Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. VII. Descriptive: Narrative
Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume VII. Descriptive: Narrative.  1904.
Descriptive Poems: III. Places
The Mowers
Myron B. Benton (1834–1902)
THE SUNBURNT mowers are in the swath—
        Swing, swing, swing!
    The towering lilies loath
    Tremble and totter and fall;
        The meadow-rue        5
Dashes its tassels of golden dew;
    And the keen blade sweeps o’er all—
        Swing, swing, swing!
The flowers, the berries, the feathered grass,
    Are thrown in a smothered mass;        10
Hastens away the butterfly;
With half their burden the brown bees hie;
    And the meadow-lark shrieks distrest,
And leaves the poor younglings all in the nest.
    The daisies clasp and fall;        15
And totters the Jacob’s-ladder tall.
Weaving and winding and curving lithe,
O’er plumy hillocks—through dewy hollows,
        His subtle scythe
    The nodding mower follows—        20
        Swing, swing, swing!
Anon, the chiming whetstones ring—
    Ting-a-ling! ting-a-ling!
      And the mower now
Pauses and wipes his leaded brow.        25
A moment he scans the fleckless sky;
A moment, the fish-hawk soaring high;
And watches the swallows dip and dive
      Anear and far.
They whisk and glimmer, and chatter and strive;        30
    What do they gossip together?
        Cunning fellows they are,
        Wise prophets to him!
“Higher or lower they circle and skim—
Fair or foul to-morrow’s hay-weather!”        35
Tallest primroses, or loftiest daisies,
        Not a steel-blue feather
        Of slim wing grazes:
“Fear not! fear not!” cry the swallows.
Each mower tightens his snath-ring’s wedge,        40
    And his finger daintily follows
    The long blade’s tickle-edge;
Softly the whetstone’s last touches ring—
    Ting-a-ling! ting-a-ling!
Like a leaf-muffled bird in the woodland nigh,        45
Faintly the fading echoes reply—
    Ting-a-ling! ting-a-ling!
“Perchance the swallows, that flit in their glee,
Of to-morrow’s hay-weather know little as we!”
Says Farmer Russet. “Be it hidden in shower        50
  Or sunshine, to-morrow we do not own—
    To-day is ours alone!—
Not a twinkle we ’ll waste of the golden hour.
Grasp tightly the nibs—give heel and give toe!—
Lay a goodly swath, shaved smooth and low!        55
        Prime is the day—
        Swing, swing, swing!”
Farmer Russet is aged and gray—
Gray as the frost, but fresh as the spring,
        Straight is he        60
        As the green fir-tree;
And with heart most blithe, and sinews lithe,
He leads the row with his merry scythe.
    “Come, boys! strike up the old song
        While we circle around—        65
The song we always in haytime sing—
        And let the woods ring,
        And the echoes prolong
        The merry sound!”
  July is just in the nick of time!
          (Hay-weather, hay-weather;)
  The midsummer month is the golden prime
  For haycocks smelling of clover and thyme;—
          (Swing all together!)
  July is just in the nick of time!        75
  O, we ’ll make our hay while the good sun shines—
    We ’ll waste not a golden minute!
  No shadow of storm the blue arch lines;
  We ’ll waste not a minute—not a minute!
        For the west-wind is fair;        80
        O, the hay-day is rare!—
  The sky is without a brown cloud in it!
June is too early for richest hay;
      (Fair weather, fair weather;)
The corn stretches taller the livelong day;        85
But grass is ever too sappy to lay;—
      (Clip all together!)
June is too early for richest hay.
August ’s a month that too far goes by;
      (Late weather, late weather;)        90
Grasshoppers are chipper and kick too high!
And grass that ’s standing is fodder scorched dry;—
      (Pull all together!)
August ’s a month that too far goes by.
July is just in the nick of time!        95
      (Best weather, best weather;)
The midsummer month is the golden prime
For haycocks smelling of clover and thyme;
      (Strike all together!)
July is just in the nick of time!        100
      Still hiss the scythes!
Shudder the grasses’ defenceless blades—
      The lily-throng writhes;
And, as a phalanx of wild geese streams,
Where the shore of April’s cloudland gleams,        105
On their dizzy way, in serried grades—
      Wing on wing, wing on wing—
The mowers, each a step in advance
Of his fellow, time their stroke with a glance
        Of swerveless force;        110
And far through the meadow leads their course—
        Swing, swing, swing!

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