay two miles from the pitch shaft
Listenin' for the drillin' of a rescue team.
Six hundred feet of coal and slag:
Hope imprisoned in a three foot seam,
Hope imprisoned in a three foot seam.

Eight days passed and some were rescued,
Leaving the dead to lie alone.
All their lives they dug their graves:
Two miles of earth for a markin' stone,
Two miles of earth for a markin' stone.

In the town of Springhill you don't sleep easy;
Often the earth will tremble and roar.
When the earth is restless, miners die.
Bone and blood is the price of coal.
Bone and blood is the price of coal.

A BOSTON TOAST
John Collins Bossidy (1860–1928)
And this is good old Boston
      The home of the bean and the cod
Where the Lowells talk to the Cabots,
      And the Cabots talk only to God.

A GREEN SONG TO SING AT THE BOTTLE BANK
Wendy Cope (1945--)
One green bottle, drop it in the bank,
Ten green bottles, what a lot we drank,
Heaps of bottles, and yesterdays a blank,
But we'll save the planet, tinkle tinkle clank,

We've got bottles, nice percussive trash,
Bags of bottles, cleand us out of cash,
Empty bottles, we love to hear them smash,
And we'll save the planet, tinkle tinkle, crash,

A JACOBITE TOAST
J. Byron
God bless the King!--I mean the Faith's Defender,
God bless (no harm in blessing) the Pretender!
But who Pretender is and who is King,
God bless us all!--that's quite another thing.

A MESSAGE FROM THE FRONT
Rod McKuen (1933--)

I don't think we can hold
the chemistry lab much longer.
we're running out of Dixie cups
      and Baby Ruths.

We'd better call up Col. Sanders for reinforcements.
How do you spell Minnie Pearl?

We can't get channel four.
What the fuck do they expect from us,
Ralph Williams sells the same cars
      every hour.

Tomorrow when we give the dean
his bloody nose
our reputations for this year
will finally be secure.
But tonight, because of our commitments,
we've missed Beach Blanket Bingo on the Late Show.
War is hell.

AND/OR
Clarence Day (1874-1935)
The Government gave Simeon Clay
Terrific headaches by the way
It made him fill out numerous blanks
Without a single word of thanks.
It even threatened, stern and grim,
To fine and/or imprison him
If he omitted to compile
The schedules which it loved to file.

Clay looked around, saw it was worse
And even harder on the purse
In England, Finland, Yap, Siam,
The Argentine, and parts of Guam.
So off he went, a week ago,
To turn into an Eskimo
Far in the North where cross officials
Will shriek in vain for his initials,
And where he will ignore their wishes
And live on ice and little fishes.

A PASTORAL BALLAD
John Bull
After the arrival of the packet bringing the account of the defeat of the Catholic Question, in the House of Commons, orders were sent to the Pigeon House to forward 5,000,000 rounds of musket-ball cartridge to the different garrisons round the country.—Freeman’s Journal, Dublin, 12 March 1827

I have found out a gift for my Erin,
          A gift that will surely content her;--
Sweet pledge of a love so endearing!
          Five millions of bullet I’ve sent her.
She ask’d me for Freedom and Right,
          But ill she her wants understood;
Ball cartridges, morning and night,
          Is a dose that will do her more good.
There is hardly a day of our lives
          But we read, in some amiable trials,
How husbands make love to their wives
          Through the medium of hemp and of phials.
One thinks, with his mistress or mate
          A good halter is sure to agree—
That love-knot which, early and late,
          I have tried, my dear Erin, on thee.
While another, whom Hyman has bless’d,
          With a wife that is not over placid,
Consigns the dear charmer to rest
          With a dose of the best Pressic acid.
Thus, Erin! my love do I show—
          Thus quiet thee, mate of my bed!
And, as poison and hemp are too slow,
          Do thy business with bullets instead....

BRIEF ESSAY ON MAN
Arthur Guiterman (1871-1943)
Aspiring Man, by learned pens
Once classed as Homo sapiens,
Is now, the poor, deluded chap,
Correctly labeled Homo sap.

CAUTIONARY TALE
Gail White (1945--)
EVE: Who Learned the Consequences of Being the Lady with Brains

Eve, the day that Adam met her,
could see at once that she knew better.
The man was charming and correct
but not a massive intellect.
It wasn't long before Eve guessed
her husband really was obsessed
with that forbidden apple tree-–
"The day we eat, we die," said he.

But Eve was sure that God's intent
was good, and that He only meant
to test their judgment and good sense
and not their blind obedience.
Confirming this, up spoke the Snake:
"I see, my dear, you're wide awake!
Now, Adam--well--a good man--but--
he's thicker than a coconut.
The good Lord deals in hints and signs
and we must read between the lines.
He means for you to try all things-–
insight is what the apple brings."

Our couple gave the fruit a try,
and Snake was right! They didn't die!
But when their garden hit the skids
they worked like demons for their kids –
like all the couples since, who slave
to buy the house, the car, the grave,
and toil without a moment's rest
because Their Kids Deserve the Best.

The moral is: If you have got
a mortgage on a house and lot,
the kids, the camper, that whole bit--
you owe it all to woman's wit.

CROSS
Langston Hughes (1903-1967)
My old man's a white old man
And my old mother's black.
If ever I cursed my white old man
I take my curses back.
If ever I cursed my black old mother
And wished she were in hell,
I'm sorry for that evil wish
And now I wish her well.
My old man died in a fine big house.
My ma died in a shack.
I wonder where I'm going to die,
Being neither white nor black?

ELEGY IN A COUNTRY CHURCHYARD
G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936)
The men that worked for England,
They have their graves at home;
And bees and birds of England
About the cross can roam.

But they that fought for England,
Following a falling star,
Alas, alas, for England,
They have their graves afar.

And they that rule in England
In stately conclave met,
Alas, alas, for England
They have no graves as yet.

DANGERS
Anonymous
If from man's vile arts I flee
And at the pump drink water free,
Observe what happens unto me!

I gulp down infusoiae
And quarts of raw bacteria
And hideous rotatoriae
And wriggling polygastricae
And slimy diatomacae
And hard-shelled ophryocerinae
And double-barrelled colpodae,
Non-loricated amboedae,
And assorted animalcula
Of middle, high, and low degree.

For when it comes to adulteration
Of every sort and kind and station
Dame Nature just beats all creation.

EPITAPH ON CHARLES II
John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester
Here lies our Sovereign Lord the King
          Whose word no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
          Nor ever did a wise one.

FACTORY WINDOWS ARE ALWAYS BROKEN
Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)

Factory windows are always broken.
Somebody's always throwing bricks,
Somebody's always heaving cinders,
Playing ugly Yahoo tricks.

Factory windows are always broken.
Other windows are let alone.
No one throws through the chapel window
The bitter, snarling, derisive stone.

Factory windows are always broken.
Something or other is going wrong.
Something is rotten-I think, in Denmark.
End of the factory-window song.

Court officials writing poetry to each other? Indeed, below is a real Michigan appellate court decision, and still valid law.
Fisher v. Lowe
A wayward Chevy struck a tree
Whose owner sued defendants three.
He sued car's owner, driver, too,
And insurer for what was due
For his oak tree that now may bear
A lasting need for tender care.
The Oakland County Circuit Court,
John N. O'Brian, J., set forth
The judgment that defendants sought,
And quickly an appeal was brought.
Court of Appeals, J. H. Gillis, J.,
Gave thought and then had this to say:
1) There is no liability,
Since No-Fault grants immunity,
2) No jurisdiction can be found
Where process service is unsound;
And thus the judgment, as it's termed
Is due to be, and is
Affirmed.

[1] AUTOMOBILES k251.13
Defendant's Chevy struck a tree,
There was no liability.
The No-Fault Act comes into play,
As owner and the driver say.
Barred by the act's immunity,
No suit in tort will aid the tree.
Although the oak's in disarray,
No court can make defendants pay.

[2] PROCESS k4
No jurisdiction could be found,
Where process service is unsound.
In personam jurisdiction
Was not even legal fiction
Where plaintiff failed to well comply
With rules of court that did apply.

* * *

J. H. GILLIS, Judge.
We thought that we would never see
A suit to compensate a tree.
A suit whose claim in tort is prest,
Upon a mangled tree's behest;
A tree whose battered trunk was prest
Against a Chevy's crumpled crest;
A tree that faces each new day
With bark and limb in disarray;
A tree that may forever bear
A lasting need for tender care.
Flora lovers though we three,
We must affirm the court's decree.

Affirmed.

-- Michigan Court of Appeals
________________________________________
333 N.W. 2d 67 (Mich. App. 1983) (footnotes (in prose) omitted).

FIVE WAYS TO KILL A MAN
Edwin Brock
There are many cumbersome ways to kill a man.
You can make him carry a plank of wood
to the top of a hill and nail him to it. To do this
properly you require a crowd of people
wearing sandals, a cock that crows, a cloak
to dissect, a sponge, some vinegar and one
man to hammer the nails home.

Or you can take a length of steel,
shaped and chased in a traditional way,
and attempt to pierce the metal cage he wears.
But for this you need white horses,
English trees, men with bows and arrows,
at least two flags, a prince, and a
castle to hold your banquet in.

Dispensing with nobility, you may, if the wind
allows, blow gas at him. But then you need
a mile of mud sliced through with ditches,
not to mention black boots, bomb craters,
more mud, a plague of rats, a dozen songs
and some round hats made of steel.

In an age of aeroplanes, you may fly
miles above your victim and dispose of him by
pressing one small switch. All you then
require is an ocean to separate you, two
systems of government, a nation's scientists,
several factories, a psychopath and
land that no-one needs for several years.

These are, as I began, cumbersome ways
to kill a man. Simpler, direct, and much more neat
is to see that he is living somewhere in the middle
of the twentieth century, and leave him there.

FOR A LADY I KNOW
Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
She even thinks that up in heaven
          Her class lies late and snores,
While poor black cherubs rise at seven
          To do celestial chores.

GOD'S SONG (THAT'S WHY I LOVE MANKIND)
Randy Newman
Cain slew Abel, Seth knew not why
For if the children of Israel were to multiply
Why must any of the children die?
So he asked the Lord
And the Lord said:

Man means nothing, he means less to me
Than the lowliest cactus flower
Or the humblest Yucca tree
He chases around this desert
'Cause he thinks that's where I'll be
That's why I love mankind.

I recoil in horror from the foulness of thee
From the squalor and the filth and the misery
How we laugh up here in heaven at the prayer you offer me
That's why I love mankind.

The Christians and the Jews were having a jamboree
The Buddhists and the Hindus joined on satellite T.V.,
They picked their four greatest priests
And they began to speak
They said "Lord, a plague is on the world
Lord, no man is free
The temples that we built to you
Have tumbled into the sea
Lord, if you won't take care of us
Won't you please please let us be?"
And the Lord said
And the Lord said

I burn down your cities--how blind must you be
I take from you your children and you say how blessed are we
You all must be crazy to put your faith in me.
That's why I love mankind
You really need me
That's why I love mankind.

HARLEM
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?


Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

HOPE
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
He rose up on his dying bed
and asked for fish.
His wife looked it up in her dream book
and played it.

I DIDN'T GO TO CHURCH TODAY
Ogden Nash
I didn’t go to church today,
I trust the Lord to understand.
The surf was swirling blue and white,
The children swirling on the sand.
He knows, He knows how brief my stay,
How brief this spell of summer weather,
He knows when I am said and done
We’ll have plenty of time together.

I MARVEL AT THE WAYS OF GOD
E.B. White (1899-1985)
I marvel at the ways of God,
      For time and time again
I see him paint such lovely clouds
      Above such awkward men.

I, TOO
Langston Hughes (1902-1967)
I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Tomorrow,
I'll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody'll dare
Say to me,
"Eat in the kitchen,"
Then.
Besides,
They'll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed-–
I, too, am America.

I SAW A JOLLY HUNTER
Charles Causley (1917-2003)
I saw a jolly hunter
With a jolly gun
Walking in the country
In the jolly sun.

In the jolly meadow
Sat a jolly hare.
Saw the jolly hunter.
Took jolly care.

Hunter jolly eager--
Sight of jolly prey.
Forgot gun pointing
Wrong jolly way.

Jolly hunter jolly head
Over heels gone.
Jolly old safety catch
Not jolly on.

Bang went the jolly gun.
Hunter jolly dead.
Jolly hare got clean away.
Jolly good, I said.

INCIDENT
Countee Cullen (1903-1946)
Once riding in old Baltimore,
          Heart-filled, head filled with glee,
I saw a Baltimorean
          Keep looking straight at me.

Now I was eight, and very small,
          And he was no whit bigger,
And so I smiled, but he poked out
          His tongue, and called me "Nigger."

I saw the whole of Baltimore
          From May until December;
Of all the things that happened there
          That's all that I remember.

IS THERE ANY REWARD?
Hilaire Belloc
Is there any reward?
I'm beginning to doubt it.
I am broken and bored,
Is there any reward
Reassure me, Good Lord,
And inform me about it.
Is there any reward?
I'm beginning to doubt it.

LAMENT OF AN IDLE DEMON
R.P. Lister (1914- )
It's quiet in Hell just now, it's very tame.
The devils and the damned alike like snoring.
Just a faint smell of sulphur, not much flame;
The human souls come here and find it boring.

Satan, the poor old Puritan, sits there
          Emitting mocking laughter once a minute.
Idly he scans a page of Baudelaire
          And wonders how he once saw evil in it.

He sips his brimstone at the Demons' Club
          (His one amusement now he's superseded)
And keeps complaining to Beelzebub
          That men make hotter hells than ever he did.

LOVE UNDER THE REPUBLICANS (OR DEMOCRATS)
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
Come live with me and be my love
And we will all the pleasures prove
Of a marriage conducted with economy
In the 20th Century Anno Domony.
We'll live in a dear little walk-up flat
With practically room to swing a cat
And a potted cactus to give it hauteur
And a bathtub equipped with dark brown water.
We'll eat, without undue discouragement,
Foods low in cost but high in nourishment
And quaff with pleasure, while chatting wittily,
The peculiar wine of Little Italy.
We'll remind each other it's smart to be thrifty
And buy our clothes for something-fifty.
We'll bus for miles on holidays
For seats at depressing matinees,
And every Sunday we'll have a lark
And take a walk in Central Park.
And one of these days not too remote
You'll probably up and cut my throat.

LULLABY FOR THE CAT
Elizabeth Bishop (1911-1979)
Minnow, go to sleep and dream,
    Close your great big eyes;
Round your bed Events prepare
    The pleasantest surprise.

Darling Minnow, drop that frown,
    Just cooperate,
Not a kitten shall be drowned
    In the Marxist State.

Joy and Love will both be yours,
    Minnow, don't be glum.
Happy days are coming soon--
    Sleep, and let them come...

MEDITATIO
Ezra Pound (1885-1972)
When I carefully consider the curious habits of dogs
I am compelled to conclude
That man is the superior animal.

When I consider the curious habits of man
I confess, my friend, I am puzzled.

next to of course god america i
e.e. cummings (1894 - 1962)
'next to of course god america i
love you land of the pilgrims' and so forth oh
say can you see by the dawn's eary my
country 'tis of centuries come and go
and are no more what of it we should worry
in every language even deafanddumb
thy sons acclaim your glorious name by gorry
by jingo by gee by gosh by gum
why talk of beauty what could be more beaut-
iful than these heroic happy dead
who rushed like lions to the roaring slaughter
they did not stop to think they died instead
then shall the voice of liberty be mute?'

He spoke. And drank rapidly a glass of water.

NO IMAGES
William Waring Cuney (1906-1976)
She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown skin
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Naked,
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.

But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dishwater gives back no images.

O KARMA, DHARMA, PUDDING AND PIE
Philip Appleman (1926--)

O Karma, Dharma, pudding and pie,
gimme a break before I die:
grant me wisdom, will, & wit,
purity, probity, pluck, & grit.
Trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind,
gimme great abs & a steel-trap mind,
and forgive, Ye Gods, some humble advice--
these little blessings would suffice
to beget an earthly paradise:
make the bad people good--
and the good people nice;
and before our world goes over the brink,
teach the believers how to think.

ON THE MIRACLE OF LOAVES
Richard Crashaw (1612?--1649)
Now, Lord, or never, they’ll believe on thee:
Thou to their teeth hast proved thy Deity.

PRAYER (TO THE SUN ABOVE THE CLOUDS)
Piet Hein (1905-1996)
Sun that givest all things birth
Shine on everything on earth!

If that's too much to demand
Shine at least on this our land

If even that's too much for thee
Shine at any rate on me


SING ME A SONG OF SOCIAL SIGNIFICANCE
Harold Rome (1937- ) from Union musical "Pins and Needles"
Sing me a song with social significance,
All other tunes are taboo.
I want a ditty with heat in it,
Appealing with feeling and meat in it!
Sing me a song with social significance
Or you can sing till you're blue--
Let meaning shine from every line
Or I won't love you.

Sing me of wars and sing me of breadlines,
Sing me of front-page news.
Sing me of strikes and last-minute headlines,
Dress your observation in syncopation.
Sing me a song with social significance,
There's nothing else that will do--
It must get hot with what is what
Or I won't love you.

Sing me a song of social significance,
All other tunes are taboo.
I want a song that's satirical
And putting the mere into miracle.
Sing me a song of social significance,
Or you can sing till you're blue--
It must be packed with social fact
Or I won't love you.

Sing me of kings and con'frences martial,
Tell me of mills and mines.
Sing me of courts that aren't impartial,
What's to be done with 'em, tell me in rhyme!
Sing me a song of social significance,
There's nothing else that will do--
It must be tense with common sense
Or I won't love you.

SONG IN SPACE
Adrian Mitchell (1932--)
When man first flew beyond the sky
He looked back into the world's blue eye.
Man said: What makes your eye so blue?
Earth said: The tears in the ocean do.
Why are the seas so full of tears?
Because I've wept so many thousand years.
Why do you weep as you dance through space?
Because I am the mother of the human race.

SONG OF THE OPEN ROAD
Ogden Nash (1902-1971)
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Indeed, unless the billboards fall
I'll never see a tree at all.

S.P.C.A. SERMON
Stuart Hemsley
I'd like to hear a sermon done
On the general theme of the prodigal son,
          But slanted anew--
          From the point of view
          (And on behalf)
          Of the fatted calf.

STRANGE FRUIT
Lewis Allan (Abel Meeropol) (1903--1986), written in 1948
Southern trees bear a strange fruit,
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root;
Black body swinging in the Southern breeze,
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.
Pastoral scene of the gallant South,
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,
Scent of magnolia sweet and fresh,
And the sudden smell of burning flesh!
Here is a fruit for the crows to pluck,
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck,
For the sun to rot, for the tree to drop,
Here is a strange and bitter crop!

STUPIDITY STREET
Ralph Hodgson (1871-1962)
I saw with open eyes
Singing birds sweet
Sold in the shops
For the people to eat
Sold in the shops of
Stupidity Street.

I saw in a vision
The worm in the wheat
And in the shops nothing
For the people to eat,
Nothing for sale in
Stupidity Street.

THE COLD WITHIN
James Patrick Kinney (1921-1973)
Six humans trapped by happenstance
In dark and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood--
Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs,
But the first one held hers back,
For, of the faces around the fire,
She noticed one was black.

The next one looked cross the way
Saw one not of his church,
And could not bring himself to give
The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes
He gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use
To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought
Of wealth he had in store,
And keeping all that he had earned
From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge
As the fire passed from his sight,
For he saw in his stick of wood
A chance to spite the white.

And the last man of this forlorn group
Did nought except for gain,
Giving just to those who gave
Was how he played the game,

Their sticks held tight in death's stilled hands
Was proof enough of sin;
They did not die from cold without--
They died from cold within.

THE DAY AFTER SUNDAY
Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

Always on Sunday, God's in the morning papers.
          His Name is a headline, His Works are rumored abroad.
Having been praised by men who are movers and shapers,
          From prominent Sunday pulpits, newsworthy is God.

On page 27, just opposite Fashion Trends,
          One reads at a glance how He scolded the Baptists a little,
Was firm with the Catholics, practical with the Friends,
          To Unitarians pleasantly noncommittal.

In print are His numerous aspects, too; God smiling,
          God vexed, God thunderous, God whose mansions are pearl,
Plitical God, God frugal, God reconciling
          Himself with science, God guiding the Camp Fire Girl.

Always on Monday morning the press reports
          God as revealed to His vicars in various guises-
Benevolent, stormy, patient, or out of sorts.
          God knows which God is the God God recognizes.

THE BELLS OF HEAVEN
Ralph Hodgson (1871—1962)
‘Twould ring the bells of Heaven
The wildest peal for years,
If Parson lost his sense
And people came to theirs,
And he and they together
Knelt down with angry prayers
For tamed and shabby tigers
And dancing dogs and bears,
And wretched, blind pit ponies,
And little hunted hares.

THE ERNEST LIBERAL'S LAMENT
Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)
I know monks masturbate at night
That pet cats screw
That some girls bite
And yet
What can I do
To set things right?

THE GOLF LINKS
Sarah N. Cleghorn (1876-1959)
The golf links lie so near the mill
          That almost every day
The laboring children can look out
          And see the men at play.

THE PREACHER RUMINATES BEHIND THE SERMON
Gwendolyn Brooks (1917-2000)
I think it must be lonely to be God.
Nobody loves a master. No. Despite
The bright hosannas, bright dear-Lords, and bright
Determined reverence of Sunday eyes.

Picture Jehovah striding through the hall
Of his importance, creatures running out
From servant-corners to acclaim, to shout
Appreciation of His merit's gaze.

But who walks with Him?--dares to take His arm,
To slap Him on the shoulder, tweak His ear,
Buy Him a Coca-Cola or a beer,
Pooh-pooh His politics, call Him a fool?

Perhaps--who knows?--He tires of looking down.
Those eyes are never lifted. Never straight.
Perhaps sometimes He tires of being great
In solitude. Without a hand to hold.

THE SAME COMPLAINT
Norman Rowland Gale (1862-1942)
"What's your most vexing parasite,"
Bawled Earth to Mars, "since Life began?"
Mars roared an answer through the night,
In emphasis of thunder, "Man!"

THE TEMPTATIONS OF SAINT ANTHONY
Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)
Off in the wilderness bare and level,
Anthony wrestled with the Devil.
Once he’d beaten the Devil down,
Anthony’d turn his eyes toward town
And leave his hermitage now and then
To come to grips with the souls of men.

Afterward, all the tales agree,
Wrestling with the Devil seemed to be
Quite a relief to Anthony

THE WORLD TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
If buttercups buzzed after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea;
If ponies rode men, and if grass ate the corn
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,
If the mammas sold their babies to gypsies for half a crown,
If summer were spring, and the other way 'round,
Then all the world would be upside down.
--Tune played by English at the surrender of Cornwallis

TO JESUS ON HIS BIRTHDAY
Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892-1950)
For this your mother sweated in the cold,
For this you bled upon the bitter tree:
A yard of tinsel ribbon bought and sold;
A paper wreath; a day at home for me.
The merry bells ring out, the people kneel;
Up goes the man of God before the crowd;
With voice of honey and with eyes of steel
He drones your humble gospel to the proud.
Nobody listens. Less than the wind that blows
Are all your words to us you died to save.
O Prince of Peace! O Sharon's dewy Rose!
How mute you lie within your vaulted grave.
The stone the angel rolled away with tears
Is back upon your mouth these thousand years.

WHAT HAVE THEY DONE TO THE RAIN?
Malvina Reynolds (1900-1978), in 1962
(Hailed by Joan Baez as the gentlest of peace songs)

Just a little rain, falling all around,
The grass lifts its head to the heavenly sound,
Just a little rain,
Just a little rain,
What have they done to the rain?

Just a little boy, standing in the rain,
The gentle rain that falls for years.
And the grass is gone,
The boy disappears,
And the rain keeps falling
Like helpless tears--
And what have they done to the rain?

Just a little breeze out of the sky,
The leaves pat their hands as the breeze blows by,
Just a little breeze
With some smoke in its eye--
What have they done to the rain.

WHAT THOMAS AN BUILE SAID IN A PUB
James Stephens (1882-1950)
I saw God. Do you doubt it?
          Do you dare to doubt it?
I saw the Almighty Man. His hand
Was resting on a mountain, and
He looked upon the World and all about it.
I saw him plainer than you see me now,
          You mustn’t doubt it.

He was not satisfied;
          His look was all dissatisfied.
His beard swung on a wind far out of sight
Behind the world’s curve, and there was light
Most fearful from His forehead, and He sighed,
“That star went always wrong, and from the start
          I was dissatisfied.”

He lifted up His hand—
          I say He heaved a dreadful hand
Over the spinning Earth. Then I said, “Stay,
You must not strike it, God; I’m in the way;
And I will never move from where I stand.”
He said, “Dear child, I feared that you were dead,”
          And stayed His hand.

WHEN ADAM DAY BY DAY
A.E. Housman (1859–1936)

When Adam day by day
Awoke in Paradise,
He always used to say
"Oh, this is very nice."

But Eve from scenes of bliss
Transported him for life.
The more I think of this
The more I beat my wife.

WHERE?
Kenneth Patchen (1911-1972)
There’s a place the men always say
Come in here, child
No cause you should weep
Wolf never catch the rabbit
Golden hair never turn white with grief
Come in here, child
No cause you should moan
Brother never hurt his brother
Nobody here ever wander without a home
There must be some such place somewhere
But I never heard of it.

YET DO I MARVEL
Countée Cullen (1903-1946)
I doubt not God is good, well-meaning, kind
And did He stoop to quibble could tell why
The little buried mole continues blind,
Why flesh that mirrors Him must some day die,
Make plain the reason tortured Tantalus
Is baited by the fickle fruit, declare
If merely brute caprice dooms Sisyphus
To struggle up a never-ending stair.
Inscrutable His ways are, and immune
To catechism by a mind too strewn
With petty cares to slightly understand
What awful brain compels His awful hand.
Yet do I marvel at this curious thing:
To make a poet black, and bid him sing!

You realize, of course, this means WAR!

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