Two brothers, Oakes and Oliver,
by Edwin Arlington Robinson
Two gentle men as ever were,
Would roam no longer, but abide
In Linndale, where their fathers died,
And each would be a gardener.
“Now first we fence the garden through,
With this for me and that for you,”
Said Oliver.—“Divine!” said Oakes,
“And I, while I raise artichokes,
Will do what I was born to do.”
“But this is not the soil, you know,”
Said Oliver, “to make them grow:
The parent of us, who is dead,
Compassionately shook his head
Once on a time and told me so.”
“I hear you, gentle Oliver,”
Said Oakes, “and in your character
I find as fair a thing indeed
As ever bloomed and ran to seed
Since Adam was a gardener.
“Still, whatsoever I find there,
Forgive me if I do not share
The knowing gloom that you take on
Of one who doubted and is done:
For chemistry meets every prayer.”
“Sometimes a rock will meet a plough,”
Said Oliver; “but anyhow
’Tis here we are, ’tis here we live,
With each to take and each to give:
There’s no room for a quarrel now.
“I leave you in all gentleness
To science and a ripe success.
Now God be with you, brother Oakes,
With you and with your artichokes:
You have the vision, more or less.”
“By fate, that gives to me no choice,
I have the vision and the voice:
Dear Oliver, believe in me,
And we shall see what we shall see;
Henceforward let us both rejoice.”
“But first, while we have joy to spare
We’ll plant a little here and there;
And if you be not in the wrong,
We’ll sing together such a song
As no man yet sings anywhere.”
They planted and with fruitful eyes
Attended each his enterprise.
“Now days will come and days will go,
And many a way be found, we know,”
Said Oakes, “and we shall sing, likewise.”
“The days will go, the years will go,
And many a song be sung, we know,”
Said Oliver; “and if there be
Good harvesting for you and me,
Who cares if we sing loud or low?”
They planted once, and twice, and thrice,
Like amateurs in paradise;
And every spring, fond, foiled, elate,
Said Oakes, “We are in tune with Fate:
One season longer will suffice.”
Year after year ’twas all the same:
With none to envy, none to blame,
They lived along in innocence,
Nor ever once forgot the fence,
Till on a day the Stranger came.
He came to greet them where they were,
And he too was a Gardener:
He stood between these gentle men,
He stayed a little while, and then
The land was all for Oliver.
’Tis Oliver who tills alone
Two gardens that are now his own;
’Tis Oliver who sows and reaps
And listens, while the other sleeps,
For songs undreamed of and unknown.
’Tis he, the gentle anchorite,
Who listens for them day and night;
But most he hears them in the dawn,
When from his trees across the lawn
Birds ring the chorus of the light.
He cannot sing without the voice,
But he may worship and rejoice
For patience in him to remain,
The chosen heir of age and pain,
Instead of Oakes—who had no choice.
’Tis Oliver who sits beside
The other’s grave at eventide,
And smokes, and wonders what new race
Will have two gardens, by God’s grace,
In Linndale, where their fathers died.
And often, while he sits and smokes,
He sees the ghost of gentle Oakes
Uprooting, with a restless hand,
Soft, shadowy flowers in a land
Of asphodels and artichokes.