Sawmill John

Oh, tally ho! Sing for the timber!
Sing for the logger and the lumberjack strong!
Hey, tally hey! Sing of the cinder
And the axe and the smoke and of Sawmill John!

So went the chant of the logger and the settler,
The pioneer and peddler, though long have they been gone;
Still goes that chant from the lips of men and children,
And in the air, a chilling, when they tell of Sawmill John.

John had been a logger in the years when he was younger,
Straighter, faster, stronger — but those days were now long gone.
So he labored in the sawmill, with the dust and blade and grinding,
The heavy work not minding — so was Sawmill John.

All day the blade was screaming, the sawdust always spinning;
The logs were slowly skimming to the river’s rolling song.
To the sawblade John would guide them — the logs to lumber turning;
And a fire, always burning, in the heart of Sawmill John.

John’s heart was with the forests where those logs were cut and taken;
And his heart, how it was breaking to be where he belonged!
But that log — it kept on rolling, and he never saw it coming —
The sawblade, always humming, took the leg of Sawmill John.

They say he lost his mind then, and to the forests he went roaming,
The woodlands always combing as he searched for what was gone.
Ever seeking , never finding, still mournfully he wanders. . .
His form seen sometimes yonder. . . the ghost of Sawmill John.

Oh, tally ho! Sing for the timber!
Sing for the logger and the lumberjack strong!
Hey, tally hey! Sing of the cinder
And the axe and the smoke and of Sawmill John!

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Wind In the Valley

Wind in the valley, blow onward, blow;
Kiss the green grasses bending below.
Breath of the heavens, whispering low —
Wind in the valley, blow onward, blow!

Wind in the valley, roll onward roll;
Carry the heavenly bells’ sweetest toll.
Hymn of the lowlands, sing to my soul —
Wind in the valley, roll onward, roll!

Wind in the valley, sweep onward, sweep;
Caress the white lilies as in darkness they sleep.
Sweet song of summer, your vigil to keep —
Wind in the valley, sweep onward, sweep!

Nightfall

I feel the dim, descending cloak
upon my shoulders —
I dare not look —
It rests upon me, a shadow, blue,
Its starlets gleaming. . .
In crannies, nooks,
It creeps without a step or stride.
Its shadow falls on every side;
Escape is but to close the eyes. . .
But even then is darkness met!
Go farther, farther — further West,
For there in glory does She rest.
And only yet,
But for a moment; She carries on
Into the hazy blue beyond.
An endless circle, round and round,
To where the Western zephyr’s bound. . .
‘Tis destined for the throne room, bright,
Where Her brilliance meets His light —
And She, and all the world, bows down.

Morning Song

Oh, clear and blue and cold it rings —
So light and soft and airy;
So alive with bright and beginning things,
Happily it tarries
Beyond my sight, in faint starlight,
Where it rises slowly nearer;
Its hope and brightness daily make
Its presence all the dearer.
Oh, sweet and low and long it sings,
So lightly, soft and airy;
Oh, morning’s broken! Joy it brings —
Oh, how I wish to tarry!

Mount Vernon’s Grandfather Clock

The clock’s undaunted rhythm measured time
Since placed upon the staircase long ago,
Each room resounding with its hollow chime,
A gentle music, swelling soft and low.
With every peal its quavering voice sings
Of years, of lives and battles from days past;
Each lilting note pausing before it rings,
As to savor time, for it takes wing fast.
Its rhythmic hymn has not ever lost beat;
Not clanged or clamored when danger was nigh,
Nor stalled for snow, driving rain, or heat;
Its song rolling on as the years pass by.
Faces and fashions fall away with time,
Yet still reverently ringing is the chime.

Keep the British Watching

Blackened embers a ruddy glow cast upon two men
Seated near a dying flame in the camp of Washington.
Liberty, another flame, in their soldier’s hearts was burning;
And one man, speaking to his friend and from the fire turning, said:

“The victory at Trenton the months have chilled with time;
The Continental army has soldiers in their prime.
Too long the men have idle been — but that is soon to change,
For beyond the river Delaware the redcoats cross the range!

“The colonies are panting for a triumph once again,
And the British stalk too near for us for help to send.
The tension grows hour by hour — who could ever stay,
With the British always watching, each and every day?”

Said his friend,”I know of Washington; a careful choice he’ll make —
If not but for the soldiers, at least for freedom’s sake.
Await our orders patiently, though hard as it may be
To have the British always watching, expecting us to flee.”

Then came the General’s order — to Princeton, for to fight,
Shielded by the darkness of the chilly winter night.
“A few shall stay at Trenton and build fires on the bank
To keep the British watching as the army slips away.”

Row by row the men they marched; a few began the fires,
Provoking them and stoking them till flames flew high and higher!
One soldier found his fiddle and soon began to play
To keep the British watching as the army slipped away.

All through the night the fires burned in hearts and by the camp;
Fueled by the call of Freedom, who lifted up her lamp
And cried, “All you Yankee soldiers — press fast upon your way!
I’ll keep the British watching as your army slips away!”

Sure enough, by morning, the Continentals were all gone;
Princeton fell to soldiers who had marched the whole night long.
There upon fair Trenton’s banks the British bellowed and brayed —
For while they were watching, the army slipped away!

Soldier’s Grave — A Villanelle

He walks the grass with measured strides —
As measured as a toddling child makes —
To reach his waiting father’s side.

Where rivers trill and the whinchet cries,
In boyhood still adventures take
Him walking on with measured strides.

Lovely now appears his bride,
As clear and pure as a mountain lake;
To reach her waiting husband’s side.

A call for men of strength and pride —
They leave to fight for freedom’s sake —
He walks the grass with measured strides.

Though wounded, from the ground he’ll rise
And quickly to his friend he’ll make,
To reach his dying comrade’s side.

A lonely widow softly cries
To feel her heart about to break;
He walks the grass with measured strides,
To reach his waiting Father’s side…