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Here defiled and old

I perish through unnumbered hours, I swoon,
Hacked with harsh knives to staunch a child's torn hand;
And all my hopes must with my body soon
Be but as crouching dust and wind-blown sand.


I came to the churchyard where pretty Joy lies
On a morning in April, a rare sunny day;
Such bloom rose around, and so many birds' cries
That I sang for delight as I followed the way.

I sang for delight in the ripening of spring,
For dandelions even were suns come to earth;
Not a moment went by but a new lark took wing
To wait on the season with melody's mirth.

Love-making birds were my mates all the road,
And who would wish surer delight for the eye
Than to see pairing goldfinches gleaming abroad
Or yellowhammers sunning on paling and sty?

And stocks in the almswomen's garden were blown,
With rich Easter roses each side of the door;
The lazy white owls in the glade cool and lone
Paid calls on their cousins in the elm's chambered core.

This peace, then, and happiness thronged me around.
Nor could I go burdened with grief, but made merry
Till I came to the gate of that overgrown ground
Where scarce once a year sees the priest come to bury.

Over the mounds stood the nettles in pride,
And, where no fine flowers, there kind weeds dared to wave;
It seemed but as yesterday she lay by my side,
And now my dog ate of the grass on her grave.

He licked my hand wondering to see me muse so,
And wished I would lead on the journey or home,
As though not a moment of spring were to go
In brooding; but I stood, if her spirit might come

And tell me her life, since we left her that day
In the white lilied coffin, and rained down our tears;
But the grave held no answer, though long I should stay;
How strange that this clay should mingle with hers!

So I called my good dog, and went on my way;
Joy's spirit shone then in each flower I went by,
And clear as the noon, in coppice and ley,
Her sweet dawning smile and her violet eye!


Friend whom I never saw, yet dearest friend,
Be with me travelling on the byeway now
In April's month and mood: our steps shall bend
By the shut smithy with its penthouse brow
Armed round with many a felly and crackt plough:
And we will mark in his white smock the mill
Standing aloof, long numbed to any wind,
That in his crannies mourns, and craves him still;
But now there is not any grain to grind,
And even the master lies too deep for winds to find.

Grieve not at these: for there are mills amain
With lusty sails that leap and drop away
On further knolls, and lads to fetch the grain.
The ash-spit wickets on the green betray
New games begun and old ones put away.
Let us fare on, dead friend, O deathless friend,
Where under his old hat as green as moss
The hedger chops and finds new gaps to mend,
And on his bonfires burns the thorns and dross,
And hums a hymn, the best, thinks he, that ever was.

There the grey guinea-fowl stands in the way,
The young black heifer and the raw-ribbed mare,
And scorn to move for tumbril or for dray,
And feel themselves as good as farmers there.
From the young corn the prick-eared leverets stare
At strangers come to spy the land--small sirs,
We bring less danger than the very breeze
Who in great zig-zag blows the bee, and whirs
In bluebell shadow down the bright green leas;
From whom in frolic fit the chopt straw darts and flees.

The cornel steepling up in white shall know
The two friends passing by, and poplar smile
All gold within; the church-top fowl shall glow
To lure us on, and we shall rest awhile
Where the wild apple blooms above the stile;
The yellow frog beneath blinks up half bold,
Then scares himself into the deeper green.
And thus spring was for you in days of old,
And thus will be when I too walk unseen
By one that thinks me friend, the best that there has been.

All our lone journey laughs for joy, the hours
Like honey-bees go home in new-found light
Past the cow pond amazed with twinkling flowers
And antique chalk-pit newly delved to white,
Or idle snow-plough nearly hid from sight.
The blackbird sings us home, on a sudden peers
The round tower hung with ivy's blackened chains,
Then past the little green the byeway veers,
The mill-sweeps torn, the forge with cobwebbed panes
That have so many years looked out across the plains.

But the old forge and mill are shut and done,
The tower is crumbling down, stone by stone falls;
An ague doubt comes creeping in the sun,
The sun himself shudders, the day appals,
The concourse of a thousand tempests sprawls
Over the blue-lipped lakes and maddening groves,
Like agonies of gods the clouds are whirled,
The stormwind like the demon huntsman roves--
Still stands my friend, though all's to chaos hurled,
The unseen friend, the one last friend in all the world.

* * * * *



Thou that in fury with thy knotted tail
Hast made this iron floor thy beaten drum;
That now in silence walkst thy little space--
Like a sea-captain--careless what may come:

What power has brought thy majesty to this,
Who gave those eyes their dull and sleepy look;
Who took their lightning out, and from thy throat
The thunder when the whole wide forest shook?

It was that man who went again, alone,
Into thy forest dark--Lord, he was brave!
That man a fly has killed, whose bones are left
Unburied till an earthquake digs his grave.


A summer's morning that has but one voice;
Five hundred stocks, like golden lovers, lean
Their heads together, in their quiet way,
And but one bird sings, of a number seen.

It is the lark, that louder, louder sings,
As though but this one thought possessed his mind:
'You silent robin, blackbird, thrush, and finch,
I'll sing enough for all you lazy kind!'

And when I hear him at this daring task,
'Peace, little bird,' I say, 'and take some rest;
Stop that wild, screaming fire of angry song,
Before it makes a coffin of your nest.'


While joy gave clouds the light of stars,
That beamed where'er they looked;
And calves and lambs had tottering knees,
Excited, while they sucked;
While every bird enjoyed his song,
Without one thought of harm or wrong--
I turned my head and saw the wind,
Not far from where I stood,
Dragging the corn by her golden hair,
Into a dark and lonely wood.


Tell them, when you are home again,
How warm the air was now;
How silent were the birds and leaves,
And of the moon's full glow;
And how we saw afar
A falling star:
It was a tear of pure delight
Ran down the face of Heaven this happy night.

Our kisses are but love in flower,
Until that greater time
When, gathering strength, those flowers take wing,
And Love can reach his prime.
And now, my heart's delight,
Good night, good night;
Give me the last sweet kiss--
But do not breathe at home one word of this!


How many buds in this warm light
Have burst out laughing into leaves!
And shall a day like this be gone
Before I seek the wood that holds
The richest music known?

Too many times have nightingales
Wasted their passion on my sleep,
And brought repentance soon:
But this one night I'll seek the woods,
The nightingale, and moon.


Since I have seen a bird one day,
His head pecked more than half away;
That hopped about, with but one eye,
Ready to fight again, and die--
Ofttimes since then their private lives
Have spoilt that joy their music gives.

So when I see this robin now,
Like a red apple on the bough,
And question why he sings so strong,
For love, or for the love of song;
Or sings, maybe, for that sweet rill
Whose silver tongue is never still--

Ah, now there comes this thought unkind,
Born of the knowledge in my mind:
He sings in triumph that last night
He killed his father in a fight;
And now he'll take his mother's blood--
The last strong rival for his food.

* * * * *



Isled in the midnight air,
Musked with the dark's faint bloom,
Out into glooming and secret haunts
The flame cries, 'Come!'

Lovely in dye and fan,
A-tremble in shimmering grace,
A moth from her winter swoon
Uplifts her face:

Stares from her glamorous eyes;
Wafts her on plumes like mist;
In ecstasy swirls and sways
To her strange tryst.



The haze of noon wanned silver-grey,
The soundless mansion of the sun;
The air made visible in his ray,
Like molten glass from furnace run,
Quivered o'er heat-baked turf and stone
And the flower of the gorse burned on--
Burned softly as gold of a child's fair hair
Along each spiky spray, and shed
Almond-like incense in the air
Whereon our senses fed.

At foot--a few sparse harebells: blue
And still as were the friend's dark eyes
That dwelt on mine, transfixèd through
With sudden ecstatic surmise.

'Hst!' he cried softly, smiling, and lo,
Stealing amidst that maze gold-green,
I heard a whispering music flow
From guileful throat of bird, unseen:--
So delicate, the straining ear
Scarce carried its faint syllabling
Into a heart caught-up to hear
That inmost pondering
Of bird-like self with self. We stood,
In happy trance-like solitude,
Hearkening a lullay grieved and sweet--
As when on isle uncharted beat
'Gainst coral at the palm-tree's root,
With brine-clear, snow-white foam afloat,
The wailing, not of water or wind--
A husht, far, wild, divine lament,
When Prospero his wizardry bent
Winged Ariel to bind....

Then silence, and o'er-flooding noon.
I raised my head; smiled too. And he--
Moved his great hand, the magic gone--
Gently amused to see
My ignorant wonderment. He sighed.
'It was a nightingale,' he said,
'That _sotto voce_ cons the song
He'll sing when dark is spread;
And Night's vague hours are sweet and long,
And we are laid abed.'


Black lacqueys at the wide-flung door
Stand mute as men of wood.
Gleams like a pool the ballroom floor--
A burnished solitude.
A hundred waxen tapers shine
From silver sconces; softly pine
'Cello, fiddle, mandoline,
To music deftly wooed--
And dancers in cambric, satin, silk,
With glancing hair and cheeks like milk,
Wreathe, curtsey, intertwine.

The drowse of roses lulls the air
Wafted up the marble stair.
Like warbling water clucks the talk.
From room to room in splendour walk
Guests, smiling in the æry sheen;
Carmine and azure, white and green,
They stoop and languish, pace and preen
Bare shoulder, painted fan,
Gemmed wrist and finger, neck of swan;
And still the pluckt strings warble on;
Still from the snow-bowered, link-lit street
The muffled hooves of horses beat;
And harness rings; and foam-fleckt bit
Clanks as the slim heads toss and stare
From deep, dark eyes.

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