White clouds are rolling over paradise
And over his bare feet that tramp the furrow;
He stands and looks with eager watchful eyes
And dreams of far-off lands beyond this hollow.
His little world encircled by high ridges
Is world enough to hold his flesh and dreams;
He plows the slopes and hunts among the ledges
And pinhooks minnows from the tiny streams.
His flesh is tempered by the wind and sun
And cooled by rain and mud and snow and sleet;
Hard muscles feel his climbing has begun—
His body’s brain will never know defeat—
For if he goes beyond the ridge’s rim
The way white clouds of paradise have gone,
Hard roads to climb can’t get the best of him
For he is made of clay and wind and stone.
New blood flows in my veins like saps in trees
Since I am tempered by the wind and sun;
I use my mattock just the way I please
To slaughter sprouts until my field is done.
Redbird can sit up in his locust tree,
His face upturned toward Kentucky skies;
And he can sing for her his song of glee—
I have no time to think his singing wise.
The wild percoon is smelly to my nostrils And shoe-make roots I grub are sweet perfume And locust roots are toughest on these hills—
Sassafras sprouts are hogging all the room.
Day in, day out, from sunrise to sunset,
My roof is sky, my book a sprouty field—
And how these locust thorns will make one fret Upon these loamy coves that give good yield.
Great Night of darkness, holding me in void Between your mountains of eternal dust;
Mine is the pen that Nature has employed,
Mine is the voice of song that she can trust.
Great Night, my living dust is still a part Of mountain loam, of rocky jut and clay,
And Earth’s Creator put into my heart A spark of fire to make me sing my lay! I sing of lonesome waters and the shack While there is strength of mountains in my blood;
I sing of love, dream, work, of corn and stack,
Of winter wind and April’s flowery flood.
Great Night of darkness, when you have subdued My body’s strength and turned my eyes to stone,
Deafened my ears to sound and killed my mood,
I shall be dust to grow tough trees thereon.