The Locust

A poem by Madison Julius Cawein

Thou pulse of hotness, who, with reedlike breast,
Makest meridian music, long and loud,
Accentuating summer! - Dost thy best
To make the sunbeams fiercer, and to crowd
With lonesomeness the long, close afternoon -
When Labor leans, swart-faced and beady-browed,
Upon his sultry scythe - thou tangible tune
Of heat, whose waves incessantly arise
Quivering and clear beneath the cloudless skies.

Thou singest, and upon his haggard hills
Drouth yawns and rubs his heavy eyes and wakes;
Brushes the hot hair from his face; and fills
The land with death as sullenly he takes
Downward his dusty way. 'Midst woods and fields
At every pool his burning thirst he slakes:
No grove so deep, no bank so high it shields
A spring from him; no creek evades his eye:
He needs but look and they are withered dry.

Thou singest, and thy song is as a spell
Of somnolence to charm the land with sleep;
A thorn of sound that pierces dale and dell,
Diffusing slumber over vale and steep.
Sleepy the forest, nodding sleepy boughs;
Sleepy the pastures with their sleepy sheep:
Sleepy the creek where sleepily the cows
Stand knee-deep; and the very heaven seems
Sleepy and lost in undetermined dreams.

Art thou a rattle that Monotony,
Summer's dull nurse, old sister of slow Time,
Shakes for Day's peevish pleasure, who in glee
Takes its discordant music for sweet rhyme?
Or oboe that the Summer Noontide plays,
Sitting with Ripeness 'neath the orchard tree,
Trying repeatedly the same shrill phrase,
Until the musky peach with weariness
Drops, and the hum of murmuring bees grows less?

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