And When My Joy Was Born
And when my joy was born I held it in my arms and stood on the house-top shouting, “Come ye, my neighbours, come and see, for Joy this day is born unto me. Come and behold this gladsome thing that laugheth in the sun.”
But none of my neighbours came to look upon my Joy, and great was my astonishment.
And every day for seven moons I proclaimed my Joy from the house-top — and yet no one heeded me. And my Joy and I were alone, unsought and unvisited.
Then my Joy grew pale and weary because no other heart but mine held its loveliness and no other lips kissed its lips.
Then my Joy died of isolation.
And now I only remember my dead Joy in remembering my dead Sorrow. But memory is an autumn leaf that murmurs in the wind and then is heard no more.
A fox looked at his shadow at sunrise and said, “I will have a camel for lunch today.”
And all morning he went about looking for camels. But at noon he saw his shadow again—and he said, “A mouse will do.”
Three men met at a tavern table. One was a weaver, another a carpenter and the third a ploughman. Said the weaver, “I sold a fine linen shroud today for two pieces of gold. Let us have all the wine we want.”
“And I,” said the carpenter, “I sold my best coffin. We will have a great roast with the wine.”
“I only dug a grave,” said the ploughman, “but my patron paid me double. Let us have honey cakes too.”
And all that evening the tavern was busy, for they called often for wine and meat and cakes. And they were merry. And the host rubbed his hands and smiled at his wife; for his guests were spending freely.
When they left the moon was high, and they walked along the road singing and shouting together. The host and his wife stood in the tavern door and looked after them.
“Ah!” said the wife, “these gentlemen! So freehanded and so gay! If only they could bring us such luck every day! Then our son need not be a tavern-keeper and work so hard. We could educate him, and he could become a priest.”
Peace & War
Three dogs were basking in the sun and conversing. The first dog said dreamily, “It is indeed wondrous to be living in this day of dogdom. Consider the ease with which we travel under the sea, upon the earth and even in the sky. And meditate for a moment upon the inventions brought forth for the comfort of dogs, even for our eyes and ears and noses.”
And the second dog spoke and he said, “We are more heedful of the arts. We bark at the moon more rhythmically than did our forefathers. And when we gaze at ourselves in the water we see that our features are clearer than the features of yesterday.”
Then the third dog spoke and said, “But what interests me most and beguiles my mind is the tranquil understanding existing between dogdoms.”
At that very moment they looked, and lo, the dog-catcher was approaching.
The three dogs sprang up and scampered down the street; and as they ran the third dog said, “For God’s sake, run for your lives. Civilization is after us.”
I met him at the crossroads, a man with but a cloak and a staff, and a veil of pain upon his face. And we greeted one another, and I said to him, “Come to my house and be my guest.”
And he came.
My wife and my children met us at the threshold, and he smiled at them, and they loved his coming.
Then we all sat together at the board and we were happy with the man for there was a silence and a mystery in him.
And after supper we gathered to the fire and I asked him about his wanderings.
He told us many a tale that night and also the next day, but what I now record was born out of the bitterness of his days though he himself was kindly, and these tales are of the dust and patience of his road.
And when he left us after three days we did not feel that a guest had departed but rather that one of us was still out in the garden and had not yet come in.
THE TWO POEMS
Many centuries ago, on a road to Athens, two poets met, and they were glad to see one another.
And one poet asked the other saying, “What have you composed of late, and how goes it with your lyre?”
And the other poet answered and said with pride, “I have but now finished the greatest of my poems, perchance the greatest poem yet written in Greek. It is an invocation to Zeus the Supreme.”
Then he took from beneath his cloak a parchment, saying, “Here, behold, I have it with me, and I would fain read it to you. Come, let us sit in the shade of that white cypress.”
And the poet read his poem. And it was a long poem.
And the other poet said in kindliness, “This is a great poem. It will live through the ages, and in it you shall be glorified.”
And the first poet said calmly, “And what have you been writing these late days?”
And the other another, “I have written but little. Only eight lines in remembrance of a child playing in a garden.” And he recited the lines.
The first poet said, “Not so bad; not so bad.”
And they parted.
And now after two thousand years the eight lines of the one poet are read in every tongue, and are loved and cherished.
And though the other poem has indeed come down through the ages in libraries and in the cells of scholars, and though it is remembered, it is neither loved nor read.
THE RED EARTH