Produced by Keren Vergon, Clytie Siddall and PG Distributed Proofreaders
EDITED BY SIR EDWARD MARSH
THE POETRY BOOKSHOP
35 Devonshire Street
This is the fourth volume of the present series. I hope it may be thought to show that what for want of a better word is called Peace has not interfered with the writing of good poetry.
Thanks and acknowledgements are due to Messrs. Beaumont, Blackwell, Collins, Constable, Fifield, Heinemann, Seeker, Selwyn & Blount, and Sidgwick & Jackson; and to the Editors of ‘The Anglo-French Review’, ‘The Athenæum’, ‘The Chapbook’, ‘Land and Water’, ‘The Nation’, ‘The New Statesman’, ‘The New Witness’, ‘The New World’, ‘The Owl’, ‘The Spectator’, ‘To-day’, ‘Voices’, and ‘The Westminster Gazette’.
Witchcraft: New Style
FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG
Invocation (from ‘Poems’) Prothalamion
The Leaning Elm
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
Lovely Dames (from ‘Forty New Poems’) When Yon Full Moon
On Hearing Mrs. Woodhouse Play the Harpsichord Birds
Oh, Sweet Content!
A Child’s Pet
England (from ‘Forty New Poems’) The Bell
WALTER DE LA MARE
The Sunken Garden (from ‘Motley’) Moonlight
The Three Strangers (from ‘Motley’) The Old Men
Deer (from ‘Loyalties’) Moonlit Apples (from ‘Tides’) Southampton Bells (from ‘Loyalties’) Chorus (from ‘Lincoln’) Habitation (from ‘Loyalties’) Passage
O Muse Divine
The Wakers (from ‘Memories of Childhood’) The Body
Ten O’clock No More
Night and Night
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
Wings (from ‘Home’) The Parrots
Quiet (from ‘Home’) Reveille
A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme (from ‘Country Sentiment’) A Frosty Night
The Voice of Beauty Drowned
D. H. LAWRENCE
Seven Seals (from ‘New Poems’)
The Nightingale Near the House
Man Carrying Bale
For Bessie in the Garden
‘Truly he hath a Sweet Bed’
The Sprig of Lime
‘O Nightingale my Heart’
J. D. C. FELLOW
Sick Leave (from ‘War Poems’) Banishment
Repression of War Experience
Does it Matter
Songbooks of the War
Thrushes (from ‘War Poems’) Everyone Sang
A Night-Piece (from ‘The Queen of China’) In Absence
A Hollow Elm
Fête Galante (from ‘The Queen of China’) Song
A Dream in Early Spring (from ‘Dreams and Journeys’) The World
The New Ghost
A Man Dreams that he is the Creator
J. C. SQUIRE
Rivers (from ‘Poems, First Series’) Epitaph in Old Mode
Sonnet (from ‘Poems, First Series’) The Birds (from ‘The Birds and other Poems’)
W. J. TURNER
Silence (from ‘The Dark Fire’) Kent in War
Talking with Soldiers
WITCHCRAFT: NEW STYLE
The sun drew off at last his piercing fires. Over the stale warm air, dull as a pond
And moveless in the grey quieted street, Blue magic of a summer evening glowed.
The sky, that had been dazzling stone all day, Hollowed in smooth hard brightness, now dissolved To infinite soft depth, and smoulder’d down Low as the roofs, dark burning blue, and soared Clear to that winking drop of liquid silver, The first exquisite star. Now the half-light Tidied away the dusty litter parching
Among the cobbles, veiled in the colour of distance Shabby slates and brickwork mouldering, turn’d The hunchback houses into patient things Resting; and golden windows now began.
A little brisk grey slattern of a woman, Pattering along in her loose-heel’d clogs, Pushed the brass-barr’d door of a public-house; The spring went hard against her; hand and knee Shoved their weak best. As the door poised ajar, Hullabaloo of talking men burst out,
A pouring babble of inflamed palaver, And overriding it and shouted down
High words, jeering or downright, broken like Crests that leap and stumble in rushing water. Just as the door went wide and she stepped in, ‘She cannot do it!’ one was bawling out: A glaring hulk of flesh with a bull’s voice. He finger’d with his neckerchief, and stretched His throat to ease the anger of dispute, Then spat to put a full stop to the matter.
The little woman waited, with one hand Propping the door, and smiled at the loud man. They saw her then; and the sight was enough To gag the speech of every drinker there: The din fell down like something chopt off short. Blank they all wheel’d towards her, with their mouths Still gaping as though full of voiceless words. She let the door slam to; and all at ease, Amused, her smile wrinkling about her eyes, Went forward: they made room for her quick enough. Her chin just topt the counter; she gave in Her bottle to the potboy, tuckt it back, Full of bright tawny ale, under her arm, Rapt down the coppers on the planisht zinc, And turned: and no word spoken all the while.
The first voice, in that silent crowd, was hers, Her light snickering laugh, as she stood there Pausing, scanning the sawdust at her feet. Then she switcht round and faced the positive man Whose strong ‘She cannot do it!’ all still felt Huskily shouting in their guilty ears.
‘She can’t, eh? She can’t do it? ‘–Then she’d heard!
The man, inside his ruddy insolent flesh, Had hoped she did not hear. His barrel chest Gave a slight cringe, as though the glint of her eyes Prickt him. But he stood up to her awkwardly bold, One elbow on the counter, gripping his mug Like a man holding on to a post for safety.
You can’t do what’s not nature: nobody can.
And louts like you have nature in your pocket?
I don’t say that–
If you kept saying naught, No one would guess the fool you are.
My very words!
O you’re the knowing man!
The spark among the cinders!
You can’t fetch
A free man back, unless he wants to come.
Nay, I’ll be bound he doesn’t want to come!
And he won’t come: he told me flat he wouldn’t.
Are you there too?
And if he does come back
It will be devilry brought him.
I shall bring him;–
How will he come?
He’s broke his leg, and then he’ll have to come Crawling: but he will come.
How do you know
What he may choose to do, three counties off?
You haven’t got him on a lead.
Haven’t I though!
That’s right; it’s what I said.
Ay, there are brains in your family.
Some sort of pull on him, to draw him home?
You may say that: I have hold of his mind. And I can slack it off or fetch it taut. And make him dance a score of miles away An answer to the least twangling thrum
I play on it. He thought he lurkt at last Safely; and all the while, what has he been? An eel on the end of a night line; and it’s time I haul’d him in. You’ll see, to-night I’ll land him.
Bragging’s a light job.
You daren’t let me take
Your eyes in mine!–Haul, did I say? no need: I give his mind a twitch, and up he comes Tumbling home to me. Whatever work he’s at, He drops the thing he holds like redhot iron And runs–runs till he falls down like a beast Pole-axt, and grunts for breath; then up and on, No matter does he know the road or not: The strain I put on his mind will keep him going Right as a homing-pigeon.
Devilry I call it.
And you’re welcome.
But the law should have a say here.
What, isn’t he mine,
My own? There’s naught but what I please about it.
Why did you let him go?
To fetch him back!
For I enjoy this, mind. There’s many a one Would think, to see me, There goes misery! There’s a queer starveling for you!–and I do A thing that makes me like a saint in glory, The life of me the sound of a great tune Your flesh could never hear: I can send power Delighting out of me! O, the mere thought Has made my blood go smarting in my veins, Such a flame glowing along it!–And all the same I’ll pay him out for sidling off from me. But I’ll have supper first.
When she was gone,
Their talk could scarcely raise itself again Above a grumble. But at last a cry
Sharp-pitcht came startling in from the street: at once Their moody talk exploded into flare
Of swearing hubbub, like gunpowder dropt On embers; mugs were clapt down, out they bolted Rowdily jostling, eager for the event.
All down the street the folk throng’d out of doors, But left a narrow track clear in the middle; And there a man came running, a tall man Running desperately and slowly, pounding Like a machine, so evenly, so blindly;
And regularly his trotting body wagg’d. Only one foot clatter’d upon the stones; The other padded in his dogged stride:
The boot was gone, the sock hung frayed in shreds About his ankle, the foot was blood and earth; And never a limp, not the least flinch, to tell The wounded pulp hit stone at every step. His clothes were tatter’d and his rent skin showed, Harrowed with thorns. His face was pale as putty, Thrown far back; clots of drooping spittle foamed On his moustache, and his hair hung in tails, Mired with sweat; and sightless in their sockets His eyeballs turned up white, as dull as pebbles. Evenly and doggedly he trotted,
And as he went he moaned. Then out of sight Round a corner he swerved, and out of hearing.
–‘The law should have a say to that, by God!’
* * * * *
(To J.S. and A.W.S.)
In entering the town, where the bright river Shrinks in its white stone bed, old thoughts return Of how a quiet queen was nurtured here
In the pale, shadowed ruin on the height; Of how, when the hoar town was new and clean And had not grown a part of the gaunt fells That peered down into it, the burghers wove On their small, fireside looms green, famous webs To cling on lissome, tower-dwelling ladies Who rode the hills swaying like green saplings, Or mask tall, hardy outlaws from pursuit Down beechen caverns and green under-lights, (The rude, vain looms are gone, their beams are broken; Their webs are now not seen, but memory
Still tangles in their mesh the dews they swept Like ruby sparks, the lights they took, the scents They held, the movement of their shapes and shades); Of how the Border burners in cold dawns
Of Summer hurried North up the high vales Past smoking farmsteads that had lit the night And surf of crowding cattle; and of how
A laughing prince of cursed, impossible hopes Rode through the little streets Northward to battle And to defeat, to be a fading thought,
Belated in dead mountains of romance.
A carver at his bench in a high gable Hears the sharp stream close under, far below Tinkle and rustle, and no other sound
Arises there to him to change his thoughts Of the changed, silent town and the dead hands That made it and maintained it, and the need For handiwork and happy work and work
To use and ease the mind if such sweet towns Are to be built again or live again.
The long town ends at Littleholme, where the road Creeps up to hills of ancient-looking stone. Under the hanging eaves at Littleholme
A latticed casement peeps above still gardens Into a crown of druid-solemn trees
Upon a knoll as high as a small house, A shapely mound made so by nameless men
Whose smoothing touch yet shows through the green hide. When the slow moonlight drips from leaf to leaf Of that sharp, plumy gloom, and the hour comes When something seems awaited, though unknown, There should appear between those leaf-thatched piles Fresh, long-limbed women striding easily, And men whose hair-plaits swing with their shagged arms; Returning in that equal, echoed light
Which does not measure time to the dear garths That were their own when from white Norway coasts They landed on a kind, not distant shore, And to the place where they have left their clothing, Their long-accustomed bones and hair and beds That once were pleasant to them, in that barrow Their vanished children heaped above them dead: For in the soundless stillness of hot noon The mind of man, noticeable in that knoll, Enhances its dark presence with a life
More vivid and more actual than the life Of self-sown trees and untouched earth. It is seen What aspect this land had in those first eyes: In that regard the works of later men
Fall in and sink like lime when it is slaked, Staid, youthful queen and weavers are unborn, And the new crags the Northmen saw are set About an earth that has not been misused.
* * * * *
FRANCIS BRETT YOUNG
Whither, O, my sweet mistress, must I follow thee? For when I hear thy distant footfall nearing, And wait on thy appearing,
Lo! my lips are silent: no words come to me.
Once I waylaid thee in green forest covers, Hoping that spring might free my lips with gentle fingers; Alas! her presence lingers
No longer than on the plain the shadow of brown kestrel hovers.
Through windless ways of the night my spirit followed after; Cold and remote were they, and there, possessed By a strange unworldly rest,
Awaiting thy still voice heard only starry laughter.
The pillared halls of sleep echoed my ghostly tread. Yet when their secret chambers I essayed My spirit sank, dismayed,
Waking in fear to find the new-born vision fled.
Once indeed–but then my spirit bloomed in leafy rapture– I loved; and once I looked death in the eyes: So, suddenly made wise,
Spoke of such beauty as I may never recapture….
Whither, O, divine mistress, must I then follow thee? Is it only in love … say, is it only in death That the spirit blossometh,
And words that may match my vision shall come to me?
When the evening came my love said to me: Let us go into the garden now that the sky is cool; The garden of black hellebore and rosemary, Where wild woodruff spills in a milky pool.
Low we passed in the twilight, for the wavering heat Of day had waned; and round that shaded plot Of secret beauty the thickets clustered sweet: Here is heaven, our hearts whispered, but our lips spake not.
Between that old garden and seas of lazy foam Gloomy and beautiful alleys of trees arise With spire of cypress and dreamy beechen dome, So dark that our enchanted sight knew nothing but the skies:
Veiled with a soft air, drench’d in the roses’ musk Or the dusky, dark carnation’s breath of clove: No stars burned in their deeps, but through the dusk I saw my love’s eyes, and they were brimmed with love.
No star their secret ravished, no wasting moon Mocked the sad transience of those eternal hours: Only the soft, unseeing heaven of June,
The ghosts of great trees, and the sleeping flowers.
For doves that crooned in the leafy noonday now Were silent; the night-jar sought his secret covers, Nor even a mild sea-whisper moved a creaking bough– Was ever a silence deeper made for lovers?
Was ever a moment meeter made for love? Beautiful are your closed lips beneath my kiss; And all your yielding sweetness beautiful– Oh, never in all the world was such a night as this!
The robin on my lawn
He was the first to tell
How, in the frozen dawn,
This miracle befell,
Waking the meadows white
With hoar, the iron road
Agleam with splintered light,
And ice where water flowed:
Till, when the low sun drank
Those milky mists that cloak
Hanger and hollied bank,
The winter world awoke
To hear the feeble bleat
Of lambs on downland farms:
A blackbird whistled sweet;
Old beeches moved their arms
Into a mellow haze
And I, alone, agaze,
Stood waiting for the thorn
To break in blossom white,
Or burst in a green flame….
So, in a single night,
Fair February came,
Bidding my lips to sing
Or whisper their surprise,
With all the joy of spring
And morning in her eyes.
This is the image of my last content: My soul shall be a little lonely lake,
So hidden that no shadow of man may break The folding of its mountain battlement;
Only the beautiful and innocent
Whiteness of sea-born cloud drooping to shake Cool rain upon the reed-beds, or the wake Of churn’d cloud in a howling wind’s descent. For there shall be no terror in the night When stars that I have loved are born in me, And cloudy darkness I will hold most fair; But this shall be the end of my delight: That you, my lovely one, may stoop and see Your image in the mirrored beauty there.
These winter days on Lettermore
The brown west wind it sweeps the bay, And icy rain beats on the bare
Unhomely fields that perish there:
The stony fields of Lettermore
That drink the white Atlantic spray.
And men who starve on Lettermore,
Cursing the haggard, hungry surf,
Will souse the autumn’s bruiséd grains To light dark fires within their brains
And fight with stones on Lettermore Or sprawl beside the smoky turf.
When spring blows over Lettermore
To bloom the ragged furze with gold, The lovely south wind’s living breath
Is laden with the smell of death:
For fever breeds on Lettermore
To waste the eyes of young and old.
A black van comes to Lettermore;
The horses stumble on the stones,
The drivers curse,–for it is hard
To cross the hills from Oughterard
And cart the sick from Lettermore:
A stinking load of rags and bones.
But you will go to Lettermore
When white sea-trout are on the run, When purple glows between the rocks
About Lord Dudley’s fishing box
Adown the road to Lettermore,
And wide seas tarnish in the sun.
And so you’ll think of Lettermore
As a lost island of the blest:
With peasant lovers in a blue
Dim dusk, with heather drench’d in dew, And the sweet peace of Lettermore
Remote and dreaming in the West.
Why have you stolen my delight
In all the golden shows of Spring
When every cherry-tree is white
And in the limes the thrushes sing,
O fickler than the April day,
O brighter than the golden broom,
O blither than the thrushes’ lay,
O whiter than the cherry-bloom,
O sweeter than all things that blow … Why have you only left for me
The broom, the cherry’s crown of snow, And thrushes in the linden-tree?
THE LEANING ELM
Before my window, in days of winter hoar Huddled a mournful wood:
Smooth pillars of beech, domed chestnut, sycamore, In stony sleep they stood:
But you, unhappy elm, the angry west Had chosen from the rest,
Flung broken on your brothers’ branches bare, And left you leaning there
So dead that when the breath of winter cast Wild snow upon the blast,
The other living branches, downward bowed, Shook free their crystal shroud
And shed upon your blackened trunk beneath Their livery of death….
On windless nights between the beechen bars I watched cold stars
Throb whitely in the sky, and dreamily Wondered if any life lay locked in thee: If still the hidden sap secretly moved
As water in the icy winterbourne
And half I pitied you your trance forlorn: You could not hear, I thought, the voice of any bird, The shadowy cries of bats in dim twilight Or cool voices of owls crying by night … Hunting by night under the hornéd moon:
Yet half I envied you your wintry swoon, Till, on this morning mild, the sun, new-risen Steals from his misty prison;
The frozen fallows glow, the black trees shaken In a clear flood of sunlight vibrating awaken: And lo, your ravaged bole, beyond belief Slenderly fledged anew with tender leaf
As pale as those twin vanes that break at last In a tiny fan above the black beech-mast Where no blade springeth green
But pallid bells of the shy helleborine. What is this ecstasy that overwhelms
The dreaming earth? See, the embrownéd elms Crowding purple distances warm the depths of the wood: A new-born wind tosses their tassels brown, His white clouds dapple the down:
Into a green flame bursting the hedgerows stand. Soon, with banners flying, Spring will walk the land….
There is no day for thee, my soul, like this, No spring of lovely words. Nay, even the kiss Of mortal love that maketh man divine
This light cannot outshine:
Nay, even poets, they whose frail hands catch The shadow of vanishing beauty, may not match This leafy ecstasy. Sweet words may cull Such magical beauty as time may not destroy; But we, alas, are not more beautiful:
We cannot flower in beauty as in joy. We sing, our muséd words are sped, and then Poets are only men
Who age, and toil, and sicken…. This maim’d tree May stand in leaf when I have ceased to be.
* * * * *
WILLIAM H. DAVIES
Few are my books, but my small few have told Of many a lovely dame that lived of old; And they have made me see those fatal charms Of Helen, which brought Troy so many harms; And lovely Venus, when she stood so white Close to her husband’s forge in its red light. I have seen Dian’s beauty in my dreams,
When she had trained her looks in all the streams She crossed to Latmos and Endymion;
And Cleopatra’s eyes, that hour they shone The brighter for a pearl she drank to prove How poor it was compared to her rich love: But when I look on thee, love, thou dost give Substance to those fine ghosts, and make them live.
WHEN YON FULL MOON
When yon full moon’s with her white fleet of stars, And but one bird makes music in the grove; When you and I are breathing side by side, Where our two bodies make one shadow, love;
Not for her beauty will I praise the moon, But that she lights thy purer face and throat; The only praise I’ll give the nightingale Is that she draws from thee a richer note.
For, blinded with thy beauty, I am filled, Like Saul of Tarsus, with a greater light; When he had heard that warning voice in Heaven, And lost his eyes to find a deeper sight.
Come, let us sit in that deep silence then, Launched on love’s rapids, with our passions proud That makes all music hollow–though the lark Raves in his windy heights above a cloud.
ON HEARING MRS. WOODHOUSE PLAY THE HARPSICHORD
We poets pride ourselves on what
We feel, and not what we achieve;
The world may call our children fools, Enough for us that we conceive.
A little wren that loves the grass
Can be as proud as any lark
That tumbles in a cloudless sky,
Up near the sun, till he becomes
The apple of that shining eye.
So, lady, I would never dare
To hear your music ev’ry day;
With those great bursts that send my nerves In waves to pound my heart away;
And those small notes that run like mice Bewitched by light; else on those keys– My tombs of song–you should engrave:
‘My music, stronger than his own,
Has made this poet my dumb slave.’
When our two souls have left this mortal clay And, seeking mine, you think that mine is lost– Look for me first in that Elysian glade
Where Lesbia is, for whom the birds sing most.
What happy hearts those feathered mortals have, That sing so sweet when they’re wet through in spring! For in that month of May when leaves are young, Birds dream of song, and in their sleep they sing.
And when the spring has gone and they are dumb, Is it not fine to watch them at their play: Is it not fine to see a bird that tries
To stand upon the end of every spray?
See how they tilt their pretty heads aside: When women make that move they always please. What cosy homes birds make in leafy walls That Nature’s love has ruined–and the trees.
Oft have I seen in fields the little birds Go in between a bullock’s legs to eat;
But what gives me most joy is when I see Snow on my doorstep, printed by their feet.
OH, SWEET CONTENT!
Oh, sweet content, that turns the labourer’s sweat To tears of joy, and shines the roughest face; How often have I sought you high and low, And found you still in some lone quiet place;
Here, in my room, when full of happy dreams, With no life heard beyond that merry sound Of moths that on my lighted ceiling kiss Their shadows as they dance and dance around;
Or in a garden, on a summer’s night,
When I have seen the dark and solemn air Blink with the blind bats’ wings, and heaven’s bright face Twitch with the stars that shine in thousands there.
A CHILD’S PET
When I sailed out of Baltimore
With twice a thousand head of sheep, They would not eat, they would not drink, But bleated o’er the deep.
Inside the pens we crawled each day,
To sort the living from the dead;
And when we reached the Mersey’s mouth Had lost five hundred head.
Yet every night and day one sheep,
That had no fear of man or sea,
Stuck through the bars its pleading face, And it was stroked by me.
And to the sheep-men standing near,
‘You see,’ I said, ‘this one tame sheep: It seems a child has lost her pet,
And cried herself to sleep.’
So every time we passed it by,
Sailing to England’s slaughter-house, Eight ragged sheep-men–tramps and thieves– Would stroke that sheep’s black nose.
We have no grass locked up in ice so fast That cattle cut their faces and at last, When it is reached, must lie them down and starve, With bleeding mouths that freeze too hard to move. We have not that delirious state of cold That makes men warm and sing when in Death’s hold. We have no roaring floods whose angry shocks Can kill the fishes dashed against their rocks. We have no winds that cut down street by street, As easy as our scythes can cut down wheat. No mountains here to spew their burning hearts Into the valleys, on our human parts.
No earthquakes here, that ring church bells afar, A hundred miles from where those earthquakes are. We have no cause to set our dreaming eyes, Like Arabs, on fresh streams in Paradise. We have no wilds to harbour men that tell More murders than they can remember well. No woman here shall wake from her night’s rest, To find a snake is sucking at her breast. Though I have travelled many and many a mile, And had a man to clean my boots and smile With teeth that had less bone in them than gold– Give me this England now for all my world.
It is the bell of death I hear,
Which tells me my own time is near, When I must join those quiet souls
Where nothing lives but worms and moles; And not come through the grass again,
Like worms and moles, for breath or rain; Yet let none weep when my life’s through, For I myself have wept for few.
The only things that knew me well
Were children, dogs, and girls that fell; I bought poor children cakes and sweets, Dogs heard my voice and danced the streets; And, gentle to a fallen lass,
I made her weep for what she was.
Good men and women know not me.
Nor love nor hate the mystery.
* * * * *
WALTER DE LA MARE
THE SUNKEN GARDEN
Speak not–whisper not;
Here bloweth thyme and bergamot;
Softly on the evening hour,
Secret herbs their spices shower,
Dark-spiked rosemary and myrrh,
Lean-stalked, purple lavender;
Hides within her bosom, too,
All her sorrows, bitter rue.
Breathe not–trespass not;
Of this green and darkling spot,
Latticed from the moon’s beams,
Perchance a distant dreamer dreams; Perchance upon its darkening air,
The unseen ghosts of children fare, Faintly swinging, sway and sweep,
Like lovely sea-flowers in its deep; While, unmoved, to watch and ward,
‘Mid its gloomed and daisied sward, Stands with bowed and dewy head
That one little leaden Lad.
The far moon maketh lovers wise
In her pale beauty trembling down, Lending curved cheeks, dark lips, dark eyes, A strangeness not their own.
And, though they shut their lids to kiss, In starless darkness peace to win,
Even on that secret world from this Her twilight enters in.
Flee into some forgotten night and be Of all dark long my moon-bright company: Beyond the rumour even of Paradise come, There, out of all remembrance, make our home: Seek we some close hid shadow for our lair, Hollowed by Noah’s mouse beneath the chair Wherein the Omnipotent, in slumber bound, Nods till the piteous Trump of Judgment sound. Perchance Leviathan of the deep sea
Would lease a lost mermaiden’s grot to me, There of your beauty we would joyance make– A music wistful for the sea-nymph’s sake: Haply Elijah, o’er his spokes of fire,
Cresting steep Leo, or the heavenly Lyre, Spied, tranced in azure of inanest space, Some eyrie hostel, meet for human grace, Where two might happy be–just you and I– Lost in the uttermost of Eternity.
Think! in Time’s smallest clock’s minutest beat Might there not rest be found for wandering feet? Or, ‘twixt the sleep and wake of Helen’s dream, Silence wherein to sing love’s requiem?
No, no. Nor earth, nor air, nor fire, nor deep Could lull poor mortal longingness asleep. Somewhere there nothing is; and there lost Man Shall win what changeless vague of peace he can.
Upon this leafy bush
With thorns and roses in it,
Flutters a thing of light,
A twittering linnet.
And all the throbbing world
Of dew and sun and air
By this small parcel of life
Is made more fair;
As if each bramble-spray
And mounded gold-wreathed furze,
Harebell and little thyme,
Were only hers;
As if this beauty and grace
Did to one bird belong,
And, at a flutter of wing,
Might vanish in song.
I think and think: yet still I fail– Why must this lady wear a veil?
Why thus elect to mask her face
Beneath that dainty web of lace?
The tip of a small nose I see,
And two red lips, set curiously
Like twin-born berries on one stem, And yet, she has netted even them.
Her eyes, ’tis plain, survey with ease Whate’er to glance upon they please.
Yet, whether hazel, gray, or blue,
Or that even lovelier lilac hue,
I cannot guess: why–why deny
Such beauty to the passer-by?
Out of a bush a nightingale
May expound his song; from ‘neath that veil A happy mouth no doubt can make
English sound sweeter for its sake. But then, why muffle in like this
What every blossomy wind would kiss? Why in that little night disguise
A daybreak face, those starry eyes?
THE THREE STRANGERS
Far are those tranquil hills,
Dyed with fair evening’s rose;
On urgent, secret errand bent,
A traveller goes.
Approach him strangers three,
Barefooted, cowled; their eyes
Scan the lone, hastening solitary
With dumb surmise.
One instant in close speech
With them he doth confer:
God-sped, he hasteneth on,
That anxious traveller….
I was that man–in a dream:
And each world’s night in vain
I patient wait on sleep to unveil
Those vivid hills again.
Would that they three could know
How yet burns on in me
Love–from one lost in Paradise–
For their grave courtesy.
THE OLD MEN
Old and alone, sit we,
Caged, riddle-rid men;
Lost to earth’s ‘Listen!’ and ‘See!’ Thought’s ‘Wherefore?’ and ‘When?’
Only far memories stray
Of a past once lovely, but now
Wasted and faded away,
Like green leaves from the bough.
Vast broods the silence of night,
The ruinous moon
Lifts on our faces her light,
Whence all dreaming is gone.
We speak not; trembles each head;
In their sockets our eyes are still; Desire as cold as the dead;
Without wonder or will.
And One, with a lanthorn, draws near, At clash with the moon in our eyes:
‘Where art thou?’ he asks: ‘I am here,’ One by one we arise.
And none lifts a hand to withhold
A friend from the touch of that foe: Heart cries unto heart, ‘Thou art old!’
Yet reluctant, we go.
When I lie where shades of darkness
Shall no more assail mine eyes,
Nor the rain make lamentation
When the wind sighs;
How will fare the world whose wonder Was the very proof of me?
Memory fades, must the remembered
Oh, when this my dust surrenders
Hand, foot, lip, to dust again,
May those loved and loving faces
Please other men!
May the rusting harvest hedgerow
Still the Traveller’s Joy entwine,
And as happy children gather
Posies once mine.
Look thy last on all things lovely,
Every hour. Let no night
Seal thy sense in deathly slumber
Till to delight
Thou have paid thy utmost blessing; Since that all things thou wouldst praise Beauty took from those who loved them
In other days.
* * * * *
Shy in their herding dwell the fallow deer. They are spirits of wild sense. Nobody near Comes upon their pastures. There a life they live, Of sufficient beauty, phantom, fugitive
Treading as in jungles free leopards do, Printless as evelight, instant as dew.
The great kine are patient, and home-coming sheep Know our bidding. The fallow deer keep
Delicate and far their counsels wild, Never to be folded reconciled
To the spoiling hand as the poor flocks are; Lightfoot, and swift, and unfamiliar,
These you may not hinder, unconfined Beautiful flocks of the mind.
At the top of the house the apples are laid in rows, And the skylight lets the moonlight in, and those Apples are deep-sea apples of green. There goes A cloud on the moon in the autumn night.
A mouse in the wainscot scratches, and scratches, and then There is no sound at the top of the house of men Or mice; and the cloud is blown, and the moon again Dapples the apples with deep-sea light.
They are lying in rows there, under the gloomy beams; On the sagging floor; they gather the silver streams Out of the moon, those moonlit apples of dreams, And quiet is the steep stair under.
In the corridors under there is nothing but sleep. And stiller than ever on orchard boughs they keep Tryst with the moon, and deep is the silence, deep On moon-washed apples of wonder.
Long ago some builder thrust
Heavenward in Southampton town
His spire and beamed his bells,
Largely conceiving from the dust
That pinnacle for ringing down
Orisons and Noëls.
In his imagination rang,
Through generations challenging
His peal on simple men,
Who, as the heart within him sang,
In daily townfaring should sing
By year and year again.
Now often to their ringing go
The bellmen with lean Time at heel, Intent on daily cares;
The bells ring high, the bells ring low, The ringers ring the builder’s peal
Of tidings unawares.
And all the bells might well be dumb
For any quickening in the street
Of customary ears;
And so at last proud builders come
With dreams and virtues to defeat
Among the clouding years.
Now, waiting on Southampton sea
For exile, through the silver night I hear Noël! Noël!
Through generations down to me
Your challenge, builder, comes aright, Bell by obedient bell.
You wake an hour with me; then wide
Though be the lapses of your sleep
You yet shall wake again;
And thus, old builder, on the tide
Of immortality you keep
Your way from brain to brain.
CHORUS FROM ‘LINCOLN’
You who have gone gathering
Cornflowers and meadowsweet,
Heard the hazels glancing down
On September eves,
Seen the homeward rooks on wing
Over fields of golden wheat,
And the silver cups that crown
You who know the tenderness
Of old men at eve-tide,
Coming from the hedgerows,
Coming from the plough,
And the wandering caress
Of winds upon the woodside,
When the crying yaffle goes
Underneath the bough;
You who mark the flowing
Of sap upon the May-time,
And the waters welling
From the watershed,
You who count the growing
Of harvest and hay-time,
Knowing these the telling
Of your daily bread;
You who cherish courtesy
With your fellows at your gate,
And about your hearthstone sit
Under love’s decrees,
You who know that death will be
Speaking with you soon or late,
Kinsmen, what is mother-wit
But the light of these?
Knowing these, what is there more
For learning in your little years? Are not these all gospels bright
Shining on your day?
How then shall your hearts be sore
With envy and her brood of fears,
How forget the words of light
From the mountain-way …
Blessed are the merciful …
Does not every threshold seek
Meadows and the flight of birds
For compassion still?
Blessed are the merciful …
Are we pilgrims yet to speak
Out of Olivet the words
Of knowledge and good-will?
High up in the sky there, now, you know, In this May twilight, our cottage is asleep, Tenantless, and no creature there to go
Near it but Mrs. Fry’s fat cows, and sheep Dove-coloured, as is Cotswold. No one hears Under that cherry-tree the night-jars yet, The windows are uncurtained; on the stairs Silence is but by tip-toe silence met.
All doors are fast there. It is a dwelling put by From use for a little, or long, up there in the sky.
Empty; a walled-in silence, in this twilight of May– Home for lovers, and friendly withdrawing, and sleep, With none to love there, nor laugh, nor climb from the day To the candles and linen … Yet in the silence creep, This minute, I know, little ghosts, little virtuous lives, Breathing upon that still, insensible place, Touching the latches, sorting the napkins and knives, And such for the comfort of being, and bowls for the grace, That roses will brim; they are creeping from that room to this, One room, and two, till the four are visited … they, Little ghosts, little lives, are our thoughts in this twilight of May, Signs that even the curious man would miss, Of travelling lovers to Cotswold, signs of an hour, Very soon, when up from the valley in June will ride Lovers by Lynch to Oakridge up in the wide Bow of the hill, to a garden of lavender flower … The doors are locked; no foot falls; the hearths are dumb– But we are there–we are waiting ourselves who come.
When you deliberate the page
Of Alexander’s pilgrimage,
Or say–‘It is three years, or ten, Since Easter slew Connolly’s men,’
Or prudently to judgment come
Of Antony or Absalom,
And think how duly are designed
Case and instruction for the mind,
Remember then that also we,
In a moon’s course, are history.
* * * * *
O MUSE DIVINE
O thou, my Muse,
Beside the Kentish River running
Through water-meads where dews
Tossed flashing at thy feet
And tossing flashed again
When the timid herd
By thy swift passing stirred
Up-leapt and ran;
Thou that didst fleet
Thy shadow over dark October hills
By Aston, Weston, Saintbury, Willersey, Winchcombe, and all the combes and hills Of the green lonely land;
Thou that in May
Once when I saw thee sunning
Thyself so lovely there
Than the flushed flower more fair
Fallen from the wild apple spray,
Didst rise and sprinkling sunlight with thy hand Shadow-like disappear in the deep-shadowy hedges Between forsaken Buckle Street and the sparse sedges Of young twin-breasted Honeybourne;–
O thou, my Muse,
Scarce longer seen than the brief hues Of winter cloud that flames
Over the tarnished silver Thames;
So often nearing,
As often disappearing,
With thy body’s shadow brushing
My brain at midnight, lightly touching; O yield thee, Muse, to me,
No more in dream delights and morn forgettings, But in a ferny hollow I know well
And thou know’st well, warm-proof’d ‘gainst the wind’s frettings. … Bring thou thyself, and there
In that warm ferny hollow where the sun Slants one gold beam and no light else but thine And my eyes’ happy shine–
There, O lovely Muse,
Shall on thy shining body be begot, Fruit of delights a many mingling in one, Thy child and mine, a lovely shape and thought; My child and thine,
O Muse divine!
The joyous morning ran and kissed the grass And drew his fingers through her sleeping hair, And cried, ‘Before thy flowers are well awake Rise, and the lingering darkness from thee shake.
‘Before the daisy and the sorrel buy
Their brightness back from that close-folding night, Come, and the shadows from thy bosom shake, Awake from thy thick sleep, awake, awake!’
Then the grass of that mounded meadow stirred Above the Roman bones that may not stir
Though joyous morning whispered, shouted, sang: The grass stirred as that happy music rang.
O, what a wondrous rustling everywhere! The steady shadows shook and thinned and died, The shining grass flashed brightness back for brightness, And sleep was gone, and there was heavenly lightness.
As if she had found wings, light as the wind, The grass flew, bent with the wind, from east to west, Chased by one wild grey cloud, and flashing all Her dews for happiness to hear morning call….
But even as I stepped out the brightness dimmed, I saw the fading edge of all delight.
The sober morning waked the drowsy herds, And there was the old scolding of the birds.
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 saw 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?
TEN O’CLOCK NO MORE 
The wind has thrown
The boldest of trees down.
Now disgraced it lies,
Naked in spring beneath the drifting skies, Naked and still.
It was the wind
So furious and blind
That scourged half England through, Ruining the fairest where most fair it grew By dell and hill,
And springing here,
The black clouds dragging near,
Against this lonely elm
Thrust all his strength to maim and overwhelm In one wild shock.
As in the deep
Satisfaction of dark sleep
The tree her dream dreamed on,
And woke to feel the wind’s arms round her thrown And her head rock.
And the wind raught
Her ageing boughs and caught
Her body fast again.
Then in one agony of age, grief, pain, She fell and died.
Her noble height,
Branches that loved the light,
Her music and cool shade,
Her memories and all of her is dead On the hill side.
But the wind stooped,
With madness tired, and drooped
In the soft valley and slept,
While morning strangely round the hush’d tree crept And called in vain.
The birds fed where
The roots uptorn and bare
Thrust shameful at the sky;
And pewits round the tree would dip and cry With the old pain.
‘Ten o’clock’s gone!’
Said sadly every one.
And mothers looking thought
Of sons and husbands far away that fought:– And looked again.
[Footnote 1: “Ten o’clock” is the name of a tall tree that crowned the eastern Cotswolds.]
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.
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!
Thy hand my hand,
Thine eyes my eyes,
All of thee
Caught and confused with me:
My hand thy hand,
My eyes thine eyes,
All of me
Sunken and discovered anew in thee….
A foreign mind,
By other yet uncaught;
A secret will
Strange as the wind:
The heart of thee
Bewildering with strange fire the heart in me.
Hand touches hand,
Eye to eye beckons,
But who shall guess
Though hand grasp hand,
Though the eye quickens,
Still lone as night
Remain thy spirit and mine, past touch and sight.
NIGHT AND NIGHT
The earth is purple in the evening light, The grass is graver green.
The gold among the meadows darker glows, In the quieted air the blackbird sings more loud. The sky has lost its rose–
Nothing more than this candle now shines bright.
Were there but natural night, how easy were The putting-by of sense
At the day’s end, and if no heavier air Came o’er the mind in a thick-falling cloud. But now there is no light
Within; and to this innocent night how dark my night!
The roaming sheep, forbidden to roam far, Were stayed within the shadow of his eye. The sheep-dog on that unseen shadow’s edge Moved, halted, barked, while the tall shepherd stood Unmoving, leaned upon a sarsen stone,
Looking at the rain that curtained the bare hills And drew the smoking curtain near and near!– Tawny, bush-faced, with cloak and staff, and flask And bright brass-ribb’d umbrella, standing stone Against the veinless, senseless sarsen stone. The Roman Road hard by, the green Ridge Way, Not older seemed, nor calmer the long barrows Of bones and memories of ancient days
Than the tall shepherd with his craft of days Older than Roman or the oldest caveman,
When, in the generation of all living, Sheep and kine flocked in the Aryan valley and The first herd with his voice and skill of water Fleetest of foot, led them into green pastures, From perished pastures to new green. I saw The herdsmen everywhere about the world, And herdsmen of all time, fierce, lonely, wise, Herds of Arabia and Syria
And Thessaly, and longer-winter’d climes; And this lone herd, ages before England was, Pelt-clad, and armed with flint-tipped ashen sap, Watching his flocks, and those far flocks of stars Slow moving as the heavenly shepherd willed And at dawn shut into the sunny fold.
* * * * *
WILFRID WILSON GIBSON
As a blue-necked mallard alighting in a pool Among marsh-marigolds and splashing wet
Green leaves and yellow blooms, like jewels set In bright, black mud, with clear drops crystal-cool, Bringing keen savours of the sea and stir Of windy spaces where wild sunsets flame To that dark inland dyke, the thought of her Into my brooding stagnant being came.
And all my senses quickened into life, Tingling and glittering, and the salt and fire Sang through my singing blood in eager strife Until through crystal airs we seemed to be Soaring together, one fleet-winged desire Of windy sunsets and the wandering sea.
Somewhere, somewhen I’ve seen,
But where or when I’ll never know,
Parrots of shrilly green
With crests of shriller scarlet flying Out of black cedars as the sun was dying Against cold peaks of snow.
From what forgotten life
Of other worlds I cannot tell
Flashes that screeching strife;
Yet the shrill colour and shrill crying Sing through my blood and set my heart replying And jangling like a bell.
In smoky lamplight of a Smyrna Café,
He saw them, seven solemn negroes dancing, With faces rapt and out-thrust bellies prancing In a slow solemn ceremonial cakewalk,
Dancing and prancing to the sombre tom-tom Thumped by a crookbacked grizzled negro squatting. And as he watched … within the steamy twilight Of swampy forest in rank greenness rotting, That sombre tom-tom at his heartstrings strumming Set all his sinews twitching, and a singing Of cold fire through his blood–and he was dancing Among his fellows in the dank green twilight With naked, oiled, bronze-gleaming bodies swinging In a rapt holy everlasting cakewalk
For evermore in slow procession prancing.
Black spars of driftwood burn to peacock flames, Sea-emeralds and sea-purples and sea-blues, And all the innumerable ever-changing hues That haunt the changeless deeps but have no names, Flicker and spire in our enchanted sight: And as we gaze, the unsearchable mystery, The unfathomed cold salt magic of the sea, Shines clear before us in the quiet night.
We know the secret that Ulysses sought, That moonstruck mariners since time began Snatched at a drowning hazard—strangely brought To our homekeeping hearts in drifting spars We chanced to kindle under the cold stars– The secret in the ocean-heart of man.
Only the footprints of the partridge run Over the billowy drifts on the mountain-side; And now on level wings the brown birds glide Following the snowy curves, and in the sun Bright birds of gold above the stainless white They move, and as the pale blue shadows move, With them my heart glides on in golden flight Over the hills of quiet to my love.
Storm-shaken, racked with terror through the long Tempestuous night, in the quiet blue of morn Love drinks the crystal airs, and peace newborn