Edward Thomas (1917) Poems
POEMS BY EDWARD THOMAS
LONDON SELWYN & BLOUNT
First printed, Oct., 1917. Reprinted, Nov., 1917. " Dec., 1917.
THE TRUMPET THE SIGN-POST TEARS TWO PEWITS THE MANOR FARM THE OWL SWEDES WILL YOU COME? As THE TEAM'S HEAD-BRASS THAW INTERVAL LIKE THE TOUCH OF RAIN THE PATH THE COMBE IF I SHOULD EVER BY CHANCE WHAT SHALL I GIVE? IF I WERE TO OWN AND YOU, HELEN WHEN FIRST HEAD AND BOTTLE AFTER YOU SPEAK SOWING WHEN WE TWO WALKED IN MEMORIAM FIFTY FAGGOTS WOMEN HE LIKED EARLY ONE MORNING CHERRY TREES IT RAINS THE HUXTER A GENTLEMAN THE BRIDGE LOB BRIGHT CLOUDS THE CLOUDS THAT ARE SO LIGHT SOME EYES CONDEMN MAY 23 THE GLORY MELANCHOLY ADLESTROP THE GREEN ROADS THE MILL-POND IT WAS UPON TALL NETTLES HAYMAKING HOW AT ONCE GONE, GONE AGAIN THE SUN USED TO SHINE OCTOBER THE LONG SMALL ROOM LIBERTY NOVEMBER THE SHEILING THE GALLOWS BIRDS' NESTS RAIN "HOME" THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE SUN WHEN HE SHOULD LAUGH AN OLD SONG THE PENNY WHISTLE LIGHTS OUT COCK-CROW WORDS
RISE up, rise up, And, as the trumpet blowing Chases the dreams of men, As the dawn glowing The stars that left unlit The land and water, Rise up and scatter The dew that covers The print of last night's lovers— Scatter it, scatter it!
While you are listening To the clear horn, Forget, men, everything On this earth newborn, Except that it is lovelier Than any mysteries. Open your eyes to the air That has washed the eyes of the stars Through all the dewy night: Up with the light, To the old wars; Arise, arise!
THE dim sea glints chill. The white sun is shy. And the skeleton weeds and the never-dry, Rough, long grasses keep white with frost At the hilltop by the finger-post; The smoke of the traveller's-joy is puffed Over hawthorn berry and hazel tuft.
I read the sign. Which way shall I go? A voice says: You would not have doubted so At twenty. Another voice gentle with scorn Says: At twenty you wished you had never been born.
One hazel lost a leaf of gold From a tuft at the tip, when the first voice told The other he wished to know what 'twould be To be sixty by this same post. "You shall see," He laughed—and I had to join his laughter— "You shall see; but either before or after, Whatever happens, it must befall, A mouthful of earth to remedy all Regrets and wishes shall freely be given; And if there be a flaw in that heaven 'Twill be freedom to wish, and your wish may be To be here or anywhere talking to me, No matter what the weather, on earth, At any age between death and birth,— To see what day or night can be, The sun and the frost, the land and the sea, Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring,— With a poor man of any sort, down to a king, Standing upright out in the air Wondering where he shall journey, O where?"
IT seems I have no tears left. They should have fallen— Their ghosts, if tears have ghosts, did fall—that day When twenty hounds streamed by me, not yet combed out But still all equals in their rage of gladness Upon the scent, made one, like a great dragon In Blooming Meadow that bends towards the sun And once bore hops: and on that other day When I stepped out from the double-shadowed Tower Into an April morning, stirring and sweet And warm. Strange solitude was there and silence. A mightier charm than any in the Tower Possessed the courtyard. They were changing guard Soldiers in line, young English countrymen, Fair-haired and ruddy, in white tunics. Drums And fifes were playing "The British Grenadiers". The men, the music piercing that solitude And silence, told me truths I had not dreamed And have forgotten since their beauty passed.
UNDER the after-sunset sky Two pewits sport and cry, More white than is the moon on high Riding the dark surge silently; More black than earth. Their cry Is the one sound under the sky. They alone move, now low, now high, And merrily they cry To the mischievous Spring sky, Plunging earthward, tossing high, Over the ghost who wonders why So merrily they cry and fly, Nor choose 'twixt earth and sky, While the moon's quarter silently Rides, and earth rests as silently.
THE MANOR FARM
THE rock-like mud unfroze a little and rills Ran and sparkled down each side of the road Under the catkins wagging in the hedge. But earth would have her sleep out, spite of the sun; Nor did I value that thin gilding beam More than a pretty February thing Till I came down to the old Manor Farm, And church and yew-tree opposite, in age Its equals and in size. The church and yew And farmhouse slept in a Sunday silentness. The air raised not a straw. The steep farm roof, With tiles duskily glowing, entertained The mid-day sun; and up and down the roof White pigeons nestled. There was no sound but one. Three cart-horses were looking over a gate Drowsily through their forelocks, swishing their tails Against a fly, a solitary fly.
The Winter's cheek flushed as if he had drained Spring, Summer, and Autumn at a draught And smiled quietly. But 'twas not Winter— Rather a season of bliss unchangeable Awakened from farm and church where it had lain Safe under tile and thatch for ages since This England, Old already, was called Merry.
DOWNHILL I came, hungry, and yet not starved; Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.
Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest, Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I. All of the night was quite barred out except An owl's cry, a most melancholy cry
Shaken out long and clear upon the hill, No merry note, nor cause of merriment, But one telling me plain what I escaped And others could not, that night, as in I went.
And salted was my food, and my repose, Salted and sobered, too, by the bird's voice Speaking for all who lay under the stars, Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.
THEY have taken the gable from the roof of clay On the long swede pile. They have let in the sun To the white and gold and purple of curled fronds Unsunned. It is a sight more tender-gorgeous At the wood-corner where Winter moans and drips Than when, in the Valley of the Tombs of Kings, A boy crawls down into a Pharaoh's tomb And, first of Christian men, beholds the mummy, God and monkey, chariot and throne and vase, Blue pottery, alabaster, and gold.
But dreamless long-dead Amen-hotep lies. This is a dream of Winter, sweet as Spring.
WILL YOU COME?
WILL you come? Will you come? Will you ride So late At my side? O, will you come?
Will you come? Will you come If the night Has a moon, Full and bright? O, will you come?
Would you come? Would you come If the noon Gave light, Not the moon? Beautiful, would you come?
Would you have come? Would you have come Without scorning, Had it been Still morning? Beloved, would you have come?
If you come Haste and come. Owls have cried: It grows dark To ride. Beloved, beautiful, come.
AS THE TEAM'S HEAD-BRASS
As the team's head-brass flashed out on the turn The lovers disappeared into the wood. I sat among the boughs of the fallen elm That strewed an angle of the fallow, and Watched the plough narrowing a yellow square Of charlock. Every time the horses turned Instead of treading me down, the ploughman leaned Upon the handles to say or ask a word, About the weather, next about the war. Scraping the share he faced towards the wood, And screwed along the furrow till the brass flashed Once more.
The blizzard felled the elm whose crest I sat in, by a woodpecker's round hole, The ploughman said. "When will they take it away?" "When the war's over." So the talk began— One minute and an interval of ten, A minute more and the same interval. "Have you been out?" "No." "And don't want to, perhaps?" "If I could only come back again, I should. I could spare an arm. I shouldn't want to lose A leg. If I should lose my head, why, so, I should want nothing more. . . . Have many gone From here?" "Yes." "Many lost?" "Yes: good few. Only two teams work on the farm this year. One of my mates is dead. The second day In France they killed him. It was back in March, The very night of the blizzard, too. Now if He had stayed here we should have moved the tree." "And I should not have sat here. Everything Would have been different. For it would have been Another world." "Ay, and a better, though If we could see all all might seem good." Then The lovers came out of the wood again: The horses started and for the last time I watched the clods crumble and topple over After the ploughshare and the stumbling team.
OVER the land freckled with snow half-thawed The speculating rooks at their nests cawed And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flower of grass, What we below could not see, Winter pass.
GONE the wild day: A wilder night Coming makes way For brief twilight.
Where the firm soaked road Mounts and is lost In the high beech-wood It shines almost.
The beeches keep A stormy rest, Breathing deep Of wind from the west.
The wood is black, With a misty steam. Above, the cloud pack Breaks for one gleam.
But the woodman's cot By the ivied trees Awakens not To light or breeze.
It smokes aloft Unwavering: It hunches soft Under storm's wing.
It has no care For gleam or gloom: It stays there While I shall roam,
Die, and forget The hill of trees, The gleam, the wet, This roaring peace.
LIKE THE TOUCH OF RAIN
LIKE the touch of rain she was On a man's flesh and hair and eyes When the joy of walking thus Has taken him by surprise:
With the love of the storm he burns, He sings, he laughs, well I know how, But forgets when he returns As I shall not forget her "Go now."
Those two words shut a door Between me and the blessed rain That was never shut before And will not open again.
RUNNING along a bank, a parapet That saves from the precipitous wood below The level road, there is a path. It serves Children for looking down the long smooth steep, Between the legs of beech and yew, to where A fallen tree checks the sight: while men and women Content themselves with the road and what they see Over the bank, and what the children tell. The path, winding like silver, trickles on, Bordered and even invaded by thinnest moss That tries to cover roots and crumbling chalk With gold, olive, and emerald, but in vain. The children wear it. They have flattened the bank On top, and silvered it between the moss With the current of their feet, year after year. But the road is houseless, and leads not to school. To see a child is rare there, and the eye Has but the road, the wood that overhangs And underyawns it, and the path that looks As if it led on to some legendary Or fancied place where men have wished to go And stay; till, sudden, it ends where the wood ends.
THE Combe was ever dark, ancient and dark. Its mouth is stopped with bramble, thorn, and briar; And no one scrambles over the sliding chalk By beech and yew and perishing juniper Down the half precipices of its sides, with roots And rabbit holes for steps. The sun of Winter, The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds Except the missel-thrush that loves juniper, Are quite shut out. But far more ancient and dark The Combe looks since they killed the badger there, Dug him out and gave him to the hounds, That most ancient Briton of English beasts.
IF I SHOULD EVER BY CHANCE
IF I should ever by chance grow rich I'll buy Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch, Roses, Pyrgo, and Lapwater, And let them all to my elder daughter. The rent I shall ask of her will be only Each year's first violets, white and lonely, The first primroses and orchises— She must find them before I do, that is. But if she finds a blossom on furze Without rent they shall all for ever be hers, Codham, Cockridden, and Childerditch, Roses, Pyrgo and Lapwater,— I shall give them all to my elder daughter.
WHAT SHALL I GIVE?
WHAT shall I give my daughter the younger More than will keep her from cold and hunger? I shall not give her anything. If she shared South Weald and Havering, Their acres, the two brooks running between, Paine's Brook and Weald Brook, With pewit, woodpecker, swan, and rook, She would be no richer than the queen Who once on a time sat in Havering Bower Alone, with the shadows, pleasure and power. She could do no more with Samarcand, Or the mountains of a mountain land And its far white house above cottages Like Venus above the Pleiades. Her small hands I would not cumber With so many acres and their lumber, But leave her Steep and her own world And her spectacled self with hair uncurled, Wanting a thousand little things That time without contentment brings.
IF I WERE TO OWN
IF I were to own this countryside As far as a man in a day could ride, And the Tyes were mine for giving or letting,— Wingle Tye and Margaretting Tye,—and Skreens, Gooshays, and Cockerells, Shellow, Rochetts, Bandish, and Pickerells, Marlins, Lambkins, and Lillyputs, Their copses, ponds, roads, and ruts, Fields where plough-horses steam and plovers Fling and whimper, hedges that lovers Love, and orchards, shrubberies, walls Where the sun untroubled by north wind falls, And single trees where the thrush sings well His proverbs untranslatable, I would give them all to my son If he would let me any one For a song, a blackbird's song, at dawn. He should have no more, till on my lawn Never a one was left, because I Had shot them to put them into a pie,— His Essex blackbirds, every one, And I was left old and alone.
Then unless I could pay, for rent, a song As sweet as a blackbird's, and as long— No more—he should have the house, not I: Margaretting or Wingle Tye, Or it might be Skreens, Gooshays, or Cockerells, Shellow, Rochetts, Bandish, or Pickerells, Martins, Lambkins, or Lillyputs, Should be his till the cart tracks had no ruts.
AND YOU, HELEN
AND you, Helen, what should I give you? So many things I would give you Had I an infinite great store Offered me and I stood before To choose. I would give you youth, All kinds of loveliness and truth, A clear eye as good as mine, Lands, waters, flowers, wine, As many children as your heart Might wish for, a far better art Than mine can be, all you have lost Upon the travelling waters tossed, Or given to me. If I could choose Freely in that great treasure-house Anything from any shelf, I would give you back yourself, And power to discriminate What you want and want it not too late, Many fair days free from care And heart to enjoy both foul and fair, And myself, too, if I could find Where it lay hidden and it proved kind.
WHEN first I came here I had hope, Hope for I knew not what. Fast beat My heart at sight of the tall slope Or grass and yews, as if my feet
Only by scaling its steps of chalk Would see something no other hill Ever disclosed. And now I walk Down it the last time. Never will
My heart beat so again at sight Of any hill although as fair And loftier. For infinite The change, late unperceived, this year,
The twelfth, suddenly, shows me plain. Hope now,—not health, nor cheerfulness, Since they can come and go again, As often one brief hour witnesses,—
Just hope has gone for ever. Perhaps I may love other hills yet more Than this: the future and the maps Hide something I was waiting for.
One thing I know, that love with chance And use and time and necessity Will grow, and louder the heart's dance At parting than at meeting be.
HEAD AND BOTTLE
THE downs will lose the sun, white alyssum Lose the bees' hum; But head and bottle tilted back in the cart Will never part Till I am cold as midnight and all my hours Are beeless flowers. He neither sees, nor hears, nor smells, nor thinks, But only drinks, Quiet in the yard where tree trunks do not lie More quietly.
AFTER YOU SPEAK
AFTER you speak And what you meant Is plain, My eyes Meet yours that mean— With your cheeks and hair— Something more wise, More dark, And far different. Even so the lark Loves dust And nestles in it The minute Before he must Soar in lone flight So far, Like a black star He seems— A mote Of singing dust Afloat Above, That dreams And sheds no light. I know your lust Is love.
IT was a perfect day For sowing; just As sweet and dry was the ground As tobacco-dust.
I tasted deep the hour Between the far Owl's chuckling first soft cry And the first star.
A long stretched hour it was; Nothing undone Remained; the early seeds All safely sown.
And now, hark at the rain, Windless and light, Half a kiss, half a tear, Saying good-night.
WHEN WE TWO WALKED
WHEN we two walked in Lent We imagined that happiness Was something different And this was something less.
But happy were we to hide Our happiness, not as they were Who acted in their pride Juno and Jupiter:
For the Gods in their jealousy Murdered that wife and man, And we that were wise live free To recall our happiness then.
IN MEMORIAM (Easter, 1915)
THE flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood This Eastertide call into mind the men, Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should Have gathered them and will do never again.
THERE they stand, on their ends, the fifty faggots That once were underwood of hazel and ash In Jenny Pinks's Copse. Now, by the hedge Close packed, they make a thicket fancy alone Can creep through with the mouse and wren. Next Spring A blackbird or a robin will nest there, Accustomed to them, thinking they will remain Whatever is for ever to a bird: This Spring it is too late; the swift has come. 'Twas a hot day for carrying them up: Better they will never warm me, though they must Light several Winters' fires. Before they are done The war will have ended, many other things Have ended, maybe, that I can no more Foresee or more control than robin and wren.
WOMEN HE LIKED
WOMEN he liked, did shovel-bearded Bob, Old Farmer Hayward of the Heath, but he Loved horses. He himself was like a cob, And leather-coloured. Also he loved a tree.
For the life in them he loved most living things, But a tree chiefly. All along the lane He planted elms where now the stormcock sings That travellers hear from the slow-climbing train.
Till then the track had never had a name For all its thicket and the nightingales That should have earned it. No one was to blame. To name a thing beloved man sometimes fails.
Many years since, Bob Hayward died, and now None passes there because the mist and the rain Out of the elms have turned the lane to slough And gloom, the name alone survives, Bob's Lane.
EARLY ONE MORNING
EARLY one morning in May I set out, And nobody I knew was about. I'm bound away for ever, Away somewhere, away for ever.
There was no wind to trouble the weathercocks. I had burnt my letters and darned my socks.
No one knew I was going away, I thought myself I should come back some day.
I heard the brook through the town gardens run. O sweet was the mud turned to dust by the sun.
A gate banged in a fence and banged in my head. "A fine morning, sir." a shepherd said.
I could not return from my liberty, To my youth and my love and my misery.
The past is the only dead thing that smells sweet, The only sweet thing that is not also fleet. I'm bound away for ever, Away somewhere, away for ever.
THE CHERRY TREES
THE cherry trees bend over and are shedding On the old road where all that passed are dead, Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding This early May morn when there is none to wed.
IT rains, and nothing stirs within the fence Anywhere through the orchard's untrodden, dense Forest of parsley. The great diamonds Of rain on the grassblades there is none to break, Or the fallen petals further down to shake.
And I am nearly as happy as possible To search the wilderness in vain though well, To think of two walking, kissing there, Drenched, yet forgetting the kisses of the rain: Sad, too, to think that never, never again,
Unless alone, so happy shall I walk In the rain. When I turn away, on its fine stalk Twilight has fined to naught, the parsley flower Figures, suspended still and ghostly white, The past hovering as it revisits the light.
HE has a hump like an ape on his back; He has of money a plentiful lack; And but for a gay coat of double his girth There is not a plainer thing on the earth This fine May morning.
But the huxter has a bottle of beer; He drives a cart and his wife sits near Who does not heed his lack or his hump; And they laugh as down the lane they bump This fine May morning.
"HE has robbed two clubs. The judge at Salisbury Can't give him more than he undoubtedly Deserves. The scoundrel! Look at his photograph! A lady-killer! Hanging's too good by half For such as he." So said the stranger, one With crimes yet undiscovered or undone. But at the inn the Gipsy dame began: "Now he was what I call a gentleman. He went along with Carrie, and when she Had a baby he paid up so readily His half a crown. Just like him. A crown'd have been More like him. For I never knew him mean. Oh! but he was such a nice gentleman. Oh! Last time we met he said if me and Joe Was anywhere near we must be sure and call. He put his arms around our Amos all As if he were his own son. I pray God Save him from justice! Nicer man never trod."
I HAVE come a long way to-day: On a strange bridge alone, Remembering friends, old friends, I rest, without smile or moan, As they remember me without smile or moan.
All are behind, the kind And the unkind too, no more To-night than a dream. The stream Runs softly yet drowns the Past, The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.
No traveller has rest more blest Than this moment brief between Two lives, when the Night's first lights And shades hide what has never been, Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.
AT hawthorn-time in Wiltshire travelling In search of something chance would never bring, An old man's face, by life and weather cut And coloured,—rough, brown, sweet as any nut,— A land face, sea-blue-eyed,—hung in my mind When I had left him many a mile behind. All he said was: "Nobody can't stop 'ee. It's A footpath, right enough. You see those bits Of mounds—that's where they opened up the barrows Sixty years since, while I was scaring sparrows. They thought as there was something to find there, But couldn't find it, by digging, anywhere."
To turn back then and seek him, where was the use? There were three Manningfords,—Abbots, Bohun, and Bruce: And whether Alton, not Manningford, it was, My memory could not decide, because There was both Alton Barnes and Alton Priors. All had their churches, graveyards, farms, and byres, Lurking to one side up the paths and lanes, Seldom well seen except by aeroplanes; And when bells rang, or pigs squealed, or cocks crowed, Then only heard. Ages ago the road Approached. The people stood and looked and turned, Nor asked it to come nearer, nor yet learned To move out there and dwell in all men's dust. And yet withal they shot the weathercock, just Because 'twas he crowed out of tune, they said: So now the copper weathercock is dead. If they had reaped their dandelions and sold Them fairly, they could have afforded gold.
Many years passed, and I went back again Among those villages, and looked for men Who might have known my ancient. He himself Had long been dead or laid upon the shelf, I thought. One man I asked about him roared At my description: "'Tis old Bottlesford He means, Bill." But another said: "Of course, It was Jack Button up at the White Horse. He's dead, sir, these three years." This lasted till A girl proposed Walker of Walker's Hill, "Old Adam Walker. Adam's Point you'll see Marked on the maps."
"That was her roguery," The next man said. He was a squire's son Who loved wild bird and beast, and dog and gun For killing them. He had loved them from his birth, One with another, as he loved the earth. "The man may be like Button, or Walker, or Like Bottlesford, that you want, but far more He sounds like one I saw when I was a child. I could almost swear to him. The man was wild And wandered. His home was where he was free. Everybody has met one such man as he. Does he keep clear old paths that no one uses But once a life-time when he loves or muses? He is English as this gate, these flowers, this mire. And when at eight years old Lob-lie-by-the-fire Came in my books, this was the man I saw. He has been in England as long as dove and daw, Calling the wild cherry tree the merry tree, The rose campion Bridget-in-her-bravery; And in a tender mood he, as I guess, Christened one flower Love-in-idleness, And while he walked from Exeter to Leeds One April called all cuckoo-flowers Milkmaids. From him old herbal Gerard learnt, as a boy, To name wild clematis the Traveller's-joy. Our blackbirds sang no English till his ear Told him they called his Jan Toy 'Pretty dear.' (She was Jan Toy the Lucky, who, having lost A shilling, and found a penny loaf, rejoiced.) For reasons of his own to him the wren Is Jenny Pooter. Before all other men 'Twas he first called the Hog's Back the Hog's Back. That Mother Dunch's Buttocks should not lack Their name was his care. He too could explain Totteridge and Totterdown and Juggler's Lane: He knows, if anyone. Why Tumbling Bay, Inland in Kent, is called so, he might say.
"But little he says compared with what he does. If ever a sage troubles him he will buzz Like a beehive to conclude the tedious fray: And the sage, who knows all languages, runs away. Yet Lob has thirteen hundred names for a fool, And though he never could spare time for school To unteach what the fox so well expressed, On biting the cock's head off,—Quietness is best,— He can talk quite as well as anyone After his thinking is forgot and done. He first of all told someone else's wife, For a farthing she'd skin a flint and spoil a knife Worth sixpence skinning it. She heard him speak: 'She had a face as long as a wet week' Said he, telling the tale in after years. With blue smock and with gold rings in his ears, Sometimes he is a pedlar, not too poor To keep his wit. This is tall Tom that bore The logs in, and with Shakespeare in the hall Once talked, when icicles hung by the wall. As Herne the Hunter he has known hard times. On sleepless nights he made up weather rhymes Which others spoilt. And, Hob being then his name, He kept the hog that thought the butcher came To bring his breakfast 'You thought wrong,' said Hob. When there were kings in Kent this very Lob, Whose sheep grew fat and he himself grew merry, Wedded the king's daughter of Canterbury; For he alone, unlike squire, lord, and king, Watched a night by her without slumbering; He kept both waking. When he was but a lad He won a rich man's heiress, deaf, dumb, and sad, By rousing her to laugh at him. He carried His donkey on his back. So they were married. And while he was a little cobbler's boy He tricked the giant coming to destroy Shrewsbury by flood. 'And how far is it yet?' The giant asked in passing. 'I forget; But see these shoes I've worn out on the road And we're not there yet.' He emptied out his load Of shoes for mending. The giant let fall from his spade The earth for damming Severn, and thus made The Wrekin hill; and little Ercall hill Rose where the giant scraped his boots. While still So young, our Jack was chief of Gotham's sages. But long before he could have been wise, ages Earlier than this, while he grew thick and strong And ate his bacon, or, at times, sang a song And merely smelt it, as Jack the giant-killer He made a name. He too ground up the miller, The Yorkshireman who ground men's bones for flour.
"Do you believe Jack dead before his hour? Or that his name is Walker, or Bottlesford, Or Button, a mere clown, or squire, or lord? The man you saw,—Lob-lie-by-the-fire, Jack Cade, Jack Smith, Jack Moon, poor Jack of every trade, Young Jack, or old Jack, or Jack What-d'ye-call, Jack-in-the-hedge, or Robin-run-by-the-wall, Robin Hood, Ragged Robin, lazy Bob, One of the lords of No Man's Land, good Lob,— Although he was seen dying at Waterloo, Hastings, Agincourt, and Sedgemoor too,— Lives yet. He never will admit he is dead Till millers cease to grind men's bones for bread, Not till our weathercock crows once again And I remove my house out of the lane On to the road." With this he disappeared In hazel and thorn tangled with old-man's-beard. But one glimpse of his back, as there he stood, Choosing his way, proved him of old Jack's blood Young Jack perhaps, and now a Wiltshireman As he has oft been since his days began.
BRIGHT clouds of may Shade half the pond. Beyond, All but one bay Of emerald Tall reeds Like criss-cross bayonets Where a bird once called, Lies bright as the sun. No one heeds. The light wind frets And drifts the scum Of may-blossom. Till the moorhen calls Again Naught's to be done By birds or men. Still the may falls.
THE CLOUDS THAT ARE SO LIGHT
THE clouds that are so light, Beautiful, swift and bright, Cast shadows on field and park Of the earth that is so dark,
And even so now, light one! Beautiful, swift and bright one! You let fall on a heart that was dark, Unillumined, a deeper mark.
But clouds would have, without earth To shadow, far less worth: Away from your shadow on me Your beauty less would be,
And if it still be treasured An age hence, it shall be measured By this small dark spot Without which it were not.
SOME EYES CONDEMN
SOME eyes condemn the earth they gaze upon: Some wait patiently till they know far more Than earth can tell them: some laugh at the whole As folly of another's making: one I knew that laughed because he saw, from core To rind, not one thing worth the laugh his soul Had ready at waking: some eyes have begun With laughing; some stand startled at the door.
Others, too, I have seen rest, question, roll, Dance, shoot. And many I have loved watching Some I could not take my eyes from till they turned And loving died. I had not found my goal. But thinking of your eyes, dear, I become Dumb: for they flamed, and it was me they burned.
THERE never was a finer day, And never will be while May is May,— The third, and not the last of its kind; But though fair and clear the two behind Seemed pursued by tempests overpast; And the morrow with fear that it could not last Was spoiled. To-day ere the stones were warm Five minutes of thunderstorm Dashed it with rain, as if to secure, By one tear, its beauty the luck to endure.
At mid-day then along the lane Old Jack Noman appeared again, Jaunty and old, crooked and tall, And stopped and grinned at me over the wall, With a cowslip bunch in his button-hole And one in his cap. Who could say if his roll Came from flints in the road, the weather, or ale? He was welcome as the nightingale. Not an hour of the sun had been wasted on Jack "I've got my Indian complexion back" Said he. He was tanned like a harvester, Like his short clay pipe, like the leaf and bur That clung to his coat from last night's bed, Like the ploughland crumbling red. Fairer flowers were none on the earth Than his cowslips wet with the dew of their birth, Or fresher leaves than the cress in his basket. "Where did they come from, Jack?" "Don't ask it, And you'll be told no lies." "Very well: Then I can't buy." "I don't want to sell. Take them and these flowers, too, free. Perhaps you have something to give me? Wait till next time. The better the day . . . The Lord couldn't make a better, I say; If he could, he never has done." So off went Jack with his roll-walk-run, Leaving his cresses from Oakshott rill And his cowslips from Wheatham hill.
'Twas the first day that the midges bit; But though they bit me, I was glad of it: Of the dust in my face, too, I was glad. Spring could do nothing to make me sad. Bluebells hid all the ruts in the copse. The elm seeds lay in the road like hops, That fine day, May the twenty-third, The day Jack Noman disappeared.
THE glory of the beauty of the morning,— The cuckoo crying over the untouched dew; The blackbird that has found it, and the dove That tempts me on to something sweeter than love; White clouds ranged even and fair as new-mown hay; The heat, the stir, the sublime vacancy Of sky and meadow and forest and my own heart:— The glory invites me, yet it leaves me scorning All I can ever do, all I can be, Beside the lovely of motion, shape, and hue, The happiness I fancy fit to dwell In beauty's presence. Shall I now this day Begin to seek as far as heaven, as hell, Wisdom or strength to match this beauty, start And tread the pale dust pitted with small dark drops, In hope to find whatever it is I seek, Hearkening to short-lived happy-seeming things That we know naught of, in the hazel copse? Or must I be content with discontent As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings? And shall I ask at the day's end once more What beauty is, and what I can have meant By happiness? And shall I let all go, Glad, weary, or both? Or shall I perhaps know That I was happy oft and oft before, Awhile forgetting how I am fast pent, How dreary-swift, with naught to travel to, Is Time? I cannot bite the day to the core.
THE rain and wind, the rain and wind, raved endlessly. On me the Summer storm, and fever, and melancholy Wrought magic, so that if I feared the solitude Far more I feared all company: too sharp, too rude, Had been the wisest or the dearest human voice. What I desired I knew not, but whate'er my choice Vain it must be, I knew. Yet naught did my despair But sweeten the strange sweetness, while through the wild air All day long I heard a distant cuckoo calling And, soft as dulcimers, sounds of near water falling, And, softer, and remote as if in history, Rumours of what had touched my friends, my foes, or me.
YES. I remember Adlestrop— The name, because one afternoon Of heat the express-train drew up there Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. No one left and no one came On the bare platform. What I saw Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass, And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, No whit less still and lonely fair Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang Close by, and round him, mistier, Farther and farther, all the birds Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
THE GREEN ROADS
THE green roads that end in the forest Are strewn with white goose feathers this June,
Like marks left behind by some one gone to the forest To show his track. But he has never come back.
Down each green road a cottage looks at the forest. Round one the nettle towers; two are bathed in flowers.
An old man along the green road to the forest Strays from one, from another a child alone.
In the thicket bordering the forest, All day long a thrush twiddles his song.
It is old, but the trees are young in the forest, All but one like a castle keep, in the middle deep.
That oak saw the ages pass in the forest: They were a host, but their memories are lost,
For the tree is dead: all things forget the forest Excepting perhaps me, when now I see
The old man, the child, the goose feathers at the edge of the forest, And hear all day long the thrush repeat his song.
THE sun blazed while the thunder yet Added a boom: A wagtail flickered bright over The mill-pond's gloom:
Less than the cooing in the alder Isles of the pool Sounded the thunder through that plunge Of waters cool.
Scared starlings on the aspen tip Past the black mill Outchattered the stream and the next roar Far on the hill.
As my feet dangling teased the foam That slid below A girl came out. "Take care!" she said— Ages ago.
She startled me, standing quite close Dressed all in white: Ages ago I was angry till She passed from sight.
Then the storm burst, and as I crouched To shelter, how Beautiful and kind, too, she seemed, As she does now!
IT WAS UPON
IT was upon a July evening. At a stile I stood, looking along a path Over the country by a second Spring Drenched perfect green again. "The lattermath Will be a fine one." So the stranger said, A wandering man. Albeit I stood at rest, Flushed with desire I was. The earth outspread, Like meadows of the future, I possessed.
And as an unaccomplished prophecy The stranger's words, after the interval Of a score years, when those fields are by me Never to be recrossed, now I recall, This July eve, and question, wondering, What of the lattermath to this hoar Spring?
TALL nettles cover up, as they have done These many springs, the rusty harrow, the plough Long worn out, and the roller made of stone: Only the elm butt tops the nettles now.
This corner of the farmyard I like most: As well as any bloom upon a flower I like the dust on the nettles, never lost Except to prove the sweetness of a shower.
AFTER night's thunder far away had rolled The fiery day had a kernel sweet of cold, And in the perfect blue the clouds uncurled, Like the first gods before they made the world And misery, swimming the stormless sea In beauty and in divine gaiety. The smooth white empty road was lightly strewn With leaves—the holly's Autumn falls in June— And fir cones standing stiff up in the heat. The mill-foot water tumbled white and lit With tossing crystals, happier than any crowd Of children pouring out of school aloud. And in the little thickets where a sleeper For ever might lie lost, the nettle-creeper And garden warbler sang unceasingly; While over them shrill shrieked in his fierce glee The swift with wings and tail as sharp and narrow As if the bow had flown off with the arrow. Only the scent of woodbine and hay new-mown Travelled the road. In the field sloping down, Park-like, to where its willows showed the brook, Haymakers rested. The tosser lay forsook Out in the sun; and the long waggon stood Without its team, it seemed it never would Move from the shadow of that single yew. The team, as still, until their task was due, Beside the labourers enjoyed the shade That three squat oaks mid-field together made Upon a circle of grass and weed uncut, And on the hollow, once a chalk-pit, but Now brimmed with nut and elder-flower so clean. The men leaned on their rakes, about to begin, But still. And all were silent. All was old, This morning time, with a great age untold, Older than Clare and Cobbett, Morland and Crome, Than, at the field's far edge, the farmer's home, A white house crouched at the foot of a great tree. Under the heavens that know not what years be The men, the beasts, the trees, the implements Uttered even what they will in times far hence— All of us gone out of the reach of change— Immortal in a picture of an old grange.
HOW AT ONCE
How at once should I know, When stretched in the harvest blue I saw the swift's black bow, That I would not have that view Another day Until next May Again it is due?
The same year after year— But with the swift alone. With other things I but fear That they will be over and done Suddenly And I only see Them to know them gone.
GONE, GONE AGAIN
GONE, gone again, May, June, July, And August gone, Again gone by,
Not memorable Save that I saw them go, As past the empty quays The rivers flow.
And now again, In the harvest rain, The Blenheim oranges Fall grubby from the trees,
As when I was young— And when the lost one was here— And when the war began To turn young men to dung.
Look at the old house, Outmoded, dignified, Dark and untenanted, With grass growing instead
Of the footsteps of life, The friendliness, the strife; In its beds have lain Youth, love, age and pain:
I am something like that; Only I am not dead, Still breathing and interested In the house that is not dark:—
I am something like that: Not one pane to reflect the sun, For the schoolboys to throw at— They have broken every one.
THE SUN USED TO SHINE
THE sun used to shine while we two walked Slowly together, paused and started Again, and sometimes mused, sometimes talked As either pleased, and cheerfully parted
Each night. We never disagreed Which gate to rest on. The to be And the late past we gave small heed. We turned from men or poetry
To rumours of the war remote Only till both stood disinclined For aught but the yellow flavorous coat Of an apple wasps had undermined;
Or a sentry of dark betonies, The stateliest of small flowers on earth, At the forest verge; or crocuses Pale purple as if they had their birth
In sunless Hades fields. The war Came back to mind with the moonrise Which soldiers in the east afar Beheld then. Nevertheless, our eyes
Could as well imagine the Crusades Or Caesar's battles. Everything To faintness like those rumours fades— Like the brook's water glittering
Under the moonlight—like those walks Now—like us two that took them, and The fallen apples, all the talks And silences—like memory's sand
When the tide covers it late or soon, And other men through other flowers In those fields under the same moon Go talking and have easy hours.
THE green elm with the one great bough of gold Lets leaves into the grass slip, one by one,— The short hill grass, the mushrooms small milk-white, Harebell and scabious and tormentil, That blackberry and gorse, in dew and sun, Bow down to; and the wind travels too light To shake the fallen birch leaves from the fern; The gossamers wander at their own will. At heavier steps than birds' the squirrels scold.
The rich scene has grown fresh again and new As Spring and to the touch is not more cool Than it is warm to the gaze; and now I might As happy be as earth is beautiful, Were I some other or with earth could turn In alternation of violet and rose, Harebell and snowdrop, at their season due, And gorse that has no time not to be gay. But if this be not happiness,—who knows? Some day I shall think this a happy day, And this mood by the name of melancholy Shall no more blackened and obscured be.
THE LONG SMALL ROOM
THE long small room that showed willows in the west Narrowed up to the end the fireplace filled, Although not wide. I liked it. No one guessed What need or accident made them so build.
Only the moon, the mouse and the sparrow peeped In from the ivy round the casement thick. Of all they saw and heard there they shall keep The tale for the old ivy and older brick.
When I look back I am like moon, sparrow and mouse That witnessed what they could never understand Or alter or prevent in the dark house. One thing remains the same—this my right hand
Crawling crab-like over the clean white page, Resting awhile each morning on the pillow, Then once more starting to crawl on towards age. The hundred last leaves stream upon the willow.
THE last light has gone out of the world, except This moonlight lying on the grass like frost Beyond the brink of the tall elm's shadow It is as if everything else had slept Many an age, unforgotten and lost The men that were, the things done, long ago, All I have thought; and but the moon and I Live yet and here stand idle over the grave Where all is buried. Both have liberty To dream what we could do if we were free To do some thing we had desired long, The moon and I. There's none less free than who Does nothing and has nothing else to do, Being free only for what is not to his mind, And nothing is to his mind. If every hour Like this one passing that I have spent among The wiser others when I have forgot To wonder whether I was free or not, Were piled before me, and not lost behind, And I could take and carry them away I should be rich; or if I had the power To wipe out every one and not again Regret, I should be rich to be so poor. And yet I still am half in love with pain, With what is imperfect, with both tears and mirth, With things that have an end, with life and earth, And this moon that leaves me dark within the door.
NOVEMBER'S days are thirty: November's earth is dirty, Those thirty days, from first to last; And the prettiest things on ground are the paths With morning and evening hobnails dinted, With foot and wing-tip overprinted Or separately charactered, Of little beast and little bird. The fields are mashed by sheep, the roads Make the worst going, the best the woods Where dead leaves upward and downward scatter. Few care for the mixture of earth and water, Twig, leaf, flint, thorn, Straw, feather, all that men scorn, Pounded up and sodden by flood, Condemned as mud.
But of all the months when earth is greener Not one has clean skies that are cleaner. Clean and clear and sweet and cold, They shine above the earth so old, While the after-tempest cloud Sails over in silence though winds are loud, Till the full moon in the east Looks at the planet in the west And earth is silent as it is black, Yet not unhappy for its lack. Up from the dirty earth men stare: One imagines a refuge there Above the mud, in the pure bright Of the cloudless heavenly light: Another loves earth and November more dearly Because without them, he sees clearly, The sky would be nothing more to his eye Than he, in any case, is to the sky; He loves even the mud whose dyes Renounce all brightness to the skies.
IT stands alone Up in a land of stone All worn like ancient stairs, A land of rocks and trees Nourished on wind and stone.
And all within Long delicate has been; By arts and kindliness Coloured, sweetened, and warmed For many years has been.
Safe resting there Men hear in the travelling air But music, pictures see In the same daily land Painted by the wild air.
One maker's mind Made both, and the house is kind To the land that gave it peace, And the stone has taken the house To its cold heart and is kind.
THERE was a weasel lived in the sun With all his family, Till a keeper shot him with his gun And hung him up on a tree, Where he swings in the wind and rain, In the sun and in the snow, Without pleasure, without pain, On the dead oak tree bough.
There was a crow who was no sleeper, But a thief and a murderer Till a very late hour; and this keeper Made him one of the things that were, To hang and flap in rain and wind, In the sun and in the snow. There are no more sins to be sinned On the dead oak tree bough.
There was a magpie, too, Had a long tongue and a long tail; He could both talk and do— But what did that avail? He, too, flaps in the wind and rain Alongside weasel and crow, Without pleasure, without pain, On the dead oak tree bough.
And many other beasts And birds, skin, bone and feather, Have been taken from their feasts And hung up there together, To swing and have endless leisure In the sun and in the snow, Without pain, without pleasure, On the dead oak tree bough.
THE summer nests uncovered by autumn wind. Some torn, others dislodged, all dark. Everyone sees them: low or high in tree, Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.
Since there's no need of eyes to see them with I cannot help a little shame That I missed most, even at eye's level, till The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.
'Tis a light pang. I like to see the nests Still in their places, now first known, At home and by far roads. Boys knew them not, Whatever jays and squirrels may have done.
And most I like the winter nests deep-hid That leaves and berries fell into; Once a dormouse dined there on hazel-nuts, And grass and goose-grass seeds found soil and grew.
RAIN, midnight rain, nothing but the wild rain On this bleak hut, and solitude, and me Remembering again that I shall die And neither hear the rain nor give it thanks For washing me cleaner than I have been Since I was born into this solitude. Blessed are the dead that the rain rains upon: But here I pray that none whom once I loved Is dying to-night or lying still awake Solitary, listening to the rain, Either in pain or thus in sympathy Helpless among the living and the dead, Like a cold water among broken reeds, Myriads of broken reeds all still and stiff, Like me who have no love which this wild rain Has not dissolved except the love of death, If love it be towards what is perfect and Cannot, the tempest tells me, disappoint.
FAIR was the morning, fair our tempers, and We had seen nothing fairer than that land, Though strange, and the untrodden snow that made Wild of the tame, casting out all that was Not wild and rustic and old; and we were glad.
Fair, too, was afternoon, and first to pass Were we that league of snow, next the north wind
There was nothing to return for, except need, And yet we sang nor ever stopped for speed, As we did often with the start behind. Faster still strode we when we came in sight Of the cold roofs where we must spend the night. Happy we had not been there, nor could be. Though we had tasted sleep and food and fellowship Together long.
"How quick" to someone's lip The words came, "will the beaten horse run home."
The word "home" raised a smile in us all three, And one repeated it, smiling just so That all knew what he meant and none would say. Between three counties far apart that lay We were divided and looked strangely each At the other, and we knew we were not friends But fellows in a union that ends With the necessity for it, as it ought.
Never a word was spoken, not a thought Was thought, of what the look meant with the word "Home" as we walked and watched the sunset blurred. And then to me the word, only the word, "Homesick," as it were playfully occurred: No more.
If I should ever more admit Than the mere word I could not endure it For a day longer: this captivity Must somehow come to an end, else I should be Another man, as often now I seem, Or this life be only an evil dream.
THERE'S NOTHING LIKE THE SUN
THERE'S nothing like the sun as the year dies, Kind as it can be, this world being made so, To stones and men and beasts and birds and flies, To all things that it touches except snow, Whether on mountain side or street of town. The south wall warms me: November has begun, Yet never shone the sun as fair as now While the sweet last-left damsons from the bough With spangles of the morning's storm drop down Because the starling shakes it, whistling what Once swallows sang. But I have not forgot That there is nothing, too, like March's sun, Like April's, or July's, or June's, or May's, Or January's, or February's, great days: And August, September, October, and December Have equal days, all different from November. No day of any month but I have said— Or, if I could live long enough, should say— "There's nothing like the sun that shines to-day" There's nothing like the sun till we are dead.
WHEN HE SHOULD LAUGH
WHEN he should laugh the wise man knows full well: For he knows what is truly laughable. But wiser is the man who laughs also, Or holds his laughter, when the foolish do.
AN OLD SONG
THE sun set, the wind fell, the sea Was like a mirror shaking: The one small wave that clapped the land A mile-long snake of foam was making Where tide had smoothed and wind had dried The vacant sand.
A light divided the swollen clouds And lay most perfectly Like a straight narrow footbridge bright That crossed over the sea to me; And no one else in the whole world Saw that same sight.
I walked elate, my bridge always Just one step from my feet: A robin sang, a shade in shade: And all I did was to repeat: "I'll go no more a-roving With you, fair maid."
The sailors' song of merry loving With dusk and sea-gull's mewing Mixed sweet, the lewdness far outweighed By the wild charm the chorus played: "I'll go no more a-roving With you, fair maid: A-roving, a-roving, since roving's been my ruin, I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid."
In Amsterdam there dwelt a maid— Mark well what I do say— In Amsterdam there dwelt a maid And she was a mistress of her trade: I'll go no more a-roving With you, fair maid: A-roving, a-roving, since roving's been my ruin, I'll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.
THE PENNY WHISTLE
THE new moon hangs like an ivory bugle In the naked frosty blue; And the ghylls of the forest, already blackened By Winter, are blackened anew.
The brooks that cut up and increase the forest, As if they had never known The sun, are roaring with black hollow voices Betwixt rage and a moan.
But still the caravan-hut by the hollies Like a kingfisher gleams between: Round the mossed old hearths of the charcoal-burners First primroses ask to be seen.
The charcoal-burners are black, but their linen Blows white on the line; And white the letter the girl is reading Under that crescent fine;
And her brother who hides apart in a thicket, Slowly and surely playing On a whistle an olden nursery melody, Says far more than I am saying.
I HAVE come to the borders of sleep, The unfathomable deep Forest where all must lose Their way, however straight, Or winding, soon or late; They cannot choose.
Many a road and track That, since the dawn's first crack, Up to the forest brink, Deceived the travellers Suddenly now blurs, And in they sink.
Here love ends, Despair, ambition ends, All pleasure and all trouble, Although most sweet or bitter, Here ends in sleep that is sweeter Than tasks most noble.
There is not any book Or face of dearest look That I would not turn from now To go into the unknown I must enter and leave alone I know not how.
The tall forest towers; Its cloudy foliage lowers Ahead, shelf above shelf; Its silence I hear and obey That I may lose my way And myself.
OUT of the wood of thoughts that grows by night To be cut down by the sharp axe of light,— Out of the night, two cocks together crow, Cleaving the darkness with a silver blow: And bright before my eyes twin trumpeters stand, Heralds of splendour, one at either hand, Each facing each as in a coat of arms: The milkers lace their boots up at the farms.
OUT of us all That make rhymes, Will you choose Sometimes— As the winds use A crack in a wall Or a drain, Their joy or their pain To whistle through— Choose me, You English words?
I know you: You are light as dreams, Tough as oak, Precious as gold, As poppies and corn, Or an old cloak: Sweet as our birds To the ear, As the burnet rose In the heat Of Midsummer: Strange as the races Of dead and unborn: Strange and sweet Equally, And familiar, To the eye, As the dearest faces That a man knows, And as lost homes are: But though older far Than oldest yew,— As our hills are, old.— Worn new Again and again: Young as our streams After rain: And as dear As the earth which you prove That we love.
Make me content With some sweetness From Wales Whose nightingales Have no wings,— From Wiltshire and Kent And Herefordshire, And the villages there,— From the names, and the things No less.
Let me sometimes dance With you, Or climb Or stand perchance In ecstasy, Fixed and free In a rhyme, As poets do.
THE CHAPEL RIVER PRESS