Experience

In the north where leagues of forest sag beneath the plumey snow,
I've worked with lurching-shouldered lumbermen;
I've seen the small, grey fishing fleets beat out with lifting bow
Toward the stormy coasts of Labrador again;
I've plucked the purple-swollen grape beside the Great Blue Lake,
And gathered pungent hops from off the vine;
I have watched the water swirling in the clumsy ore-boat's wake,
Laden down with dusty riches from the mine;
I've seen the mad steer plunge and fall beneath the sledge's stroke
In packing houses by the turbid Kaw;
I have rotted three long months in a steel-barred southern jail
And known the bitter irony of Law;
I have fed the myriad-headed grain into the toothed machine
Which tramples loud with wild, interior feet;
I have seen the Kansas plains carpeted with soft young corn
And garmented with glory of the wheat;
I have camped in California by the shoreward-heaving sea,
And I've walked Manhattan's pavements all night long—
But the lives I've lived and suffered paid me more than poverty:
They paid me in the golden coin of song;
They paid me in Song's golden coin…those days were never lost.
If I had died a hundred deaths it well were worth the cost;
For I beheld America—Her sunrise kissed my brow,—
I learned to sing the miracle of living here and now!
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