Whittaker Chambers was one of Nation literary editor Mark Van Doren’s most promising students at Columbia University, before dropping out, pledging himself to Bolshevism and heading West. According to biographer Sam Tanenhaus, Chambers traveled as a hobo, joined the Wobblies and wrote some poems, which he sent back East to Van Doren, who promptly published them in The Nation. Later, Tanenhaus relates with considerable understatement, “The Nation became a a pro-Hiss redoubt.” The following is Chambers’s poem, “Quag-Hole," from The Nation of December 31, 1924.
He waited and, as he waited, grew less eager.
He had come first, believing he was anxious.
The quag lay buried in the darkness at his feet.
The village lights shone far between and meager.
He must not whistle here. His nerves grew tauter.
A wind, that rose among the woods behind him,
Died through the fields. Then silence—broken only
By turtles puddling the invisible bog water.
Then, through a stillness, listening, he heard
Her running on the path, night-terrified
Or eager. And he watched her body slacken
And look for him. She stopped. He never stirred.
But saw how credulously, hour by hour, she stood.
And when, at last, the longing woman went,
He set his face to make the nearest light,
And marched to beat the silence through the wood.
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