Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > The New Poetry: An Anthology
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  The New Poetry: An Anthology.  1917.
172. Songs of Deliverance
III. No Prey Am I
By Orrick Johns
NO prey am I of poor thoughts.
I leave all of my followers; I tire quickly of them;
I send them away from me when they ask too much; for though I live alone
Still will I live, night and day …
There is not anything in me save mutation and laughter;        5
My laughter is like a sword,
Like the piston-rod that defies oceans and grades.
When I labor it is a song of battle in the broad noon;
For behold the muscles of a man—
They are piston-rods; they are cranes, hydraulic presses, powder-magazines:        10
But though my body be as beautiful as a hill crowned with flowers
I will despise it and make it obey me …
Is the old love dead?
Then I shall await the new,
To embrace it more sturdily and passionately than ever the old;        15
And break it under the white force of my laughter
Until it lies passive in my arms.
There is nothing in me but renewal;
If my friend bow his head over me I soon surprise him with shouts of joy:
For in an instant I am again what I was,        20
Only with a few moments more of the infusion of earth;
I tell him, the griever, to follow me and he is a griever no more;
He raises his head and must follow.
Yet it is my battle, not his battle,
For in me I absorb others …        25
I hail parties and partisans from afar;
Not men but parties are my comrades,
Not persons but nations are my associates.
I shake the hand of nations;
For I am a nation and a party, and majorities do not elect me—        30
I elect myself.
I swam in the sea, and lo!
The continents assembled like islands off my coast.
My talk is with Homer and Bonaparte, with David and Garibaldi, with China and Pharaoh and Texas;
When I laugh it is with Lucifer and Rabelais.        35
A pathfinder is my mistress, one hard to keep and unbridled—
I have no respect for tame women.
My friends and I do not meet every day,
For we are centuries apart, our salutations girdle the globe.
I have eaten locusts with Jeremiah;        40
I invite all hatreds and the stings of little creatures—
They enrich me, I glory in my parasites.
No man shall ever read me,
For I bring about in a gesture what they cannot fathom in a life;
Yet I tell Bob and Harry and Bill—        45
It costs me nothing to be kind;
If I am a generous adversary, be not deceived, neither be devoted—
It is because I despise you.
Yet if any man claim to be my peer I shall meet him,
For that man has an insolence that I like;        50
I am beholden to him.
I know the lightning when I see it,
And the toad when I Bee it …
I warn all pretenders.
Yet before I came it was known of me to the chosen, all that I should do.        55
Every tree knew it;
Every lion and every leech knew it—
And called out to meet the new enemy,
The new friend …
What power can deny me?        60
It was known that I should do not one thing but hundreds,
For I despise my works and make them obey me.
I have my time and I bide it …
It was known that I should turn no whit from my end, until I had attained it.
Nothing has scathed me,        65
Nothing ever, nor ever will.
I have touched pitch, I have revelled in it and rolled in it;
Buried in mire and filth, I laughed long,
And sprang up.
I have loved lust and vain deviltries.        70
And taken them into my heart—
Their dirt and their lies—and my heart was aflame
With a new fancy …
Not me can pitch defile!
For the Spring, my sister, rose under my feet        75
And I was again naked and white,
Ready to dive into the deep pool, green and bottomless—
The medium for heroes, since it is dangerous and beautiful—
The pool of Tomorrow!
It is because I breathe like fishes and live in the waters of Tomorrow that Death fears me …        80
How often I have intercepted thee, O Death!
O windy liar!
Thou canst do nothing against me;
If I command thee to stand back thou art afraid and cowerest,
For I have caught thee often and punished thee …        85
I am the greatest laugher of all,
Greater than the sun and the oak-tree,
Than the frog and Apollo;
I laugh all day long!
I laugh at Death, I hail Death, I kiss her on the cheek as a lover his bride,        90
But the lover goes not to his bride unless he desire her;
I go not to Death until I am ready.
The strong lover goes not to his bride save when he would people his land with sons;
Then I, too, I go not to Death, save it be for the labor greater than all others.
I shall break her with my laughter;        95
I shall complete her …
Only then shall Death be when I die!


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