Robert Frost

The Gum-Gatherer

There overtook me and drew me in To his down-hill, early-morning stride, And set me five miles on my road Better than if he had had me ride, A man with a swinging bag for’load And half the bag wound round his hand. We talked like barking above the din Of water we walked along beside. And for my telling him where I’d been And where I lived in mountain land To be coming home the way I was, He told me a little about himself. He came from higher up in the pass Where the grist of the new-beginning brooks Is blocks split off the mountain mass — And hop. eless grist enough it looks Ever to grind to soil for grass. (The way it is will do for moss.) There he had built his stolen shack. It had to be a stolen shack Because of the fears of fire and logs That trouble the sleep of lumber folk: Visions of half the world burned black And the sun shrunken yellow in smoke. We know who when they come to town Bring berries under the wagon seat, Or a basket of eggs between their feet; What this man brought in a cotton sack Was gum, the gum of the mountain spruce. He showed me lumps of the scented stuff Like uncut jewels, dull and rough It comes to market golden brown; But turns to pink between the teeth. I told him this is a pleasant life To set your breast to the bark of trees That all your days are dim beneath, And reaching up with a little knife, To loose the resin and take it down And bring it to market when you please