THE SHEEP-CHILD - Wallace Stevens Poems


Poems » wallace stevens » the sheep child

Farm boys wild to couple
With anything        with soft-wooded trees
With mounds of earth        mounds
Of pine straw        will keep themselves off
Animals by legends of their own:
In the hay-tunnel dark
And dung of barns, they will
Say        I have heard tell

That in a museum in Atlanta
Way back in a corner somewhere
There's this thing that's only half
Sheep        like a woolly baby
Pickled in alcohol        because
Those things can't live        his eyes
Are open        but you can't stand to look
I heard from somebody who ...

But this is now almost all
Gone. The boys have taken
Their own true wives in the city,
The sheep are safe in the west hill
Pasture        but we who were born there
Still are not sure. Are we,
Because we remember, remembered
In the terrible dust of museums?
Merely with his eyes, the sheep-child may
Be saying        saying

    I am here, in my father's house.
    I who am half of your world, came deeply
    To my mother in the long grass
    Of the west pasture, where she stood like moonlight
    Listening for foxes. It was something like love
    From another world that seized her
    From behind, and she gave, not Iifting her head
    Out of dew, without ever looking, her best
    Self to that great need. Turned loose, she dipped her face
    Farther into the chill of the earth, and in a sound
    Of sobbing        of something stumbling
    Away, began, as she must do,
    To carry me. I woke, dying,

    In the summer sun of the hillside, with my eyes
    Far more than human. I saw for a blazing moment
    The great grassy world from both sides,
    Man and beast in the round of their need,
    And the hill wind stirred in my wool,
    My hoof and my hand clasped each other,
    I ate my one meal
    Of milk, and died
    Staring. From dark grass I came straight

    To my father's house, whose dust
    Whirls up in the halls for no reason
    When no one comes        piling deep in a hellish mild corner,
    And, through my immortal waters,
    I meet the sun's grains eye
    To eye, and they fail at my closet of glass.
    Dead, I am most surely living
    In the minds of farm boys: I am he who drives
    Them like wolves from the hound bitch and calf
    And from the chaste ewe in the wind.
    They go into woods        into bean fields        they go
    Deep into their known right hands. Dreaming of me,
    They groan        they wait        they suffer
    Themselves, they marry, they raise their kind.