We Were Merry Making Hay

[From THE ALDINE for July.]


‘Twas in the days of mowing
With honest arm and scythe;
When neighbors helped in neighbors’ fields
And harvest hands were blithe.
For me, I grew a stripling —
They called me half a hand —
Among the stalwart, sun-browned men
Who tilled the clover-land.

The rhythmic swing of sinews
Was regular and strong;
The even-measured mowing stroke
First set my soul to song.
Sweet music of the whetstones,
Like morning bells in chime,
Toned soothingly life’s harsher sounds —
My heart’s still beating time.

Right bravely marched the mowers
Knee-deep in flowering grass;
They ranged according to their skill
Like school boys in a class.
And strength was brought to trial,
And strove with wrestler’s wroth —
Who could the smoothest stubble cut,
And who the widest swath!

How proudly strove the leader —
The swiftest and the best!
He held his place a cut or two
Ahead of all the rest;
Allowed no one to lead him
The breadth of brawny hand; —
A master of the mowing-craft,
He ruled the clover-land.

The morning beams came glancing
The fluttering tree-tops thro’,
Like golden bills of birds that bent
To sip the sparkling dew.
And then, in soft mid-morning,
Began the harvest-day,
And all hands — girls and boys and men —
Were merry making hay.

There came a choice of partners
Who could the best agree,
And lots were drawn by glances quick —
Kate always, fell to me!
Now turn thy glass, O Mem’ry,
Upon that harvest day,
Which poured its sunshine over me
And Katie making hay.

The morning call of luncheon
To grassy table laid,
Assembled all the haymakers
Beneath a lone tree’s shade;
A bliss of rest and breathing
By leafy fingers fanned —
And then another haying-heat
Raced o’er the clover-land.

We spread the swaths commingling
In beds of rusting brown,
And rich field-odors floated up
On wings of feathery down.
Then rolled the ridgy windrows —
The triumphs of the day;
I dreamed o’er triumphs of a life
With Katie raking hay.

She looked all-over-bonnet
Of gingham — blue and white —
Her face’s roses in the shade
Glanced out their own sweet light.
Her rake would get entangled
Sometimes, by locking mine,
and when she said: “Provoking thing”
E’en quarreling was divine!

A spring of bubbling waters
Welled up in woodside cool,
And ever at the field’s-end hedge
Both thirsted for the pool.
She drunk from out a goblet
I made her of my hands,
And, kneeling at her feet, I quathed
From cup of golden sands.

the last load in the twilight
Dragged slowly towards the stack–
So like a great brown burly beast
With children on its back;
And flocky clouds hung over,
Of softest creamy hue,
Like handfuls plucked from cotton bales
and dashed against the blue.

I’m dreaming now of hay-time,
The fields and skies are bright;
I see among the harvesters
A bonnet — blue and white —
And Katie’s face is in it,
A shade, it may be, tanned,
But ’tis the fairest face of all
That grace the clover-land.

The clover-crop was gathered
In harvests long ago;
Another partner Katie chose
For life’s up-hill windrow.
But O, of all the sunshine
That ever blest a day —
The crown still shimmers over me
and Katie raking hay.

The Ohio Democrat (New Philadephia, Ohio) Jul 17, 1874

These hay rakers were in Sweden, I think.

This picture is one of several used to illustrate the biography linked below:

When Everybody Called Me Gah-bay-bi-nayss,
An Ethnographic Biography of
Paul Peter Buffalo

Timothy G. Roufs
University of Minnesota Duluth

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