Edna St. Vincent Millay

(22 February 1892 – 19 October 1950 / Rockland / Maine / United States)

Underground System


Set the foot down with distrust upon the crust of the
world—it is thin.
Moles are at work beneath us; they have tunneled the
sub-soil
With separate chambers; which at an appointed knock
Could be as one, could intersect and interlock. We walk
on the skin
Of life. No toil
Of rake or hoe, no lime, no phosphate, no rotation of
crops, no irrigation of the land,
Will coax the limp and flattened grain to stand
On that bad day, or feed to strength the nibbled root's of
our nation.
Ease has demoralized us, nearly so, we know
Nothing of the rigours of winter: The house has a roof
against—the car a top against—the snow.
All will be well, we say, it is a bit, like the rising of the
sun,
For our country to prosper; who can prevail against us?
No one.
The house has a roof; but the boards of its floor are
rotting, and hall upon hall
The moles have built their palace beneath us, we have
not far to fall.

Submitted: Monday, January 13, 2003

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