Julia Randall

Assorted Masters Perform

They look like gentlemen, and speak
like gentlemen. Rather much to the surprise
of the lay audience, they wear ties.
They speak of mothers, fathers, daughters, wives,
the trees, the animals, the whales, the stars.
(They are all creationists, being our seniors
and having been there.) Sober on the stage
they update, verse by verse, our youth and age.

The unselfconsciousness is careful. Too,
the anecdote, the well-rehearsed bon mot
to hide the embarrassment of being here
behind the mike, light-blinded to the crowd.

"I see," my friend said, driving home
past the Kennedy Center, "what is wrong with my brother.
He keeps it all inside." Oh blessed art
that lets us put between ourselves and that
kingdom of chaos where we all began
a stance, a speech, a scrim.



There are two doors here, according to the story,
both leading out of sunlight into gold
of a different sort, treasure of a different sort.
Trees that have grown in darkness, blooming light,
come by the cave-mouth, where even the bats are silent.
Here comes the hero, craving the late voices
of friends, of fathers, those who dreamed this shore,
but blind in sight of it, looked earlier
upon the fields where (some say) flowers ply.
and others, fires. The hero enters.

The temple door, where come
the people out of the punishing sun
of these regions, stands open.
Under a roof of gold
a craftsman, it is told, put off his wings
of wax, the conversations of queens,
old crimes, old voyages, and all the freight
of vengeance in the provinces. Of these
he made, in memory, stone images.
But one
he could not master, and his hands dropped down
and emptied, for this son
lay, failing artifice, on the seafloor,
dumb to his hand, deaf to the temple whore.


The Bennett Springs Road

I knew it was there, if I’d had time to look:
the sweet water falling over rock,
the leaf-mold floor, secret to all but light,
the tall boles stationed between day and night.

This is the heart of the mountain, not the crest.
Season and century league in some high place,
impulsive powers that beat the peak to sand
and scatter Appalachian on the wind.

And lie at last by the little stream that brings
all gods to truth. On the road to Bennett Springs,
tired of the paltry ridges, I lay down
the last of my youth where all the gods had grown,
became the water falling over the stone,
became the forest-father to red men,
became the tribe of stars, both daughter and son,
the mother of moss, the bird that sang I am.


To William Wordsworth from Virginia

I think, old bone, the world’s not with us much.
I think it is too difficult tosee,
But easy to discuss. Behold the bush.
His seasons out-maneuver Proteus.
This year, because of the drought, the barberry
Is all goldflakes in August, but I’ll still say
To the First Grade next month, “Now it is Fall.
You see the leaves go bright, and then go small.
You see October’s greatcoat. It is gold.
It will lie on the earth to keep the seed’s foot warm.
Then, Andrew Obenchain, what happens in June?”
And Andrew, being mountain-bred, will know
Catawba runs too deep for the bus to get
Across the ford—at least it did last May,
And school was out, and the laundry wouldn’t dry,
And when the creek went down, the bluebells lay
In Hancock’s pasture-border, thick as hay.

What do they tell the First Grade in Peru,
I wonder? All the story: God is good,
He counts the children, and the sparrow’s wing.
God loved William Wordsworth in the spring.
William Wordsworth had enough to eat.
Wye was his broth, Helvellyn was his meat,
And English was his cookstove. And where did words
Come from, Carlyle Rucker? Words that slide
The world together. Words that split the tide
Apart for Moses (not for Mahon’s bus),
Words that say, the bushes burn for us—
Lilac, forsythia, orange, Sharon rose—
For us the seasons wheel, the lovers wait,
All things become the flesh of our delight,
The evidence of our wishes.

                                             Witch, so might
I stand beside the barberry and dream
Wisdom to babes, and health to beggar men,
And help to David hunting in the hills
The Appalachian fox. By words, I might.
But, sir, I am tired of living in a lake
Among the watery weeds and weedy blue
Shadows of flowers that Hancock never grew.
I am tired of my wet wishes, of running away
Like all the nymphs, from the droughty eye of day.
Run, Daphne. Run, Europa, lo, run!
There is not a god left underneath the sun
To balk, to ride, to suffer, to obey.
Here is the unseasonable barberry.
Here is the black face of a child in need.
Here is the bloody figure of a man.
Run, Great Excursioner. Run if you can.


Aubade for Wallace Stevens

How it might be: that mimic August crowed
particulars of mourning in your tongue:

on such a day, a gorgon day of stone,
the rabble rigor seized him, to be done

with gypsy campings, lucks and catches brewed
under a foreign hedge, hey flourishings.

A prince of native blood, Chocorua,
a native of your waters, Kissimmee,

who might delay such embers in the sun
as every bantam of the roads would sing

plucked by a single joy, the canticle,
plucked by a single grief, old fa, old si,

old scale for wrinkled Sol, that Seer. But no!
the cock is new, the light is in his eye.

Beau Chanticleer stood
by the once-again wood
while the leaves of that day

What I see
in my eye!
Malaga, Africa,
Cinadore, Kalamund,
pale Penhir."

And the trough as it brimmed,
and the gate as it whined
in the wind, and the bell
as it rang,
the dog at his chain,
and the boot on the sill
Ben Chanticleer sang.

Thus, thus
day's dust dissembling, we are one
body. By light's succession
brother, attend us that we press
pitch paths that die before us. Countryman,
now in the lanes lantern the carolling
for beast, for bride. Be sunburst that we know
the bars of praise, the text: that who
conceives the day blesses the day's increase, and stars
the ordinary evening.

Now August lies in her late majesty,
imperial green the harvest airs will fine
to gold, that every niche of her great tomb,
wreath, blade, and ear repeat her living sun.

You are the country that we love, the land
made bright by habitation of fair thoughts,
the soil we suck, the motherlode our roots
mine for the golden chances of the crop.

Now Housatonic, now Connecticut
condense in silver all the fruited plain,
and frosty Hartford cracks. An amber year
will whiten at her window, like the day.

Cry up, king cock, your lusty company!
Crisp, crisp, oh crispin-crisp, now crispin-clear
the cock of Amherst and of Paterson
hammers his not-to-cease upon the dawn.


We are grateful to Louis Rubin, Jr., literary executor for the estate of Julia Randall, and Louisiana State University Press for permission to reprint the poems that appear here and in the essays on Randall that we feature in this issue's criticism section.


Julia Randall was born in Baltimore in 1923 and attended the Calvert School and the Bryn Mawr School. She earned a B.A. in English from Bennington College in 1945, and went on to study medicine at Johns Hopkins. Deciding that a medical career would not give her enough time to write, she briefly attended graduate school at Harvard, but left to pursue a master's degree, which she received in 1950, from the Writing Seminars at Hopkins.
She earned her living by teaching: at University of Maryland's Overseas extension in Paris from 1952-1953; at Goucher College from 1954-1956; at Peabody Conservatory from 1956-1959; and at Towson State College from 1958-1962, before finding a longer term appointment at Hollins College, in Roanoke Virginia, where she taught from 1962-1973.
After retiring from Hollins, she returned to Maryland, where she became increasingly frustrated by the relentless development that was destroying the countryside she loved, and where she worked to preserve land and historic buildings from further development. In 1987, she relocated to North Bennington, Vermont, where she lived until her death in 2005.
In 1980, she received the American Poetry Society's Percy Bysshe Shelley Award in recognition for her achievements as a poet, which at that time encompassed two chapbooks, The Solstice Tree (1952) and Mimic August (1959); and two full-length collections, The Puritan Carpenter (1965) and Adam's Dream (1969). She went on to publish three more books: The Farewells (1981), Moving in Memory (1987), and The Path to Fairview: New and Selected Poems (1992).


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Julia Randall
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Therese Chabot creates delicate, ephemeral installations – carpets, dresses and crowns – using flower petals and natural materials to speak of the stages of life and the paths we are given to choose from.
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