Verse > Anthologies > Louis Untermeyer, ed. > Modern American Poetry
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Louis Untermeyer, ed. (1885–1977). Modern American Poetry.  1919.
 
Anna Hempstead Branch.
 
61. The Monk in the Kitchen
 
I

ORDER is a lovely thing;
 
On disarray it lays its wing, 
Teaching simplicity to sing. 
It has a meek and lowly grace, 
Quiet as a nun's face.         5
Lo—I will have thee in this place! 
Tranquil well of deep delight, 
All things that shine through thee appear 
As stones through water, sweetly clear. 
Thou clarity,  10
That with angelic charity 
Revealest beauty where thou art, 
Spread thyself like a clean pool. 
Then all the things that in thee are, 
Shall seem more spiritual and fair,  15
Reflection from serener air— 
Sunken shapes of many a star 
In the high heavens set afar. 
  
II

Ye stolid, homely, visible things,
 
Above you all brood glorious wings  20
Of your deep entities, set high, 
Like slow moons in a hidden sky. 
But you, their likenesses, are spent 
Upon another element. 
Truly ye are but seemings—  25
The shadowy cast-oft gleamings 
Of bright solidities. Ye seem 
Soft as water, vague as dream; 
Image, cast in a shifting stream. 
  
III

What are ye?
  30
I know not. 
Brazen pan and iron pot, 
Yellow brick and gray flag-stone 
That my feet have trod upon— 
Ye seem to me  35
Vessels of bright mystery. 
For ye do bear a shape, and so 
Though ye were made by man, I know 
An inner Spirit also made, 
And ye his breathings have obeyed.  40
  
IV

Shape, the strong and awful Spirit,
 
Laid his ancient hand on you. 
He waste chaos doth inherit; 
He can alter and subdue. 
Verily, he doth lift up  45
Matter, like a sacred cup. 
Into deep substance he reached, and lo 
Where ye were not, ye were; and so 
Out of useless nothing, ye 
Groaned and laughed and came to be.  50
And I use you, as I can, 
Wonderful uses, made for man, 
Iron pot and brazen pan. 
  
V

What are ye?
 
I know not;  55
Nor what I really do 
When I move and govern you. 
There is no small work unto God. 
He required of us greatness; 
Of his least creature  60
A high angelic nature, 
Stature superb and bright completeness. 
He sets to us no humble duty. 
Each act that he would have us do 
Is haloed round with strangest beauty;  65
Terrific deeds and cosmic tasks 
Of his plainest child he asks. 
When I polish the brazen pan 
I hear a creature laugh afar 
In the gardens of a star,  70
And from his burning presence run 
Flaming wheels of many a sun. 
Whoever makes a thing more bright, 
He is an angel of all light. 
When I cleanse this earthen floor  75
My spirit leaps to see 
Bright garments trailing over it, 
A cleanness made by me. 
Purger of all men's thoughts and ways, 
With labor do I sound Thy praise,  80
My work is done for Thee. 
Whoever makes a thing more bright, 
He is an angel of all light. 
Therefore let me spread abroad 
The beautiful cleanness of my God.  85
  
VI

One time in the cool of dawn
 
Angels came and worked with me. 
The air was soft with many a wing. 
They laughed amid my solitude 
And cast bright looks on everything.  90
Sweetly of me did they ask 
That they might do my common task 
And all were beautiful—but one 
With garments whiter than the sun 
Had such a face  95
Of deep, remembered grace; 
That when I saw I cried—"Thou art 
The great Blood-Brother of my heart. 
Where have I seen thee?"—And he said, 
"When we are dancing round God's throne, 100
How often thou art there. 
Beauties from thy hands have flown 
Like white doves wheeling in mid air. 
Nay—thy soul remembers not? 
Work on, and cleanse thy iron pot." 105
  
VII

What are we? I know not.
 
 
 
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