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The Old Man's Gift


During one of my earlier journeys to Austria, Lambert Schoiswohl, a retired scythesmith, told me "Die Sense muss tanzen" (The scythe must dance).

In August 2000, Manfred Atzmuller, the mayor of Rossleithen and a mower himself, organized a brigade to trim some of the roadsides in the village. And so I had a chance to mow along the side of Mr. Schoiswohl. At 72, the extremely steep slopes did not hinder him.

On December 24, the most celebrated day in Europe, he finished decorating the Christmas tree, stood back to revel in his last task...and was a mower no more.

The following poem is dedicated to the memory of Lambert Schoiswohl and others with gifts in their hands.
Peter Vido


The Old Man's Gift

"The scythe must dance", the old man said.
"Yes, I can imagine it in my head:
But is this step first or that instead?
There's not a guide which I have read.
Will you teach me all before you're dead?"

"See what I do ~ watch closely now!
The dance you'll learn ~ I'll show you how."
The young girl smiled and gave a bow
As she thought of a fragrant hay-filled mow
With leafy hay for sheep and cow.

Together they met in the meadow each morn
To dance before the day was born.
One taught the steps, one learned the form,
Stone often slipped from water-filled horn,
Blade slicing smoothly grass and corn.

Gazing upon neat swaths with pride
And gratitude she did not hide,
She thanked the teacher at her side
For a skill which makes the heart so blithe -
The old man's gift before he died.

Faye Vido

 

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