The Voice of the Wheat

By George Sterling

Winds came from far away. 'Twas April weather,
    When basking Earth forgets awhile her age.
Across the blue, slow clouds went by together
    On their brief pilgrimage.

Unbroken, to the sky-line of the West,
    Ran the young wheat in billows vast and dumb.
In that vast solitude Earth bared her breast
    For children yet to come.

Sunlight lay drowsily on field and tree.
    Perhaps I dreamt; but ere the dream was fled,
Out of the wheat a Whisper came to me—
    A secret voice that said:

"I am the faithful spirit of the wheat.
    Men come and go, but I abide the same.
From age to age my fosterlings repeat
    The music of my name.

"Man knew me not in Time's forgotten days;
    Lowly as he I waited then my hour,
Standing for years beside his primal ways,
    Unnoted as the flower.

"I am the voice that drew him from the beast,
    The cave, the forest or the jungle's mud.
I first induced him from the gory feast
    Whose price was paid in blood.

"Become his food in feasts no longer red,
    I made him wanderer: when he forsook
The noisome midden, it was I who led,
    And mine the path he took.

"I sent him forth a nomad without goal.
    Mounted and armed he ventured, as I set
A hunger for horizons in his soul
    That burns unsated yet.

"I am the voice that called the nomad in,
    When baffled eyes had found the western foam-
A deeper voice, commanding that he win
    The permanence of home.

"Inseparable from a needy race,
    I wait the bidding of the hollow plow.
My reapers take the sunlight on the face,
    The sweat upon the brow.

"My hosts, innumerable and serene,
    Have set their armies 'round his safe abode,
That all his foes may see the girdling green
    Of camps without a road.

"I am his surety of the years to be:
    He shall not hunger long except I fail,
Nor shall I fail him if he trust in me
    Whose living blades avail.

"He and his hearth accept me as of old,
    A part forever of the human need.
He is the suckling that my arms enfold,
    My child whom I must feed.

"So closely to his law of life I stand,
    Serving the strength for which his heart has cared,
From furrow to the moulding of the hand,
    Until the loaf is shared.

"I am a bond 'twixt man and gentler things,
    And he who sows shall reap the years of peace,
Out of my loneliness receiving wings,
    Till war and sorrow cease.

"I am his earthly sacrament, his bread
    That he shall break forever with his kind.
Mine is the table where all men have fed,
    The food all men shall find.

"I am the pledge that, at the heart of Earth,
    Good is established, tho you doubt as yet.
Who listens not with ears shall catch my mirth,
    Tho grief awhile forget.

"For them who sow beneath" the mournful rain,
    There waits the harvest of my proven gold.
For them who weep abides another grain
    That is not bought nor sold."

The wind sank, and the Whisper died away . . .
    I listened yet, not sure that I had dreamed.
League-wide, below the azure of the day,
    The billowing verdure gleamed,

Great-blossomed, bountiful, of promise sure
    That man be nurtured till his House be one;
A changeless pledge his House shall long endure
    Beneath the mighty sun;

When not by slaughter and the blood of brutes
    Shall he grow godlike in his flesh and mind,
But by that food whose cleanliness transmutes
    The sight that now is blind.

I pondered, and my soul beheld afar
    The holy acres given to the wheat
Between the morning and the evening star,
    That all mankind may eat;

The innumerable sowings of the South,
    The innumerable reapings of the North,
The harvests brayed for man's re-hungered mouth,
    That the new life go forth—

In Minnesota and vast Argentine,
    In Canada and the Manchurian plain,
And where the wide Dakotas wait to glean
    And the immense Ukraine,

In California, mistress of the sun,
    And India in her eternal place,
Achieving all, when the huge toil is done,
    Salvation for the race.

Bibliography Entry