An Episode

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I.

There was a man rode into town one day,
Barefooted, hatless, and without a coat.
It was the dead of winter. Round his throat
Were marks of violence: bits and wisps of hay
Bristled his beard and hair. From far away
We saw him coming: desolate and remote
And wild his gaze, that of no man took note,
Or seeming note; and nothing would he say.
But when he'd had a drink, then drunk some more,
He told us he had sold tobacco; see?
And all was lost. At that he caught his breath.
Last night a knock came at his cabin-door.
His son, who answered, was shot dead. And he
Was caught and chok'd and almost beat to death.

II.

They said he'd sold tobacco; and he knew
They ought to kill him, burn his house and barn,
And would unless he gave them (this with scorn)
The money he'd received. What could he do?
He had a little money, it was true,
Hid in an old pot underneath the corn
There in the crib, he told them. 'Twas a yarn
To get away. They were a desperate crew.
They set to work upon the crib; and he
Got loose and on a horse and took to flight:
They shot at him. Whatever might occur
He did not care now; they had burned, you see,
His home: for miles its glare lit up the night.
His wife and daughters? God knows where they were.

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