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The Chinese Nightingale (three stanzas), by Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931)
(from Poetry Magazine. February, 1915.)
“How, how,” he said. “Friend Chang,” I said,
“San Francisco sleeps as the dead—
Ended license, lust and play:
Why do you iron the night away?
Your big clock speaks with a deadly sound,
With a tick and a wail till dawn comes round.
While the monster shadows glower and creep,
What can be better for man than sleep?”
“I will tell you a secret,” Chang replied;
“My breast with vision is satisfied,
And I see green trees and fluttering wings,
And my deathless bird from Shanghai sings.”
Then he lit five fire-crackers in a pan.
“Pop, pop,” said the fire-crackers, “cra-cra-crack.”
He lit a joss stick long and black.
Then the proud gray joss in the corner stirred;
On his wrist appeared a gray small bird,
And this was the song of the gray small bird:
“Where is the princess, loved forever,
Who made Chang first of the kings of men?”
And the joss in the corner stirred again;
And the carved dog, curled in his arms, awoke,
Barked forth a smoke-cloud that whirled and broke.
It piled in a maze round the ironing-place,
And there on the snowy table wide
Stood a Chinese lady of high degree,
With a scornful, witching, tea-rose face …
Yet she put away all form and pride,
And laid her glimmering veil aside
With a childlike smile for Chang and for me.
My shadow, by Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894)
(from A child's garden of verses. London : Longmans, Green, 1885.)
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there's none of him at all.
He hasn't got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he's a coward you can see;
I'd think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.