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Twenty-Four Hours

ISSUE:  Summer 1936


The light again, at the same early hour,
Wakes birds that can still chirp in windy cold.
This is like mornings that have been before;
But village streets and country orchards hold Since yesterday their featherweight of snow,
And, though some color comes along gray skies And bragging cocks from distant backyards crow,
Wind in stiff branches makes it hard to rise.
Yet triumph wakes with the waker in half-light.
Spirit exults in the cleaner end of day
And pulses race to hear tread out the night
Some unknown footsteps crunching frozen clay.
Before the sun imagination sees
Diamonds of light that burn on ice-locked trees.


The sun has its phases as the altering moon.
Half-dark gives way.
The mountains shine in air Which will be lucid till late afternoon.
Splendor descends on common things, grows near,
With brilliance touches such objects as a comb.
Below, a hand that sets out forks and plates Starts the small music of the sounds of home—
Below, prepared in light, a table waits.
Not as on frozen earth the day must go That with such gleam and happy sound began.
In open wind the crystal branches blow A rain of ice about the feet of man.
Something beyond the second knows its chance And speaks to the spirit through exultant sense.


Already birds fly to the open woods.
Color goes out of earth.
The first stars burn.
Not bringing victory, the tired heart nods Toward the familiar place of its return.
Some last of glory flapped off with the crow With awkward beauty in the last of day.
Still shaken in dark the clicking branches blow,
But their great brightness now is hid away.
Music seems quieter, but is sounded still.
Though not in daylight, a bright cloth is laid.
How slowly in darkness past that hill The thousand patterns of the stars are made.
These are the humbler lights, less than the sun,
To bring man home when his exulting’s done.


Silent in dark the cock roosts by the hen,
And even in cities men now think of sleep.
The moon looks in the upper rooms again.
But minutes now before the mind will dip Into the nothing or the dreams of night,
Leaving the heavens to the curious moon,
Music to any bird waked by its light And making some song to morning, hours too soon.
There are much braver worlds which men swear by;
But bring to bed all that a life has been,
Hoping to hear past midnight far cocks cry And to see in the starless heaven day begin.
This is the stubborn hickory we must bend To some tough shape of beauty in the end.


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