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Pity of It, The

Katharine Lee Bates 1859 (Falmouth) – 1929 (Wellesley)

I. In South Africa

Over the lonesome African plain
The stars look down, like eyes of the slain.

A bumping ride across gullies and ruts,
Now a grumble and now a jest,
A bit of profanity jolted out,
Into a hornet's nest!
Curse on the scout!
Long-bearded Boers rising out of the rocks,
Rocks that already are crimson-splashed,
Ping-ping of bullets, stabbings and cuts,
As if hell hurtled and hissed,
--Then, muffling the shocks,
A sting in the breast,
A mist,
A woman's face down the darkness flashed,

All as before, save for still forms spread
Under the boulders dripping red.

Over the lonesome African plain
The stars look down, like eyes of the slain.

II. In the Philippines

Silvery rice-fields whisper wide
How for home and freedom their owners died.

We've set the torch to their bamboo town,
And out they come in a scampering rush,
Little brown men with spears.
Down they go in a crush,
Sickening smears,
Hideous writhing huddles and heaps
Under the palms and the mango-trees.
More, still more! Shoot 'em down
Like brown jack-rabbits that scoot
With comical leaps
Out of the brush.
No loot?
No prisoners, then. As for these --

The flag that dreamed of delivering
Shudders and droops like a broken wing.

Silvery rice-felds whisper wide
How for home and freedom their owners died.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

1:09 min read

Katharine Lee Bates

Katharine Lee Bates is remembered as the author of the words to the anthem America the Beautiful Bates was born in Falmouth Massachusetts and lived as an adult on Centre Street in Newton Massachusetts An historic plaque marks the site of her home The daughter of a Congregational pastor she graduated from Wellesley College in 1880 and for many years was a professor of English literature at Wellesley While teaching there she was elected a member of the newly formed Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences because of her interest in history and politics for which she also studied She lived at Wellesley with Katharine Coman who herself was a history and political economy teacher and founder of the Wellesley College Economics department The pair lived together for twenty-five years until Comans death in 1915 It is debated if this relationship was an intimate lesbian relationship as different sources maintain or a platonic relationship called sometimes Boston marriages as the local historical society of her birthplace maintain more…

All Katharine Lee Bates poems | Katharine Lee Bates Books

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