EDITED BY SIR EDWARD MARSH
TO ALICE MEYNELL
The Poetry Bookshop 35 Devonshire St. Theobalds Rd. London W.C.1
When the fourth volume of this series was published three years ago, many of the critics who had up till then, as Horace Walpole said of God, been the dearest creatures in the world to me, took another turn. Not only did they very properly disapprove my choice of poems: they went on to write as if the Editor of 'Georgian Poetry' were a kind of public functionary, like the President of the Royal Academy; and they asked—again, on this assumption, very properly—who was E.M. that he should bestow and withhold crowns and sceptres, and decide that this or that poet was or was not to count.
This, in the words of Pirate Smee, was 'a kind of a compliment', but it was also, to quote the same hero, 'galling'; and I have wished for an opportunity of disowning the pretension which I found attributed to me of setting up as a pundit, or a pontiff, or a Petronius Arbiter; for I have neither the sure taste, nor the exhaustive reading, nor the ample leisure which would be necessary in any such role.
The origin of these books, which is set forth in the memoir of Rupert Brooke, was simple and humble. I found, ten years ago, that there were a number of writers doing work which appeared to me extremely good, but which was narrowly known; and I thought that anyone, however unprofessional and meagrely gifted, who presented a conspectus of it in a challenging and manageable form might be doing a good turn both to the poets and to the reading public. So, I think I may claim, it proved to be. The first volume seemed to supply a want. It was eagerly bought; the continuation of the affair was at once taken so much for granted as to be almost unavoidable; and there has been no break in the demand for the successive books. If they have won for themselves any position, there is no possible reason except the pleasure they have given.
Having entered upon a course of disclamation, I should like to make a mild protest against a further charge that Georgian Poetry has merely encouraged a small clique of mutually indistinguishable poetasters to abound in their own and each other's sense or nonsense. It is natural that the poets of a generation should have points in common; but to my fond eye those who have graced these collections look as diverse as sheep to their shepherd, or the members of a Chinese family to their uncle; and if there is an allegation which I would 'deny with both hands', it is this: that an insipid sameness is the chief characteristic of an anthology which offers—to name almost at random seven only out of forty (oh ominous academic number!)—the work of Messrs. Abercrombie, Davies, de la Mare, Graves, Lawrence, Nichols and Squire.
The ideal 'Georgian Poetry'—a book which would err neither by omission nor by inclusion, and would contain the best, and only the best poems of the best, and only the best poets of the day—could only be achieved, if at all, by dint of a Royal Commission. The present volume is nothing of the kind.
I may add one word bearing on my aim in selection. Much admired modern work seems to me, in its lack of inspiration and its disregard of form, like gravy imitating lava. Its upholders may retort that much of the work which I prefer seems to them, in its lack of inspiration and its comparative finish, like tapioca imitating pearls. Either view—possibly both—may be right. I will only say that with an occasional exception for some piece of rebelliousness or even levity which may have taken my fancy, I have tried to choose no verse but such as in Wordsworth's phrase
The high and tender Muses shall accept With gracious smile, deliberately pleased.
There are seven new-comers—Messrs. Armstrong, Blunden, Hughes, Kerr, Prewett and Quennell, and Miss Sackville-West. Thanks and acknowledgments are due to Messrs. Jonathan Cape, Chatto and Windus, R. Cobden-Sanderson, Constable, W. Collins, Heinemann, Hodder and Stoughton, John Lane, Macmillan, Martin Secker, Selwyn and Blount, Sidgwick and Jackson, and the Golden Cockerel Press; and to the Editors of 'The Cbapbook', 'The London Mercury' and 'The Westminster Gazette'.
The Buzzards (from 'The Buzzards') Honey Harvest Miss Thompson Goes Shopping (from 'The Buzzards')
The Poor Man's Pig (from 'The Shepherd') Almswomen (from 'The Waggoner') Perch-fishing " " " The Giant Puffball (from 'The Shepherd') The Child's Grave " " " April Byeway " " "
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
The Captive Lion (from 'The Song of Life') A Bird's Anger " " " The Villain " " " Love's Caution " " " Wasted Hours (from 'The Hour of Magic') The Truth (from 'The Song of Life')
WALTER DE LA MARE
The Moth (from 'The Veil') 'Sotto Voce' " " Sephina (from 'Flora ') Titmouse (from 'The Veil') Suppose (from 'Flora') The Corner Stone (from 'The Veil')
Persuasion (from 'Seeds of Time')
I Will Ask (from 'Poems New and Old') The Evening Sky " " " The Caves " " " Moon-Bathers (from 'Music') In Those Old Days (from 'Poems New and Old') Caterpillars (from 'Music') Change " "
Fire (from 'Neighbours') Barbara Fell " " Philip and Phoebe Ware " " By the Weir " " Worlds " "
Lost Love (from 'The Pier-Glass') Morning Phoenix " " A Lover Since Childhood Sullen Moods The Pier-Glass (from 'The Pier-Glass') The Troll's Nosegay " " Fox's Dingle " " The General Elliott (from 'On English Poetry') The Patchwork Bonnet (from 'The Pier-Glass')
The Singing Furies (from 'Gipsy-Night') Moonstruck " " Vagrancy " " Poets, Painters, Puddings "
In Memoriam D. O. M. Past and Present The Audit The Apple Tree Her New-Year Posy Counting Sheep The Trees at Night The Dead
D. H. LAWRENCE
Thistledown (from 'Real Property') Real Property " " " Unknown Country " " "
Night Rhapsody (from 'Aurelia') November " "
J. D. C. FELLOW
After London On a Friend who died suddenly upon the Seashore Tenebr When All is Said
To my Mother in Canada Voices of Women (from 'Poems') The Somme Valley " " Burial Stones " " Snow-Buntings " " The Kelso Road " " Baldon Lane " " Come Girl, and Embrace "
Procne A Man to a Sunflower Perception Pursuit
A Saxon Song (from 'Orchard and Vineyard') Mariana in the North " " " Full Moon " " " Sailing Ships " " " Trio " " " Bitterness " " " Evening " " "
The Rock Pool (from 'The Island of Youth') The Glade " " " Memory " " " Woman's Song The Wind A Lonely Place
J. C. SQUIRE
Elegy (from 'Poems,' 2nd series) Meditation in Lamplight " " Late Snow " "
FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG
Seascape Scirocco The Quails Song at Santa Cruz
* * * * *
All round the knoll, on days of quietest air, Secrets are being told; and if the trees Speak out—let them make uproar loud as drums— 'Tis secrets still, shouted instead of whisper'd.
There must have been a warning given once: No tree, on pain of withering and sawfly, To reach the slimmest of his snaky toes Into this mounded sward and rumple it; All trees stand back: taboo is on this soil.—
The trees have always scrupulously obeyed. The grass, that elsewhere grows as best it may Under the larches, countable long nesh blades, Here in clear sky pads the ground thick and close As wool upon a Southdown wether's back; And as in Southdown wool, your hand must sink Up to the wrist before it find the roots. A bed for summer afternoons, this grass; But in the Spring, not too softly entangling For lively feet to dance on, when the green Flashes with daffodils. From Marcle way, From Dymock, Kempley, Newent, Bromesberrow, Redmarley, all the meadowland daffodils seem Running in golden tides to Ryton Firs, To make the knot of steep little wooded hills Their brightest show: O bella et de l'oro! Now I breathe you again, my woods of Ryton: Not only golden with your daffodil-fires Lying in pools on the loose dusky ground Beneath the larches, tumbling in broad rivers Down sloping grass under the cherry trees And birches: but among your branches clinging A mist of that Ferrara-gold I first Loved in the easy hours then green with you; And as I stroll about you now, I have Accompanying me—like troops of lads and lasses Chattering and dancing in a shining fortune— Those mornings when your alleys of long light And your brown rosin-scented shadows were Enchanted with the laughter of my boys.
'The Voices in the Dream'
Follow my heart, my dancing feet, Dance as blithe as my heart can beat. Only can dancing understand What a heavenly way we pass Treading the green and golden land, Daffodillies and grass.
I had a song, too, on my road, But mine was in my eyes; For Malvern Hills were with me all the way, Singing loveliest visible melodies Blue as a south-sea bay; And ruddy as wine of France Breadths of new-turn'd ploughland under them glowed. 'Twas my heart then must dance To dwell in my delight; No need to sing when all in song my sight Moved over hills so musically made And with such colour played.— And only yesterday it was I saw Veil'd in streamers of grey wavering smoke My shapely Malvern Hills. That was the last hail-storm to trouble spring: He came in gloomy haste, Pusht in front of the white clouds quietly basking, In such a hurry he tript against the hills And stumbling forward spilt over his shoulders All his black baggage held, Streaking downpour of hail. Then fled dismayed, and the sun in golden glee And the high white clouds laught down his dusky ghost.
For all that's left of winter Is moisture in the ground. When I came down the valley last, the sun Just thawed the grass and made me gentle turf, But still the frost was bony underneath. Now moles take burrowing jaunts abroad, and ply Their shovelling hands in earth As nimbly as the strokes Of a swimmer in a long dive under water. The meadows in the sun are twice as green For all the scatter of fresh red mounded earth, The mischief of the moles: No dullish red, Glostershire earth new-delved In April! And I think shows fairest where These rummaging small rogues have been at work. If you will look the way the sunlight slants Making the grass one great green gem of light, Bright earth, crimson and even Scarlet, everywhere tracks The rambling underground affairs of moles: Though 'tis but kestrel-bay Looking against the sun.
But here's the happiest light can lie on ground, Grass sloping under trees Alive with yellow shine of daffodils! If quicksilver were gold, And troubled pools of it shaking in the sun It were not such a fancy of bickering gleam As Ryton daffodils when the air but stirs. And all the miles and miles of meadowland The spring makes golden ways, Lead here, for here the gold Grows brightest for our eyes, And for our hearts lovelier even than love. So here, each spring, our daffodil festival.
How smooth and quick the year Spins me the seasons round! How many days have slid across my mind Since we had snow pitying the frozen ground! Then winter sunshine cheered The bitter skies; the snow, Reluctantly obeying lofty winds, Drew off in shining clouds, Wishing it still might love With its white mercy the cold earth beneath. But when the beautiful ground Lights upward all the air, Noon thaws the frozen eaves, And makes the rime on post and paling steam Silvery blue smoke in the golden day. And soon from loaded trees in noiseless woods The snows slip thudding down, Scattering in their trail Bright icy sparkles through the glittering air; And the fir-branches, patiently bent so long, Sigh as they lift themselves to rights again. Then warm moist hours steal in, Such as can draw the year's First fragrance from the sap of cherry wood Or from the leaves of budless violets; And travellers in lanes Catch the hot tawny smell Reynard's damp fur left as he sneakt marauding
Across from gap to gap: And in the larch woods on the highest boughs The long-eared owls like grey cats sitting still Peer down to quiz the passengers below.
Light has killed the winter and all dark dreams. Now winds live all in light, Light has come down to earth and blossoms here, And we have golden minds. From out the long shade of a road high-bankt, I came on shelving fields; And from my feet cascading, Streaming down the land, Flickering lavish of daffodils flowed and fell; Like sunlight on a water thrill'd with haste, Such clear pale quivering flame, But a flame even more marvellously yellow. And all the way to Ryton here I walkt Ankle-deep in light. It was as if the world had just begun; And in a mind new-made Of shadowless delight My spirit drank my flashing senses in, And gloried to be made Of young mortality. No darker joy than this Golden amazement now Shall dare intrude into our dazzling lives: Stain were it now to know Mists of sweet warmth and deep delicious colour, Those lovable accomplices that come Befriending languid hours.
* * * * *
When evening came and the warm glow grew deeper And every tree that bordered the green meadows And in the yellow cornfields every reaper And every corn-shock stood above their shadows Flung eastward from their feet in longer measure, Serenely far there swam in the sunny height A buzzard and his mate who took their pleasure Swirling and poising idly in golden light. On great pied motionless moth-wings borne along, So effortless and so strong, Cutting each other's paths, together they glided, Then wheeled asunder till they soared divided Two valleys' width (as though it were delight To part like this, being sure they could unite So swiftly in their empty, free dominion), Curved headlong downward, towered up the sunny steep, Then, with a sudden lift of the one great pinion, Swung proudly to a curve and from its height Took half a mile of sunlight in one long sweep.
And we, so small on the swift immense hillside, Stood tranced, until our souls arose uplifted On those far-sweeping, wide, Strong curves of flight,—swayed up and hugely drifted, Were washed, made strong and beautiful in the tide Of sun-bathed air. But far beneath, beholden Through shining deeps of air, the fields were golden And rosy burned the heather where cornfields ended.
And still those buzzards wheeled, while light withdrew Out of the vales and to surging slopes ascended, Till the loftiest-flaming summit died to blue.
Late in March, when the days are growing longer And sight of early green Tells of the coming spring and suns grow stronger, Round the pale willow-catkins there are seen The year's first honey-bees Stealing the nectar: and bee-masters know This for the first sign of the honey-flow.
Then in the dark hillsides the Cherry-trees Gleam white with loads of blossom where the gleams Of piled snow lately hung, and richer streams The honey. Now, if chilly April days Delay the Apple-blossom, and the May's First week come in with sudden summer weather, The Apple and the Hawthorn bloom together, And all day long the plundering hordes go round And every overweighted blossom nods. But from that gathered essence they compound Honey more sweet than nectar of the gods.
Those blossoms fall ere June, warm June that brings The small white Clover. Field by scented field, Round farms like islands in the rolling weald, It spreads thick-flowering or in wildness springs Short-stemmed upon the naked downs, to yield A richer store of honey than the Rose, The Pink, the Honeysuckle. Thence there flows Nectar of clearest amber, redolent Of every flowery scent That the warm wind upgathers as he goes.
In mid-July be ready for the noise Of million bees in old Lime-avenues, As though hot noon had found a droning voice To ease her soul. Here for those busy crews Green leaves and pale-stemmed clusters of green strong flowers Build heavy-perfumed, cool, green-twilight bowers Whence, load by load, through the long summer days They fill their glassy cells With dark green honey, clear as chrysoprase, Which housewives shun; but the bee-master tells This brand is more delicious than all else.
In August-time, if moors are near at hand, Be wise and in the evening-twilight load Your hives upon a cart, and take the road By night: that, ere the early dawn shall spring And all the hills turn rosy with the Ling, Each waking hive may stand Established in its new-appointed land Without harm taken, and the earliest flights Set out at once to loot the heathery heights.
That vintage of the Heather yields so dense And glutinous a syrup that it foils Him who would spare the comb and drain from thence Its dark, full-flavoured spoils: For he must squeeze to wreck the beautiful Frail edifice. Not otherwise he sacks Those many-chambered palaces of wax.
Then let a choice of every kind be made, And, labelled, set upon your storehouse racks— Of Hawthorn-honey that of almond smacks: The luscious Lime-tree-honey, green as jade: Pale Willow-honey, hived by the first rover: That delicate honey culled From Apple-blosson, that of sunlight tastes: And sunlight-coloured honey of the Clover. Then, when the late year wastes, When night falls early and the noon is dulled And the last warm days are over, Unlock the store and to your table bring Essence of every blossom of the spring. And if, when wind has never ceased to blow All night, you wake to roofs and trees becalmed In level wastes of snow, Bring out the Lime-tree-honey, the embalmed Soul of a lost July, or Heather-spiced Brown-gleaming comb wherein sleeps crystallised All the hot perfume of the heathery slope. And, tasting and remembering, live in hope.
MISS THOMPSON GOES SHOPPING
Miss Thompson In her lone cottage on the downs, at Home. With winds and blizzards and great crowns Of shining cloud, with wheeling plover And short grass sweet with the small white clover, Miss Thompson lived, correct and meek, A lonely spinster, and every week On market-day she used to go Into the little town below, Tucked in the great downs' hollow bowl Like pebbles gathered in a shoal.
She goes So, having washed her plates and cup a-Marketing. And banked the kitchen-fire up, Miss Thompson slipped upstairs and dressed, Put on her black (her second best), The bonnet trimmed with rusty plush, Peeped in the glass with simpering blush, From camphor-smelling cupboard took Her thicker jacket off the hook Because the day might turn to cold. Then, ready, slipped downstairs and rolled The hearthrug back; then searched about, Found her basket, ventured out, Snecked the door and paused to lock it And plunge the key in some deep pocket. Then as she tripped demurely down The steep descent, the little town Spread wider till its sprawling street Enclosed her and her footfalls beat On hard stone pavement, and she felt Those throbbing ecstasies that melt Through heart and mind, as, happy, free, Her small, prim personality Merged into the seething strife Of auction-marts and city life.
She visits Serenely down the busy stream the Boot-maker. Miss Thompson floated in a dream. Now, hovering bee-like, she would stop Entranced before some tempting shop, Getting in people's way and prying At things she never thought of buying: Now wafted on without an aim, Until in course of time she came To Watson's bootshop. Long she pries At boots and shoes of every size— Brown football-boots with bar and stud For boys that scuffle in the mud, And dancing-pumps with pointed toes Glossy as jet, and dull black bows; Slim ladies' shoes with two-inch heel And sprinkled beads of gold and steel— 'How anyone can wear such things!' On either side the doorway springs (As in a tropic jungle loom Masses of strange thick-petalled bloom And fruits mis-shapen) fold on fold A growth of sand-shoes rubber-soled, Clambering the door-posts, branching, spawning Their barbarous bunches like an awning Over the windows and the doors. But, framed among the other stores, Something has caught Miss Thompson's eye (O worldliness! O vanity!), A pair of slippers—scarlet plush. Miss Thompson feels a conscious blush Suffuse her face, as though her thought Had ventured further than it ought.
But O that colour's rapturous singing And the answer in her lone heart ringing! She turns (O Guardian Angels, stop her From doing anything improper!) She turns; and see, she stoops and bungles In through the sand-shoes' hanging jungles, Away from light and common sense, Into the shop dim-lit and dense With smells of polish and tanned hide.
Mrs. Watson. Soon from a dark recess inside Fat Mrs. Watson comes slip-slop To mind the business of the shop. She walks flat-footed with a roll— A serviceable, homely soul, With kindly, ugly face like dough, Hair dull and colourless as tow. A huge Scotch pebble fills the space Between her bosom and her face. One sees her making beds all day. Miss Thompson lets her say her say: 'So chilly for the time of year. It's ages since we saw you here.' Then, heart a-flutter, speech precise, Describes the shoes and asks the price. 'Them, Miss? Ah, them is six-and-nine.' Miss Thompson shudders down the spine (Dream of impossible romance). She eyes them with a wistful glance, Torn between good and evil. Yes,
Wrestles with For half-a-minute and no less a Temptation; Miss Thompson strives with seven devils, Then, soaring over earthly levels,
And is Saved. Turns from the shoes with lingering touch— 'Ah, six-and-nine is far too much. Sorry to trouble you. Good day!'
She visits A little further down the way the Fish-monger. Stands Miles's fish-shop, whence is shed So strong a smell of fishes dead That people of a subtler sense Hold their breath and hurry thence. Miss Thompson hovers there and gazes: Her housewife's knowing eye appraises Salt and fresh, severely cons Kippers bright as tarnished bronze: Great cods disposed upon the sill, Chilly and wet, with gaping gill, Flat head, glazed eye, and mute, uncouth, Shapeless, wan, old-woman's mouth. Next a row of soles and plaice With querulous and twisted face, And red-eyed bloaters, golden-grey; Smoked haddocks ranked in neat array; A group of smelts that take the light Like slips of rainbow, pearly bright; Silver trout with rosy spots, And coral shrimps with keen black dots For eyes, and hard and jointed sheath And crisp tails curving underneath. But there upon the sanded floor, More wonderful in all that store Than anything on slab or shelf, Stood Miles, the fishmonger, himself.
Mr. Miles. Four-square he stood and filled the place. His huge hands and his jolly face Were red. He had a mouth to quaff Pint after pint: a sounding laugh, But wheezy at the end, and oft His eyes bulged outwards and he coughed. Aproned he stood from chin to toe. The apron's vertical long flow Warped grandly outwards to display His hale, round belly hung midway, Whose apex was securely bound With apron-strings wrapped round and round. Outside, Miss Thompson, small and staid, Felt, as she always felt, afraid Of this huge man who laughed so loud And drew the notice of the crowd. Awhile she paused in timid thought, Then promptly hurried in and bought 'Two kippers, please. Yes, lovely weather.' 'Two kippers? Sixpence altogether:' And in her basket laid the pair Wrapped face to face in newspaper.
Relapses into Then on she went, as one half blind, Temptation: For things were stirring in her mind; Then turned about with fixed intent And, heading for the bootshop, went
And Falls. Straight in and bought the scarlet slippers And popped them in beside the kippers.
She visits So much for that. From there she tacked, the Chemist, Still flushed by this decisive act, Westward, and came without a stop To Mr. Wren the chemist's shop, And stood awhile outside to see The tall, big-bellied bottles three— Red, blue, and emerald, richly bright Each with its burning core of light. The bell chimed as she pushed the door. Spotless the oilcloth on the floor, Limpid as water each glass case, Each thing precisely in its place. Rows of small drawers, black-lettered each With curious words of foreign speech, Ranked high above the other ware. The old strange fragrance filled the air, A fragrance like the garden pink, But tinged with vague medicinal stink Of camphor, soap, new sponges, blent With chloroform and violet scent.
Mr. Wren. And Wren the chemist, tall and spare, Stood gaunt behind his counter there. Quiet and very wise he seemed, With skull-like face, bald head that gleamed; Through spectacles his eyes looked kind. He wore a pencil tucked behind His ear. And never he mistakes The wildest signs the doctor makes Prescribing drugs. Brown paper, string, He will not use for any thing, But all in neat white parcels packs And sticks them up with sealing-wax. Miss Thompson bowed and blushed, and then Undoubting bought of Mr. Wren, Being free from modern scepticism, A bottle for her rheumatism; Also some peppermints to take In case of wind; an oval cake Of scented soap; a penny square Of pungent naphthaline to scare The moth. And after Wren had wrapped And sealed the lot, Miss Thompson clapped Them in beside the fish and shoes; 'Good day,' she says, and off she goes.
Is Led away Beelike Miss Thompson, whither next? to the Pleasure Outside, you pause awhile, perplext, of the Town, Your bearings lost. Then all comes back
Such as Groceries And round she wheels, hot on the track and Millinery, Of Giles the grocer, and from there To Emilie the milliner, There to be tempted by the sight Of hats and blouses fiercely bright. (O guard Miss Thompson, Powers that Be, From Crudeness and Vulgarity.)
And other Still on from shop to shop she goes Allurements With sharp bird's-eye, enquiring nose, Prying and peering, entering some, Oblivious of the thought of home. The town brimmed up with deep-blue haze, But still she stayed to flit and gaze, Her eyes ablur with rapturous sights, Her small soul full of small delights, Empty her purse, her basket filled.
But at length The traffic in the town was stilled. is Convinced The clock struck six. Men thronged the inns. of Indiscretion. Dear, dear, she should be home long since.
And Returns Then as she climbed the misty downs Home. The lamps were lighted in the town's Small streets. She saw them star by star Multiplying from afar; Till, mapped beneath her, she could trace Each street, and the wide square market-place Sunk deeper and deeper as she went Higher up the steep ascent. And all that soul-uplifting stir Step by step fell back from her, The glory gone, the blossoming Shrivelled, and she, a small, frail thing, Carrying her laden basket. Till Darkness and silence of the hill Received her in their restful care And stars came dropping through the air.
But loudly, sweetly sang the slippers In the basket with the kippers; And loud and sweet the answering thrills From her lone heart on the hills.
* * * * *
THE POOR MAN'S PIG
Already fallen plum-bloom stars the green And apple-boughs as knarred as old toads' backs Wear their small roses ere a rose is seen; The building thrush watches old Job who stacks The bright-peeled osiers on the sunny fence, The pent sow grunts to hear him stumping by, And tries to push the bolt and scamper thence, But her ringed snout still keeps her to the sty.
Then out he lets her run; away she snorts In bundling gallop for the cottage door, With hungry hubbub begging crusts and orts, Then like the whirlwind bumping round once more; Nuzzling the dog, making the pullets run, And sulky as a child when her play's done.
At Quincey's moat the squandering village ends, And there in the almshouse dwell the dearest friends Of all the village, two old dames that cling As close as any trueloves in the spring. Long, long ago they passed threescore-and-ten, And in this doll's house lived together then; All things they have in common, being so poor, And their one fear, Death's shadow at the door. Each sundown makes them mournful, each sunrise Brings back the brightness in their failing eyes.
How happy go the rich fair-weather days When on the roadside folk stare in amaze At such a honeycomb of fruit and flowers As mellows round their threshold; what long hours They gloat upon their steepling hollyhocks, Bee's balsams, feathery southernwood, and stocks, Fiery dragon's-mouths, great mallow leaves For salves, and lemon-plants in bushy sheaves, Shagged Esau's-hands with five green finger-tips. Such old sweet names are ever on their lips. As pleased as little children where these grow In cobbled pattens and worn gowns they go, Proud of their wisdom when on gooseberry shoots They stuck eggshells to fright from coming fruits The brisk-billed rascals; pausing still to see Their neighbour owls saunter from tree to tree, Or in the hushing half-light mouse the lane Long-winged and lordly. But when those hours wane, Indoors they ponder, scared by the harsh storm Whose pelting saracens on the window swarm, And listen for the mail to clatter past And church clock's deep bay withering on the blast; They feed the fire that flings a freakish light On pictured kings and queens grotesquely bright, Platters and pitchers, faded calendars And graceful hour-glass trim with lavenders.
Many a time they kiss and cry, and pray That both be summoned in the self-same day, And wiseman linnet tinkling in his cage End too with them the friendship of old age, And all together leave their treasured room Some bell-like evening when the may's in bloom.
On the far hill the cloud of thunder grew And sunlight blurred below; but sultry blue Burned yet on the valley water where it hoards Behind the miller's elmen floodgate boards, And there the wasps, that lodge them ill-concealed In the vole's empty house, still drove afield To plunder touchwood from old crippled trees And build their young ones their hutched nurseries; Still creaked the grasshoppers' rasping unison Nor had the whisper through the tansies run Nor weather-wisest bird gone home. How then Should wry eels in the pebbled shallows ken Lightning coming? troubled up they stole To the deep-shadowed sullen water-hole, Among whose warty snags the quaint perch lair. As cunning stole the boy to angle there, Muffling least tread, with no noise balancing through The hangdog alder-boughs his bright bamboo. Down plumbed the shuttled ledger, and the quill On the quicksilver water lay dead still.
A sharp snatch, swirling to-fro of the line, He's lost, he's won, with splash and scuffling shine Past the low-lapping brandy-flowers drawn in, The ogling hunchback perch with needled fin. And there beside him one as large as he, Following his hooked mate, careless who shall see Or what befall him, close and closer yet— The startled boy might take him in his net That folds the other. Slow, while on the clay, The other flounces, slow he sinks away.
What agony usurps that watery brain For comradeship of twenty summers slain, For such delights below the flashing weir And up the sluice-cut, playing buccaneer Among the minnows; lolling in hot sun When bathing vagabonds had drest and done; Rootling in salty flannel-weed for meal And river shrimps, when hushed the trundling wheel; Snapping the dapping moth, and with new wonder Prowling through old drowned barges falling asunder. And O a thousand things the whole year through They did together, never more to do.
THE GIANT PUFFBALL
From what sad star I know not, but I found Myself new-born below the coppice rail, No bigger than the dewdrops and as round, In a soft sward, no cattle might assail.
And so I gathered mightiness and grew With this one dream kindling in me, that I Should never cease from conquering light and dew Till my white splendour touched the trembling sky.
A century of blue and stilly light Bowed down before me, the dew came again, The moon my sibyl worshipped through the night, The sun returned and long abode; but then
Hoarse drooping darkness hung me with a shroud And switched at me with shrivelled leaves in scorn. Red morning stole beneath a grinning cloud, And suddenly clambering over dike and thorn
A half-moon host of churls with flags and sticks Hallooed and hurtled up the partridge brood, And Death clapped hands from all the echoing thicks, And trampling envy spied me where I stood;
Who haled me tired and quaking, hid me by, And came again after an age of cold, And hung me in the prison-house adry From the great crossbeam. Here defiled and old
I perish through unnumbered hours, I swoon, Hacked with harsh knives to staunch a child's torn hand; And all my hopes must with my body soon Be but as crouching dust and wind-blown sand.
THE CHILD'S GRAVE
I came to the churchyard where pretty Joy lies On a morning in April, a rare sunny day; Such bloom rose around, and so many birds' cries That I sang for delight as I followed the way.
I sang for delight in the ripening of spring, For dandelions even were suns come to earth; Not a moment went by but a new lark took wing To wait on the season with melody's mirth.
Love-making birds were my mates all the road, And who would wish surer delight for the eye Than to see pairing goldfinches gleaming abroad Or yellowhammers sunning on paling and sty?
And stocks in the almswomen's garden were blown, With rich Easter roses each side of the door; The lazy white owls in the glade cool and lone Paid calls on their cousins in the elm's chambered core.
This peace, then, and happiness thronged me around. Nor could I go burdened with grief, but made merry Till I came to the gate of that overgrown ground Where scarce once a year sees the priest come to bury.
Over the mounds stood the nettles in pride, And, where no fine flowers, there kind weeds dared to wave; It seemed but as yesterday she lay by my side, And now my dog ate of the grass on her grave.
He licked my hand wondering to see me muse so, And wished I would lead on the journey or home, As though not a moment of spring were to go In brooding; but I stood, if her spirit might come
And tell me her life, since we left her that day In the white lilied coffin, and rained down our tears; But the grave held no answer, though long I should stay; How strange that this clay should mingle with hers!
So I called my good dog, and went on my way; Joy's spirit shone then in each flower I went by, And clear as the noon, in coppice and ley, Her sweet dawning smile and her violet eye!
Friend whom I never saw, yet dearest friend, Be with me travelling on the byeway now In April's month and mood: our steps shall bend By the shut smithy with its penthouse brow Armed round with many a felly and crackt plough: And we will mark in his white smock the mill Standing aloof, long numbed to any wind, That in his crannies mourns, and craves him still; But now there is not any grain to grind, And even the master lies too deep for winds to find.
Grieve not at these: for there are mills amain With lusty sails that leap and drop away On further knolls, and lads to fetch the grain. The ash-spit wickets on the green betray New games begun and old ones put away. Let us fare on, dead friend, O deathless friend, Where under his old hat as green as moss The hedger chops and finds new gaps to mend, And on his bonfires burns the thorns and dross, And hums a hymn, the best, thinks he, that ever was.
There the grey guinea-fowl stands in the way, The young black heifer and the raw-ribbed mare, And scorn to move for tumbril or for dray, And feel themselves as good as farmers there. From the young corn the prick-eared leverets stare At strangers come to spy the land—small sirs, We bring less danger than the very breeze Who in great zig-zag blows the bee, and whirs In bluebell shadow down the bright green leas; From whom in frolic fit the chopt straw darts and flees.
The cornel steepling up in white shall know The two friends passing by, and poplar smile All gold within; the church-top fowl shall glow To lure us on, and we shall rest awhile Where the wild apple blooms above the stile; The yellow frog beneath blinks up half bold, Then scares himself into the deeper green. And thus spring was for you in days of old, And thus will be when I too walk unseen By one that thinks me friend, the best that there has been.
All our lone journey laughs for joy, the hours Like honey-bees go home in new-found light Past the cow pond amazed with twinkling flowers And antique chalk-pit newly delved to white, Or idle snow-plough nearly hid from sight. The blackbird sings us home, on a sudden peers The round tower hung with ivy's blackened chains, Then past the little green the byeway veers, The mill-sweeps torn, the forge with cobwebbed panes That have so many years looked out across the plains.
But the old forge and mill are shut and done, The tower is crumbling down, stone by stone falls; An ague doubt comes creeping in the sun, The sun himself shudders, the day appals, The concourse of a thousand tempests sprawls Over the blue-lipped lakes and maddening groves, Like agonies of gods the clouds are whirled, The stormwind like the demon huntsman roves— Still stands my friend, though all's to chaos hurled, The unseen friend, the one last friend in all the world.
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
THE CAPTIVE LION
Thou that in fury with thy knotted tail Hast made this iron floor thy beaten drum; That now in silence walkst thy little space— Like a sea-captain—careless what may come:
What power has brought thy majesty to this, Who gave those eyes their dull and sleepy look; Who took their lightning out, and from thy throat The thunder when the whole wide forest shook?
It was that man who went again, alone, Into thy forest dark—Lord, he was brave! That man a fly has killed, whose bones are left Unburied till an earthquake digs his grave.
A BIRD'S ANGER
A summer's morning that has but one voice; Five hundred stocks, like golden lovers, lean Their heads together, in their quiet way, And but one bird sings, of a number seen.
It is the lark, that louder, louder sings, As though but this one thought possessed his mind: 'You silent robin, blackbird, thrush, and finch, I'll sing enough for all you lazy kind!'
And when I hear him at this daring task, 'Peace, little bird,' I say, 'and take some rest; Stop that wild, screaming fire of angry song, Before it makes a coffin of your nest.'
While joy gave clouds the light of stars, That beamed where'er they looked; And calves and lambs had tottering knees, Excited, while they sucked; While every bird enjoyed his song, Without one thought of harm or wrong— I turned my head and saw the wind, Not far from where I stood, Dragging the corn by her golden hair, Into a dark and lonely wood.
Tell them, when you are home again, How warm the air was now; How silent were the birds and leaves, And of the moon's full glow; And how we saw afar A falling star: It was a tear of pure delight Ran down the face of Heaven this happy night.
Our kisses are but love in flower, Until that greater time When, gathering strength, those flowers take wing, And Love can reach his prime. And now, my heart's delight, Good night, good night; Give me the last sweet kiss— But do not breathe at home one word of this!
How many buds in this warm light Have burst out laughing into leaves! And shall a day like this be gone Before I seek the wood that holds The richest music known?
Too many times have nightingales Wasted their passion on my sleep, And brought repentance soon: But this one night I'll seek the woods, The nightingale, and moon.
Since I have seen a bird one day, His head pecked more than half away; That hopped about, with but one eye, Ready to fight again, and die— Ofttimes since then their private lives Have spoilt that joy their music gives.
So when I see this robin now, Like a red apple on the bough, And question why he sings so strong, For love, or for the love of song; Or sings, maybe, for that sweet rill Whose silver tongue is never still—
Ah, now there comes this thought unkind, Born of the knowledge in my mind: He sings in triumph that last night He killed his father in a fight; And now he'll take his mother's blood— The last strong rival for his food.
* * * * *
WALTER DE LA MARE
Isled in the midnight air, Musked with the dark's faint bloom, Out into glooming and secret haunts The flame cries, 'Come!'
Lovely in dye and fan, A-tremble in shimmering grace, A moth from her winter swoon Uplifts her face:
Stares from her glamorous eyes; Wafts her on plumes like mist; In ecstasy swirls and sways To her strange tryst.
(To EDWARD THOMAS)
The haze of noon wanned silver-grey, The soundless mansion of the sun; The air made visible in his ray, Like molten glass from furnace run, Quivered o'er heat-baked turf and stone And the flower of the gorse burned on— Burned softly as gold of a child's fair hair Along each spiky spray, and shed Almond-like incense in the air Whereon our senses fed.
At foot—a few sparse harebells: blue And still as were the friend's dark eyes That dwelt on mine, transfixd through With sudden ecstatic surmise.
'Hst!' he cried softly, smiling, and lo, Stealing amidst that maze gold-green, I heard a whispering music flow From guileful throat of bird, unseen:— So delicate, the straining ear Scarce carried its faint syllabling Into a heart caught-up to hear That inmost pondering Of bird-like self with self. We stood, In happy trance-like solitude, Hearkening a lullay grieved and sweet— As when on isle uncharted beat 'Gainst coral at the palm-tree's root, With brine-clear, snow-white foam afloat, The wailing, not of water or wind— A husht, far, wild, divine lament, When Prospero his wizardry bent Winged Ariel to bind....
Then silence, and o'er-flooding noon. I raised my head; smiled too. And he— Moved his great hand, the magic gone— Gently amused to see My ignorant wonderment. He sighed. 'It was a nightingale,' he said, 'That sotto voce cons the song He'll sing when dark is spread; And Night's vague hours are sweet and long, And we are laid abed.'
Black lacqueys at the wide-flung door Stand mute as men of wood. Gleams like a pool the ballroom floor— A burnished solitude. A hundred waxen tapers shine From silver sconces; softly pine 'Cello, fiddle, mandoline, To music deftly wooed— And dancers in cambric, satin, silk, With glancing hair and cheeks like milk, Wreathe, curtsey, intertwine.
The drowse of roses lulls the air Wafted up the marble stair. Like warbling water clucks the talk. From room to room in splendour walk Guests, smiling in the ry sheen; Carmine and azure, white and green, They stoop and languish, pace and preen Bare shoulder, painted fan, Gemmed wrist and finger, neck of swan; And still the pluckt strings warble on; Still from the snow-bowered, link-lit street The muffled hooves of horses beat; And harness rings; and foam-fleckt bit Clanks as the slim heads toss and stare From deep, dark eyes. Smiling, at ease, Mount to the porch the pomped grandees In lonely state, by twos, and threes, Exchanging languid courtesies, While torches fume and flare.
And now the banquet calls. A blare Of squalling trumpets clots the air. And, flocking out, streams up the rout; And lilies nod to velvet's swish; And peacocks prim on gilded dish, Vast pies thick-glazed, and gaping fish, Towering confections crisp as ice, Jellies aglare like cockatrice, With thousand savours tongues entice. Fruits of all hues barbaric gloom— Pomegranate, quince and peach and plum, Mandarine, grape, and cherry clear Englobe each glassy chandelier, Where nectarous flowers their sweets distil— Jessamine, tuberose, chamomill, Wild-eye narcissus, anemone, Tendril of ivy and vinery.
Now odorous wines the goblets fill; Gold-cradled meats the menials bear From gilded chair to gilded chair: Now roars the talk like crashing seas, Foams upward to the painted frieze, Echoes and ebbs. Still surges in, To yelp of hautboy and violin, Plumed and bedazzling, rosed and rare, Dance-bemused, with cheek aglow, Stooping the green-twined portal through, Sighing with laughter, debonair, That concourse of the proud and fair— And lo! 'La, la! Mamma ... Mamma!' Falls a small cry in the dark and calls— 'I see you standing there!'
Fie, fie, Sephina! not in bed! Crouched on the staircase overhead, Like ghost she gloats, her lean hand laid On alabaster balustrade, And gazes on and on Down on that wondrous to and fro Till finger and foot are cold as snow, And half the night is gone; And dazzled eyes are sore bestead; Nods drowsily the sleek-locked head; And, vague and far, spins, fading out, That rainbow-coloured, reeling rout, And, with faint sighs, her spirit flies Into deep sleep....
Come, Stranger, peep! Was ever cheek so wan?
If you would happy company win, Dangle a palm-nut from a tree, Idly in green to sway and spin, Its snow-pulped kernel for bait; and see, A nimble titmouse enter in.
Out of earth's vast unknown of air, Out of all summer, from wave to wave, He'll perch, and prank his feathers fair, Jangle a glass-clear wildering stave, And take his commons there—
This tiny son of life; this spright, By momentary Human sought, Plume will his wing in the dappling light, Clash timbrel shrill and gay— And into time's enormous nought, Sweet-fed, will flit away.
Suppose ... and suppose that a wild little Horse of Magic Came cantering out of the sky, With bridle of silver, and into the saddle I mounted, To fly—and to fly;
And we stretched up into the air, fleeting on in the sunshine, A speck in the gleam, On galloping hoofs, his mane in the wind out-flowing, In a shadowy stream;
And oh, when, all lone, the gentle star of evening Came crinkling into the blue, A magical castle we saw in the air, like a cloud of moonlight, As onward we flew;
And across the green moat on the drawbridge we foamed and we snorted, And there was a beautiful Queen Who smiled at me strangely; and spoke to my wild little Horse, too— A lovely and beautiful Queen;
And she cried with delight—and delight—to her delicate maidens, 'Behold my daughter—my dear!' And they crowned me with flowers, and then to their harps sate playing, Solemn and clear;
And magical cakes and goblets were spread on the table; And at window the birds came in; Hopping along with bright eyes, pecking crumbs from the platters, And sipped of the wine;
And splashing up—up to the roof tossed fountains of crystal; And Princes in scarlet and green Shot with their bows and arrows, and kneeled with their dishes Of fruits for the Queen;
And we walked in a magical garden with rivers and bowers, And my bed was of ivory and gold; And the Queen breathed soft in my ear a song of enchantment— And I never grew old....
And I never, never came back to the earth, oh, never and never; How mother would cry and cry! There'd be snow on the fields then, and all these sweet flowers in the winter Would wither, and die....
Suppose ... and suppose ...
THE CORNER STONE
Sterile these stones By time in ruin laid. Yet many a creeping thing Its haven has made In these least crannies, where falls Dark's dew, and noonday shade.
The claw of the tender bird Finds lodgment here; Dye-winged butterflies poise; Emmet and beetle steer Their busy course; the bee Drones, laden, near.
Their myriad-mirrored eyes Great day reflect. By their exquisite farings Is this granite specked; Is trodden to infinite dust; By gnawing lichens decked.
Toward what eventual dream Sleeps its cold on, When into ultimate dark These lives shall be gone, And even of man not a shadow remain Of all he has done?
* * * * *
Then I asked: 'Does a firm persuasion that a thing is so, make it so?'
He replied: 'All Poets believe that it does, and in ages of imagination this firm persuasion removed mountains; but many are not capable of a firm persuasion of anything.'
Blake's 'Marriage of Heaven and Hell'.
At any moment love unheralded Comes, and is king. Then as, with a fall Of frost, the buds upon the hawthorn spread Are withered in untimely burial, So love, occasion gone, his crown puts by, And as a beggar walks unfriended ways, With but remembered beauty to defy The frozen sorrows of unsceptred days. Or in that later travelling he comes Upon a bleak oblivion, and tells Himself, again, again, forgotten tombs Are all now that love was, and blindly spells His royal state of old a glory cursed, Saying 'I have forgot', and that's the worst.
If we should part upon that one embrace, And set our courses ever, each from each, With all our treasure but a fading face And little ghostly syllables of speech; Should beauty's moment never be renewed, And moons on moons look out for us in vain, And each but whisper from a solitude To hear but echoes of a lonely pain,— Still in a world that fortune cannot change Should walk those two that once were you and I, Those two that once when moon and stars were strange Poets above us in an April sky, Heard a voice falling on the midnight sea, Mute, and for ever, but for you and me.
This nature, this great flood of life, this cheat That uses us as baubles for her coat, Takes love, that should be nothing but the beat Of blood for its own beauty, by the throat, Saying, you are my servant and shall do My purposes, or utter bitterness Shall be your wage, and nothing come to you But stammering tongues that never can confess. Undaunted then in answer here I cry, 'You wanton, that control the hand of him Who masquerades as wisdom in a sky Where holy, holy, sing the cherubim, I will not pay one penny to your name Though all my body crumble into shame.'
Woman, I once had whimpered at your hand, Saying that all the wisdom that I sought Lay in your brain, that you were as the sand Should cleanse the muddy mirrors of my thought; I should have read in you the character Of oracles that quick a thousand lays, Looked in your eyes, and seen accounted there Solomons legioned for bewildered praise. Now have I learnt love as love is. I take Your hand, and with no inquisition learn All that your eyes can tell, and that's to make A little reckoning and brief, then turn Away, and in my heart I hear a call, 'I love, I love, I love'; and that is all.
When all the hungry pain of love I bear, And in poor lightless thought but burn and burn, And wit goes hunting wisdom everywhere, Yet can no word of revelation learn; When endlessly the scales of yea and nay In dreadful motion fall and rise and fall, When all my heart in sorrow I could pay Until at last were left no tear at all; Then if with tame or subtle argument Companions come and draw me to a place Where words are but the tappings of content, And life spreads all her garments with a grace, I curse that ease, and hunger in my heart Back to my pain and lonely to depart.
Not anything you do can make you mine, For enterprise with equal charity In duty as in love elect will shine, The constant slave of mutability. Nor can your words for all their honey breath Outsing the speech of many an older rhyme, And though my ear deliver them from death One day or two, it is so little time. Nor does your beauty in its excellence Excel a thousand in the daily sun, Yet must I put a period to pretence, And with my logic's catalogue have done, For act and word and beauty are but keys To unlock the heart, and you, dear love, are these.
Never the heart of spring had trembled so As on that day when first in Paradise We went afoot as novices to know For the first time what blue was in the skies, What fresher green than any in the grass, And how the sap goes beating to the sun, And tell how on the clocks of beauty pass Minute by minute till the last is done. But not the new birds singing in the brake, And not the buds of our discovery, The deeper blue, the wilder green, the ache For beauty that we shadow as we see, Made heaven, but we, as love's occasion brings, Took these, and made them Paradisal things.
The lilacs offer beauty to the sun, Throbbing with wonder as eternally For sad and happy lovers they have done With the first bloom of summer in the sky; Yet they are newly spread in honour now, Because, for every beam of beauty given Out of that clustering heart, back to the bough My love goes beating, from a greater heaven. So be my love for good or sorry luck Bound, it has virtue on this April eve That shall be there for ever when they pluck Lilacs for love. And though I come to grieve Long at a frosty tomb, there still shall be My happy lyric in the lilac tree.
When they make silly question of my love, And speak to me of danger and disdain, And look by fond old argument to move My wisdom to docility again; When to my prouder heart they set the pride Of custom and the gossip of the street, And show me figures of myself beside A self diminished at their judgment seat; Then do I sit as in a drowsy pew To hear a priest expounding th' heavenly will, Defiling wonder that he never knew With stolen words of measured good and ill; For to the love that knows their counselling, Out of my love contempt alone I bring.
Not love of you is most that I can bring, Since what I am to love you is the test, And should I love you more than any thing You would but be of idle love possessed, A mere love wandering in appetite, Counting your glories and yet bringing none, Finding in you occasions of delight, A thief of payment for no service done. But when of labouring life I make a song And bring it you, as that were my reward, To let what most is me to you belong, Then do I come of high possessions lord, And loving life more than my love of you I give you love more excellently true.
What better tale could any lover tell When age or death his reckoning shall write Than thus, 'Love taught me only to rebel Against these things,—the thieving of delight Without return; the gospellers of fear Who, loving, yet deny the truth they bear, Sad-suited lusts with lecherous hands to smear The cloth of gold they would but dare not wear. And love gave me great knowledge of the trees, And singing birds, and earth with all her flowers; Wisdom I knew and righteousness in these, I lived in their atonement all my hours; Love taught me how to beauty's eye alone The secret of the lying heart is known.'
This then at last; we may be wiser far Than love, and put his folly to our measure, Yet shall we learn, poor wizards that we are, That love chimes not nor motions at our pleasure. We bid him come, and light an eager fire, And he goes down the road without debating; We cast him from the house of our desire, And when at last we leave he will be waiting. And in the end there is no folly but this, To counsel love out of our little learning. For still he knows where rotten timber is, And where the boughs for the long winter burning; And when life needs no more of us at all, Love's word will be the last that we recall.
* * * * *
I WILL ASK
I will ask primrose and violet to spend for you Their smell and hue, And the bold, trembling anemone awhile to spare Her flowers starry fair; Or the flushed wild apple and yet sweeter thorn Their sweetness to keep Longer than any fire-bosomed flower born Between midnight and midnight deep.
And I will take celandine, nettle and parsley, white In its own green light, Or milkwort and sorrel, thyme, harebell and meadow-sweet Lifting at your feet, And ivy-blossom beloved of soft bees; I will take The loveliest— The seeding grasses that bend with the winds, and shake Though the winds are at rest.
'For me?' you will ask. 'Yes! surely they wave for you Their smell and hue, And you away all that is rare were so much less By your missed happiness.' Yet I know grass and weed, ivy and apple and thorn Their whole sweet would keep, Though in Eden no human spirit on a shining morn Had awaked from sleep.
THE EVENING SKY
Rose-bosom'd and rose-limb'd With eyes of dazzling bright Shakes Venus mid the twined boughs of the night; Rose-limb'd, soft-stepping From low bough to bough, Shaking the wide-hung starry fruitage—dimmed Its bloom of snow By that sole planetary glow.
Venus, avers the astronomer, Not thus idly dancing goes Flushing the eternal orchard with wild rose. She through ether burns Outpacing planetary earth, And ere two years triumphantly returns, And again wave-like swelling flows, And again her flashing apparition comes and goes.
This we have not seen, No heavenly courses set, No flight unpausing through a void serene: But when eve clears, Arises Venus as she first uprose Stepping the shaken boughs among, And in her bosom glows The warm light hidden in sunny snows.
She shakes the clustered stars Lightly, as she goes Amid the unseen branches of the night, Rose-limb'd, rose-bosom'd bright.
She leaps: they shake and pale; she glows— And who but knows How the rejoiced heart aches When Venus all his starry vision shakes;
When through his mind Tossing with random airs of an unearthly wind, Rose-bosom'd, rose-limb'd, The mistress of his starry vision arises, And the boughs glittering sway And the stars pale away, And the enlarging heaven glows As Venus light-foot mid the twined branches goes.
Like the tide—knocking at the hollowed cliff And running into each green cave as if In the cave's night to keep Eternal motion grave and deep—
That, even while each broken wave repeats Its answered knocking and with bruised hand beats Again, again, again, Tossed between ecstasy and pain;
Still in the folded hollow darkness swells, Sinks, swells, and every green-hung hollow fills, Till there's no room for sound Save that old anger rolled around;
So into every hollow cliff of life, Into this heart's deep cave so loud with strife, In tunnels I knew not, In lightless labyrinths of thought,
The unresting tide has run and the dark filled, Even the vibration of old strife is stilled; The wave returning bears Muted those time-breathing airs.
—How shall the million-footed tide still tread These hollows and in each cold void cave spread? How shall Love here keep Eternal motion grave and deep?
Falls from her heaven the Moon, and stars sink burning Into the sea where blackness rims the sea, Silently quenched. Faint light that the waves hold Is only light remaining; yet still gleam The sands where those now-sleeping young moon-bathers Came dripping out of the sea and from their arms Shook flakes of light, dancing on the foamy edge Of quiet waves. They were all things of light Tossed from the sea to dance under the Moon— Her nuns, dancing within her dying round, Clear limbs and breasts silvered with Moon and waves And quick with windlike mood and body's joy, Withdrawn from alien vows, by wave and wind Lightly absolved and lightly all forgetting.
An hour ago they left. Remains the gleam Of their late motion on the salt sea-meadow, As loveliest hues linger when the sun's gone And float in the heavens and die in reedy pools— So slowly, who shall say when light is gone?
IN THOSE OLD DAYS
In those old days you were called beautiful, But I have worn the beauty from your face; The flowerlike bloom has withered on your cheek With the harsh years, and the fire in your eyes Burns darker now and deeper, feeding on Beauty and the remembrance of things gone. Even your voice is altered when you speak, Or is grown mute with old anxiety For me.
Even as a fire leaps into flame and burns Leaping and laughing in its lovely flight, And then under the flame a glowing dome Deepens slowly into blood-like light:— So did you flame and in flame take delight, So are you hollow'd now with aching fire. But I still warm me and make there my home, Still beauty and youth burn there invisibly For me.
Now my lips falling on your silver'd skull, My fingers in the valleys of your cheeks, Or my hands in your thin strong hands fast caught, Your body clutched to mine, mine bent to yours: Now love undying feeds on love beautiful, Now, now I am but thought kissing your thought ... —And can it be in your heart's music speaks A deeper rhythm hearing mine: can it be Indeed for me?
Of caterpillars Fabre tells how day after day Around the rim of a vast earth pot they crawled, Tricked thither as they filed shuffling out one morn Head to tail when the common hunger called.
Head to tail in a heaving ring day after day, Night after slow night, the starving mommets crept, Each following each, head to tail, day after day, An unbroken ring of hunger—then it was snapt.
I thought of you, long-heaving, horned green caterpillars, As I lay awake. My thoughts crawled each after each, Crawling at night each after each on the same nerve, An unbroken ring of thoughts too sore for speech.
Over and over and over and over again The same hungry thoughts and the hopeless same regrets, Over and over the same truths, again and again In a heaving ring returning the same regrets.
I am that creature and creator who Loosens and reins the waters of the sea, Forming the rocky marge anon anew. I stir the cold breasts of antiquity, And in the soft stone of the pyramid Move wormlike; and I flutter all those sands Whereunder lost and soundless time is hid. I shape the hills and valleys with these hands, And darken forests on their naked sides, And call the rivers from the vexing springs, And lead the blind winds into deserts strange. And in firm human bones the ill that hides Is mine, the fear that cries, the hope that sings. I am that creature and creator, Change.
* * * * *
In each black tile a mimic fire's aglow, And in the hearthlight old mahogany, Ripe with stored sunshine that in Mexico Poured like gold wine into the living tree Summer on summer through a century, Burns like a crater in the heart of night: And all familiar things in the ingle-light Glow with a secret strange intensity.
And I remember hidden fires that burst Suddenly from the midnight while men slept, Long-smouldering rages in the darkness nursed That to an instant ravening fury leapt, And the old terror menacing evermore A crumbling world with fiery molten core.
Stephen, wake up! There's some one at the gate. Quick, to the window ... Oh, you'll be too late! I hear the front door opening quietly. Did you forget, last night, to turn the key? A foot is on the stairs—nay, just outside The very room—the door is opening wide... Stephen, wake up, wake up! Who's there? Who's there? I only feel a cold wind in my hair... Have I been dreaming, Stephen? Husband, wake And comfort me: I think my heart will break. I never knew you sleep so sound and still.... O my heart's love, why is your hand so chill?
PHILIP AND PHOEBE WARE
Who is that woman, Philip, standing there Before the mirror doing up her hair?
You're dreaming, Phoebe, or the morning light Mixing and mingling with the dying night Makes shapes out of the darkness, and you see Some dream-remembered phantasy maybe.
Yet it grows clearer with the growing day; And in the cold dawn light her hair is grey: Her lifted arms are naught but bone: her hands White withered claws that fumble as she stands Trying to pin that wisp into its place. O Philip, I must look upon her face There in the mirror. Nay, but I will rise And peep over her shoulder ... Oh, the eyes That burn out from that face of skin and bone, Searching my very marrow, are my own.
BY THE WEIR
A scent of Esparto grass—and again I recall That hour we spent by the weir of the paper-mill Watching together the curving thunderous fall Of frothing amber, bemused by the roar until My mind was as blank as the speckless sheets that wound On the hot steel ironing-rollers perpetually turning In the humming dark rooms of the mill: all sense and discerning By the stunning and dazzling oblivion of hill-waters drowned.
And my heart was empty of memory and hope and desire Till, rousing, I looked afresh on your face as you gazed— Behind you an old gnarled fruit-tree in one still fire Of innumerable flame in the sun of October blazed, Scarlet and gold that the first white frost would spill With eddying flicker and patter of dead leaves falling— looked on your face, as an outcast from Eden recalling A vision of Eve as she dallied bewildered and still
By the serpent-encircled tree of knowledge that flamed With gold and scarlet of good and evil, her eyes Rapt on the river of life: then bright and untamed By the labour and sorrow and fear of a world that dies Your ignorant eyes looked up into mine; and I knew That never our hearts should be one till your young lips had tasted The core of the bitter-sweet fruit, and wise and toil-wasted You should stand at my shoulder an outcast from Eden too.
Through the pale green forest of tall bracken-stalks, Whose interwoven fronds, a jade-green sky, Above me glimmer, infinitely high, Towards my giant hand a beetle walks In glistening emerald mail; and as I lie Watching his progress through huge grassy blades And over pebble boulders, my own world fades And shrinks to the vision of a beetle's eye.
Within that forest world of twilight green Ambushed with unknown perils, one endless day I travel down the beetle-trail between Huge glossy boles through green infinity ... Till flashes a glimpse of blue sea through the bracken asway, And my world is again a tumult of windy sea.
* * * * *
His eyes are quickened so with grief, He can watch a grass or leaf Every instant grow; he can Clearly through a flint wall see, Or watch the startled spirit flee From the throat of a dead man. Across two counties he can hear, And catch your words before you speak. The woodlouse or the maggot's weak Clamour rings in his sad ear; And noise so slight it would surpass Credence:—drinking sound of grass, Worm-talk, clashing jaws of moth Chumbling holes in cloth: The groan of ants who undertake Gigantic loads for honour's sake— Their sinews creak, their breath comes thin: Whir of spiders when they spin, And minute whispering, mumbling, sighs Of idle grubs and flies. This man is quickened so with grief, He wanders god-like or like thief Inside and out, below, above, Without relief seeking lost love.
In my body lives a flame, Flame that burns me all the day; When a fierce sun does the same, I am charred away.
Who could keep a smiling wit, Roasted so in heart and hide, Turning on the sun's red spit, Scorched by love inside?
Caves I long for and cold rocks, Minnow-peopled country brooks, Blundering gales of Equinox, Sunless valley-nooks,
Daily so I might restore Calcined heart and shrivelled skin, A morning phoenix with proud roar Kindled new within.
A LOVER SINCE CHILDHOOD
Tangled in thought am I, Stumble in speech do I? Do I blunder and blush for the reason why? Wander aloof do I, Lean over gates and sigh, Making friends with the bee and the butterfly?
If thus and thus I do, Dazed by the thought of you, Walking my sorrowful way in the early dew, My heart cut through and through In this despair of you, Starved for a word or a look will my hope renew:
Give then a thought for me Walking so miserably, Wanting relief in the friendship of flower or tree; Do but remember, we Once could in love agree, Swallow your pride, let us be as we used to be.
Love, do not count your labour lost Though I turn sullen, grim, retired Even at your side; my thought is crossed With fancies by old longings fired.
And when I answer you, some days Vaguely and wildly, do not fear That my love walks forbidden ways, Breaking the ties that hold it here.
If I speak gruffly, this mood is Mere indignation at my own Shortcomings, plagues, uncertainties; I forget the gentler tone.
'You,' now that you have come to be My one beginning, prime and end, I count at last as wholly 'me,' Lover no longer nor yet friend.
Friendship is flattery, though close hid; Must I then flatter my own mind? And must (which laws of shame forbid) Blind love of you make self-love blind?
... Do not repay me my own coin, The sharp rebuke, the frown, the groan; No, stir my memory to disjoin Your emanation from my own.
Help me to see you as before When overwhelmed and dead, almost, I stumbled on that secret door Which saves the live man from the ghost.
Be once again the distant light, Promise of glory not yet known In full perfection—-wasted quite When on my imperfection thrown.
Lost manor where I walk continually A ghost, while yet in woman's flesh and blood; Up your broad stairs mounting with outspread fingers And gliding steadfast down your corridors I come by nightly custom to this room, And even on sultry afternoons I come Drawn by a thread of time-sunk memory.
Empty, unless for a huge bed of state Shrouded with rusty curtains drooped awry (A puppet theatre where malignant fancy Peoples the wings with fear). At my right hand A ravelled bell-pull hangs in readiness To summon me from attic glooms above Service of elder ghosts; here at my left A sullen pier-glass cracked from side to side Scorns to present the face as do new mirrors With a lying flush, but shows it melancholy And pale, as faces grow that look in mirrors.
Is here no life, nothing but the thin shadow And blank foreboding, never a wainscot rat Rasping a crust? Or at the window pane No fly, no bluebottle, no starveling spider? The windows frame a prospect of cold skies Half-merged with sea, as at the first creation, Abstract, confusing welter. Face about, Peer rather in the glass once more, take note Of self, the grey lips and long hair dishevelled, Sleep-staring eyes. Ah, mirror, for Christ's love Give me one token that there still abides Remote, beyond this island mystery, So be it only this side Hope, somewhere, In streams, on sun-warm mountain pasturage, True life, natural breath; not this phantasma.
A rumour, scarcely yet to be reckoned sound, But a pulse quicker or slower, then I know My plea is granted; death prevails not yet. For bees have swarmed behind in a close place Pent up between this glass and the outer wall. The combs are founded, the queen rules her court, Bee-sergeants posted at the entrance-chink Are sampling each returning honey-cargo With scrutinizing mouth and commentary, Slow approbation, quick dissatisfaction— Disquieting rhythm, that leads me home at last From labyrinthine wandering. This new mood Of judgment orders me my present duty, To face again a problem strongly solved In life gone by, but now again proposed Out of due time for fresh deliberation. Did not my answer please the Master's ear? Yet, I'll stay obstinate. How went the question, A paltry question set on the elements Of love and the wronged lover's obligation? Kill or forgive? Still does the bed ooze blood? Let it drip down till every floor-plank rot! Yet shall I answer, challenging the judgment:— 'Kill, strike the blow again, spite what shall come.' 'Kill, strike, again, again,' the bees in chorus hum.
THE TROLL'S NOSEGAY
A simple nosegay! was that much to ask? (Winter still gloomed, with scarce a bud yet showing). He loved her ill, if he resigned the task. 'Somewhere,' she cried, 'there must be blossom blowing.' It seems my lady wept and the troll swore By Heaven he hated tears: he'd cure her spleen; Where she had begged one flower, he'd shower four-score, A haystack bunch to amaze a China Queen.
Cold fog-drawn Lily, pale mist-magic Rose He conjured, and in a glassy cauldron set With elvish unsubstantial Mignonette And such vague bloom as wandering dreams enclose. But she? Awed, Charmed to tears, Distracted, Yet— Even yet, perhaps, a trifle piqued—who knows?
Take now a country mood, Resolve, distil it:— Nine Acre swaying alive, June flowers that fill it,
Spicy sweet-briar bush, The uneasy wren Fluttering from ash to birch And back again.
Milkwort on its low stem, Spread hawthorn tree, Sunlight patching the wood, A hive-bound bee....
Girls riding nim-nim-nim, Ladies, trot-trot, Gentlemen hard at gallop, Shouting, steam-hot.
Now over the rough turf Bridles go jingle, And there's a well-loved pool, By Fox's Dingle,
Where Sweetheart, my brown mare, Old Glory's daughter, May loll her leathern tongue In snow-cool water.
THE GENERAL ELLIOTT
He fell in victory's fierce pursuit, Holed through and through with shot, A sabre sweep had hacked him deep Twixt neck and shoulderknot....
The potman cannot well recall, The ostler never knew, Whether his day was Malplaquet, The Boyne or Waterloo.
But there he hangs for tavern sign, With foolish bold regard For cock and hen and loitering men And wagons down the yard.
Raised high above the hayseed world He smokes his painted pipe, And now surveys the orchard ways, The damsons clustering ripe.
He sees the churchyard slabs beyond, Where country neighbours lie, Their brief renown set lowly down; His name assaults the sky.
He grips the tankard of brown ale That spills a generous foam: Oft-times he drinks, they say, and winks At drunk men lurching home.
No upstart hero may usurp That honoured swinging seat; His seasons pass with pipe and glass Until the tale's complete.
And paint shall keep his buttons bright Though all the world's forgot Whether he died for England's pride By battle, or by pot.
THE PATCHWORK BONNET
Across the room my silent love I throw, Where you sit sewing in bed by candlelight, Your young stern profile and industrious fingers Displayed against the blind in a shadow-show, To Dinda's grave delight.
The needle dips and pokes, the cheerful thread Runs after, follow-my-leader down the seam: The patchwork pieces cry for joy together, O soon to sit as a crown on Dinda's head, Fulfilment of their dream.
Snippets and odd ends folded by, forgotten, With camphor on a top shelf, hard to find, Now wake to this most happy resurrection, To Dinda playing toss with a reel of cotton And staring at the blind.
Dinda in sing-song stretching out one hand Calls for the playthings; mother does not hear: Her mind sails far away on a patchwork Ocean, And all the world must wait till she touches land; So Dinda cries in fear,
Then Mother turns, laughing like a young fairy, And Dinda smiles to see her look so kind, Calls out again for playthings, playthings, playthings; And now the shadows make an Umbrian Mary Adoring, on the blind.
* * * * *
THE SINGING FURIES
The yellow sky grows vivid as the sun: The sea glittering, and the hills dun.
The stones quiver. Twenty pounds of lead Fold upon fold, the air laps my head.
Both eyes scorch: tongue stiff and bitter: Flies buzz, but no birds twitter: Slow bullocks stand with stinging feet, And naked fishes scarcely stir for heat.
White as smoke, As jetted steam, dead clouds awoke And quivered on the Western rim. Then the singing started: dim And sibilant as rime-stiff reeds That whistle as the wind leads. The South whispered hard and sere, The North answered, low and clear; And thunder muffled up like drums Beat, whence the East wind comes. The heavy sky that could not weep Is loosened: rain falls steep: And thirty singing furies ride To split the sky from side to side.
They sing, and lash the wet-flanked wind: Sing, from Col to Hafod Mynd, And fling their voices half a score Of miles along the mounded shore: Whip loud music from a tree, And roll their pan out to sea Where crowded breakers fling and leap, And strange things throb five fathoms deep.
The sudden tempest roared and died: The singing furies muted ride Down wet and slippery roads to hell: And, silent in their captors' train, Two fishers, storm-caught on the main: A shepherd, battered with his flocks; A pit-boy tumbled from the rocks; A dozen back-broke gulls, and hosts Of shadowy, small, pathetic ghosts, —Of mice and leverets caught by flood; Their beauty shrouded in cold mud.
Cold shone the moon, with noise The night went by. Trees uttered things of woe: Bent grass dared not grow:
Ah, desperate man with haggard eyes And hands that fence away the skies, On rock and briar stumbling, Is it fear of the storm's rumbling, Of the hissing cold rain, Or lightning's tragic pain Drives you so madly? See, see the patient moon; How she her course keeps Through cloudy shallows and across black deeps, Now gone, now shines soon. Where's cause for fear?
'I shudder and shudder At her bright light: I fear, I fear, That she her fixt course follows So still and white Through deeps and shallows With never a tremor: Naught shall disturb her. I fear, I fear What they may be That secretly bind her: What hand holds the reins Of those sightless forces That govern her courses. Is it Setebos Who deals in her command? Or that unseen Night-Comer With tender curst hand? —I shudder, and shudder.'
Poor storm-wisp, wander! Wind shall not hurt thee, Rain not appal thee, Lightning not blast thee; Thou art worn so frail, Only the moonlight pale To an ash shall burn thee, To an invisible Pain.
When the slow year creeps hay-ward, and the skies Are warming in the summer's mild surprise, And the still breeze disturbs each leafy frond Like hungry fishes dimpling in a pond, It is a pleasant thing to dream at ease On sun-warmed thyme, not far from beechen trees.
A robin flashing in a rowan-tree, A wanton robin, spills his melody As if he had such store of golden tones That they were no more worth to him than stones: The sunny lizards dream upon the ledges: Linnets titter in and out the hedges, Or swoop among the freckled butterflies.
Down to a beechen hollow winds the track And tunnels past my twilit bivouac: Two spiring wisps of smoke go singly up And scarcely tremble in the leafy air.
—There are more shadows in this loamy cup Than God could count: and oh, but it is fair: The kindly green and rounded trunks, that meet Under the soil with twinings of their feet And in the sky with twinings of their arms: The yellow stools: the still ungathered charms Of berry, woodland herb, and bryony, And mid-wood's changeling child, Anemone.
* * * * *
Quiet as a grave beneath a spire I lie and watch the pointed climbing fire, I lie and watch the smoky weather-cock That climbs too high, and bends to the breeze's shock, And breaks, and dances off across the skies Gay as a flurry of blue butterflies.
But presently the evening shadows in, Heralded by the night-jar's solitary din And the quick bat's squeak among the trees; —Who sudden rises, darting across the air To weave her filmy web in the Sun's bright hair That slowly sinks dejected on his knees....
Now is he vanished: the bewildered skies Flame out a desperate and last surmise; Then yield to Night, their sudden conqueror.
From pole to pole the shadow of the world Creeps over heaven, till itself is lit By the very many stars that wake in it: Sleep, like a messenger of great import, Lays quiet and compelling hands athwart The easy idlenesses of my mind. —There is a breeze above me, and around: There is a fire before me, and behind: But Sleep doth hold me, and I hear no sound.
In the far West the clouds are mustering, Without hurry, noise, or blustering: And soon as Body's nightly Sentinel Himself doth nod, I open furtive eyes....
With darkling hook the Farmer of the Skies Goes reaping stars: they flicker, one by one, Nodding a little; tumble,—and are gone.
POETS, PAINTERS, PUDDINGS
Poets, painters, and puddings; these three Make up the World as it ought to be.
Poets make faces And sudden grimaces: They twit you, and spit you On words: then admit you To heaven or hell By the tales that they tell.
Painters are gay As young rabbits in May: They buy jolly mugs, Bowls, pictures, and jugs: The things round their necks Are lively with checks, (For they like something red As a frame for the head): Or they'll curse you with oaths, That tear holes in your clothes. (With nothing to mend them You'd best not offend them.)
Puddings should be Full of currants, for me: Boiled in a pail, Tied in the tail Of an old bleached shirt: So hot that they hurt, So huge that they last From the dim, distant past Until the crack o' doom Lift the roof off the room.
Poets, painters, and puddings; these three Crown the day as it crowned should be.
* * * * *
IN MEMORIAM D. O. M.
Chestnut candles are lit again For the dead that died in spring: Dead lovers walk the orchard ways, And the dead cuckoos sing.
Is it they who live and we who are dead? Hardly the springtime knows For which today the cuckoo calls, And the white blossom blows.
Listen and hear the happy wind Whisper and lightly pass: 'Your love is sweet as hawthorn is, Your hope green as the grass.
'The hawthorn's faint and quickly gone, The grass in autumn dies; Put by your life, and see the spring With everlasting eyes.'
PAST AND PRESENT
Daisies are over Nyren, and Hambledon Hardly remembers any summer gone: And never again the Kentish elms shall see Mynn, or Fuller Pilch, or Colin Blythe. —Nor shall I see them, unless perhaps a ghost Watching the elder ghosts beyond the moon. But here in common sunshine I have seen George Hirst, not yet a ghost, substantial, His off-drives mellow as brown ale, and crisp Merry late cuts, and brave Chaucerian pulls; Waddington's fury and the patience of Dipper; And twenty easy artful overs of Rhodes, So many stanzas of the Faerie Queen.
Mere living wears the most of life away: Even the lilies take thought for many things, For frost in April and for drought in May, And from no careless heart the skylark sings.
Those cheap utilities of rain and sun Describe the foolish circle of our years, Until death takes us, doing all undone, And there's an end at last to hopes and fears.
Though song be hollow and no dreams come true, Still songs and dreams are better than the truth: But there's so much to get, so much to do, Mary must drudge like Martha, dainty Ruth
Forget the morning music in the corn, And Rachel grudge when Leah's boys are born.
THE APPLE TREE
Secret and wise as nature, like the wind Melancholy or light-hearted without reason, And like the waxing or the waning moon Ever pale and lovely: you are like these Because you are free and live by your own law; While I, desiring life and half alive, Dream, hope, regret and fear and blunder on. Your beauty is your life and my content, And I will liken you to an apple-tree, Mary and Margaret playing under the branches, And everywhere soft shadows like your eyes, And scattered blossom like your little smiles.
HER NEW-YEAR POSY
When I seek the world through For images of you, Though apple-blossom is glad And the lily stately-sad, Gilliflowers kind of breath, Rosemary true till death; Though the wind can stir the grass To memories as you pass. And the soft-singing streams Are music like your dreams; Though constant stars embrace The quiet of your face, Your smile lights up sunrise, And evening's in your eyes— Each so shadows its part, All cannot show your heart; And weighing the beauty of earth I see it so little worth, When reckoned beside you, That I hold heaven for true —But all my heaven is you.
Half-awake I walked A dimly-seen sweet hawthorn lane Until sleep came; I lingered at a gate and talked A little with a lonely lamb. He told me of the great still night, Of calm starlight, And of the lady moon, who'd stoop For a kiss sometimes; Of grass as soft as sleep, of rhymes The tired flowers sang: The ageless April tales Of how, when sheep grew old, As their faith told, They went without a pang To far green fields, where fall Perpetual streams that call To deathless nightingales. And then I saw, hard by, A shepherd lad with shining eyes, And round him gathered one by one Countless sheep, snow-white; More and more they crowded With tender cries, Till all the field was full Of voices and of coming sheep. Countless they came, and I Watched, until deep As dream-fields lie I was asleep.
THE TREES AT NIGHT
Under vague silver moonlight The trees are lovely and ghostly, In the pale blue of the night There are few stars to see.
The leaves are green still, but brown-blent: They stir not, only known By a poignant delicate scent To the lonely moon blown.
The lonely lovely trees sigh For summer spent and gone: A few homing leaves drift by, Poor souls bewildered and wan.
How shall the living be comforted for the dead When they are gone, and nothing's left behind But a vague music of the words they said And a fast-fading image in the mind?
Let no forgetting sully that dim grace; Our heart's infirmity is too easily won To set a new love in the old love's place And seek fresh vanity under the sun.
Time brings to us at last, as night the stars, The starry silence of eternity: For there is no discharge in our long wars, Nor balm for wounds, nor love's security.
Be patient to the end, and you shall sleep Pillowed on heartsease and forget to weep.
* * * * *
A snake came to my water-trough On a hot, hot day, and I in pyjamas for the heat, To drink there.
In the deep, strange-scented shade of the great dark carob tree I came down the steps with my pitcher And must wait, must stand and wait, for there he was at the trough before me.
He reached down from a fissure in the earth-wall in the gloom And trailed his yellow-brown slackness soft-bellied down, over the edge of the stone trough And rested his throat upon the stone bottom, And where the water had dripped from the tap, in a small clearness, He sipped with his straight mouth, Softly drank through his straight gums, into his slack long body, Silently.
Someone was before me at my water-trough, And I, like a second-comer, waiting.
He lifted his head from his drinking, as cattle do, And looked at me vaguely, as drinking cattle do, And flickered his two-forked tongue from his lips, and mused a moment, And stooped and drank a little more, Being earth-brown, earth-golden from the burning bowels of the earth On the day of Sicilian July, with Etna smoking.
The voice of my education said to me He must be killed, For in Sicily the black, black snakes are innocent, the gold are venomous.
And voices in me said, If you were a man You would take a stick and break him now, and finish him off.
But must I confess how I liked him, How glad I was he had come like a guest in quiet, to drink at my water-trough And depart peaceful, pacified, and thankless, Into the burning bowels of this earth?
Was it cowardice, that I dared not kill him? Was it perversity, that I longed to talk to him? Was it humility, to feel honoured? I felt so honoured.
And yet those voices: If you were not afraid you would kill him.
And truly I was afraid, I was most afraid, But even so, honoured still more That he should seek my hospitality From out the dark door of the secret earth.
He drank enough And lifted his head, dreamily, as one who has drunken, And flickered his tongue like a forked night on the air, so black, Seeming to lick his lips, And looked around like a god, unseeing, into the air, And slowly turned his head, And slowly, very slowly, as if thrice adream, Proceeded to draw his slow length curving round And climb again the broken bank of my wall-face.
And as he put his head into that dreadful hole, And as he slowly drew up, snake-easing his shoulders, and entered further, A sort of horror, a sort of protest against his withdrawing into that horrid black hole, Deliberately going into the blackness, and slowly drawing himself after, Overcame me now his back was turned.
I looked round, I put down my pitcher, I picked up a clumsy log And threw it at the water-trough with a clatter.
I think it did not hit him, But suddenly that part of him that was left behind convulsed in undignified haste, Writhed like lightning, and was gone Into the black hole, the earth-lipped fissure in the wall-front, At which, in the intense still noon, I stared with fascination.
And immediately I regretted it. I thought how paltry, how vulgar, what a mean act! I despised myself and the voices of my accursed human education.
And I thought of the albatross, And I wished he would come back, my snake.
For he seemed to me again like a king, Like a king in exile, uncrowned in the underworld, Now due to be crowned again.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the lords Of life. And I have something to expiate: A pettiness.
* * * * *
This might have been a place for sleep, But, as from that small hollow there Hosts of bright thistledown begin Their dazzling journey through the air, An idle man can only stare.
They grip their withered edge of stalk In brief excitement for the wind; They hold a breathless final talk, And when their filmy cables part One almost hears a little cry.
Some cling together while they wait, And droop and gaze and hesitate, But others leap along the sky, Or circle round and calmly choose The gust they know they ought to use;
While some in loving pairs will glide, Or watch the others as they pass, Or rest on flowers in the grass, Or circle through the shining day Like silvery butterflies at play.
Some catch themselves to every mound, Then lingeringly and slowly move As if they knew the precious ground Were opening for their fertile love: They almost try to dig, they need So much to plant their thistle-seed.
'Tell me about that harvest field.' Oh! Fifty acres of living bread. The colour has painted itself in my heart; The form is patterned in my head.
So now I take it everywhere, See it whenever I look round; Hear it growing through every sound, Know exactly the sound it makes— Remembering, as one must all day, Under the pavement the live earth aches.
Trees are at the farther end, Limes all full of the mumbling bee: So there must be a harvest field Whenever one thinks of a linden tree.
A hedge is about it, very tall, Hazy and cool, and breathing sweet. Round paradise is such a wall, And all the day, in such a way, In paradise the wild birds call.
You only need to close your eyes And go within your secret mind, And you'll be into paradise: I've learnt quite easily to find Some linden trees and drowsy bees, A tall sweet hedge with the corn behind.
I will not have that harvest mown: I'll keep the corn and leave the bread. I've bought that field; it's now my own: I've fifty acres in my head. I take it as a dream to bed. I carry it about all day....