EDITED BY SIR EDWARD MARSH
THE POETRY BOOKSHOP 35 Devonshire Street Theobalds Road W.C.1 MCMXX
This is the fourth volume of the present series. I hope it may be thought to show that what for want of a better word is called Peace has not interfered with the writing of good poetry.
Thanks and acknowledgements are due to Messrs. Beaumont, Blackwell, Collins, Constable, Fifield, Heinemann, Seeker, Selwyn & Blount, and Sidgwick & Jackson; and to the Editors of 'The Anglo-French Review', 'The Athenum', 'The Chapbook', 'Land and Water', 'The Nation', 'The New Statesman', 'The New Witness', 'The New World', 'The Owl', 'The Spectator', 'To-day', 'Voices', and 'The Westminster Gazette'.
Witchcraft: New Style
FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG
Invocation (from 'Poems') Prothalamion February Lochanilaun Lettermore Song The Leaning Elm
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
Lovely Dames (from 'Forty New Poems') When Yon Full Moon On Hearing Mrs. Woodhouse Play the Harpsichord Birds Oh, Sweet Content! A Child's Pet England (from 'Forty New Poems') The Bell
WALTER DE LA MARE
The Sunken Garden (from 'Motley') Moonlight The Tryst The Linnet The Veil The Three Strangers (from 'Motley') The Old Men Fare Well
Deer (from 'Loyalties') Moonlit Apples (from 'Tides') Southampton Bells (from 'Loyalties') Chorus (from 'Lincoln') Habitation (from 'Loyalties') Passage
O Muse Divine The Wakers (from 'Memories of Childhood') The Body Ten O'clock No More The Fugitive The Alde Nearness Night and Night The Herd
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
Wings (from 'Home') The Parrots The Cakewalk Driftwood Quiet (from 'Home') Reveille
A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme (from 'Country Sentiment') A Frosty Night True Johnny The Cupboard The Voice of Beauty Drowned Rocky Acres
D. H. LAWRENCE
Seven Seals (from 'New Poems')
Gravity Goldfish Dog The Nightingale Near the House Man Carrying Bale
For Bessie in the Garden 'Truly he hath a Sweet Bed' Lovers' Lane
The Sprig of Lime Seventeen The Stranger 'O Nightingale my Heart' The Pilgrim
J. D. C. FELLOW
Sick Leave (from 'War Poems') Banishment Repression of War Experience Does it Matter Concert Party Songbooks of the War The Portrait Thrushes (from 'War Poems') Everyone Sang
A Night-Piece (from 'The Queen of China') In Absence The Glow-worm The Cataclysm A Hollow Elm Fte Galante (from 'The Queen of China') Song
A Dream in Early Spring (from 'Dreams and Journeys') The World The New Ghost A Man Dreams that he is the Creator
J. C. SQUIRE
Rivers (from 'Poems, First Series') Epitaph in Old Mode Sonnet (from 'Poems, First Series') The Birds (from 'The Birds and other Poems')
W. J. TURNER
Silence (from 'The Dark Fire') Kent in War Talking with Soldiers Song The Princess Peace Death
WITCHCRAFT: NEW STYLE
The sun drew off at last his piercing fires. Over the stale warm air, dull as a pond And moveless in the grey quieted street, Blue magic of a summer evening glowed. The sky, that had been dazzling stone all day, Hollowed in smooth hard brightness, now dissolved To infinite soft depth, and smoulder'd down Low as the roofs, dark burning blue, and soared Clear to that winking drop of liquid silver, The first exquisite star. Now the half-light Tidied away the dusty litter parching Among the cobbles, veiled in the colour of distance Shabby slates and brickwork mouldering, turn'd The hunchback houses into patient things Resting; and golden windows now began.
A little brisk grey slattern of a woman, Pattering along in her loose-heel'd clogs, Pushed the brass-barr'd door of a public-house; The spring went hard against her; hand and knee Shoved their weak best. As the door poised ajar, Hullabaloo of talking men burst out, A pouring babble of inflamed palaver, And overriding it and shouted down High words, jeering or downright, broken like Crests that leap and stumble in rushing water. Just as the door went wide and she stepped in, 'She cannot do it!' one was bawling out: A glaring hulk of flesh with a bull's voice. He finger'd with his neckerchief, and stretched His throat to ease the anger of dispute, Then spat to put a full stop to the matter.
The little woman waited, with one hand Propping the door, and smiled at the loud man. They saw her then; and the sight was enough To gag the speech of every drinker there: The din fell down like something chopt off short. Blank they all wheel'd towards her, with their mouths Still gaping as though full of voiceless words. She let the door slam to; and all at ease, Amused, her smile wrinkling about her eyes, Went forward: they made room for her quick enough. Her chin just topt the counter; she gave in Her bottle to the potboy, tuckt it back, Full of bright tawny ale, under her arm, Rapt down the coppers on the planisht zinc, And turned: and no word spoken all the while.
The first voice, in that silent crowd, was hers, Her light snickering laugh, as she stood there Pausing, scanning the sawdust at her feet. Then she switcht round and faced the positive man Whose strong 'She cannot do it!' all still felt Huskily shouting in their guilty ears.
'She can't, eh? She can't do it? '—Then she'd heard!
The man, inside his ruddy insolent flesh, Had hoped she did not hear. His barrel chest Gave a slight cringe, as though the glint of her eyes Prickt him. But he stood up to her awkwardly bold, One elbow on the counter, gripping his mug Like a man holding on to a post for safety.
You can't do what's not nature: nobody can.
And louts like you have nature in your pocket?
I don't say that—
If you kept saying naught, No one would guess the fool you are.
Almost My very words!
O you're the knowing man! The spark among the cinders!
You can't fetch A free man back, unless he wants to come.
Nay, I'll be bound he doesn't want to come!
And he won't come: he told me flat he wouldn't.
Are you there too?
And if he does come back It will be devilry brought him.
I shall bring him;— Tonight.
How will he come?
Running: unless He's broke his leg, and then he'll have to come Crawling: but he will come.
How do you know What he may choose to do, three counties off?
You haven't got him on a lead.
Haven't I though!
That's right; it's what I said.
Ay, there are brains in your family.
You have Some sort of pull on him, to draw him home?
You may say that: I have hold of his mind. And I can slack it off or fetch it taut. And make him dance a score of miles away An answer to the least twangling thrum I play on it. He thought he lurkt at last Safely; and all the while, what has he been? An eel on the end of a night line; and it's time I haul'd him in. You'll see, to-night I'll land him.
Bragging's a light job.
You daren't let me take Your eyes in mine!—Haul, did I say? no need: I give his mind a twitch, and up he comes Tumbling home to me. Whatever work he's at, He drops the thing he holds like redhot iron And runs—runs till he falls down like a beast Pole-axt, and grunts for breath; then up and on, No matter does he know the road or not: The strain I put on his mind will keep him going Right as a homing-pigeon.
Devilry I call it.
And you're welcome.
But the law should have a say here.
What, isn't he mine, My own? There's naught but what I please about it.
Why did you let him go?
To fetch him back! For I enjoy this, mind. There's many a one Would think, to see me, There goes misery! There's a queer starveling for you!—and I do A thing that makes me like a saint in glory, The life of me the sound of a great tune Your flesh could never hear: I can send power Delighting out of me! O, the mere thought Has made my blood go smarting in my veins, Such a flame glowing along it!—And all the same I'll pay him out for sidling off from me. But I'll have supper first.
When she was gone, Their talk could scarcely raise itself again Above a grumble. But at last a cry Sharp-pitcht came startling in from the street: at once Their moody talk exploded into flare Of swearing hubbub, like gunpowder dropt On embers; mugs were clapt down, out they bolted Rowdily jostling, eager for the event.
All down the street the folk throng'd out of doors, But left a narrow track clear in the middle; And there a man came running, a tall man Running desperately and slowly, pounding Like a machine, so evenly, so blindly; And regularly his trotting body wagg'd. Only one foot clatter'd upon the stones; The other padded in his dogged stride: The boot was gone, the sock hung frayed in shreds About his ankle, the foot was blood and earth; And never a limp, not the least flinch, to tell The wounded pulp hit stone at every step. His clothes were tatter'd and his rent skin showed, Harrowed with thorns. His face was pale as putty, Thrown far back; clots of drooping spittle foamed On his moustache, and his hair hung in tails, Mired with sweat; and sightless in their sockets His eyeballs turned up white, as dull as pebbles. Evenly and doggedly he trotted, And as he went he moaned. Then out of sight Round a corner he swerved, and out of hearing.
—'The law should have a say to that, by God!'
* * * * *
(To J.S. and A.W.S.)
In entering the town, where the bright river Shrinks in its white stone bed, old thoughts return Of how a quiet queen was nurtured here In the pale, shadowed ruin on the height; Of how, when the hoar town was new and clean And had not grown a part of the gaunt fells That peered down into it, the burghers wove On their small, fireside looms green, famous webs To cling on lissome, tower-dwelling ladies Who rode the hills swaying like green saplings, Or mask tall, hardy outlaws from pursuit Down beechen caverns and green under-lights, (The rude, vain looms are gone, their beams are broken; Their webs are now not seen, but memory Still tangles in their mesh the dews they swept Like ruby sparks, the lights they took, the scents They held, the movement of their shapes and shades); Of how the Border burners in cold dawns Of Summer hurried North up the high vales Past smoking farmsteads that had lit the night And surf of crowding cattle; and of how A laughing prince of cursed, impossible hopes Rode through the little streets Northward to battle And to defeat, to be a fading thought, Belated in dead mountains of romance.
A carver at his bench in a high gable Hears the sharp stream close under, far below Tinkle and rustle, and no other sound Arises there to him to change his thoughts Of the changed, silent town and the dead hands That made it and maintained it, and the need For handiwork and happy work and work To use and ease the mind if such sweet towns Are to be built again or live again.
The long town ends at Littleholme, where the road Creeps up to hills of ancient-looking stone. Under the hanging eaves at Littleholme A latticed casement peeps above still gardens Into a crown of druid-solemn trees Upon a knoll as high as a small house, A shapely mound made so by nameless men Whose smoothing touch yet shows through the green hide. When the slow moonlight drips from leaf to leaf Of that sharp, plumy gloom, and the hour comes When something seems awaited, though unknown, There should appear between those leaf-thatched piles Fresh, long-limbed women striding easily, And men whose hair-plaits swing with their shagged arms; Returning in that equal, echoed light Which does not measure time to the dear garths That were their own when from white Norway coasts They landed on a kind, not distant shore, And to the place where they have left their clothing, Their long-accustomed bones and hair and beds That once were pleasant to them, in that barrow Their vanished children heaped above them dead: For in the soundless stillness of hot noon The mind of man, noticeable in that knoll, Enhances its dark presence with a life More vivid and more actual than the life Of self-sown trees and untouched earth. It is seen What aspect this land had in those first eyes: In that regard the works of later men Fall in and sink like lime when it is slaked, Staid, youthful queen and weavers are unborn, And the new crags the Northmen saw are set About an earth that has not been misused.
* * * * *
FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG
Whither, O, my sweet mistress, must I follow thee? For when I hear thy distant footfall nearing, And wait on thy appearing, Lo! my lips are silent: no words come to me.
Once I waylaid thee in green forest covers, Hoping that spring might free my lips with gentle fingers; Alas! her presence lingers No longer than on the plain the shadow of brown kestrel hovers.
Through windless ways of the night my spirit followed after; Cold and remote were they, and there, possessed By a strange unworldly rest, Awaiting thy still voice heard only starry laughter.
The pillared halls of sleep echoed my ghostly tread. Yet when their secret chambers I essayed My spirit sank, dismayed, Waking in fear to find the new-born vision fled.
Once indeed—but then my spirit bloomed in leafy rapture— I loved; and once I looked death in the eyes: So, suddenly made wise, Spoke of such beauty as I may never recapture....
Whither, O, divine mistress, must I then follow thee? Is it only in love ... say, is it only in death That the spirit blossometh, And words that may match my vision shall come to me?
When the evening came my love said to me: Let us go into the garden now that the sky is cool; The garden of black hellebore and rosemary, Where wild woodruff spills in a milky pool.
Low we passed in the twilight, for the wavering heat Of day had waned; and round that shaded plot Of secret beauty the thickets clustered sweet: Here is heaven, our hearts whispered, but our lips spake not.
Between that old garden and seas of lazy foam Gloomy and beautiful alleys of trees arise With spire of cypress and dreamy beechen dome, So dark that our enchanted sight knew nothing but the skies:
Veiled with a soft air, drench'd in the roses' musk Or the dusky, dark carnation's breath of clove: No stars burned in their deeps, but through the dusk I saw my love's eyes, and they were brimmed with love.
No star their secret ravished, no wasting moon Mocked the sad transience of those eternal hours: Only the soft, unseeing heaven of June, The ghosts of great trees, and the sleeping flowers.
For doves that crooned in the leafy noonday now Were silent; the night-jar sought his secret covers, Nor even a mild sea-whisper moved a creaking bough— Was ever a silence deeper made for lovers?
Was ever a moment meeter made for love? Beautiful are your closed lips beneath my kiss; And all your yielding sweetness beautiful— Oh, never in all the world was such a night as this!
The robin on my lawn He was the first to tell How, in the frozen dawn, This miracle befell, Waking the meadows white With hoar, the iron road Agleam with splintered light, And ice where water flowed: Till, when the low sun drank Those milky mists that cloak Hanger and hollied bank, The winter world awoke To hear the feeble bleat Of lambs on downland farms: A blackbird whistled sweet; Old beeches moved their arms Into a mellow haze Aerial, newly-born: And I, alone, agaze, Stood waiting for the thorn To break in blossom white, Or burst in a green flame.... So, in a single night, Fair February came, Bidding my lips to sing Or whisper their surprise, With all the joy of spring And morning in her eyes.
This is the image of my last content: My soul shall be a little lonely lake, So hidden that no shadow of man may break The folding of its mountain battlement; Only the beautiful and innocent Whiteness of sea-born cloud drooping to shake Cool rain upon the reed-beds, or the wake Of churn'd cloud in a howling wind's descent. For there shall be no terror in the night When stars that I have loved are born in me, And cloudy darkness I will hold most fair; But this shall be the end of my delight: That you, my lovely one, may stoop and see Your image in the mirrored beauty there.
These winter days on Lettermore The brown west wind it sweeps the bay, And icy rain beats on the bare Unhomely fields that perish there: The stony fields of Lettermore That drink the white Atlantic spray.
And men who starve on Lettermore, Cursing the haggard, hungry surf, Will souse the autumn's bruisd grains To light dark fires within their brains And fight with stones on Lettermore Or sprawl beside the smoky turf.
When spring blows over Lettermore To bloom the ragged furze with gold, The lovely south wind's living breath Is laden with the smell of death: For fever breeds on Lettermore To waste the eyes of young and old.
A black van comes to Lettermore; The horses stumble on the stones, The drivers curse,—for it is hard To cross the hills from Oughterard And cart the sick from Lettermore: A stinking load of rags and bones.
But you will go to Lettermore When white sea-trout are on the run, When purple glows between the rocks About Lord Dudley's fishing box Adown the road to Lettermore, And wide seas tarnish in the sun.
And so you'll think of Lettermore As a lost island of the blest: With peasant lovers in a blue Dim dusk, with heather drench'd in dew, And the sweet peace of Lettermore Remote and dreaming in the West.
Why have you stolen my delight In all the golden shows of Spring When every cherry-tree is white And in the limes the thrushes sing,
O fickler than the April day, O brighter than the golden broom, O blither than the thrushes' lay, O whiter than the cherry-bloom,
O sweeter than all things that blow ... Why have you only left for me The broom, the cherry's crown of snow, And thrushes in the linden-tree?
THE LEANING ELM
Before my window, in days of winter hoar Huddled a mournful wood: Smooth pillars of beech, domed chestnut, sycamore, In stony sleep they stood: But you, unhappy elm, the angry west Had chosen from the rest, Flung broken on your brothers' branches bare, And left you leaning there So dead that when the breath of winter cast Wild snow upon the blast, The other living branches, downward bowed, Shook free their crystal shroud And shed upon your blackened trunk beneath Their livery of death....
On windless nights between the beechen bars I watched cold stars Throb whitely in the sky, and dreamily Wondered if any life lay locked in thee: If still the hidden sap secretly moved As water in the icy winterbourne Floweth unheard: And half I pitied you your trance forlorn: You could not hear, I thought, the voice of any bird, The shadowy cries of bats in dim twilight Or cool voices of owls crying by night ... Hunting by night under the hornd moon: Yet half I envied you your wintry swoon, Till, on this morning mild, the sun, new-risen Steals from his misty prison; The frozen fallows glow, the black trees shaken In a clear flood of sunlight vibrating awaken: And lo, your ravaged bole, beyond belief Slenderly fledged anew with tender leaf As pale as those twin vanes that break at last In a tiny fan above the black beech-mast Where no blade springeth green But pallid bells of the shy helleborine. What is this ecstasy that overwhelms The dreaming earth? See, the embrownd elms Crowding purple distances warm the depths of the wood: A new-born wind tosses their tassels brown, His white clouds dapple the down: Into a green flame bursting the hedgerows stand. Soon, with banners flying, Spring will walk the land....
There is no day for thee, my soul, like this, No spring of lovely words. Nay, even the kiss Of mortal love that maketh man divine This light cannot outshine: Nay, even poets, they whose frail hands catch The shadow of vanishing beauty, may not match This leafy ecstasy. Sweet words may cull Such magical beauty as time may not destroy; But we, alas, are not more beautiful: We cannot flower in beauty as in joy. We sing, our musd words are sped, and then Poets are only men Who age, and toil, and sicken.... This maim'd tree May stand in leaf when I have ceased to be.
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
Few are my books, but my small few have told Of many a lovely dame that lived of old; And they have made me see those fatal charms Of Helen, which brought Troy so many harms; And lovely Venus, when she stood so white Close to her husband's forge in its red light. I have seen Dian's beauty in my dreams, When she had trained her looks in all the streams She crossed to Latmos and Endymion; And Cleopatra's eyes, that hour they shone The brighter for a pearl she drank to prove How poor it was compared to her rich love: But when I look on thee, love, thou dost give Substance to those fine ghosts, and make them live.
WHEN YON FULL MOON
When yon full moon's with her white fleet of stars, And but one bird makes music in the grove; When you and I are breathing side by side, Where our two bodies make one shadow, love;
Not for her beauty will I praise the moon, But that she lights thy purer face and throat; The only praise I'll give the nightingale Is that she draws from thee a richer note.
For, blinded with thy beauty, I am filled, Like Saul of Tarsus, with a greater light; When he had heard that warning voice in Heaven, And lost his eyes to find a deeper sight.
Come, let us sit in that deep silence then, Launched on love's rapids, with our passions proud That makes all music hollow—though the lark Raves in his windy heights above a cloud.
ON HEARING MRS. WOODHOUSE PLAY THE HARPSICHORD
We poets pride ourselves on what We feel, and not what we achieve; The world may call our children fools, Enough for us that we conceive. A little wren that loves the grass Can be as proud as any lark That tumbles in a cloudless sky, Up near the sun, till he becomes The apple of that shining eye.
So, lady, I would never dare To hear your music ev'ry day; With those great bursts that send my nerves In waves to pound my heart away; And those small notes that run like mice Bewitched by light; else on those keys— My tombs of song—you should engrave: 'My music, stronger than his own, Has made this poet my dumb slave.'
When our two souls have left this mortal clay And, seeking mine, you think that mine is lost— Look for me first in that Elysian glade Where Lesbia is, for whom the birds sing most.
What happy hearts those feathered mortals have, That sing so sweet when they're wet through in spring! For in that month of May when leaves are young, Birds dream of song, and in their sleep they sing.
And when the spring has gone and they are dumb, Is it not fine to watch them at their play: Is it not fine to see a bird that tries To stand upon the end of every spray?
See how they tilt their pretty heads aside: When women make that move they always please. What cosy homes birds make in leafy walls That Nature's love has ruined—and the trees.
Oft have I seen in fields the little birds Go in between a bullock's legs to eat; But what gives me most joy is when I see Snow on my doorstep, printed by their feet.
OH, SWEET CONTENT!
Oh, sweet content, that turns the labourer's sweat To tears of joy, and shines the roughest face; How often have I sought you high and low, And found you still in some lone quiet place;
Here, in my room, when full of happy dreams, With no life heard beyond that merry sound Of moths that on my lighted ceiling kiss Their shadows as they dance and dance around;
Or in a garden, on a summer's night, When I have seen the dark and solemn air Blink with the blind bats' wings, and heaven's bright face Twitch with the stars that shine in thousands there.
A CHILD'S PET
When I sailed out of Baltimore With twice a thousand head of sheep, They would not eat, they would not drink, But bleated o'er the deep.
Inside the pens we crawled each day, To sort the living from the dead; And when we reached the Mersey's mouth Had lost five hundred head.
Yet every night and day one sheep, That had no fear of man or sea, Stuck through the bars its pleading face, And it was stroked by me.
And to the sheep-men standing near, 'You see,' I said, 'this one tame sheep: It seems a child has lost her pet, And cried herself to sleep.'
So every time we passed it by, Sailing to England's slaughter-house, Eight ragged sheep-men—tramps and thieves— Would stroke that sheep's black nose.
We have no grass locked up in ice so fast That cattle cut their faces and at last, When it is reached, must lie them down and starve, With bleeding mouths that freeze too hard to move. We have not that delirious state of cold That makes men warm and sing when in Death's hold. We have no roaring floods whose angry shocks Can kill the fishes dashed against their rocks. We have no winds that cut down street by street, As easy as our scythes can cut down wheat. No mountains here to spew their burning hearts Into the valleys, on our human parts. No earthquakes here, that ring church bells afar, A hundred miles from where those earthquakes are. We have no cause to set our dreaming eyes, Like Arabs, on fresh streams in Paradise. We have no wilds to harbour men that tell More murders than they can remember well. No woman here shall wake from her night's rest, To find a snake is sucking at her breast. Though I have travelled many and many a mile, And had a man to clean my boots and smile With teeth that had less bone in them than gold— Give me this England now for all my world.
It is the bell of death I hear, Which tells me my own time is near, When I must join those quiet souls Where nothing lives but worms and moles; And not come through the grass again, Like worms and moles, for breath or rain; Yet let none weep when my life's through, For I myself have wept for few.
The only things that knew me well Were children, dogs, and girls that fell; I bought poor children cakes and sweets, Dogs heard my voice and danced the streets; And, gentle to a fallen lass, I made her weep for what she was. Good men and women know not me. Nor love nor hate the mystery.
* * * * *
WALTER DE LA MARE
THE SUNKEN GARDEN
Speak not—whisper not; Here bloweth thyme and bergamot; Softly on the evening hour, Secret herbs their spices shower, Dark-spiked rosemary and myrrh, Lean-stalked, purple lavender; Hides within her bosom, too, All her sorrows, bitter rue.
Breathe not—trespass not; Of this green and darkling spot, Latticed from the moon's beams, Perchance a distant dreamer dreams; Perchance upon its darkening air, The unseen ghosts of children fare, Faintly swinging, sway and sweep, Like lovely sea-flowers in its deep; While, unmoved, to watch and ward, 'Mid its gloomed and daisied sward, Stands with bowed and dewy head That one little leaden Lad.
The far moon maketh lovers wise In her pale beauty trembling down, Lending curved cheeks, dark lips, dark eyes, A strangeness not their own. And, though they shut their lids to kiss, In starless darkness peace to win, Even on that secret world from this Her twilight enters in.
Flee into some forgotten night and be Of all dark long my moon-bright company: Beyond the rumour even of Paradise come, There, out of all remembrance, make our home: Seek we some close hid shadow for our lair, Hollowed by Noah's mouse beneath the chair Wherein the Omnipotent, in slumber bound, Nods till the piteous Trump of Judgment sound. Perchance Leviathan of the deep sea Would lease a lost mermaiden's grot to me, There of your beauty we would joyance make— A music wistful for the sea-nymph's sake: Haply Elijah, o'er his spokes of fire, Cresting steep Leo, or the heavenly Lyre, Spied, tranced in azure of inanest space, Some eyrie hostel, meet for human grace, Where two might happy be—just you and I— Lost in the uttermost of Eternity. Think! in Time's smallest clock's minutest beat Might there not rest be found for wandering feet? Or, 'twixt the sleep and wake of Helen's dream, Silence wherein to sing love's requiem?
No, no. Nor earth, nor air, nor fire, nor deep Could lull poor mortal longingness asleep. Somewhere there nothing is; and there lost Man Shall win what changeless vague of peace he can.
Upon this leafy bush With thorns and roses in it, Flutters a thing of light, A twittering linnet. And all the throbbing world Of dew and sun and air By this small parcel of life Is made more fair; As if each bramble-spray And mounded gold-wreathed furze, Harebell and little thyme, Were only hers; As if this beauty and grace Did to one bird belong, And, at a flutter of wing, Might vanish in song.
I think and think: yet still I fail— Why must this lady wear a veil? Why thus elect to mask her face Beneath that dainty web of lace? The tip of a small nose I see, And two red lips, set curiously Like twin-born berries on one stem, And yet, she has netted even them. Her eyes, 'tis plain, survey with ease Whate'er to glance upon they please. Yet, whether hazel, gray, or blue, Or that even lovelier lilac hue, I cannot guess: why—why deny Such beauty to the passer-by? Out of a bush a nightingale May expound his song; from 'neath that veil A happy mouth no doubt can make English sound sweeter for its sake. But then, why muffle in like this What every blossomy wind would kiss? Why in that little night disguise A daybreak face, those starry eyes?
THE THREE STRANGERS
Far are those tranquil hills, Dyed with fair evening's rose; On urgent, secret errand bent, A traveller goes.
Approach him strangers three, Barefooted, cowled; their eyes Scan the lone, hastening solitary With dumb surmise.
One instant in close speech With them he doth confer: God-sped, he hasteneth on, That anxious traveller....
I was that man—in a dream: And each world's night in vain I patient wait on sleep to unveil Those vivid hills again.
Would that they three could know How yet burns on in me Love—from one lost in Paradise— For their grave courtesy.
THE OLD MEN
Old and alone, sit we, Caged, riddle-rid men; Lost to earth's 'Listen!' and 'See!' Thought's 'Wherefore?' and 'When?'
Only far memories stray Of a past once lovely, but now Wasted and faded away, Like green leaves from the bough.
Vast broods the silence of night, The ruinous moon Lifts on our faces her light, Whence all dreaming is gone.
We speak not; trembles each head; In their sockets our eyes are still; Desire as cold as the dead; Without wonder or will.
And One, with a lanthorn, draws near, At clash with the moon in our eyes: 'Where art thou?' he asks: 'I am here,' One by one we arise.
And none lifts a hand to withhold A friend from the touch of that foe: Heart cries unto heart, 'Thou art old!' Yet reluctant, we go.
When I lie where shades of darkness Shall no more assail mine eyes, Nor the rain make lamentation When the wind sighs; How will fare the world whose wonder Was the very proof of me? Memory fades, must the remembered Perishing be?
Oh, when this my dust surrenders Hand, foot, lip, to dust again, May those loved and loving faces Please other men! May the rusting harvest hedgerow Still the Traveller's Joy entwine, And as happy children gather Posies once mine.
Look thy last on all things lovely, Every hour. Let no night Seal thy sense in deathly slumber Till to delight Thou have paid thy utmost blessing; Since that all things thou wouldst praise Beauty took from those who loved them In other days.
* * * * *
Shy in their herding dwell the fallow deer. They are spirits of wild sense. Nobody near Comes upon their pastures. There a life they live, Of sufficient beauty, phantom, fugitive Treading as in jungles free leopards do, Printless as evelight, instant as dew. The great kine are patient, and home-coming sheep Know our bidding. The fallow deer keep Delicate and far their counsels wild, Never to be folded reconciled To the spoiling hand as the poor flocks are; Lightfoot, and swift, and unfamiliar, These you may not hinder, unconfined Beautiful flocks of the mind.
At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows, And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.
A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then There is no sound at the top of the house of men Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.
They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams; On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams, And quiet is the steep stair under.
In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep. And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep On moon-washed apples of wonder.
Long ago some builder thrust Heavenward in Southampton town His spire and beamed his bells, Largely conceiving from the dust That pinnacle for ringing down Orisons and Nols.
In his imagination rang, Through generations challenging His peal on simple men, Who, as the heart within him sang, In daily townfaring should sing By year and year again.
Now often to their ringing go The bellmen with lean Time at heel, Intent on daily cares; The bells ring high, the bells ring low, The ringers ring the builder's peal Of tidings unawares.
And all the bells might well be dumb For any quickening in the street Of customary ears; And so at last proud builders come With dreams and virtues to defeat Among the clouding years.
Now, waiting on Southampton sea For exile, through the silver night I hear Nol! Nol! Through generations down to me Your challenge, builder, comes aright, Bell by obedient bell.
You wake an hour with me; then wide Though be the lapses of your sleep You yet shall wake again; And thus, old builder, on the tide Of immortality you keep Your way from brain to brain.
CHORUS FROM 'LINCOLN'
You who have gone gathering Cornflowers and meadowsweet, Heard the hazels glancing down On September eves, Seen the homeward rooks on wing Over fields of golden wheat, And the silver cups that crown Water-lily leaves;
You who know the tenderness Of old men at eve-tide, Coming from the hedgerows, Coming from the plough, And the wandering caress Of winds upon the woodside, When the crying yaffle goes Underneath the bough;
You who mark the flowing Of sap upon the May-time, And the waters welling From the watershed, You who count the growing Of harvest and hay-time, Knowing these the telling Of your daily bread;
You who cherish courtesy With your fellows at your gate, And about your hearthstone sit Under love's decrees, You who know that death will be Speaking with you soon or late, Kinsmen, what is mother-wit But the light of these?
Knowing these, what is there more For learning in your little years? Are not these all gospels bright Shining on your day? How then shall your hearts be sore With envy and her brood of fears, How forget the words of light From the mountain-way ...
Blessed are the merciful ... Does not every threshold seek Meadows and the flight of birds For compassion still? Blessed are the merciful ... Are we pilgrims yet to speak Out of Olivet the words Of knowledge and good-will?
High up in the sky there, now, you know, In this May twilight, our cottage is asleep, Tenantless, and no creature there to go Near it but Mrs. Fry's fat cows, and sheep Dove-coloured, as is Cotswold. No one hears Under that cherry-tree the night-jars yet, The windows are uncurtained; on the stairs Silence is but by tip-toe silence met. All doors are fast there. It is a dwelling put by From use for a little, or long, up there in the sky.
Empty; a walled-in silence, in this twilight of May— Home for lovers, and friendly withdrawing, and sleep, With none to love there, nor laugh, nor climb from the day To the candles and linen ... Yet in the silence creep, This minute, I know, little ghosts, little virtuous lives, Breathing upon that still, insensible place, Touching the latches, sorting the napkins and knives, And such for the comfort of being, and bowls for the grace, That roses will brim; they are creeping from that room to this, One room, and two, till the four are visited ... they, Little ghosts, little lives, are our thoughts in this twilight of May, Signs that even the curious man would miss, Of travelling lovers to Cotswold, signs of an hour, Very soon, when up from the valley in June will ride Lovers by Lynch to Oakridge up in the wide Bow of the hill, to a garden of lavender flower ... The doors are locked; no foot falls; the hearths are dumb— But we are there—we are waiting ourselves who come.
When you deliberate the page Of Alexander's pilgrimage, Or say—'It is three years, or ten, Since Easter slew Connolly's men,' Or prudently to judgment come Of Antony or Absalom, And think how duly are designed Case and instruction for the mind, Remember then that also we, In a moon's course, are history.
* * * * *
O MUSE DIVINE
O thou, my Muse, Beside the Kentish River running Through water-meads where dews Tossed flashing at thy feet And tossing flashed again When the timid herd By thy swift passing stirred Up-leapt and ran;
Thou that didst fleet Thy shadow over dark October hills By Aston, Weston, Saintbury, Willersey, Winchcombe, and all the combes and hills Of the green lonely land;
Thou that in May Once when I saw thee sunning Thyself so lovely there Than the flushed flower more fair Fallen from the wild apple spray, Didst rise and sprinkling sunlight with thy hand Shadow-like disappear in the deep-shadowy hedges Between forsaken Buckle Street and the sparse sedges Of young twin-breasted Honeybourne;—
O thou, my Muse, Scarce longer seen than the brief hues Of winter cloud that flames Over the tarnished silver Thames; So often nearing, As often disappearing, With thy body's shadow brushing My brain at midnight, lightly touching; O yield thee, Muse, to me, No more in dream delights and morn forgettings, But in a ferny hollow I know well And thou know'st well, warm-proof'd 'gainst the wind's frettings. ... Bring thou thyself, and there In that warm ferny hollow where the sun Slants one gold beam and no light else but thine And my eyes' happy shine— There, O lovely Muse, Shall on thy shining body be begot, Fruit of delights a many mingling in one, Thy child and mine, a lovely shape and thought; My child and thine, O Muse divine!
The joyous morning ran and kissed the grass And drew his fingers through her sleeping hair, And cried, 'Before thy flowers are well awake Rise, and the lingering darkness from thee shake.
'Before the daisy and the sorrel buy Their brightness back from that close-folding night, Come, and the shadows from thy bosom shake, Awake from thy thick sleep, awake, awake!'
Then the grass of that mounded meadow stirred Above the Roman bones that may not stir Though joyous morning whispered, shouted, sang: The grass stirred as that happy music rang.
O, what a wondrous rustling everywhere! The steady shadows shook and thinned and died, The shining grass flashed brightness back for brightness, And sleep was gone, and there was heavenly lightness.
As if she had found wings, light as the wind, The grass flew, bent with the wind, from east to west, Chased by one wild grey cloud, and flashing all Her dews for happiness to hear morning call....
But even as I stepped out the brightness dimmed, I saw the fading edge of all delight. The sober morning waked the drowsy herds, And there was the old scolding of the birds.
When I had dreamed and dreamed what woman's beauty was, And how that beauty seen from unseen surely flowed, I turned and dreamed again, but sleeping saw no more: My eyes shut and my mind with inward vision glowed.
'I did not think!' I cried, seeing that wavering shape That steadied and then wavered, as a cherry bough in June Lifts and falls in the wind—each fruit a fruit of light; And then she stood as clear as an unclouded moon.
As clear and still she stood, moonlike remotely near; I saw and heard her breathe, I years and years away. Her light streamed through the years, I saw her clear and still, Shape and spirit together mingling night with day.
Water falling, falling with the curve of time Over green-hued rock, then plunging to its pool Far, far below, a falling spear of light; Water falling golden from the sun but moonlike cool:
Water has the curve of her shoulder and breast, Water falls as straight as her body rose, Water her brightness has from neck to still feet, Water crystal-cold as her cold body flows.
But not water has the colour I saw when I dreamed, Nor water such strength has. I joyed to behold How the blood lit her body with lamps of fire And made the flesh glow that like water gleamed cold,
A flame in her arms and in each finger flame, And flame in her bosom, flame above, below, The curve of climbing flame in her waist and her thighs; From foot to head did flame into red flame flow.
I knew how beauty seen from unseen must rise, How the body's joy for more than body's use was made. I knew then how the body is the body of the mind, And how the mind's own fire beneath the cool skin played.
O shape that once to have seen is to see evermore, Falling stream that falls to the deeps of the mind, Fire that once lit burns while aught burns in the world, Foot to head a flame moving in the spirit's wind!
If these eyes could see what these eyes have not seen— The inward vision clear—how should I look, for joy, Knowing that beauty's self rose visible in the world Over age that darkens, and griefs that destroy?
TEN O'CLOCK NO MORE 
The wind has thrown The boldest of trees down. Now disgraced it lies, Naked in spring beneath the drifting skies, Naked and still.
It was the wind So furious and blind That scourged half England through, Ruining the fairest where most fair it grew By dell and hill,
And springing here, The black clouds dragging near, Against this lonely elm Thrust all his strength to maim and overwhelm In one wild shock.
As in the deep Satisfaction of dark sleep The tree her dream dreamed on, And woke to feel the wind's arms round her thrown And her head rock.
And the wind raught Her ageing boughs and caught Her body fast again. Then in one agony of age, grief, pain, She fell and died.
Her noble height, Branches that loved the light, Her music and cool shade, Her memories and all of her is dead On the hill side.
But the wind stooped, With madness tired, and drooped In the soft valley and slept, While morning strangely round the hush'd tree crept And called in vain.
The birds fed where The roots uptorn and bare Thrust shameful at the sky; And pewits round the tree would dip and cry With the old pain.
'Ten o'clock's gone!' Said sadly every one. And mothers looking thought Of sons and husbands far away that fought:— And looked again.
[Footnote 1: "Ten o'clock" is the name of a tall tree that crowned the eastern Cotswolds.]
In the hush of early even The clouds came flocking over, Till the last wind fell from heaven And no bird cried.
Darkly the clouds were flocking, Shadows moved and deepened, Then paused; the poplar's rocking Ceased; the light hung still
Like a painted thing, and deadly. Then from the cloud's side flickered Sharp lightning, thrusting madly At the cowering fields.
Thrice the fierce cloud lighten'd, Down the hill slow thunder trembled Day in her cave grew frightened, Crept away, and died.
How near I walked to Love, How long, I cannot tell. I was like the Alde that flows Quietly through green level lands, So quietly, it knows Their shape, their greenness and their shadows well; And then undreamingly for miles it goes And silently, beside the sea.
Seamews circle over, The winter wildfowl wings, Long and green the grasses wave Between the river and the sea. The sea's cry, wild or grave, From bank to low bank of the river rings; But the uncertain river though it crave The sea, knows not the sea.
Was that indeed salt wind? Came that noise from falling Wild waters on a stony shore? Oh, what is this new troubling tide Of eager waves that pour Around and over, leaping, parting, recalling?... How near I moved (as day to same day wore) And silently, beside the sea!
Thy hand my hand, Thine eyes my eyes, All of thee Caught and confused with me: My hand thy hand, My eyes thine eyes, All of me Sunken and discovered anew in thee....
No: still A foreign mind, A thought By other yet uncaught; A secret will Strange as the wind: The heart of thee Bewildering with strange fire the heart in me.
Hand touches hand, Eye to eye beckons, But who shall guess Another's loneliness? Though hand grasp hand, Though the eye quickens, Still lone as night Remain thy spirit and mine, past touch and sight.
NIGHT AND NIGHT
The earth is purple in the evening light, The grass is graver green. The gold among the meadows darker glows, In the quieted air the blackbird sings more loud. The sky has lost its rose— Nothing more than this candle now shines bright.
Were there but natural night, how easy were The putting-by of sense At the day's end, and if no heavier air Came o'er the mind in a thick-falling cloud. But now there is no light Within; and to this innocent night how dark my night!
The roaming sheep, forbidden to roam far, Were stayed within the shadow of his eye. The sheep-dog on that unseen shadow's edge Moved, halted, barked, while the tall shepherd stood Unmoving, leaned upon a sarsen stone, Looking at the rain that curtained the bare hills And drew the smoking curtain near and near!— Tawny, bush-faced, with cloak and staff, and flask And bright brass-ribb'd umbrella, standing stone Against the veinless, senseless sarsen stone. The Roman Road hard by, the green Ridge Way, Not older seemed, nor calmer the long barrows Of bones and memories of ancient days Than the tall shepherd with his craft of days Older than Roman or the oldest caveman, When, in the generation of all living, Sheep and kine flocked in the Aryan valley and The first herd with his voice and skill of water Fleetest of foot, led them into green pastures, From perished pastures to new green. I saw The herdsmen everywhere about the world, And herdsmen of all time, fierce, lonely, wise, Herds of Arabia and Syria And Thessaly, and longer-winter'd climes; And this lone herd, ages before England was, Pelt-clad, and armed with flint-tipped ashen sap, Watching his flocks, and those far flocks of stars Slow moving as the heavenly shepherd willed And at dawn shut into the sunny fold.
* * * * *
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
As a blue-necked mallard alighting in a pool Among marsh-marigolds and splashing wet Green leaves and yellow blooms, like jewels set In bright, black mud, with clear drops crystal-cool, Bringing keen savours of the sea and stir Of windy spaces where wild sunsets flame To that dark inland dyke, the thought of her Into my brooding stagnant being came.
And all my senses quickened into life, Tingling and glittering, and the salt and fire Sang through my singing blood in eager strife Until through crystal airs we seemed to be Soaring together, one fleet-winged desire Of windy sunsets and the wandering sea.
Somewhere, somewhen I've seen, But where or when I'll never know, Parrots of shrilly green With crests of shriller scarlet flying Out of black cedars as the sun was dying Against cold peaks of snow.
From what forgotten life Of other worlds I cannot tell Flashes that screeching strife; Yet the shrill colour and shrill crying Sing through my blood and set my heart replying And jangling like a bell.
In smoky lamplight of a Smyrna Caf, He saw them, seven solemn negroes dancing, With faces rapt and out-thrust bellies prancing In a slow solemn ceremonial cakewalk, Dancing and prancing to the sombre tom-tom Thumped by a crookbacked grizzled negro squatting. And as he watched ... within the steamy twilight Of swampy forest in rank greenness rotting, That sombre tom-tom at his heartstrings strumming Set all his sinews twitching, and a singing Of cold fire through his blood—and he was dancing Among his fellows in the dank green twilight With naked, oiled, bronze-gleaming bodies swinging In a rapt holy everlasting cakewalk For evermore in slow procession prancing.
Black spars of driftwood burn to peacock flames, Sea-emeralds and sea-purples and sea-blues, And all the innumerable ever-changing hues That haunt the changeless deeps but have no names, Flicker and spire in our enchanted sight: And as we gaze, the unsearchable mystery, The unfathomed cold salt magic of the sea, Shines clear before us in the quiet night.
We know the secret that Ulysses sought, That moonstruck mariners since time began Snatched at a drowning hazard—-strangely brought To our homekeeping hearts in drifting spars We chanced to kindle under the cold stars— The secret in the ocean-heart of man.
Only the footprints of the partridge run Over the billowy drifts on the mountain-side; And now on level wings the brown birds glide Following the snowy curves, and in the sun Bright birds of gold above the stainless white They move, and as the pale blue shadows move, With them my heart glides on in golden flight Over the hills of quiet to my love.
Storm-shaken, racked with terror through the long Tempestuous night, in the quiet blue of morn Love drinks the crystal airs, and peace newborn Within his troubled heart, on wings aglow Soars into rapture, as from the quiet snow The golden birds; and out of silence, song.
Still bathed in its moonlight slumber, the little white house by the cedar Stands silent against the red dawn; And nothing I know of who sleeps there, to the travail of day yet unwakened, Behind the blue curtains undrawn:
But I dream as we march down the roadway, ringing loud and white-rimed in the moonlight, Of a little dark house on a hill Wherein when the battle is over, to the rapture of day yet unwakened, We shall slumber as dreamless and still.
* * * * *
A BALLAD OF NURSERY RHYME
Strawberries that in gardens grow Are plump and juicy fine, But sweeter far as wise men know Spring from the woodland vine.
No need for bowl or silver spoon, Sugar or spice or cream, Has the wild berry plucked in June Beside the trickling stream.
One such to melt at the tongue's root, Confounding taste with scent, Beats a full peck of garden fruit: Which points my argument.
May sudden justice overtake And snap the froward pen, That old and palsied poets shake Against the minds of men;
Blasphemers trusting to hold caught In far-flung webs of ink The utmost ends of human thought, Till nothing's left to think.
But may the gift of heavenly peace And glory for all time Keep the boy Tom who tending geese First made the nursery rhyme.
By the brookside one August day, Using the sun for clock, Tom whiled the languid hours away Beside his scattering flock,
Carving with a sharp pointed stone On a broad slab of slate The famous lives of Jumping Joan, Dan Fox and Greedy Kate;
Rhyming of wolves and bears and birds, Spain, Scotland, Babylon, That sister Kate might learn the words To tell to Toddling John.
But Kate, who could not stay content To learn her lesson pat, New beauty to the rough lines lent By changing this or that;
And she herself set fresh things down In corners of her slate, Of lambs and lanes and London Town. God's blessing fall on Kate!
The baby loved the simple sound, With jolly glee he shook, And soon the lines grew smooth and round Like pebbles in Tom's brook,
From mouth to mouth told and retold By children sprawled at ease Before the fire in winter's cold, In June beneath tall trees;
Till though long lost are stone and slate, Though the brook no more runs, And dead long time are Tom, John, Kate, Their sons and their sons' sons;
Yet, as when Time with stealthy tread Lays the rich garden waste, The woodland berry ripe and red Fails not in scent or taste,
So these same rhymes shall still be told To children yet unborn, While false philosophy growing old Fades and is killed by scorn.
A FROSTY NIGHT
Mother: Alice, dear, what ails you, Dazed and white and shaken? Has the chill night numbed you? Is it fright you have taken?
Alice: Mother I am very well, I felt never better; Mother, do not hold me so, Let me write my letter.
Mother: Sweet, my dear, what ails you?
Alice: No, but I am well. The night was cold and frosty, There's no more to tell.
Mother: Ay, the night was frosty, Coldly gaped the moon, Yet the birds seemed twittering Through green boughs of June.
Soft and thick the snow lay, Stars danced in the sky. Not all the lambs of May-day Skip so bold and high.
Your feet were dancing, Alice, Seemed to dance on air, You looked a ghost or angel In the starlight there.
Your eyes were frosted starlight, Your heart, fire, and snow. Who was it said 'I love you?'
Alice: Mother, let me go!
Mary: Johnny, sweetheart, can you be true To all those famous vows you've made? Will you love me as I love you Until we both in earth are laid? Or shall the old wives nod and say 'His love was only for a day, The mood goes by, His fancies fly, And Mary's left to sigh.'
Johnny: Mary, alas, you've hit the truth, And I with grief can but admit Hot-blooded haste controls my youth, My idle fancies veer and flit From flower to flower, from tree to tree, And when the moment catches me Oh, love goes by, Away I fly, And leave my girl to sigh.
Mary: Could you but now foretell the day, Johnny, when this sad thing must be, When light and gay you'll turn away And laugh and break the heart in me? For like a nut for true love's sake My empty heart shall crack and break, When fancies fly And love goes by And Mary's left to die.
Johnny: When the sun turns against the clock, When Avon waters upward flow, When eggs are laid by barn-door cock, When dusty hens do strut and crow, When up is down, when left is right, Oh, then I'll break the troth I plight, With careless eye Away I'll fly And Mary here shall die.
Mother: What's in that cupboard, Mary?
Mary: Which cupboard, mother dear?
Mother: The cupboard of red mahogany With handles shining clear.
Mary: That cupboard, dearest mother, With shining crystal handles? There's nought inside but rags and jags And yellow tallow candles.
Mother: What's in that cupboard, Mary?
Mary: Which cupboard, mother mine?
Mother: That cupboard stands in your sunny chamber, The silver corners shine.
Mary: There's nothing there inside, mother, But wool and thread and flax, And bits of faded silk and velvet And candles of white wax.
Mother: What's in that cupboard, Mary? And this time tell me true.
Mary: White clothes for an unborn baby, mother.. But what's the truth to you?
THE VOICE OF BEAUTY DROWNED
'Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!' The other birds woke all around; Rising with toot and howl they stirred Their plumage, broke the trembling sound, They craned their necks, they fluttered wings, 'While we are silent no one sings, And while we sing you hush your throat, Or tune your melody to our note.'
'Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!' The screams and hootings rose again: They gaped with raucous beaks, they whirred Their noisy plumage; small but plain The lonely hidden singer made A well of grief within the glade. 'Whist, silly fool, be off,' they shout, 'Or we'll come pluck your feathers out.'
'Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!' Slight and small the lovely cry Came trickling down, but no one heard; Parrot and cuckoo, crow, magpie, Jarred horrid notes, the jangling jay Ripped the fine threads of song away; For why should peeping chick aspire To challenge their loud woodland choir?
Cried it so sweet, that unseen bird? Lovelier could no music be, Clearer than water, soft as curd, Fresh as the blossomed cherry tree. How sang the others all around? Piercing and harsh, a maddening sound, With 'Pretty Poll, Tuwit-tuwoo Peewit, Caw Caw, Cuckoo-Cuckoo.'
How went the song, how looked the bird? If I could tell, if I could show With one quick phrase, one lightning word, I'd learn you more than poets know; For poets, could they only catch Of that forgotten tune one snatch, Would build it up in song or sonnet, And found their whole life's fame upon it.
This is a wild land, country of my choice, With harsh craggy mountain, moor ample and bare. Seldom in these acres is heard any voice But voice of cold water that runs here and there Through rocks and lank heather growing without care. No mice in the heath run nor no birds cry For fear of the dark speck that floats in the sky.
He soars and he hovers rocking on his wings, He scans his wide parish with a sharp eye, He catches the trembling of small hidden things, He tears them in pieces dropping from the sky: Tenderness and pity the land will deny, Where life is but nourished from water and rock, A hardy adventure, full of fear and shock.
Time has never journeyed to this lost land, Crakeberries and heather bloom out of date, The rocks jut, the streams flow singing on either hand, Careless if the season be early or late. The skies wander overhead, now blue now slate: Winter would be known by his cold cutting snow If June did not borrow his armour also.
Yet this is my country beloved by me best, The first land that rose from Chaos and the Flood, Nursing no fat valleys for comfort and rest, Trampled by no hard hooves, stained with no blood Bold immortal country whose hill-tops have stood Strongholds for the proud gods when on earth they go, Terror for fat burghers in far plains below.
* * * * *
Since this is the last night I keep you home, Come, I will consecrate you for the journey.
Rather I had you would not go. Nay come, I will not again reproach you. Lie back And let me love you a long time ere you go. For you are sullen-hearted still, and lack The will to love me. But even so I will set a seal upon you from my lip, Will set a guard of honour at each door, Seal up each channel out of which might slip Your love for me.
I kiss your mouth. Ah, love, Could I but seal its ruddy, shining spring Of passion, parch it up, destroy, remove Its softly-stirring, crimson welling-up Of kisses! Oh, help me, God! Here at the source I'd lie for ever drinking and drawing in Your fountains, as heaven drinks from out their course The floods.
I close your ears with kisses And seal your nostrils; and round your neck you'll wear— Nay, let me work—a delicate chain of kisses. Like beads they go around, and not one misses To touch its fellow on either side.
And there Full mid-between the champaign of your breast I place a great and burning seal of love Like a dark rose, a mystery of rest On the slow bubbling of your rhythmic heart. Nay, I persist, and very faith shall keep You integral to me. Each door, each mystic port Of egress from you I will seal and steep In perfect chrism.
Now it is done. The mort Will sound in heaven before it is undone.
But let me finish what I have begun And shirt you now invulnerable in the mail Of iron kisses, kisses linked like steel. Put greaves upon your thighs and knees, and frail Webbing of steel on your feet. So you shall feel Ensheathed invulnerable with me, with seven Great seals upon your outgoings, and woven Chain of my mystic will wrapped perfectly Upon you, wrapped in indomitable me.
* * * * *
Fit for perpetual worship is the power That holds our bodies safely to the earth.
When people talk of their domestic gods, Then privately I think of You.
We ride through space upon your shoulders Conveniently and lightly set, And, so accustomed, we relax our hold, Forget the gentle motion of your body— But You do not forget.
Sometimes you breathe a little faster, Or move a muscle: Then we remember you, O Master.
When people meet in reverent groups And sing to their domestic God, You, all the time, dear tyrant, (How I laugh!) Could, without effort, place your hand among them, And sprinkle them about the desert.
But all your ways are carefully ordered, For you have never questioned duty. We watch your everlasting combinations; We call them Fate; we turn them to our pleasure, And when they most delight us, call them beauty.
I rest my body on your grass, And let my brain repose in you; I feel these living moments pass, And, from within myself to those far places To be imagined in your times and spaces, Deliberate the various acts you do:—
Sorting and re-arranging worlds of Matter Keenly and wisely. Thus you brought our earth Through stages, and from purpose back to purpose, From fire to fog, to dust, to birth Through beast to man, who led himself to brain— Then you invoked him back to dust again.
By leave of you he places stone on stone; He scatters seed: you are at once the prop Among the long roots of his fragile crop. You manufacture for him, and insure House, harvest, implement and furniture, And hold them all secure.
The hill ... The trees ... From underneath I feel You pull me with your hand: Through my firm feet up to my heart You hold me,—You are in the land, Reposing underneath the hill.
You keep my balance and my growth. I lift a foot, but where I go You follow: you, the ever-strong, Control the smallest thing I do.
I have some little human power To turn your purpose to my end, For which I thank you every hour. I stand at worship, while you send Thrills up my body to my heart, And I am all in love to know How by your strength you keep me part Of earth, which cannot let me go; How everything I see around, Whether it can or cannot move, Is granted liberty of ground, And freedom to enjoy your love;
Though you are silent always, and, alone To You yourself, your power remains unknown.
They are the angels of that watery world, With so much knowledge that they just aspire To move themselves on golden fins, Or fill their paradise with fire By darting suddenly from end to end.
Glowing a thousand centuries behind In pools half-recollected of the mind, Their large eyes stare and stare, but do not see Beyond those curtains of Eternity.
When twilight flows into the room And air becomes like water, you can feel Their movements growing larger in the gloom, And you are led Backward to where they live beyond the dead.
But in the morning, when the seven rays Of London sunlight one by one incline, They glide to meet them, and their gulping lips Suck the light in, so they are caught and played Like salmon on a heavenly fishing line.
* * * *
Ghosts on a twilight floor, Moving about behind their watery door, Breathing and yet not breathing day and night, They give the house some gleam of faint delight.
You little friend, your nose is ready; you sniff, Asking for that expected walk, (Your nostrils full of the happy rabbit-whiff) And almost talk.
And so the moment becomes a moving force; Coats glide down from their pegs in the humble dark; The sticks grow live to the stride of their vagrant course. You scamper the stairs, Your body informed with the scent and the track and the mark Of stoats and weasels, moles and badgers and hares.
We are going OUT. You know the pitch of the word, Probing the tone of thought as it comes through fog And reaches by devious means (half-smelt, half-heard) The four-legged brain of a walk-ecstatic dog.
Out in the garden your head is already low. (Can you smell the rose? Ah, no.) But your limbs can draw Life from the earth through the touch of your padded paw.
Now, sending a little look to us behind, Who follow slowly the track of your lovely play, You carry our bodies forward away from mind Into the light and fun of your useless day.
* * * * *
Thus, for your walk, we took ourselves, and went Out by the hedge and the tree to the open ground. You ran, in delightful strata of wafted scent, Over the hill without seeing the view; Beauty is smell upon primitive smell to you: To you, as to us, it is distant and rarely found.
Home ... and further joy will be surely there: Supper waiting full of the taste of bone. You throw up your nose again, and sniff, and stare For the rapture known Of the quick wild gorge of food and the still lie-down While your people talk above you in the light Of candles, and your dreams will merge and drown Into the bed-delicious hours of night.
THE NIGHTINGALE NEAR THE HOUSE
Here is the soundless cypress on the lawn: It listens, listens. Taller trees beyond Listen. The moon at the unruffled pond Stares. And you sing, you sing.
That star-enchanted song falls through the air From lawn to lawn down terraces of sound, Darts in white arrows on the shadowed ground; And all the night you sing.
My dreams are flowers to which you are a bee As all night long I listen, and my brain Receives your song, then loses it again In moonlight on the lawn.
Now is your voice a marble high and white, Then like a mist on fields of paradise, Now is a raging fire, then is like ice, Then breaks, and it is dawn.
MAN CARRYING BALE
The tough hand closes gently on the load; Out of the mind, a voice Calls 'Lift!' and the arms, remembering well their work, Lengthen and pause for help. Then a slow ripple flows from head to foot While all the muscles call to one another: 'Lift! 'and the bulging bale Floats like a butterfly in June.
So moved the earliest carrier of bales, And the same watchful sun Glowed through his body feeding it with light. So will the last one move, And halt, and dip his head, and lay his load Down, and the muscles will relax and tremble. Earth, you designed your man Beautiful both in labour and repose.
FOR BESSIE, SEATED BY ME IN THE GARDEN
To the heart, to the heart the white petals Quietly fall. Memory is a little wind, and magical The dreaming hours. As a breath they fall, as a sigh; Green garden hours too langorous to waken, White leaves of blossomy tree wind-shaken: As a breath, a sigh, As the slow white drift Of a butterfly. Flower-wings falling, wings of branches One after one at wind's droop dipping; Then with the lift Of the air's soft breath, in sudden avalanches Slipping. Quietly, quietly the June wind flings White wings, White petals, past the footpath flowers Adown my dreaming hours. At the heart, at the heart the butterfly settles. As a breath, a sigh Fall the petals of hours, of the white-leafed flowers, Fall the petalled wings of the butterfly. To my heart, to my heart the white petals Quietly fall.
To the years, other years, old and wistful Drifts my dream. Petal-patined the dream, white-mistful As the dew-sweet haunt of the dim whitebeam Because of memory, a little wind ... It is the gossamer-float of the butterfly This drift of dream From the sweet of to-day to the sweet Of days long drifted by. It is the drift of the butterfly, it is the fleet Drift of petals which my noon has thinned, It is the ebbing out of my life, of the petals of days. To the years, other years, drifts my dream.... Through the haze Of summers long ago Love's entrancements flow, A blue-green pageant of earth, A green-blue pageant of sky, As a stream, Flooding back with lovely delta to my heart. Lo the petalled leafage is finer, under the feet The coarse soil with a rainbow's worth Of delicate colours lies enamelled, Translucently glowing, shining. Each balmy breath of the hours From eastern gleam to westward gloam Is meaning-full as the falling flowers: It is a crystal syllable For love's defining, It is love alone can spell—— Yea, Love remains: after this drift of days Love is here, Love is not dumb. The touch of a silken hand, comradely, untrammelled Is in the sunlight, a bright glance On every ripple of yonder waterways, A whisper in the dance Of green shadows; Nor shall the sunlight be shut out even from the dark.
Beyond the garden heavy oaks are buoyant on the meadows, Their rugged bark No longer rough, But chastened and refined in the glowing eyes of Love. Around us the petals fulfil Their measure and fall, precious the petals are still. For Love they once were gathered, they are gathered for Love again, Whose glance is on the water, Whose whisper is in the green shadows. In the same comrade-hand whose touch is in the sunlight, They are lying again. Here Love is ... Love only of all things outstays The drift of petals, the drift of days, Petals of hours, Of white-leafed flowers, Petalled wings of the butterfly, Drifting, quietly drifting by As a breath, a sigh....
'TRULY HE HATH A SWEET BED'
Brown earth, sun-soaked, Beneath his head And over the quiet limbs.... Through time unreckoned Lay this brown earth for him. Now is he come. Truly he hath a sweet bed.
The perfume shed From invisible gardens is chaliced by kindly airs And carried for welcome to the stranger. Long seasons ere he came, this wilderness They habited.
They, and the mist of stars Down-spread About him as a hush of vespering birds. They, and the sun, the moon: Naught now denies him the moon's coming, Nor the morning trail of gold, The luminous print of evening, red At the sun's tread.
The brown earth holds him. The stars and little winds, the friendly moon And sun attend in turn his rest. They linger above him, softly moving. They are gracious, And gently-wise: as though remembering how his hunger, His kinship, knew them once but blindly In thoughts unsaid, As a dream that fled.
So is he theirs assuredly as the seasons. So is his sleep by them for ever companioned. ...And, perchance, by the voices of bright children playing And knowing not: by the echo of young laughter When their dancing is sped.
Truly he hath a sweet bed.
This cool quiet of trees In the grey dusk of the north, In the green half-dusk of the west, Where fires still glow; These glimmering fantasies Of foliage branching forth And drooping into rest; Ye lovers, know That in your wanderings Beneath this arching brake Ye must attune your love To hushed words. For here is the dreaming wisdom of The unmovable things... And more:—walk softly, lest ye wake A thousand sleeping birds.
* * * * *
THE SPRIG OF LIME
He lay, and those who watched him were amazed To see unheralded beneath the lids Twin tears, new-gathered at the price of pain, Start and at once run crookedly athwart Cheeks channelled long by pain, never by tears. So desolate too the sigh next uttered They had wept also, but his great lips moved, And bending down one heard, 'A sprig of lime; Bring me a sprig of lime.' Whereat she stole With dumb signs forth to pluck the thing he craved.
So lay he till a lime-twig had been snapped From some still branch that swept the outer grass Far from the silver pillar of the bole Which mounting past the house's crusted roof Split into massy limbs, crossed boughs, a maze Of close-compacted intercontorted staffs Bowered in foliage wherethrough the sun Shot sudden showers of light or crystal spars Or wavered in a green and vitreous flood. And all the while in faint and fainter tones Scarce audible on deepened evening's hush He framed his curious and last request For 'lime, a sprig of lime.' Her trembling hand Closed his loose fingers on the awkward stem Covered above with gentle heart-shaped leaves And under dangling, pale as honey-wax, Square clusters of sweet-scented starry flowers.
She laid his bent arm back upon his breast, Then watched above white knuckles clenched in prayer.
He never moved. Only at last his eyes Opened, then brightened in such avid gaze She feared the coma mastered him again ... But no; strange sobs rose chuckling in his throat, A stranger ecstasy suffused the flesh Of that just mask so sun-dried, gouged and old Which few—too few!—had loved, too many feared. 'Father!' she cried; 'Father!' He did not hear.
She knelt and kneeling drank the scent of limes, Blown round the slow blind by a vesperal gust, Till the room swam. So the lime-incense blew Into her life as once it had in his, Though how and when and with what ageless charge Of sorrow and deep joy how could she know?
Sweet lime that often at the height of noon Diffusing dizzy fragrance from your boughs, Tasselled with blossoms more innumerable Than the black bees, the uproar of whose toil Filled your green vaults, winning such metheglyn As clouds their sappy cells, distil, as once Ye used, your sunniest emanations Toward the window where a woman kneels— She who within that room in childish hours Lay through the lasting murmur of blanch'd noon Behind the sultry blind, now full now flat, Drinking anew of every odorous breath, Supremely happy in her ignorance Of Time that hastens hourly and of Death Who need not haste. Scatter your fumes, O lime, Loose from each hispid star of citron bloom, Tangled beneath the labyrinthine boughs, Cloud on such stinging cloud of exhalations As reek of youth, fierce life and summer's prime, Though hardly now shall he in that dusk room Savour your sweetness, since the very sprig, Profuse of blossom and of essences, He smells not, who in a paltering hand Clasps it laid close his peaked and gleaming face Propped in the pillow. Breathe silent, lofty lime, Your curfew secrets out in fervid scent To the attendant shadows! Tinge the air Of the midsummer night that now begins, At an owl's oaring flight from dusk to dusk And downward caper of the giddy bat Hawking against the lustre of bare skies, With something of th' unfathomable bliss He, who lies dying there, knew once of old In the serene trance of a summer night When with th' abundance of his young bride's hair Loosed on his breast he lay and dared not sleep, Listening for the scarce motion of your boughs, Which sighed with bliss as she with blissful sleep, And drinking desperately each honied wave Of perfume wafted past the ghostly blind Knew first th' implacable and bitter sense Of Time that hastes and Death who need not haste. Shed your last sweetness, limes! But now no more. She, fruit of that night's love, she heeds you not, Who bent, compassionate, to the dim floor Takes up the sprig of lime and presses it In pain against the stumbling of her heart, Knowing, untold, he cannot need it now.
All the loud winds were in the garden wood, All shadows joyfuller than lissom hounds Doubled in chasing, all exultant clouds That ever flung fierce mist and eddying fire Across heavens deeper than blue polar seas Fled over the sceptre-spikes of the chestnuts, Over the speckle of the wych-elms' green. She shouted; then stood still, hushed and abashed To hear her voice so shrill in that gay roar, And suddenly her eyelashes were dimmed, Caught in tense tears of spiritual joy; For there were daffodils which sprightly shook Ten thousand ruffling heads throughout the wood, And every flower of those delighting flowers Laughed, nodding to her, till she clapped her hands Crying 'O daffies, could you only speak!'
But there was more. A jay with skyblue shaft Set in blunt wing, skimmed screaming on ahead. She followed him. A murrey squirrel eyed Her warily, cocked upon tail-plumed haunch, Then, skipping the whirligig of last-year leaves, Whisked himself out of sight and reappeared Leering about the hole of a young beech; And every time she thought to corner him He scrambled round on little scratchy hands To peek at her about the other side. She lost him, bolting branch to branch, at last— The impudent brat! But still high overhead Flight on exuberant flight of opal scud, Or of dissolving mist, florid as flame.
Scattered in ecstasy over the blue. And she Followed, first walking, giving her bright locks To the cold fervour of the springtime gale, Whose rush bore the cloud shadow past the cloud Over the irised wastes of emerald turf. And still the huge wind volleyed. Save the gulls, Goldenly in the sunny blast careering Or on blue-shadowed underwing at plunge, None shared with her who now could not but run The splendour and tumult of th' onrushing spring.
And now she ran no more: the gale gave plumes. One with the shadows whirled along the grass, One with the onward smother of veering gulls, One with the pursuit of cloud after cloud, Swept she. Pure speed coursed in immortal limbs; Nostrils drank as from wells of unknown air; Ears received the smooth silence of racing floods; Light as of glassy suns froze in her eyes; Space was given her and she ruled all space.
Spring, author of twifold loveliness, Who flittest in the mirth of the wild folk, Profferest greeting in the faces of flowers, Blowest in the firmamental glory, Renewest in the heart of the sad human All faiths, guard thou the innocent spirit Into whose unknowing hands this noontide Thou pourest treasure, yet scarce recognised, That unashamed before man's glib wisdom, Unabashed beneath the wrath of chance, She accept in simplicity of homage The hidden holiness, the created emblem To be in her, until death shall take her, The source and secret of eternal spring.
Never am I so alone As when I walk among the crowd— Blurred masks of stern or grinning stone, Unmeaning eyes and voices loud.
Gaze dares not encounter gaze, ... Humbled, I turn my head aside; When suddenly there is a face ... Pale, subdued and grievous-eyed.
Ah, I know that visage meek, Those trembling lips, the eyes that shine But turn from that which they would seek With an air piteous, divine!
There is not a line or scar, Seal of a sorrow or disgrace, But I know like sigils are Burned in my heart and on my face.
Speak! O speak! Thou art the one! But thou hast passed with sad head bowed; And never am I so alone As when I walk among the crowd.
'O NIGHTINGALE MY HEART'
O Nightingale my heart How sad thou art! How heavy is thy wing, Desperately whirrd that thy throat may fling Song to the tingling silences remote! Thine eye whose ruddy spark Burned fiery of late, How dead and dark! Why so soon didst thou sing, And with such turbulence of love and hate?
Learn that there is no singing yet can bring The expected dawn more near; And thou art spent already, though the night Scarce has begun; What voice, what eyes wilt thou have for the light When the light shall appear, And O what wings to bear thee t'ward the Sun?
Put by the sun my joyful soul, We are for darkness that is whole;
Put by the wine, now for long years We must be thirsty with salt tears;
Put by the rose, bind thou instead The fiercest thorns about thy head;
Put by the courteous tire, we need But the poor pilgrim's blackest weed;
Put by—a'beit with tears—thy lute, Sing but to God or else be mute.
Take leave of friends save such as dare Thy love with Loneliness to share.
It is full tide. Put by regret. Turn, turn away. Forget. Forget.
Put by the sun my lightless soul, We are for darkness that is whole.
* * * * *
J. D. C. FELLOW
Between the erect and solemn trees I will go down upon my knees; I shall not find this day So meet a place to pray.
Haply the beauty of this place May work in me an answering grace, The stillness of the air Be echoed in my prayer.
The worshipping trees arise and run, With never a swerve, towards the sun; So may my soul's desire Turn to its central fire.
With single aim they seek the light, And scarce a twig in all their height Breaks out until the head In glory is outspread.
How strong each pillared trunk; the bark That covers them, how smooth; and hark, The sweet and gentle voice With which the leaves rejoice!
May a like strength and sweetness fill Desire, and thought, and steadfast will, When I remember these Fair sacramental trees!
* * * * *
When I'm asleep, dreaming and lulled and warm,— They come, the homeless ones, the noiseless dead. While the dim charging breakers of the storm Bellow and drone and rumble overhead, Out of the gloom they gather about my bed. They whisper to my heart; their thoughts are mine. 'Why are you here with all your watches ended? From Ypres to Frise we sought you in the Line.' In bitter safety I awake, unfriended; And while the dawn begins with slashing rain I think of the Battalion in the mud. 'When are you going out to them again? Are they not still your brothers through our blood?'
I am banished from the patient men who fight. They smote my heart to pity, built my pride. Shoulder to aching shoulder, side by side, They trudged away from life's broad wealds of light. Their wrongs were mine; and ever in my sight They went arrayed in honour. But they died,— Not one by one: and mutinous I cried To those who sent them out into the night.
The darkness tells how vainly I have striven To free them from the pit where they must dwell In outcast gloom convulsed and jagged and riven By grappling guns. Love drove me to rebel. Love drives me back to grope with them through hell; And in their tortured eyes I stand forgiven.
REPRESSION OF WAR EXPERIENCE
Now light the candles; one; two; there's a moth; What silly beggars they are to blunder in And scorch their wings with glory, liquid flame— No, no, not that,—it's bad to think of war, When thoughts you've gagged all day come back to scare you; And it's been proved that soldiers don't go mad Unless they lose control of ugly thoughts That drive them out to jabber among the trees.
Now light your pipe; look, what a steady hand. Draw a deep breath; stop thinking; count fifteen, And you're as right as rain.... Why won't it rain?... I wish there'd be a thunderstorm to-night, With bucketsful of water to sluice the dark, And make the roses hang their dripping heads.
Books; what a jolly company they are, Standing so quiet and patient on their shelves, Dressed in dim brown, and black, and white, and green, And every kind of colour. Which will you read? Come on; O do read something; they're so wise. I tell you all the wisdom of the world Is waiting for you on those shelves; and yet You sit and gnaw your nails, and let your pipe out, And listen to the silence: on the ceiling There's one big, dizzy moth that bumps and flutters; And in the breathless air outside the house The garden waits for something that delays. There must be crowds of ghosts among the trees,— Not people killed in battle,—they're in France,— But horrible shapes in shrouds—old men who died Slow, natural deaths,—old men with ugly souls, Who wore their bodies out with nasty sins.
* * * * *
You're quiet and peaceful, summering safe at home; You'd never think there was a bloody war on!... O yes, you would ... why, you can hear the guns. Hark! Thud, thud, thud,—quite soft ... they never cease— Those whispering guns—O Christ, I want to go out And screech at them to stop—I'm going crazy; I'm going stark, staring mad because of the guns.
DOES IT MATTER
Does it matter?—losing your legs?... For people will always be kind, And you need not show that you mind When the others come in after hunting To gobble their muffins and eggs.
Does it matter?—losing your sight?... There's such splendid work for the blind; And people will always be kind, As you sit on the terrace remembering And turning your face to the light.
Do they matter?—those dreams from the pit?... You can drink and forget and be glad, And people won't say that you're mad; For they'll know that you've fought for your country, And no one will worry a bit.
(Egyptian Base Camp).
They are gathering round ... Out of the twilight; over the grey-blue sand, Shoals of low-jargoning men drift inward to the sound— The jangle and throb of a piano ... tum-ti-tum ... Drawn by a lamp, they come Out of the glimmering lines of their tents, over the shuffling sand.
O sing us the songs, the songs of our own land, You warbling ladies in white. Dimness conceals the hunger in our faces, This wall of faces risen out of the night, These eyes that keep their memories of the places So long beyond their sight.
Jaded and gay, the ladies sing; and the chap in brown Tilts his grey hat; jaunty and lean and pale, He rattles the keys ... Some actor-bloke from town ... 'God send you home'; and then 'A long, long trail; I hear you calling me'; and 'Dixieland'.... Sing slowly ... now the chorus ... one by one We hear them, drink them; till the concert's done. Silent, I watch the shadowy mass of soldiers stand. Silent, they drift away, over the glimmering sand.
KANTARA, April, 1918.
SONGBOOKS OF THE WAR
In fifty years, when peace outshines Remembrance of the battle lines, Adventurous lads will sigh and cast Proud looks upon the plundered past. On summer morn or winter's night, Their hearts will kindle for the fight, Reading a snatch of soldier-song, Savage and jaunty, fierce and strong; And through the angry marching rhymes Of blind regret and haggard mirth, They'll envy us the dazzling times When sacrifice absolved our earth.
Some ancient man with silver locks Will lift his weary face to say: 'War was a fiend who stopped our clocks Although we met him grim and gay.' And then he'll speak of Haig's last drive, Marvelling that any came alive Out of the shambles that men built And smashed, to cleanse the world of guilt. But the boys, with grin and sidelong glance, Will think, 'Poor grandad's day is done.' And dream of those who fought in France And lived in time to share the fun.
I watch you, gazing at me from the wall, And wonder how you'd match your dreams with mine, If, mastering time's illusion, I could call You back to share this quiet candle-shine.
For you were young, three hundred years ago; And by your looks I guess that you were wise ... Come, whisper soft, and Death will never know You've slipped away from those calm, painted eyes.
Strange is your voice ... Poor ninny, dead so long, And all your pride forgotten like your name. 'One April morn I heard a blackbird's song. And joy was in my heart like leaves aflame.'
And so you died before your songs took wing; While Andrew Marvell followed in your wake. 'Love thrilled me into music. I could sing But for a moment,—but for beauty's sake.'
Who passes? There's a star-lit breeze that stirs The glimmer of white lilies in the gloom. Who speaks? Death has his silent messengers. And there was more than silence in this room
While you were gazing at me from the wall And wondering how you'd match your dreams with mine, If, mastering time's illusion, you could call Me back to share your vanished candle-shine.
Tossed on the glittering air they soar and skim, Whose voices make the emptiness of light A windy palace. Quavering from the brim Of dawn, and bold with song at edge of night, They clutch their leafy pinnacles and sing Scornful of man, and from his toils aloof Whose heart's a haunted woodland whispering; Whose thoughts return on tempest-baffled wing; Who hears the cry of God in everything, And storms the gate of nothingness for proof.
Everyone suddenly burst out singing; And I was filled with such delight As prisoned birds must find in freedom, Winging wildly across the white Orchards and dark-green fields; on—on—and out of sight.
Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted; And beauty came like the setting sun: My heart was shaken with tears; and horror Drifted away ... O, but Everyone Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.
* * * * *
Come out and walk. The last few drops of light Drain silently out of the cloudy blue; The trees are full of the dark-stooping night, The fields are wet with dew.
All's quiet in the wood but, far away, Down the hillside and out across the plain, Moves, with long trail of white that marks its way, The softly panting train.
Come through the clearing. Hardly now we see The flowers, save dark or light against the grass, Or glimmering silver on a scented tree That trembles as we pass.
Hark now! So far, so far ... that distant song ... Move not the rustling grasses with your feet. The dusk is full of sounds, that all along The muttering boughs repeat.
So far, so faint, we lift our heads in doubt. Wind, or the blood that beats within our ears, Has feigned a dubious and delusive note, Such as a dreamer hears.
Again ... again! The faint sounds rise and fail. So far the enchanted tree, the song so low... A drowsy thrush? A waking nightingale? Silence. We do not know.
My lovely one, be near to me to-night. For now I need you most, since I have gone Through the sparse woodland in the fading light, Where in time past we two have walked alone, Heard the loud nightjar spin his pleasant note, And seen the wild rose folded up for sleep, And whispered, though the soft word choked my throat, Your dear name out across the valley deep. Be near to me, for now I need you most. To-night I saw an unsubstantial flame Flickering along those shadowy paths, a ghost That turned to me and answered to your name, Mocking me with a wraith of far delight. ... My lovely one, be near to me to-night.