BY THE WRITERS
AND THE EDITOR
This volume is issued in the belief that English poetry is now once again putting on a new strength and beauty.
Few readers have the leisure or the zeal to investigate each volume as it appears; and the process of recognition is often slow. This collection, drawn entirely from the publications of the past two years, may if it is fortunate help the lovers of poetry to realize that we are at the beginning of another "Georgian period" which may take rank in due time with the several great poetic ages of the past.
It has no pretension to cover the field. Every reader will notice the absence of poets whose work would be a necessary ornament of any anthology not limited by a definite aim. Two years ago some of the writers represented had published nothing; and only a very few of the others were known except to the eagerest "watchers of the skies." Those few are here because within the chosen period their work seemed to have gained some accession of power.
My grateful thanks are due to the writers who have lent me their poems, and to the publishers (Messrs Elkin Mathews, Sidgwick and Jackson, Methuen, Fifield, Constable, Nutt, Dent, Duckworth, Longmans, and Maunsel, and the Editors of 'Basileon', 'Rhythm', and the 'English Review') under whose imprint they have appeared.
"Of all materials for labour, dreams are the hardest; and the artificer in ideas is the chief of workers, who out of nothing will make a piece of work that may stop a child from crying or lead nations to higher things. For what is it to be a poet? It is to see at a glance the glory of the world, to see beauty in all its forms and manifestations, to feel ugliness like a pain, to resent the wrongs of others as bitterly as one's own, to know mankind as others know single men, to know Nature as botanists know a flower, to be thought a fool, to hear at moments the clear voice of God."
LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE The Sale of Saint Thomas
GORDON BOTTOMLEY The End of the World (from 'Chambers of Imagery,' 2nd series) Babel: The Gate of God (from 'Chambers of Imagery,' 2nd series)
RUPERT BROOKE The Old Vicarage, Grantchester Dust The Fish Town and Country Dining-room Tea
GILBERT K. CHESTERTON The Song of Elf (a fragment from the Ballad of the White Horse)
WILLIAM H. DAVIES The Child and the Mariner (from 'Songs of Joy') Days too Short (from 'Songs of Joy') In May (from 'Songs of Joy') The Heap of Rags (from 'Songs of Joy') The Kingfisher (from 'Farewell to Poesy')
WALTER DE LA MARE Arabia (from 'The Listeners') The Sleeper (from 'The Listeners') Winter Dusk (from 'The Listeners') Miss Loo (from 'The Listeners') The Listeners
JOHN DRINKWATER The Fires of God (from 'Poems of Love and Earth')
JAMES ELROY FLECKER Joseph and Mary (from 'Forty-Two Poems') The Queen's Song (from 'Forty-Two Poems')
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON The Hare (from 'Fires,' Book III) Geraniums Devil's Edge (from 'Fires,' Book III)
D. H. LAWRENCE The Snapdragon
JOHN MASEFIELD Biography
HAROLD MONRO Child of Dawn (from 'Before Dawn') Lake Leman (from 'Before Dawn')
T. STURGE MOORE A Sicilian Idyll (first part)
RONALD ROSS Hesperus (from 'Lyra Modulata')
EDMUND BEALE SARGANT The Cuckoo Wood (from 'The Casket Songs')
JAMES STEPHENS In the Poppy Field (from 'The Hill of Vision') In the Cool of the Evening (from 'The Hill of Vision') The Lonely God (from 'The Hill of Vision')
ROBERT CALVERLEY TREVELYAN Dirge
* * * * *
THE SALE OF SAINT THOMAS
[A quay with vessels moored]
To India! Yea, here I may take ship; From here the courses go over the seas, Along which the intent prows wonderfully Nose like lean hounds, and track their journeys out, Making for harbours as some sleuth was laid For them to follow on their shifting road. Again I front my appointed ministry.— But why the Indian lot to me? Why mine Such fearful gospelling? For the Lord knew What a frail soul He gave me, and a heart Lame and unlikely for the large events.— And this is worse than Baghdad! though that was A fearful brink of travel. But if the lots, That gave to me the Indian duty, were Shuffled by the unseen skill of Heaven, surely That fear of mine in Baghdad was the same Marvellous Hand working again, to guard The landward gate of India from me. There I stood, waiting in the weak early dawn To start my journey; the great caravan's Strange cattle with their snoring breaths made steam Upon the air, and (as I thought) sadly The beasts at market-booths and awnings gay Of shops, the city's comfortable trade, Lookt, and then into months of plodding lookt. And swiftly on my brain there came a wind Of vision; and I saw the road mapt out Along the desert with a chalk of bones; I saw a famine and the Afghan greed Waiting for us, spears at our throats, all we Made women by our hunger; and I saw Gigantic thirst grieving our mouths with dust, Scattering up against our breathing salt Of blown dried dung, till the taste eat like fires Of a wild vinegar into our sheathed marrows; And a sudden decay thicken'd all our bloods As rotten leaves in fall will baulk a stream; Then my kill'd life the muncht food of jackals.— The wind of vision died in my brain; and lo, The jangling of the caravan's long gait Was small as the luting of a breeze in grass Upon my ears. Into the waiting thirst Camels and merchants all were gone, while I Had been in my amazement. Was this not A sign? God with a vision tript me, lest Those tall fiends that ken for my approach In middle Asia, Thirst and his grisly band Of plagues, should with their brigand fingers stop His message in my mouth. Therefore I said, If India is the place where I must preach, I am to go by ship, not overland. And here my ship is berthed. But worse, far worse Than Baghdad, is this roadstead, the brown sails, All the enginery of going on sea, The tackle and the rigging, tholes and sweeps, The prows built to put by the waves, the masts Stayed for a hurricane; and lo, that line Of gilded water there! the sun has drawn In a long narrow band of shining oil His light over the sea; how evilly move Ripples along that golden skin!—the gleam Works like a muscular thing! like the half-gorged Sleepy swallowing of a serpent's neck. The sea lives, surely! My eyes swear to it; And, like a murderous smile that glimpses through A villain's courtesy, that twitching dazzle Parts the kind mood of weather to bewray The feasted waters of the sea, stretched out In lazy gluttony, expecting prey. How fearful is this trade of sailing! Worse Than all land-evils is the water-way Before me now.—What, cowardice? Nay, why Trouble myself with ugly words? 'Tis prudence, And prudence is an admirable thing. Yet here's much cost—these packages piled up, Ivory doubtless, emeralds, gums, and silks, All these they trust on shipboard? Ah, but I, I who have seen God, I to put myself Amid the heathen outrage of the sea In a deal-wood box! It were plain folly. There is naught more precious in the world than I: I carry God in me, to give to men. And when has the sea been friendly unto man? Let it but guess my errand, it will call The dangers of the air to wreak upon me, Winds to juggle the puny boat and pinch The water into unbelievable creases. And shall my soul, and God in my soul, drown? Or venture drowning?—But no, no; I am safe. Smooth as believing souls over their deaths And over agonies shall slide henceforth To God, so shall my way be blest amid The quiet crouching terrors of the sea, Like panthers when a fire weakens their hearts; Ay, this huge sin of nature, the salt sea, Shall be afraid of me, and of the mind Within me, that with gesture, speech and eyes Of the Messiah flames. What element Dare snarl against my going, what incubus dare Remember to be fiendish, when I light My whole being with memory of Him? The malice of the sea will slink from me, And the air be harmless as a muzzled wolf; For I am a torch, and the flame of me is God.
A Ship's Captain:
You are my man, my passenger?
Thomas: I am. I go to India with you.
Captain: Well, I hope so. There's threatening in the weather. Have you a mind To hug your belly to the slanted deck, Like a louse on a whip-top, when the boat Spins on an axle in the hissing gales?
Fear not. 'Tis likely indeed that storms are now Plotting against our voyage; ay, no doubt The very bottom of the sea prepares To stand up mountainous or reach a limb Out of his night of water and huge shingles, That he and the waves may break our keel. Fear not; Like those who manage horses, I've a word Will fasten up within their evil natures The meanings of the winds and waves and reefs.
You have a talisman? I have one too; I know not if the storms think much of it. I may be shark's meat yet. And would your spell Be daunting to a cuttle, think you now? We had a bout with one on our way here; It had green lidless eyes like lanterns, arms As many as the branches of a tree, But limber, and each one of them wise as a snake. It laid hold of our bulwarks, and with three Long knowing arms, slimy, and of a flesh So tough they'ld fool a hatchet, searcht the ship, And stole out of the midst of us all a man; Yes, and he the proudest man upon the seas For the rare powerful talisman he'd got. And would yours have done better?
Thomas: I am one Not easily frightened. I'm for India. You will not put me from my way with talk.
My heart, I never thought of frightening you.— Well, here's both tide and wind, and we may not start.
Not start? I pray you, do.
Captain: It's no use praying; I dare not. I've not half my cargo yet.
What do you wait for, then?
Captain: A carpenter.
You are talking strangely.
Captain: But not idly. I might as well broach all my blood at once Here as I stand, as sail to India back Without a carpenter on board;—O strangely Wise are our kings in the killing of men!
But does your king then need a carpenter?
Yes, for he dreamed a dream; and like a man Who, having eaten poison, and with all Force of his life turned out the crazing drug, Has only a weak and wrestled nature left That gives in foolishly to some bad desire A healthy man would laugh at; so our king Is left desiring by his venomous dream. But, being a king, the whole land aches with him.
What dream was that?
Captain: A palace made of souls;— Ay, there's a folly for a man to dream! He saw a palace covering all the land, Big as the day itself, made of a stone That answered with a better gleam than glass To the sun's greeting, fashioned like the sound Of laughter copied into shining shape: So the king said. And with him in the dream There was a voice that fleered upon the king: 'This is the man who makes much of himself For filling the common eyes with palaces Gorgeously bragging out his royalty: Whereas he hath not one that seemeth not In work, in height, in posture on the ground, A hut, a peasant's dingy shed, to mine. And all his excellent woods, metals, and stones, The things he's filched out of the earth's old pockets And hoised up into walls and domes; the gold, Ebony, agate stairs, wainscots of jade, The windows of jargoon, and heavenly lofts Of marble, all the stuff he takes to be wealth, Reckons like savage mud and wattle against The matter of my building.'—And the king, Gloating upon the white sheen of that palace, And weeping like a girl ashamed, inquired 'What is that stone?' And the voice answered him, 'Soul.' 'But in my palaces too,' said he, 'There should be soul built: I have driven nations, What with quarrying, what with craning, down To death, and sure their souls stay in my work.' And 'Mud and wattle' sneered the voice again; But added, 'In the west there is a man, A slave, a carpenter, whose heart has been Apprenticed to the skill that built my reign, This beauty; and were he master of your gangs, He'ld build you a palace that would look like mine.'— So now no ship may sail from India, Since the king's scornful dream, unless it bring A carpenter among its homeward lading: And carpenters are getting hard to find.
And have none made for the king his desire?
Many have tried, with roasting living men In queer huge kilns, and other sleights, to found A glass of human souls; and others seek With marvellous stone to please our desperate king. Always at last their own tormented bodies Delight the cruelty of the king's heart.
Well then, I hope you'll find your carpenter, And soon. I would not that we wait too long; I loathe a dallying journey.—I should suppose We'ld have good sailing at this season, now?
Why, you were looking, a few minutes gone, For rare wild storms: I hope we'll have them too; I want to see you work that talisman You boast about: I've a great love for spells.
Let it be storm or calm, so we be sailing. I long have wished to voyage into mid sea, To give my senses rest from wondering On this perplexed grammar of the land Written in men and women, the strange trees, Herbs, and those things so like to souls, the beasts. My wilful senses will keep perilously Employed with these my brain, and weary it Still to be asking. But on the high seas Such throng'd reality is left behind,— Only vast air and water, and the hue That always seems like special news of God. Surely 'tis half way to eternity To go where only size and colour live; And I could purify my mind from all Worldly amazement by imagining Beyond my senses into God's great Heaven, If I were in mid sea. I have dreamed of this. Wondrous too, I think, to sail at night, While shoals of moonlight flickers dance beside, Like swimming glee of fishes scaled in gold, Curvetting in thwart bounds over the swell; The perceiving flesh, in bliss of such a beauty, Must sure feel fine as spiritual sight.— Moods have been on me, too, when I would be Sailing recklessly through wild darkness, where Gigantic whispers of a harassed sea Fill the whole world of air, and I stand up To breast the danger of the loosen'd sky, And feel my immortality like music,— Yea, I alone in the broken world, firm things All gone to monstrous flurry, knowing myself An indestructible word spoken by God.— This is a small, small boat?
Captain: Small is nothing, A bucket will do, so it know how to ride Top upward: cleverness is the thing in boats. And I wish this were cleverer: she goes crank At times just when she should go sober. But what? Boats are but girls for whimsies: men Must let them have their freaks.
Thomas: Have you good skill In seamanship?
Captain: Well, I am not drowned yet, Though I'm a grey man and have been at sea Longer than you've been walking. My old sight Can tell Mizar from Alcor still.
Thomas: Ay, so; Doubtless you'll bring me safe to India. But being there—tell me now of the land: How use they strangers there?
Captain: Queerly, sometimes. If the king's moody, and tired of feeling nerves Mildly made happy with soft jewel of silk, Odours and wines and slim lascivious girls, And yearns for sharper thrills to pierce his brain, He often finds a stranger handy then.
Thomas: Why, what do you mean?
Captain: There was a merchant came To Travancore, and could not speak our talk; And, it chanced, he was brought before the throne Just when the king was weary of sweet pleasures. So, to better his tongue, a rope was bent Beneath his oxters, up he was hauled, and fire Let singe the soles of his feet, until his legs Wriggled like frying eels; then the king's dogs Were set to hunt the hirpling man. The king Laught greatly and cried, 'But give the dogs words they know, And they'll be tame.'—Have you the Indian speech?
Thomas: Not yet: it will be given me, I trust.
Captain: You'd best make sure of the gift. Another stranger, Who swore he knew of better gods than ours, Seemed to the king troubled with fleas, and slaves Were told to groom him smartly, which they did Thoroughly with steel combs, until at last They curried the living flesh from off his bones And stript his face of gristle, till he was Skull and half skeleton and yet alive. You're not for dealing in new gods?
Thomas: Not I. Was the man killed?
Captain: He lived a little while; But the flies killed him.
Thomas: Flies? I hope India Is not a fly-plagued land? I abhor flies.
Captain: You will see strange ones, for our Indian life Hath wonderful fierce breeding. Common earth With us quickens to buzzing flights of wings As readily as a week-old carcase here Thrown in a sunny marsh. Why, we have wasps That make your hornets seem like pretty midges; And there be flies in India will drink Not only blood of bulls, tigers, and bears, But pierce the river-horses' creasy leather, Ay, worry crocodiles through their cuirasses And prick the metal fishes when they bask. You'll feel them soon, with beaks like sturdy pins, Treating their stinging thirsts with your best blood. A man can't walk a mile in India Without being the business of a throng'd And moving town of flies; they hawk at a man As bold as little eagles, and as wild. And, I suppose, only a fool will blame them. Flies have the right to sink wells in our skin All as men to bore parcht earth for water. But I must do a job on board, and then Search the town afresh for a carpenter.
Thomas: (alone) Ay, loose tongue, I know how thou art prompted. Satan's cunning device thou art, to sap My heart with chatter'd fears. How easy it is For a stiff mind to hold itself upright Against the cords of devilish suggestion Tackled about it, though kept downward strained With sly, masterful winches made of fear. Yea, when the mind is warned what engines mean To ply it into grovelling, and thought set firm, The tugging strings fail like a cobweb-stuff. Not as in Baghdad is it with me now; Nor canst thou, Satan, by a prating mouth Fell my tall purpose to a flatlong scorn. I can divide the check of God's own hand From tempting such as this: India is mine!— Ay, fiend, and if thou utter thy storming heart Into the ocean sea, as into mob A rebel utters turbulence and rage, And raise before my path swelling barriers Of hatred soul'd in water, yet will I strike My purpose, and God's purpose, clean through all The ridges of thy power. And I will show This mask that the devil wears, this old shipman, A thing to make his proud heart of evil Writhe like a trodden snake; yea, he shall see How godly faith can go upon the huge Fury of forces bursting out of law, Easily as a boy goes on windy grass.— O marvel! that my little life of mind Can by mere thinking the unsizeable Creature of sea enslave! I must believe it. The mind hath many powers beyond name Deep womb'd within it, and can shoot strange vigours: Men there have been who could so grimly look That soldiers' hearts went out like candle flames Before their eyes, and the blood perisht in them.— But I—could I do that? Would I not feel The power in me if 'twas there? And yet 'Twere a child's game to what I have to do, For days and days with sleepless faith oppress And terrorise the demon sea. I think A man might, as I saw my Master once, Pass unharmed through a storm of men, yet fail At this that lies before me: men are mind, And mind can conquer mind; but how can it quell The unappointed purpose of great waters?— Well, say the sea is past: why, then I have My feet but on the threshold of my task, To gospel India,—my single heart To seize into the order of its beat All the strange blood of India, my brain To lord the dark thought of that tann'd mankind!— O horrible those sweltry places are, Where the sun comes so close, it makes the earth Burn in a frenzy of breeding,—smoke and flame Of lives burning up from agoniz'd loam! Those monstrous sappy jungles of clutcht growth, Enormous weed hugging enormous weed, What can such fearful increase have to do With prospering bounty? A rage works in the ground, Incurably, like frantic lechery, Pouring its passion out in crops and spawns. 'Tis as the mighty spirit of life, that here Walketh beautifully praising, glad of God, Should, stepping on the poison'd Indian shore, Breathing the Indian air of fire and steams, Fling herself into a craze of hideous dancing, The green gown whipping her swift limbs, all her body Writhen to speak inutterable desire, Tormented by a glee of hating God. Nay, it must be, to visit India, That frantic pomp and hurrying forth of life, As if a man should enter at unawares The dreaming mind of Satan, gorgeously Imagining his eternal hell of lust.—
They say the land is full of apes, which have Their own gods and worship; how ghastly, this!— That demons (for it must be so) should build, In mockery of man's upward faith, the souls Of monkeys, those lewd mammets of mankind, Into a dreadful farce of adoration! And flies! a land of flies! where the hot soil Foul with ceaseless decay steams into flies! So thick they pile themselves in the air above Their meal of filth, they seem like breathing heaps Of formless life mounded upon the earth; And buzzing always like the pipes and strings Of solemn music made for sorcerers.— I abhor flies,—to see them stare upon me Out of their little faces of gibbous eyes; To feel the dry cool skin of their bodies alight Perching upon my lips!—O yea, a dream, A dream of impious obscene Satan, this Monstrous frenzy of life, the Indian being! And there are men in the dream! What men are they? I've heard, naught relishes their brains so much As to tie down a man and tease his flesh Infamously, until a hundred pains Hound the desiring life out of his body, Filling his nerves with such a fearful zest That the soul overstrained shatters beneath it. Must I preach God to these murderous hearts? I would my lot had fallen to go and dare Death from the silent dealing of Northern cold!—
O, but I would face all these Indian fears, The horror of the huge power of life, The beasts all fierce and venomous, the men With cruel souls, learned to invent pain, All these and more, if I had any hope That, braving them, Lord Christ prosper'd through me. If Christ desired India, He had sent The band of us, solder'd in one great purpose, To strike His message through those dark vast tribes But one man!—O surely it is folly, And we misread the lot! One man, to thrust, Even though in his soul the lamp was kindled At God's own hands, one man's lit soul to thrust The immense Indian darkness out of the world! For human flesh there breeds as furiously As the green things and the cattle; and it is all, All this enormity of measureless folk, Penn'd in a land so close to the devil's reign The very apes have faith in him.—No, no; Impetuous brains mistake the signs of God Too easily. God would not have me waste My zeal for Him in this wild enterprise, Of going alone to swarming India;—one man, One mortal voice, to charm those myriad ears Away from the fiendish clamour of Indian gods, One man preaching the truth against the huge Bray of the gongs and horns of the Indian priests! A cup of wine poured in the sea were not More surely lost in the green and brackish depths, Than the fire and fragrance of my doctrine poured Into that multitudinous pond of men, India.—Shipman! Master of the ship!— I have thought better of this journey; now I find I am not meant to go.
Captain: Not meant?
Thomas: I would say, I had forgotten Indian air Is full of fevers; and my health is bad For holding out against fever.
Captain: As you please. I keep your fare, though.
Thomas: O, 'tis yours.—Good sailing!
[As he makes to depart, a Noble Stranger is seen approaching along the quay.]
Captain: Well, here's a marvel: 'Tis a king, for sure! 'Twould take the taxes of a world to dress A man in that silken gold, and all those gems. What a flash the light makes of him; nay, he burns; And he's here on the quay all by himself, Not even a slave to fan him!—Man, you're ailing! You look like death; is it the falling sickness? Or has the mere thought of the Indian journey Made your marrow quail with a cold fever?
The Stranger: (to the Captain)
You are the master of this ship?
Captain: I am.
Stranger: This huddled man belongs to me: a slave Escaped my service.
Captain: Lord, I knew not that. But you are in good time.
Stranger: And was the slave For putting out with you? Where are you bound?
Captain: To India. First he would sail, and then Again he would not. But, my Lord, I swear I never guesst he was a runaway.
Stranger: Well, he shall have his mind and go with you To India: a good slave he is, but bears A restless thought. He has slipt off before, And vexes me still to be watching him. We'll make a bargain of him.
Captain: I, my Lord? I have no need of slaves: I am too poor.
Stranger: For twenty silver pieces he is yours.
Captain: That's cheap, if he has skill. Yes, there might be Profit in him at that. Has he a trade?
Stranger: He is a carpenter.
Captain: A carpenter! Why, for a good one I'ld give all my purse.
Stranger: No, twenty silver pieces is the price; Though 'tis a slave a king might joy to own. I've taught him to imagine palaces So high, and tower'd so nobly, they might seem The marvelling of a God-delighted heart Escaping into ecstasy; he knows, Moreover, of a stuff so rare it makes Smaragdus and the dragon-stone despised; And yet the quarries whereof he is wise Would yield enough to house the tribes of the world In palaces of beautiful shining work.
Captain Lo there! why, that is it: the carpenter I am to bring is needed for to build The king's new palace.
Stranger: Yea? He is your man.
Captain: Come on, my man. I'll put your cunning heels Where they'll not budge more than a shuffled inch. My lord, if you'll bide with the rascal here I'll get the irons ready. Here's your sum.—
Stranger: Now, Thomas, know thy sin. It was not fear; Easily may a man crouch down for fear, And yet rise up on firmer knees, and face The hailing storm of the world with graver courage. But prudence, prudence is the deadly sin, And one that groweth deep into a life, With hardening roots that clutch about the breast. For this refuses faith in the unknown powers Within man's nature; shrewdly bringeth all Their inspiration of strange eagerness To a judgment bought by safe experience; Narrows desire into the scope of thought. But it is written in the heart of man, Thou shalt no larger be than thy desire. Thou must not therefore stoop thy spirit's sight To pore only within the candle-gleam Of conscious wit and reasonable brain; But search into the sacred darkness lying Outside thy knowledge of thyself, the vast Measureless fate, full of the power of stars, The outer noiseless heavens of thy soul. Keep thy desire closed in the room of light The labouring fires of thy mind have made, And thou shalt find the vision of thy spirit Pitifully dazzled to so shrunk a ken, There are no spacious puissances about it, But send desire often forth to scan The immense night which is thy greater soul; Knowing the possible, see thou try beyond it Into impossible things, unlikely ends; And thou shalt find thy knowledgeable desire Grow large as all the regions of thy soul, Whose firmament doth cover the whole of Being, And of created purpose reach the ends.
* * * * *
THE END OF THE WORLD
The snow had fallen many nights and days; The sky was come upon the earth at last, Sifting thinly down as endlessly As though within the system of blind planets Something had been forgot or overdriven. The dawn now seemed neglected in the grey Where mountains were unbuilt and shadowless trees Rootlessly paused or hung upon the air. There was no wind, but now and then a sigh Crossed that dry falling dust and rifted it Through crevices of slate and door and casement. Perhaps the new moon's time was even past. Outside, the first white twilights were too void Until a sheep called once, as to a lamb, And tenderness crept everywhere from it; But now the flock must have strayed far away. The lights across the valley must be veiled, The smoke lost in the greyness or the dusk. For more than three days now the snow had thatched That cow-house roof where it had ever melted With yellow stains from the beasts' breath inside; But yet a dog howled there, though not quite lately. Someone passed down the valley swift and singing. Yes, with locks spreaded like a son of morning; But if he seemed too tall to be a man It was that men had been so long unseen, Or shapes loom larger through a moving snow. And he was gone and food had not been given him. When snow slid from an overweighted leaf, Shaking the tree, it might have been a bird Slipping in sleep or shelter, whirring wings; Yet never bird fell out, save once a dead one— And in two days the snow had covered it. The dog had howled again—or thus it seemed Until a lean fox passed and cried no more. All was so safe indoors where life went on Glad of the close enfolding snow—O glad To be so safe and secret at its heart, Watching the strangeness of familiar things. They knew not what dim hours went on, went by, For while they slept the clock stopt newly wound As the cold hardened. Once they watched the road, Thinking to be remembered. Once they doubted If they had kept the sequence of the days, Because they heard not any sound of bells. A butterfly, that hid until the Spring Under a ceiling's shadow, dropt, was dead. The coldness seemed more nigh, the coldness deepened As a sound deepens into silences; It was of earth and came not by the air; The earth was cooling and drew down the sky. The air was crumbling. There was no more sky. Rails of a broken bed charred in the grate, And when he touched the bars he thought the sting Came from their heat—he could not feel such cold ... She said 'O, do not sleep, Heart, heart of mine, keep near me. No, no; sleep. I will not lift his fallen, quiet eyelids, Although I know he would awaken then— He closed them thus but now of his own will. He can stay with me while I do not lift them.'
BABEL: THE GATE OF THE GOD
Lost towers impend, copeless primeval props Of the new threatening sky, and first rude digits Of awe remonstrance and uneasy power Thrust out by man when speech sank back in his throat: Then had the last rocks ended bubbling up And rhythms of change within the heart begun By a blind need that would make Springs and Winters; Pylons and monoliths went on by ages, Mycenae and Great Zimbabwe came about; Cowed hearts in This conceived a pyramid That leaned to hold itself upright, a thing Foredoomed to limits, death and an easy apex; Then postulants for the stars' previous wisdom Standing on Carthage must get nearer still; While in Chaldea an altitude of god Being mooted, and a saurian unearthed Upon a mountain stirring a surmise Of floods and alterations of the sea, A round-walled tower must rise upon Senaar Temple and escape to god the ascertained. These are decayed like Time's teeth in his mouth, Black cavities and gaps, yet earth is darkened By their deep-sunken and unfounded shadows And memories of man's earliest theme of towers.
Space—the old source of time—should be undone, Eternity defined, by men who trusted Another tier would equal them with god. A city of grimed brick-kilns, squat truncations, Hunched like spread toads yet high beneath their circles Of low packed smoke, assemblages of thunder That glowed upon their under sides by night And lit like storm small shadowless workmen's toil. Meaningless stumps, upturned bare roots, remained In fields of mashy mud and trampled leaves; While, if a horse died hauling, plasterers Knelt on a flank to clip its sweaty coat.
A builder leans across the last wide courses; His unadjustable unreaching eyes Fail under him before his glances sink On the clouds' upper layers of sooty curls Where some long lightning goes like swallows downward, But at the wider gallery next below Recognise master-masons with pricked parchments: That builder then, as one who condescends Unto the sea and all that is beneath him, His hairy breast on the wet mortar, calls 'How many fathoms is it yet to heaven!' On the next eminence the orgulous king Nimroud stands up conceiving he shall live To conquer god, now that he knows where god is: His eager hands push up the tower in thought ... Again, his shaggy inhuman height strides down Among the carpenters because he has seen One shape an eagle-woman on a door-post: He drives his spear-beam through him for wasted day.
Little men hurrying, running here and there, Within the dark and stifling walls, dissent From every sound, and shoulder empty hods: 'The god's great altar should stand in the crypt Among our earth's foundations'—'The god's great altar Must be the last far coping of our work'— It should inaugurate the broad main stair'— 'Or end it'—'It must stand toward the East!' But here a grave contemptuous youth cries out 'Womanish babblers, how can we build god's altar Ere we divine its foreordained true shape?' Then one 'It is a pedestal for deeds'— ''Tis more and should be hewn like the king's brow'— 'It has the nature of a woman's bosom'— 'The tortoise, first created, signifies it'— 'A blind and rudimentary navel shows The source of worship better than horned moons.' Then a lean giant 'Is not a calyx needful?'— 'Because round grapes on statues well expressed Become the nadir of incense, nodal lamps, Yet apes have hands that cut and carved red crystal'— 'Birds molten, touchly talc veins bronze buds crumble Ablid ublai ghan isz rad eighar ghaurl ...' Words said too often seemed such ancient sounds That men forgot them or were lost in them; The guttural glottis-chasms of language reached, A rhythm, a gasp, were curves of immortal thought.
Man with his bricks was building, building yet, Where dawn and midnight mingled and woke no birds, In the last courses, building past his knowledge A wall that swung—for towers can have no tops, No chord can mete the universal segment, Earth has not basis. Yet the yielding sky, Invincible vacancy, was there discovered— Though piled-up bricks should pulp the sappy balks, Weight generate a secrecy of heat, Cankerous charring, crevices' fronds of flame.
* * * * *
THE OLD VICARAGE, GRANTCHESTER
[Cafe des Westens, Berlin]
Just now the lilac is in bloom, All before my little room; And in my flower-beds, I think, Smile the carnation and the pink; And down the borders, well I know, The poppy and the pansy blow ... Oh! there the chestnuts, summer through, Beside the river make for you A tunnel of green gloom, and sleep Deeply above; and green and deep The stream mysterious glides beneath, Green as a dream and deep as death.— Oh, damn! I know it! and I know How the May fields all golden show, And when the day is young and sweet, Gild gloriously the bare feet That run to bathe ... 'Du lieber Gott!'
Here am I, sweating, sick, and hot, And there the shadowed waters fresh Lean up to embrace the naked flesh. 'Temperamentvoll' German Jews Drink beer around; and 'there' the dews Are soft beneath a morn of gold. Here tulips bloom as they are told; Unkempt about those hedges blows An English unofficial rose; And there the unregulated sun Slopes down to rest when day is done, And wakes a vague unpunctual star, A slippered Hesper; and there are Meads towards Haslingfield and Coton Where 'das Betreten's' not 'verboten' ...
[Greek: eithe genomaen] ... would I were In Grantchester, in Grantchester!— Some, it may be, can get in touch With Nature there, or Earth, or such. And clever modern men have seen A Faun a-peeping through the green, And felt the Classics were not dead, To glimpse a Naiad's reedy head, Or hear the Goat-foot piping low ... But these are things I do not know. I only know that you may lie Day long and watch the Cambridge sky, And, flower-lulled in sleepy grass, Hear the cool lapse of hours pass, Until the centuries blend and blur In Grantchester, in Grantchester ... Still in the dawnlit waters cool His ghostly Lordship swims his pool, And tries the strokes, essays the tricks, Long learnt on Hellespont, or Styx; Dan Chaucer hears his river still Chatter beneath a phantom mill; Tennyson notes, with studious eye, How Cambridge waters hurry by ... And in that garden, black and white Creep whispers through the grass all night; And spectral dance, before the dawn, A hundred Vicars down the lawn; Curates, long dust, will come and go On lissom, clerical, printless toe; And oft between the boughs is seen The sly shade of a Rural Dean ... Till, at a shiver in the skies, Vanishing with Satanic cries, The prim ecclesiastic rout Leaves but a startled sleeper-out, Grey heavens, the first bird's drowsy calls, The falling house that never falls.
* * * * *
God! I will pack, and take a train, And get me to England once again! For England's the one land, I know, Where men with Splendid Hearts may go; And Cambridgeshire, of all England, The shire for Men who Understand; And of 'that' district I prefer The lovely hamlet Grantchester. For Cambridge people rarely smile, Being urban, squat, and packed with guile; And Royston men in the far South Are black and fierce and strange of mouth; At Over they fling oaths at one, And worse than oaths at Trumpington, And Ditton girls are mean and dirty, And there's none in Harston under thirty, And folks in Shelford and those parts Have twisted lips and twisted hearts, And Barton men make cockney rhymes, And Coton's full of nameless crimes, And things are done you'd not believe At Madingley on Christmas Eve. Strong men have run for miles and miles When one from Cherry Hinton smiles; Strong men have blanched and shot their wives Rather than send them to St. Ives; Strong men have cried like babes, bydam, To hear what happened at Babraham. But Grantchester! ah, Grantchester! There's peace and holy quiet there, Great clouds along pacific skies, And men and women with straight eyes, Lithe children lovelier than a dream, A bosky wood, a slumbrous stream, And little kindly winds that creep Round twilight corners, half asleep. In Grantchester their skins are white, They bathe by day, they bathe by night; The women there do all they ought; The men observe the Rules of Thought. They love the Good; they worship Truth; They laugh uproariously in youth; (And when they get to feeling old, They up and shoot themselves, I'm told)...
Ah God! to see the branches stir Across the moon at Grantchester! To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten Unforgettable, unforgotten River smell, and hear the breeze Sobbing in the little trees. Say, do the elm-clumps greatly stand, Still guardians of that holy land? The chestnuts shade, in reverend dream, The yet unacademic stream? Is dawn a secret shy and cold Anadyomene, silver-gold? And sunset still a golden sea From Haslingfield to Madingley? And after, ere the night is born, Do hares come out about the corn? Oh, is the water sweet and cool Gentle and brown, above the pool? And laughs the immortal river still Under the mill, under the mill? Say, is there Beauty yet to find? And Certainty? and Quiet kind? Deep meadows yet, for to forget The lies, and truths, and pain? ... oh! yet Stands the Church clock at ten to three? And is there honey still for tea?
When the white flame in us is gone, And we that lost the world's delight Stiffen in darkness, left alone To crumble in our separate night;
When your swift hair is quiet in death, And through the lips corruption thrust Has stilled the labour of my breath— When we are dust, when we are dust!—
Not dead, not undesirous yet, Still sentient, still unsatisfied, We'll ride the air, and shine, and flit, Around the places where we died,
And dance as dust before the sun, And light of foot, and unconfined, Hurry from road to road, and run About the errands of the wind.
And every mote, on earth or air, Will speed and gleam, down later days. And like a secret pilgrim fare By eager and invisible ways,
Nor ever rest, nor ever lie, Till, beyond thinking, out of view, One mote of all the dust that's I Shall meet one atom that was you.
Then in some garden hushed from wind, Warm in a sunset's afterglow, The lovers in the flowers will find A sweet and strange unquiet grow
Upon the peace; and, past desiring, So high a beauty in the air, And such a light, and such a quiring, And such a radiant ecstasy there,
They'll know not if it's fire, or dew, Or out of earth, or in the height, Singing, or flame, or scent, or hue, Or two that pass, in light, to light,
Out of the garden, higher, higher ... But in that instant they shall learn The shattering fury of our fire, And the weak passionless hearts will burn
And faint in that amazing glow, Until the darkness close above; And they will know—poor fools, they'll know!— One moment, what it is to love.
In a cool curving world he lies And ripples with dark ecstasies. The kind luxurious lapse and steal Shapes all his universe to feel And know and be; the clinging stream Closes his memory, glooms his dream, Who lips the roots o' the shore, and glides Superb on unreturning tides. Those silent waters weave for him A fluctuant mutable world and dim, Where wavering masses bulge and gape Mysterious, and shape to shape Dies momently through whorl and hollow, And form and line and solid follow Solid and line and form to dream Fantastic down the eternal stream; An obscure world, a shifting world, Bulbous, or pulled to thin, or curled, Or serpentine, or driving arrows, Or serene slidings, or March narrows. There slipping wave and shore are one, And weed and mud. No ray of sun, But glow to glow fades down the deep (As dream to unknown dream in sleep); Shaken translucency illumes The hyaline of drifting glooms; The strange soft-handed depth subdues Drowned colour there, but black to hues, As death to living, decomposes— Red darkness of the heart of roses, Blue brilliant from dead starless skies, And gold that lies behind the eyes, The unknown unnameable sightless white That is the essential flame of night, Lustreless purple, hooded green, The myriad hues that lie between Darkness and darkness! ...
And all's one, Gentle, embracing, quiet, dun, The world he rests in, world he knows, Perpetual curving. Only—grows An eddy in that ordered falling, A knowledge from the gloom, a calling Weed in the wave, gleam in the mud— The dark fire leaps along his blood; Dateless and deathless, blind and still, The intricate impulse works its will; His woven world drops back; and he, Sans providence, sans memory, Unconscious and directly driven, Fades to some dank sufficient heaven.
O world of lips, O world of laughter, Where hope is fleet and thought flies after, Of lights in the clear night, of cries That drift along the wave and rise Thin to the glittering stars above, You know the hands, the eyes of love! The strife of limbs, the sightless clinging, The infinite distance, and the singing Blown by the wind, a flame of sound, The gleam, the flowers, and vast around The horizon, and the heights above— You know the sigh, the song of love!
But there the night is close, and there Darkness is cold and strange and bare; And the secret deeps are whisperless; And rhythm is all deliciousness; And joy is in the throbbing tide, Whose intricate fingers beat and glide In felt bewildering harmonies Of trembling touch; and music is The exquisite knocking of the blood. Space is no more, under the mud; His bliss is older than the sun. Silent and straight the waters run, The lights, the cries, the willows dim, And the dark tide are one with him.
TOWN AND COUNTRY
Here, where love's stuff is body, arm and side Are stabbing-sweet 'gainst chair and lamp and wall. In every touch more intimate meanings hide; And flaming brains are the white heart of all.
Here, million pulses to one centre beat: Closed in by men's vast friendliness, alone, Two can be drunk with solitude, and meet On the sheer point where sense with knowing's one.
Here the green-purple clanging royal night, And the straight lines and silent walls of town, And roar, and glare, and dust, and myriad white Undying passers, pinnacle and crown
Intensest heavens between close-lying faces By the lamp's airless fierce ecstatic fire; And we've found love in little hidden places, Under great shades, between the mist and mire.
Stay! though the woods are quiet, and you've heard Night creep along the hedges. Never go Where tangled foliage shrouds the crying bird, And the remote winds sigh, and waters flow!
Lest—as our words fall dumb on windless noons, Or hearts grow hushed and solitary, beneath Unheeding stars and unfamiliar moons, Or boughs bend over, close and quiet as death,—
Unconscious and unpassionate and still, Cloud-like we lean and stare as bright leaves stare, And gradually along the stranger hill Our unwalled loves thin out on vacuous air,
And suddenly there's no meaning in our kiss, And your lit upward face grows, where we lie, Lonelier and dreadfuller than sunlight is, And dumb and mad and eyeless like the sky.
When you were there, and you, and you, Happiness crowned the night; I too, Laughing and looking, one of all, I watched the quivering lamplight fall On plate and flowers and pouring tea And cup and cloth; and they and we Flung all the dancing moments by With jest and glitter. Lip and eye Flashed on the glory, shone and cried, Improvident, unmemoried; And fitfully and like a flame The light of laughter went and came. Proud in their careless transience moved The changing faces that I loved.
Till suddenly, and otherwhence, I looked upon your innocence; For lifted clear and still and strange From the dark woven flow of change Under a vast and starless sky I saw the immortal moment lie. One instant I, an instant, knew As God knows all. And it and you I, above Time, oh, blind! could see In witless immortality. I saw the marble cup; the tea, Hung on the air, an amber stream; I saw the fire's unglittering gleam, The painted flame, the frozen smoke. No more the flooding lamplight broke On flying eyes and lips and hair; But lay, but slept unbroken there, On stiller flesh, and body breathless, And lips and laughter stayed and deathless, And words on which no silence grew. Light was more alive than you.
For suddenly, and otherwhence, I looked on your magnificence. I saw the stillness and the light, And you, august, immortal, white, Holy and strange; and every glint Posture and jest and thought and tint Freed from the mask of transiency, Triumphant in eternity, Immote, immortal.
Dazed at length Human eyes grew, mortal strength Wearied; and Time began to creep. Change closed about me like a sleep. Light glinted on the eyes I loved. The cup was filled. The bodies moved. The drifting petal came to ground. The laughter chimed its perfect round. The broken syllable was ended. And I, so certain and so friended, How could I cloud, or how distress, The heaven of your unconsciousness? Or shake at Time's sufficient spell, Stammering of lights unutterable? The eternal holiness of you, The timeless end, you never knew, The peace that lay, the light that shone. You never knew that I had gone A million miles away, and stayed A million years. The laughter played Unbroken round me; and the jest Flashed on. And we that knew the best Down wonderful hours grew happier yet. I sang at heart, and talked, and eat, And lived from laugh to laugh, I too, When you were there, and you, and you.
* * * * *
GILBERT K. CHESTERTON
THE SONG OF ELF
Blue-eyed was Elf the minstrel, With womanish hair and ring, Yet heavy was his hand on sword, Though light upon the string.
And as he stirred the strings of the harp To notes but four or five, The heart of each man moved in him Like a babe buried alive.
And they felt the land of the folk-songs Spread southward of the Dane, And they heard the good Rhine flowing In the heart of all Allemagne.
They felt the land of the folk-songs, Where the gifts hang on the tree, Where the girls give ale at morning And the tears come easily,
The mighty people, womanlike, That have pleasure in their pain; As he sang of Balder beautiful, Whom the heavens loved in vain.
As he sang of Balder beautiful, Whom the heavens could not save, Till the world was like a sea of tears And every soul a wave.
'There is always a thing forgotten When all the world goes well; A thing forgotten, as long ago When the gods forgot the mistletoe, And soundless as an arrow of snow The arrow of anguish fell.
'The thing on the blind side of the heart, On the wrong side of the door; The green plant groweth, menacing Almighty lovers in the spring; There is always a forgotten thing, And love is not secure.'
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
THE CHILD AND THE MARINER
A dear old couple my grandparents were, And kind to all dumb things; they saw in Heaven The lamb that Jesus petted when a child; Their faith was never draped by Doubt: to them Death was a rainbow in Eternity, That promised everlasting brightness soon. An old seafaring man was he; a rough Old man, but kind; and hairy, like the nut Full of sweet milk. All day on shore he watched The winds for sailors' wives, and told what ships Enjoyed fair weather, and what ships had storms; He watched the sky, and he could tell for sure What afternoons would follow stormy morns, If quiet nights would end wild afternoons. He leapt away from scandal with a roar, And if a whisper still possessed his mind, He walked about and cursed it for a plague. He took offence at Heaven when beggars passed, And sternly called them back to give them help. In this old captain's house I lived, and things That house contained were in ships' cabins once; Sea-shells and charts and pebbles, model ships; Green weeds, dried fishes stuffed, and coral stalks; Old wooden trunks with handles of spliced rope, With copper saucers full of monies strange, That seemed the savings of dead men, not touched To keep them warm since their real owners died; Strings of red beads, methought were dipped in blood, And swinging lamps, as though the house might move; An ivory lighthouse built on ivory rocks, The bones of fishes and three bottled ships. And many a thing was there which sailors make In idle hours, when on long voyages, Of marvellous patience, to no lovely end. And on those charts I saw the small black dots That were called islands, and I knew they had Turtles and palms, and pirates' buried gold. There came a stranger to my granddad's house, The old man's nephew, a seafarer too; A big, strong able man who could have walked Twm Barlum's hill all clad in iron mail; So strong he could have made one man his club To knock down others—Henry was his name, No other name was uttered by his kin. And here he was, insooth illclad, but oh, Thought I, what secrets of the sea are his! This man knows coral islands in the sea, And dusky girls heartbroken for white men; This sailor knows of wondrous lands afar, More rich than Spain, when the Phoenicians shipped Silver for common ballast, and they saw Horses at silver mangers eating grain; This man has seen the wind blow up a mermaid's hair Which, like a golden serpent, reared and stretched To feel the air away beyond her head. He begged my pennies, which I gave with joy— He will most certainly return some time A self-made king of some new land, and rich. Alas that he, the hero of my dreams, Should be his people's scorn; for they had rose To proud command of ships, whilst he had toiled Before the mast for years, and well content; Him they despised, and only Death could bring A likeness in his face to show like them. For he drank all his pay, nor went to sea As long as ale was easy got on shore. Now, in his last long voyage he had sailed From Plymouth Sound to where sweet odours fan The Cingalese at work, and then back home— But came not near his kin till pay was spent. He was not old, yet seemed so; for his face Looked like the drowned man's in the morgue, when it Has struck the wooden wharves and keels of ships. And all his flesh was pricked with Indian ink, His body marked as rare and delicate As dead men struck by lightning under trees, And pictured with fine twigs and curled ferns; Chains on his neck and anchors on his arms; Rings on his fingers, bracelets on his wrist; And on his breast the Jane of Appledore Was schooner rigged, and in full sail at sea. He could not whisper with his strong hoarse voice, No more than could a horse creep quietly; He laughed to scorn the men that muffled close For fear of wind, till all their neck was hid, Like Indian corn wrapped up in long green leaves; He knew no flowers but seaweeds brown and green, He knew no birds but those that followed ships. Full well he knew the water-world; he heard A grander music there than we on land, When organ shakes a church; swore he would make The sea his home, though it was always roused By such wild storms as never leave Cape Horn; Happy to hear the tempest grunt and squeal Like pigs heard dying in a slaughterhouse. A true-born mariner, and this his hope— His coffin would be what his cradle was, A boat to drown in and be sunk at sea; To drown at sea and lie a dainty corpse Salted and iced in Neptune's larder deep. This man despised small coasters, fishing-smacks; He scorned those sailors who at night and morn Can see the coast, when in their little boats They go a six days' voyage and are back Home with their wives for every Sabbath day. Much did he talk of tankards of old beer, And bottled stuff he drank in other lands, Which was a liquid fire like Hell to gulp, But Paradise to sip.
And so he talked; Nor did those people listen with more awe To Lazarus—whom they had seen stone dead— Than did we urchins to that seaman's voice. He many a tale of wonder told: of where, At Argostoli, Cephalonia's sea Ran over the earth's lip in heavy floods; And then again of how the strange Chinese Conversed much as our homely Blackbirds sing. He told us how he sailed in one old ship Near that volcano Martinique, whose power Shook like dry leaves the whole Carribean seas; And made the sun set in a sea of fire Which only half was his; and dust was thick On deck, and stones were pelted at the mast. So, as we walked along, that seaman dropped Into my greedy ears such words that sleep Stood at my pillow half the night perplexed. He told how isles sprang up and sank again, Between short voyages, to his amaze; How they did come and go, and cheated charts; Told how a crew was cursed when one man killed A bird that perched upon a moving barque; And how the sea's sharp needles, firm and strong, Ripped open the bellies of big, iron ships; Of mighty icebergs in the Northern seas, That haunt the far horizon like white ghosts, He told of waves that lift a ship so high That birds could pass from starboard unto port Under her dripping keel.
Oh, it was sweet To hear that seaman tell such wondrous tales: How deep the sea in parts, that drowned men Must go a long way to their graves and sink Day after day, and wander with the tides. He spake of his own deeds; of how he sailed One summer's night along the Bosphorus, And he—who knew no music like the wash Of waves against a ship, or wind in shrouds— Heard then the music on that woody shore Of nightingales, and feared to leave the deck, He thought 'twas sailing into Paradise. To hear these stories all we urchins placed Our pennies in that seaman's ready hand; Until one morn he signed for a long cruise, And sailed away—we never saw him more. Could such a man sink in the sea unknown? Nay, he had found a land with something rich, That kept his eyes turned inland for his life. 'A damn bad sailor and a landshark too, No good in port or out'—my granddad said.
DAYS TOO SHORT
When primroses are out in Spring, And small, blue violets come between; When merry birds sing on boughs green, And rills, as soon as born, must sing;
When butterflies will make side-leaps, As though escaped from Nature's hand Ere perfect quite; and bees will stand Upon their heads in fragrant deeps;
When small clouds are so silvery white Each seems a broken rimmed moon— When such things are, this world too soon, For me, doth wear the veil of Night.
Yes, I will spend the livelong day With Nature in this month of May; And sit beneath the trees, and share My bread with birds whose homes are there; While cows lie down to eat, and sheep Stand to their necks in grass so deep; While birds do sing with all their might, As though they felt the earth in flight. This is the hour I dreamed of, when I sat surrounded by poor men; And thought of how the Arab sat Alone at evening, gazing at The stars that bubbled in clear skies;
And of young dreamers, when their eyes Enjoyed methought a precious boon In the adventures of the Moon Whose light, behind the Clouds' dark bars, Searched for her stolen flocks of stars. When I, hemmed in by wrecks of men, Thought of some lonely cottage then, Full of sweet books; and miles of sea, With passing ships, in front of me; And having, on the other hand, A flowery, green, bird-singing land.
THE HEAP OF RAGS
One night when I went down Thames' side, in London Town, A heap of rags saw I, And sat me down close by. That thing could shout and bawl, But showed no face at all; When any steamer passed And blew a loud shrill blast, That heap of rags would sit And make a sound like it; When struck the clock's deep bell, It made those peals as well. When winds did moan around, It mocked them with that sound; When all was quiet, it Fell into a strange fit; Would sigh, and moan and roar, It laughed, and blessed, and swore. Yet that poor thing, I know, Had neither friend nor foe; Its blessing or its curse Made no one better or worse. I left it in that place— The thing that showed no face, Was it a man that had Suffered till he went mad? So many showers and not One rainbow in the lot; Too many bitter fears To make a pearl from tears.
It was the Rainbow gave thee birth, And left thee all her lovely hues; And, as her mother's name was Tears, So runs it in thy blood to choose For haunts the lonely pools, and keep In company with trees that weep.
Go you and, with such glorious hues, Live with proud Peacocks in green parks; On lawns as smooth as shining glass, Let every feather show its marks; Get thee on boughs and clap thy wings Before the windows of proud kings.
Nay, lovely Bird, thou art not vain; Thou hast no proud, ambitious mind; I also love a quiet place That's green, away from all mankind; A lonely pool, and let a tree Sigh with her bosom over me.
* * * * *
WALTER DE LA MARE
Far are the shades of Arabia, Where the Princes ride at noon, 'Mid the verdurous vales and thickets, Under the ghost of the moon; And so dark is that vaulted purple Flowers in the forest rise And toss into blossom 'gainst the phantom stars Pale in the noonday skies.
Sweet is the music of Arabia In my heart, when out of dreams I still in the thin clear mirk of dawn Descry her gliding streams; Hear her strange lutes on the green banks Ring loud with the grief and delight Of the dim-silked, dark-haired Musicians In the brooding silence of night.
They haunt me—her lutes and her forests; No beauty on earth I see But shadowed with that dream recalls Her loveliness to me: Still eyes look coldly upon me, Cold voices whisper and say— He is crazed with the spell of far Arabia, They have stolen his wits away.'
As Ann came in one summer's day, She felt that she must creep, So silent was the clear cool house, It seemed a house of sleep. And sure, when she pushed open the door, Rapt in the stillness there, Her mother sat, with stooping head, Asleep upon a chair; Fast—fast asleep; her two hands laid Loose-folded on her knee, So that her small unconscious face Looked half unreal to be: So calmly lit with sleep's pale light Each feature was; so fair Her forehead—every trouble was Smooth'd out beneath her hair.
But though her mind in dream now moved, Still seemed her gaze to rest From out beneath her fast-sealed lids, Above her moving breast, On Ann, as quite, quite still she stood; Yet slumber lay so deep Even her hands upon her lap Seemed saturate with sleep. And as Ann peeped, a cloudlike dread Stole over her, and then, On stealthy, mouselike feet she trod, And tiptoed out again.
Dark frost was in the air without, The dusk was still with cold and gloom, When less than even a shadow came And stood within the room.
But of the three around the fire, None turned a questioning head to look, Still read a clear voice, on and on, Still stooped they o'er their book.
The children watched their mother's eyes Moving on softly line to line; It seemed to listen too—that shade, Yet made no outward sign.
The fire-flames crooned a tiny song, No cold wind moved the wintry tree; The children both in Faerie dreamed Beside their mother's knee.
And nearer yet that spirit drew Above that heedless one, intent Only on what the simple words Of her small story meant.
No voiceless sorrow grieved her mind, No memory her bosom stirred, Nor dreamed she, as she read to two, 'Twas surely three who heard.
Yet when, the story done, she smiled From face to face, serene and clear, A love, half dread, sprang up, as she Leaned close and drew them near.
When thin-strewn memory I look through, I see most clearly poor Miss Loo, Her tabby cat, her cage of birds, Her nose, her hair—her muffled words, And how she'd open her green eyes, As if in some immense surprise, Whenever as we sat at tea, She made some small remark to me.
It's always drowsy summer when From out the past she comes again; The westering sunshine in a pool Floats in her parlour still and cool; While the slim bird its lean wires shakes, As into piercing song it breaks; Till Peter's pale-green eyes ajar Dream, wake; wake, dream, in one brief bar; And I am sitting, dull and shy, And she with gaze of vacancy, And large hands folded on the tray, Musing the afternoon away; Her satin bosom heaving slow With sighs that softly ebb and flow, And her plain face in such dismay, It seems unkind to look her way: Until all cheerful back will come Her cheerful gleaming spirit home: And one would think that poor Miss Loo Asked nothing else, if she had you.
'Is there anybody there?' said the Traveller, Knocking on the moonlit door; And his horse in the silence champed the grasses Of the forest's ferny floor: And a bird flew up out of the turret, Above the Traveller's head: And he smote upon the door again a second time; 'Is there anybody there?' he said. But no one descended to the Traveller; No head from the leaf-fringed sill Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes, Where he stood perplexed and still. But only a host of phantom listeners That dwelt in the lone house then Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight To that voice from the world of men: Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair, That goes down to the empty hall, Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken By the lonely Traveller's call. And he felt in his heart their strangeness, Their stillness answering his cry, While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf, 'Neath the starred and leafy sky; For he suddenly smote on the door, even Louder, and lifted his head:— 'Tell them I came, and no one answered, That I kept my word,' he said. Never the least stir made the listeners, Though every word he spake Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house From the one man left awake: Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup, And the sound of iron on stone, And how the silence surged softly backward, When the plunging hoofs were gone.
* * * * *
THE FIRES OF GOD
Time gathers to my name; Along the ways wheredown my feet have passed I see the years with little triumph crowned, Exulting not for perils dared, downcast And weary-eyed and desolate for shame Of having been unstirred of all the sound Of the deep music of the men that move Through the world's days in suffering and love.
Poor barren years that brooded over-much On your own burden, pale and stricken years— Go down to your oblivion, we part With no reproach or ceremonial tears. Henceforth my hands are lifted to the touch Of hands that labour with me, and my heart Hereafter to the world's heart shall be set And its own pain forget. Time gathers to my name— Days dead are dark; the days to be, a flame Of wonder and of promise, and great cries Of travelling people reach me—I must rise.
Was I not man? Could I not rise alone Above the shifting of the things that be, Rise to the crest of all the stars and see The ways of all the world as from a throne? Was I not man, with proud imperial will To cancel all the secrets of high heaven? Should not my sole unbridled purpose fill All hidden paths with light when once was riven God's veil by my indomitable will? So dreamt I, little man of little vision, Great only in unconsecrated pride; Man's pity grew from pity to derision, And still I thought, 'Albeit they deride, Yet is it mine uncharted ways to dare Unknown to these, And they shall stumble darkly, unaware Of solemn mysteries Whereof the key is mine alone to bear.'
So I forgot my God, and I forgot The holy sweet communion of men, And moved in desolate places, where are not Meek hands held out with patient healing when The hours are heavy with uncharitable pain; No company but vain And arrogant thoughts were with me at my side. And ever to myself I lied, Saying 'Apart from all men thus I go To know the things that they may never know.'
Then a great change befell: Long time I stood In witless hardihood With eyes on one sole changeless vision set— The deep disturbed fret Of men who made brief tarrying in hell On their earth-travelling. It was as though the lives of men should be Set circle-wise, whereof one little span Through which all passed was blackened with the wing Of perilous evil, bateless misery. But all beyond, making the whole complete O'er which the travelling feet Of every man Made way or ever he might come to death, Was odorous with the breath Of honey-laden flowers, and alive With sacrificial ministrations sweet Of man to man, and swift and holy loves, And large heroic hopes, whereby should thrive Man's spirit as he moves From dawn of life to the great dawn of death. It was as though mine eyes were set alone Upon that woeful passage of despair, Until I held that life had never known Dominion but in this most troubled place Where many a ruined grace And many a friendless care Ran to and fro in sorrowful unrest. Still in my hand I pressed Hope's fragile chalice, whence I drew deep draughts Shaping belief that even yet should grow Out of this dread confusion, as of broken crafts Driven along ungovernable seas, Some threads of order, and that I should know After long vigil all the mysteries Of human wonder and of human fate.
O fool, O only great In pride unhallowed, O most blind of heart! Confusion but more dark confusion bred, Grief nurtured grief, I cried aloud and said, 'Through trackless ways the soul of man is hurled, No sign upon the forehead of the skies, No beacon, and no chart Are given to him, and the inscrutable world But mocks his scars and fills his mouth with dust.'
'And lies bore lies And lust bore lust, And the world was heavy with flowerless rods, And pride outran The strength of a man Who had set himself in the place of gods'.
Soon was I then to gather bitter shame Of spirit, I had been most wildly proud— Yet in my pride had been Some little courage, formless as a cloud, Unpiloted save by the vagrant wind, But still an earnest of the bonds that tame The legionary hates, of sacred loves that lean From the high soul of man towards his kind. And all my grief Had been for those I watched go to and fro In uncompassioned woe Along that little span my unbelief Had fashioned in my vision as all life. Now even this so little virtue waned, For I became caught up into the strife That I had pitied, and my soul was stained At last by that most venomous despair, Self-pity. I no longer was aware Of any will to heal the world's unrest, I suffered as it suffered, and I grew Troubled in all my daily trafficking, Not with the large heroic trouble known By proud adventurous men who would atone With their own passionate pity for the sting And anguish of a world of peril and snares; It was the trouble of a soul in thrall To mean despairs, Driven about a waste where neither fall Of words from lips of love, nor consolation Of grave eyes comforting, nor ministration Of hand or heart could pierce the deadly wall Of self—of self,—I was a living shame— A broken purpose. I had stood apart With pride rebellious and defiant heart, And now my pride had perished in the flame. I cried for succour as a little child Might supplicate whose days are undefiled— For tutored pride and innocence are one.
'To the gloom has won A gleam of the sun And into the barren desolate ways A scent is blown As of meadows mown By cooling rivers in clover days'.
I turned me from that place in humble wise, And fingers soft were laid upon mine eyes, And I beheld the fruitful earth, with store Of odorous treasure, full and golden grain, Ripe orchard bounty, slender stalks that bore Their flowered beauty with a meek content, The prosperous leaves that loved the sun and rain, Shy creatures unreproved that came and went In garrulous joy among the fostering green. And, over all, the changes of the day And ordered year their mutable glory laid— Expectant winter soberly arrayed, The prudent diligent spring whose eyes have seen The beauty of the roses uncreate, Imperial June, magnificent, elate Beholding all the ripening loves that stray Among her blossoms, and the golden time Of the full ear and bounty of the boughs,— And the great hills and solemn chanting seas And prodigal meadows, answering to the chime Of God's good year, and bearing on their brows The glory of processional mysteries From dawn to dawn, the woven shadow and shine Of the high moon, the twilight secrecies, And the inscrutable wonder of the stars Flung out along the reaches of the night.
'And, the ancient might Of the binding bars Waned, as I woke to a new desire For the choric song Of exultant, strong Earth-passionate men with souls of fire'.
'Twas given me to hear. As I beheld— With a new wisdom, tranquil, asking not For mystic revelation—this glory long forgot, This re-discovered triumph of the earth In high creative will and beauty's pride Established beyond the assaulting years, It came to me, a music that compelled Surrender of all tributary fears, Full-throated, fierce and rhythmic with the wide Beat of the pilgrim winds and labouring seas, Sent up from all the harbouring ways of earth Wherein the travelling feet of men have trod, Mounting the firmamental silences And challenging the golden gates of God. 'We bear the burden of the years Clean-limbed, clear-hearted, open-browed; Albeit sacramental tears Have dimmed our eyes, we know the proud Content of men who sweep unbowed Before the legionary fears; In sorrow we have grown to be The masters of adversity.
Long ere from immanent silence leapt Obedient hands and fashioning will, The giant god within us slept, And dreamt of seasons to fulfil The shaping of our souls that still Expectant earthward vigil kept; Our wisdom grew from secrets drawn From that far-off dim-memoried dawn.
Wise of the storied ages we, Of perils dared and crosses borne, Of heroes bound by no decree Of laws defiled or faiths outworn, Of poets who have held in scorn All mean and tyrannous things that be; We prophesy with lips that sped The songs of the prophetic dead.
Wise of the brief beloved span Of this our glad earth-travelling, Of beauty's bloom and ordered plan, Of love and love's compassioning, Of all the dear delights that spring From man's communion with man; We cherish every hour that strays Adown the cataract of the days.' 'We see the dear untroubled skies, We see the glory of the rose, And, laugh, nor grieve that clouds will rise And wax with every wind that blows, Nor that the blossoming time will close, For beauty seen of humble eyes Immortal habitation has Though beauty's form may pale and pass.
Wise of the great unshapen age, To which we move with measured tread All girt with passionate truth to wage High battle for the word unsaid, The song unsung, the cause unled, The freedom that no hope can gauge; Strong-armed, sure-footed, iron-willed We sift and weave, we break and build.
Into one hour we gather all The years gone down, the years unwrought, Upon our ears brave measures fall Across uncharted spaces brought, Upon our lips the words are caught Wherewith the dead the unborn call; From love to love, from height to height We press and none may curb our might.'
O blessed voices, O compassionate hands, Calling and healing, O great-hearted brothers! I come to you. Ring out across the lands Your benediction, and I too will sing With you, and haply kindle in another's Dark desolate hour the flame you stirred in me. O bountiful earth, in adoration meet I bow to you; O glory of years to be, I too will labour to your fashioning. Go down, go down, unweariable feet, Together we will march towards the ways Wherein the marshalled hosts of morning wait In sleepless watch, with banners wide unfurled Across the skies in ceremonial state, To greet the men who lived triumphant days, And stormed the secret beauty of the world.
* * * * *
JAMES ELROY FLECKER
JOSEPH AND MARY
Mary, art thou the little maid Who plucked me flowers in Spring? I know thee not; I feel afraid: Thou'rt strange this evening.
A sweet and rustic girl I won What time the woods were green; No woman with deep eyes that shone, And the pale brows of a Queen.
Mary: (inattentive to his words)
A stranger came with feet of flame And told me this strange thing,— For all I was a village maid My son should be a King.
A King, dear wife? Who ever knew Of Kings in stables born!
Do you hear, in the dark and starlit blue The clarion and the horn?
Mary, alas, lest grief and joy Have sent thy wits astray; But let me look on this my boy, And take the wraps away.
Behold the lad.
I dare not gaze: Light streams from every limb.
The winter sun has stored his rays, And passed the fire to him.
Look Eastward, look! I hear a sound. O Joseph, what do you see?
The snow lies quiet on the ground And glistens on the tree;
The sky is bright with a star's great light, And clearly I behold Three Kings descending yonder hill, Whose crowns are crowns of gold.
O Mary, what do you hear and see With your brow toward the West?
The snow lies glistening on the tree And silent on Earth's breast;
And strong and tall, with lifted eyes Seven shepherds walk this way, And angels breaking from the skies Dance, and sing hymns, and pray.
I wonder much at these bright Kings; The shepherds I despise.
You know not what a shepherd sings, Nor see his shining eyes.
THE QUEEN'S SONG
Had I the power To Midas given of old To touch a flower And leave the petals gold, I then might touch thy face, Delightful boy, And leave a metal grace, A graven joy.
Thus would I slay— Ah, desperate device! The vital day That trembles in thine eyes, And let the red lips close Which sang so well, And drive away the rose To leave a shell.
Then I myself, Rising austere and dumb, On the high shelf Of my half-lighted room, Would place the shining bust And wait alone, Until I was but dust, Buried unknown.
Thus in my love For nations yet unborn, I would remove From our two lives the morn, And muse on loveliness In mine armchair, Content should Time confess How sweet you were.
* * * * *
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
My hands were hot upon a hare, Half-strangled, struggling in a snare—- My knuckles at her warm wind-pipe— When suddenly, her eyes shot back, Big, fearful, staggering and black; And ere I knew, my grip was slack; And I was clutching empty air, Half-mad, half-glad at my lost luck ... When I awoke beside the stack.
'Twas just the minute when the snipe As though clock-wakened, every jack, An hour ere dawn, dart in and out The mist-wreaths filling syke and slack, And flutter wheeling round about, And drumming out the Summer night. I lay star-gazing yet a bit; Then, chilly-skinned, I sat upright, To shrug the shivers from my back; And, drawing out a straw to suck, My teeth nipped through it at a bite ... The liveliest lad is out of pluck An hour ere dawn—a tame cock-sparrow— When cold stars shiver through his marrow, And wet mist soaks his mother-wit.
But, as the snipe dropped, one by one; And one by one the stars blinked out; I knew 'twould only need the sun To send the shudders right about: And as the clear East faded white, I watched and wearied for the sun— The jolly, welcome, friendly sun— The sleepy sluggard of a sun That still kept snoozing out of sight, Though well he knew the night was done ... And after all, he caught me dozing, And leapt up, laughing, in the sky Just as my lazy eyes were closing: And it was good as gold to lie Full-length among the straw, and feel The day wax warmer every minute, As, glowing glad, from head to heel. I soaked, and rolled rejoicing in it ... When from, the corner of my eye, Upon a heathery knowe hard-by, With long lugs cocked, and eyes astare, Yet all serene, I saw a hare.
Upon my belly in the straw, I lay, and watched her sleek her fur, As, daintily, with well-licked paw, She washed her face and neck and ears: Then, clean and comely in the sun, She kicked her heels up, full of fun, As if she did not care a pin Though she should jump out of her skin, And leapt and lolloped, free of fears, Until my heart frisked round with her.
'And yet, if I but lift my head, You'll scamper off, young Puss,' I said. 'Still, I can't lie, and watch you play, Upon my belly half the day. The Lord alone knows where I'm going: But, I had best be getting there. Last night I loosed you from the snare— Asleep, or waking, who's for knowing!— So, I shall thank you now for showing Which art to take to bring me where My luck awaits me. When you're ready To start, I'll follow on your track. Though slow of foot, I'm sure and steady ...' She pricked her ears, then set them back; And like a shot was out of sight: And, with a happy heart and light, As quickly I was on my feet; And following the way she went, Keen as a lurcher on the scent, Across the heather and the bent, Across the quaking moss and peat. Of course, I lost her soon enough, For moorland tracks are steep and rough; And hares are made of nimbler stuff Than any lad of seventeen, However lanky-legged and tough, However kestrel-eyed and keen: And I'd at last to stop and eat The little bit of bread and meat Left in my pocket overnight. So, in a hollow, snug and green, I sat beside a burn, and dipped The dry bread in an icy pool; And munched a breakfast fresh and cool ... And then sat gaping like a fool ... For, right before my very eyes, With lugs acock and eyes astare, I saw again the selfsame hare.
So, up I jumped, and off she slipped; And I kept sight of her until I stumbled in a hole, and tripped, And came a heavy, headlong spill; And she, ere I'd the wit to rise, Was o'er the hill, and out of sight: And, sore and shaken with the tumbling, And sicker at my foot for stumbling, I cursed my luck, and went on, grumbling, The way her flying heels had fled.
The sky was cloudless overhead, And just alive with larks asinging; And in a twinkling I was swinging Across the windy hills, lighthearted. A kestrel at my footstep started, Just pouncing on a frightened mouse, And hung o'er head with wings a-hover; Through rustling heath an adder darted: A hundred rabbits bobbed to cover: A weasel, sleek and rusty-red, Popped out of sight as quick as winking: I saw a grizzled vixen slinking Behind a clucking brood of grouse That rose and cackled at my coming: And all about my way were flying The peewit, with their slow wings creaking; And little jack-snipe darted, drumming: And now and then a golden plover Or redshank piped with reedy whistle. But never shaken bent or thistle Betrayed the quarry I was seeking; And not an instant, anywhere Did I clap eyes upon a hare.
So, travelling still, the twilight caught me; And as I stumbled on, I muttered: 'A deal of luck the hare has brought me! The wind and I must spend together A hungry night among the heather. If I'd her here ...' And as I uttered, I tripped, and heard a frightened squeal; And dropped my hands in time to feel The hare just bolting 'twixt my feet. She slipped my clutch: and I stood there And cursed that devil-littered hare, That left me stranded in the dark In that wide waste of quaggy peat Beneath black night without a spark: When, looking up, I saw a flare Upon a far-off hill, and said: 'By God, the heather is afire! It's mischief at this time of year ...' And then, as one bright flame shot higher, And booths and vans stood out quite clear, My wits came back into my head; And I remembered Brough Hill Fair. And as I stumbled towards the glare I knew the sudden kindling meant The Fair was over for the day; And all the cattle-folk away; And gipsy folk and tinkers now Were lighting supper-fires without Each caravan and booth and tent. And as I climbed the stiff hill-brow I quite forgot my lucky hare. I'd something else to think about: For well I knew there's broken meat For empty bellies after fair-time; And looked to have a royal rare time With something rich and prime to eat; And then to lie and toast my feet All night beside the biggest fire. But, even as I neared the first, A pleasant whiff of stewing burst From out a smoking pot a-bubble: And as I stopped behind the folk Who sprawled around, and watched it seething, A woman heard my eager breathing, And, turning, caught my hungry eye: And called out to me: 'Draw in nigher, Unless you find it too much trouble; Or you've a nose for better fare, And go to supper with the Squire ... You've got the hungry parson's air!' And all looked up, and took the joke, As I dropped gladly to the ground Among them, where they all lay gazing Upon the bubbling and the blazing. My eyes were dazzled by the fire At first; and then I glanced around; And in those swarthy, fire-lit faces— Though drowsing in the glare and heat And snuffing the warm savour in, Dead-certain of their fill of meat— I felt the bit between the teeth, The flying heels, the broken traces, And heard the highroad ring beneath The trampling hoofs; and knew them kin. Then for the first time, standing there Behind the woman who had hailed me, I saw a girl with eyes astare That looked in terror o'er my head; And, all at once, my courage failed me ... For now again, and sore-adread, My hands were hot upon a hare, That struggled, strangling in the snare ... Then once more as the girl stood clear, Before me—quaking cold with fear— I saw the hare look from her eyes ...
And when, at last, I turned to see What held her scared, I saw a man— A fat man with dull eyes aleer— Within the shadow of the van; And I was on the point to rise To send him spinning 'mid the wheels And stop his leering grin with mud ... And would have done it in a tick ... When, suddenly, alive with fright, She started, with red, parted lips, As though she guessed we'd come to grips, And turned her black eyes full on me ... And as I looked into their light My heart forgot the lust of fight, And something shot me to the quick, And ran like wildfire through my blood, And tingled to my finger-tips ... And, in a dazzling flash, I knew I'd never been alive before ... And she was mine for evermore.
While all the others slept asnore In caravan and tent that night, I lay alone beside the fire; And stared into its blazing core, With eyes that would not shut or tire, Because the best of all was true, And they looked still into the light Of her eyes, burning ever bright. Within the brightest coal for me ... Once more, I saw her, as she started, And glanced at me with red lips parted: And as she looked, the frightened hare Had fled her eyes; and merrily, She smiled, with fine teeth flashing white, As though she, too, were happy-hearted ... Then she had trembled suddenly, And dropped her eyes, as that fat man Stepped from the shadow of the van, And joined the circle, as the pot Was lifted off, and, piping-hot, The supper steamed in wooden bowls. Yet, she had hardly touched a bite; And never raised her eyes all night To mine again; but on the coals, As I sat staring, she had stared— The black curls, shining round her head From under the red kerchief, tied So nattily beneath her chin— And she had stolen off to bed Quite early, looking dazed and scared. Then, all agape and sleepy-eyed, Ere long the others had turned in: And I was rid of that fat man, Who slouched away to his own van.
And now, before her van, I lay, With sleepless eyes, awaiting day; And as I gazed upon the glare I heard, behind, a gentle stir: And, turning round, I looked on her Where she stood on the little stair Outside the van, with listening air— And, in her eyes, the hunted hare ... And then, I saw her slip away, A bundle underneath her arm, Without a single glance at me. I lay a moment wondering, My heart a-thump like anything, Then, fearing she should come to harm, I rose, and followed speedily Where she had vanished in the night. And as she heard my step behind She started, and stopt dead with fright; Then blundered on as if struck blind: And now as I caught up with her, Just as she took the moorland track, I saw the hare's eyes, big and black ... She made as though she'd double back ... But when she looked into my eyes, She stood quite still and did not stir ... And picking up her fallen pack I tucked it 'neath my arm; and she Just took her luck quite quietly, As she must take what chance might come, And would not have it otherwise, And walked into the night with me, Without a word across the fells.
And all about us, through the night, The mists were stealing, cold and white, Down every rushy syke or slack: But, soon the moon swung into sight; And as we went my heart was light. And singing like a burn in flood: And in my ears were tinkling bells; My body was a rattled drum: And fifes were shrilling through my blood That summer night, to think that she Was walking through the world with me.
But when the air with dawn was chill. As we were travelling down a hill, She broke her silence with low-sobbing; And told her tale, her bosom throbbing As though her very heart were shaken With fear she'd yet be overtaken ... She'd always lived in caravans— Her father's, gay as any man's, Grass-green, picked out with red and yellow And glittering brave with burnished brass That sparkled in the sun like flame, And window curtains, white as snow ... But, they had died, ten years ago, Her parents both, when fever came ... And they were buried, side by side. Somewhere beneath the wayside grass ... In times of sickness, they kept wide Of towns and busybodies, so No parson's or policeman's tricks Should bother them when in a fix ... Her father never could abide A black coat or a blue, poor man ... And so, Long Dick, a kindly fellow, When you could keep him from the can, And Meg, his easy-going wife, Had taken her into their van; And kept her since her parents died ... And she had lived a happy life, Until Fat Pete's young wife was taken ... But, ever since, he'd pestered her ... And she dared scarcely breathe or stir, Lest she should see his eyes aleer ... And many a night she'd lain and shaken, And very nearly died of fear— Though safe enough within the van With Mother Meg and her good-man— For, since Fat Pete was Long Dick's friend, And they were thick and sweet as honey, And Dick owed Pete a pot of money, She knew too well how it must end ... And she would rather lie stone dead Beneath the wayside grass than wed With leering Pete, and live the life, And die the death, of his first wife ... And so, last night, clean-daft with dread, She'd bundled up a pack and fled ...
When all the sobbing tale was out, She dried her eyes, and looked about, As though she'd left all fear behind, And out of sight were out of mind, Then, when the dawn was burning red, 'I'm hungry as a hawk!' she said: And from the bundle took out bread, And at the happy end of night We sat together by a burn: And ate a thick slice, turn by turn; And laughed and kissed between each bite.
Then, up again, and on our way We went; and tramped the livelong day The moorland trackways, steep and rough, Though there was little fear enough That they would follow on our flight.
And then again a shiny night Among the honey-scented heather, We wandered in the moonblaze bright, Together through a land of light, A lad and lass alone with life. And merrily we laughed together, When, starting up from sleep, we heard The cock-grouse talking to his wife ... And 'Old Fat Pete' she called the bird.
Six months and more have cantered by: And, Winter past, we're out again— We've left the fat and weatherwise To keep their coops and reeking sties. And eat their fill of oven-pies, While we win free and out again To take potluck beneath the sky With sun and moon and wind and rain. Six happy months ... and yet, at night, I've often wakened in affright, And looked upon her lying there, Beside me sleeping quietly, Adread that when she waked, I'd see The hunted hare within her eyes.
And only last night, as I slept Beneath the shelter of a stack ... My hands were hot upon a hare, Half-strangled, struggling in the snare, When, suddenly, her eyes shot back, Big, fearful, staggering and black; And ere I knew, my grip was slack, And I was clutching empty air ... Bolt-upright from my sleep I leapt ... Her place was empty in the straw ... And then, with quaking heart, I saw That she was standing in the night, A leveret cuddled to her breast ...
I spoke no word; but as the light Through banks of Eastern cloud was breaking, She turned, and saw that I was waking: And told me how she could not rest; And, rising in the night, she'd found This baby-hare crouched on the ground; And she had nursed it quite a while; But, now, she'd better let it go ... Its mother would be fretting so ... A mother's heart ... I saw her smile, And look at me with tender eyes; And as I looked into their light, My foolish, fearful heart grew wise ... And now, I knew that never there I'd see again the startled hare, Or need to dread the dreams of night.
Stuck in a bottle on the window-sill, In the cold gaslight burning gaily red Against the luminous blue of London night, These flowers are mine: while somewhere out of sight In some black-throated alley's stench and heat, Oblivious of the racket of the street, A poor old weary woman lies in bed.
Broken with lust and drink, blear-eyed and ill, Her battered bonnet nodding on her head, From a dark arch she clutched my sleeve and said: 'I've sold no bunch to-day, nor touched a bite ... Son, buy six-pennorth; and 't will mean a bed.'