Pastoral

Barnes finds solace in the mute dignity of animals.

Barnes wrote a story called, "A Boy Asks a Question of a Lady."

A boy is lamenting that his older brother is gone. His brother is lost to adolescence, (suddenly interested in girls) and the innocent rumpus of the siblings in the woods is over for good. The younger boy asks an impressive lady what this is all about. She asks, “Do you ever think of animals?….what would all this, you and I and your great troubles mean to them?…The calf is born, she lies in the sun; it dies. That is dignity.” “Pastoral”, the last song of the cycle, is about animals. The animals steal the show, thrusting love, death & crime to the side. Barnes complicates the pastoral scene with her sneaky adjectives, and then more explicitly in the last two stanzas.

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6 Pastoral

A frog leaps out across the lawn,

And crouches there - all heavy and alone,

And like a blossom, pale and over-blown,

Once more the moon turns dim against the dawn.

Crawling across the straggling panoply

Of little roses, only half in bloom,

It strides within that beamed and lofty room

Where an ebon stallion looms upon the hay.

The stillness moves, and seems to grow immense,

A shudd'ring dog starts, dragging at its chain,

Thin, dusty rats slink down within the grain,

And in the vale the first far bells commence.



Here in the dawn, with mournful doomed eyes

A cow uprises, moving out to bear

A soft-lipped calf with swarthy birth-swirled hair,

And wide wet mouth, and droll uncertainties.



The grey fowls fight for places in the sun,

The mushrooms flare, and pass like painted fans
:
All the world is patient in its plans -

The seasons move forever, one on one.



Small birds lie sprawling vaguely in the heat,

And wanly pluck at shadows on their breasts,

And where the heavy grape-vine leans and rests,

White butterflies lift up their furry feet.



The wheat grows querulous with unseen cats;

A fox strides out in anger through the corn,
Bidding each acre wake and rise to mourn

Beneath its sharps and through its throaty flats.



And so it is, and will be year on year,

Time in and out of date, and still on time

A billion grapes plunge bleeding into wine

And bursting, fall like music on the ear.



The snail that marks the girth of night with slime,

The lonely adder hissing in the fern,

The lizard with its ochre eyes aburn -

Each is before, and each behind its time.

There is much more to this. In Ryder, she wills her father into a mute (pre-verbal), bovine mode.