Verse > Anthologies > Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. > An American Anthology, 1787–1900
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Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908).  An American Anthology, 1787–1900.  1900.
 
1195. The Man with the Hoe
 
A Reply
 
By John Vance Cheney
 
 
Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way: she better understands her own affairs than we.—MONTAIGNE.
 
 
NATURE reads not our labels, “great” and “small”;
Accepts she one and all
 
Who, striving, win and hold the vacant place;
All are of royal race.
 
Him, there, rough-cast, with rigid arm and limb,        5
The Mother moulded him,
 
Of his rude realm ruler and demigod,
Lord of the rock and clod.
 
With Nature is no “better” and no “worse,”
On this bared head no curse.        10
 
Humbled it is and bowed; so is he crowned
Whose kingdom is the ground.
 
Diverse the burdens on the one stern road
Where bears each back its load;
 
Varied the toil, but neither high nor low.        15
With pen or sword or hoe,
 
He that has put out strength, lo, he is strong;
Of him with spade or song
 
Nature but questions,—“This one, shall he stay?”
She answers “Yea,” or “Nay,”        20
 
“Well, ill, he digs, he sings;” and he bides on,
Or shudders, and is gone.
 
Strength shall he have, the toiler, strength and grace,
So fitted to his place
 
As he leaned, there, an oak where sea winds blow,        25
Our brother with the hoe.
 
No blot, no monster, no unsightly thing,
The soil’s long-lineaged king;
 
His changeless realm, he knows it and commands;
Erect enough he stands,        30
 
Tall as his toil. Nor does he bow unblest:
Labor he has, and rest.
 
Need was, need is, and need will ever be
For him and such as he;
 
Cast for the gap, with gnarlëd arm and limb,        35
The Mother moulded him,—
 
Long wrought, and moulded him with mother’s care,
Before she set him there.
 
And aye she gives him, mindful of her own,
Peace of the plant, the stone;        40
 
Yea, since above his work he may not rise,
She makes the field his skies.
 
See! she that bore him, and metes out the lot,
He serves her. Vex him not
 
To scorn the rock whence he was hewn, the pit        45
And what was digged from it;
 
Lest he no more in native virtue stand,
The earth-sword in his hand,
 
But follow sorry phantoms to and fro,
And let a kingdom go.        50
 

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