This internet edition contains poems selected from Jan Struther's collection of poems and prose, "A Pocketful of Pebbles", Harcourt, Brace & Company, New York, 1946. It excludes poems already published in on-line editions of her earlier volumes, Betsinda Dances and Sycamore Square, and prose already published in her earlier volume, Try Anything Twice. The table of contents has been reorganized to show only those selections included.
POETRY IN ENGLAND
Good-bye to Grock
Thomas Alva Edison
On a Famous Gangster
The First Supper
Tinker, Tailor . . .
Signs of the Zodiac
POETRY IN AMERICA
A Londoner in New England
The Return of Poetry
The American Way of Life
For Stephen Vincent Benét
The Three Sailors
Eve of Citizenship
[The Swiss-born clown, 1880-1959–R.M.G.]
WE WEEP, when taking leave of summer,
"Fed up with stage, hotels and travel,"
No more in tights that sag and wrinkle
For now, with wizard concertina,
Good-bye for ever? There's no telling;
HIS GENIUS he was quite content
A humble boast: but humbler yet
("Al Capone is killing time in prison."–Daily Paper.)
THEY say he's killing time while he's "inside";
AT THE First Supper
At the First Supper
At the First Supper
At the First Supper
She held him very closely
She held him very closely,
"THE GIRL who marries a Tinker,
"The girl who marries a Tailor
"The girl who marries a Soldier
"The girl who marries a Sailor
"The girl who marries a Rich Man
"The girl who marries a Poor Man
"The girl who marries a Ploughboy
The Thief stood near and the Thief he heard;
IN JANUARY comes the man
And in the flood that follows him
In March, when equinoctial gales
When April's hands with flowers are full
And next the blessed reign begins
Then comes the sideways scuttling Crab
Through the dark thickets of July
Next comes a Maiden, brown as berry,
And now, beneath an orange moon,
October's face, benign and mellow,
November's Archer next we see
Last comes the Goat, that sapient fool,
MISS PINK plays Patience every night
DON'T forget the raisins and the cinnamon;
Who bites on the wishbone
Who bites on the ring
Who bites on the button
Who bites on the thimble
The person who bites on
So–don't forget the raisins and the cinnamon;
I WAS a citizen, once, of a great city.
It had its faults. It was shabby in parts, and sooty;
Its sky-signs were my earliest constellations.
I learned to walk and talk there. By its times, its spaces,
Its seasons are my seasons. For me, winter
Summer's the smell and the feel of hot asphalt,
It is peaceful here. Yet here, where maple and sumach
Heavy at heart, I lie awake at midnight
I think, "London's burning, London's burning."
"A city is greater than its bricks and mortar;
TRAVELLING America, I am England-haunted.
The clapboard house in a Massachusetts village
The Pennsylvania meadows are green and quiet
In Chesapeake Bay the woods come down to the water,
The Shenandoah Valley, the Blue Ridge lying
Southward. Kentucky. Small fields, steep and stony;
Mobile. Biloxi. Rose-pink water-mallow
The grazing lands . . . It is only the size that varies.
The orchards of Michigan and Minnesota
But here, in the Southwest, opening my eyes on
Here are cactus and thorn, with nightmare flowers;
Silence, and sun, and sand. The lizards flicker.
This is a country of dream, a world enchanted,
SHE HAS come back, the shy one
Her saddle and her bridle
Sweet hay was in her manger,
On Prose, her coal-black brother,
Through anxious days and stormy
He'd post along the highways,
She has come back, the shy one
Good Black, rest in your stable.
I MET an old man
"I don't know whether
Said I to him,
"The men who founded
The things they owned
"Now I've travelled this land
"Something was lost–
JULY 22ND, 1898-MARCH 13TH, 1943
WHEN the news came that Steve Benét was dead,
He was a great poet and a great man.
He understood and knew
Stephen Benét is dead. Weep, friends, for verse,
THE WESTBOUND train is running four hours late.
Five hours late, and crowded. At the end of the aisle
Six hours late. The slim quicksilver bar
Seven hours late. The lamps begin to dim.
Eight hours late: and now there's no more light
Nine hours late: and even that ill-matched couple
I SAW three sailors drinking beer
The first one talked with a mid-west burr;
The second one was a mountain man
The third one's voice had an East Side tang:
The first was Olaf Christiansen;
Olaf's kin have ploughed their land
Olaf played with the parakeet
Patrick hitched his foot on the rail
But Simeon, he'd brought nothing back
Simeon, he'd brought nothing back
I saw three sailors drinking beer
"It was so small, and so hopeless, but I loved it very much."
–An Austrian refugee, on the eve of obtaining U. S. citizenship.
TOMORROW they'll let me in. It's going to feel queer
"Believe me, I'm not ungrateful, not for a minute.
"But I was a child–and childhood doesn't care
"Tomorrow they'll let me in. Until I die
WHEN my mother said Going Home, she meant yew hedges,
When I said Going Home–that is, in the old days–
But now, for a thousand days, for more than a thousand,
It matters little. It matters very little.
Home is the inner core, the core of the spirit,
This is a home that's well-equipped and lasting:
[Rural Free Delivery–R.M.G.]
THE COVERED wagons will roll no more
The camp-fire songs and the camp-fire jokes,
But wherever the rural mailmen go
Some are battered and some are trim,
The prairie schooners will roll no more
I HAVE forgotten even the smell of happiness–
One of these days, perhaps, there will be a landfall,
IT IS not only the wise who can teach wisdom:
FOR HIM whose way is lost
Better companions now,
I ASKED a sage the way to the Blessed Isles.
I thanked him; he bowed regretfully and went away.
IT TOOK me forty years on earth