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Poems New and Old by John Freeman

Part 5 out of 5

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The whipped white lilac thrash the wall;
The candle flame upon the floor
Crept between shadows magical....

In the black east a pallid ray
Rose high; and sweeping o'er the down
The slow increase of stormless day
Lit the wet roofs of Lambourn town.


The lamp shone golden where she slept,
Shining against deep-folded shadows.
There was no stir but her slow breathing
Save when a long sigh crept
Between her lips.

Her hair spread dark in that faint light,
Her shut eyes showed the long dark lashes--
Still now, that with her laughter quivered.
On the white sheet lay white
And limp her hands.

Golden against the shadow shone
The lamp's small flame, till dawn was brightening,
And on the flame a gold beam slanted.
The shadows lingering on
Grew faint and thin.

Sleeping she murmured, stirred and sighed,
A dream from her sleep-vision faded.
Her earthly eyes 'neath languid eyelids
Wakened: her bosom cried,
"Come back, come back,

"Come back, my dream!" Rising she drest
Her beauty's lamp with cunning fingers.
She had the look of birds a-flutter
Round dewy trees with breast
Throbbing with song.


The clouds no more are flocking
After the flushing sun;
Bees end their long droning,
The bat's hunt is begun;
And the tired wind that went flittering
Up and down the hill
Lies like a shadow still,
Like a shadow still.

Who is it that's calling
Out of the deepening dark,
Calling, calling, calling?--
No!--yet hark!
The sleepy wind wakes, carrying
Up and down the hill
A voice how small and still,
How sweet and still!

Who is it that answers
Out of a quiet cloud--
"Stay, oh stay! I come, I come!"
Cried at last aloud?
My voice, my heart went answering
Up and down the hill--
Mine so strange and still,
Mine grave and still.


Rich in the waning light she sat
While the fierce rain on the window spat.
The yellow lamp-glow lit her face,
Shadows cloaked the narrow place
She sat adream in. Then she'd look
Idly upon an idle book;
Anon would rise and musing peer
Out at the misty street and drear;
Or with her loosened dark hair play,
Hiding her fingers' snow away;
And, singing softly, would sing on
When the desire of song had gone.
"O lingering day!" her bosom sighed,
"O laggard Time!" each motion cried.
Last she took the lamp and stood
Rich in its flood,
And looked and looked again at what
Her longing fingers' zeal had wrought;
And turning then did nothing say,
Hiding her thoughts away.


Distance no grace can lend you, but for me
Distance yet magnifies your mystery.
With you, and soon content, I ask how should
In your two eyes be hid my heaven of good?
How should your own mere voice the strange words speak
That tease me with the sense of what's to seek
In all the world beside? How your brown hair,
That simply and neglectfully you wear,
Bind my wild thoughts in its abundant snare?
With you, I wonder how you're stranger than
Another woman to another man;
But parted--and you're as a ship unknown
That to poor castaways at dawn is shown
As strange as dawn, so strange they fear a trick
Of eyes long-vexed and hope with falseness sick.
Parted, and like the riddle of a dream,
Dark with rich promise, does your beauty seem.
I wonder at your patience, stirless peace,
Your subtle pride, mute pity's quick release.
Then are you strange to me and sweet as light
Or dew; as strange and dark as starless night.
Then let this restless parting be forgiven:
I go from you to find in you strange heaven.


Not a dream brush your sleep,
Not a thought wake and creep
In upon your spirit's slumber;
Not a memory encumber,
Nor a thievish care unbar
Sleep's portcullis that no star
Nor sentry hath. I'll not speak
With my soul even: no, nor seek
Other happiness for you
When you this happy sleep sleep through.
Let no least desire waver
Between us, nor impatience quaver;
No sudden nearness of me flush
Your veins with welcome.... Hush, hush!
Be still, my thoughts, lest you creep
Unawares into her sleep.


From Swindon out to White Horse Hill
I walked, in morning rain,
And saw your shadow lying there.
As clear and plain
As lies the White Horse on the Hill
I saw your shadow lying there.

Over the wide green downs and bleak,
Unthinking, free I walked,
And saw your shadow fluttering by.
Almost it talked,
Answering what I dared not speak
While thoughts of you ran fluttering by....

So on to Baydon sauntered, teased
With that pure native air.
Sometimes the sweetness of wild thyme
The strings of care
Did pluck; sometimes my soul was eased
With more than sweetness of wild thyme.

Sometimes within a pool I caught
Your face, upturned to mine.
And where sits Chilton by the waters
Your look did shine
Wildly in the mill foam that sought
To hide you in those angry waters.

And yet, O Sweet, you never knew
Those downs, the thymy air
That with your spirit haunted is--
Yes, everywhere!
Ah, but my heart is full of you,
And with your shadow haunted is.


Now speaks the wave, whispering me of you;
In all his murmur your music murmurs too.
O 'tis your voice, my love, whispering in
The wave's voice, even your voice so far and thin;
And mine to yours answering clear is heard
In the high lonely voice of the last bird.

And when, my love, the full tide runneth again,
Shall yet the seabird call, call, call in vain?
Will not the tide wake in my heart and stir
The old rich happiness that's sunken there?
Thou moon of love, bid the retreated tide
Return, for which the wandering bird has cried.


Your hands, your hands,
Fall upon mine as waves upon the sands.
O, soft as moonlight on the evening rose,
That but to moonlight will its sweet unclose,
Your hands, your hands,
Fall upon mine, and my hands open as
That evening primrose opens when the hot hours pass.

Your hands, your hands,
They are like towers that in far southern lands
Look at pale dawn over gloom-valley'd miles,
White temple towers that gleam through mist at whiles.
Your hands, your hands,
With the south wind fall kissing on my brow,
And all past joy and future is summed in this great "Now!"


Beneath the trees with heedful step and slow
At night I go,
Fearful upon their whispering to break
Lest they awake
Out of those dreams of heavenly light that fill
Their branches still
With a soft murmur of memoried ecstasy.
There 'neath each tree
Nightlong a spirit watches, and I feel
His breath unseal
The fast-shut thoughts and longings of tired day,
That flutter away
Mothlike on luminous soft wings and frail
And moonlike pale.
There in the flowering chestnuts' bowering gloom
And limes' perfume
Wandering wavelike through the moondrawn night
That heaves toward light,
There hang I my dark thoughts and deeper prayers;
And as the airs
Of star-kissed dawn come stirring and o'er-creep
The ford of sleep,
Thy shape, great Love, grows shadowy in the East,
Thine accents least
Of all those warring voices of false morn:
And oh, forlorn
Thy hope, thy courage vanishing, thine eyes
Sad with surprise.
Oh, with the dawn I know, I know how vain
Is love that's fain
To beat and beat against her obstinate door.
For as once more
It groans, she passes out not heeding me,
Nay, will not see:--
As when a man, rich and of high estate,
Sees at his gate
(Or will not see) a famishing poor wretch,
Whose longings fetch
Old anger from his pain-imprisoning breast,
Till sad despair his anger puts to rest.


Fair Trees, O keep from chattering so
When I with my more fair do go
Beneath your branches;
For if I laugh with her your sigh
Her rare and sudden mirth puts by,
Or your too noisy glee will take
Persuasion from my lips and make
Her deaf as winter.

O be not as the pines--that keep
The shadow-charmed light asleep--
Perverse and sombre!
For when we in the pinewood walked
And of young love and far age talked,
Their solemn haunted shadow broke
Her peace--ah, how the sharp sob shook
Her shadowed bosom!


Do not, O do not use me
As you have used others.
Better you did refuse me:
You have refused others.
Better, far better hope to banish
A small child than, grown old,
Hope should decay, his vigour vanish,
And I be left alone and
Cold, cold.

Ah, use no guile nor cunning
If you should even yet love me.
Hark, Time with Love is running,
Death cloud-like floats above me.
Love me with such simplicity
As children, frankly bold,
Do love with; oh, never pity me,
Though I be left alone and
Cold, cold.


Young as the Spring seemed life when she
Came from her silent East to me;
Unquiet as Autumn was my breast
When she declined into her West.

Such tender, such untroubling things
She taught me, daughter of all Springs;
Such dusty deathly lore I learned
When her last embers redly burned.

How should it hap (Love, canst thou say?)
Such end should be to so pure day?
Such shining chastity give place
To this annulling grave's disgrace?

Such hopes be quenched in this despair,
Grace chilled to granite everywhere?
How should--in vain I cry--how should
That be, alas, which _only_ could!


How green and strange the light is,
Creeping through the window.
Lying alone in bed,
How strange the night is!

How still and chill the air is.
It seems no sound could live
Here in my room
That now so bare is.

All bright and still the room is,
But easeless here am I.
Deep in my heart
Cold lonely gloom is!


I heard a voice upon the window beat
And then grow dim, grow still.
Opening I saw the snowy sill
Marked with the robin's feet.
Chill was the air and chill
The thoughts that in my bosom beat.

I thought of all that wide and hopeless snow
Crusting the frozen lands.
Of small birds that in famished bands
A-chill and silent grow.
And how Earth's myriad hands
Clutched only hills of frosted snow.

And then I thought of Love that beat and cried
Famishing at my breast;
How I, by chilling care distrest,
Denied him, and Love died....
O, with what sore unrest
Love's ghost woke with the bird that cried!



"No, no! Leave me not in this dark hour,"
She cried. And I,
"Thou foolish dear, but call not dark this hour;
What night doth lour?"
And nought did she reply,
But in her eye
The clamorous trouble spoke, and then was still.

O that I heard her once more speak,
Or even with troubled eye
Teach me her fear, that I might seek
Poppies for misery.
The hour was dark, although I knew it not,
But when the livid dawn broke then I knew,
How while I slept the dense night through
Treachery's worm her fainting fealty slew.

O that I heard her once more speak
As then--so weak--
"No, no! Leave me not in this dark hour."
That I might answer her,
"Love, be at rest, for nothing now shall stir
Thy heart, but my heart beating there."


Come back, come back--ah, never more to leave me!
Come back, even though your constant longing grieve me,
Longing for other looks and hands than mine.
By all that's most divine
In your frank human beauty, come and cover
With that deceiving smile the love your lover
Has taught you, and the light that in your eyes
Tells of the painful joys that make your ruinous Paradise.

Come back, that so, upon the shining meadow
When the sun draws the magic of your shadow,
Or when the red fire's gradual sinking light
Yields up the room to night;
Seeing you thus or thus I may recapture
The very sharpness of remembered rapture:--
So it may seem, by exquisite deceit,
You are yet mine, I yours, and life yet rare and sweet.

Come back--no, come not back now, come back never;
That day you went I knew it was for ever.
I know you, how the spectre of cold shame
Would chill you if you came.
Lo, here first love's first memory abideth;
Here in my heart the image of you yet hideth.
But though you should come back and hope thrilled me anew,
First love would yet be dead--oh, it would not be you!


O but what grace if I could but forget you!
You have made league with all familiar things--
The thrush that still, evening and morning, sings,
The aspen leaves that sigh
"My dear!" with your true voice when I pass by....
O, and that too-long-dying flush of tender sky
That minds me, and with sense too grave for tears,
Of those forever dead too-blissful years.

Yet 'twere a miracle could I forget you,
Since even dead things, once sensible of you,
Yield up your ghost; as all the garden through
Murmurs the rose, "'Twas she
Shook in her palm the dew that shone in me;"
And on the stairs your recent footstep echoingly
Sounds yet again, and each dark doorway speaks
Of you toward whom my sharpened longing seeks.

O that I could forget or not regret you!
Could I but see you as I have seen a fair
Child under apple-burdened boughs that bear
Morn's autumn beauty, and
Seeing her saw all heaven at my hand,
And all day long that happy child before me stand....
Not thus I see you, but as one drowning sees
Home, friends--and loves his very enemies!


Is it the wind that stirs the trees,
Is it the trees that scratch the wall,
Is it the wall that shakes and mutters,
Is it a dumb ghost's call?

The wind steals in and twirls the candle,
The branches heave and brush the wall,
But more than tree or wild wind mutters
This night, this night of all.

"Open!" a cry sounds, and I gasp.
"Open!" and hands beat door and wall.
"Open!" and each dark echo mutters.
I rise, a shape and shadow tall.

"Open!" Across the room I falter,
And near the door crouch by the wall;
Thrice bolt the door as the voice mutters
"Open!" and frail strokes fall.

"Open!" The light's out, and I shrink
Quaking and blind against the wall;
"Open!" no sound is, yet it mutters
Within me now, this night of all.

Was it the wind that stirred the trees,
Was it the trees that scratched the wall,
Was it the wall that shook and muttered.
Or Love's last, ghostly call?


I saw him as he went
With merry voice and eye.

I met him when he came
Back, tired but the same--
The same clear voice, bright eye,
Merry laugh, quick reply.

And now, if I but look
Unnoting at a book,
Or from the window stare
At dark woods newly bare,
I see that shining eye,
The same as when he went:

--But whose is the low sigh,
The cold shade o'er me bent?


There is not anything more wonderful
Than a great people moving towards the deep
Of an unguessed and unfeared future; nor
Is aught so dear of all held dear before
As the new passion stirring in their veins
When the destroying Dragon wakes from sleep.

Happy is England now, as never yet!
And though the sorrows of the slow days fret
Her faithfullest children, grief itself is proud.
Ev'n the warm beauty of this spring and summer
That turns to bitterness turns then to gladness
Since for this England the beloved ones died.

Happy is England in the brave that die
For wrongs not hers and wrongs so sternly hers;
Happy in those that give, give, and endure
The pain that never the new years may cure;
Happy in all her dark woods, green fields, towns,
Her hills and rivers and her chafing sea.

Whate'er was dear before is dearer now.
There's not a bird singing upon his bough
But sings the sweeter in our English ears:
There's not a nobleness of heart, hand, brain
But shines the purer; happiest is England now
In those that fight, and watch with pride and tears.


And now, while the dark vast earth shakes and rocks
In this wild dream-like snare of mortal shocks,
How look (I muse) those cold and solitary stars
On these magnificent, cruel wars?--
Venus, that brushes with her shining lips
(Surely!) the wakeful edge of the world and mocks
With hers its all ungentle wantonness?--
Or the large moon (pricked by the spars of ships
Creeping and creeping in their restlessness),
The moon pouring strange light on things more strange,
Looks she unheedfully on seas and lands
Trembling with change and fear of counterchange?

O, not earth trembles, but the stars, the stars!
The sky is shaken and the cool air is quivering.
I cannot look up to the crowded height
And see the fair stars trembling in their light,
For thinking of the starlike spirits of men
Crowding the earth and with great passion quivering:--
Stars quenched in anger and hate, stars sick with pity.
I cannot look up to the naked skies
Because a sorrow on dark midnight lies,
Death, on the living world of sense;
Because on my own land a shadow lies
That may not rise;
Because from bare grey hillside and rich city
Streams of uncomprehending sadness pour,
Thwarting the eager spirit's pure intelligence ...
How look (I muse) those cold and solitary stars
On these magnificent, cruel wars?

Stars trembled in broad heaven, faint with pity.
An hour to dawn I looked. Beside the trees
Wet mist shaped other trees that branching rose,
Covering the woods and putting out the stars.
There was no murmur on the seas,
No wind blew--only the wandering air that grows
With dawn, then murmurs, sighs,
And dies.
The mist climbed slowly, putting out the stars,
And the earth trembled when the stars were gone;
And moving strangely everywhere upon
The trembling earth, thickened the watery mist.

And for a time the holy things are veiled.
England's wise thoughts are swords; her quiet hours
Are trodden underfoot like wayside flowers,
And every English heart is England's wholly.
In starless night
A serious passion streams the heaven with light.
A common beating is in the air--
The heart of England throbbing everywhere.
And all her roads are nerves of noble thought,
And all her people's brain is but her brain;
And all her history, less her shame,
Is part of her requickened consciousness.
Her courage rises clean again.

Even in victory there hides defeat;
The spirit's murdered though the body survives,
Except the cause for which, a people strives
Burn with no covetous, foul heat.
Fights she against herself who infamously draws
The sword against man's secret spiritual laws.
But thou, England, because a bitter heel
Hath sought to bruise the brain, the sensitive will,
The conscience of the world,
For this, England, art risen, and shalt fight
Purely through long profoundest night,
Making their quarrel thine who are grieved like thee;
And (if to thee the stars yield victory)
Tempering their hate of the great foe that hurled
Vainly her strength against the conscience of the world.

I looked again, or dreamed I looked, and saw
The stars again and all their peace again.
The moving mist had gone, and shining still
The moon went high and pale above the hill.
Not now those lights were trembling in the vast
Ways of the nervy heaven, nor trembled earth:
Profound and calm they gazed as the soft-shod hours passed.
And with less fear (not with less awe,
Remembering, England, all the blood and pain)
How look, I cried, you stern and solitary stars
On these disastrous wars!

_August, 1914._


I heard a boy that climbed up Dover's Hill
Singing _Sweet England_, sweeter for his song.
The notes crept muffled through the copse, but still
Sharply recalled the things forgotten long,
The music that my own boy's lips had known,
Singing, and old airs on a wild flute blown;

And other hills, more grim and lonely far,
And valleys empty of these orchard trees;
A sheep-pond filled with the moon, a single star
I had watched by night searching the wreckful seas;
And all the streets and streets that childhood knew
In years when London streets were all my view.

And I remembered how that song I heard,
_Sweet England_, sung by children on May-day,
Nor any song was sweeter of a bird
Than that half-grievous air from children gay--
For then, as now, youth made the sadness bright,
Till the words, _Sweet, Sweet England_, shone with light.

Now, listening, I forgot how men yet fought
For this same England, till the song was done
And no sound lingered but the lark's, that brought
New music down from fields of cloud and sun,
Or the sad lapwing's over fields of green
Crying beneath the copse, near but unseen.

Then I remembered. All wide England spread
Before me, hill and wood and meadow and stream
And ancient roads and homes of men long dead,
And all the beauty a familiar dream.
On the green hills a cloud of silver grey
Gave gentle light stranger than light of day.

And clear between the hills, past the near crest
And many hills, the hungry cities crept,
Noble and mean, oppressive and oppressed,
Where dreams unrealized of England slept:
And they too England, packed in dusty street
With men that half forgot England was sweet.

Now men were far, but like a living brain
Quick with their thought, the earth, hills, air and light
Were quivering as though a shining rain
Falling all round made even the light more bright;
And trees and water and heath and hedge-flowers fair
With more than natural sweetness washed the air.

From hill to hill a sparkling web it swung,
A snare for happiness, lit with lovely dews.
The very smoke of cities now was hung
But like a grave girl's dress of tranquil hues:
And how (I thought) can England, seen thus bright,
Lifting her clear frank head, but love the light?--

No, not her brain! that bright web was the shadow
Of the high spirit in their spirit shining
Who on scarred foreign hill and trenched meadow
Kept the faith yet, unfearful, unrepining;--
Her faith that with the dark world's liberty
Mingles as earth's great rivers with the sea.

O with what gilding ray was the land agleam!
It was not sun and dew, bush, bough and leaf,
But human spirits visible as in a dream
That turns from glad to aching, being too brief:
Courage and beauty shining in such brightness
That all the thoughtful woods were no more lightless.

But most the hills a splendour had put on
Of golden honour, bright and high and calm
And like old heroes young men dream upon
When midnight stirs with magic sword and palm;--
With the fled mist all meanness put away
And the air clear and keen as salt sea-spray....

And yet no dream; no dream! I saw the whole,
The reap'd fields, idle kine and wandering sheep.
A weak wind through the near tall hedge-tree stole,
And died where Dover's Hill rose bare and steep;
I saw yet what I saw an hour ago,
But knew what save by dreams I did not know--

_Sweet England!_--wild proud heart of things unspoken
Spirit that men bear shyly and love purely;
That dies to live anew a life unbroken
As spring from every winter rising surely:
_Sweet England_ unto generations sped,
Now bitter-sweetest for her daily dead.

_September, 1916._



Then first I knew, seeing that bent grey head,
How England honours all her thousand dead.
Then first I knew how faith through black grief burns,
Until the ruined heart glows while it yearns
For one that never more returns--
Glows in the spent embers of its pride
For one that careless lived and fearless died.
And then I knew, then first,
How everywhere Hope from her prison had burst--
On every hill, wide dale, soft valley's lap,
In lonely cottage clutch'd between huge downs,
And streets confused with streets in clanging towns--
Like spring from winter's jail pouring her sap
Into the idle wood of last year's trees.
Then first I knew how the vast world-disease
Would die away, and England upon her seas
Shake every scab of sickness; toward new skies
Lifting a little holier her head,
With honesty the brighter in her eyes,
And all that urgent horror well forgot,
The dark remembered not;
Only remembered then, with bosom yet hot,
The blood that on how many a far field lies,
The bones enriching not our English earth
That brought them to such splendid birth
And the last sacrifice.


Then first I knew, seeing that head bent low,
How gravely all her days she needs must go,
Bearing an image in her faded breast....

O, the dark unrest
Of thoughts that never cease their flight,
Never vanishing, yet never still,
Like birds that wail round the bewildering nest!
But other nestlings never shall be hers,
Only a painful image his place fill,
Only a memory remain for her thin bosom to nurse
In all that dark unrest
Of sleepless and tormented night.


Yet from _her_ eyes presage of victory
Looked steadfast out at mine.
It is not to be thought of (said her eyes)
That only a foul blotch the sun may shine
On England, through low poisonous thick skies!
Never, O never again
This pain, this pain!
Else from that foreign earth his bones would rise
And thrust in anger at the bitter skies.
It is not to be thought of that such prayer
Should fall unheeded back through heavy air.
But I have heard, in the night I have heard,
When not a leaf in all the orchard stirred,
And even the water of the bourne hung still,
And the old twitching, creaking house was still,
And all was still,
What was it I heard?
It could not be his voice, come from so far;
I know 'twas not a bird.
It _was_ his voice, or that lone watchful star
Creeping above the casement bar,
Saying: Fear thou no ill,
No ill!
Then all the silence was an echoing round,
The water and dumb trees their antique murmur found,
And clear as music came the repeated Sound:
Fear thou no ill, no ill!

Was it her eyes or her tongue told me this?


Yet but sad comfort from such pain is caught....
I went out from the house and climbed the coombe,
And where the first light of sweet morning hung
I found the light I sought.
From somewhere south a bugle's note was flung,
From somewhere north a sombre boom;
On the opposing hills white flecks and grey
Spotted the misty green,
And blue smoke wraiths around the tall trees clung.
Presently rose thick dust clouds from the green:
Came up, or seemed to come, the instant beat
Of marching feet;
Then with the clouds the beating died away,
And nothing was seen
But broken hills and the new flush of day.


All round the folding hills were like green waves,
Tossing awhile together ere they fall
And fling their salt on the steep stony beach.
The sound I heard was sound of Roman feet--
I saw the sparkling light on Roman glaives,
I heard the Roman speech
Answering the wild Iberian battle-call:
They passed from sight on the long street.
And I saw then the Mercian Kings that strode
Proudly from the small city of grey stone
And climbed the folding hills,
Past the full springs that bubbled and flowed
Through the soft valley and on to Avon stream.
They passed--as all things pass and seem
No other than a dream,
All but the shining and the echo gone.
But still I listened and looked. Their voice it was
Blown through the valley grass;
Their dust it was that sprang from the hard road
Where now these English legions flowed,
Waking the quiet like a steady wind.
That ancient soldiery before me passed
With all that followed them, and these the last
Of my own generation, my own mind;
Their strength and courage rooted deep in the earth
That brings men to such splendid birth
And no vain sacrifice ...
It was as when the land all darkness lies,
And shades, nor only shades, move freely out
And through the trees are heard and all about
Their ancient ways, 'neath the old stars and skies.
So now in morning's light I knew them there
Leading the men that marched and marched away,
And mounted up the hill, and down the hill
Passed from my eyes and ears, and left the air
Trembling everywhere,
And then how still!


Then first I knew the joy that yet should be
Ringing from camped hill and guarded sea
With England's victory.
The dust had stirred, the infinite dust had stirred,
It was the courage of the past I heard,
The virtue of those buried bones again
Animate in these marching Englishmen;
And nothing wanted if the dead but nerved
The living hands that the same England served.
With new-washed eyes I saw as I went down
On the hill crest the oak-grove's crown,
With new delighted ear heard the lark sing--
That mad delighted thing;
The very smoke that rose was strangely blue,
But most the orchard brightened wonderfully new,
Where the wild spring, ere winter snow well gone,
Scattered her whiter, briefer snow-cloud down.
And England lovelier looked than when
Her dead roused not her living men.

_May, 1916._


I heard the rumbling guns. I saw the smoke,
The unintelligible shock of hosts that still,
Far off, unseeing, strove and strove again:
And Beauty flying naked down the hill.

From morn to eve: and then stern night cried Peace!
And shut the strife in darkness; all was still.
Then slowly crept a triumph on the dark--
And I heard Beauty singing up the hill.


O that I were
Where breaks the pure cold light
On English hills,
And peewits rising cry,
And gray is all the sky.

Or at evening there
When the faint slow light stays,
And far below
Sleeps the last lingering sound,
And night leans all round.

O then, O there
'Tis English haunted ground.
The diligent stars
Creep out, watch, and smile;
The wise moon lingers awhile.

For surely there
Heroic shapes are moving,
Visible thoughts,
Passions, things divine,
Clear beneath clear star-shine.

O that I were
Again on English hills,
Seeing between
Laborious villages
Her cool dark loveliness.


When I came home from wanderings
In a tall chattering ship,
I thought a hundred happy things,
Of people, places, and such things
As I came sailing home.

The tall ship moved how slowly on
With me and hundreds more,
That thought not then of wanderings,
But of unwhispered, longed-for things,
Familiar things of home.

For not in miles seemed other lands
Far off, but in long years
As we came near to England then;
Even the tall ship heard secret things
As she moved trembling home.

It was at dawn. The chattering ship
Was strangely hushed; faint mist
Crept everywhere, and we crept on,
And every eye was creeping on
The mist, as we moved home....

Until we saw, far, very far,
Or dreamed we saw, her cliffs,
And thought of sweet, intolerable things,
Of England--dark, unwhispered things,
Such things, as we crept home.


She stands like one with mazy cares distraught.
Around her sudden angry storm-clouds rise,
Dark, dark! and comes the look into her eyes
Of eld. All that herself herself hath taught
She cons anew, that courage new be caught
Of courage old. Yet comfortless still lies
Snake-like in her warm bosom (vexed with sighs)
Fear of the greatness that herself hath wrought.

No glory but her memory teems with it,
No beauty that's not hers; more nobly none
Of all her sisters runs with her; but she
For her old destiny dreams herself unfit,
And fumbling at the future doubtfully
Muses how Rome of Romans was undone.


Now the trees rest: the moon has taught them sleep,
Like drowsy wings of bats are all their leaves,
Clinging together. Girls at ease who fold
Fair hands upon white necks and through dusk fields
Walk all content,--of them the trees have taken
Their way of evening rest; the yellow moon
With her pale gold has lit their dreams that lisp
On the wind's murmuring lips.
And low beyond
Burn those bright lamps beneath the moon more bright,
Lamps that but flash and sparkle and light not
The inward eye and musing thought, nor reach
Where, poplar-like, that tall-built campanile
Lifts to the neighbouring moon her head and feels
The pale gold like an ocean laving her.


Nought is but beauty weareth, near and far,
Under the pale, blue sky and lonely star.
This is that quick hour when the city turns
Her troubled harsh distortion and blind care
Into brief loveliness seen everywhere,
While in the fuming west the low sun smouldering burns.

Not brick nor marble the rich beauty owns,
Not this is held in starward-pointing stones.
Sun, wind and smoke the threefold magic stir,
Kissing each favourless poor ruin with kiss
Like that when lovers lovers lure to bliss,
And earth than towered heaven awhile is heavenlier.

Tall shafts that show the sky how far away!
The thousand-window'd house gilded with day
That fades to night; the arches low, the streamer
Everywhere of the ruddy'd smoke.... Is aught
Of loveliness so rich e'er sold and bought?
Look visions fairer in the eyes of any dreamer?

Needs must so rare a beauty be so brief!
Night comes, of this delight the subtle thief.
Thou canst not, Night, this same rich thievery keep;
Seize it and look! 'tis gone, ere seized is gone--
Only in our warm bosoms lingering on,
A nest of precious dreams when our lids droop in sleep.

So in her darkening loveliness is she seen
Like an autumnal passion-haunted queen,
Who hears, "A captain-king is at the gate"--
"'Tis Antony, Antony!" Then hastens she,
Beauty to beauty adding yet, till--see,
A queen within the queen perilous with love and fate!


Merrily shouted all the sailors
As they left the town behind;
Merrily shouted they and gladdened
At the slip-slap of the wind.
But envious were those faint home-keepers,
Faint land-lovers, as they saw
How the _Glory_ dipped and staggered--
Envying saw
Pass the ship while all her sailors
Merrily shouted.

Far and far on eastern waters
Sailed the ship and yet sailed on,
While the townsmen, faint land-lovers,
Thought, "How long is't now she's gone?
Now, maybe, Bombay she touches,
Now strange craft about her throng";
Till she grew but half-remembered,
Gone so long:
Quite forgot how all her sailors
Merrily shouted.

Far in unfamiliar waters
Ship and shipmen harbourage found,
Where the rocks creep out like robbers
After travellers tempest-bound.
Then those faint land-lovers murmured
Doleful thanks not dead were they:--
Ah, yet envious, though the _Glory_
Sunken lay,
Hearing again those farewell voices
Merrily shouting.


They loiter round the Dock that holds yon Ship
Shuddering at the dark pool's defiled lip
From springing bows to foam-deriding stern;
They have left her, and await her call "Return!"
Like any human mistress she has cast
Careless her ancient lovers, till at last
Perforce she calls them, and perforce they come
Like any human lovers.... Ah, what home
Know these, save in the Ship, the Ship! She groans
Day and night with travail of their strenuous bones.
They know her for their mother, sister, spouse,
Heart of their passion, idol of their vows;
They ward her, and she is their sure defence
'Gainst the sad waters' leagued malevolence.
The Ship, the Ship: they are her slaves, and she
Their Liege, their Faith, their Fate, their History.
Lo! they have bought her buoyancy with their blood
And their ribs cling the keel that cleaves the flood.
Their watches in the night, their loneliness,
Their toil, hunger and thirst, their heart's distress,
Their hands, their feet, far eye and smitten head
Whereon the Sea's upgathered weight is shed;
With these the Ship, the Ship is laid and rigged,
Launched and steered out; with these her living grave is digged,

They lean close over her--and long, perhaps,
For the broad seas and the loud wind that claps
Boisterous hands on the Ship's course; and wait
Her call who calls them with the voice of Fate.


O come you down from the far hills
Whereon you fought, triumphed and died,
Men at whose names the quick blood thrills
And the heart's troubled in our side.

Your shadows o'er our fields ere night
Draw from the shadow of old trees;
Ghost-hallowed run the streams, and light
Hangs halo-wise in the great peace.

Warriors of England whom we praise
(Ah, vain all praise!), your spirit is not
Lost in the meanness of these days,
Not wholly is your charge forgot.

And this perplexity of strife
Not all estranged leaves our heart;
England is ours yet, and her life
Has yet in ours the purest part.

But come you down and stand you yet
A little closer to our side,
Or in the darkness we forget
The cause for which Earth's noblest died.

_Printed at The Chapel River Press, Kingston, Surrey._

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