JULY 10, 1954
HYDE PARK, Friday—The other day I was sent a very charming collection of poems written by a home demonstration agent in Chatham County, North Carolina. Her name is Mildred Bright Peyton, and I think she has written some charming verse. The booklet is sponsored by the Chatham County Council of Negro Home Demonstration Clubs and the Chatham County Chapter of the North Carolina Farm Bureau Women.
I will give you here the closing poem in the book—which I think has real meaning for a great many people today.
Nor for the smile of fortune on my plight
Nor pray the gods of fate for the delight
Of hearing men pay homage to my name.
I seek no undue succor in this game
(As poets call life), nor likewise in the fight
For that which men of strength and truth call right;
I clamor not for undeserved acclaim.
Minds robbed of will, souls of integrity,
I beseech fate with scalding gall-filled tears,
In her strange justice that she grant to me
This above all, throughout the coming years
A soul unfettered and a spirit free.
None of us could ask for more than "a soul unfettered and a spirit free." And the poetess seems to feel that the men and women who live close to the earth more often obtain this desire. I like a verse which begins:
And then there is one verse in particular which seems to me important to all of us today:
Then started at the strangeness of the sound;
And felt silently mocked by every tree,
Each unobtrusive stone upon the ground,
That I should boast of owning field and stream
And all the wood our eyes could then survey,
That I should entertain such idle dream—
I, so uncertain of another day.
How foolish that any one of us should feel that we own any piece of land! It is ours only in trust for the people of the future—and that holds good as well for corporations and governments.
That is why, in a subsequent column, I want to talk to you again about the importance of conservation in one particular spot where it seems uncertain whether we are holding land in trust or are going to allow it to be used in the interests of a few.