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The Twelve-Forty-Five Analysis

Author: Poetry of Joyce Kilmer Type: Poetry Views: 156

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(For Edward J. Wheeler)

Within the Jersey City shed

The engine coughs and shakes its head,

The smoke, a plume of red and white,

Waves madly in the face of night.

And now the grave incurious stars

Gleam on the groaning hurrying cars.

Against the kind and awful reign

Of darkness, this our angry train,

A noisy little rebel, pouts

Its brief defiance, flames and shouts --

And passes on, and leaves no trace.

For darkness holds its ancient place,

Serene and absolute, the king

Unchanged, of every living thing.

The houses lie obscure and still

In Rutherford and Carlton Hill.

Our lamps intensify the dark

Of slumbering Passaic Park.

And quiet holds the weary feet

That daily tramp through Prospect Street.

What though we clang and clank and roar

Through all Passaic's streets? No door

Will open, not an eye will see

Who this loud vagabond may be.

Upon my crimson cushioned seat,

In manufactured light and heat,

I feel unnatural and mean.

Outside the towns are cool and clean;

Curtained awhile from sound and sight

They take God's gracious gift of night.

The stars are watchful over them.

On Clifton as on Bethlehem

The angels, leaning down the sky,

Shed peace and gentle dreams. And I --

I ride, I blasphemously ride

Through all the silent countryside.

The engine's shriek, the headlight's glare,

Pollute the still nocturnal air.

The cottages of Lake View sigh

And sleeping, frown as we pass by.

Why, even strident Paterson

Rests quietly as any nun.

Her foolish warring children keep

The grateful armistice of sleep.

For what tremendous errand's sake

Are we so blatantly awake?

What precious secret is our freight?

What king must be abroad so late?

Perhaps Death roams the hills to-night

And we rush forth to give him fight.

Or else, perhaps, we speed his way

To some remote unthinking prey.

Perhaps a woman writhes in pain

And listens -- listens for the train!

The train, that like an angel sings,

The train, with healing on its wings.

Now "Hawthorne!" the conductor cries.

My neighbor starts and rubs his eyes.

He hurries yawning through the car

And steps out where the houses are.

This is the reason of our quest!

Not wantonly we break the rest

Of town and village, nor do we

Lightly profane night's sanctity.

What Love commands the train fulfills,

And beautiful upon the hills

Are these our feet of burnished steel.

Subtly and certainly I feel

That Glen Rock welcomes us to her

And silent Ridgewood seems to stir

And smile, because she knows the train

Has brought her children back again.

We carry people home -- and so

God speeds us, wheresoe'er we go.

Hohokus, Waldwick, Allendale

Lift sleepy heads to give us hail.

In Ramsey, Mahwah, Suffern stand

Houses that wistfully demand

A father -- son -- some human thing

That this, the midnight train, may bring.

The trains that travel in the day

They hurry folks to work or play.

The midnight train is slow and old

But of it let this thing be told,

To its high honor be it said

It carries people home to bed.

My cottage lamp shines white and clear.

God bless the train that brought me here.


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