John Crowe Ransom
Noonday Grace - Poem by John Crowe Ransom
MY good old father tucked his head,
(His face the color of gingerbread)
Over the table my mother had spread,
And folded his leathery hands and said:
'We thank thee, Lord, for this thy grace,
And all thy bounties to the race;
Turn not away from us thy face
Till we come to our final resting-place.'
These were the words of the old elect,
Or others to the same effect.
I love my father's piety,
I know he's grateful as can be,
A man that's nearly seventy
And past his taste for cookery.
But I am not so old as he,
And when I see in front of me
Things that I like uncommonly,
(Cornfield beans my specialty,
When every pod spills two or three),
Then I forget the thou and thee
And pray with total fervency:
Thank you, good Lord, for dinner-time!
Gladly I come from the sweat and grime
To play in your Christian pantomime.
I wash the black dust from my face,
I sit again in a Christian's place,
I hear the ancient Christian's grace.
My thanks for clean fresh napkin first,
With faint red stain where the fruit-jar burst.
Thanks for a platter with kind blue roses,
For mother's centerpiece and posies,
A touch of art right under our noses.
Mother, I'll thank you for tumbler now
Of morning's milk from our Jersey cow.
And father, thanks for a generous yam,
And a helping of home-cured country ham,
(He knows how fond of it I am.)
For none can cure them as can he,
And he won't tell his recipe,
But God was behind it, it seems to me.
Thank God who made the garden grow,
Who took upon himself to know
That we loved vegetables so.
I served his plan with rake and hoe,
And mother, boiling, baking, slow
To her favorite tune of Old Black Joe,
Predestined many an age ago.
Pearly corn still on the cob,
My teeth are aching for that job.
Tomatoes, one would fill a dish,
Potatoes, mealy as one could wish.
Cornfield beans and cucumbers,
And yellow yams for sweeteners.
Pickles between for stepping-stones,
And plenty of cornmeal bread in pones.
Sunday the preacher droned a lot
About a certain whether or not:
Is God the universal friend,
And if men pray can he attend
To each man's individual end?
They pray for individual things,
Give thanks for little happenings,
But isn't his sweep of mighty wings
Meant more for businesses of kings
Than pulling small men's petty strings?
He's infinite, and all of that,
The setting sun his habitat,
The heavens they hold by his fiat,
The glorious year that God begat;
And what is creeping man to that,
O preacher, valiant democrat?
'The greatest of all, his sympathy,
His kindness, reaching down to me.'
Like mother, he finds it his greatest joy
To have big dinners for his boy.
She understands him like a book,
In fact, he helps my mother cook,
And slips to the dining-room door to look;
And when we are at our noon-day meal,
He laughs to think how fine we feel.
An extra fork is by my plate,
I nearly noticed it too late!
Mother, you're keeping a secret back!
I see the pie-pan through the crack,
Incrusted thick in gold and black.
There's no telling what that secret pair
Have cooked for me in the kitchen there,
There's no telling what that pie can be,
But tell me that it's blackberry!
As long as I keep topside the sod,
I'll love you always, mother and God.
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