Doro, Edward

United States, (1909-1987)

The Boar and Shibboleth

  1. I WAS eleven, hardly more,
  2. When first I saw a crystal boar,
  3. Stretched on the ground in self-udmiring fettle.
  4. With purple eyes and snout of golden metal—
  5. Polished by digging roots—and bones of coral.
  6. Looking, I deemed he was a thing immoral.
  7. Something a boy should never see.
  8. I turned and ran, precipitously.
  9.  
  10. A little way, a little way;
  11. Then my feet would not obey.
  12. The heavy hammers of my memory sang on;
  13. They beat the anvil of my mind, and rang on.
  14. My thoughts, hot, hissing sparks,were defying
  15. My better will. In flat tones they kept crying,
  16. “Go, go again, return pellmel
  17. To that fantastic animal!”
  18.  
  19. The boar lay on that very place,
  20. Curled in sleep with bestial grace.
  21. When I came up, I whistled, and he started.
  22. Shaking himself. A noonday nimbus darted
  23. Around his head with tiny beads of glowing,
  24. And I drew back in sudden shyness, knowing
  25. That I was merely human, and
  26. Could never wholly understand.
  27.  
  28. He nosed his snout in my palm,
  29. Making me comforted and calm
  30. Because I found him for a friendly creature.
  31. Intent, I looked upon his every feature:
  32. The golden mane, the purple tusks, the crest
  33. Of wiry hair upon the haunch, the chest
  34. Covered with silken purple thread,
  35. The golden cross upon his head,
  36.  
  37. The hooves of lapis lazuli.
  38. Lifting his head, he stared at me
  39. And whined. The cry came like a meteor dropping
  40. With a soft music, never, never stopping.
  41. Lightly, I sprung upon his back a-straddle.
  42. His spiral tusks for rein and hide for saddle.
  43. I laughed. He answered me in style.
  44. And off we scampered, mile on mile.
  45.  
  46. Until we found a sunny field
  47. Where I dismounted. The boar heeled
  48. On the corn-red ground and whined in greeting.
  49. I turned about. There stood a maiden beating
  50. Her hands together, overcome with pleasure.
  51. “Stop here awhile, if you have time and leisure,”
  52. She called; “The boar, the boar you ride.
  53. May I have him, to grace my side ?”
  54.  
  55. “What is your name?” I questioned her.
  56. Her voice came with a gentle whirr.
  57. “They call me Shibboleth.” “And what its meaning?”
  58. “An ear of corn, I think, in time of gleaning.
  59. But you, why do you ride? are you in danger?
  60. Tell me your reason in this country, stranger.”
  61. Speech would not come. I was possessed.
  62. Watching the light play on her breast.
  63.  
  64. Can I describe the maiden well—
  65. In other words, a miracle?
  66. Slowly I left her; and my blood was pounding
  67. With a queer rhythm; and her voice was sounding
  68. Full in my eardrums; and the field of corn
  69. That lay behind was, in the wind, a horn
  70. That delicately mimicked her
  71. With a voice of gentle whirr.
  72.  
  73. To home and family I went.
  74. Nervous with my wonderment.
  75. When I confided of the boar that glittered,
  76. The elder people smiled, my sister tittered,
  77. And all my brothers held me in derision.
  78. Their disbelief cut raw, like an incision.
  79. In the revelation of my youth.
  80. Which, I am sure, was gospel truth.
  81.  
  82. When they received my tale that way,
  83. I made a vow never to say
  84. Or breathe the slightest word of my adventure
  85. With that maiden, though the vision meant sure
  86. That I was thrown for ever in a riot
  87. Of gold and purple thoughts. I wait in quiet.
  88. Sometimes I say beneath my breath
  89. The lovely name of Shibboleth.

© Edward Doro. The Boar and Shibboleth, with other poems. New York: A.A. Knopf (1933).

Editor’s Note:

Condensed from Wikipedia: A shibboleth is a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, especially something long-standing but now regarded as outmoded or no longer important. It usually refers to features of language, and particularly to a word whose pronunciation identifies its speaker as being a member or not a member of a particular group.

The term originates from the Hebrew word “shibbólet” which literally means the part of a plant containing grains, such as an ear of corn or a stalk of grain. The modern usage derives from an account in the Hebrew Bible, in which pronunciation of this word was used to distinguish Ephraimites, whose dialect lacked a /ʃ/ phoneme, from Gileadites whose dialect did include such a phoneme.

About the Poet:

Edward Doro (1909-1987) was a U.S. poet born in Dickinson, North Dakota. He received his B.A. from the University of Southern California in 1929 and an M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1931.

Doro was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1936 and received a Russell Loines Award for Poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1939.

His published work include: Alms for oblivion, 1932; The Boar and Shibboleth, 1933; Shiloh: fragments on a famous theme, 1936; Mr. Zenith & Other Poems, 1942; Parisian interlude, 1960; The furtherance, 1966. [DES-07/12]

Additional information:

  • Shibboleth from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

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