By Witter Bynner
Well, I was in the old Second Maine,
The first regiment in Washington from the Pine Tree State.
Of course I didn’t get the butt of the clip;
We was there for guardin’ Washington—
We was all green.
“I ain’t never ben to the theayter in my life—
I didn’t know how to behave.
I ain’t never ben since.
I can see as plain as my hat the box where he sat in
When he was shot.
I can tell you, sir, there was a panic
When we found our President was in the shape he was in!
Never saw a soldier in the world but what liked him.
“Yes, sir. His looks was kind o’ hard to forget.
He was a spare man,
An old farmer.
Everything was all right, you know,
But he wasn’t a smooth-appearin’ man at all—
Not in no ways;
And a swellin’ kind of a thick lip like.
“And he was a jolly old fellow—always cheerful;
He wasn’t so high but the boys could talk to him their own ways.
While I was servin’ at the Hospital
He’d come in and say, ‘You look nice in here,’
Praise us up, you know.
And he’d bend over and talk to the boys—
And he’d talk so good to ’em—so close—
That’s why I call him a farmer.
I don’t mean that everything about him wasn’t all right, you understand,
It’s just—well, I was a farmer—
And he was my neighbor, anybody’s neighbor.
I guess even you young folks would ‘a’ liked him.”
Source: Modern American Poetry (1919)
Witter Bynner was born in Brooklyn, New York. In 1922 he moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he and his partner Robert Hunt entertained artists and literary figures like D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keefe and Carl Sandburg at their home. His early poetry is influenced by the work of A.E. Housman while his later poetry reflects his familiarity with Japanese and Chinese poetry, becoming less traditionally structured in form.
More Poems about Mythology & Folklore
It’s true: I almost never
smile, but that doesn’t mean
I’m not in love: my heart
is that black violin
played slowly. You know that
moment late in the solo
when the voice
is so pure you feel
the blood in it: the wound
and complete surrender. That’s
In this dream,
the paths cross
and cross again.
They are spelling
a real boy
out of repetition.
is the one
he must be
about this, but
he can’t feel
and the fisherman,
the fireman and
the ones on fire.
More Poems about Social Commentaries
Vagrants and Loiterers
You got that clean waistcoat,
the bright white of a well-tailored
shirt, you got those loose-as-sacks
slacks and some spit-polished shoes,
and you know, whether you are looking
like money, or about to take a stroll,
to tilt that hat like you own
the world; yeah, smoke...
Back Up Quick They’re Hippies
That was the year we drove
into the commune in Cornwall.
“Jesus Jim,” mam said,
“back up quick they’re hippies.”
Through the car window,
tents, row after row, flaps open,
long-haired men and women
curled around each other like babies
and the babies themselves
wandered naked across the grass.