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Poems New and Old by John Freeman

Part 2 out of 5

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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.



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

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.



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.




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.



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
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.



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.



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?


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.


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.]


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.


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.


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.

Come and fill me
As the wind fills
Leafy wide boughs of a tree;
Come and windlike
Cleanse my slumbrous branches,
Come and moonlike bathe the leaves of me.


Eve has gone and
Night follows,
Every bush is now a ghost;
Every tree looms
Lofty large and sombre;
All day's simple friendliness is lost.

See the poplars
Black in blackness,
In all their leaves there is no sigh.
'Neath that darkling
Cedar who dare wander
Now, or under the vast oak would lie!...

Till that tingling
Silence broken
Every clod renews its breath;
Birds, leaves, grasses
Heave as one, then sleep on
Full of sweeter sleep and unlike death.


Only joy now
Come like music
Falling clear from strings of light;
Come like shadow
Drinking up late sunrays,
Come like moonrays sweeping the round night.

See how night is
Opening flowerlike:
Open so thy bosom to me.
See how earth falls
Easeful into silence:
Let my moth-wing'd thought so fall on thee.

While the lamp's beam
Primrose golden
Now is like a shifting spear
Borne in battle,
Seen awhile then hidden,
Bold then beaten--now long lost, and here!


The tall slaves bow if that capricious King
But glances as he passes;
Their dark hoods drawing over abashed faces
They bow humbly, unappealingly.
The dark robes round their shuddering bodies cling,
They bow and but whisper as he passes.

They have not learned to look into his eyes,
If he insults to answer,
To stand with head erect and angry arching bosom:
They bow humbly, unappealingly,
As though he mastered earth and the violet inky skies,
And whisper piteously for only answer.

So they stand, tall slaves, ashamed of their great height,
And if he comes raving,
Shouting from the west, furious and moody,
They bow more humbly, unappealingly,
Ashamed to remember how they lived in that calm light;
They droop until he passes, tired of raving.

Only when he's gone they lift their darkened brows,
Light comes back to their eyes,
Their leaves caress the light, the light laves their branches,
They move loverlike, appealingly;
Slaves now no more the poplars lift and shake their boughs,
And there's a heaven of evening in their eyes.


In the hush of early even
The clouds came flocking over,
Till the last wind fell from heaven
And no bird cried.

Darkly the clouds were flocking,
Shadows moved and deepened,
Then paused; the poplar's rocking
Ceased; the light hung still

Like a painted thing, and deadly.
Then from the cloud's side flickered
Sharp lightning, thrusting madly
At the cowering fields.

Thrice the fierce cloud lighten'd,
Down the hill slow thunder trembled;
Day in her cave grew frightened,
Crept away, and died.


Here in the shade of the tree
The hours go by
Silent and swift,
Lightly as birds fly.
Then the deep clouds broaden and drift,
Or the cloudless darkness and the worn moon.
Waking, the dreamer knows he is old,
And the day that he dreamed was gone
Is gone.


Within the greenhouse dim and damp
The heat floats like a cloud.
Pale rose-leaves droop from the rust roof
With rust-edged roses bowed.
As I go in
Out flies the startled wren.

By the tall dark fir tree he sings
Morn after morn still,
Shy and bold he flits and sings
Tinily sweet and shrill.
As I go out
His song follows me about ...

About the orchard under trees
Beaded with cherries bright,
Past the rat-haunted Honeybourne
And up those hills of light:
As up I go
His notes more sweetly flow.

Or down those dark hills when night's there
Full of dark thoughts and deep,
A thin clear soundless music comes
Like stars in broken sleep.
When I come down
All those dark thoughts are flown.

And now that sweetness is more sweet,
Here where the aeroplanes
Labouring and groaning in the height
Lift their lifeless vans:--
Sweet, sweet to hear
The far off wren singing clear.


In these green fields, in this green spring,
In this green world of burning sweet
That drives its sour from everything
And burns the Arctic with new heat,
That seems so slow and flies so fleet
On half-seen wing;

In this green world the birds are all
With motion mad, are wild with song;
The grass leaps like a sudden wall
Flung up against a foe that long
Strode round and wrought his frosty wrong.
The bright winds call,

The bright winds answer; the clouds rise
White from the grave, shaking their head,
Strewing the grave-clothes through the skies,
In languid drifting shadow shed
Upon the fields where, slowly spread,
Each shadow dies.

In every wood is green and gold,
The unbridged river runs all green
With queenly swan-clouds floating bold
Down to the mill's swift guillotine.
Beyond the mill each murdered queen
Floats white and cold.

--If I could rise up in a cloud
And look down on the new earth in flight,
Shadow-like cast my thought's thin shroud
Back upon these fields of light;
And hear the winds of day and night
Meet, singing loud!


Over the pool of sleep
The night mists creep,
Then faint thin light and then clear day,
Noontide, and lingering afternoon;
Then that Wanderer, the Moon
Wandering her old wild way.

How many spirits follow
Her in that dark hollow!
Like a lost lamb she roams on high
Through the cold and soundless sky,
And stares down into her deep
Reflection in the pool of sleep.

How many follow
Her in that lone hollow!
She sees them not nor would she hear
Though both shape and sound were clear,
But stares, stares into the pool
Of her fear and beauty full.

Far in strange gay skies
She pales and dies,
Forgetting that bright transitory
Reflection of astonished glory,
Nor heeds the spirits that follow
Her into day's bright hollow.


There is a garden where the seeded stems of thin long grass are bowed
Beneath July's slow rains and heat and tired children's trailing feet;
And the trees' neglected branches droop and make a cloud beneath the cloud,
And in that dark the crimson dew of raspberries shines more sweet than

The flower of the tall acacia's gone, the acacia's flower is white no more,
The aspen lifts his pithless arms, the aspen leaves are close and still;
The wind that tossed the clouds along, gray clouds and white like feathers
Lets even a feather faintly fall and smoke spread hugely where it will.

But though the acacia's flower is gone and raspberries bear bright fruit
Beauty lives there, oh rich and rare, past the sum of eager June.
The lime tree's pyramid of flower and leaf and yellow flower unwasted
Rises at eve and bars the breast wild-heaving of the timid moon.

Now the tall pear-trees unrebuked lift their green fingers to the sky;
Their lower boughs are crossed like arms of templars in long stony sleep.
Their arms are crossed as though the wind, returning from wild war on high,
Had touched them with an angry breath, or whispered from his cavern deep.

A foxglove lifts her bells and bells silent above the singing grass,
Still the old marigold her light sprinkles like riches to the poor.
Snapdragon still his changeling blossom shakes with the burden of the bees,
And the strong bindweed creeps and winds and springs on high a conqueror.

* * * * *

Would now her eyes grieve to behold snapdragon, foxglove, marigold
Daily diminish in their sweet and bindweed wreathing over all--
Weed and grass and weed and grass, friendless, melancholy, cold,
Wreathing the earth like wreathing snow from bare wall to low greening

Old were her eyes that lingered on old trees and grass and flowers trim.
She smelt the ripe pears when they drooped and fell and broke upon the
Old were her thoughts of things of old; her present thoughts were few and
Her eyes saw not the things she saw; she listened, to no living breath.

Her youth and prime and autumn time bloomed in her thought all light and
No wallflower more of sweet could hold, of sunny light no marigold.
Fruit on her mind's boughs ripened full, in summer's and calm autumn's
Then fell, for there came none to pick; but winter came, and she was old.

Now if her sons come they will find--not her: her empty garden only,
The wallflower done and snapdragon still swinging with the greedy bees,
Marigold glittering in the grass, scant foxglove ringing faintly, lonely,
Close red fruit beading the long boughs and bindweed wreathing where it

A tawny lean cat _Marmalade_ slinks like a panther through the tall
Thin bending grass and watches long a scholar thrush rehearsing song;
Or children running in the sun hunt and hunt a well lost ball;
But most the garden sleeps away the day, but still, when eves are long,

When eves are long and no moon rises, and nervous, still, is all the air,
That small stiff figure moves again, silent amid the hushing grass;
In the firm-carven lime tree's shade she moves, and meets her old thoughts
Then in the deepening dark is lost, or her light steps unnoted pass.

Only that careless garden keeps secure her memory though it sleeps,
And the bright flowers and tyrant weed and tall grass shaking its loud seed
Less lovely were if wanting her who like a living thought still creeps
And sees what once she saw and music hears of her living sons and dead.


That lime tree on the distant rising ground
(If it was a lime tree) showed her yellow leaves
Above the renewed green of wet August grass--
First Autumn yellow that on first Autumn eves
Too soon was found.

Comfortless lime tree! Scarce an aspen leaf
Like a green butterfly flitted to the ground;
There was no sign of Autumn in the grass.
Even the long garden beds their beauty brief--
Their mignonette,

Nasturtium and sweet-william and red stocks,
And clover crouching in the border grass,
And blood-like fuschia, eve's primrose and white phlox
And honeysuckle--waved all their smell and hue
Morn and eve anew.

But that far lime tree yellowing by the oak,
Warning oak, elm and poplar and each fresh tree
Shaking in the south wind delightedly,
And clover in the closeness of the grass,
Warns also me.

And now when all the trees are standing still
Beneath the purple and white of the west sky,
And time is standing still--as stand it will--
That early yellowing lime with palsied fingers
Cannot be still.


Thou shaking thy dark shadows down,
Like leaves before the first leaves fall,
Pourest upon the head of night
Her loveliest loveliness of all--
Dark leaves that tremble
When soft airs unto softer call.

O, darker, softer fall her thoughts
Upon the cold fields of my mind,
Weaving a quiet music there
Like leaf-shapes trembling in least wind:
Dark thoughts that linger
When the light's gone and the night's blind.

I see her there beneath your boughs.
Dark chestnut, though you see her not;
Her white face and white hands are clear
As the moon in your stretched arms caught;
But stranger, clearer,
The living shadows of her thought.


Ah, bird singing late in the gloam
While the evening shadow thickens,
And the dizzy bat-wings roam,
And the faint starlight quickens;

And her bud eve's primrose bares
Before night's cold fingers come:
Thine are such lonely airs,
Bird singing late in the gloam!


It covered all
The cold east wall,
Its green, thin gold, purple, brown,
And flame running up and down;
Lifting its quiet bosom to every wind that crept
Up the high wall and in its darkness slept.
Then when the wind slept all the creeper turned
To undiminishing fire that burned and burned and burned.

But one black night
(For not in the light
May such treacheries be done)
Came with dishonoured weapon one
And cut the stem just where the branches thin
Their million-leaf'd wild wandering begin:
Cut the firm stem quite through, and so it bled,
And all the million leaves shivered and hung there dead.

The wall how cold,
The house how old
Became when that warm bright fire died,
And the fond wind could no more hide.
And it was strange that so much death could be
From one dark night-hour's darker felony;
And how the leaves being dead could not cast down
Their colours in bright pools of red and gold and brown.

--It did not die,
But flamed on high
Morn after morn, even when white snow
Covered all brightness, high and low;
And in the night when the snow glimmered wan
Still beautiful as a fire its brightness shone:
Its million quiet leaves quivering in my mind,
When from no earthly meadows crept the remembered wind.


They stood like men that hear immortal speech
Moving among their branches, and like trees
We stood and watched them, and in our still branches
Echoes of that immortal music stirred.
October days had touched their breasts with light,
With yellow light and red light and wan green;
And the gray cloud that grew from low to high
Made the warm light more warm, the green more wan.
We stood and watched them and in our still branches
We felt the warm light glow, though now the rain
Was loud upon the leaves.
And standing there
You cried, "O, that sweet smell, where is the fire?
Where is the fire?" For sharp upon the rain
The smell came of a wood fire and clung round
Hanging upon our branches, till we saw
No more those lighted trees nor heard the rain--
Knew only the deep echoes and the smell
Of a wood fire that breathed its smoke across
From some near hearth, or undiscovered world.


The red sun stared unwinking at the East
Then slept under a cloak of hodden gray;
The rimy fields held the last light of day,
A little tender yet. And I remember
How black against the pale and wintry west
Stood the confused great army of old trees,
Topping that lean, enormous-shouldered hill
With crossing lances shivering and then still.
I looked as one that sees
Queens passing by and lovelier than he dreamed,
With fringe of silver light following their feet,
And all those lances vail'd, and solemn Knights
Watching their Queens as with eyes grave and sweet
They left for the gray fields those airy heights.
Nothing had lovelier seemed--
Not April's noise nor the early dew of June,
Nor the calm languid cow-eyed Autumn Moon,
Nor ruffling woods the greenest I remember--
Than this pale light and dark of cold December.


On the wide fields the water gleams like snow,
And snow like water pale beneath pale sky,
When old and burdened the white clouds are stooped low.
Sudden as thought, or startled near bird's cry,
The whiteness of first light on hills of snow
New dropped from skiey hills of tumbling white
Streams from the ridge to where the long woods lie;
And tall ridge-trees lift their soft crowns of white
Above slim bodies all black or flecked with snow.
By the tossed foam of the not yet frozen brook
Black pigs go straggling over fields of snow;
The air is full of snow, and starling and rook
Are blacker amid the myriad streams of light.
Warm as old fire the Red House burns yet bright
Beneath the unmelting snows of pine and larch,
While February moves as slow, as slow
As Spring might never come, never come March.

Amid such snows, by generations haunted,
By echoes, memories and dreams enchanted,
Firm when dark winds through the night stamp and shout,
Brightest when time silvers the world all about,
That old house called _The Heart_ burns, burns, and still
Outbraves the mortal threat of the hanging hill.


The dead white on the fields' dead white
Turned the peace to misery.
Tall bony trees their wild arms thrust
Into the cold breast of the night.
Brightly the stars shone in their dust.
The hard wind's gust
Scratched like a bird the frozen snow.

Against the dead light grew the gold,
Lifting its beam to that high dust;
The lamp within the hut's small pane
Called the world to life again.
Arms of the trees atremble thrust
Defiance at the cold
Night of narrow shrouding snow.

A human beam, small spear of light,
Lifting its beauty to that high
Indifference of starry dust.
The aching trees were comforted,
And their brave arms more deeply thrust
Into the sky.
Earth's warm light fingered the dead snow.


A gray day and quiet,
With slow clouds of gray,
And in dull air a cloud that falls, falls
All day.

The naked and stiff branches
Of oak, elm, thorn,
In the cold light are like men aged and

Only a gray sky,
Grass, trees, grass again,
And all the air a cloud that drips, drips,
All day.

Lovely the lonely
Bare trees and green grass--
Lovelier now the last hours of slow winter
Slowly pass.


That you might happier be than all the rest,
Than I who have been happy loving you,
Of all the innocent even the happiest--
This I beseeched for you.

Until I thought of those unending skies--
Of stagnant cloud, or fleckless dull blue air,
Of days and nights delightless, no surprise,
No threat, no sting, no fear;

And of the stirless waters of the mind,
Waveless, unfurrowed, of no living hue,
With dead eaves dropping slowly in no wind,
And nothing flowering new.

And then no more I wished you happiness,
But that whatever fell of joy or woe
I would not dare, O Sweet, to wish it less,
Or wish you less than you.


Flesh and blood, bone and skin,
Are the house that beauty lives in.
Formed in darkness, grown in light
Are they the substance of delight.
Who could have dreamed the things he sees
In these strong lovely presences--
In cheeks of children, thews of men,
Women's bodies beloved of men?
Who could have dreamed a thing so wise
As that clear look of the child's eyes?
Who the thin texture of her hand
But with a hand's touch understand?
Shaped in eternity were these
Body's miracles, where the seas
Their continuous rhythm learned,
And the stars in their bright order burned.
From stars and seas was motion caught
When flesh, blood, bone and skin were wrought
Into swift lovely liveliness.
Oh, but beauty less and less
Than beauty grows. The cheeks fall in,
Colour dies from the smooth skin,
And muscles slack and bones are brittle;
Veins and arteries little by little
Delay the tides of the blood:
That is a ditch that was a flood.
Then all but dry bones disappears,
White bones that lie a hundred years
Cheated of resurrection....
Where is that beauty gone?
Escaped even while we watched it so,
And none guessed the way it would go?
Only it's fled, and here alone
Lie blood and skin and flesh and bone.

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