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COUNTRY SENTIMENT

by

Robert Graves

 

 

 

To Nancy Nicholson

Note

Some of the poems included in this volume have appeared in

"The New Statesman""The Owl""Reveille""Land and Water"

"Poetry"and other papersEnglish and American.

Robert Graves.

Harlech

North Wales.

 

 

 

CONTENTS

A Frosty Night

Song for Two Children

Dicky

The Three Drinkers

The Boy out of Church

After the Play

One Hard Look

True Johnny

The Voice of Beauty Drowned

The God Called Poetry

Rocky Acres

Advice to Lovers

Nebuchadnezzar's Fall

Give us Rain

Allie

Loving Henry

Brittle Bones

Apples and Water

Manticor in Arabia

Outlaws

Baloo Loo for Jenny

Hawk and Buckle

The "Alice Jean"

The Cupboard

The Beacon

Pot and Kettle

Ghost Raddled

Neglectful Edward

The Well-dressed Children

Thunder at Night

To E.M.--A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme

Jane

Vain and Careless

Nine o'Clock

The Picture Book

The Promised Lullaby

RETROSPECT

Haunted

Retrospect: The Jests of the Clock

Here They Lie

Tom Taylor

Country at War

Sospan Fach

The Leveller

Hate notFear not

A Rhyme of Friends

A First Review

 

 

 

A FROSTY NIGHT.

Mother

Alicedearwhat ails you

Dazed and white and shaken?

Has the chill night numbed you?

Is it fright you have taken?

Alice

 

MotherI am very well

I felt never better

Motherdo not hold me so

Let me write my letter.

Mother

Sweetmy dearwhat ails you?

Alice

Nobut I am well;

The night was cold and frosty

There's no more to tell.

Mother

Aythe night was frosty

Coldly gaped the moon

Yet the birds seemed twittering

Through green boughs of June.

Soft and thick the snow lay

Stars danced in the sky.

Not all the lambs of May-day

Skip so bold and high.

Your feet were dancingAlice

Seemed to dance on air

You looked a ghost or angel

In the starlight there.

Your eyes were frosted starlight

Your heart fire and snow.

Who was it said"I love you"?

Alice

Motherlet me go!

 

 

A SONG FOR TWO CHILDREN.

"Make a songfathera new little song

All for Jenny and Nancy."

Balow lalow or Hey derry down

Or else what might you fancy?

Is there any song sweet enough

For Nancy and for Jenny?

Said Simple Simon to the pieman

"Indeed I know not any."

"I've counted the miles to Babylon

I've flown the earth like a bird

I've ridden cock-horse to Banbury Cross

But no such song have I heard."

"Some speak of Alexander

And some of Hercules

But where are there any like Nancy and Jenny

Where are there any like these?"

 

DICKY.

Mother

Ohwhat a heavy sigh!

Dickyare you ailing?

Dicky

Even by this firesidemother

My heart is failing.

To-night across the down

Whistling and jolly

I sauntered out from town

With my stick of holly.

Bounteous and cool from sea

The wind was blowing

Cloud shadows under the moon

Coming and going.

I sang old roaring songs

Ran and leaped quick

And turned home by St. Swithin's

Twirling my stick.

And there as I was passing

The churchyard gate

An old man stopped me"Dicky

You're walking late."

I did not know the man

I grew afeared

At his lean lolling jaw

His spreading beard.

His garments old and musty

Of antique cut

His body very lean and bony

His eyes tight shut.

Oheven to tell it now

My courage ebbs...

His face was claymother

His beardcobwebs.

In that long horrid pause

"Good-night" he said

Entered and clicked the gate

"Each to his bed."

Mother

Do not sigh or fearDicky

How is it right

To grudge the dead their ghostly dark

And wan moonlight?

We have the glorious sun

Lamp and fireside.

Grudge not the dead their moonshine

When abroad they ride.

 

 

THE THREE DRINKERS.

Blacksmith Green had three strong sons

With bread and beef did fill 'em

Now John and Ned are perished and dead

But plenty remains of William.

John Green was a whiskey drinker

The Land of Cakes supplied him

Till at last his soul flew out by the hole

That the fierce drink burned inside him.

Ned Green was a water drinker

AndLordhow Ned would fuddle!

He rotted away his mortal clay

Like an old boot thrown in a puddle.

Will Green was a wise young drinker

Shrank from whiskey or water

But he made good cheer with headstrong beer

And married an alderman's daughter.

 

 

THE BOY OUT OF CHURCH.

As Jesus and his followers

Upon a Sabbath morn

Were walking by a wheat field

They plucked the ears of corn.

They plucked itthey rubbed it

They blew the husks away

Which grieved the pious pharisees

Upon the Sabbath day.

And Jesus said"A riddle

Answer if you can

Was man made for the Sabbath

Or Sabbath made for man?"

I do not love the Sabbath

The soapsuds and the starch

The troops of solemn people

Who to Salvation march.

I take my bookI take my stick

On the Sabbath day

In woody nooks and valleys

I hide myself away.

To ponder there in quiet

God's Universal Plan

Resolved that church and Sabbath

Were never made for man.

 

 

AFTER THE PLAY.

Father

Have you spent the money I gave you to-day?

John

Ayfather I have.

A fourpence on cakestwo pennies that away

To a beggar I gave.

Father

The lake of yellow brimstone boil for you in Hell

Such lies that you spin.

Tell the truth nowJohnere the falsehood swell

Saywhere have you been?

John

I'll lie no more to youfatherwhat is the need?

To the Play I went

With sixpence for a near seatmoney's worth indeed

The best ever spent.

Grief to youshame or griefhere is the story--

My splendid night!

It was colourscentsmusica tragic glory

Fear with delight.

HamletPrince of Denmarktitle of the tale:

He of that name

A tallglum fellowvelvet cloakedwith a shirt of mail

Two eyes like flame.

All the furies of fate circled round the man

Maddening his heart

There was old murder done before play began

Aythe ghost took part.

There were grave-diggers delvingthey brought up bones

And with rage and grief

All the players shouted in fullkingly tones

Grandpassing belief.

Ohthere were ladies there radiant like day

And changing scenes:

Great sounding words were tossed about like hay

By kings and queens.

How the plot turned about I watched in vain

Though for grief I cried

As one and all they fadedpoisoned or slain

In great agony died.

Fatheryou'll drive me forth never to return

Doubting me your son--

Father

So I shallJohn

John

--but that glory for which I burn

Shall be soon begun.

I shall wear great bootsshall strut and shout

Keep my locks curled.

The fame of my name shall go ringing about

Over half the world.

Father

Horror that your Prince foundJohn may you find

Ever and again

Dying before the house in such torture of mind

As you need not feign.

While they clap and stamp at your nightly fate

They shall never know

The curse that drags at youuntil Hell's gate.

You have heard me. Go!

 

 

SONG: ONE HARD LOOK.

Small gnats that fly

In hot July

And lodge in sleeping ears

Can rouse therein

A trumpet's din

With Day-of-Judgement fears.

Small mice at night

Can wake more fright

Than lions at midday.

An urchin small

Torments us all

Who tread his prickly way.

A straw will crack

The camel's back

To die we need but sip

So little sand

As fills the hand

Can stop a steaming ship.

One smile relieves

A heart that grieves

Though deadly sad it be

And one hard look

Can close the book

That lovers love to see--

 

 

TRUE JOHNNY.

Johnnysweetheartcan you be true

To all those famous vows you've made

Will you love me as I love you

Until we both in earth are laid?

Or shall the old wives nod and say

His love was only for a day:

The mood goes by

His fancies fly

And Mary's left to sigh.

Maryalasyou've hit the truth

And I with grief can but admit

Hot-blooded haste controls my youth

My idle fancies veer and flit

From flower to flowerfrom tree to tree

And when the moment catches me

Ohlove goes by

Away I fly

And leave my girl to sigh.

Could you but now foretell the day

Johnnywhen this sad thing must be

When light and gay you'll turn away

And laugh and break the heart in me?

For like a nut for true love's sake

My empty heart shall crack and break

When fancies fly

And love goes by

And Mary's left to die.

When the sun turns against the clock

When Avon waters upward flow

When eggs are laid by barn-door cock

When dusty hens do strut and crow

When up is downwhen left is right

Ohthen I'll break the troth I plight

With careless eye

Away I'll fly

And Mary here shall die.

 

 

THE VOICE OF BEAUTY DROWNED.

Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!

The other birds woke all around

Rising with toot and howl they stirred

Their plumagebroke the trembling sound

They craned their necksthey fluttered wings

"While we are silent no one sings

And while we sing you hush your throat

Or tune your melody to our note."

Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!

The screams and hootings rose again:

They gaped with raucous beaksthey whirred

Their noisy plumage; small but plain

The lonely hidden singer made

A well of grief within the glade.

"Whistsilly foolbe off" they shout

"Or we'll come pluck your feathers out."

Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!

Slight and small the lovely cry

Came trickling downbut no one heard.

Parrot and cuckoocrowmagpie

Jarred horrid notes and the jangling jay

Ripped the fine threads of song away

For why should peeping chick aspire

To challenge their loud woodland choir?

Cried it so sweet that unseen bird?

Lovelier could no music be

Clearer than watersoft as curd

Fresh as the blossomed cherry tree.

How sang the others all around?

Piercing and harsha maddening sound

With Pretty Polltuwit-tu-woo

Peewitcaw cawcuckoo-cuckoo.

 

 

THE GOD CALLED POETRY.

Now I begin to know at last

These nights when I sit down to rhyme

The form and measure of that vast

God we call Poetryhe who stoops

And leaps me through his paper hoops

A little higher every time.

Tempts me to think I'll grow a proper

Singing cricket or grass-hopper

Making prodigious jumps in air

While shaken crowds about me stare

Aghastand I singgrowing bolder

To fly up on my master's shoulder

Rustling the thick strands of his hair.

He is older than the seas

Older than the plains and hills

And older than the light that spills

From the sun's hot wheel on these.

He wakes the gale that tears your trees

He sings to you from window sills.

At you he roarsor he will coo

He shouts and screams when hell is hot

Riding on the shell and shot.

He smites you downhe succours you

And where you seek himhe is not.

To-day I see he has two heads

Like Janus--calmbenignantthis;

Thatgrim and scowling: his beard spreads

From chin to chin" this god has power

Immeasurable at every hour:

He first taught lovers how to kiss

He brings down sunshine after shower

Thunder and hate are his also

He is YES and he is NO.

The black beard spoke and said to me

"Human frailty though you be

Yet shout and crack your whipbe harsh!

They'll obey you in the end:

Hill and fieldriver and marsh

Shall obey youhop and skip

At the terrour of your whip

To your gales of anger bend."

The pale beard spoke and said in turn

"True: a prize goes to the stern

But sing and laugh and easily run

Through the wide airs of my plain

Bathe in my watersdrink my sun

And draw my creatures with soft song;

They shall follow you along

Graciously with no doubt or pain."

Then speaking from his double head

The glorious fearful monster said

"I am YES and I am NO

Black as pitch and white as snow

Love mehate mereconcile

Hate with loveperfect with vile

So equal justice shall be done

And life shared between moon and sun.

Nature for you shall curse or smile:

A poet you shall bemy son."

 

 

ROCKY ACRES.

This is a wild landcountry of my choice

With harsh craggy mountainmoor ample and bare.

Seldom in these acres is heard any voice

But voice of cold water that runs here and there

Through rocks and lank heather growing without care.

No mice in the heath run nor no birds cry

For fear of the dark speck that floats in the sky.

He soars and he hovers rocking on his wings

He scans his wide parish with a sharp eye

He catches the trembling of small hidden things

He tears them in piecesdropping from the sky:

Tenderness and pity the land will deny

Where life is but nourished from water and rock

A hardy adventurefull of fear and shock.

Time has never journeyed to this lost land

Crakeberries and heather bloom out of date

The rocks jutthe streams flow singing on either hand

Careless if the season be early or late.

The skies wander overheadnow bluenow slate:

Winter would be known by his cold cutting snow

If June did not borrow his armour also.

Yet this is my country be loved by me best

The first land that rose from Chaos and the Flood

Nursing no fat valleys for comfort and rest

Trampled by no hard hoovesstained with no blood.

Bold immortal country whose hill tops have stood

Strongholds for the proud gods when on earth they go

Terror for fat burghers in far plains below.

 

 

ADVICE TO LOVERS.

I knew an old man at a Fair

Who made it his twice-yearly task

To clamber on a cider cask

And cry to all the yokels there:--

"Lovers to-day and for all time

Preserve the meaning of my rhyme:

Love is not kindly nor yet grim

But does to you as you to him.

"Whistleand Love will come to you

Hissand he fades without a word

Do wrongand he great wrong will do

Speakhe retells what he has heard.

"Then all you lovers have good heed

Vex not young Love in word or deed:

Love never leaves an unpaid debt

He will not pardon nor forget."

The old man's voice was sweet yet loud

And this shows what a man was he

He'd scatter apples to the crowd

And give great draughts of ciderfree.

 

 

NEBUCHADNEZZAR'S FALL.

Frowning over the riddle that Daniel told

Down through the mist hung gardenbelow a feeble sun

The King of Persia walked: ohthe chilling cold!

His mind was webbed with a grey shroud vapour-spun.

Here for the pride of his soaring eagle heart

Here for his great hand searching the skies for food

Here for his courtship of Heaven's high stars he shall smart

Nebuchadnezzar shall fallcrawlbe subdued.

Hot sun struck through the vapourleaf strewn mould

Breathed sweet decay: old Earth called for her child.

Mist drew off from his mindSun scattered gold

Warmth came and earthy motives fresh and wild.

Down on his knees he sinksthe stiff-necked King

Stoops and kneels and grovelschin to the mud.

Out from his changed heart flutter on startled wing

The fancy birds of his PrideHonourKinglihood.

He crawlshe gruntshe is beast-likefrogs and snails

His dietand grassand water with hand for cup.

He herds with brutes that have hooves and horns and tails

He roars in his angerhe scratcheshe looks not up.

 

GIVE US RAIN.

"Give us RainRain" said the bean and the pea

"Not so much Sun

Not so much Sun."

But the Sun smiles bravely and encouragingly

And no rain falls and no waters run.

"Give us PeacePeace" said the peoples oppressed

"Not so many Flags

Not so many Flags."

But the Flags fly and the Drums beatdenying rest

And the children starvethey shiver in rags.

 

 

ALLIE.

Alliecall the birds in

The birds from the sky.

Allie callsAllie sings

Down they all fly.

First there came

Two white doves

Then a sparrow from his nest

Then a clucking bantam hen

Then a robin red-breast.

Alliecall the beasts in

The beastsevery one.

Allie callsAllie sings

In they all run.

First there came

Two black lambs

Then a grunting Berkshire sow

Then a dog without a tail

Then a red and white cow.

Alliecall the fish up

The fish from the stream.

Allie callsAllie sings

Up they all swim.

First there came

Two gold fish

A minnow and a miller's thumb

Then a pair of loving trout

Then the twisted eels come.

Alliecall the children

Children from the green.

Allie callsAllie sings

Soon they run in.

First there came

Tom and Madge

Kate and I who'll not forget

How we played by the water's edge

Till the April sun set.

 

 

LOVING HENRY.

HenryHenrydo you love me?

Do I love youMary?

Ohcan you mean to liken me

To the aspen tree.

Whose leaves do shake and vary

From white to green

And back again

Shifting and contrary?

HenryHenrydo you love me

Do you love me truly?

OhMarymust I say again

My love's a pain

A torment most unruly?

It tosses me

Like a ship at sea

When the storm rages fully.

HenryHenrywhy do you love me?

Marydearhave pity!

I swearof all the girls there are

Both near and far

In country or in city

There's none like you

So kindso true

So wiseso braveso pretty.

 

 

BRITTLE BONES.

Though I am an old man

With my bones very brittle

Though I am a poor old man

Worth very little

Yet I suck at my long pipe

At peace in the sun

I do not fret nor much regret

That my work is done.

If I were a young man

With my bones full of marrow

Ohif I were a bold young man

Straight as an arrow

And if I had the same years

To live once again

I would not change their simple range

Of laughter and pain.

If I were a young man

And young was my Lily

A smart girla bold young man

Both of us silly.

And though from time before I knew

She'd stab me with pain

Though well I knew she'd not be true

I'd love her again.

If I were a young man

With a briskhealthy body

Ohif I were a bold young man

With love of rum toddy

Though I knew that I was spiting

My old age with pain

My happy lip would touch and sip

Again and again.

If I were a young man

With my bones full of marrow

Ohif I were a bold young man

Straight as an arrow

I'd store up no virtue

For Heaven's distant plain

I'd live at ease as I did please

And sin once again.

 

 

APPLES AND WATER.

Dust in a cloudblinding weather

Drums that rattle and roar!

A mother and daughter stood together

Beside their cottage door.

"Motherthe heavens are bright like brass

The dust is shaken high

With labouring breath the soldiers pass

Their lips are cracked and dry."

"MotherI'll throw them apples down

I'll bring them pails of water."

The mother turned with an angry frown

Holding back her daughter.

"But motherseethey faint with thirst

They march away to die"

"Ahsweethad I but known at first

Their throats are always dry."

"There is no water can supply them

In western streams that flow

There is no fruit can satisfy them

On orchard trees that grow."

"Once in my youth I gavepoor fool

A soldier apples and water

So may I die before you cool

Your father's drouthmy daughter."

 

 

MANTICOR IN ARABIA.

(The manticors of the montaines

Mighte feed them on thy braines.--Skelton.)

Thick and scented daisies spread

Where with surface dull like lead

Arabian pools of slime invite

Manticors down from neighbouring height

To dip headsto cool fiery blood

In oozy depths of sucking mud.

Sing then of ringstraked manticor

Man-visaged tiger who of yore

Held whole Arabian waste in fee

With raging pride from sea to sea

That every lesser tribe would fly

Those armed feetthat hooded eye;

Till preying on himself at last

Manticor dwindledsankwas passed

By gryphon flocks he did disdain.

Aywyverns and rude dragons reign

In ancient keep of manticor

Agreed old foe can rise no more.

Only here from lakes of slime

Drinks manticor and bides due time:

Six times Fowl Phoenix in yon tree

Must mount his pyre and burn and be

Renewed againtill in such hour

As seventh Phoenix flames to power

And lifts young feathersovernice

From scented pool of steamy spice

Shall manticor his sway restore

And rule Arabian plains once more.

 

 

OUTLAWS.

Owls: they whinney down the night

Bats go zigzag by.

Ambushed in shadow out of sight

The outlaws lie.

Old godsshrunk to shadowsthere

In the wet woods they lurk

Greedy of human stuff to snare

In webs of murk.

Look upelse your eye must drown

In a moving sea of black

Between the tree-topsupside down

Goes the sky-track.

Look upelse your feet will stray

Towards that dim ambuscade

Where spider-like they catch their prey

In nets of shade.

For though creeds whirl away in dust

Faith fails and men forget

These aged gods of fright and lust

Cling to life yet.

Old gods almost deadmalign

Starved of their ancient dues

Incense and fruitfireblood and wine

And an unclean muse.

Banished to woods and a sickly moon

Shrunk to mere bogey things

Who spoke with thunder once at noon

To prostrate kings.

With thunder from an open sky

To peasanttyrantpriest

Bowing in fear with a dazzled eye

Towards the East.

Proud godshumbledsunk so low

Living with ghosts and ghouls

And ghosts of ghosts and last year's snow

And dead toadstools.

 

 

BALOO LOO FOR JENNY.

Sing baloo loo for Jenny

And where is she gone?

Away to spy her mother's land

Riding all alone.

To the rich towns of Scotland

The woods and the streams

High upon a Spanish horse

Saddled for her dreams.

By Oxford and by Chester

To Berwick-on-the-Tweed

Then once across the borderland

She shall find no need.

A loaf for her at Stirling

A scone at Carlisle

Honeyed cakes at Edinbro'--

That shall make her smile.

At Aberdeen clear cider

Mead for her at Nairn

A cup of wine at John o' Groats--

That shall please my bairn.

Sing baloo loo for Jenny

Mother will be fain

To see her little truant child

Riding home again.

 

 

HAWK AND BUCKLE.

Where is the landlord of old Hawk and Buckle

And what of Master Straddler this hot summer weather?

He's along in the tap-room with broad cheeks a-chuckle

And ten bold companions all drinking together.

Where is the daughter of old Hawk and Buckle

And what of Mistress Jenny this hot summer weather?

She sits in the parlour with smell of honeysuckle

Trimming her bonnet with red ostrich feather.

Where is the ostler of old Hawk and Buckle

And what of Willy Jakeman this hot summer weather?

He is rubbing his eyes with a slow and lazy knuckle

As he wakes from his nap on a bank of fresh heather.

Where is the page boy of old Hawk and Buckle

And what of our young Charlie this hot summer weather?

He is bobbing for tiddlers in a little trickle-truckle

With his line and his hook and his breeches of leather.

Where is the grey goat of old Hawk and Buckle

And what of pretty Nanny this hot summer weather?

She stays not contented with little or with muckle

Straining for daisies at the end of her tether.

For this is our motto at old Hawk and Buckle

We cling to it close and we sing all together

"Every man for himself at our old Hawk and Buckle

And devil take the hindmost this hot summer weather."

 

 

THE "ALICE JEAN".

One moonlit night a ship drove in

A ghost ship from the west

Drifting with bare mast and lone tiller

Like a mermaid drest

In long green weed and barnacles:

She beached and came to rest.

All the watchers of the coast

Flocked to view the sight

Men and women streaming down

Through the summer night

Found her standing tall and ragged

Beached in the moonlight.

Then one old woman looked and wept

"The 'Alice Jean'? But no!

The ship that took my Dick from me

Sixty years ago

Drifted back from the utmost west

With the ocean's flow?

"Caught and caged in the weedy pool

Beyond the western brink

Where crewless vessels lie and rot

in waters black as ink.

Torn out again by a sudden storm

Is it the 'Jean'you think?"

A hundred women stared agape

The menfolk nudged and laughed

But none could find a likelier story

For the strange craft.

With fear and death and desolation

Rigged fore and aft.

The blind ship came forgotten home

To all but one of these

Of whom none dared to climb aboard her:

And by and by the breeze

Sprang to a storm and the "Alice Jean"

Foundered in frothy seas.

 

THE CUPBOARD.

Mother

What's in that cupboardMary?

Mary

Which cupboardmother dear?

Mother

The cupboard of red mahogany

With handles shining clear.

Mary

That cupboarddearest mother

With shining crystal handles?

There's nought inside but rags and jags

And yellow tallow candles.

Mother

What's in that cupboardMary?

Mary

Which cupboardmother mine?

Mother

That cupboard stands in your sunny chamber

The silver corners shine.

Mary

There's nothing there insidemother

But wool and thread and flax

And bits of faded silk and velvet

And candles of white wax.

Mother

What's in that cupboardMary?

And this time tell me true.

Mary

White clothes for an unborn babymother

But what's the truth to you?

 

 

THE BEACON.

The silent shepherdess

She of my vows

Here with me exchanging love

Under dim boughs.

Shines on our mysteries

A sudden spark--

"Dout the candleglow-worm

Let all be dark.

"The birds have sung their last notes

The Sun's to bed

Glow-wormdout your candle."

The glow-worm said:

"I also am a lover;

The lamp I display

Is beacon for my true love

Wandering astray.

"Through the thick bushes

And the grass comes she

With a heartload of longing

And love for me.

"Sirenjoy your fancy

But spare me harm

A lover is a lover

Though but a worm."

 

 

POT AND KETTLE.

Come close to medear Anniewhile I bind a lover's knot.

A tale of burning love between a kettle and a pot.

The pot was stalwart iron and the kettle trusty tin

And though their sides were black with smoke they bubbled love within.

Forget that kettleJamieand that pot of boiling broth

I know a dismal story of a candle and a moth.

For while your pot is boiling and while your kettle sings

My moth makes love to candle flame and burns away his wings.

Your mothI envyAnniethat died by candle flame

But here are two more loversunto no damage came.

There was a cuckoo loved a clock and found her always true.

For every hour they told their hearts"Ring! ting! Cuckoo!Cuckoo!"

As the pot boiled for the kettleas the kettle for the pot

So boils my love within me till my breast is glowing hot.

As the moth died for the candleso could I die for you.

And my fond heart beats time with yours and cries"Cuckoo!Cuckoo!"

 

 

GHOST RADDLED.

"Comesurly fellowcome! A song!"

Whatmadmen? Sing to you?

Choose from the clouded tales of wrong

And terror I bring to you.

Of a night so torn with cries

Honest men sleeping

Start awake with glaring eyes

Bone-chilledflesh creeping.

Of spirits in the web hung room

Up above the stable

Groansknockings in the gloom

The dancing table.

Of demons in the dry well

That cheep and mutter

Clanging of an unseen bell

Blood choking the gutter.

Of lust frightfulpast belief

Lurking unforgotten

Unrestrainable endless grief

From breasts long rotten.

A song? What laughter or what song

Can this house remember?

Do flowers and butterflies belong

To a blind December?

 

 

NEGLECTFUL EDWARD.

Nancy

"Edward back from the Indian Sea

What have you brought for Nancy?"

Edward

"A rope of pearls and a gold earring

And a bird of the East that will not sing.

A carven tootha box with a key--"

Nancy

"God be praised you are back" says she

"Have you nothing more for your Nancy?"

Edward

"Long as I sailed the Indian Sea

I gathered all for your fancy:

Toys and silk and jewels I bring

And a bird of the East that will not sing:

What more can you wantdear girlfrom me?"

Nancy

"God be praised you are back" said she

"Have you nothing better for Nancy?"

Edward

"Safe and home from the Indian Sea

And nothing to take your fancy?"

 

Nancy

"You can keep your pearls and your gold earring

And your bird of the East that will not sing

ButNedhave you nothing more for me

Than heathenish gew-gaw toys?" says she

"Have you nothing better for Nancy?"

 

 

THE WELL-DRESSED CHILDREN.

Here's flowery taffeta for Mary's new gown:

Here's black velvetall the ragefor Dick's birthday coat.

Pearly buttons for youMaryall the way down

Lace rufflesDickfor you; you'll be a man of note.

Maryhere I've bought you a green gingham shade

And a silk purse brocaded with roses gold and blue

You'll learn to hold them proudly like colours on parade.

No banker's wife in all the town half so grand as you.

I've bought for young Diccon a long walking-stick

Yellow gloveswell tannedat Woodstock village made.

I'll teach you to flourish 'em and show your name is DICK

Strutting by your sister's side with the same parade.

On Sunday to church you goeach with a book of prayer:

Then up the street and down the aisleseverywhere you'll see

Of all the honours paid aroundhow small is Virtue's share.

How large the share of Vulgar Pride in peacock finery.

 

 

THUNDER AT NIGHT.

Restless and hot two children lay

Plagued with uneasy dreams

Each wandered lonely through false day

A twilight torn with screams.

True to the bed-time storyBen

Pursued his wounded bear

Ann dreamed of chattering monkey men

Of snakes twined in her hair...

Now high aloft above the town

The thick clouds gather and break

A flasha roarand rain drives down:

Aghast the young things wake.

Trembling for what their terror was

Surprised by instant doom

With lightning in the looking glass

Thunder that rocks the room.

The monkeys' paws patter again

Snakes hiss and flash their eyes:

The bear roars out in hideous pain:

Ann prays: her brother cries.

They cannot guesscould not be told

How soon comes careless day

With birds and dandelion gold

Wet grasscool scents of May.

 

 

TO E.M.--A BALLAD OF NURSERY RHYME.

Strawberries that in gardens grow

Are plump and juicy fine

But sweeter far as wise men know

Spring from the woodland vine.

No need for bowl or silver spoon

Sugar or spice or cream

Has the wild berry plucked in June

Beside the trickling stream.

One such to melt at the tongue's root

Confounding taste with scent

Beats a full peck of garden fruit:

Which points my argument.

May sudden justice overtake

And snap the froward pen

That old and palsied poets shake

Against the minds of men.

Blasphemers trusting to hold caught

In far-flung webs of ink

The utmost ends of human thought

Till nothing's left to think.

But may the gift of heavenly peace

And glory for all time

Keep the boy Tom who tending geese

First made the nursery rhyme.

By the brookside one August day

Using the sun for clock

Tom whiled the languid hours away

Beside his scattering flock.

Carving with a sharp pointed stone

On a broad slab of slate

The famous lives of Jumping Joan

Dan Fox and Greedy Kate.

Rhyming of wolves and bears and birds

SpainScotlandBabylon

That sister Kate might learn the words

To tell to toddling John.

But Kate who could not stay content

To learn her lesson pat

New beauty to the rough lines lent

By changing this or that.

And she herself set fresh things down

In corners of her slate

Of lambs and lanes and London town.

God's blessing fall on Kate!

The baby loved the simple sound

With jolly glee he shook

And soon the lines grew smooth and round

Like pebbles in Tom's brook.

From mouth to mouth told and retold

By children sprawled at ease

Before the fire in winter's cold

in Junebeneath tall trees.

Till though long lost are stone and slate

Though the brook no more runs

And dead long time are TomJohnKate

Their sons and their sons' sons.

Yet as when Time with stealthy tread

Lays the rich garden waste

The woodland berry ripe and red

Fails not in scent or taste

So these same rhymes shall still be told

To children yet unborn

While false philosophy growing old

Fades and is killed by scorn.

 

 

JANE.

As Jane walked out below the hill

She saw an old man standing still

His eyes in tranced sorrow bound

On the broad stretch of barren ground.

His limbs were knarled like aged trees

His thin beard wrapt about his knees

His visage broad and parchment white

Aglint with pale reflected light.

He seemed a creature fall'n afar

From some dim planet or faint star.

Jane scanned him very closeand soon

Cried"'Tis the old man from the moon."

He raised his voicea grating creak

But only to himself would speak.

Groaning with tears in piteous pain

"O! O! would I were home again."

Then Jane ran offquick as she could

To cheer his heart with drink and food.

But ahtoo late came ale and bread

She found the poor soul stretched stone-dead.

And a new moon rode overhead.

 

 

VAIN AND CARELESS.

Ladylovely lady

Careless and gay!

Once when a beggar called

She gave her child away.

The beggar took the baby

Wrapped it in a shawl

"Bring her back" the lady said

"Next time you call."

Hard by lived a vain man

So vain and so proud

He walked on stilts

To be seen by the crowd.

Up above the chimney pots

Tall as a mast

And all the people ran about

Shouting till he passed.

"A splendid match surely"

Neighbours saw it plain

"Although she is so careless

Although he is so vain."

But the lady played bobcherry

Did not see or care

As the vain man went by her

Aloft in the air.

This gentle-born couple

Lived and died apart.

Water will not mix with oil

Nor vain with careless heart.

 

 

NINE O'CLOCK.

I.

Nine of the clockoh!

Wake my lazy head!

Your shoes of red morocco

Your silk bed-gown:

Rouserousespeck-eyed Mary

In your high bed!

A yawna smilesleepy-starey

Mary climbs down.

"Good-morning to my brothers

Good-day to the Sun

Halloohalloo to the lily-white sheep

That up the mountain run."

II.

Good-night to the meadowfarewell to the nine o'clock Sun

"He loves me notloves mehe loves me not" (O jealous one!)

"He loves mehe loves me notloves me"--O soft nights of June

A bird sang for love on the cherry-bough: up swam the Moon.

 

 

THE PICTURE BOOK.

When I was not quite five years old

I first saw the blue picture book

And Fraulein Spitzenburger told

Stories that sent me hot and cold;

I loathed ityet I had to look:

It was a German book.

I smiled at firstfor she'd begun

With a back-garden broad and green

And rabbits nibbling there: page one

Turned; and the gardener fired his gun

From the low hedge: he lay unseen

Behind: ohit was mean!

They're hurtthey can't escapeand so

He stuffs them head-down in a sack

Not quite deadwriggling in a row

And Fraulein laughed"Hoho! Hoho!"

And gave my middle a hard smack

I wish that I'd hit back.

Then when I cried she laughed again;

On the next page was a dead boy

Murdered by robbers in a lane;

His clothes were red with a big stain

Of bloodhe held a broken toy

The poorpoor little boy!

I had to look: there was a town

Burning where every one got caught

Then a fish pulled a nigger down

Into the lake and made him drown

And a man killed his friend; they fought

For moneyFraulein thought.

Old Fraulein laugheda horrid noise.

"Hoho!" Then she explained it all

How robbers kill the little boys

And torture them and break their toys.

Robbers are always big and tall:

I cried: I was so small.

How a man often kills his wife

How every one dies in the end

By fireor water or a knife.

If you're not careful in this life

Even if you can trust your friend

You won't have long to spend.

I hated it--old Fraulein picked

Her teethslowly explaining it.

I had to listenFraulein licked

Her fingers several times and flicked

The pages over; in a fit

Of rage I spat at it...

And lying in my bed that night

Hungrytired out with sobsI found

A stretch of barren years in sight

Where right is wrongbut strength is right

Where weak things must creep underground

And I could not sleep sound.

 

 

THE PROMISED LULLABY.

Can I find True-Love a gift

In this dark hour to restore her

When body's vessel breaks adrift

When hope and beauty fade before her?

But in this plight I cannot think

Of song or musicthat would grieve her

Or toys or meat or snow-cooled drink;

Not this way can her sadness leave her.

She lies and frets in childish fever

All I can do is but to cry

"SleepsleepTrue-Love and lullaby!"

Lullabyand sleep again.

Two bright eyes through the window stare

A nose is flattened on the pane

And infant fingers fumble there.

"Not yetnot yetyou lovely thing

But count and come nine weeks from now

When winter's tail has lost the sting

When buds come striking through the bough

Then here's True-Love will show you how

Her name she wonwill hush your cry

With "Sleepmy baby! Lullaby!"

 

 

RETROSPECT

 

HAUNTED.

Gulp down your wineold friends of mine

Roar through the darknessstamp and sing

And lay ghost hands on everything

But leave the noonday's warm sunshine

To living lads for mirth and wine.

I met you suddenly down the street

Strangers assume your phantom faces

You grin at me from daylight places

Deadlong deadI'm ashamed to greet

Dead men down the morning street.

 

 

RETROSPECT: THE JESTS OF THE CLOCK.

He had met hours of the clock he never guessed before--

Dumbdraggingmirthless hours confused with dreams and fear

Bone-chillinghungry hours when the gods sleep and snore

Bequeathing earth and heaven to ghostsand will not hear

And will not hear man groan chained to the sodden ground

Rotting alive; in feather beds they slumbered sound.

When noisome smells of day were sicklied by cold night

When sentries froze and muttered; when beyond the wire

Blank shadows crawled and tumbledshakingtricking the sight

When impotent hatred of Life stifled desire

Then soared the sudden rocketbroke in blanching showers.

O lagging watch! O dawn! O hope-forsaken hours!

How often with numbed heartstale lipsventing his rage

He swore he'd be a dolta traitora damned fool

Ifwhen the guns stoppedever again from youth to age

He broke the early-risingearly-sleeping rule.

Nothough more bestial enemies roused a fouler war

Never again would he bear thisno never more!

"Rise with the cheerful sungo to bed with the same

Work in your field or kailyard all the shining day

But" he said"never more in quest of wealthhonourfame

Search the small hours of night before the East goes grey.

A healthy minda honest hearta wise man leaves

Those ugly impious times to ghostsdevilssoldiersthieves."

Poor foolknowing too well deep in his heart

That he'll be ready again if urgent orders come

To quit his rye and cabbageskiss his wife and part

At the first sullen rapping of the awakened drum

Ready once more to sweat with fear and brace for the shock

To greet beneath a falling flare the jests of the clock.

 

 

HERE THEY LIE.

Here they lie who once learned here

All that is taught of hurt or fear;

Deadbut by free will they died:

They were true menthey had pride.

 

 

TOM TAYLOR.

On pay-day nightsneck-full with beer

Old soldiers stumbling homeward here

Homeward (still dazzled by the spark

Love kindled in some alley dark)

Young soldiers mooning in slow thought

Start suddenlyturn aboutare caught

By a dancing soundmerry as a grig

Tom Taylor's piccolo playing jig.

Never was blown from human cheeks

Music like thisthat calls and speaks

Till sots and lovers from one string

Dangle and dance in the same ring.

Tomof your piping I've heard said

And seen--that you can rouse the dead

Dead-drunken men awash who lie

In stinking gutters hear your cry

I've seen them twitchdraw breathgropesigh

Heave upswaystand; grotesquely then

You set them dancingthese dead men.

They stamp and prance with sobbing breath

Victims of wine or love or death

In ragged time they jumpthey shake

Their headssweating to overtake

The impetuous tune flying ahead.

They flounder afterwith legs of lead.

Nowsuddenly as it startedplay

Stopsthe short echo dies away

The corpses dropa senseless heap

The drunk men gaze about like sheep.

Grinningthe lovers sigh and stare

Up at the broad moon hanging there

While Tomfive fingers to his nose

Skips off...And the last bugle blows.

 

 

COUNTRY AT WAR.

And what of home--how goes itboys

While we die here in stench and noise?

"The hill stands up and hedges wind

Over the crest and drop behind;

Here swallows dip and wild things go

On peaceful errands to and fro

Across the sloping meadow floor

And make no guess at blasting war.

In woods that fledge the round hill-shoulder

Leaves shoot and openfall and moulder

And shoot again. Meadows yet show

Alternate white of drifted snow

And daisies. Children play at shop

Warm dayson the flat boulder-top

With wildflower coinageand the wares

Are bits of glass and unripe pears.

Crows perch upon the backs of sheep

The wheat goes yellow: women reap

Autumn winds ruffle brook and pond

Flutter the hedge and fly beyond.

So the first things of nature run

And stand not still for any one

Contemptuous of the distant cry

Wherewith you harrow earth and sky.

And high French cloudspraying to be

Backback in peace beyond the sea

Where nature with accustomed round

Sweeps and garnishes the ground

With kindly beautywarm or cold--

Alternate seasons never old:

Heathenhow furiously you rage

Cursing this blood and brimstone age

How furiously against your will

You kill and kill againand kill:

All thought of peace behind you cast

Till like small boys with fear aghast

Each cries for God to understand

'I could not help itit was my hand.'"

 

 

SOSPAN FACH.

(The Little Saucepan)

Four collier lads from Ebbw Vale

Took shelter from a shower of hail

And there beneath a spreading tree

Attuned their mouths to harmony.

With smiling joy on every face

Two warbled tenortwo sang bass

And while the leaves above them hissed with

Rough hailthey started "Aberystwyth."

Old Parry's hymntriumphantrich

They changed through with even pitch

Till at the end of their grand noise

I called: "Give us the 'Sospan' boys!"

Who knows a tune so softso strong

So pitiful as that "Saucepan" song

For exiled hopedespaired desire

Of lost souls for their cottage fire?

Then low at first with gathering sound

Rose their four voicessmooth and round

Till back went Time: once more I stood

With Fusiliers in Mametz Wood.

Fierce burned the sunyet cheeks were pale

For ice hail they had leaden hail;

In that fine forestgreen and big

There stayed unbroken not one twig.

They sangthey sworethey plunged in haste

Stumbling and shouting through the waste;

The little "Saucepan" flamed on high

Emblem of hope and ease gone by.

Rough pit-boys from the coaly South

They sangeven in the cannon's mouth;

Like Sunday's chapelMonday's inn

The death-trap sounded with their din.

***

The storm blows overSun comes out

The choir breaks up with jest and shout

With what relief I watch them part--

Another note would break my heart!

 

 

THE LEVELLER.

Near Martinpuisch that night of hell

Two men were struck by the same shell

Together tumbling in one heap

Senseless and limp like slaughtered sheep.

One was a pale eighteen-year-old

Girlish and thin and not too bold

Pressed for the war ten years too soon

The shame and pity of his platoon.

The other came from far-off lands

With bristling chin and whiskered hands

He had known death and hell before

In Mexico and Ecuador.

Yet in his death this cut-throat wild

Groaned "Mother! Mother!" like a child

While that poor innocent in man's clothes

Died cursing God with brutal oaths.

Old Sergeant Smithkindest of men

Wrote out two copies there and then

Of his accustomed funeral speech

To cheer the womenfolk of each.

 

 

HATE NOTFEAR NOT.

Kill if you mustbut never hate:

Man is but grass and hate is blight

The sun will scorch you soon or late

Die wholesome thensince you must fight.

Hate is a fearand fear is rot

That cankers root and fruit alike

Fight cleanly thenhate notfear not

Strike with no madness when you strike.

Fever and fear distract the world

But calm be you though madmen shout

Through blazing fires of battle hurled

Hate notstrikefear notstare Death out!

 

 

A RHYME OF FRIENDS.

(In a Style Skeltonical)

Listen now this time

Shortly to my rhyme

That herewith starts

About certain kind hearts

In those stricken parts

That lie behind Calais

Old crones and aged men

And young children.

About the Picardais

Who earned my thousand thanks

Dwellers by the banks

Of mournful Somme

(God keep me therefrom

Until War ends)--

Thesethenare my friends:

Madame Averlant Lune

From the town of Bethune;

Good Professeur la Brune

From that town also.

He played the piccolo

And left his locks to grow.

Dear Madame Hojdes

Sempstress of Saint Fe.

With Jules and Susette

And Antoinette.

Her childrenmy sweethearts

For whom I made darts

Of paper to throw

In their mimic show

"La guerre aux tranchees."

That was a pretty play.

There was old Jacques Caron

Of the hamlet Mailleton.

He let me look

At his household book

"Comment vivre cent ans."

What cares I took

To obey this wise book

Iwho feared each hour

Lest Death's cruel power

On the poppied plain

Might make cares vain!

By Noeus-les-mines

Lived old Adelphine

Withered and clean

She nodded and smiled

And used me like a child.

How that old trot beguiled

My leisure with her chatter

Gave me a china platter

Painted with Cherubim

And mottoes on the rim.

But when instead of thanks

I gave her francs

How her pride was hurt!

She counted francs as dirt

(God knowsshe was not rich)

She called the Kaiser bitch

She spat on the floor

Cursing this Prussian war

That she had known before

Forty years past and more.

There was also "Tomi"

With looks sweet and free

Who called me cher ami.

This orphan's age was nine

His folk were in their graves

Else they were slaves

Behind the German line

To terror and rapine--

Olittle friends of mine

How kind and brave you were

You smoothed away care

When life was hard to bear.

And youold women and men

Who gave me billets then

How patient and great-hearted!

Strangers though we started

Yet friends we ever parted.

God bless you all: now ends

This homage to my friends.

 

 

A FIRST REVIEW.

LoveFear and Hate and Childish Toys

Are here discreetly blent;

Admireyou ladiesreadyou boys

My Country Sentiment.

But Kate says"Cut that anger and fear

True love's the stuff we need!

With laughing children and the running deer

That makes a book indeed."

Then Toma hard and bloody chap

Though much beloved by me

"Roberthave done with nursery pap

Write like a man" says he.

Hate and Fear are not wanted here

Nor Toys nor Country Lovers

Everything they took from my new poem book

But the flyleaf and the covers.