Poetry, VOLUME 6

Liberty Hyde Bailey – Hands [Poem]

Liberty Hyde Bailey

[Today — March 15 — is the birthday of Liberty Hyde Bailey]

Liberty Hyde Bailey


This poem is from the collection:


[easyazon-link asin=”B007I75TUE” locale=”us”]Wind and Weather: Poems [/easyazon-link]

Read the introduction to this collection by ERB Editor Chris Smith



of Bailey’s classic book THE HOLY EARTH


    Some hands go to the manicure
    To primp and polish and shine
    Some hands go to the velvet lure
    And some to the jewel shrine;
But these are the hands that hold the plow
The self same hands as of old and now;—
They are the hands that court’sy and perk
But these are the hands that do the work.


    Some hands hap on a hazard-green
    And some with a shuffled pack
    Some hands thrum on a tambourine
    And some hang limpsy and lack;
But these are the hands that dig and drain
The self same hands that gather the grain;—
They are the hands that pleasure and shirk
But these are the hands that do the work.


    Some hands spurn the rubble and clods
    To clutch at the golden stairs
    Some hands reach for the rainbow gods
    On the pampered thoroughfares;
But these are the hands that wield the helve
The self same kind in the chosen Twelve;—
They are the hands that surfeit and irk
But these are the hands that do the work.



Liberty Hyde Bailey was one of the most prominent American botanists of the early 20th century and an agrarian writer whose work influenced Wendell Berry and other present day neo-agrarians.

C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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