Edward Thomas (1918) Last Poems
LONDON: SELWYN & BLOUNT, 12, YORK BUILDINGS, ADELPHI, W.C. 2. 1918.
I never saw that Land before The Dark Forest Celandine The Ash Grove Old Man The Thrush I built myself a House of Glass February Afternoon Digging Two Houses The Mill-water A Dream Sedge-Warblers Under the Woods What will they do? To-night A Cat The Unknown Song She dotes For These March the Third The New House March The Cuckoo Over the Hills Home The Hollow Wood Wind and Mist The Unknown Bird The Lofty Sky After Rain Digging But these things also April The Barn The Barn and the Down The Child on the Cliffs Good-night The Wasp Trap July A Tale Parting Lovers That Girl's Clear Eyes The Child in the Orchard The Source The Mountain Chapel First known when lost The Word These things that Poets said Home Aspens An Old Song There was a Time Ambition No one cares less than I Roads This is no case of petty Right or Wrong The Chalk-Pit Health Beauty Snow The New Year The Brook The Other House and Man The Gypsy Man and Dog A Private Out in the Dark
I NEVER SAW THAT LAND BEFORE
I NEVER saw that land before, And now can never see it again; Yet, as if by acquaintance hoar Endeared, by gladness and by pain, Great was the affection that I bore
To the valley and the river small, The cattle, the grass, the bare ash trees, The chickens from the farmsteads, all Elm-hidden, and the tributaries Descending at equal interval;
The blackthorns down along the brook With wounds yellow as crocuses Where yesterday the labourer's hook Had sliced them cleanly; and the breeze That hinted all and nothing spoke.
I neither expected anything Nor yet remembered: but some goal I touched then; and if I could sing What would not even whisper my soul As I went on my journeying,
I should use, as the trees and birds did, A language not to be betrayed; And what was hid should still be hid Excepting from those like me made Who answer when such whispers bid.
THE DARK FOREST
DARK is the forest and deep, and overhead Hang stars like seeds of light In vain, though not since they were sown was bred Anything more bright.
And evermore mighty multitudes ride About, nor enter in; Of the other multitudes that dwell inside Never yet was one seen.
The forest foxglove is purple, the marguerite Outside is gold and white, Nor can those that pluck either blossom greet The others, day or night.
THINKING of her had saddened me at first, Until I saw the sun on the celandines lie Redoubled, and she stood up like a flame, A living thing, not what before I nursed, The shadow I was growing to love almost, The phantom, not the creature with bright eye That I had thought never to see, once lost.
She found the celandines of February Always before us all. Her nature and name Were like those flowers, and now immediately For a short swift eternity back she came, Beautiful, happy, simply as when she wore Her brightest bloom among the winter hues Of all the world; and I was happy too, Seeing the blossoms and the maiden who Had seen them with me Februarys before, Bending to them as in and out she trod And laughed, with locks sweeping the mossy sod.
But this was a dream: the flowers were not true, Until I stooped to pluck from the grass there One of five petals and I smelt the juice Which made me sigh, remembering she was no more, Gone like a never perfectly recalled air.
THE ASH GROVE
HALF of the grove stood dead, and those that yet lived made Little more than the dead ones made of shade. If they led to a house, long before they had seen its fall: But they welcomed me; I was glad without cause and delayed.
Scarce a hundred paces under the trees was the Interval— Paces each sweeter than sweetest miles—but nothing at all, Not even the spirits of memory and fear with restless wing, Could climb down in to molest me over the wall
That I passed through at either end without noticing. And now an ash grove far from those hills can bring The same tranquillity in which I wander a ghost With a ghostly gladness, as if I heard a girl sing
The song of the Ash Grove soft as love uncrossed, And then in a crowd or in distance it were lost, But the moment unveiled something unwilling to die And I had what most I desired, without search or desert or cost.
OLD Man, or Lad's-love,—in the name there's nothing To one that knows not Lad's-love, or Old Man, The hoar-green feathery herb, almost a tree, Growing with rosemary and lavender. Even to one that knows it well, the names Half decorate, half perplex, the thing it is: At least, what that is clings not to the names In spite of time. And yet I like the names.
The herb itself I like not, but for certain I love it, as some day the child will love it Who plucks a feather from the door-side bush Whenever she goes in or out of the house. Often she waits there, snipping the tips and shrivelling The shreds at last on to the path, perhaps Thinking, perhaps of nothing, till she sniffs Her fingers and runs off. The bush is still But half as tall as she, though it is as old; So well she clips it. Not a word she says; And I can only wonder how much hereafter She will remember, with that bitter scent, Of garden rows, and ancient damson-trees Topping a hedge, a bent path to a door, A low thick bush beside the door, and me Forbidding her to pick.
As for myself, Where first I met the bitter scent is lost. I, too, often shrivel the grey shreds, Sniff them and think and sniff again and try Once more to think what it is I am remembering, Always in vain. I cannot like the scent, Yet I would rather give up others more sweet, With no meaning, than this bitter one.
I have mislaid the key. I sniff the spray And think of nothing; I see and I hear nothing; Yet seem, too, to be listening, lying in wait For what I should, yet never can, remember: No garden appears, no path, no hoar-green bush Of Lad's-love, or Old Man, no child beside, Neither father nor mother, nor any playmate; Only an avenue, dark, nameless, without end.
WHEN Winter's ahead, What can you read in November That you read in April When Winter's dead?
I hear the thrush, and I see Him alone at the end of the lane Near the bare poplar's tip, Singing continuously.
Is it more that you know Than that, even as in April, So in November, Winter is gone that must go?
Or is all your lore Not to call November November, And April April, And Winter Winter—no more?
But I know the months all, And their sweet names, April, May and June and October, As you call and call
I must remember What died into April And consider what will be born Of a fair November;
And April I love for what It was born of, and November For what it will die in, What they are and what they are not,
While you love what is kind, What you can sing in And love and forget in All that's ahead and behind.
I BUILT MYSELF A HOUSE OF GLASS.
I BUILT myself a house of glass: It took me years to make it: And I was proud. But now, alas, Would God someone would break it. But it looks too magnificent. No neighbour casts a stone From where he dwells, in tenement Or palace of glass, alone.
MEN heard this roar of parleying starlings, saw, A thousand years ago even as now, Black rooks with white gulls following the plough So that the first are last until a caw Commands that last are first again,—a law Which was of old when one, like me, dreamed how A thousand years might dust lie on his brow Yet thus would birds do between hedge and shaw.
Time swims before me, making as a day A thousand years, while the broad ploughland oak Roars mill-like and men strike and bear the stroke Of war as ever, audacious or resigned, And God still sits aloft in the array That we have wrought him, stone-deaf and stone-blind.
WHAT matter makes my spade for tears or mirth, Letting down two clay pipes into the earth? The one I smoked, the other a soldier Of Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet Perhaps. The dead man's immortality Lies represented lightly with my own, A yard or two nearer the living air Than bones of ancients who, amazed to see Almighty God erect the mastodon, Once laughed, or wept, in this same light of day.
BETWEEN a sunny bank and the sun The farmhouse smiles On the riverside plat: No other one So pleasant to look at And remember, for many miles, So velvet-hushed and cool under the warm tiles.
Not far from the road it lies, yet caught Far out of reach Of the road's dust And the dusty thought Of passers-by, though each Stops, and turns, and must Look down at it like a wasp at the muslined peach.
But another house stood there long before: And as if above graves Still the turf heaves Above its stones: Dark hangs the sycamore, Shadowing kennel and bones And the black dog that shakes his chain and moans.
And when he barks, over the river Flashing fast, Dark echoes reply, And the hollow past Half yields the dead that never More than half hidden lie: And out they creep and back again for ever.
ONLY the sound remains Of the old mill; Gone is the wheel; On the prone roof and walls the nettle reigns.
Water that toils no more Dangles white locks And, falling, mocks The music of the mill-wheel's busy roar.
Pretty to see, by day Its sound is naught Compared with thought And talk and noise of labour and of play.
Night makes the difference. In calm moonlight, Gloom infinite, The sound comes surging in upon the sense:
Solitude, company,— When it is night,— Grief or delight By it must haunted or concluded be.
Often the silentness Has but this one Companion; Wherever one creeps in the other is:
Sometimes a thought is drowned By it, sometimes Out of it climbs; All thoughts begin or end upon this sound,
Only the idle foam Of water falling Changelessly calling, Where once men had a work-place and a home.
OVER known fields with an old friend in dream I walked, but came sudden to a strange stream. Its dark waters were bursting out most bright From a great mountain's heart into the light. They ran a short course under the sun, then back Into a pit they plunged, once more as black As at their birth; and I stood thinking there How white, had the day shone on them, they were, Heaving and coiling. So by the roar and hiss And by the mighty motion of the abyss I was bemused, that I forgot my friend And neither saw nor sought him till the end, When I awoke from waters unto men Saying: "I shall be here some day again."
THIS beauty made me dream there was a time Long past and irrecoverable, a clime Where any brook so radiant racing clear Through buttercup and kingcup bright as brass But gentle, nourishing the meadow grass That leans and scurries in the wind, would bear Another beauty, divine and feminine, Child to the sun, a nymph whose soul unstained Could love all day, and never hate or tire, A lover of mortal or immortal kin.
And yet, rid of this dream, ere I had drained Its poison, quieted was my desire So that I only looked into the water, Clearer than any goddess or man's daughter, And hearkened while it combed the dark green hair And shook the millions of the blossoms white Of water-crowfoot, and curdled to one sheet The flowers fallen from the chestnuts in the park Far off. And sedge-warblers, clinging so light To willow twigs, sang longer than the lark, Quick, shrill, or grating, a song to match the heat Of the strong sun, nor less the water's cool, Gushing through narrows, swirling in the pool. Their song that lacks all words, all melody, All sweetness almost, was dearer then to me Than sweetest voice that sings in tune sweet words. This was the best of May—the small brown birds Wisely reiterating endlessly What no man learnt yet, in or out of school.
UNDER THE WOODS
WHEN these old woods were young The thrushes' ancestors As sweetly sung In the old years.
There was no garden here, Apples nor mistletoe; No children dear Ran to and fro.
New then was this thatched cot, But the keeper was old, And he had not Much lead or gold.
Most silent beech and yew: As he went round about The woods to view Seldom he shot.
But now that he is gone Out of most memories, Still lingers on, A stoat of his,
But one, shrivelled and green, And with no scent at all, And barely seen On this shed wall.
WHAT WILL THEY DO?
What will they do when I am gone? It is plain That they will do without me as the rain Can do without the flowers and the grass That profit by it and must perish without. I have but seen them in the loud street pass; And I was naught to them. I turned about To see them disappearing carelessly. But what if I in them as they in me Nourished what has great value and no price? Almost I thought that rain thirsts for a draught Which only in the blossom's chalice lies, Until that one turned back and lightly laughed.
HARRY, you know at night The larks in Castle Alley Sing from the attic's height As if the electric light Were the true sun above a summer valley: Whistle, don't knock, to-night.
I shall come early, Kate: And we in Castle Alley Will sit close out of sight Alone, and ask no light Of lamp or sun above a summer valley: To-night I can stay late.
She had a name among the children; But no one loved though someone owned Her, locked her out of doors at bedtime And had her kittens duly drowned.
In Spring, nevertheless, this cat Ate blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales, And birds of bright voice and plume and flight, As well as scraps from neighbours' pails.
I loathed and hated her for this; One speckle on a thrush's breast Was worth a million such; and yet She lived long, till God gave her rest.
SHE is most fair, And when they see her pass The poets' ladies Look no more in the glass But after her.
On a bleak moor Running under the moon She lures a poet, Once proud or happy, soon Far from his door.
Beside a train, Because they saw her go, Or failed to see her, Travellers and watchers know Another pain.
The simple lack Of her is more to me Than others' presence, Whether life splendid be Or utter black.
I have not seen, I have no news of her; I can tell only She is not here, but there She might have been.
She is to be kissed Only perhaps by me; She may be seeking Me and no other; she May not exist.
AT poet's tears, Sweeter than any smiles but hers, She laughs; I sigh; And yet I could not live if she should die.
And when in June Once more the cuckoo spoils his tune, She laughs at sighs; And yet she says she loves me till she dies.
SHE dotes on what the wild birds say Or hint or mock at, night and day,— Thrush, blackbird, all that sing in May, And songless plover, Hawk, heron, owl, and woodpecker. They never say a word to her About her lover.
She laughs at them for childishness, She cries at them for carelessness Who see her going loverless Yet sing and chatter Just as when he was not a ghost, Nor ever ask her what she has lost Or what is the matter.
Yet she has fancied blackbirds hide A secret, and that thrushes chide Because she thinks death can divide Her from her lover; And she has slept, trying to translate The word the cuckoo cries to his mate Over and over.
AN acre of land between the shore and the hills, Upon a ledge that shows my kingdoms three, The lovely visible earth and sky and sea, Where what the curlew needs not, the farmer tills:
A house that shall love me as I love it, Well-hedged, and honoured by a few ash-trees That linnets, greenfinches, and goldfinches Shall often visit and make love in and flit:
A garden I need never go beyond, Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun: A spring, a brook's bend, or at least a pond:
For these I ask not, but, neither too late Nor yet too early, for what men call content, And also that something may be sent To be contented with, I ask of fate.
MARCH THE THIRD*
HERE again (she said) is March the third And twelve hours singing for the bird 'Twixt dawn and dusk, from half past six To half past six, never unheard.
'Tis Sunday, and the church-bells end When the birds do. I think they blend Now better than they will when passed Is this unnamed, unmarked godsend.
Or do all mark, and none dares say, How it may shift and long delay, Somewhere before the first of Spring, But never fails, this singing day?
And when it falls on Sunday, bells Are a wild natural voice that dwells On hillsides; but the birds' songs have The holiness gone from the bells.
This day unpromised is more dear Than all the named days of the year When seasonable sweets come in, Because we know how lucky we are.
* The author's birthday.
THE NEW HOUSE
Now first, as I shut the door, I was alone In the new house; and the wind Began to moan.
Old at once was the house, And I was old; My ears were teased with the dread Of what was foretold,
Nights of storm, days of mist, without end; Sad days when the sun Shone in vain: old griefs and griefs Not yet begun.
All was foretold me; naught Could I foresee; But I learned how the wind would sound After these things should be.
Now I know that Spring will come again, Perhaps to-morrow: however late I've patience After this night following on such a day.
While still my temples ached from the cold burning Of hail and wind, and still the primroses Torn by the hail were covered up in it, The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light And a tenderness, almost warmth, where the hail dripped, As if the mighty sun wept tears of joy. But 'twas too late for warmth. The sunset piled Mountains on mountains of snow and ice in the west: Somewhere among their folds the wind was lost, And yet 'twas cold, and though I knew that Spring Would come again, I knew it had not come, That it was lost too in those mountains chill.
What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail, Had kept them quiet as the primroses. They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang, On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches And while they fought, if they remembered to fight: So earnest were they to pack into that hour Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon Grew brighter than the clouds. Then 'twas no time For singing merely. So they could keep off silence And night, they cared not what they sang or screamed; Whether 'twas hoarse or sweet or fierce or soft; And to me all was sweet: they could do no wrong. Something they knew—I also, while they sang And after. Not till night had half its stars And never a cloud, was I aware of silence Stained with all that hour's songs, a silence Saying that Spring returns, perhaps to-morrow.
THAT'S the cuckoo, you say. I cannot hear it. When last I heard it I cannot recall; but I know Too well the year when first I failed to hear it— It was drowned by my man groaning out to his sheep "Ho! Ho!"
Ten times with an angry voice he shouted "Ho! Ho!" but not in anger, for that was his way. He died that Summer, and that is how I remember The cuckoo calling, the children listening, and me saying, "Nay."
And now, as you said, "There it is," I was hearing Not the cuckoo at all, but my man's "Ho! Ho!" instead. And I think that even if I could lose my deafness The cuckoo's note would be drowned by the voice of my dead.
OVER THE HILLS
OFTEN and often it came back again To mind, the day I passed the horizon ridge To a new country, the path I had to find By half-gaps that were stiles once in the hedge, The pack of scarlet clouds running across The harvest evening that seemed endless then And after, and the inn where all were kind, All were strangers. I did not know my loss Till one day twelve months later suddenly I leaned upon my spade and saw it all, Though far beyond the sky-line. It became Almost a habit through the year for me To lean and see it and think to do the same Again for two days and a night. Recall Was vain: no more could the restless brook Ever turn back and climb the waterfall To the lake that rests and stirs not in its nook, As in the hollow of the collar-bone Under the mountain's head of rush and stone.
OFTEN I had gone this way before: But now it seemed I never could be And never had been anywhere else; 'Twas home; one nationality We had, I and the birds that sang, One memory.
They welcomed me. I had come back That eve somehow from somewhere far: The April mist, the chill, the calm, Meant the same thing familiar And pleasant to us, and strange too, Yet with no bar.
The thrush on the oaktop in the lane Sang his last song, or last but one; And as he ended, on the elm Another had but just begun His last; they knew no more than I The day was done.
Then past his dark white cottage front A labourer went along, his tread Slow, half with weariness, half with ease; And, through the silence, from his shed The sound of sawing rounded all That silence said.
THE HOLLOW WOOD
OUT in the sun the goldfinch flits Along the thistle-tops, flits and twits Above the hollow wood Where birds swim like fish— Fish that laugh and shriek— To and fro, far below In the pale hollow wood.
Lichen, ivy, and moss Keep evergreen the trees That stand half-flayed and dying, And the dead trees on their knees In dog's-mercury and moss: And the bright twit of the goldfinch drops Down there as he flits on thistle-tops.
WIND AND MIST
THEY met inside the gateway that gives the view, A hollow land as vast as heaven. "It is A pleasant day, sir." "A very pleasant day." "And what a view here. If you like angled fields Of grass and grain bounded by oak and thorn, Here is a league. Had we with Germany To play upon this board it could not be More dear than April has made it with a smile. The fields beyond that league close in together And merge, even as our days into the past, Into one wood that has a shining pane Of water. Then the hills of the horizon— That is how I should make hills had I to show One who would never see them what hills were like." "Yes. Sixty miles of South Downs at one glance. Sometimes a man feels proud at them, as if He had just created them with one mighty thought." "That house, though modern, could not be better planned For its position. I never liked a new House better. Could you tell me who lives in it?" "No one." "Ah—and I was peopling all Those windows on the south with happy eyes, The terrace under them with happy feet; Girls—" "Sir, I know. I know. I have seen that house Through mist look lovely as a castle in Spain, And airier. I have thought: 'Twere happy there To live.' And I have laughed at that Because I lived there then." "Extraordinary." "Yes, with my furniture and family Still in it, I, knowing every nook of it And loving none, and in fact hating it." "Dear me! How could that be? But pardon me." "No offence. Doubtless the house was not to blame, But the eye watching from those windows saw, Many a day, day after day, mist—mist Like chaos surging back—and felt itself Alone in all the world, marooned alone. We lived in clouds, on a cliff's edge almost (You see), and if clouds went, the visible earth Lay too far off beneath and like a cloud. I did not know it was the earth I loved Until I tried to live there in the clouds And the earth turned to cloud." "You had a garden Of flint and clay, too." "True; that was real enough. The flint was the one crop that never failed. The clay first broke my heart, and then my back; And the back heals not. There were other things Real, too. In that room at the gable a child Was born while the wind chilled a summer dawn: Never looked grey mind on a greyer one Than when the child's cry broke above the groans." "I hope they were both spared." "They were. Oh yes. But flint and clay and childbirth were too real For this cloud-castle. I had forgot the wind. Pray do not let me get on to the wind. You would not understand about the wind. It is my subject, and compared with me Those who have always lived on the firm ground Are quite unreal in this matter of the wind. There were whole days and nights when the wind and I Between us shared the world, and the wind ruled And I obeyed it and forgot the mist. My past and the past of the world were in the wind. Now you may say that though you understand And feel for me, and so on, you yourself Would find it different. You are all like that If once you stand here free from wind and mist: I might as well be talking to wind and mist. You would believe the house-agent's young man Who gives no heed to anything I say. Good morning. But one word. I want to admit That I would try the house once more, if I could; As I should like to try being young again."
THE UNKNOWN BIRD
THREE lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard If others sang; but others never sang In the great beech-wood all that May and June. No one saw him: I alone could hear him Though many listened. Was it but four years Ago? or five? He never came again.
Oftenest when I heard him I was alone, Nor could I ever make another hear. La-la-la! he called, seeming far-off— As if a cock crowed past the edge of the world, As if the bird or I were in a dream. Yet that he travelled through the trees and some- times Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still He sounded. All the proof is—I told men What I had heard.
I never knew a voice, Man, beast, or bird, better than this. I told The naturalists; but neither had they heard Anything like the notes that did so haunt me, I had them clear by heart and have them still. Four years, or five, have made no difference. Then As now that La-la-la! was bodiless sweet: Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say That it was one or other, but if sad 'Twas sad only with joy too, too far off For me to taste it. But I cannot tell If truly never anything but fair The days were when he sang, as now they seem. This surely I know, that I who listened then, Happy sometimes, sometimes suffering A heavy body and a heavy heart, Now straightway, if I think of it, become Light as that bird wandering beyond my shore.
THE LOFTY SKY
TO-DAY I want the sky, The tops of the high hills, Above the last man's house, His hedges, and his cows, Where, if I will, I look Down even on sheep and rook, And of all things that move See buzzards only above:— Past all trees, past furze And thorn, where nought deters The desire of the eye For sky, nothing but sky. I sicken of the woods And all the multitudes Of hedge-trees. They are no more Than weeds upon this floor Of the river of air Leagues deep, leagues wide, where I am like a fish that lives In weeds and mud and gives What's above him no thought. I might be a tench for aught That I can do to-day Down on the wealden clay. Even the tench has days When he floats up and plays Among the lily leaves And sees the sky, or grieves Not if he nothing sees: While I, I know that trees Under that lofty sky Are weeds, fields mud, and I Would arise and go far To where the lilies are.
THE rain of a night and a day and a night Stops at the light Of this pale choked day. The peering sun Sees what has been done. The road under the trees has a border new Of purple hue Inside the border of bright thin grass: For all that has Been left by November of leaves is torn From hazel and thorn And the greater trees. Throughout the copse No dead leaf drops On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern, At the wind's return: The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed Are thinly spread In the road, like little black fish, inlaid, As if they played. What hangs from the myriad branches down there So hard and bare Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see On one crab-tree. And on each twig of every tree in the dell Uncountable Crystals both dark and bright of the rain That begins again.
TO-DAY I think Only with scents,—scents dead leaves yield, And bracken, and wild carrot's seed, And the square mustard field;
Odours that rise When the spade wounds the root of tree, Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed, Rhubarb or celery;
The smoke's smell, too, Flowing from where a bonfire burns The dead, the waste, the dangerous, And all to sweetness turns.
It is enough To smell, to crumble the dark earth. While the robin sings over again Sad songs of Autumn mirth.
BUT THESE THINGS ALSO
BUT these things also are Spring's— On banks by the roadside the grass Long-dead that is greyer now Than all the Winter it was;
The shell of a little snail bleached In the grass; chip of flint, and mite Of chalk; and the small birds' dung In splashes of purest white:
All the white things a man mistakes For earliest violets Who seeks through Winter's ruins Something to pay Winter's debts,
While the North blows, and starling flocks By chattering on and on Keep their spirits up in the mist, And Spring's here, Winter's not gone.
THE sweetest thing, I thought At one time, between earth and heaven Was the first smile When mist has been forgiven And the sun has stolen out, Peered, and resolved to shine at seven On dabbled lengthening grasses, Thick primroses and early leaves uneven, When earth's breath, warm and humid, far sur- passes The richest oven's, and loudly rings "cuckoo" And sharply the nightingale's "tsoo, tsoo, tsoo, tsoo": To say "God bless it" was all that I could do.
But now I know one sweeter By far since the day Emily Turned weeping back To me, still happy me, To ask forgiveness,— Yet smiled with half a certainty To be forgiven,—for what She had never done; I knew not what it might be, Nor could she tell me, having now forgot, By rapture carried with me past all care As to an isle in April lovelier Than April's self. "God bless you" I said to her.
THEY should never have built a barn there, at all— Drip, drip, drip!—under that elm tree, Though then it was young. Now it is old But good, not like the barn and me.
To-morrow they cut it down. They will leave The barn, as I shall be left, maybe. What holds it up? 'Twould not pay to pull down. Well, this place has no other antiquity.
No abbey or castle looks so old As this that Job Knight built in '54, Built to keep corn for rats and men. Now there's fowls in the roof, pigs on the floor.
What thatch survives is dung for the grass, The best grass on the farm. A pity the roof Will not bear a mower to mow it. But Only fowls have foothold enough.
Starlings used to sit there with bubbling throats Making a spiky beard as they chattered And whistled and kissed, with heads in air, Till they thought of something else that mattered.
But now they cannot find a place, Among all those holes, for a nest any more. It's the turn of lesser things, I suppose. Once I fancied 'twas starlings they built it for.
THE BARN AND THE DOWN
IT stood in the sunset sky Like the straight-backed down, Many a time—the barn At the edge of the town,
So huge and dark that it seemed It was the hill Till the gable's precipice proved It impossible.
Then the great down in the west Grew into sight, A barn stored full to the ridge With black of night;
And the barn fell to a barn Or even less Before critical eyes and its own Late mightiness.
But far down and near barn and I Since then have smiled, Having seen my new cautiousness By itself beguiled
To disdain what seemed the barn Till a few steps changed It past all doubt to the down; So the barn was avenged.
THE CHILD ON THE CLIFFS
MOTHER, the root of this little yellow flower Among the stones has the taste of quinine. Things are strange to-day on the cliff. The sun shines so bright, And the grasshopper works at his sewing-machine So hard. Here's one on my hand, mother, look; I lie so still. There's one on your book.
But I have something to tell more strange. So leave Your book to the grasshopper, mother dear,— Like a green knight in a dazzling market-place,— And listen now. Can you hear what I hear Far out? Now and then the foam there curls And stretches a white arm out like a girl's.
Fishes and gulls ring no bells. There cannot be A chapel or church between here and Devon, With fishes or gulls ringing its bell,—hark.— Somewhere under the sea or up in heaven. "It's the bell, my son, out in the bay On the buoy. It does sound sweet to-day."
Sweeter I never heard, mother, no, not in all Wales. I should like to be lying under that foam, Dead, but able to hear the sound of the bell, And certain that you would often come And rest, listening happily. I should be happy if that could be.
THE skylarks are far behind that sang over the down; I can hear no more those suburb nightingales; Thrushes and blackbirds sing in the gardens of the town In vain: the noise of man, beast, and machine prevails.
But the call of children in the unfamiliar streets That echo with a familiar twilight echoing, Sweet as the voice of nightingale or lark, completes A magic of strange welcome, so that I seem a king
Among man, beast, machine, bird, child, and the ghost That in the echo lives and with the echo dies. The friendless town is friendly; homeless, I not lost; Though I know none of these doors, and meet but strangers' eyes.
Never again, perhaps, after to-morrow, shall I see these homely streets, these church windows alight, Not a man or woman or child among them all: But it is All Friends' Night, a traveller's good night.
THE WASP TRAP
THIS moonlight makes The lovely lovelier Than ever before lakes And meadows were.
And yet they are not, Though this their hour is, more Lovely than things that were not Lovely before.
Nothing on earth, And in the heavens no star, For pure brightness is worth More than that jar,
For wasps meant, now A star—long may it swing From the dead apple-bough, So glistening.
NAUGHT moves but clouds, and in the glassy lake Their doubles and the shadow of my boat. The boat itself stirs only when I break This drowse of heat and solitude afloat To prove if what I see be bird or mote, Or learn if yet the shore woods be awake.
Long hours since dawn grew,—spread,—and passed on high And deep below,—I have watched the cool reeds hung Over images more cool in imaged sky: Nothing there was worth thinking of so long; All that the ring-doves say, far leaves among, Brims my mind with content thus still to lie.
THERE once the walls Of the ruined cottage stood. The periwinkle crawls With flowers in its hair into the wood.
In flowerless hours Never will the bank fail, With everlasting flowers On fragments of blue plates, to tell the tale.
THE Past is a strange land, most strange. Wind blows not there, nor does rain fall: If they do, they cannot hurt at all. Men of all kinds as equals range
The soundless fields and streets of it. Pleasure and pain there have no sting, The perished self not suffering That lacks all blood and nerve and wit,
And is in shadow-land a shade. Remembered joy and misery Bring joy to the joyous equally; Both sadden the sad. So memory made
Parting to-day a double pain: First because it was parting; next Because the ill it ended vexed And mocked me from the Past again,
Not as what had been remedied Had I gone on,—not that, oh no! But as itself no longer woe; Sighs, angry word and look and deed
Being faded: rather a kind of bliss, For there spiritualized it lay In the perpetual yesterday That naught can stir or stain like this.
THE two men in the road were taken aback. The lovers came out shading their eyes from the sun, And never was white so white, or black so black, As her cheeks and hair. "There are more things than one A man might turn into a wood for, Jack," Said George; Jack whispered: "He has not got a gun. It's a bit too much of a good thing, I say. They are going the other road, look. And see her run."— She ran.—"What a thing it is, this picking may."
THAT GIRL'S CLEAR EYES
THAT girl's clear eyes utterly concealed all Except that there was something to reveal. And what did mine say in the interval? No more: no less. They are but as a seal Not to be broken till after I am dead; And then vainly. Every one of us This morning at our tasks left nothing said, In spite of many words. We were sealed thus, Like tombs. Nor until now could I admit That all I cared for was the pleasure and pain I tasted in the stony square sunlit, Or the dark cloisters, or shade of airy plane, While music blazed and children, line after line, Marched past, hiding the "SEVENTEEN THIRTY- NINE."
THE CHILD IN THE ORCHARD
"HE rolls in the orchard: he is stained with moss And with earth, the solitary old white horse. Where is his father and where is his mother Among all the brown horses? Has he a brother? I know the swallow, the hawk, and the hern; But there are two million things for me to learn.
"Who was the lady that rode the white horse With rings and bells to Banbury Cross? Was there no other lady in England beside That a nursery rhyme could take for a ride? The swift, the swallow, the hawk, and the hern. There are two million things for me to learn.
"Was there a man once who straddled across The back of the Westbury White Horse Over there on Salisbury Plain's green wall? Was he bound for Westbury, or had he a fall? The swift, the swallow, the hawk, and the hern. There are two million things for me to learn.
"Out of all the white horses I know three, At the age of six; and it seems to me There is so much to learn, for men, That I dare not go to bed again. The swift, the swallow, the hawk, and the hern. There are millions of things for me to learn."
ALL day the air triumphs with its two voices Of wind and rain As loud as if in anger it rejoices, Drowning the sound of earth That gulps and gulps in choked endeavour vain To swallow the rain.
Half the night, too, only the wild air speaks With wind and rain, Till forth the dumb source of the river breaks And drowns the rain and wind, Bellows like a giant bathing in mighty mirth The triumph of earth.
THE MOUNTAIN CHAPEL
CHAPEL and gravestones, old and few, Are shrouded by a mountain fold From sound and view Of life. The loss of the brook's voice Falls like a shadow. All they hear is The eternal noise Of wind whistling in grass more shrill Than aught as human as a sword, And saying still: "'Tis but a moment since man's birth And in another moment more Man lies in earth For ever; but I am the same Now, and shall be, even as I was Before he came; Till there is nothing I shall be." Yet there the sun shines after noon So cheerfully The place almost seems peopled, nor Lacks cottage chimney, cottage hearth: It is not more In size than is a cottage, less Than any other empty home In homeliness. It has a garden of wild flowers And finest grass and gravestones warm In sunshine hours The year through. Men behind the glass Stand once a week, singing, and drown The whistling grass Their ponies munch. And yet somewhere, Near or far off, there's a man could Be happy here, Or one of the gods perhaps, were they Not of inhuman stature dire, As poets say Who have not seen them clearly; if At sound of any wind of the world In grass-blades stiff They would not startle and shudder cold Under the sun. When gods were young This wind was old.
FIRST KNOWN WHEN LOST
I NEVER had noticed it until 'Twas gone,—the narrow copse Where now the woodman lops The last of the willows with his bill.
It was not more than a hedge overgrown. One meadow's breadth away I passed it day by day. Now the soil was bare as a bone,
And black betwixt two meadows green, Though fresh-cut faggot ends Of hazel made some amends With a gleam as if flowers they had been.
Strange it could have hidden so near! And now I see as I look That the small winding brook, A tributary's tributary, rises there.
THERE are so many things I have forgot, That once were much to me, or that were not, All lost, as is a childless woman's child And its child's children, in the undefiled Abyss of what can never be again. I have forgot, too, names of the mighty men That fought and lost or won in the old wars, Of kings and fiends and gods, and most of the stars. Some things I have forgot that I forget. But lesser things there are, remembered yet, Than all the others. One name that I have not— Though 'tis an empty thingless name—forgot Never can die because Spring after Spring Some thrushes learn to say it as they sing. There is always one at midday saying it clear And tart—the name, only the name I hear. While perhaps I am thinking of the elder scent That is like food, or while I am content With the wild rose scent that is like memory, This name suddenly is cried out to me From somewhere in the bushes by a bird Over and over again, a pure thrush word.
THESE THINGS THAT POETS SAID
THESE things that poets said Of love seemed true to me When I loved and I fed On love and poetry equally.
But now I wish I knew If theirs were love indeed, Or if mine were the true And theirs some other lovely weed:
For certainly not thus, Then or thereafter, I Loved ever. Between us Decide, good Love, before I die.
Only, that once I loved By this one argument Is very plainly proved: I, loving not, am different.
NOT the end: but there's nothing more. Sweet Summer and Winter rude I have loved, and friendship and love, The crowd and solitude:
But I know them: I weary not; But all that they mean I know. I would go back again home Now. Yet how should I go?
This is my grief. That land, My home, I have never seen; No traveller tells of it, However far he has been.
Afid could I discover it, I fear my happiness there, Or my pain, might be dreams of return Here, to these things that were.
Remembering ills, though slight Yet irremediable, Brings a worse, an impurer pang Than remembering what was well.
No: I cannot go back, And would not if I could. Until blindness come, I must wait And blink at what is not good.
ALL day and night, save winter, every weather, Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop, The aspens at the cross-roads talk together Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.
Out of the blacksmith's cavern comes the ringing Of hammer, shoe, and anvil; out of the inn The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing— The sounds that for these fifty years have been.
The whisper of the aspens is not drowned, And over lightless pane and footless road, Empty as sky, with every other sound Not ceasing, calls their ghosts from their abode,
A silent smithy, a silent inn, nor fails In the bare moonlight or the thick-furred gloom, In tempest or the night of nightingales, To turn the cross-roads to a ghostly room.
And it would be the same were no house near. Over all sorts of weather, men, and times, Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear But need not listen, more than to my rhymes.
Whatever wind blows, while they and I have leaves We cannot other than an aspen be That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves, Or so men think who like a different tree.
AN OLD SONG
I WAS not apprenticed nor ever dwelt in famous Lincolnshire; I've served one master ill and well much more than seven year; And never took up to poaching as you shall quickly find; But 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.
I roamed where nobody had a right but keepers and squires, and there I sought for nests, wild flowers, oak sticks, and moles, both far and near. And had to run from farmers, and learnt the Lincolnshire song: "Oh, 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year."
I took those walks years after, talking with friend or dear, Or solitary musing; but when the moon shone clear I had no joy or sorrow that could not be expressed By "'Tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year."
Since then I've thrown away a chance to fight a gamekeeper; And I less often trespass, and what I see or hear Is mostly from the road or path by day: yet still I sing: "Oh, 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year."
For if I am contented, at home or anywhere, Or if I sigh for I know not what, or my heart beats with some fear, It is a strange kind of delight to sing or whistle just: "Oh, 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year."
And with this melody on my lips and no one by to care, Indoors, or out on shiny nights or dark in open air, I am for a moment made a man that sings out of his heart: "Oh, 'tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year."
THERE WAS A TIME
THERE was a time when this poor frame was whole And I had youth and never another care, Or none that should have troubled a strong soul. Yet, except sometimes in a frosty air When my heels hammered out a melody From pavements of a city left behind, I never would acknowledge my own glee Because it was less mighty than my mind Had dreamed of. Since I could not boast of strength Great as I wished, weakness was all my boast. I sought yet hated pity till at length I earned it. Oh, too heavy was the cost. But now that there is something I could use My youth and strength for, I deny the age, The care and weakness that I know—refuse To admit I am unworthy of the wage Paid to a man who gives up eyes and breath For what can neither ask nor heed his death.
UNLESS it was that day I never knew Ambition. After a night of frost, before The March sun brightened and the South-west blew, Jackdaws began to shout and float and soar Already, and one was racing straight and high Alone, shouting like a black warrior Challenges and menaces to the wide sky. With loud long laughter then a woodpecker Ridiculed the sadness of the owl's last cry. And through the valley where all the folk astir Made only plumes of pearly smoke to tower Over dark trees and white meadows happier Than was Elysium in that happy hour, A train that roared along raised after it And carried with it a motionless white bower Of purest cloud, from end to end close-knit, So fair it touched the roar with silence. Time Was powerless while that lasted. I could sit And think I had made the loveliness of prime, Breathed its life into it and were its lord, And no mind lived save this 'twixt clouds and rime. Omnipotent I was, nor even deplored That I did nothing. But the end fell like a bell: The bower was scattered; far off the train roared. But if this was ambition I cannot tell. What 'twas ambition for I know not well.
NO ONE CARES LESS THAN I
"No one cares less than I, Nobody knows but God, Whether I am destined to lie Under a foreign clod," Were the words I made to the bugle call in the morning.
But laughing, storming, scorning, Only the bugles know What the bugles say in the morning, And they do not care, when they blow The call that I heard and made words to early this morning.
I LOVE roads: The goddesses that dwell Far along invisible Are my favourite gods.
Roads go on While we forget, and are Forgotten like a star That shoots and is gone.
On this earth 'tis sure We men have not made Anything that doth fade So soon, so long endure:
The hill road wet with rain In the sun would not gleam Like a winding stream If we trod it not again.
They are lonely While we sleep, lonelier For lack of the traveller Who is now a dream only.
From dawn's twilight And all the clouds like sheep On the mountains of sleep They wind into the night.
The next turn may reveal Heaven: upon the crest The close pine clump, at rest And black, may Hell conceal.
Often footsore, never Yet of the road I weary, Though long and steep and dreary As it winds on for ever.
Helen of the roads, The mountain ways of Wales And the Mabinogion tales, Is one of the true gods,
Abiding in the trees, The threes and fours so wise, The larger companies, That by the roadside be,
And beneath the rafter Else uninhabited Excepting by the dead; And it is her laughter
At morn and night I hear When the thrush cock sings Bright irrelevant things, And when the chanticleer
Calls back to their own night Troops that make loneliness With their light footsteps' press, As Helen's own are light.
Now all roads lead to France And heavy is the tread Of the living; but the dead Returning lightly dance:
Whatever the road bring To me or take from me, They keep me company With their pattering,
Crowding the solitude Of the loops over the downs, Hushing the roar of towns And their brief multitude.
THIS IS NO CASE OF PETTY RIGHT OR WRONG
THIS is no case of petty right or wrong That politicians or philosophers Can judge. I hate not Germans, nor grow hot With love of Englishmen, to please newspapers. Beside my hate for one fat patriot My hatred of the Kaiser is love true:— A kind of god he is, banging a gong. But I have not to choose between the two, Or between justice and injustice. Dinned With war and argument I read no more Than in the storm smoking along the wind Athwart the wood. Two witches' cauldrons roar. From one the weather shall rise clear and gay; Out of the other an England beautiful And like her mother that died yesterday. Little I know or care if, being dull, I shall miss something that historians Can rake out of the ashes when perchance The phoenix broods serene above their ken. But with the best and meanest Englishmen I am one in crying, God save England, lest We lose what never slaves and cattle blessed. The ages made her that made us from the dust: She is all we know and live by, and we trust She is good and must endure, loving her so: And as we love ourselves we hate her foe.
"Is this the road that climbs above and bends Round what was once a chalk-pit: now it is By accident an amphitheatre. Some ash-trees standing ankle-deep in brier And bramble act the parts, and neither speak Nor stir." "But see: they have fallen, every one, And brier and bramble have grown over them." "That is the place. As usual no one is here. Hardly can I imagine the drop of the axe, And the smack that is like an echo, sounding here." "I do not understand." "Why, what I mean is That I have seen the place two or three times At most, and that its emptiness and silence And stillness haunt me, as if just before It was not empty, silent, still, but full Of life of some kind, perhaps tragical. Has anything unusual happened here?" "Not that I know of. It is called the Dell. They have not dug chalk here for a century. That was the ash-trees' age. But I will ask." "No. Do not. I prefer to make a tale, Or better leave it like the end of a play, Actors and audience and lights all gone; For so it looks now. In my memory Again and again I see it, strangely dark, And vacant of a life but just withdrawn. We have not seen the woodman with the axe. Some ghost has left it now as we two came." "And yet you doubted if this were the road?" "Well, sometimes I have thought of it and failed To place it. No. And I am not quite sure, Even now, this is it. For another place, Real or painted, may have combined with it. Or I myself a long way back in time . . ." "Why, as to that, I used to meet a man— I had forgotten,—searching for birds' nests Along the road and in the chalk-pit too. The wren's hole was an eye that looked at him For recognition. Every nest he knew. He got a stiff neck, by looking this side or that, Spring after spring, he told me, with his laugh,— A sort of laugh. He was a visitor, A man of forty,—smoked and strolled about. At orts and crosses Pleasure and Pain had played On his brown features;—I think both had lost;— Mild and yet wild too. You may know the kind. And once or twice a woman shared his walks, A girl of twenty with a brown boy's face, And hair brown as a thrush or as a nut, Thick eyebrows, glinting eyes—" "You have said enough. A pair,—free thought, free love,—I know the breed: I shall not mix my fancies up with them." "You please yourself. I should prefer the truth Or nothing. Here, in fact, is nothing at all Except a silent place that once rang loud, And trees and us—imperfect friends, we men And trees since time began; and nevertheless Between us still we breed a mystery."
FOUR miles at a leap, over the dark hollow land, To the frosted steep of the down and its junipers black, Travels my eye with equal ease and delight: And scarce could my body leap four yards.
This is the best and the worst of it— Never to know, Yet to imagine gloriously, pure health.
To-day, had I suddenly health, I could not satisfy the desire of my heart Unless health abated it, So beautiful is the air in its softness and clearness, while Spring Promises all and fails in nothing as yet; And what blue and what white is I never knew Before I saw this sky blessing the land.
For had I health I could not ride or run or fly So far or so rapidly over the land As I desire: I should reach Wiltshire tired; I should have changed my mind before I could be in Wales. I could not love; I could not command love. Beauty would still be far off However many hills I climbed over; Peace would still be farther.
Maybe I should not count it anything To leap these four miles with the eye; And either I should not be filled almost to bursting with desire, Or with my power desire would still keep pace.
Yet I am not satisfied Even with knowing I never could be satisfied. With health and all the power that lies In maiden beauty, poet and warrior, In Caesar, Shakespeare, Alcibiades, Mazeppa, Leonardo, Michelangelo, In any maiden whose smile is lovelier Than sunlight upon dew, I could not be as the wagtail running up and down The warm tiles of the roof slope, twittering Happily and sweetly as if the sun itself Extracted the song As the hand makes sparks from the fur of a cat:
I could not be as the sun. Nor should I be content to be As little as the bird or as mighty as the sun. For the bird knows not of the sun, And the sun regards not the bird. But I am almost proud to love both bird and sun, Though scarce this Spring could my body leap four yards.
WHAT does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease, No man, woman, or child alive could please Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh Because I sit and frame an epitaph— "Here lies all that no one loved of him And that loved no one." Then in a trice that whim Has wearied. But, though I am like a river At fall of evening while it seems that never Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while Cross breezes cut the surface to a file, This heart, some fraction of me, happily Floats through the window even now to a tree Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale, Not like a pewit that returns to wail For something it has lost, but like a dove That slants unswerving to its home and love. There I find my rest, and through the dusk air Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there.
IN the gloom of whiteness, In the great silence of snow, A child was sighing And bitterly saying: "Oh, They have killed a white bird up there on her nest, The down is fluttering from her breast." And still it fell through that dusky brightness On the child crying for the bird of the snow.
THE NEW YEAR
HE was the one man I met up in the woods That stormy New Year's morning; and at first sight, Fifty yards off, I could not tell how much Of the strange tripod was a man. His body, Bowed horizontal, was supported equally By legs at one end, by a rake at the other: Thus he rested, far less like a man than His wheel-barrow in profile was like a pig. But when I saw it was an old man bent, At the same moment came into my mind The games at which boys bend thus, High- Cockalorum, Or Fly-the-garter, and Leap-frog. At the sound Of footsteps he began to straighten himself; His head rolled under his cape like a tortoise's; He took an unlit pipe out of his mouth Politely ere I wished him "A Happy New Year," And with his head cast upward sideways Muttered— So far as I could hear through the trees' roar— "Happy New Year, and may it come fastish, too," While I strode by and he turned to raking leaves.
SEATED once by a brook, watching a child Chiefly that paddled, I was thus beguiled. Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush Not far off in the oak and hazel brush, Unseen. There was a scent like honeycomb From mugwort dull. And down upon the dome Of the stone the cart-horse kicks against so oft A butterfly alighted. From aloft He took the heat of the sun, and from below. On the hot stone he perched contented so, As if never a cart would pass again That way; as if I were the last of men And he the first of insects to have earth And sun together and to know their worth. I was divided between him and the gleam, The motion, and the voices, of the stream, The waters running frizzled over gravel, That never vanish and for ever travel. A grey flycatcher silent on a fence And I sat as if we had been there since The horseman and the horse lying beneath The fir-tree-covered barrow on the heath, The horseman and the horse with silver shoes, Galloped the downs last. All that I could lose I lost. And then the child's voice raised the dead. "No one's been here before" was what she said And what I felt, yet never should have found A word for, while I gathered sight and sound.
THE forest ended. Glad I was To feel the light, and hear the hum Of bees, and smell the drying grass And the sweet mint, because I had come To an end of forest, and because Here was both road and inn, the sum Of what's not forest. But 'twas here They asked me if I did not pass Yesterday this way? "Not you? Queer." "Who then? and slept here?" I felt fear.
I learnt his road and, ere they were Sure I was I, left the dark wood Behind, kestrel and woodpecker, The inn in the sun, the happy mood When first I tasted sunlight there. I travelled fast, in hopes I should Outrun that other. What to do When caught, I planned not. I pursued To prove the likeness, and, if true, To watch until myself I knew.
I tried the inns that evening Of a long gabled high-street grey, Of courts and outskirts, travelling An eager but a weary way, In vain. He was not there. Nothing Told me that ever till that day Had one like me entered those doors, Save once. That time I dared: "You may Recall"—but never-foamless shores Make better friends than those dull boors.
Many and many a day like this Aimed at the unseen moving goal And nothing found but remedies For all desire. These made not whole; They sowed a new desire, to kiss Desire's self beyond control, Desire of desire. And yet Life stayed on within my soul. One night in sheltering from the wet I quite forgot I could forget.
A customer, then the landlady Stared at me. With a kind of smile They hesitated awkwardly: Their silence gave me time for guile. Had anyone called there like me, I asked. It was quite plain the wile Succeeded. For they poured out all. And that was naught. Less than a mile Beyond the inn, I could recall He was like me in general.
He had pleased them, but I less. I was more eager than before To find him out and to confess, To bore him and to let him bore. I could not wait: children might guess I had a purpose, something more That made an answer indiscreet. One girl's caution made me sore, Too indignant even to greet That other had we chanced to meet.
I sought then in solitude. The wind had fallen with the night; as still The roads lay as the ploughland rude, Dark and naked, on the hill. Had there been ever any feud 'Twixt earth and sky, a mighty will Closed it: the crocketed dark trees, A dark house, dark impossible Cloud-towers, one star, one lamp, one peace Held on an everlasting lease:
And all was earth's, or all was sky's; No difference endured between The two. A dog barked on a hidden rise; A marshbird whistled high unseen; The latest waking blackbird's cries Perished upon the silence keen. The last light filled a narrow firth Among the clouds. I stood serene, And with a solemn quiet mirth, An old inhabitant of earth.
Once the name I gave to hours Like this was melancholy, when It was not happiness and powers Coming like exiles home again, And weaknesses quitting their bowers, Smiled and enjoyed, far off from men, Moments of everlastingness. And fortunate my search was then While what I sought, nevertheless, That I was seeking, I did not guess.
That time was brief: once more at inn And upon road I sought my man Till once amid a tap-room's din Loudly he asked for me, began To speak, as if it had been a sin, Of how I thought and dreamed and ran After him thus, day after day: He lived as one under a ban For this: what had I got to say? I said nothing, I slipped away.
And now I dare not follow after Too close. I try to keep in sight, Dreading his frown and worse his laughter. I steal out of the wood to light; I see the swift shoot from the rafter By the inn door: ere I alight I wait and hear the starlings wheeze And nibble like ducks: I wait his flight. He goes: I follow: no release Until he ceases. Then I also shall cease.
HOUSE AND MAN
ONE hour: as dim he and his house now look As a reflection in a rippling brook, While I remember him; but first, his house. Empty it sounded. It was dark with forest boughs That brushed the walls and made the mossy tiles Part of the squirrels' track. In all those miles Of forest silence and forest murmur, only One house—"Lonely!" he said, "I wish it were lonely"— Which the trees looked upon from every side, And that was his.
He waved good-bye to hide A sigh that he converted to a laugh. He seemed to hang rather than stand there, half Ghost-like, half like a beggar's rag, clean wrung And useless on the brier where it has hung Long years a-washing by sun and wind and rain.
But why I call back man and house again Is that now on a beech-tree's tip I see As then I saw—I at the gate, and he In the house darkness,—a magpie veering about, A magpie like a weathercock in doubt.
A FORTNIGHT before Christmas Gypsies were every- where: Vans were drawn up on wastes, women trailed to the fair. "My gentleman," said one, "You've got a lucky face." "And you've a luckier," I thought, "if such a grace And impudence in rags are lucky." "Give a penny For the poor baby's sake." "Indeed I have not any Unless you can give change for a sovereign, my dear." "Then just half a pipeful of tobacco can you spare?" I gave it. With that much victory she laughed content. I should have given more, but off and away she went With her baby and her pink sham flowers to rejoin The rest before I could translate to its proper coin Gratitude for her grace. And I paid nothing then, As I pay nothing now with the dipping of my pen For her brother's music when he drummed the tambourine And stamped his feet, which made the workmen passing grin, While his mouth-organ changed to a rascally Bacchanal dance "Over the hills and far away." This and his glance Outlasted all the fair, farmer and auctioneer, Cheap-jack, balloon-man, drover with crooked stick, and steer, Pig, turkey, goose, and duck, Christmas Corpses to be. Not even the kneeling ox had eyes like the Romany. That night he peopled for me the hollow wooded land, More dark and wild than stormiest heavens, that I searched and scanned Like a ghost new-arrived. The gradations of the dark Were like an underworld of death, but for the spark In the Gypsy boy's black eyes as he played and stamped his tune, "Over the hills and far away," and a crescent moon.
MAN AND DOG
"'TWILL take some getting." "Sir, I think 'twill so." The old man stared up at the mistletoe That hung too high in the poplar's crest for plunder Of any climber, though not for kissing under: Then he went on against the north-east wind— Straight but lame, leaning on a staff new-skinned, Carrying a brolly, flag-basket, and old coat,— Towards Alton, ten miles off. And he had not Done less from Chilgrove where he pulled up docks. 'Twere best, if he had had "a money-box," To have waited there till the sheep cleared a field For what a half-week's flint-picking would yield. His mind was running on the work he had done Since he left Christchurch in the New Forest, one Spring in the 'seventies,—navvying on dock and line From Southampton to Newcastle-on-Tyne,— In 'seventy-four a year of soldiering With the Berkshires,—hoeing and harvesting In half the shires where corn and couch will grow. His sons, three sons, were fighting, but the hoe And reap-hook he liked, or anything to do with trees. He fell once from a poplar tall as these: The Flying Man they called him in hospital. "If I flew now, to another world I'd fall." He laughed and whistled to the small brown bitch With spots of blue that hunted in the ditch. Her foxy Welsh grandfather must have paired Beneath him. He kept sheep in Wales and scared Strangers, I will warrant, with his pearl eye And trick of shrinking off as he were shy, Then following close in silence for—for what? "No rabbit, never fear, she ever got, Yet always hunts. To-day she nearly had one: She would and she wouldn't. 'Twas like that. The bad one! She's not much use, but still she's company, Though I'm not. She goes everywhere with me. So Alton I must reach to-night somehow: I'll get no shakedown with that bedfellow From farmers. Many a man sleeps worse to-night Than I shall." "In the trenches." "Yes, that's right. But they'll be out of that—I hope they be— This weather, marching after the enemy." "And so I hope. Good luck." And there I nodded "Good-night. You keep straight on." Stiffly he plodded; And at his heels the crisp leaves scurried fast, And the leaf-coloured robin watched. They passed, The robin till next day, the man for good, Together in the twilight of the wood.
THIS ploughman dead in battle slept out of doors Many a frozen night, and merrily Answered staid drinkers, good bedmen, and all bores: "At Mrs. Greenland's Hawthorn Bush," said he, "I slept." None knew which bush. Above the town, Beyond "The Drover," a hundred spot the down In Wiltshire. And where now at last he sleeps More sound in France—that, too, he secret keeps.
OUT IN THE DARK
OUT in the dark over the snow The fallow fawns invisible go With the fallow doe; And the winds blow Fast as the stars are slow.
Stealthily the dark haunts round And, when a lamp goes, without sound At a swifter bound Than the swiftest hound, Arrives, and all else is drowned;
And I and star and wind and deer, Are in the dark together,—near, Yet far,—and fear Drums on my ear In that sage company drear.
How weak and little is the light, All the universe of sight, Love and delight, Before the might, If you love it not, of night.
Printed at The Chapel River Press, Kingston, Surrey.