The well was dry beside the door,
And so we went with pail and can
Across the fields behind the house
To seek the brook if still it ran;
Not loth to have excuse to go,
Because the autumn eve was fair
(Though chill), because the fields were ours,
And by the brook our woods were there.
We ran as if to meet the moon
That slowly dawned behind the trees,
The barren boughs without the leaves,
Without the birds, without the breeze.
But once within the wood, we paused
Like gnomes that hid us from the moon,
Ready to run to hiding new
With laughter when she found us soon.
Each laid on other a staying hand
To listen ere we dared to look,
And in the hush we joined to make
We heard, we knew we heard the brook.
A note as from a single place,
A slender tinkling fall that made
Now drops that floated on the pool
Like pearls, and now a silver blade.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
NOW that they’ve got it settled whose I be,
I’m going to tell them something they won’t like:
They’ve got it settled wrong, and I can prove it.
Flattered I must be to have two towns fighting
To make a present of me to each other.
They don’t dispose me, either one of them,
To spare them any trouble. Double trouble’s
Always the witch’s motto anyway.
I’ll double theirs for both of them- you watch me.
They’ll find they’ve got the whole thing to do over,
That is, if facts is what they want to go by.
They set a lot (now don’t they?) by a record
Of Arthur Amy’s having once been up
For Hog Reeve in March Meeting here in Warren.
I could have told them any time this twelvemonth
The Arthur Amy I was married to
Couldn’t have been the one they say was up
In Warren at March Meeting for the reason
He wa’n’t but fifteen at the time they say.
The Arthur Amy I was married to
voted the only times he ever voted,
Which wasn’t many, in the town of Wentworth.
One of the times was when ’twas in the warrant
To see if the town wanted to take over
The tote road to our clearing where we lived.
I’ll tell you who’d remember- Heman Lapish.
Their Arthur Amy was the father of mine.
So now they’ve dragged it through the law courts once
I guess they’d better drag it through again.
Wentworth and Warren’s both good towns to live in,
Only I happen to prefer to live
In Wentworth from now on; and when all’s said,
Right’s right, and the temptation to do right
When I can hurt someone by doing it
Has always been too much for me, it has.
I know of some folks that’d be set up
At having in their town a noted witch:
But most would have to think of the expense
That even I would be. They ought to know
That as a witch I’d often milk a bat
And that’d be enough to last for days.
It’d make my position stronger, I think,
If I was to consent to give some sign
To make it surer that I was a witch?
It wa’n’t no sign, I s’pose, when Mallice Huse
Said that I took him out in his old age
And rode all over everything on him
Until I’d had him worn to skin and bones,
And if I’d left him hitched unblanketed
In front of one Town Hall, I’d left him hitched
In front of every one in Grafton County.
Some cried shame on me not to blanket him,
The poor old man. It would have been all right
If some one hadn’t said to gnaw the posts
He stood beside and leave his trade mark on them,
So they could recognize them. Not a post
That they could hear tell of was scarified.
They made him keep on gnawing till he whined.
Then that same smarty someone said to look-
He’d bet Huse was a cribber and had gnawed
The crib he slept in- and as sure’s you’re born
They found he’d gnawed the four posts of his bed,
All four of them to splinters. What did that prove?
Not that he hadn’t gnawed the hitching posts
He said he had besides. Because a horse
Gnaws in the stable ain’t no proof to me
He don’t gnaw trees and posts and fences too.
But everybody took it for proof.
I was a strapping girl of twenty then.
The smarty someone who spoiled everything
Was Arthur Amy. You know who he was.
That was the way he started courting me.
He never said much after we were married,
But I mistrusted he was none too proud
Of having interfered in the Huse business.
I guess he found he got more out of me
By having me a witch. Or something happened
To turn him round. He got to saying things
To undo what he’d done and make it right,
Like, ‘No, she ain’t come back from kiting yet.
Last night was one of her nights out. She’s kiting.
She thinks when the wind makes a night of it
She might as well herself.’ But he liked best
To let on he was plagued to death with me:
If anyone had seen me coming home
Over the ridgepole, ‘stride of a broomstick,
As often as he had in the tail of the night,
He guessed they’d know what he had to put up with.
Well, I showed Arthur Amy signs enough
Off from the house as far as we could keep
And from barn smells you can’t wash out of ploughed ground
With all the rain and snow of seven years;
And I don’t mean just skulls of Roger’s Rangers
On Moosilauke, but woman signs to man,
Only bewitched so I would last him longer.
Up where the trees grow short, the mosses tall,
I made him gather me wet snow berries
On slippery rocks beside a waterfall.
I made him do it for me in the dark.
And he liked everything I made him do.
I hope if he is where he sees me now
He’s so far off he can’t see what I’ve come to.
You can come down from everything to nothing.
All is, if I’d a-known when I was young
And full of it, that this would be the end,
It doesn’t seem as if I’d had the courage
To make so free and kick up in folks’ faces.
I might have, but it doesn’t seem as if.
Here come the line-gang pioneering by,
They throw a forest down less cut than broken.
They plant dead trees for living, and the dead
They string together with a living thread.
They string an instrument against the sky
Wherein words whether beaten out or spoken
Will run as hushed as when they were a thought
But in no hush they string it: they go past
With shouts afar to pull the cable taught,
To hold it hard until they make it fast,
To ease away — they have it. With a laugh,
An oath of towns that set the wild at naught
They bring the telephone and telegraph.
At the end of the row
I stepped on the toe
Of an unemployed hoe.
It rose in offense
And struck me a blow
In the seat of my sense.
It wasn’t to blame
But I called it a name.
And I must say it dealt
Me a blow that I felt
Like a malice prepense.
You may call me a fool,
But was there a rule
The weapon should be
Turned into a tool?
And what do we see?
The first tool I step on
Turned into a weapon.
When I spread out my hand here today,
I catch no more than a ray
To feel of between thumb and fingers;
No lasting effect of it lingers.
There was one time and only the one
When dust really took in the sun;
And from that one intake of fire
All creatures still warmly suspire.
And if men have watched a long time
And never seen sun-smitten slime
Again come to life and crawl off,
We not be too ready to scoff.
God once declared he was true
And then took the veil and withdrew,
And remember how final a hush
Then descended of old on the bush.
God once spoke to people by name.
The sun once imparted its flame.
One impulse persists as our breath;
The other persists as our faith.
The west was getting out of gold,
The breath of air had died of cold,
When shoeing home across the white,
I thought I saw a bird alight.
In summer when I passed the place
I had to stop and lift my face;
A bird with an angelic gift
Was singing in it sweet and swift.
No bird was singing in it now.
A single leaf was on a bough,
And that was all there was to see
In going twice around the tree.
From my advantage on a hill
I judged that such a crystal chill
Was only adding frost to snow
As gilt to gold that wouldn’t show.
A brush had left a crooked stroke
Of what was either cloud or smoke
From north to south across the blue;
A piercing little star was through.