Cicely Fox Smith
The Prairie Shepherd - Poem by Cicely Fox Smith
(Baa, baa, black sheep! - whose fault but your own
That you're here on the western prairie, herding the sheep alone, -
Here in a wide and lonely land, by the stranger's fold, -
Oh, rise and go to your father; he growing weary and old.)
Poets talk about the shepherds, and the wonderful times they've got
Playing tunes to Amaryllis, and all such rot!
And it might be better than nothing for passing the time away
If you'd got a girl to talk to, or a penny whistle to play.
I was a fool and I'm paying - I'm on a job that would beat
The other prodigal hollow, with the husks that the swine did eat.
Wouldn't I think I was lucky if I'd plenty of pigs to keep!
They're sociable sort of creatures - if you've ever lived among sheep.
All the way to the Rocky Mountains, nothing to see . . .
Bare and bald and droughty and dusty, and never a tree!
Never a voice to hail you, only a hawk's lone cry
Hanging there aloft like a speck in the aching sky.
Only the dry grass stirring, only the weary wind
Seeming to sigh for the people and places you left behind:
And I wonder how long I'll stand it before I'm crazy and grey,
With the sheep bleating all the night and the day.
God! Will they always be at it in the everlasting old tone,
Telling me over and over the things I have loved and known,
Keeping my heart from forgetting, no matter how hard I try,
The various kinds of a fool I was in the years gone by . . .
(Baa, baa, black sheep! - no one's fault but your own
That you're here on the western prairie, herding your sheep alone, -
No one but God around to see you, and pity your tears
For the things you wish you could alter, back there in the bygone years.)
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