The Mountain-Still

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein


The Moonshiner

He leans far out and watches: Down below
The road seems but a ribbon through the trees:
The bluff, from which he gazes, whence he sees
Some ox-team or some horseman come and go,
Is briered with brush. A man comes riding slow
Around a bend of road. Against his knees
The branches whip. He sits at careless ease.
It is the sheriff, armed for any foe.
A detonation tears the echoes from
Each pine-hung crag; upon the rider's brow
A smear of red springs out: he shades it now,
His grey eyes on the bluff. The crags are dumb.
Smoke wreathes one spot. The sheriff, with a cough,
Marks well that place, and then rides slowly off.


The Sheriff

Night and the mountain road: a crag where burns
What seems a star, low down: three men that glide
From tree and rock towards it: one a guide
For him who never from his purpose turns,
Who stands for law among these mountain kerns.
At last the torchlit cave, along whose side
The still is seen, and men who have defied
The law so long law, who the threshold spurns
With levelled weapons now.... Wolves in a den
Fight not more fiercely than these fought; wild fear
In every face, and rage and pale surprise.
The smoke thins off, and in the cave four men
Lie dead or dying: one that mountaineer,
And one the sheriff with the fearless eyes.

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