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Song of the Corn

by Ellwood Roberts

Have you seen a field of corn,
On an early August morn?
Shine its leaves, all moist with dew!
How they glisten! How they gleam!
All the blades a-rustling seem;
Like to one who talks in dream,
Thus they sing the whole day through:

"Now the happy hour is near,
When, upon each tall stalk here,
Shall a tiny shoot appear,
Which develops perfect ear;
With its bright grains, even, clear,
Rarest product of the year."

I have paused and seemed to hear,
In the rusthng corn-song clear,
Like a happy undertone,
Whisper, whether heard or dreamed,
Language very plain it seemed,
Such as I had never known.

Says the rustling undertone:
"'Twas for this, and this alone,
Giant stalks of ours have grown,
And their beauty here have shown—
Strength and loveliness their own.

"'Twas for this in merry May,
That the seeds were hid away,
In the earth—the grains of corn;
Soon they sprouted, and a shoot
Sent straight up, and, down, a root,
Strength and beauty thus were born.

"In the grain of corn a germ.
Safe from frost, untouched by worm—
Lay, within the mellow earth.
Moisture, sunlight, warmth, were there,
Right the state of soil and air—
Each and all of them had share
In the miracle of birth.

"Loving was the farmer's care,
Toiling all the long hours there,
In the blazing glare of sun;
Stirring soil, from day to day,
Pulling every weed away,
Lest it might the young growth stay,
Lest some injury be done.

"In the miracle of growth,
Gentle rain and sunshine, both,
Had their influence for good.
There had come, with days of June,
Dew of night and heat of noon;
And the corn in beauty stood.

"It was left for hot July,
With its ever- glowing sky,
To perfect the growth you see.
While the sun its warm rays sent,
Frequent showers their moisture lent,
Force of fertile soil was spent—
Wonder-workers all the three.

"From the topmost blade, one dawn,
Ere the dew of night was gone,
Peeped the wondrous tassel down.
Soon the nodding plumes were seen,
Foam upon a sea of green—
Of all triumphs this the crown.

"Now the joyous time is near
When, upon each tall stalk here,
Shall in glory new appear
Tiny shoot that makes the ear;
With its bright grains, even, clear,
Miracle of all the year."

Here the gentle breeze that blew,
Swelled a stormy gale into;
And it swept across the field,
Making every cornblade yield.
Like sea waves, of tempest born,
Rose and fell the waving corn.

Now the gale, with shriek and moan,
Drowned the dreamy undertone
That I heard, or seemed to hear,
All along, in whisper clear.
It was lost in rustling roar,
Gone the note I knew before.

Surging, whirling sea of green!
What could all the tumult mean?
Dancing, flying, up and down.
Still I saw the tassel's crown.
Stalk and blade in beauty there,
Never summer scene more fair!

Soon the fierce gale died away,
Calmer grew the August day.
Lower, lower still, it fell,
And the corn waves ceased to swell.
Then, succeeding harsh wind's moan,
Came the gentle rustling tone:

"Last month made the stalk complete,
Blade and joint and tassel neat;
August, with its noontide heat,
And its cooler air at night,
Will develop—wondrous sight—
Husk, and silk, and perfect ear,
You can see them coming here.

"Come, and if you do not know,
I will tell you how they grow.
First, the tiny shoots appear,
They are coming, never fear,
For the hour is very near,
Yes, the earing-time is here.

"From the shoot in time will spread,
Bunch of long and silky thread;
When the gentle breeze shall blow,
On these filaments that rise,
Pollen from the tassel flies—
This the plan to fertilize
Germs within the husk below.

"Thus the ear begins to grow;
In the husk are row on row
Of the dainty shining grains.
All the night and all the day,
Dark or light, it finds a way,
Growing best when sun's bright ray,
Monarch of the cornfield, reigns.

"Ripen soon the kernels bright,
Through the day and through the night,
Harder growing very fast;
And when Autumn winds blow rude,
Yellow ears through husks protrude,
Growth of corn is done at last!

"There the rusty blades are seen,
Shorn of all their tender green;
Soon the cutter's stalk-knife keen,
Does its work among the corn.
Ranged in shocks the long rows stand,
Where the busker's nimble hand,
When the frost shall smite the land,
Will his task besfin some morn."

Whether heard I then, or dreamed,
Ask me not, but so it seemed,
Sudden sob ran through the corn.
Was it fancy; who can tell?
Rustling leaves, as if there fell
On their undertone a spell,
Silent paused a space to mourn.

But the sunlight's ray fell down
On each giant's tasseled crown;
Stirred the gentle breeze again.
Through the field a tremor ran,
And the well-known voice began,
Speaking then in language plain:

"Who has ever understood,
Who can measure all the good,
Wrought by means of golden corn?
Wonder not I praise it here,
For the stalk and blade and ear
Furnish food the whole round year;
And without them, far and near,
Man and beast alike would mourn.

"But my task is not complete;
Shocked the corn and gone the heat,
Gone the Summer's wondrous prime;
There is something yet to tell
Ere we pause and say farewell,
Comes the merry husking-time.

"Merry husking-time! what joy
'Tis to happy farmer's boy!
Leaves have fallen, trees are bare,
Peace and plenty everywhere.
In the orchard apples rare
Hang from branches, here and there.

"Frosty are the fields at morn;
Hard and dry the grains of corn
Which in even rows appear,
Peeping from the yellow ear.
Skies are bright, and very clear
Is the autumn atmosphere.

"Huskers must not lie and dream,
Waiting for the sun's first gleam.
Long before the break of day
From their beds they rise; away
To their labor hurry they;
Theirs no time for pause or play.

"Tasks at barn and farmhouse done,
Breakfast eaten as the sun
Rises, and his beams appear,
Through morn's hazy atmosphere—
Promptly, to the cornfield near,
Hie the huskers, full of cheer.

"Each unto his work must fly.
See, the sun is rising high!
Short the hours of daylight grow!
Time is precious! Down the row
Of the rustling shocks they go;
Each upon the ground they throw.

"Prone on earth each giant lies,
And his task each husker plies.
Stalks are spread so evenly
That the practiced eye may see
Where to find the golden ear,
Rarest product of the year.

"How the busy fingers fly,
Seizing long stalks as they lie!
Tearing withered husks away
From the plump ears as they may;
Deftly breaking each with turn
Of the hand that huskers learn.

"Grow the precious piles of corn
With the progress of the morn.
And the fodder on the ground,
Stalk and blades and husks around,
Into bundles huge are bound,
While the merry shouts resound.

"All the day the work goes on,
What was well begun at dawn,
Finished is ere sunlight's gone;
To the barn the corn is drawn,
And the shining, precious hoard,
Safely in the crib is stored.

"Such a crop is wealth untold,
More than silver heaped, or gold.
Is it not to-day, indeed,
Miracle that fills such need?
Man and beast alike would mourn
Were it not for golden corn."

Then the cornblades ceased to swell,
And the voice to whisper fell,
Solemn silence seemed to dwell,
There was nothing more to tell.
As the corn-song ended there—
Stalk and blade a picture rare—
Ne'er was summer scene so fair.

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