Helen Gray Cone

The Arrowmaker

Day in, day out, or sun or rain,
Or sallow leaf, or summer grain,
Beneath a wintry morning moon
Or through red smouldering afternoon,
With simple joy, with careful pride,
He plies the craft he long has plied:
To shape the stave, to set the sting,
To fit the shaft with irised wing;
And farers by may hear him sing,
For still his door is wide:
‘Laugh and sigh, live and die,—
The world swings round; I know not, I,
If north or south mine arrows fly!’

And sometimes, while he works, he dreams,
And on his soul a vision gleams:
Some storied field fought long ago,
Where arrows fell as thick as snow.
His breath comes fast, his eyes grow bright,
To think upon that ancient fight.
Oh, leaping from the strained string
Against an armored Wrong to ring,
Brave the songs that arrows sing!
He weighs the finished flight:
‘Live and die; by and by
The sun kills dark; I know not, I,
In what good fight mine arrows fly!’

Or at the gray hour, weary grown,
When curfew o’er the wold is blown,
He sees, as in a magic glass,
Some lost and lonely mountain-pass;
And lo! a sign of deathful rout
The mocking vine has wound about,—
An earth-fixed arrow by a spring,
All greenly mossed, a mouldered thing;
That stifled shaft no more shall sing!
He shakes his head in doubt.
‘Laugh and sigh, live and die,—
The hand is blind: I know not, I,
In what lost pass mine arrows lie!
One to east, one to west,
Another for the eagle’s breast,—
The archer and the wind know best!’
The stars are in the sky;
He lays his arrows by.