Drouth

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

I

The hot sunflowers by the glaring pike
Lift shields of sultry brass; the teasel tops,
Pink-thorned, advance with bristling spike on spike
Against the furious sunlight. Field and copse
Are sick with summer: now, with breathless stops,
The locusts cymbal; now grasshoppers beat
Their castanets: and rolled in dust, a team, -
Like some mean life wrapped in its sorry dream, -
An empty wagon rattles through the heat.

II

Where now the blue wild iris? flowers whose mouths
Are moist and musky? Where the sweet-breathed mint,
That made the brook-bank herby? Where the South's
Wild morning-glories, rich in hues, that hint
At coming showers that the rainbows tint?
Where all the blossoms that the wildwood knows?
The frail oxalis hidden in its leaves;
The Indian-pipe, pale as a soul that grieves;
The freckled touch-me-not and forest rose.

III

Dead! dead! all dead beside the drouth-burnt brook,
Shrouded in moss or in the shriveled grass.
Where waved their bells, from which the wild-bee shook
The dewdrop once, - gaunt, in a nightmare mass,
The rank weeds crowd; through which the cattle pass,
Thirsty and lean, seeking some meager spring,
Closed in with thorns, on which stray bits of wool
The panting sheep have left, that sought the cool,
From morn till evening wearily wandering.

IV

No bird is heard; no throat to whistle awake
The sleepy hush; to let its music leak
Fresh, bubble-like, through bloom-roofs of the brake:
Only the green-gray heron, famine-weak, -
Searching the stale pools of the minnowless creek, -
Utters its call; and then the rain-crow, too,
False prophet now, croaks to the stagnant air;
While overhead, - still as if painted there, -
A buzzard hangs, black on the burning blue.

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