A Poem from Archibald MacLeish

11 Jul

Smith’s MacLeish Field Station in West Whately is named after Ada and Archibald MacLeish who were friends of Smith’s former president, Jil Ker Conway. Among other talents, Archibald was a well known poet and Ada was a gifted musician.

While cruising towards the field station the other day a familiar voice came on the radio and recited…

New England Weather

by Archibald MacLeish

Hay-time when the Boston forecast
calls for haying weather, hot and fair,
Conway people stick to garden chores
and nod toward nightfall at the cemetery:

that’s where Sumner Boyden’s lying now
and Sumner always told the town, if Boston
promised shine you’d better count on showers
‘long toward evening with your hay crop lost.

He meant, no man can tell the weather
anywhere but where he’s from:
you have to have the whole of it together,
bred in your bones—the way the wind-shifts come,

how dust feels on a hayfork handle
days when there’ll be thunder up for sure,
and how the swallows skim, the cattle stand,
when blue stays blue and even clover cures.

He knew the Conway signs and when the Boston
forecast didn’t, team went back to stalls
and chances were, by half-past four at most
we’d hear the thunder up toward Shelburne Falls.

It wasn’t luck. New England weather
breeds New Englanders: that changing sky
is part of being born and drawing breath
and dying, maybe, where you’re meant to die.

 Listen to Garrison Keillor read the poem here.

Photograph by Mark Portman

Read and Hear more of Archibald’s work:

“New England Weather” by Archibald MacLeish, from Collected Poems: 1917-1982. © Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Writers Almanac, July 2, 2012.



-Lisbet Portman ’13

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