Ella Wheeler Wilcox

(5 November 1850 - 30 October 1919 / Johnstown Center / Rock County / Wisconsin)

Daft


In the warm yellow smile of the morning,
She stands at the lattice pane,
And watches the strong young binders
Stride down to the fields of grain.
And she counts them over and over
As they pass her cottage door:
Are they six, she counts them seven;
Are they seven, she counts one more.

When the sun swings high in the heavens,
And the reapers go shouting home,
She calls to the household, saying,
'Make haste! for the binders have come
And Johnnie will want his dinner -
He was always a hungry child';
And they answer, 'Yes, it ia waiting';
Then tell you, 'Her brain is wild.'

Again, in the hush of the evening,
When the work of the day is done,
And the binders go singing homeward
In the last red rays of the sun,
She will sit at the threshold waiting,
And with her withered face lights with joy:
'Come, Johnnie, ' she says, as they pass her,
'Come into the house, my boy.'

Five summers ago her Johnnie
Went out in the smile of the morn,
Singing across the meadow,
Striding down through the corn -
He towered above the binders,
Walking on either side,
And the mother's heart within her
Swelled with exultant pride.

For he was the light of the household -
His brown eyes were wells of truth,
And his face was the face of the morning,
Lit with its pure, fresh youth,
And his song rang out from the hilltops
Like the mellow blast of a horn,
And he strode o'er the fresh shorn meadows,
And down through the rows of corn.

But hushed were the voices of singing,
Hushed by the presence of death,
As back to the cottage they bore him -
In the noontide's scorching breath,
For the heat of the sun had slain him,
Had smitten the heart in his breast,
And he who towered above them
Lay lower than all the rest.

The grain grows ripe in the sunshine,
And the summers ebb and flow,
And the binders stride to their labour
And sing as they come and go;
But never again from the hilltops
Echoes the voice like a horn;
Never up from the meadows,
Never back from the corn.

Yet the poor, crazed brain of the mother
Fancies him always near;
She is blest in her strange delusion,
For she knoweth no pain nor fear,
And always she counts the binders
As they pass by her cottage door;
Are they six, she counts them seven;
Are they seven, she counts one more.

Submitted: Monday, May 19, 2003

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