The Hidden Wealth

Adam and Eve together stood
Amid the crop they both were tending,
While far away the feathery wood
Of Eden in the wind was bending.

And Adam, feeling in his veins
The better for his splendid tussle,
Laughed at his body for its pains,
And showed to Eve his hardening muscle.

Fine was the bread his sweat had earned,
Despite the fields of rock and thistle,
While daily wounds and baulkings turned
His olden softness into gristle.

So, thinking deeply of the life
Of chartered idleness and blisses,
Suddenly he seized his comely wife
And took her mouth by storm with kisses.

"Dear heart!" he cried, "we fare the best
When earth and labour roughly grapple.
Who could have thought the only rest
Worth having, centred in an apple!"

An Orchard Dance

All work is over at the farm
And men and maids are ripe for glee;
Love slips among them sly and warm
Or calls them to the chestnut-tree.
As Colin looks askance at Jane
He draws his hand across his mouth;
She understands the rustic pain,
And something of the tender south
About her milkmaid beauty flits.
Her dress of lilac print for guide
Draws shepherd Colin where she sits,
Who, faring to her lovely side
To snatch his evening pension tries,
But skimming like a bird from clutch
The maid escapes his Cupid touch,
And speeding down a passage flies
Not fast enough to cheat his eyes.
Ah, sweet-lip ways and sweet-lip days,
And sweetheart captures of the waist,
How swiftly still the virgin runs
She's sure at last to be embraced!
Now Colin fires at kiss delayed,
And faster flits the red stone floor
Till Fortune yields the tricky maid
A captive at the pantry door!

The farmer with his fifty years
Is not too old to join the fun;
He pulls the milkmaids' pinky ears
And bids a likely stripling run
To find the fiddlers for a dance:
And in the cherry orchard there
A tune shall mingle with romance,
And love be brave in open air.

The village wakens to the bliss,
The crones and gaffers crawl to see
The country game of step and kiss
Beneath the laden cherry-tree.
The chairs and benches now are set,
Old John is wheedled from his pet,
The cider cup with beady eyes
Responds to winkings of the skies.
The farmer, burly in his chair,
Now claps for ev'ry fond and fair
To foot it on the grassy patch
While rustic violinists snatch
From out those varnished birds of wood
A tune to jink it in the blood.
Now Jane and Colin in a trice
Float sweetly round not less than thrice
Before their motion draws a pair
To revel with the dancing air.
The thrush, that on his velvet wipes
His juicy bill, protesting pipes,
And, somewhat as a piccolo,
Doth race the concord of the bow.
A virgin yonder by the tree
Rejects a mate who saucily
Would press, if she might only start,
Her modest homespun to his heart.
Ah, sweet-lip ways and sweet-lip days,
And sweetheart captures of the waist,
Though like a finch the maiden flies
She's sure at last to be embraced.

The orchard now is in full bloom
With rosy cheek and snowdrop throat;
The stars invade the growing gloom,
And rarelier sounds the blackbird's note.
But in this dewy little park
Love burns the brighter for the dark,
And till he use a stricter rule
Dear Cicely's cheek shall never cool!
The fiddlers storm a tomboy tune,
The shepherds closer clasp the girls
While skirts the more desert the shoon,
And rebel leap the loely curls.
The farmer glows within his chair
And muses on the dancing time
When he and she--a matchless pair--
Were warm and nimble in their prime.
God bless the man who, duller grown,
Can feel the younger heaven anew
By granting to his maids and men
A romp by starlight in the dew!
Ah, greenwood ways and greenwood days,
And soft pursuings of the waist,
The cheek must yellow out of praise,
And bent be those who once embraced!

And now they pant against the trees,
And, using darkness for their plan,
Girls loose the garters at their knees
And mend the clumsiness of man.
One virgin, thankful for the dance,
About the music shyly trips--
Her Love's a fiddler, and her love
Pops fruit in Paganini's lips;
Or finding on the starlit tree
The wife and husband cherry there,
She hangs the couple at his cheek
And hides the stalk with tufts of hair.
The girls are at the cider-cup,
And shepherds tilt the yellow base
Until a giddy amber flood
Runs, kissing, over Cicely's face,
And Dora's upper lip doth shine
With winking beads of apple-wine.
The fiddlers scrape a farewell tune,
The dancers dwindle in the dusk
While summer puffs of easy wind
Bring hints of cottage garden musk.

And thus the revel dearly ends
With milkmaid's palm in shepherd's hand,
And lovers grow from only friends
Where plum and pear and apple stand.
Ah, sweet-lip ways and sweet-lip days,
And sweetheart captures of the waist,
How fast so-e'er the virgin flies
She's sure at last to be embraced!

The Great Beech

With heart disposed to memory, let me stand
Near this monarch and this minstrel of the land,
Now that Dian leans so lovely from her car.
Illusively brought near by seeming falsely far,
In yon illustrious summit sways the tangled evening star.

From trembling towers of greenery there heaves
In glorious curves a precipice of leaves.
Superbly rolls thy passionate voice along,
Withstander of the tempest, grim and strong,
When at the wind's imperative thou burstest into song.

Still must I love thy gentle music most,
Utterly innocent of challenge or of boast,
And playmate of the sun's adoring beam.
Close kindred to thy softer tremblings seem
The sighs of her I covet, when she kindles in a dream.

Oft at thy branching altar have I knelt,
Searched for the secret, and thy lesson spelt
Before the athletes of the night had done
Their starry toil and joyous beams had run
To melt the ancient silversmith who loves the set of sun.

When Spring was budding in my heart anew,
Thy prayer for foliage soared into the blue.
Within thy branches myriad children heard:
Pale were their lips and fingers as they stirred
And promised leafiness enough to tempt thy favourite bird.

Quick was the wonder to amaze my sight:
Where stood the leafless suppliant towered a knight
Green to the helm and touching lips with May!
Far on the hill the wheatstalks stopped from play
To call across the valley love to leaves more fine than they.

Then wert thou vocal, hospitable king!
Safe in thy heart the birds were glad to sing,
For dove and stormcock to thy breast had come;
And at the perfect hour a moony foam
And starlight fell upon the thrush that made thy bosom home.

As gentle gatherer of the weary wing,
Happy to quaff from the eternal spring
That damps the woodwren's feather-swollen breast,
Thou lendest to my heart a deeper rest,
Working with priceless balm a miracle for thy guest.

On thee, in green and sunshine greatly stoled,
Thy kindred of the undulating wold
Obeisance, as befits their stature, spend:
Sweet is the embassy, with wind for friend,
When lofty limes of Todenham Church their fragrant homage send.

Rightly they worship. Rightly comes the maid
To look for love beneath thy bounteous shade;
Rightly as these the village children haste,
And with their sunburned fingers interlaced
Fasten a living girdle round thy cool and stalwart waist.

For games and grief thou hast an equal heart,
Giving to all petitioners the needed part.
Often I ask the shape of him who fled
To drink of knowledge at the fountain-head:
He pulses in the shadow as a fugitive from the dead.

Old noble of the county, once we twain
Beneath thy roof discoursed of bliss and pain;
And, looking upward for the star Content,
Laughed deep at soul to watch the sunbeams sent
In coveys glittering all along the field of firmament.

If ever the travelled spirit can return
Where once in earthly bliss 'twas proud to burn
In hard-won triumph over resolute clay,
'Tis here my friend shall fold his wings and stay
To fill my unforgetting heart with tremulous holiday.

The tryst is here. Brother, I shall not fail
Whether in Summer's ripeness, Winter's hail.
Come most in Autumn's sympathetic charms,
When opal hazes touch the red-roofed farms,
And in the night the beech-tree holds the red moon in his arms.

And tell me, Brother, if the shining plan
Of resurrection chooses only man;
If every friend of plain and upland dies.
For I would have this turreted tree arise
To lord it over beeches in the forest of Paradise.

Fast in the ample chamber of his bole
There dwells, perchance, an unintelligible soul
Destined to tower in some celestial wold,
Where you and I, conversing as of old,
May watch the Alps of Heaven become as mountains made of gold.

Or bend to watch how cunningly the earth
Tangles our kin in webs of tears and mirth,
And soils them even as they fly the stain;
And, seeing this, may find that Heaven is vain
To keep earth-broken hearts from breaking in Heaven again

Till shines the hour when Home is truly Home,
With all the brave and dear familiars come:
Assembled ripely in the lustrous sheaf
Of Love, and radiant in divine relief
From Joy that used to spoil the earth by whispering to Grief.