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To the Dead in the Grave-Yard Under My Window

Adelaide Crapsey
Written in a Moment of Exasperation

How can you lie so still? All day I watch 
And never a blade of all the green sod moves 
To show where restlessly you toss and turn, 
And fling a desperate arm or draw up knees 
Stiffened and aching from their long disuse; 
I watch all night and not one ghost comes forth 
To take its freedom of the midnight hour. 
Oh, have you no rebellion in your bones? 
The very worms must scorn you where you lie, 
A pallid mouldering acquiescent folk, 
Meek habitants of unresented graves. 
Why are you there in your straight row on row 
Where I must ever see you from my bed 
That in your mere dumb presence iterate 
The text so weary in my ears: "Lie still 
And rest; be patient and lie still and rest." 
I'll not be patient! I will not lie still! 
There is a brown road runs between the pines, 
And further on the purple woodlands lie, 
And still beyond blue mountains lift and loom; 
And I would walk the road and I would be 
Deep in the wooded shade and I would reach 
The windy mountain tops that touch the clouds. 
My eyes may follow but my feet are held. 
Recumbent as you others must I too 
Submit? Be mimic of your movelessness 
With pillow and counterpane for stone and sod? 
And if the many sayings of the wise 
Teach of submission I will not submit 
But with a spirit all unreconciled 
Flash an unquenched defiance to the stars. 
Better it is to walk, to run, to dance, 
Better it is to laugh and leap and sing, 
To know the open skies of dawn and night, 
To move untrammel'd down the flaming noon, 
And I will clamour it through weary days 
Keeping the edge of deprivation sharp, 
Nor with the pliant speaking on my lips 
Of resignation, sister to defeat. 
I'll not be patient. I will not lie still. 

And in ironic quietude who is 
The despot of our days and lord of dust 
Needs but, scarce heeding, wait to drop 
Grim casual comment on rebellion's end: 
"Yes; yes . . . Wilful and petulant but now 
As dead and quiet as the other are." 
And this each body and ghost of you hath heard 
That in your graves do therefore lie so still. 

November, 1913. This poem is in the public domain.

November, 1913. This poem is in the public domain.

Adelaide Crapsey

by this poet

poem
If it 
Were lighter touch 
Than petal of flower resting 
On grass, oh still too heavy it were, 
Too heavy! 
poem
Listen. . .
With faint dry sound, 
Like steps of passing ghosts, 
The leaves, frost-crisp'd, break from the trees 
And fall.
poem
Every day, 
Every day, 
Tell the hours 
By their shadows, 
By their shadows.