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Axe Poem

Post in 'The Gear' started by Gene K., Mar 8, 2008.

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  1. Gene K.

    Gene K. New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2007
    Messages:
    47
    Loc:
    SW Michigan
    You've heard about hanging a proper handle on an axe. Well, here's a poem from Robert Frost about that very subject:



    The Axe Helve
    by: Robert Frost

    I've known ere now an interfering branch
    Of alder catch my lifted axe behind me.
    But that was in the woods, to hold my hand
    From striking at another alder's roots,
    And that was, as I say, an alder branch.
    This was a man, Baptiste, who stole one day
    Behind me on the snow in my own yard
    Where I was working at the chopping block,
    And cutting nothing not cut down already.
    He caught my axe expertly on the rise,
    When all my strength put forth was in his favor,
    Held it a moment where it was, to calm me,
    Then took it from me -- and I let him take it.
    I didn't know him well enough to know
    What it was all about. There might be something
    He had in mind to say to a bad neighbour
    He might prefer to say to him disarmed.
    But all he had to tell me in French-English
    Was what he thought of- not me, but my axe;
    Me only as I took my axe to heart.
    It was the bad axe-helve some one had sold me --
    'Made on machine,' he said, ploughing the grain
    With a thick thumbnail to show how it ran
    Across the handle's long .drawn serpentine,
    Like the two strokes across a dollar sign.
    'You give her 'one good crack, she's snap raght off.
    Den where's your hax-ead flying t'rough de hair?'
    Adrnltted; and yet, what was that to him?
    'Come on my house and I put you one in
    What's las' awhile -- good hick'ry what's grow crooked,
    De second growt' I cut myself--tough, tough!'

    Something to sell? That wasn't how it sounded.

    'Den when you say you come? It's cost you nothing.
    To-naght?'

    As well to-night as any night.

    Beyond an over-warmth of kitchen stove
    My welcome differed from no other welcome.
    Baptiste knew best why I was where I was.
    So long as he would leave enough unsaid,
    I shouldn't mind his being overjoyed
    (If overjoyed he was) at having got me
    Where I must judge if what he knew about an axe
    That not everybody else knew was to count
    For nothing in the measure of a neighbour.
    Hard if, though cast away for life with Yankees,
    A Frenchman couldn't get his human rating.

    Mrs. Baptiste came in and rocked a chair
    That had as many motions as the world:
    One back and forward, in and out of shadow,
    That got her nowhere; one more gradual,
    Sideways, that would have run her on the stove
    In time, had she not realized her danger
    And caught herself up bodily, chair and all,
    And set herself back where she ,started from.
    'She ain't spick too much Henglish- dat's too bad.'
    I was afraid, in brightening first on me,
    Then on Baptiste, as if she understood
    'What passed between us, she was only reigning.
    Baptiste was anxious for her; but no more
    Than for himself, so placed he couldn't hope
    To keep his bargain of the morning with me
    In time to keep me from suspecting him
    Of really never having meant to keep it.

    Needlessly soon he had his axe-helves out,
    A quiverful to choose from, since he wished me
    To have the best he had, or had to spare --
    Not for me to ask which, when what he took
    Had beauties he had to point me out at length
    To ensure their not being wasted on me.
    He liked to have it slender as a whipstock,
    Free from the least knot, equal to the strain
    Of bending like a sword across the knee.
    He showed me that the lines of a good helve
    Were native to the grain before the knife
    Expressed them, and its curves were no false curves
    Put on it from without. And there its strength lay
    For the hard work. He chafed its long white body
    >From end to end with his rough hand shut round it.
    He tried it at the eye-hold in the axe-head.
    'Hahn, hahn,' he mused, 'don't need much taking down.'
    Baptiste knew how to make a short job long
    For love of it, and yet not waste time either.

    Do you know, what we talked about was knowledge?
    Baptiste on his defence about the children
    He kept from school, or did his best to keep --
    Whatever school and children and our doubts
    Of laid-on education had to do
    With the curves of his axe-helves and his having
    Used these unscrupulously to bring me
    To see for once the inside of his house.
    Was I desired in friendship, partly as some one
    To leave it to, whether the right to hold
    Such doubts of education should depend
    Upon the education of those who held them.
    But now he brushed the shavings from his knee
    And stood the axe there on its horse's hoof,
    Erect, but not without its waves, as when
    The snake stood up for evil in the Garden'-
    Top-heavy with a heaviness his short,
    Thick hand made light of, steel-blue chin drawn down
    And in a little -- a French touch in that.
    Baptiste drew back and squinted at it, pleased;
    'See how she's cock her head'

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