Two Poems: (Numbers I And X In 'strange Meetings.')
If suddenly a clod of earth should rise,
And walk about, and breathe, and speak, and love,
How one would tremble, and in what surprise
Gasp: 'Can you move?'
I see men walking, and I always feel:
'Earth! How have you done this? What can you be?'
I can't learn how to know men, or conceal
How strange they are to me.
A flower is looking through the ground,
Blinking at the April weather;
Now a child has seen the flower:
Now they go and play together.
Now is seems the flower will speak,
And will call the child its brother --
But, oh strange forgetfulness! --
They don't recognize each other.
The Bird At Dawn
What I saw was just one eye
In the dawn as I was going :
A bird can carry all the sky
In that little button glowing.
Never in my life I went
So deep into the firmament.
He was standing on a tree,
All in blossom overflowing;
And he purposely looked hard at me,
At first, as if to question merrily :
' Where are you going ? '
But next some far more serious thing to say :
I could not answer, could not look away.
Oh, that hard, round, and so distracting eye :
Little mirror of all the sky ! --
And then the after-song another tree
Held, and sent radiating back on me.
If no man had invented human word,
And a bird-song had been
The only way to utter what we mean,
What would we men have heard,
What understood, what seen,
Between the trills and pauses, in between
The singing and the silence of a bird?
Autumn is in the air,
The children are playing everywhere.
One dare not open this old door too wide;
It is so dark inside.
The hall smells of dust;
A narrow squirt of sunlight enters high,
The floor creaks, and I hear a sigh,
Rise in the gloom and die.
Through the hall, far away,
I just can see
The dingy garden with its wall and tree.
A yellow cat is sitting on the wall
Blinking toward the leaves that fall.
And now I hear a woman call
Some child from play.
Then all is still. Time must go
Ticking slow, glooming slow.
The evening will turn grey.
It is sad in London after two.
All, all the afternoon
What can old men, old women do?
It is sad in London when the gloom
Thickens, like wool,
In the corners of the room;
The sky is shot with steel,
Shot with blue.
The bells ring the slow time;
The chairs creak, the hours climb;
The sunlight lays a streak upon the floor.
Dull and hard the low wind creaks
Among the rustling pampas plumes.
Drearily the year consumes
Its fifty-two insipid weeks.
Most of the grey-green meadowland
Was sold in parsimonious lots;
The dingy houses stand
Pressed by some stout contractor's hand
Tightly together in their plots.
Through builded banks the sullen river
Gropes, where its houses crouch and shiver.
Over the bridge the tyrant train
Shrieks, and emerges on the plain.
In all the better gardens you may pass,
(Product of many careful Saturdays),
Large red geraniums and tall pampas grass
Adorn the plots and mark the gravelled ways.
Sometimes in the background may be seen
A private summer-house in white or green.
Here on warm nights the daughter brings
Her vacillating clerk,
To talk of small exciting things
And touch his fingers through the dark.
He, in the uncomfortable breach
Between her trilling laughters,
Promises, in halting speech,
Hopeless immense Hereafters.
She trembles like the pampas plumes.
Her strained lips haggle. He assumes
The serious quest. . .
Now as the train is whistling past
He takes her in his arms at last.
It's done. She blushes at his side
Across the lawn-a bride, a bride.
The stout contractor will design,
The lazy laborers will prepare,
Another villa on the line;
In the little garden-square
Pampas grass will rustle there.
Slow bleak awakening from the morning dream
Brings me in contact with the sudden day.
I am alive – this I.
I let my fingers move along my body.
Realization warns them, and my nerves
Prepare their rapid messages and signals.
While Memory begins recording, coding,
Repeating; all the time Imagination
Mutters: You'll only die.
Here's a new day. O Pendulum move slowly!
My usual clothes are waiting on their peg.
I am alive – this I.
And in a moment Habit, like a crane,
Will bow its neck and dip its pulleyed cable,
Gathering me, my body, and our garment,
And swing me forth, oblivious of my question,
Into the daylight – why?
I think of all the others who awaken,
And wonder if they go to meet the morning
More valiantly than I;
Nor asking of this Day they will be living:
What have I done that I should be alive?
O, can I not forget that I am living?
How shall I reconcile the two conditions:
Living, and yet – to die?
Between the curtains the autumnal sunlight
With lean and yellow finger points me out;
The clock moans: Why? Why? Why?
But suddenly, as if without a reason,
Heart, Brain, and Body, and Imagination
All gather in tumultuous joy together,
Running like children down the path of morning
To fields where they can play without a quarrel:
A country I'd forgotten, but remember,
And welcome with a cry.
O cool glad pasture; living tree, tall corn,
Great cliff, or languid sloping sand, cold sea,
Waves; rivers curving; you, eternal flowers,
Give me content, while I can think of you:
Give me your living breath!
Back to your rampart, Death.
It is the sacred hour: above the far
Low emerald hills that northward fold,
Calmly, upon the blue the evening star
Floats, wreathed in dusky gold.
The winds have sung all day; but now they lie
Faint, sleeping; and the evening sounds awake.
The slow bell tolls across the water: I
Am haunted by the spirit of the lake.
It seems as though the sounding of the bell
Intoned the low song of the water-soul,
And at some moments I can hardly tell
The long-resounding echo from the toll.
O thou mysterious lake, thy spell
Holds all who round thy fruitful margin dwell.
Oft have I seen home-going peasants' eyes
Lit with the peace that emanates from thee.
Those who among thy waters plunge, arise
Filled with new wisdom and serenity.
Thy veins are in the mountains. I have heard,
Down-stretched beside thee at the silent noon,
With leaning head attentive to thy word,
A secret and delicious mountain-tune,
Proceeding as from many shadowed hours
In ancient forests carpeted with flowers,
Or far, where hidden waters, wandering
Through banks of snow, trickle, and meet, and sing.
Ah, what repose at noon to go,
Lean on thy bosom, hold thee with wide hands,
And listen for the music of the snow!
But most, as now,
When harvest covers thy surrounding lands,
I love thee, with a coronal of sheaves
Crowned regent of the day;
And on the air thy placid breathing leaves
A scent of corn and hay.
For thou hast gathered (as a mother will
The sayings of her children in her heart)
The harvest-thoughts of reapers on the hill,
When the cool rose and honeysuckle fill
The air, and fruit is laden on the cart.
Thou breathest the delight
Of summer evening at the deep-roofed farm
And meditation of the summer night,
When the enravished earth is lying warm
From the recent kisses of the conquering sun.
Dwell as a spirit in me, O thou one
Sweet natural presence. In the years to be
When all the mortal loves perchance are done,
Them I will bid farewell, but, oh, not thee.
I love thee. When the youthful visions fade,
Fade thou not also in the hopeless past.
Be constant and delightful, as a maid
Sought over all the world, and found at last.
The train! The twleve o'clock for paradise.
Hurry, or it will try to creep away.
Out in the country every one is wise:
We can be only wise on Saturday.
There you are waiting, little friendly house:
Those are your chimney-stacks with you between
Surrounded by old trees and strolling cows,
Staring through all your windows at the green.
Your homely floor is creaking for our tread;
The smiling tea-pot with contented spout
Thinks of the boiling water, and the bread
Longs for the butter. All their hands are out
To greet us, and the gentle blankets seem
Purring and crooning: 'Lie in us, and dream.'
The key will stammer, and the door reply,
The hall wake, yawn, and smile; the torpid stair
Will grumble at our feet, the table cry:
'Fetch my bolongings for me; I am bare.'
A clatter! something in the attic falls,
A ghost has lifted up his robes and fled.
Then silence very slowly lifts his head.
The starling with impatient screech has flown
The chimney, and is watching from the tree.
They thought us gone for ever: mouse alone
Stops in the middle of the floor to see.
Now all you idle things, resume your toil.
Hearth, put your flames on. Sulky kettle, boil.
Contented evening; comfortable joys;
The snoozing fire, and all the fields are still:
Tranquil delight, no purpose, and no noise --
Unless the slow wind flowing round the hill.
'Murry' (the kettle) dozes; little mouse
Is rambling prudently about the floor.
There's lovely conversation in this house:
Words become princes that were slaves before.
What a sweet atmosphere for you and me
The people that have been here left behind. . . .
Oh, but I fear it may turn out to be
Built of a dream, erected in the mind:
So if we speak too loud, we may awaken
To find it vanished, and ourselves mistaken.
Lift up the curtain carefully. All the trees
Stand in the dark like drowsy sentinels.
The oak is talkative to-night; he tells
The little bushes crowding at his knees
That formidable, hard, voluminous
History of growth from acord into age.
They titter like school-children; they arouse
Their comrades, who exclaim: ' He is very sage. '
Look how the moon is staring through that cloud,
Laying and lifting idle streaks of light.
O hark! was that the monstrous wind, so loud
And sudden, prowling always through the night?
Let down the shaking curtain. They are queer,
Those foreigners. They and we live so near.
Come, come to bed. The shadows move about,
And some one seems to overhear our talk.
The fire is low; the candles flicker out;
The ghosts of former tenants want to walk.
Already they are shuffling through the gloom.
I felt on old man touch my shoulder-blade;
Once he was married here; they love this room,
He and his woman and the child they made.
Dead, dead, they are, yet some familiar sound,
Creeping along the brink of happy life,
Revives their memory from under ground --
The farmer and his troublesome old wife.
Let us be going: as we climb the stairs,
They'll sit down in our warm half-empty chairs.
Morning! Wake up! Awaken! All the boughs
Are rippling on the air across the green.
The youngest birds are singing to the house.
Blood of the world! -- and is the country clean?
Disturb the precinct. Cool it with a shout.
Sing as you trundle down to light the fire.
Turn the encumbering shadows tumbling out,
And fill the chambers with a new desire.
Life is no good, unless the morning brings
White happiness and quick delight of day.
These half-inanamate domestic things
Must all be useful, or must go away.
Coffee, be fragrant. Porridge in my plate,
Increase the vigour to fulfil my fate.
The fresh air moves like water round a boat.
The white clouds wander. Let us wander too.
The whining, wavering plover flap and float.
That crow is flying after that cuckoo.
Look! Look! . . . They're gone. What are the great trees calling?
Just come a little farther, by that edge
Of green, to where the stormy ploughland, falling
Wave upon wave, is lapping to the hedge.
Oh, what a lovely bank! Give me your hand.
Lie down and press your heart against the ground.
Let us both listen till we understand,
Each through the other, every natural sound. . . .
I can't hear anything to-day, can you,
But, far and near: ' Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo! ' ?
The everlasting grass -- how bright, how cool!
The day has gone too suddenly, too soon.
There's something white and shiny in that pool --
Throw in a stone, and you will hit the moon.
Listen, the church-bell ringing! Do not say
We must go back to-morrow to our work.
We'll tell them we are dead: we died to-day.
We're lazy. We're too happy, We will shirk,
We're cows. We're kettles. We'll be anything
Except the manikins of time and fear.
We'll start away to-morrow wandering,
And nobody will notice in a year. . . .
Now the great sun is slipping under ground.
Grip firmly! -- How the earth is whirling round!
Be staid; be careful; and be not too free.
Temptation to enjoy your liberty
May rise against you, break into a crime,
And smash the habit of employing Time.
It serves no purpose that the careful clock
Mark the appointment, the officious train
Hurry to keep it, if the minutes mock
Loud in you ear: 'Late. Late. Late. Late again.'
Week-end is very well on Saturday:
On Monday it's a different affair --
A little episode, a trivial stay
In some oblivious spot somehow, somewhere.
On Sunday night we hardly laugh or speak:
Week-end begins to merges itself in Week.
Pack up the house, and close the creaking door.
The fields are dull this morning in the rain.
It's difficult to leave that homely floor.
Wave a light hand; we will return again.
(What was that bird?) Good-bye, ecstatic tree,
Floating, bursting, and breathing on the air.
The lonely farm is wondering that we
Can leave. How every window seems to stare!
That bag is heavy. Share it for a bit.
You like that gentle swashing of the ground
As we tread ? . . .
It is over. Now we sit
Reading the morning paper in the sound
Of the debilitating heavy train.
London again, again. London again.