It’s Being Easy in the Harness

Photo by Joel deWaard
photo by Joel deWaard

I find my greatest freedom on the farm.
I can be a bad farmer or a lazy farmer and it’s my own business.
A definition of freedom:
It’s being easy in your harness.

~Robert Frost in 1954, at a news conference on the eve of his 80th birthday

photo by Joel deWaard
photo by Joel deWaard

The past was faded like a dream; 
There come the jingling of a team, 
A ploughman’s voice, a clink of chain, 
Slow hoofs, and harness under strain. 
Up the slow slope a team came bowing, 
Old Callow at his autumn ploughing, 
Old Callow, stooped above the hales, 
Ploughing the stubble into wales. 
His grave eyes looking straight ahead, 
Shearing a long straight furrow red; 
His plough-foot high to give it earth 
To bring new food for men to birth. 

O wet red swathe of earth laid bare,
O truth, O strength, O gleaming share,
O patient eyes that watch the goal,
O ploughman of the sinner’s soul.
O Jesus, drive the coulter deep
To plough my living man from sleep…

At top of rise the plough team stopped, 
The fore-horse bent his head and cropped. 
Then the chains chack, the brasses jingle, 

The lean reins gather through the cringle, 
The figures move against the sky, 
The clay wave breaks as they go by. 
I kneeled there in the muddy fallow, 
I knew that Christ was there with Callow, 
That Christ was standing there with me, 
That Christ had taught me what to be, 
That I should plough, and as I ploughed 
My Saviour Christ would sing aloud, 
And as I drove the clods apart 
Christ would be ploughing in my heart, 
Through rest-harrow and bitter roots, 
Through all my bad life’s rotten fruits.

Lo, all my heart’s field red and torn,
And Thou wilt bring the young green corn,
And when the field is fresh and fair
Thy blessed feet shall glitter there,
And we will walk the weeded field,
And tell the golden harvest’s yield,
The corn that makes the holy bread
By which the soul of man is fed,
The holy bread, the food unpriced,
Thy everlasting mercy, Christ.
~John Masefield from The Everlasting Mercy

photo by Joel deWaard
photo by Joel deWaard

We shoulder much burden in the pursuit of happiness and freedom,
worth every ounce of sweat,
every sore muscle,
every drop of blood,
every tear.

Our heart land is plowed,
yielding to the plowshare
digging deep with the pull of the harness.
The furrow should be straight and narrow.

We are tread upon
yet still bloom;
we are turned upside down
yet still produce bread.

The plowing under brings freshness to the surface,
a new face upturned to the cleansing dew,
knots of worms now making fertile our simple dust.

Plow deep our hearts this day of celebrating freedom, Dear Lord.
This is the day of rest You made for us
and let us remember to worship You, and not ourselves.

May we plow, sow, grow, and harvest what is needed
to feed your vast and hungry children
everywhere.

photo by Joel deWaard
photo by Joel deWaard
photo by Joel deWaard

Thank you once again to Joel deWaard, local farmer, craftsman and photographer, who graciously shares his photos of the Annual International Lynden (Washington) Plowing Match

A new book from Barnstorming is available for order here:

One thought on “It’s Being Easy in the Harness

  1. I am reading and re-reading today’s post and have forwarded it to several friends and relatives.
    Masefield was not an easy read for me – perhaps because I am unfamiliar with his works. That
    will change. I want to know more about the heart and the faith of one who displays such stirring insights.
    Each time I read this I feel a tightening in my mid-section and long-repressed tears ready to burst
    forth. Not having a rural-farming background was difficult for me at first, but then I realized that it
    was unimportant. Both Masefield and you, dear Emily, made the difference in the clarity and
    meaning of both messages today.

    Your contribution, Emily, an important interpretation for me in this instance, sent me in a different direction — one that is germane to the honored national Day that we celebrate as we consider the
    frightening discouraging year that we still suffer through: the devastating COVID-19 pandemic
    with its hidden variants, and the seething hatred and horrifying insane violence that we viewed of the insurrection committed against our Nation and its Capitol on January 6. — a savage, heinous crime suggested and abetted by a former president.

    Your soulful observation, “May we plow, sow, grow and harvest what is needed to feed YOUR
    vast and hungry children everywhere.” is the only answer for the dire problems that we face –
    not only in our nation but in the entire world. Admittedly, an enormous task for us freedom- peace-loving seriously divided citizenship. But it can be done, once we turn to our Lord and Savior. “Saving” is His specialty!

    Like

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