To a Great Lady in My Small House

- 1894-1972

You were too kind to come at all. 
The door closed on you, and my hall
Shivered in sudden naked shame. 
I whispered it was not to blame
And followed you within, to where
You were awaited by my chair. 
It was so small, and you sat down
With a so gracious smile—a frown
Would have gone better with that wall;
You were too kind to smile at all. 
You stretched a hand toward the grate;
Its welcome was inadequate.
You looked about you and pretended
The carpet and the picture blended. 
I looked—and all my furnishings
Had turned their heads: the sorry things!
You said you felt at home—a lie
My misery was finished by.
Even your guilelessness was gall. 
You were too kind to come at all.

More by Mark Van Doren

The Hills of Little Cornwall

The hills of little Cornwall
Themselves are dreams.
The mind lies down among them,
Even by day, and snores,
Snug in the perilous knowledge
That nothing more inward pleasing,
More like itself,
Sleeps anywhere beyond them
Even by night
In the great land it cares two pins about,
Possibly; not more.

The mind, eager for caresses,
Lies down at its own risk in Cornwall;
Whose hills,
Whose cunning streams,
Whose mazes where a thought,
Doubling upon itself,
Considers the way, lazily, well lost,
Indulge it to the nick of death--
Not quite, for where it curls it still can feel,
Like feathers,
Like affectionate mouse whiskers,
The flattery, the trap.

Spring Thunder

Listen. The wind is still,
And far away in the night—
See!  The uplands fill 
With a running light. 

Open the doors.  It is warm;
And where the sky was clear —
Look!  The head of a storm
That marches here!

Come under the trembling hedge—
Fast, although you fumble. . . . 
There!  Did you hear the edge
Of winter crumble?

Travelling Storm

The sky, above us here, is open again. 
The sun comes hotter, and the shingles steam. 
The trees are done with dripping, and the hens
Bustle among bright pools to pick and drink. . . . 
But east and south are black with speeding storm. 
That thunder, low and far, remembering nothing,
Gathers a new world under it and growls, 
Worries, strikes, and is gone.  Children at windows 
Cry at the rain, it pours so heavily down,
Drifting across the yard till the sheds are grey. . . . 
A county father on, the wind is all—
A swift dark wind that turns the maples pale, 
Ruffles the hay, and spreads the swallows’ wings. 
Horses, suddenly restless, are unhitched,
And men, with glances upward, hurry in; 
Their overalls blow full and cool; they shout;
Soon they will lie in barns and laugh at the lightning. . . . 
Another county yet, and the sky is still; 
The air is fainting; women sit with fans
And wonder when a rain will come that way.