POEMS NEW AND OLD
Mr. Freeman's landscapes have an individuality which entitles him to his own place as a poet of nature.... The appreciation of his lofty ardours, his desolate landscapes and his strange, though beautiful, rhythms and forms of verse, is not one which springs up instantly in the mind; but once it has arisen it does not diminish.—New Statesman.
I think that whatever limitations our age and our poetry may have, Mr. Freeman's poetry, and much else that is now being written, will find in all succeeding generations readers to whom it will give companionship and comfort.—Mr. J.C. Squire, in Land and Water.
This book must be read steadily through; quotation can reveal little of its scope, its richness.... When a man, in poems that are clearly fragments of autobiography, thus surrenders to the world the life of his spirit, the beauty of what he writes is inseparable from its truth. Truth endures, and a prophet would have a sad foreboding of posterity if he did not believe that of this day's poets Mr. Freeman will not be among the forgotten.—Times Literary Supplement.
This rarefied air is something to which the reader must adjust himself; but he finds the process of adjustment made easy by a peculiar fascination in the atmosphere which Mr. Freeman creates. If it is aloof from ordinary experience, it is by so much the more individual; and in it there are to be found thrills and feelings, an understanding of a particular aspect of nature, which have not hitherto been reported in poetry—Westminster Gazette.
POEMS NEW AND OLD
By John Freeman
London: Selwyn and Blount, Ltd. 21, York Buildings, Adelphi, W.C. 2 1920
"——He still'd All sounds in air; and left so free mine ears That I might hear the music of the spheres, And all the angels singing out of heaven, Whose tunes were solemn, as to passion given."
With the exception of two or three poems which have appeared in newspapers, or in an anthology entitled Twelve Poets, the verses in the first part of this volume have not hitherto been printed. The second part contains Memories of Childhood and Other Poems, and the third part retrieves many verses from Presage of Victory (1916), Stone Trees (1916), Fifty Poems (1911) and Twenty Poems (1909). Chronological order has not been carefully observed, or avoided, in the arrangement of the third part, but the earlier pieces will easily be distinguished by those who may wish to distinguish them.
The Evening Sky Beechwood Thy Hill Leave Not The Caves I Will Ask In Those Old Days The Ash Imagination No More Adieu The Visit Travelling The Song of the Forest Out of the East
The Wakers Memories of Childhood: I.—Childhood Calls II.—The Answer III.—The First House IV.—The Other House V.—The Fire VI.—The Kite VII.—The Chair VIII.—The Swing IX.—Fear X.—The Streets XI.—When Childhood Died XII.—All that I was I am The Shock The Unloosening Wild Heart: I.—Dark and Strange II.—Wild Heart III.—Home for Love IV.—The Alde V.—Against the Cold Pale Sky VI.—The Dark Fire VII.—The Kestrel VIII.—The Image IX.—Perversities—I. X.—Perversities—II. XI.—The Valley XII.—The Dark Night of the Mind The Body The Tossing Mountains The Pond Ten O'clock No More From Wear to Thames Time from his Grave Wilder Music Grasses Fair and Brief Nightfall The Slaves The Fugitive The Unthrift The Wren The Winds The Wanderer Merrill's Garden The Lime Tree Dark Chestnut Lonely Airs The Creeper Smoke Queens The Red House The Beam Last Hours The Wish Nowhere, Everywhere Take Care, Take Care Nearness The Second Flood The Glass But Most Thy Light In that Dark Silent Hour Once There was Time Scatter the Silver Ash like Snow Justification I have Never Loved You Yet The Pigeons And These for You: I.—Not With These Eyes II.—Asking Forgiveness Judgment Day Lighting the Fire Recovery Eyes Fulfilment Bring your Beauty Memorial The Human Music The Candle Old Fires The Crowns The Bright Rider To the Heavenly Power Snows The Thorn Change Beyond the Barn Let Honour Speak Talk The Undying The Native Country
Stone Trees It was the Lovely Moon The Hounds Hector Listening Stones The Enemies The Silvery One The Flute Stars Ten O'clock and Four O'clock The Yew November Skies Delight Change Sleeping Sea The Weaver of Magic The Darksome Nightingale Under the Linden Branches Strife Foreboding Discovery More than Sweet The Brightness The Holy Mountains Rapture Music Comes The Idiot The Mouse Happiness Comfortable Light Hallo! Fear Waking The Fall Stay! Shadows Walking at Eve The Physician Vision and Echo Revisitation Unpardoned Some Hurt Thing The Waits In the Lane The Last Time You that Were "The Light that Never was on Sea or Land" At Evening's Hush Happy Death Wisdom and a Mother The Thrush Sings To My Mother The Unuttered Fair Eve The Snare O Hide Me in Thy Love Prayer to my Lord The Tree Earth to Earth On a Piece of Silver The Escape Wonder Lambourn Town The Lamp Who is it that Answers? Waiting Absence Sleep Your Shadow The Full Tide Hands The Night Watch The Haunted Shadow Alone and Cold Inevitable Change Loneliness I heard a Voice upon the Window beat First Love The Call The Shade Happy is England Now The Stars in their Courses Sweet England Presage of Victory The Return English Hills Homecoming England's Enemy From Piccadilly in August Evening Beauty: Blackfriars Sailing of the Glory At the Dock "The Men who loved the Cause that Never Dies"
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.
Hear me, O beeches! You That have with ageless anguish slowly risen From earth's still secret prison Into the ampler prison of aery blue. Your voice I hear, flowing the valleys through After the wind that tramples from the west. After the wind your boughs in new unrest Shake, and your voice—one voice uniting voices A thousand or a thousand thousand—flows Like the wind's moody; glad when he rejoices In swift-succeeding and diminishing blows, And drooping when declines death's ardour in his breast; Then over him exhausted weaving the soft fan-like noises Of gentlest creaking stems and soothing leaves Until he rest, And silent too your easied bosom heaves.
That high and noble wind is rootless nor From stable earth sucks nurture, but roams on Childless as fatherless, wild, unconfined, So that men say, "As homeless as the wind!" Rising and falling and rising evermore With years like ticks, aeons as centuries gone; Only within impalpable ether bound And blindly with the green globe spinning round. He, noble wind, Most ancient creature of imprisoned Time, From high to low may fall, and low to high may climb, Andean peak to deep-caved southern sea, With lifted hand and voice of gathered sound, And echoes in his tossing quiver bound And loosed from height into immensity; Yet of his freedom tires, remaining free. —Moulding and remoulding imponderable cloud, Uplifting skiey archipelagian isles Sunnier than ocean's, blue seas and white isles Aflush with blossom where late sunlight glowed;— Still of his freedom tiring yet still free, Homelessly roaming between sky, earth and sea.
But you, O beeches, even as men, have root Deep in apparent and substantial things— Earth, sun, air, water, and the chemic fruit Wise Time of these has made. What laughing Springs Your branches sprinkle young leaf-shadows o'er That wanting the leaf-shadows were no Springs Of seasonable sweet and freshness! nor If Summer of your murmur gathered not Increase of music as your leaves grow dense, Might even kine and birds and general noise of wings Of summer make full Summer, but the hot Slow moons would pass and leave unsatisfied the sense. Nor Autumn's waste were dear if your gold snow Of leaves whirled not upon the gold below; Nor Winter's snow were loveliness complete Wanting the white drifts round your breasts and feet. To hills how many has your tossed green given Likeness of an inverted cloudy heaven; How many English hills enlarge their pride Of shape and solitude By beechwoods darkening the steepest side! I know a Mount—let there my longing brood Again, as oft my eyes—a Mount I know Where beeches stand arrested in the throe Of that last onslaught when the gods swept low Against the gods inhabiting the wood. Gods into trees did pass and disappear, Then closing, body and huge members heaved With energy and agony and fear. See how the thighs were strained, how tortured here. See, limb from limb sprung, pain too sore to bear. Eyes once looked from those sockets that no eyes Have worn since—oh, with what desperate surprise! These arms, uplifted still, were raised in vain Against alien triumph and the inward pain. Unlock your arms, and be no more distressed, Let the wind glide over you easily again. It is a dream you fight, a memory Of battle lost. And how should dreaming be Still a renewed agony? But O, when that wind comes up out of the west New-winged with Autumn from the distant sea And springs upon you, how should not dreaming be A remembered and renewing agony? Then are your breasts, O unleaved beeches, again Torn, and your thighs and arms with the old strain Stretched past endurance; and your groans I hear Low bent beneath the hoofs by that fierce charioteer Driven clashing over; till even dreaming is Less of a present agony than this.
Fall gentler sleep upon you now, while soft Airs circle swallow-like from hedge to croft Below your lowest naked-rooted troop. Let evening slowly droop Into the middle of your boughs and stoop Quiet breathing down to your scarce-quivering side And rest there satisfied.
Yet sleep herself may wake And through your heavy unlit dome, O Mount of beeches, shake. Then shall your massy columns yield Again the company all day concealed.... Is it their shapes that sweep Serene within the ambit of the Moon Sentinel'd by shades slow-marching with moss-footed hours that creep From dusk of night to dusk of day—slow-marching, yet too soon Approaching morn? Are these their grave Remembering ghosts? ... Already your full-foliaged branches wave, And the thin failing hosts Into your secrecies are swift withdrawn Before the certain footsteps of the dawn.
But you, O beeches, even as men have root Deep in apparent and substantial things. Birds on your branches leap and shake their wings, Long ere night falls the soft owl loosens her slow hoot From the unfathomed fountains of your gloom. Late western sunbeams on your broad trunks bloom, Levelled from the low opposing hill, and fold Your inmost conclave with a burning gold. ... Than those night-ghosts awhile more solid, men Pass within your sharp shade that makes an arctic night Of common light, And pause, swift measuring tree by tree; and then Paint their vivid mark, Ciphering fatality on each unwrinkled bark Across the sunken stain That every season's gathered streaming rain Has deepened to a darker grain. You of this fatal sign unconscious lift Your branches still, each tree her lofty tent; Still light and twilight drift Between, and lie in wan pools silver sprent. But comes a day, a step, a voice, and now The repeated stroke, the noosed and tethered bough, The sundered trunk upon the enormous wain Bound kinglike with chain over chain, New wounded and exposed with each old stain. And here small pools of doubtful light are lakes Shadowless and no more that rude bough-music wakes.
So on men too the indifferent woodman, Time, Servant of unseen Master, nearing sets His unread symbol—or who reads forgets; And suns and seasons fall and climb, Leaves fall, snows fall, Spring flutters after Spring, A generation a generation begets. But comes a day—though dearly the tough roots cling To common earth, branches with branches sing— And that obscure sign's read, or swift misread, By the indifferent woodman or his slave Disease, night-wandered from a fever-dripping cave. No chain's then needed for no fearful king, But light earth-fall on foot and hand and head.
Now thick as stars leaves shake within the dome Of faintly-glinting dusking monochrome; And stars thick hung as leaves shake unseen in the round Of darkening blue: the heavenly branches wave without a sound, Only betrayed by fine vibration of thin air. Gleam now the nearer stars and ghosts of farther stars that bare, Trembling and gradual, brightness everywhere.... When leaves fall wildly and your beechen dome is thinned, Showered glittering down under the sudden wind; And when you, crowded stars, are shaken from your tree In time's late season stripped, and each bough nakedly Rocks in those gleamless shallows of infinity; When star-fall follows leaf-fall, will long Winter pass away And new stars as new leaves dance through their hasty May? —But as a leaf falls so falls weightless thought Eddying, and with a myriad dead leaves lies Bewildered, or in a little air awhile is caught Idly, then drops and dies.
Look at the stars, the stars! But in this wood All I can understand is understood. Gentler than stars your beeches speak; I hear Syllables more simple and intimately clear To earth-taught sense, than the heaven-singing word Of that intemperate wisdom which the sky Shakes down upon each unregarding century, There lying like snow unstirred, Unmelting, on the loftiest peak Above our human and green valley ways. Lowlier and friendlier your beechen branches speak To men of mortal days With hearts too fond, too weak For solitude or converse with that starry race. Their shaken lights, Their lonely splendours and uncomprehended Dream-distance and long circlings 'mid the heights And deeps remotely neighboured and attended By spheres that spill their fire through these estranging nights:— Ah, were they less dismaying, or less splendid! But as one deaf and mute sees the lips shape And quiver as men talk, or marks the throat Of rising song that he can never hear, Though in the singer's eyes her joy may dimly peer, And song and word his hopeless sense escape— Sweet common word and lifted heavenly note— So, beneath that bright rain, While stars rise, soar and stoop, Dazzled and dismayed I look and droop And, blinded, look again.
"Return, return!" O beeches sing you then. I like a tree wave all my thoughts with you, As your boughs wave to other tossed boughs when First in the windy east the dawn looks through Night's soon-dissolving bars. Return, return? But I have never strayed: Hush, thoughts, that for a moment played In that enchanted forest of the stars Where the mind grows numb. Return, return? Back, thoughts, from heights that freeze and deeps that burn, Where sight fails and song's dumb. And as, after long absence, a child stands In each familiar room And with fond hands Touches the table, casement, bed, Anon each sleeping, half-forgotten toy; So I to your sharp light and friendly gloom Returning, with first pale leaves round me shed, Recover the old joy Since here the long-acquainted hill-path lies, Steeps I have clambered up, and spaces where The Mount opens her bosom to the air And all around gigantic beeches rise.
THY HILL LEAVE NOT
Thy hill leave not, O Spring, Nor longer leap down to the new-green'd Plain. Thy western cliff-caves keep O Wind, nor branch-borne Echo after thee complain With grumbling wild and deep. Let Blossom cling Sudden and frozen round the eyes of trees, Nor fall, nor fall. Be still each Wing, Hushed each call.
So was it ordered, so Hung all things silent, still; Only Time earless moved on, stepping slow Up the scarped hill, And even Time in a long twilight stayed And, for a whim, that whispered whim obeyed.
There was no breath, no sigh, No wind lost in the sky Roamed the horizon round. The harsh dead leaf slept noiseless on the ground, By unseen mouse nor insect stirred Nor beak of hungry bird.
Then were voices heard Mingling as though each Earth and grass had individual speech. —Has evening fallen so soon, And yet no Moon? —No, but hark: so still Was never the Spring's voice adown the hill! I do not feel her waters tapping upon The culvert's under stone. —And if 'tis not yet night a thrush should sing. —Or if 'tis night the owl should his far echo bring Near, near.—And I Should know the hour by his long-shaking distant cry. —But how should echo be? The air is dead, No song, no wing, —No footfall overhead Of beast,—Or labourer passing, and no sound Of labourer's Good-night, good-night, good-night! —That we, here underground, Take to ourselves and breathe unheard Good-night! —O, it is lonely now with not one sound Neath that arched profound, —No throttled note Sweet over us to float, —No shadow treading light Of man, beast, bird. —If, earth in dumb earth, lie we here unstirred, —Why, brother, it were death renewed again If sun nor rain, —O death undying, if no dear human touch nor sound Fall on us underground!
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?
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 meadowsweet 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.
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?
The undecaying yew has shed his flowers Long since in golden showers. The elm has robed her height In green, and hangs maternal o'er the bright Starred meadows, and her full-contented breast Lifts and sinks to rest. Shades drowsing in the grass Beneath the hedge move but as the hours pass. Beech, oak and beam have all put beauty on In the eye of the sun. Because the hawthorn's sweet All the earth is sweet and the air, and the wind's feet. In the wood's green hollows the earth is sweet and wet, For scarce one shaft may get The sudden green between: Only that warm sweet creeps between the green; Or in the clearing the bluebells lifting high Make another azure sky.
All's leaf and flower except The sluggish ash that all night long has slept, And all the morning of this lingering spring. Every tree else may sing, Every bough laugh and shake; But the ash like an old man does not wake Even though draws near the season's poise and noon Of heavy-poppied swoon ... Still the ash is asleep, Or from his lower upraised palms now creep First green leaves, promising that even those gaunt Tossed boughs shall be the haunt Of Autumn starlings shrill Mid his full-leaved high branches never still.
If to any tree, 'Tis to the ash that I might likened be— Masculine, unamenable, delaying, With palms uplifted praying For another life and Spring Yet unforeshadowed; but content to swing Stiff branches chill and bare In this fine-quivering air That others' love makes sweetness everywhere.
To make a fairer, A kinder, a more constant world than this; To make time longer And love a little stronger,
To give to blossoms And trees and fruits more beauty than they bear, Adding to sweetness The aye-wanted completeness,
To say to sorrow, "Ease now thy bosom of its snaky burden"; (And sorrow brightened, No more stung and frightened),
To cry to death, "Stay a little, O proud Shade, thy stony hand"; (And death removing Left us amazed loving);—
For this and this, O inward Spirit, arm thyself with power; Be it thy duty To give a body to beauty.
Thine to remake The world in thy hid likeness, and renew The fading vision In spite of time's derision.
Be it thine, O spirit, The world of sense and thought to exalt with light; Purge away blindness, Terror and all unkindness.
Shine, shine From within, on the confused grey world without That, growing clearer, Grows spiritual and dearer.
NO MORE ADIEU
Unconscious on thy lap I lay, A spiritual thing, Stirless until the yet unlooked-for day Of human birth Should call me from thy starry twilight, Earth. And did thy bosom rock and clear voice sing? I know not—now no more a spiritual thing. Nor then thy breathed Adieu I rightly knew.
—Until those human kind arms caught And nursed my head Upon her breast who from the twilight brought This stranger me. Mother, it were yet happiness to be Within your arms; but now that you are dead Your memory sleeps in mine; so mine is comforted, Though I breathed dear Adieu Unheard by you.
And I have gathered to my breast Wife, mistress, child, Affections insecure but tenderest Of all that clutch Man's heart with their "Too little!" and "Too much!" O, what anxieties, what passions wild Bind and unbind me, what storms never to be stilled Until Adieu, Adieu Breathe the night through.
O, when all last farewells are said To these most dear; O, when within my purged heart peace is shed; When these old sweet Humanities move out on hushing feet, And all is hush; then in that silence clear Who is it comes again—near and near and near, Even while the sighed Adieu Fades the hush through?
O, is it on thy breast I fall, A spiritual thing Once more, and hear with ear insensual The voice of primal Earth Breathed gently as on Eden faint airs forth; And so contented to thy bosom cling, Though all those loves are gone nor faithful echoes ring, Nor fond Adieu, Adieu My parted spirit pursue?
—So hidden in green darkness deep, Feel when I wake The tides of night and day upon thee sweep, And know thy forehead bared before the East, And hear thy forests hushing in the West And in thy bosom, Earth, the slow heart shake: But hear no more the infinite forest murmurs break Into Adieu, Adieu, No more Adieu!
I reached the cottage. I knew it from the card He had given me—the low door heavily barred, Steep roof, and two yews whispering on guard.
Dusk thickened as I came, but I could smell First red wallflower and an early hyacinth bell, And see dim primroses. "O, I can tell,"
I thought, "they love the flowers he loved." The rain Shook from fruit bushes in new showers again As I brushed past, and gemmed the window pane.
Bare was the window yet, and the lamp bright. I saw them sitting there, streamed with the light That overflowed upon the enclosing night.
"Poor things, I wonder why they've lit up so," A voice said, passing on the road below. "Who are they?" asked another. "Don't you know?"
Their voices crept away. I heard no more As I crossed the garden and knocked at the door. I waited, then knocked louder than before,
And thrice, and still in vain. So on the grass I stepped, and tap-tapped on the rainy glass. Then did a girl without turning towards me pass
From the room. I heard the heavy barred door creak, And a voice entreating from the doorway speak, "Will you come this way?"—a voice childlike and quick.
The way was dark. I followed her white frock, Past the now-chiming, sweet-tongued unseen clock, Into the room. One figure like a rock
Draped in an unstarred night—his mother—bowed Unrising and unspeaking. His aunt stood And took my hand, murmuring, "So good, so good!"
Never such quiet people had I known. Voices they scarcely needed, they had grown To talk less by the word than muted tone.
"We'll soon have tea," the girl said. "Please sit here." She pushed a heavy low deep-seated chair I knew at once was his; and I sat there.
I could not look at them. It seemed I made Noise in that quietness. I was afraid To look or speak until the aunt's voice said,
"You were his friend." And that "You were!" awoke My sense, and nervousness found voice and spoke Of what he had been, until a bullet broke
A too-brief friendship. The rock-like mother kept Night still around her. The aunt silently wept, And the girl into the screen's low shadow stept.
"You were great friends," said with calm voice the mother. I answered, "Never friend had such another." Then the girl's lips, "Nor sister such a brother."
Her words were like a sounding pebble cast Into a hollow silence; but at last She moved and bending to my low chair passed
Swift leaf-like fingers o'er my face and said, "You are not like him." And as she turned her head Into full light beneath the lamp's green shade
I saw the sunken spaces of her eyes. Then her face listening to my dumb surprise. "Forgive," she said, "a blind girl's liberties."
"You were his friend; I wanted so to see The friends my brother had. Now let's have tea." She poured, and passed a cup and cakes to me.
"These are my cakes," she smiled; and as I ate She talked, and to the others cup and plate Passed as they in their shadow and silence sat.
"Thanks, we are used to each other," she said when I Rose in the awkwardness of seeing, shy Of helping and of watching helplessly.
And from the manner of their hands 'twas clear They too were blind; but I knew they could hear My pitiful thoughts as I sat aching there.
... I needs must talk, until the girl was gone A while out of the room. The lamp shone on, But the true light out of the room was gone.
"Rose loved him so!" her mother said, and sighed. "He was our eyes, he was our joy and pride, And all that's left is but to say he died."
She ceased as Rose returned. Then as before We talked and paused until, "Tell me once more, What was it he said?" And I told her once more.
She listened: in her face was pride and pain As in her mind's eye near he stood and plain.... Then the thin leaves fell on my cheek again
And on my hands. "He must have loved you well," She whispered, as her hands from my hands fell. Silence flowed back with thoughts unspeakable.
It was a painful thing to leave them there Within the useless light and stirless air. "Let me show you the way. Mind, there's a stair
"Here, then another stair ten paces on.... Isn't there a moon? Good-bye." And she was gone. Full moon upon the drenched fruit garden shone.
They talked of old campaigns, nineteen-fourteen And Mons and watery Yser, nineteen-fifteen And Neuve Chapelle, 'sixteen, 'seventeen, 'eighteen And after. And they grumbled, leaving home, Then talked of nineteen-nineteen, nineteen-twenty And after.
Their thoughts wandered, leaving home Among familiar places and known years; Anticipating in the river, of time Rocks, rapids, shallows, idle glazing pools Mirroring their dark dreams of heaven and earth. —And then they parted, one to Chatham, one To Africa, Constantinople one, One to Cologne; and all to an unknown year, Nineteen-nineteen perhaps, or another year.
THE SONG OF THE FOREST
(11th November, 1918)
To Thee, Most Holy, Most Obscure, light-hidden, Shedding light in the darkness of the mind As gold beams wake the air to birds a-wing; To Thee, if men were trees, would forests bow In all our land, as under a new wind; To Thee, if trees were men, would forests sing Lifting autumnal crowns and bending low, Rising and falling again as inly chidden, Singing and hushing again as inly bidden. To Thee, Most Holy, men being men upraise Bright eyes and waving hands of unarticulating praise.
To Thee, Most Holy, Most Obscure, who pourest Thy darkness into each wild-heaving human forest, While some say, "'Tis so dark God cannot live," And some, "It is so dark He never was," And few, "I hear the forest branches give Assured signs His wind-like footsteps pass;" To Thee, now that long darkness is enlightened, Lift men their hearts, shaking the death-chill dews. Even sad eyes with morning light are brightened, And in this spiritual Easter's lovely hues Are no more with death's arctic shadow frightened.
Here in this morning twilight gleaming pure Mid the high forest boughs and making clear The motion the night-wakeful brain had guessed; Here in this peace that wonders, Is it Peace? And sighs its satisfaction on the shivering air; Here, O Most Holy, here, O bright Obscure, Every deep root within the earth's quick breast Knows that the long night's ended and sore agitations cease, And every leaf of every human tree In England's forest stirs and sings, Light Giver, now to Thee.
I cannot syllable that unworded praise— An ashen sapling bending in Thy wind, Uplifting in Thy light new-budded leaves; Nor for myself nor any other raise My boughs in music, though the woodland heaves— O with what ease of pain at length resigned, What hope to the old inheritance restored! Thy praise it is that men at last are glad. Long unaccustomed brightness in their eyes Needs must seem beautiful in thine, bright Lord, And to forget the part that sorrow had In every shadowed breast, where still it lies, Is there not praise in such forgetfulness? For to grieve less means not that love is less.
—Nor for myself nor any other. Yet I cannot but remember all that passed Since justice shook these bosoms, and the fret Of indignation stirred them and they cast Forgot aside all lesser wrongs, and rose Against the spiritual evil of that threat That made them of dishonour slaves or foes. And who may but with pride remember how Not by ten righteous justice might be saved, But by unsaintly millions moving all As the tide moves when myriad tossed waves flow One way, and on the crumbling bastions fall; Then sinking backwards unopposed and slow Over the ruined towers where those vain angers raved.
Creep tarnished gilded figures to their holes Who once walked like great men upon the earth Flickering their false shadows. Fear, like a hound, Hunts them, and there's a death in every sound; And had they souls sorrow would prick their souls At every heavy sigh the wind waved forth. ... Into their holes they've crept, and they will die. Of them no more and never any more. Their leper-gilt is gone, and they will lie Poisoning a little earth and nothing more.
—That justice has been saved and wrong been slain, That the slow fever-darkness ends in day, Nor madness shakes the pillared world again With the same blind proud fury; that in vain Whispers the Tempter now, "So pass away Strength, honesty and hope, and nothing left but pain!" That the many-voiced confusion of the night Clears in the winging of a spirit bright With new-recovered joy;—for this, O Light, Light Giver, Night Dispeller, praise should be. But praise is dumb from burning hearts to Thee.
But as a forest bending in the wind Murmurs in all its boughs after the wind, Sounds uninterpreted and untaught airs; So now when Thy wind over England stirs, The proud and untranslating sounds of praise Mingle tumultuous over our human ways; And magnifying echoes of Thy wind Rouse in the profoundest forests of the mind.
And in the secret thicket where Thy light Is dimmed with starry shining of the night, Hearing these mingled airs from every wood Thou'lt smile serenely down, murmuring, "'Tis good." While Angels in the thicket borders curled Amid the farthest gold beams of Thy hair, Seeing on one drooped beam this distant world Floating illumined, cry, "Bright Lord, how fair!"
OUT OF THE EAST
When man first walked upright and soberly Reflecting as he paced to and fro, And no more swinging from wide tree to tree, Or sheltered by vast boles from sheltered foe, Or crouched within some deep cave by the sea Stared at the noisy waste of water's woe Where the earth ended, and far lightning died Splintered upon the rigid tideless tide;
When man above Time's cloud lifted his head And speech knew, and the company of speech, And from his alien presence wild beasts fled And birds flew wary from his arrow's reach, And cattle trampling the long meadow weed Did sentry in the wind's path set; when each Horn, hoof, claw, sting and sinew against man Was turned, and the old enmity began;
When, following, beneath the hand of kings Moved men their parting ways, and some passed on To forest refuge, some by dark-browed springs, And some to high remoter pastures won, And some o'er yellow deserts spread their wings, Thinning with time and thirst and so were gone Forgotten; when between each wandered host The seldom travellers faltered and were lost;—
In those old days, upon the soft dew'd sward That held its green between the thicket's cloud, Walked two men musing ere the wide moon poured Her full-girthed weightless flood. And one was bowed With years past knowledge, and his face was scored Where light or deep had every long year ploughed— Pain, labour, present peril, distant dread Scored in his brow and bending his shagged head.
Palsy his frame shook as a harsh wind shakes Complaining reeds fringing a frozen river; His eye the aspect had of frozen lakes Whereunder the foiled waters swirl and quiver; His voice the deep note that the north wind takes Drawn through bare beechwoods where forlorn birds shiver— Deep and unfaltering. A younger man Listened, while warmer currents in him ran.
"Was not my son even as myself to me, As you to him showed his own life again? Now he is dead, and all I looked to see In him removes to you—less near and plain, Confused with other blood; and what will be I groping cannot tell, and grope in vain. For men have turned to other ways than mine: Yourself are less fulfilment than a sign,
"Sign of a changing world. And change I fear. I have seen old and young like brief gnats die, And have faced death by plague and flood and spear: I have seen mine own familiar people lie In generations reaped; and near and near Age leads on Death—I hear his husky sigh. Yet Death I fear not, but these clouds of change Sweeping the old firm world with new and strange.
"Son of my son, to whom the world shines new, You are strange to me for whom the world is old. Your thoughts are not my thoughts, and unto you The past, sole warmth for me, is void and cold. Another passion pours your spirit through, Another faith has leapt upon the fold And wrestles with the ancient faith. 'And lo!' Lightly men say, 'Even the gods come and go!'"
He paused awhile in pacing and hung still, Amid the thickening shades a darker shade. Down the steep valley from the barren hill A herd of deer with antlered leader made Brief apparition. Mist brimmed up until Only the great round heights yet solid stayed— Then they too changed to spectral, and upon The changing mist wavered, and were gone....
"Standing to-day your father's grave beside, I knew my heart with his was covered there; O, more than flesh did in the cold earth hide— My past, his promise. There was none to care Save for the body of a prince that died As princes die; there was none whispered, 'Where Moves now among us his unburied part? What breast beats with the pulses of his heart?'
"—Vain thoughts are these that but a dying man Searches among the dark caves of his mind! But as I stood, the very wind that ran Between the files breathed more than common wind, As though the gods of men when Time began, Fathers of fathers of old humankind, Startled, heard now the changeful future knock; And their lament it was from rock to rock
"Tossed with the wind's long echo ... O, speak not, Nor tell me with my loss I am so dazed, That my tongue speaks unfaithfully my thought; That you, you too, within his shadow raised, Stand bare now, wanting all you held or thought, By aimless love or prisoned grief amazed. Tell me not: let me out of silence speak, Or let me still my thoughts in silence break."
And so both stood, and not a word to say, By silence overborne, until at last The young man breathed, "Look how the end of day Falls heavily, as though the earth were cast Into a shapeless soundless pit, where ray Of heavenly light never the verge has past. Yet will the late moon's light anon shine here, And then gray light, and then the sun's light clear.
"Sire, 'twas my father died, and like night's pit Soundless and shapeless yawn my orphaned years. And yet I know morn comes and brings with it Old tasks again, and new joys, hopes and fears. Or sword or plough these fingers will find fit, And morrows end with other cries and tears, With women's arms and children's voices and The sacred gods blessing the new-sown land.
"But look, upon your beard the dew is bright, Chill is the winter fall: let us go in." Then moved they slowly downward till a light Shining the door-post and thonged door between Showed the square Prince's House. Out of the night They passed the sudden rubied warmth within. Curled shadowy by the wall a servant slept: A sleepy hound from the same corner crept.
Soon were they couched. The young man fell asleep; While the old Prince drowsing uneasily, Tossing on the crest of agitations deep, Dreamed waking, waking dreamed. Then memory The unseen hound, did from her corner creep Into his bosom and stirred him with her sigh Soundless. And he arose and answering pressed Her beloved head yet closer to his breast....
Happy those years returned when first he strode Beside his father's knees, or climbed and felt The warm strength of those arms, or singing rode High on his shoulders; or in winter pelt Of dread beasts wrapt, set as his father showed Snares in the frosty grass, and at dawn knelt Beside the snares, and shouting homeward tore, Winged with such pride as seldom manhood wore.
—How many, many, many years ago! There was no older man now walked the earth. Had all those years sunk to a bitter glow, Like the fire lingering yet upon the hearth? Ah, he might warm his hands there still, and so Must warm his heart now in this wintry dearth, Till the reluming sunken fire should give Warmth to his ageing wits and bid him live.
Even this house! It was his father told How in the days half lost in icy time Men first forsook their wormy caves and cold To build where the wind-footed cattle climb; And noise of labour broke the silence old By such unbroken since the sparkling prime Of the world's spring. And so the house arose, A builded cave, perpetual as the snows
On the remotest summits of the range Hemming the north. Then house by house appeared 'Neath valley-eaves, and change following on change Unnoted tamed earth's shaggy front. Men heard Strange voices syllabling with accents strange, By travellers breathed who, startled, paused and feared Seeing the smoke of habitations curled Above this hollow of an unrumoured world.
Startled, they paused and spoke by doubtful sign, Answered by hesitating sign, until Moved one with aspect fearless and benign, And met one fearless, while all else hung still. And then was welcome, rest, and meat and wine And intercourse of uncouth word, as shrill Voice with deep voice was mingled. So they stayed And to astonished eyes strange arts betrayed.
By them the oarage of the wind was taught, And how the quick tail steered the cockled boat. They netted fruitful streams, and smiling brought Their breaking wickers home, too full to float. And opening the earth's rich womb they wrought Arms from the sullied ore; and labouring smote The mountain's bosom, till a path was seen Stony amid the flushed snow and flushed green.
Then first upon earth's wave the silver share Floated, by the teamed oxen drawn; then first Were seed-time rites, and harvest rites when bare The cropped fields lay, and gathered tumult—nurst Long in the breasts of men that laboured there— Now in the broad ease of fulfilment burst; And when the winter tasks failed in days chill, Weaving of bright-hued yarn, and chattering shrill;
And the loved tones of music sounded sweet Unwonted, when the new-stopped pipe was heard Rising and falling, and the falling feet Of sudden dancers. And old men were stirred With old men's memories of ancient heat When youth sang in their bosoms like a bird.... Sweet that divine musician, Memory, Fingering her many-reeded melody.
Then as he stared into the wasting glow And watched the fire faint in the whitening wood, Came starker shadows moving vast and slow, And echoes of wild strife and smell of blood, Twitching of slain men, cries of parting woe, Bruised bodies ghastly in the mountain flood; Burials and burnings, triumph with terrors blent, And widowed languors and night-long lament.
Like seeds long buried, these dead memories Upthrust in their new green and spread to flower: An eager child against his father's knees Leaning, he had listened many an evening hour. Now these remote reworded histories Entangled with his own renewed their power, Breathing an antique virtue through his mind, As through dense yew boughs breathes the undying wind.
Sighing, he rose up softly. On the wall A dark shape shambled aimless to and fro; Head bent, eyes inward-seeing, rugged, tall, Himself a shadow moved with musings slow Amid his cumbered past, and heard sweet call Of mother voice, and mother folk, and flow Of gentle and proud speech and tender laughter, Story and song, fault and forgiveness after;
And a voice graver, gentler than a man Might hear from any but a woman beloved, Stilling and awakening the blood that ran Like ocean tide, as neared she or removed ... Faded that music. Then a voice began Paining within his heart, yet unreproved; For dear the anguish is that steals upon A father's spirit lamenting his lost son.
—The latest born and latest lost of those Of his strong and her gentle being born. By earthquake, pestilence, by human foes Long were they dead; and yet not all forlorn He grieved, for at his side the youngest rose Bright as a willow gilded by dewy morn.... Felled now the tree, silent that music, still The motion that did all the vale-air fill.
Once more they bore the body from the hunt Where he alone had died. Once more he heard The wail and sigh, and saw once more their front Of drooping grief; once more the wailing stirred Old hounds to baying wilder than was wont; Fell once more like slow, sullen rain each word Reluctant, telling to his senses strayed, How while the gods drowsed and men hung afraid.
Slain was the Prince unwary by the paw Of a springing beast that died in giving death. Again the featureless torn face he saw, The ribboned bosom emptied of warm breath; Again the circle sudden hush'd with awe, And smothered moaning heard the hush beneath. Again, again, and every night again, Vision renewed and voice recalled in vain.
Again those dear and lamentable rites Within the winter stems of forest shade, The pile, the smokeless flame, the thousand lights, The one light that in all the thousand played; Deep burthened voices while, around the heights Lifting, young trebles their wild echo made; Then the returning torches at the pyre Lit, when the eye glowed faint within the fire.
* * * * *
Even as a man that by slow steps may climb An unknown mountain path with tired tread By ice-fringed brook and close herb white with rime, Sees sudden far below a strange land spread Immense; so from his lonely crag of Time The Prince, his eye bewildered and adread, Gazed at the vast, with mist and storm confused, Cloud-racked, and changing even while he mused.
Ending were the old wise and stable ways. Adventurers into distant lands had fared, From distant lands adventurers with gaze Proud and unenvying on his kingdom stared, And sojourning had shaken quiet days With restless knowledge, and strange worship reared Of foreign altars, idols, prayers and songs And sacrifice as to such gods belongs.
And all unsatisfied his people grown Would move from this rejected mountain range By yearlong valley journeys slowly down, Sun-following, till surfeited with change, Mid idle pastures pitched or fabled town, Subdued to climes and kings and customs strange, At length their very name should die away And all their remnant be a vague "Men say."
"Men say!" he sighed, and from that lofty verge Of inward seeing drooped his doubtful sight. Sweet was it from such reverie to emerge And breathe once more the thoughtless air of night, And watch the fire-slave through fresh billets urge The sleeping flame, until the vivid light And toothed shadows wearied.... And then crept The hounds a little nearer, and all slept.
* * * * *
But the young man still lay in quiet sleep, Or half-sleep, and a dream-born cloud enwreathed With memories, hopes and longings hidden deep In his flown mind. Another air he breathed, Saw from an unsubstantial mountain sweep In purest light, soon in low shadow sheathed, Semblance of faint-known faces, or beloved Daily-acquainted still, or long removed.
Even as sacred fire in fennel stalks Through windy ways is borne and densest night, Till where the outpost shivering sentry walks Beating the minutes into hours, the light Touches the guarded pile and, flaring, balks Beasts padding near and each unvisioned sprite By old dread apprehended; and new gladness Shakes in the village prone in winter sadness:—
So through the young man's dream the kingly flame In his own breast was undiminished borne. And other peoples catching from his fame A noble heat, in neighbouring lands forlorn, Would glow with new power and the ancient name Bless, that had brightened through their narrow morn. And purer yet and steadier would pass on The sacred flame to son and son and son.
Or with contracting mind he saw the host Of mountain warriors banded, moving down Untrodden ways, as on young buds a frost Falls, and the spring lies stiff. The air was sown With strife, the fields with blood, the night with ghost Wandering by ghost, and wounded men were strown Surprised, unweaponed; and chill air congealed Each hurt, and with the blood their breath was sealed.
And the loved tones of music sounded fierce When the returning files with aspect proud Approached, and brandished their rich trophied spears. Sweet the pipes' spearlike music, sweet and loud, And music of smitten arms was sweet to tears; Sweet the dance unto smiling gods new vowed, Sweet the recounting song and choral cries, And age's quaverings and girls' envious sighs.
—So of himself, a father-king, he dreamed, Holding an equal nation in his eye. O with what golden points the future gleamed! Rustled the years like laden mule-trains by, Each with its burthen of old time redeemed.... Splendour on splendour poured, and so would lie Unnoted and unmeasured:—metals, herds, Distant-sought wonders, strange growths, beasts and birds.
Within the summer of that splendid shade Might men live happy and nought left to fear, Or if an antique restless spirit played Fretful within their bones, and change drew near Drumming wild airs, and another music made, A father-king, speaking assured and clear, Bidding them follow he would lead them forth Through the yet undiscovered frowning north.
And the last fire on the warm stones would burn, And the smoke linger on the mountain skies. And seeing, they would muse yet of return And then forget their sadness in the cries Confused of the great caravan; and so turn Towards the next sun-setting and the next sunrise Many and many a day and wind and wind Through foreign earth, as a dream through the mind.
Flowing on with the changes of its thought. And doubtful kings entreating them to stay Would sleep the easier when they lingered not; And sullen tribes menacing would make way, And broad slow rivers in their tide be caught, And the long caravan o'er the ford all day And all day and all day pass; while the tide slept In sluggish shallows, or through marsh-reeds crept.
So would they on and on, with death and birth For wayfellows and nightly stars for guide, While seasons bloomed and faded on the earth, And jealous gods their wandering gods would chide. Until, weary of endless going forth Dark-locust-like, the old fret would subside, And young men with aged men and women cry, "In this full-rivered pasture let us lie!
"Here let us lie, and wanderings be at rest!" Midmost a cedar grove high sacrifice Needs then be made, that gods be manifest; And while the smoke spread in long twilit skies, "Here let us lie, and wanderings be at rest," Would old men breathe repeated between sighs. "In this green world and cool," would mothers say, "Rest we, nor with thin babes yet longer stray."
—So stealing from the mind of the old King Exhausted, into the sleeping young man's brain Crept the same dream and lifted on new wing And took from his swift passions a new stain, Sanguine and azure, and first fluttering Rose then on easy vans that bore again The sleeper past his common thought's confine:— So borne, so soaring, in that air divine,
He saw his people stayed, their journeys ended.... There should they, no more fretful, dwell for ever In the full-nourished pasture where untended Herds multiplied, and famine threatened never, And where high border-hills glittered with splendid Sparse-covered veins washed by the hill-born river. So stead by stead arose, and men there moved Satisfied, and no more vain longings roved.
Again the silver plough gleamed in the sod, And seed from old fields slept in furrows new. Then when Spring's rain and sun together trod And interweaved swift steps the meadow through, Old rites revived; they bore the shapen god With green stalks and first-budded boughs, and drew Together youth and age. And sowers leapt High o'er the seed in earth's cold bosom wrapt:—
So in the golden-hued and burning hours Of harvest, leapt on high the full-eared corn. Friendly to pious hands those imaged Powers Of rain and sun. And when the grain was borne By oxen trailing tangled straws and flowers, With leaves and dying blossoms on each horn, Friendly the gods commingling in the shades Of moon and torch and smoke-delaying glades.
Fell slowly sunset; the starred evening cool Drooped round as mid his people the king rode, Blessing and blessed, and in the faithful pool Of their old loves his clear reflection glowed Like summer's golden moon:—in wise and fool, Noble and mean, accustomed reverence showed Clear-shining; so he reached the unbarred hall Where lamps, lords, servitors flashed festival,
Remembering old journeys and their end. Bright-throned he sat there, with those lords around Snow-polled, co-eval, as with friends their friend Feasting. Arose at length the awaited sound Of bardic chanting, bidding their thoughts descend Into the chamber where the Past lay bound, Wanting but music's finger; so upspringing, The Past stormed all their minds in that loud singing.
And strangers, furred and tawny, seated there, Far travellers from the sunrise, looking on The feasting and the splendour, and with ear Uncertain listening to the solemn tone Of most dear Memory, envied all and sware A sudden fealty. But the bard sang on While silver beakers brimmed untouched; and darkened The proud remembering eyes of men that hearkened.
Then came once more those strangers leading long Migration of their subject folk. They stayed And medley'd and were mingled, and their throng Melted in his like snows, and so were made One with them, and forgot their useless tongue, Nor now their ancient bloody worship paid To painted gods:—name, language, story died When their last faithless exile parting sighed.
So year on year, century on century In his imagination of delight Followed, in a new world all innocency And simpleness, and made for beings bright, Where man to man was friend, unfearful, free, And natural griefs alone darkened their night, And natural joys as the wide air were common, And kindness was the bond of all kin human.
* * * * *
—When the loved reeds of music sounded clear From birds' breasts quivering in tall woodland trees That rustled leafless in the winter air, And with morn's new voice shrilled the western breeze: Folding her wings the dream crept from his ear To hang where bats drowse until daylight dies. Then he from sleep's dear vanity awaking Watched a sole sunbeam the roof-shadows raking.
The joyous morning ran and kissed the grass And drew his fingers through her sleeping hair, And cried, "Before thy flowers are well awake Rise, and the lingering darkness from thee shake.
"Before the daisy and the sorrel buy Their brightness back from that close-folding night, Come, and the shadows from thy bosom shake, Awake from thy thick sleep, awake, awake!"
Then the grass of that mounded meadow stirred Above the Roman bones that may not stir Though joyous morning whispered, shouted, sang: The grass stirred as that happy music rang.
O, what a wondrous rustling everywhere! The steady shadows shook and thinned and died, The shining grass flashed brightness back for brightness, And sleep was gone, and there was heavenly lightness.
As if she had found wings, light as the wind, The grass flew, bent with the wind, from east to west, Chased by one wild grey cloud, and flashing all Her dews for happiness to hear morning call....
But even as I stepped out the brightness dimmed, I saw the fading edge of all delight. The sober morning waked the drowsy herds, And there was the old scolding of the birds.
MEMORIES OF CHILDHOOD
Come over, come over the deepening river, Come over again the dark torrent of years, Come over, come back where the green leaves quiver, And the lilac still blooms and the grey sky clears.
Come, come back to the everlasting garden, To that green heaven, and the blue heaven above. Come back to the time when time brought no burden And love was unconscious, knowing not love.
O, my feet have worn a track Deep and old in going back. Thought released turns to its home As bees through tangling thickets come. One way of thought leads to the vast Desert of the mind, and there is lost, But backward leads to a dancing light And myself there, stiff with delight. O, well my thought has trodden a way From this brief day to that long day.
THE FIRST HOUSE
That is the earliest thing that I remember— The narrow house in the long narrow street, Dark rooms within and darkness out of doors Where grasses in the garden lift in the wind, Long grasses clinging round unsteady feet. The sunlight through one narrow passage pours, As through the keyhole into a dusty room, Striking with a golden rod the greening gloom. The tall, tall timber-stacks have yet been kind, Letting the sun fling his rod clear between, Lest there should be no gold upon the green, And no light then for a child to dream upon, And day be of day's brightness all forlorn. I saw those timber piles first dark and tall, And then men clambered up, and stumbled down, Each with a heavy and long timber borne Upon broad shoulders, leather-covered, bent. Hour after hour, day after day they went, Until the piles were gone and a new sky Stretched high and white above the garden wall. And then fresh piles crept slowly up and up, The strong men staggering, more cruelly bowed, Till at last they lay idle on the top Looking down from their height on things so small, While I looked wondering and fearful up At the strong men at rest on the new-built cloud. But there was other gold than the sun's sparse gold— Florence's hair, its brightness lying still Upon my mind as then upon the grass. Now the grass covers it and I am old, Remembering but her hair and that long grass, And the great wood-stacks threatening to fall— When all dark things will.
THE OTHER HOUSE
That other house, in the same crowded street, One red-tiled floor had, answering to my feet, And a bewildering garden all of light and heat.
Only that red floor and garden now remain, One glowing firelike in my glowing brain, One with smell, colour, sun and cloud revived again.
Yet in the garden the sky was very small, Closed by some darkness beyond the low brown wall; But from the west the gold could long unhindered fall.
Of human faces I remember none Amid the garden; but myself alone With creeping-jenny, sunflower, marigold, snapdragon—
These all my love, these now all my light, Bringing their kindness to any painful night. The sun brushed all their brightness with his skirt more bright.
And I was happy when I knew it not, Dreaming of nothing more than that small plot, And the high sky and sun that floated bright and hot.
But what night was, save dark, I did not know. The blind shut out the stars: the moon would go Staring, unstared at, moon and stars unnoted flow.
Until one night, into the strange street led, To stare at a strange light from the Factory shed, Wheeling and darting, withdrawn, and sudden again outsped—
No one knew why—but I knew darkness then, And saw the stars that hung so still; but when I lay abed the old starless dark came back again.
Night is not night without the stars and moon. I knew them not, or I forgot too soon, And now remember only the glowing sun of noon,
The red floor, and yellow flowers, and a lonely child, And a whistle morn and noon and evening shrilled, And darkness when the household murmurs even were stilled.
Near the house flowed, or paused, the black Canal, Edged by the timber piles so black and tall. From the rotten fence I watched the horses pull Along the footpath, slow and beautiful, Moving with strength and ease, in their great size And untired movement wonderful to my eyes; Their dull brass clanking as each shaggy foot Stamped the soft cinder track as fine as soot. The driver lurched old and forbidding by, Not seeing the child that feared to meet his eye. I watched the rope dip, tighten, and the water flash In falling, and then heard the hiss and splash; I watched the barge drag slowly on and on, Not dreaming how lovely a ship could ride the water upon, Not dreaming how lovely flowing water was, Sung to by trees and fingered by long grass, Or running from the bosom of a hill Down, where it flows so deep that it seems still. But it was by that rotten fence one night I saw the timber piles break into light, Suddenly leaping into a heavenly flame That played with the wind and one with the wind became. Pile to pile gave its fire, till they were like Bright angels with flashing swords before they strike, Terrible and lovely. But men those angels fought, Small and humble and patient all night wrought, And all day wrought and night and day again, And night and day, pouring their hissing rain, Until the angels tired and one by one died. Then their black spectres haunted the waterside, Charred ruins, broken-limbed, no more erect, Or heaped black dust, with cold white ashes flecked. But I had seen the angel-quelling men, With blackened and bruised face, the horses thin, The glittering harness, the leaky, bubbling mains, The broad smoke, and the steam from the leaping rains:— O I had seen what I should not forget, Men that defeated ruinous angels and shall still defeat.
It was a day All blue and lifting white, When I went into the fields with Frank To fly his kite.
The fields were aged, bare, Shut between houses everywhere. All the way there The wind tugged at the kite to take it Untethered, toss and break it; But Frank held fast, and I Walked with him admiringly; In his light brave and fine How bright was mine!
We tailed the kite While the wind flapped its purple face And yellow head. Frank's yellow head Was scarcely higher, and not so bright. "Let go!" he cried, and I let go And watched the kite Swaying and rising so That I was rooted to the place, Watching the kite Rise into the blue, Lifting its head against the white Against the sun, Against the height That far-off, farther drew; Shivering there In that fine air As we below shivered with delight And fear.
There it floated Among the birds and clouds at ease Of others all unnoted, Swimming above the ranked stiff trees. And I lay down, looking up at the sky, The clouds and birds that floated By others still unnoted, And that swaying kite Specking the light: Looking up at the sky, The birds and clouds that drew Nearer, leaving the blue, Stooping, and then brushing me, With such tenderness touching me That I had still lain there In those fields bare, Forgetting the kite; For every cloud was now a kite Streaming with light.
The chair was made By hands long dead, Polished by many bodies sitting there, Until the wood-lines flowed as clean as waves.
Mine sat restless there, Or propped to stare Hugged the low kitchen with fond eyes Or tired eyes that looked at nothing at all.
Or watched from the smoke rise The flame's snake-eyes, Up the black-bearded chimney leap; Then on my shoulder my dull head would drop.
And half asleep I heard her creep— Her never-singing lips shut fast, Fearing to wake me by a careless breath.
Then, at last, My lids upcast, Our eyes met, I smiled and she smiled, And I shut mine again and truly slept.
Was I that child Fretful, sick, wild? Was that you moving soft and soft Between the rooms if I but played at sleep?
Or if I laughed, Talked, cried, or coughed, You smiled too, just perceptibly, Or your large kind brown eyes said, O poor boy!
From the fireside I Could see the narrow sky Through the barred heavy window panes, Could hear the sparrows quarrelling round the lilac;
And hear the heavy rains Choking in the roof-drains:— Else of the world I nothing heard Or nothing remember now. But most I loved
To watch when you stirred Busily like a bird At household doings; with hands floured Mixing a magic with your cakes and tarts.
O into me, sick, froward, Yourself you poured; In all those days and weeks when I Sat, slept, woke, whimpered, wondered and slept again.
Now but a memory To bless and harry me Remains of you still swathed with care; Myself your chief care, sitting by the hearth
Propped in the pillowed chair, Following you with tired stare, And my hand following the wood lines By dead hands smoothed and followed many years.
It was like floating in a blessed dream to roam Across green meadows, far from home, With only trees and quivering sky to hedge the sight, Dazzling the eyes with strange delight. Such wide, wide fields I had never seen, and never dreamed Could be; and wonderful it seemed To wander over green and under green and run Unwatched even of the shining sun.
One tree there was that held a wrinkled creaking bough Far over the grass, hanging low; And a swing from it hanging drew us near and made New brightness beneath that doming shade. For there my sisters swung long hours delightedly, And there delighted clambered I; And all our voices shrilled as one when up we flung And into the stinging sharp leaves swung.
Then in a garden dense with bramble and sweet flowers Where honeysuckle a new sweetness pours, We sat and ate and drank. Well I remember how We were all shaded by one bough Bending with red fruit over our uplifted eyes, Teasing our well-watched covetousness.
And then we went back happy to the empty swing, But I was tired of everything Except the grass and trees and the wide shadows there Widening slowly everywhere. It was like swinging in a solemn dream to roam In a strange air, far from home— Until I saw the shadows suddenly wake and move, And float, float down from above. Then I ran quickly back, round the large gloomy trees, O with what shivering unease! And stumbled where they waited, and was far too glad, Finding them, to be afraid or sad. —Then waited an unforgetting year once more to see So wide a sky, so great a tree.
Surely I must have ailed On that dark night, Or my childish courage failed Because there was no light; Or terror must have come With his chill wing, And made my angel dumb, Or found him slumbering. Because I could not sleep Terror began to wake, Close at my side to creep And sting me like a snake. And I was afraid of death, But when I thought of pain— O, language no word hath To recall that thought again! Into my heart fear crawled And wreathed close around, Mortal, convulsive, cold, And I lay bound. Fear set before my eyes Unimaginable pain; Approaching agonies Sprang nimbly into my brain. Just as a thrilling wind Plucks every mournful wire, So terror on my wild mind Fingered, with ice and fire. O, not death I feared, But the anguish of the body; My dizzying passions heard, Saw my own bosom bloody. I thought of years of woe, Moments prolonged to years, Heard my heart racing so, Redoubling all those fears. Yet still I could not cry, Not a sound the stillness broke; But the dark stirred, and my Negligent angel woke.
Marlboro' and Waterloo and Trafalgar, Tuileries, Talavera, Valenciennes, Were strange names all, and all familiar;
For down their streets I went, early and late (Is there a street where I have never been Of all those hundreds, narrow, skyless, straight?)—
Early and late, they were my woods and meadows; The rain upon their dust my summer smell; Their scant herb and brown sparrows and harsh shadows
Were all my spring. Was there another spring? I knew their noisy desolation well, Drinking it up as a child drinks everything,
Knowing no other world than brick and stone, With one rich memory of the earth all bright. Now all is fallen into oblivion—
All that I was, in years of school and play, Things that I hated, things that were delight, Are all forgotten, or shut all away
Behind a creaking door that opens slow. But there's a child that walks those streets of war, Hearing his running footsteps as they go
Echoed from house to house, and wondering At Marlboro', Waterloo and Trafalgar; And at night, when the yellow gas lamps fling
Unsteady shadows, singing for company; Yet loving the lighted dark, and any star Caught by sharp roofs in a narrow net of sky.
WHEN CHILDHOOD DIED
I can recall the day When childhood died. I had grown thin and tall And eager-eyed.
Such a false happiness Had seized me then; A child, I saw myself Man among men.
Now I see that I was Ignorant, surprised, As one for the surgeon's knife Anaesthetized.
So that I did not know What loomed before, Nor how, a child, I became A child no more.
The world's sharpened knife Cut round my heart; Then something was taken And flung apart.
I did not, could not know What had been done. Under some evil drag I lived as one
At home in the seeming world; Then slowly came Through years and years to myself And was no more the same.
I know now an ill thing was done To a young child By the world's wary knife Maimed and defiled.
I can recall the day Almost without anger or pain, When childhood did not die But was slain.
ALL THAT I WAS I AM
Hateful it seems now, yet was I not happy? Starved of the things I loved, I did not know I loved them, and was happy lacking them. If bitterness comes now (and that is hell) It is when I forget that I was happy, Accusing Fate, that sits and nods and laughs, Because I was not born a bird or tree. Let accusation sleep, lest God's own finger Point angry from the cloud in which He hides. Who may regret what was, since it has made Himself himself? All that I was I am, And the old childish joy now lives in me At sight of a green field or a green tree.
Thinking of these, of beautiful brief things, Of things that are of sense and spirit made, Of meadow flowers, dense hedges and dark bushes With roses trailing over nests of thrushes;
Of dews so pure and bright and flush'd and cool, And like the flowers as brief as beautiful; Thinking of the tall grass and daisies tall And whispered music of the waving bents;
Of these that like a simple child I love Since they are life and life is flowers and grass; Thinking of trees, and water at their feet Answering the trees with murmur childlike sweet;
Thinking of those high thoughts that passed like the wind Yet left their brightness lying on the mind, As the white blossoms the raw airs shake down That lie awhile yet lovely on the chill grass;
Thinking of the dark, where all these end like cloud, And the stars watch like Knights to Honour vowed, Of those too lovely colours of the East, And the too tender loveliness of grey:
Thinking of all, I was as one that stands 'Neath the bewildering shock of breaking seas; Mortal-immortal things had lost their power, I knew no more than sweetness in the flower;
No more than colour in the changing light, No more than order in the stars of night; A breathing tree was but gaunt wood and leaves; All these had lost their old power over me.
I had forgotten that ever such things were: Immortal-mortal, I had been but blind ... O the wild sweetness of the renewing sense That swept me and drove all but sweetness hence!
... As beautiful as brief—ah! lovelier, Being but mortal. Yet I had great fear— That I should die ere these sweet things were dead, Or live on knowing the wild sweetness fled.
Winter was weary. All his snows were failing— Still from his stiff grey head he shook the rime Upon the grasses, bushes and broad hedges, But all was lost in the new touch of Time.
And the bright-globed hedges were all ruddy, As though warm sunset glowed perpetual. The myriad swinging tassels of first hazel, From purple to pale gold, were swinging all
In the soft wind, no more afraid of Winter. Nor chaffinch, wren, nor lark was now afraid. And Winter heard, or (ears too hard of hearing) Snuffed the South-West that in his cold hair played.
And his hands trembled. Then with voice a-quaver He called the East Wind, and the black East ran, Roofing the sky with iron, and in the darkness Winter crept out and chilled the earth again.
And while men slept the still pools were frozen, Mosses were white, with ice the long grasses bowed; The hawthorn buds and the greening honeysuckle Froze, and the birds were dumb under that cloud.
And men and beasts were dulled, and children even Less merry, under that low iron dome. Early the patient rooks and starlings gathered; Any warm narrow place for men was home.
And Winter laughed, but the third night grew weary, And slept all heavy, till the East Wind thought him dead. Then the returning South West in his nostrils Breathed, and his snows melted. And his head
Uplifting, he saw all the laughing valley, Heard the unloosened waters leaping down Broadening over the meadows; saw the sun running From hill to hill and glittering upon the town.
All day he stared. But his head drooped at evening, Bent and slow he stumbled into the white Cavern of a great chalk hill, hedged with tall bushes, And in its darkness found a darker night
Among the broken cliff and falling water, Freezing or falling quietly everywhere; Locked in a long, long sleep, his brain undreaming, With only water moving anywhere.
Old men at night dreamed that they saw him going, And looked, and dared not look, lest he should turn. And young men felt the air beating on their bodies, And the young women woke from dreams that burn.
And children going through the fields at morning Saw the unloosened waters leaping down, And broke the hazel boughs and wore the tassels Above their eyes—a pale and shaking crown.
DARK AND STRANGE
When first Love came, then was I but a boy Swept with delirium of undreamt joy. Now Love comes to a man serious with change Of life and death—and makes the world dark and strange.
Wild heart, wild heart, Where does the wind find home? Wild heart, wild heart, Where does the wild blood rest? Home, home, Rest, rest— Unto you I come And catch you to my breast.
Wild heart, wild heart, There the wind will sleep. Wild heart, wild heart, And the blood gently flow. Come, come, Unresting rest Within my heart's cave deep Where thoughts like bright stars glow.
Wild heart, wild heart, Here, here is your home. Wild heart, wild heart, With that winged star I come. Home, home, Rest in unrest— Unto you, wild heart, I come. My wild heart is your home.
HOME FOR LOVE
Because the earth is vast and dark And wet and cold; Because man's heart wants warmth and light Lest it grow old;
Therefore the house was built—wall, roof And brick and beam, By a lost hand following the lost Delight of a dream,
And room and stair show how that hand Groped in eager doubt, With needless weight of teasing timber Matching his thought—
Such fond superfluousness of strength In wall and wood As his half-wise, half-fearful eye Deemed only good.
His brain he built into the house, Laboured his bones; He burnt his heart into the brick And red hearth-stones.
It is his blood that makes the house Still warm, safe, bright, Honest as aim and eye and hand, As clean, as light.
Because the earth is vast and dark The house was built— Now with another heart and fire To be fulfilled.
How near I walked to Love, How long, I cannot tell. I was like the Alde that flows Quietly through green level lands, So quietly, it knows Their shape, their greenness and their shadows well; And then undreamingly for miles it goes And silently, beside the sea.
Seamews circle over, The winter wildfowl wings, Long and green the grasses wave Between the river and the sea. The sea's cry, wild or grave, From, bank to low bank of the river rings; But the uncertain river though it crave The sea, knows not the sea.
Was that indeed salt wind? Came that noise from falling Wild waters on a stony shore? Oh, what is this new troubling tide Of eager waves that pour Around and over, leaping, parting, recalling?... How near I moved (as day to same day wore) And silently, beside the sea!
AGAINST THE COLD PALE SKY
Against the cold pale sky The elm tree company rose high. All the fine hues of day That flowered so bold had died away. Only chill blue, faint green, And deepening dark blue were seen.
There swinging on a bough That hung or floated broad and low. The lamp of evening, bright With more than planetary light, Was beautiful and free— A white bird swaying on the tree.
You watched and I watched, Our eyes and hearts so surely matched. We saw the white bird leap, leap Shining in his journey steep Through that vast cold sky. Our hearts knew his unuttered cry—
A cry of free delight Spreading over the clustering night. Pole Hill grave and stark Stared at the valley's tidal dark, The Darent glimmered wan; But that eager planet winging on,
And singing on, went high Into the deeps and heights of sky. And our thoughts rising too Brightened the mortal darkness through Trembled and danced and sang Till the mute invisible heavens rang.
THE DARK FIRE
Love me not less Yet ease me of this fever, That in my wondering heart Burns, sinks, burns again ever.
Is it your love In me so fiercely burning, Or my love leaping to you Then requickened returning?
Come not to me, Bring not your body nearer, Though you overleapt the miles I could not behold you clearer.
I could not clasp you Than in my thought more surely; Breast to breast, heart to heart Might cling no more securely.
I do not know you, Seeing you, more than unseeing. What you are that you are Here in my spiritual being.
Leave me you cannot, Nor can I remove me From the sevenfold dark fire You have lit here since you love me.
Yet love unsure No wilder could be burning. Come, go, come, go, There's neither leaving nor returning.
Love me, love me more. O, not my heart shall quaver If the dark fire more deep Sinks and is sevenfold sevenfold graver.
In a great western wind we climbed the hill And saw the clouds run up, ride high and sink; And there were shadows running at our feet Till it seemed the very earth could not be still, Nor could our hearts be still, nor could we think Our hearts could ever be still, our thought less fleet Than the dizzy clouds, less than the flying wind. Eastward the valley and the dark steep hill And other hills and valleys lost behind In mist and light. The hedges were not yet bare Though the wind picked at them as he went by. The woods were fire, a fire that dense or clear Burned steady, but could not burn up the shadows Rooted where the trees' roots entangled lie, In darkness; or a flame burned solitary In the middle of the highest of brown meadows, Burned solitary and unconsuming where A red tree stooped to its black shadow and The kestrel's shadow hunted the kestrel up the hill. We climbed, and as we stood (where yet we stand And of the visioned sun and shadow still drink) Happiness like a shadow chased our thought That tossed on free wings up and down the world; Till by that wild swift-darting shadow caught Our free spirits their free pinions furled. Then as the kestrel began once more the heavens to climb A new-winged spirit rose clear above the hills of time.
I am a river flowing round your hill, Holding your image in my lingering water, With imaged white clouds rising round your head; And I am happy to bear your image still. Though a loud ruffling wind may break and scatter That happiness, I know it is not fled.
But when the wind is gone or gentled so That only the least quivering quivers on, Your image recomposes in my breast With those high clouds, quiet and white as snow— Spiritual company; and when day's gone And those white clouds have stepped into the west;
And the dark blue filling the heavens deep Is bright with stars that sing above your head, Their light lies in the deep of my dark eyes With your dark shape, a shadow of your sleep ... I am happy still, watching the bright stars tread Around your shadow that in my bosom lies.
Now come, And I that moment will forget you. Sit here And in your eyes I shall not see you. Speak, speak That I no more may hear your music. Into my arms, Till I've forgotten I ever met you.
I shall not have you when I hold you Body to body, Though your firm flesh, though your strong fingers Be knit to these. On a wild hill I shall be chasing The thought of you; False will be those true things I told you: I shall forget you.
No, do not come. Where the wind hunts, there shall I find you. In cool gray cloud Where the sun slips through I shall see you, Or where the trees Are silenced, and darken in their branches. Your coming would Loosen, when my thought still would bind you.
Against my shoulder your warm shoulder When last you leaned— Think, were you nearer then and dearer, Or I more glad? O eternal love, your body brings you No nearer. Trust me, be bold, be even a little bolder And do not come.
Yet when I am alone my eyes say, Come. My hands cannot be still. In that first moment all my senses ache, Cells, that were empty fill, The clay walls shake, And unimprisoned thought runs where it will.
Runs and is glad and listens and doubts, and glooms Because you are not here. Then once more rises and is clear again As sense is never clear, And happy, though in vain These eyes wait and these arms to bring you near.
Yet spite of thought my arms and eyes say, Come, Pained with such discontent. For though thought have you all my senses ache— O, it was not meant My body should never wake But on thought's tranquil bosom rest content.
Between the beechen hill and the green down The valley pastures sink; And the green river runs through their warm green Northward into the sea.
Dark is the beechen hill these winter days, The trees swallow the light And make an evening there when morning shines And the down heaves to the south.
Only when the sun's low a fire creeps through The dark of the beechen hill; While the green down, misty from head to foot, Grows huge and dim with sleep.
Then in the valley by the yet shining river, Under the noisy elms, I know how like twin shadows over me Rising high, east and west,
Are Love's dark hills, quiet, unchanging, vast, Sleeping beneath the stars; While I with those stars in my bosom shining Move northward to the sea.
THE DARK NIGHT OF THE MIND
I could not love if my thought loved not too, Nor could my body touch the body of you, Unless first in the dark night of the mind Love had fulfilled what Love had well designed.
Was it in thought or flesh we walked, when low The sun dropped, and the white scar on the hill Sank into the dark trees? Could we indeed so quietly go Body by body into that heavenly glow?
The elms that rose so vast above the mill Near leafless were and still; But from the branches with such loud unease Black flocking starlings mixed their warring cries That seemed the greater noise of the creaking mill; And every branch and extreme twig was black With birds that whistled and heard and whistled back, Filling with noise as late with wings the skies. Was it their noise we heard, Or clamour of other thoughts in our quiet mind that stirred?
Then through the climbing hazel hedge new thinned By the early and rapacious wind, We saw the silver birches gleam with light Of frozen masts in seas all wild and green. O, were they truly trees, or some unseen Thought taking on an image dark and bright? And did those bodies see them, or the mind? And did those bodies face once more the hill To bathe in night, or on a darker road Our spirits unseeing unwearying rise and rise Where these feet never trod?
From that familiar outer darkness I Would rise to the inner, deeper, darker sky And find you in my spirit—or find you not, O, never, never, if not in my thought.
When I had dreamed and dreamed what woman's beauty was, And how that beauty seen from unseen surely flowed, I turned and dreamed again, but sleeping now no more: My eyes shut and my mind with inward vision glowed.
"I did not think!" I cried, seeing that wavering shape That steadied and then wavered, as a cherry bough in June Lifts and falls in the wind—each fruit a fruit of light; And then she stood as clear as an unclouded moon.
As clear and still she stood, moonlike remotely near; I saw and heard her breathe, I years and years away. Her light streamed through the years, I saw her clear and still, Shape and spirit together mingling night with day.
Water falling, falling with the curve of time Over green-hued rock, then plunging to its pool Far, far below, a falling spear of light; Water falling golden from the sun but moonlike cool:
Water has the curve of her shoulder and breast, Water falls as straight as her body rose, Water her brightness has from neck to still feet, Water crystal-cold as her cold body flows.
But not water has the colour I saw when I dreamed, Nor water such strength has. I joyed to behold How the blood lit her body with lamps of fire And made the flesh glow that like water gleamed cold.
A flame in her arms and in each finger flame, And flame in her bosom, flame above, below, The curve of climbing flame in her waist and her thighs; From foot to head did flame into red flame flow.
I knew how beauty seen from unseen must rise, How the body's joy for more than body's use was made. I knew then how the body is the body of the mind, And how the mind's own fire beneath the cool skin played.
O shape that once to have seen is to see evermore, Falling stream that falls to the deeps of the mind, Fire that once lit burns while aught burns in the world, Foot to head a flame moving in the spirit's wind!
If these eyes could see what these eyes have not seen— The inward vision clear—how should I look for joy, Knowing that beauty's self rose visible in the world Over age that darkens, and griefs that destroy?
THE TOSSING MOUNTAINS
They were like dreams that in a drowsy hour A sad old God had dreamed in loneliness of power. They were like dreams that in his drowsy mind Rose slowly and then, darkening, made him wise and blind— So that he saw no more the level sun, Nor the small solid shadow of unclouded noon. The dark green heights rose slowly from the green Of the dark water till the sky was narrowly seen; Only at night the lifting walls were still, And stars were bright and calm above each calm dark hill. ... I could not think but that a God grown old Saw in a dream or waking all this round of bold And wavelike hills, and knew them but a thought, Or but a wave uptost and poised awhile then caught Back to the sea with waves a million more That rise and pause and break at last upon the shore. A God, a God saw first those hills that I Saw now immense upholding the starry crowded sky: His breath the mist that clung their shoulders round, His slow unconscious sigh that easeless floating sound. Ere mine his thought failed under each rough height And then was brave, seeing the stars climb calm and bright. Ere they were named he named them in his mood, Like varying children of one giant warring brood— Broad-Foot, Cloud-Gatherer, Long-Back, Winter-Head, Bravery and Bright-Face and that long Home of the Dead; And their still waters glittering in his glance Named Buckler, Silver Dish, Two Eyes and Shining Lance, Names unrecorded, but the circling wind Remembers and repeats them to the listening mind.... That mind was mine. At Shining Lance I stared Between Long-Back and Winter-Head as the new sun bared The Lake and heights of shadow and the wan gold Deepened and new warmth came into the light's sharp cold. And the near trees shivered no more but shook Their music over Shining Lance; and the excited brook Freshened in the sun's eye and tossed his spray High and sparkling, and then sprang dancing, dancing away. But Winter-Head and Long-Back, gravely bright, Stood firm as if for ever and a day and a night— As they were more than a wave before 'tis caught Back to the tossing tide, more than a flying thought, More than a dream that an old God once dreamed When visionary not at all visionary seemed.
Gray were the rushes Beside the budless bushes, Green-patched the pond. The lark had left soaring Though yet the sun was pouring His gold here and beyond.
Bramble-branches held me, But had they not compelled me Yet had I lingered there Hearing the frogs and then Watching the water-hen That stared back at my stare.
There amid the bushes Were blackbird's nests and thrush's, Soon to be hidden In leaves on green leaves thickening, Boughs over long boughs quickening Swiftly, unforbidden.
The lark had left singing But song all round was ringing, As though the rushes Were sighingly repeating And mingling that most sweet thing With the sweet note of thrushes.
That sweetness rose all round me, But more than sweetness bound me, A spirit stirred; Shadowy and cold it neared me, Then shrank as if it feared me— But 'twas I that feared.
TEN O'CLOCK NO MORE 
The wind has thrown The boldest of trees down. Now disgraced it lies, Naked in spring beneath the drifting skies, Naked and still.
It was the wind So furious and blind That scourged half England through, Ruining the fairest where most fair it grew By dell and hill.
And springing here, The black clouds dragging near, Against this lonely elm Thrust all his strength to maim and overwhelm In one wild shock.
As in the deep Satisfaction of dark sleep The tree her dream dreamed on, And woke to feel the wind's arms round her thrown And her head rock.
And the wind raught Her ageing boughs and caught Her body fast again. Then in one agony of age, grief, pain, She fell and died.
Her noble height, Branches that loved the light, Her music and cool shade, Her memories and all of her is dead On the hill side.
But the wind stooped. With madness tired, and drooped In the soft valley and slept. While morning strangely round the hush'd tree crept And called in vain.
The birds fed where The roots uptorn and bare Thrust shameful at the sky; And pewits round the tree would dip and cry With the old pain.
"Ten o'clock's gone!" Said sadly every one. And mothers looking thought Of sons and husbands far away that fought:— And looked again.
[Footnote 1: Ten o'clock is the name of a tall tree that crowned the eastern Cotswolds.]
FROM WEAR TO THAMES
Is it because Spring now is come That my heart leaps in its bed of dust? Is it with sorrow or strange pleasure To watch the green time's gathering treasure?
Or is there some too sharp distaste In all this quivering green and gold? Something that makes bare boughs yet barer, And the eye's pure delight the rarer?
Not that the new found Spring is sour.... The blossom swings on the cherry branch, From Wear to Thames I have seen this greenness Cover the six-months-winter meanness.
And windflowers and yellow gillyflowers Pierce the astonished earth with light: And most-loved wallflower's bloody petal Shakes over that long frosty battle.
But this leaping, sinking heart Finds question in grass, bud and blossom— Too deeply into the earth is prying, Too sharply hears old voices crying.
There is in blossom, bud and grass Something that's neither sorrow nor joy, Something that sighs like autumn sighing, And in each living thing is dying.
It is myself that whispers and stares Down from the hill and in the wood, And in the untended orchard's shining Sees the light through thin leaves declining.
Let me forget what I have been What I can never be again. Let me forget my winter's meanness In this fond, flushing world of greenness.
Let me forget the world that is The changing image of my thought, Nor see in thicket and hedge and meadow Myself, a grave perplexed shadow;
And O, forget that gloomy shade That breathes his cloud 'twixt earth and light ... All, all forget but sun and blossom, And the bird that bears heaven in his bosom.
TIME FROM HIS GRAVE
When the south-west wind came The air grew bright and sweet, as though a flame Had cleansed the world of winter. The low sky As the wind lifted it rose trembling vast and high, And white clouds sallied by As children in their pleasure go Chasing the sun beneath the orchard's shadow and snow. Nothing, nothing was the same! Not the dull brick, not the stained London stone, Not the delighted trees that lost their moan— Their moan that daily vexed me with such pain Until I hated to see trees again; Nor man nor woman was the same Nor could be stones again, Such light and colour with the south-west came. As I drank all that brightness up I saw A dark globe lapt in fold on fold of gloom, With all her hosts asleep in that cold tomb, Sealed by an iron law. And there amid the hills, Locked in an icy hollow lay the bones Of one that ghostly and enormous slept Obscure 'neath wrinkled ice and bedded stones. But as spring water the old dry channel fills, Came the south-west wind filling all the air. Then Time rose up, ghostly, enormous, stark, With cold gray light in cold gray eyes, and dark Dark clouds caught round him, feet to rigid chin. The wind ran flushed and glorious in, Godlike from hill to frozen hill-top stepp'd, And swiftly upon that bony stature swept. Then a long breath and then quick breaths I heard, In those black caves of stillness music stirred, Those icy heights were riven: From crown to clearing hollow grass was green; And godlike from flushed hill to hill-top leapt Time, youthful, quick, serene, Dew flashing from his limbs, light from his eyes To the sheeny skies. A lark's song climbed from earth and dropped from heaven, Far off the tide clung to the shore Now silent nevermore. ... Into what vision'd wonder was I swept, Upon what unimaginable joyance had I leapt!
Came the same cuckoo's cry All day across the mead. Flitted the butterfly All day dittering over my head. Came a bleak crawk-caw Between tall broad trees. Came shadows, floating, drifting slowly down Large leaves from darker trees.
Rose the lark with the rising sun, Rose the mist after the lark, O wild and sweet the clamour begun Round the heels of the limping dark. Rose after white cloud white cloud, Nodded green cloud to green; The stiff and dark earth stirred, breathing aloud, And dew shook from the green.
Remained the eyes that stared, Ears that ached to hear; Remained the nerve of being, bared, Stung with delight and fear. Beauty flushed, ran and returned, Like a music rose and fell; Staring and blind and deaf I listened and burned— A wilder music fell.
O cover me, long gentle grasses, Cover me with your seeding heads, Cover me with your shaking limbs, Cover me with your light soft hands, Cover me as the delicious long wind passes Over you and me, green grasses.
'Tis of your blood I would be drinking, To your soft shrilling listening now, And your thin fingers peering through At the deep forests of the sky. O satisfy my peevish thought past thinking, My sense with your sense linking.
Already are your brown roots creeping Around the roots of my mind's mind, Into the darkness hidden within The rayed dark of unconsciousness; And your long stems in a bright wind are leaping Over me uneasily sleeping.
O cover me, long gentle grasses, As one day over a quiet flesh You will shake, shake and dance and sing; And body too still and spirit astir Will hear you in every firm bright wind that passes Over you, loved green grasses.
FAIR AND BRIEF
So fair, that all the morning aches With such monotony! So brief, that sadness breaks The brittle spell.
Nothing so fair, nothing so brief: The sun leaps up and falls. The wind tosses every leaf: Every leaf dies.
Blossom, a white cloud in the air, Is blown like a cloud away. Must all be brief, being fair? Nothing remain?
Yes, night and that high regiment Of stars that wheel and march, Ever their bright lines bent To a secret thought;
Moving immutable, bright and grave, Fair beyond all things fair; Though all else vanish, save Imagination's dream.
Eve goes slowly Dancing lightly Clad with shadow up the hills; Birds their singing Cease at last, and silence Falling like fine rain the valley fills.
Not a bat's cry Stirs the stillness Perfect as broad water sleeping, Not a moth's wings Flit in the gathering darkness, Not a mouselike moonray ev'n comes creeping.
Then a light shines From the casement, Wreathed with jasmine boughs and stars, Palely golden As the late eve's primrose, Glimmers through green leafy prison bars.
Only joy now Come in silence, Come before your look's forgot; Come and hearken While the lonely shadow Broadens on the hill and then is not.
Now the hour is, Here the place is, Here am I who saw thee here. Evening darkens All is still and marvellous, Now the sharp stars in the deep sky peer.