The Herb-Gatherer

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

A grey, bald hillside, bristling here and there
With leprous-looking grass, that, knobbed with stones,
Slopes to a valley where a wild stream moans,
And every bush seems tortured to despair
And shows its teeth of thorns as if to tear
All things to pieces: where the skull and bones
Of some dead beast protrude, like visible groans,
From one bleak place the winter rains washed bare.
Amid the desolation, in decay,
Like some half-rotted fungus, grey as slag,
A hut of lichened logs; and near it, old,
Unspeakably old, a man, the colour of clay,
Sorting damp roots and herbs into a bag
With trembling hands purple and stiff with cold.

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