More Songs from Vagabondia

by Bliss Carman and Richard Hovey


 

JONGLEURS


 

WHAT is the stir in the street?
Hurry of feet!
And after,
A sound as of pipes and of tabers!

Men of the conflicts and labors,

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Struggling and shifting and shoving,
Pushing and pounding your neighbors,
Fighting for leeway for laughter,
Toiling for leisure for loving!
Hark, through the window and up to the rafter,
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Madder and merrier,
Deeper and verier,
Sweeter, contrarier,
Dafter and dafter,
A song arises,—
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A thrill, an intrusion,
A reel, an illusion,
A rapture, a crisis
Of bells in the air!

Ay, up from your work and look out of the window!

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"Who are the newcomers, Arab or Hindoo?
Persians, or Japs, or the children of Isis?"
—Guesses, surmises—
Forth with you, fare
Down in the street to draw nearer and stare!
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Come from your palaces, come from your hovels!
Lay down your ledgers, your picks and your shovels,
Your trowels and bricks,
Hammers and nails,
Scythes and flails,
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Bargains and sales,
And the trader’s tricks,
Deals, overreachings,
Worries and griefs,
Teachings and preachings,
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Boluses, briefs,
Writs and attachments,
Quarterings, hatchments,
Clans and cognomens,
Tomes, prolegomens,
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Comments and scholia,
(World’s melancholia)—
Cast them aside, and good riddance to rubbish!
Here at the street-corner, hearken, a strain,
Rough and off-hand and a bit rub-a-dub-ish,
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Gives us a taste of the life we’d attain.

Who are they, what are they, whence have they come to us?
Where will they go when their singing is done?
What is the garb they wear, tattered and sumptuous,
Faded with days and superb in the sun?

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What are they singing of?
Hush!
. . . There’s a ringing of
Delicate chimes;
And the blush
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Of a veiled bride morning
Beats in the rhymes.
Listen!
Out of the merriment,
Clear as the glisten
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Of dew on the brier,
A silver warning!
Sudden, a dare—
Lyric experiment—
Up like a lark in the air,
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Higher and higher and higher,
The song shoots out of our blunder
Of thought to the blue sky of wonder,
And broken strains only fall down
Like pearls on the roofs of the town.
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Somebody says they have come from the moon,
Seen with their eyes Eldorado,
Sat in the Bo-tree’s shadow,
Wandered at noon
In the valleys of Van,
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Tented in Lebanon, tarried in Ophir,
Last year in Tartary piped for the Khan.
Now it’s the song of a lover;
Now it’s the lilt of a loafer,—
Under the trees in a midsummer noon,
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Dreaming the haze into isles to discover,
Beating the silences into a croon;
Soon
Up from the marshes a call of the plover!
Out from the cover
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A flurry of quail!
Down from the height where the slow hawks hover,
The thin far ghost of a hail!
And near, and near,
Throbbing and tingling,—
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With a human cheer
In the earth-song mingling,—
Mirth and carousal,
Wooing, espousal,
Clinking of glasses
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And laughter of lasses—
And the wind in the garden stoops down as it passes
To play with the hair
Of the loveliest there,
And the wander-lust catches the will in its snare;
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Hill-wind and spray-lure,
Call of the heath;
Dare in the teeth
Of the balk and the failure;
The clasp and the linger
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Of loosening finger,
Loth to dissever;
Thrill of the comrade heart to its fellow
Through droughts that sicken and blasts that bellow
From purple furrow to harvest yellow,
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Now and forever.
How our feet itch to keep time to their measure!
How our hearts lift to the lilt of their song!
Let the world go, for a day’s royal pleasure!
Not every summer such waifs come along.
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Now they are off to the inn;
Hear the clean ring of their laughter!
Cool as a hill-brook after
The heat of the noon sets in!
Gentlemen even in jollity—
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Certainly people of quality!—
Waifs and estrays no less,
Roofless and penniless,
They are the wayside strummers
Whose lips are man’s renown,
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Those wayward brats of Summer’s
Who stroll from town to town;
Spendthrift of life, they ravish
The days of an endless store,
And ever the more they lavish
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The heap of the hoard is more.
For joy and love and vision
Are alive and breed and stay
When dust shall hold in derision
The misers of a day.
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