Verse > Anthologies > Harriet Monroe, ed. > Poetry: A Magazine of Verse, 1912–22
Harriet Monroe, ed. (1860–1936).  Poetry: A Magazine of Verse.  1912–22.
A Year
By Raymond P. Fischer
BEFORE the snow had melted from north slopes
John Mortimer could feel the coming spring.
The imp that stirs the sleeping roots of trees,
And sends the sap up to the highest twigs,
Was in his blood. He envied the gaudy rooster        5
Who from his throne upon the leaning gate
Shouted his challenge through the morning air
Across the sleeping fields where snowdrifts lay.
One morning, going townward with the milk,
He offered Mary Allindale a ride.        10
Her father was a queer old man who worked
A little farm, and sometimes played his fiddle
Half the night after his work was done.
She taught the village school. John never knew
How pretty Mary was until that day.        15
Dusky horizons, deep blue skies where clouds
Float slowly, in the distance three black specks—
They must be horses and a man plodding
Along the boundary line between the gray
Of last year’s life and the black earth new-plowed.        20
Resting upon a bed of last year’s leaves,
At noon John Mortimer could see tall ranks
Of ripening corn; he dreamed of growing stock
And bigger barns, and Mary Allindale.
The evening wind blew sweet across the fields        25
Of clover when at last he went to her.
It brought them tell-tale odors of the farms
They passed, the faint warm smell of growing corn,
The cool and heavy incense of the stream
That wanders half asleep through Watson’s pasture.        30
A whip-poor-will was crying in the birches
By the bridge; the stars were tiny points
Of gold above, and the road was dim and gray.
John Mortimer said little, for it seemed
That Mary Allindale belonged to him        35
That night; the stars and mist-hung road were his,
And awkwardly he took her in his arms.
All the way home he heard her stifled laughter:
He called himself a fool and vowed that he
Would think no more of Mary Allindale.        40
The mower sang from dawn until the sun
Was overhead; from noon hour until night.
When hay was in he started on his barn.
He liked the sound of hammers at the work,
And liked to see the visioned barn take form.        45
August came, and turned green fields to gold.
Now binders moved across the sunny fields;
Men followed them and left the grain in shocks.
The threshers crawled along the country roads—
Great Chinese dragons. Men brought them loads of grain        50
To be devoured in a cloud of dust.
When the barn was done his neighbors came in crowds,
But Mary did not come. Shrill fiddles scraped,
Feet stamped and shuffled; but he stood outside.
So she preferred to him a good-for-nothing        55
Fiddling fool who scarcely owned the clothes
Upon his back. “They’ve gone out west to make
A fortune; then they’ll study music.” The moon
Came from behind a cloud and grinned at him.
A screech-owl laughed from somewhere in the dark.        60
A steady thud and clump of horses’ feet;
A single crow seemed frozen in the sky—
Borne on the cruel wind it drifted by.
John Mortimer plowed on from dark to dark;
He cut his fields in furrows for the frost        65
And snow to smooth. But earth had lost its goodness—
He did not care whether it shone or rained.
The days when sun poured down like golden wine
Did not deceive—he knew the world was wrong.
The tiniest stream is hushed when winter comes.
It cannot whisper to the passing banks
About the great green ocean and its ships.
The days when it has run before the wind
Laughing and beckoning with hands of foam,
The nights when tired of play it has crept up        75
Some distant bay and murmured round the piling
Of silent rocks, are all forgotten now.
And winter hushed the whispering memories.
He swung his ax all day and had no thoughts
Except the quiet things about his work        80
That come unsought to every worker’s mind.
One morning, going townward with the milk,
He stopped to give the new schoolma’am a lift.
Though he had often passed her on the road
He had never known how beautiful she was.        85
Though snow still lay in drifts on northern slopes,
Though trees and roadside brush were white with frost,
John Mortimer could feel the coming spring.

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