Mat. Prior


Petrolio, vaunting his Mercedes' power,
Vows she can cover eighty miles an hour.
I tried the car of old and know she can.
But dare he ever make her? Ask his man!

Untitled [you Mustn'T Swim Till You'Re Six Weeks Old]

You mustn't swim till you're six weeks old,
Or your head will be sunk by your heels;
And summer gales and Killer Whales
Are bad for baby seals.
Are bad for baby seals, dear rat,
As bad as bad can be.
But splash and grow strong,
And you can't be wrong,
Child of the Open Sea!

I

Frost upon small rain--the ebony-lacquered avenue
Reflecting lamps as a pool shows goldfish.
The sight suddenly emptied out of the young man's eyes
Entering upon it sideways.


II

In youth, by hazard, I killed an old man.
In age I maimed a little child.
Dead leaves under Foot reproach not:
But the lop-sided cherry-branch--whenever the sun rises,
How black a shadow!

Old Fighting-Men

All the world over, nursing their scars,
Sit the old fighting-men broke in the wars--
Sit the old fighting-men, surly and grim
Mocking the lilt of the conquerors' hymn.

Dust of the battle o'erwhelmed them and hid.
Fame never found them for aught that they did.
Wounded and spent to the lazar they drew,
Lining the road where the Legions roll through.

Sons of the Laurel who press to your meed,
(Worthy God's pity most--you who succeed!)
Ere you go triumphing, crowned, to the stars,
Pity poor fighting-men, broke in the wars!

1918


Seven Watchmen sitting in a tower,
Watching what had come upon mankind,
Showed the Man the Glory and the Power,
And bade him shape the Kingdom to his mind.
"All things on Earth your will shall win you."
('Twas so their council ran)
" But the Kingdom--the Kingdom is within you,"
Said the Man's own mind to the Man.
For time--and some time--
As it was in the bitter years before
So it shall be in the over-sweetened hour--
That a man's mind is wont to tell him more
Than Seven Watchmen sitting in a tower.

The Hour Of The Angel

Sooner or late--in earnest or in jest--
(But the stakes are no jest) Ithuriel's Hour
Will spring on us, for the first time, the test
Of our sole unbacked competence and power
Up to the limit of our years and dower
Of judgment--or beyond. But here we have
Prepared long since our garland or our grave.

For, at that hour, the sum of all our past,
Act, habit, thought, and passion, shall be cast
In one addition, be it more or less,
And as that reading runs so shall we do;
Meeting, astounded, victory at the last,
Or, first and last, our own unworthiness.
And none can change us though they die to save!

The Run Of The Downs

The Weald is good, the Downs are best---
I'll give you the run of 'em, East to West.
Beachy Head and Winddoor Hill,
They were once and they are still.
Firle Mount Caburn and Mount Harry
Go back as far as sums '1l carry.
Ditchling Beacon and Chanctonbury Ring
They have looked on many a thing,
And what those two have missed between 'em
I reckon Truleigh Hill has seen 'em.
Highden, Bignor and Duncton Down
Knew Old England before the Crown.
Linch Down, Treyford and Sunwood
Knew Old England before the Flood;
And when you end on the Hampshire side--
Butser's old as Time and Tide.
The Downs are sheep, the Weald is corn,
You be glad you are Sussex born!

Nothing in life has been made by man for man's using
But it was shown long since to man in ages
Lost as the name of the maker of it,
Who received oppression and shame for his wages--
Hate, avoidance, and scorn in his daily dealings--
Until he perished, wholly confounded

More to be pitied than he are the wise
Souls which foresaw the evil of loosing
Knowledge or Art before time, and aborted
Noble devices and deep-wrought healings,
Lest offense should arise.

Heaven delivers on earth the Hour that cannot be
thwarted,
Neither advanced, at the price of a world nor a soul,
and its Prophet
Comes through the blood of the vanguards who
dreamed--too soon--it had sounded.

A Pageant Of Elizabeth

Written for "The Pageant of Parliament," 1934


Like Princes crowned they bore them--
Like Demi-Gods they wrought,
When the New World lay before them
In headlong fact and thought.
Fate and their foemen proved them
Above all meed of praise,
And Gloriana loved them,
And Shakespeare wrote them plays!
. . . . . . .
Now Valour, Youth, and Life's delight break forth
In flames of wondrous deed, and thought sublime---
Lightly to mould new worlds or lightly loose
Words that shall shake and shape all after-time!

Giants with giants, wits with wits engage,
And England-England-England takes the breath
Of morning, body and soul, till the great Age
Fulfills in one great chord:--Elizabeth!

She is not Folly -- that I know.
Her steadfast eyelids tell me so
When, at the hour the lights divide,
She steals as summonsed to my side.

When, finger on the pursed lip
In secret, mirthful fellowship,
She, heralding new -- framed delights,
Breathes, "This shall be a Night of Nights!"

Then, out of Time and out of Space,
Is built an Hour and a Place
Where all an earnest, baffled Earth
Blunders and trips to make us mirth;

Whence from the trivial flux of Things,
Rise inconceived miscarryings,
Outrageous but immortal, shown,
Of Her great love, to me alone...

She is not Wisdom, but, maybe,
Wiser than all the Norns is She:
And more than Wisdom I prefer
To wait on Her, -- to wait on Her!

Gertrude's Prayer

That which is marred at birth Time shall not mend,
Nor water out of bitter well make clean;
All evil thing returneth at the end,
Or elseway walketh in our blood unseen.
Whereby the more is sorrow in certaine--
Dayspring mishandled cometh not againe.

To-bruized be that slender, sterting spray
Out of the oake's rind that should betide
A branch of girt and goodliness, straightway
Her spring is turned on herself, and wried
And knotted like some gall or veiney wen.--
Dayspring mishandled cometh not againe.

Noontide repayeth never morning-bliss--
Sith noon to morn is incomparable;
And, so it be our dawning goth amiss,
None other after--hour serveth well.
Ah! Jesu-Moder, pitie my oe paine--
Dayspring mishandled cometh not againe!

A British-Roman Song

(A. D. 406)
"A Centurion of the Thirtieth"


My father's father saw it not,
And I, belike, shall never come
To look on that so-holy spot --
That very Rome --

Crowned by all Time, all Art, all Might,
The equal work of Gods and Man,
City beneath whose oldest height --
The Race began!

Soon to send forth again a brood,
Unshakable, we pray, that clings
To Rome's thrice-hammered hardihood --
In arduous things.

Strong heart with triple armour bound,
Beat strongly, for thy life-blood runs,
Age after Age, the Empire round --
In us thy Sons

Who, distant from the Seven Hills,
Loving and serving much, require
Thee -- thee to guard 'gainst home-born ills
The Imperial Fire!

The Greek National Anthem

We knew thee of old,
Oh divinely restored,
By the light of thine eyes
And the light of thy Sword.

From the graves of our slain
Shall thy valour prevail
As we greet thee again --
Hail, Liberty! Hail!

Long time didst thou dwell
Mid the peoples that mourn,
Awaiting some voice
That should bid thee return.

Ah, slow broke that day
And no man dared call,
For the shadow of tyranny
Lay over all:

And we saw thee sad-eyed,
The tears on thy cheeks
While thy raiment was dyed
In the blood of the Greeks.

Yet, behold now thy sons
With impetuous breath
Go forth to the fight
Seeking Freedom or Death.

From the graves of our slain
Shall thy valour prevail
As we greet thee again
Hail, Liberty! Hail!

Youth that trafficked long with Death,
And to second life returns,
Squanders little time or breath
On his fellow--man's concerns.
Earned peace is all he asks
To fulfill his broken tasks.

Yet, if he find war at home
(Waspish and importunate),
He hath means to overcome
Any warrior at his gate;
For the past he buried brings
Back unburiable things--

Nights that he lay out to spy,
Whence and when the raid might start;
Or prepared in secrecy
Sudden blows to break its heart--
All the lore of No-Man's Land
Steels his soul and arms his hand.

So, if conflict vex his life
Where he thought all conflict done,
He, resuming ancient strife,
Springs his mine or trains his gun;
And, in mirth more dread than wrath,
Wipes the nuisance from his path!

The Consolations Of Memory

Circa 1904 -- Done out of Boethius by Geoffrey Chaucer


Blessed was our first age and morning-time. Then were no
waies tarren, ne no cars numberen, but each followed his owne
playing-busyness to go about singly or by large interspaces,
for to leden his viage after his luste and layen under clene hedge.
Jungling there was not, nor the overtaking wheele, and all those
now cruel clarions were full-hushed and full-still. Then nobile
horses, lest they should make the chariots moveable to run by
cause of this new feare, we did not press, and were apayed by
sweete thankes of him that drave. There was not cursings ne
adventure of death blinded bankes betweene, but good-fellowship
of yoke-mates at ignorance equal, and a one pillar of dust cov-
ered all exodus.... But, see now how the blacke road hath
strippen herself of hearte and beauty where the dumbe lampe of
Tartarus winketh red, etc.

The Sing-Song Of Old Man Kangaroo

This is the mouth-filling song of the race that was run by a Boomer.
Run in a single burst--only event of its kind--
Started by Big God Nqong from Warrigaborrigarooma,
Old Man Kangaroo first, Yellow-Dog Dingo behind.

Kangaroo bounded away, his back-legs working like pistons--
Bounded from morning till dark, twenty-five feet at a bound.
Yellow-Dog Dingo lay like a yellow cloud in the distance--
Much too busy to bark. My! but they covered the ground!

Nobody knows where they went, or followed the track that they flew in,
For that Continent hadn't been given a name.
They ran thirty degrees from Torres Straits to Leeuwin
(Look at the Atlas, please then they ran back as they came.

S'posing you could trot from Adelaide to the Pacific
For an afternoon's run -- half what these gentlemen did--
You would feel rather hot, but your legs would develop terrific,
Yes, my importunate son, you'd be a Marvellous Kid!

To The Companions

How comes it that, at even-tide,
When level beams should show most truth,
Man, failing, takes unfailing pride
In memories of his frolic youth?

Venus and Liber fill their hour;
The games engage, the law-courts prove;
Till hardened life breeds love of power
Or Avarice, Age's final love.

Yet at the end, these comfort not--
Nor any triumph Fate decrees--
Compared with glorious, unforgot--
Ten innocent enormities

Of frontless days before the beard,
When, instant on the casual jest,
The God Himself of Mirth appeared
And snatched us to His heaving breast

And we--not caring who He was
But certain He would come again--
Accepted all He brought to pass
As Gods accept the lives of men...

Then He withdrew from sight and speech,
Nor left a shrine. How comes it now,
While Charon's keel grates on the beach,
He calls so clear: "Rememberest thou?"

One grief on me is laid
Each day of every year,
Wherein no soul can aid,
Whereof no soul can hear:
Whereto no end is seen
Except to grieve again--
Ah, Mary Magdalene,
Where is there greater pain?

To dream on dear disgrace
Each hour of every day--
To bring no honest face
To aught I do or say:
To lie from morn till e'en--
To know my lies are vain--
Ah, Mary Magdalene,
Where can be greater pain?

To watch my steadfast fear
Attend mine every way
Each day of every year--
Each hour of every day:
To burn, and chill between--
To quake and rage again--
Ah, Mary Magdalene,
Where shall be greater pain:

One grave to me was given--
To guard till Judgment Day--
But God looked down from Heaven
And rolled the Stone away!
One day of all my years--
One hour of that one day--
His Angel saw my tears
And rolled the Stone away!

(Non-commissioned Officers of the Line)


At times when under cover I 'ave said,
To keep my spirits up an' raise a laugh,
'Earin 'im pass so busy over-'ead--
Old Nickel-Neck, 'oo is n't on the Staff --
"There's one above is greater than us all"

Before 'im I 'ave seen my Colonel fall,
An 'watched 'im write my Captain's epitaph,
So that a long way off it could be read--
He 'as the knack o' makin' men feel small--
Old Whistle Tip, 'oo is n't on the Staff.

There is no sense in fleein'' (I 'ave fled),
Better go on an' do the belly-crawl,
An' 'ope' 'e '1l it some other man instead
Of you 'e seems to 'unt so speshual--
Fitzy van Spitz, 'oo is n't on the Staff.

An' thus in mem'ry's cinematograph,
Now that the show is over, I recall
The peevish voice an' 'oary mushroom 'ead
Of 'im we owned was greater than us all,
'Oo give instruction to the quick an' the dead--
The Shudderin'' Beggar--not upon the Staff!

1914

Through learned and laborious years
They set themselves to find
Fresh terrors and undreamed-of fears
To heap upon mankind.

ALl that they drew from Heaven above
Or digged from earth beneath,
They laid into their treasure-trove
And arsenals of death:

While, for well-weighed advantage sake,
Ruler and ruled alike
Built up the faith they meant to break
When the fit hour should strike.

They traded with the careless earth,
And good return it gave:
They plotted by their neighbour's hearth
The means to make him slave.

When all was ready to their hand
They loosed their hidden sword,
And utterly laid waste a land
Their oath was pledged to guard.

Coldly they went about to raise
To life and make more dread
Abominations of old days,
That men believed were dead.

They paid the price to reach their goal
Across a world in flame;
But their own hate slew their own soul
Before that victory came.

A Rose, in tatters on the garden path,
Cried out to God and murmured 'gainst His Wrath,
Because a sudden wind at twilight's hush
Had snapped her stem alone of all the bush.
And God, Who hears both sun-dried dust and sun,
Had pity, whispering to that luckless one,
"Sister, in that thou sayest We did not well --
What voices heardst thou when thy petals fell?"
And the Rose answered, "In that evil hour
A voice said, `Father, wherefore falls the flower?
For lo, the very gossamers are still.'
And a voice answered, `Son, by Allah's will!'"

Then softly as a rain-mist on the sward,
Came to the Rose the Answer of the Lord:
"Sister, before We smote the dark in twain,
Ere yet the stars saw one another plain,
Time, Tide, and Space, We bound unto the task
That thou shouldst fall, and such an one should ask."
Whereat the withered flower, all content,
Died as they die whose days are innocent;
While he who questioned why the flower fell
Caught hold of God and saved his soul from Hell.

Thorkild’s Song

There´s no wind along these seas,
Out oars for Stavanger!
Forward all for Stavanger!
So we must wake the white-ash breeze.
Let fall for Stavanger!
A long pull for Stavanger!

Oh, hear the benches creak and strain!
(A long pull for Stavanger!)
She thinks she smells the Northland rain!
(A long pull for Stavanger !)

She thinks she smells the Northland snow,
And she's as glad as we to go.

She thinks she smells the Northland rime,
And the dear dark nights of winter-time.

She wants to be at her own home pier,
To shift her sails and standing gear.

She wants to be in her winter-shed,
To strip herself and go to bed.

Her very bolts are sick for shore,
And we—we want it ten times more!

So all you Gods that love brave men,
Send us a three-reef gale again!

Send us a gale, and watch us come,
With closecropped canvas slashing home!

But—there’s no wind on all these seas,
A long pull for Stavanger!
So we must wake the white-ash breeze,
A long pull for Stavanger!

The Thorkild's Song

There's no wind along these seas,
Out oars for Stavenger!
Forward all for Stavenger!
So we must wake the white-ash breeze,
Let fall for Stavenger!
A long pull for Stavenger!

Oh, hear the benches creak and strain!
(A long pull for Stavenger!)
She thinks she smells the Northland rain!
(A long pull for Stavenger!)

She thinks she smells the Northland snow,
And she's as glad as we to go,

She thinks she smells the Northland rime,
And the dear dark nights of winter-time.

She wants to be at her own home pier,
To shift her sails and standing gear.

She wants to be in her winter-shed,
To strip herself and go to bed,

Her very bolts are sick for shore,
And we-we want it ten times more!

So all you Gods that love brave men,
Send us a three-reef gale again!

Send us a gale, and watch us come,
With close-cropped canvas slashing home!

But--there's no wind on all these seas,
A long pull for Stavenger!
So we must wake the white-ash breeze,
A long pull for Stavenger!

Harp Song Of The Dane Women

What is a woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre.
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

She has no house to lay a guest in
But one chill bed for all to rest in,
That the pale suns and the stray bergs nest in.

She has no strong white arms to fold you,
But the ten-times-fingering weed to hold you
Out on the rocks where the tide has rolled you.

Yet, when the signs of summer thicken,
And the ice breaks, and the birch-buds quicken,
Yearly you turn from our side, and sicken- -

Sicken again for the shouts and the slaughters.
You steal away to the lapping waters,
And look at your ship in her winter-quarters.

You forget our mirth, and talk at the tables,
The kine in the shed and the horse in the stables
To pitch her sides and go over her cables.

Then you drive out where the storm-clouds swallow,
And the sound of your oar-blades, falling hollow,
Is all we have left through the months to follow.

Ah, what is Woman that you forsake her,
And the hearth-fire and the home-acre,
To go with the old grey Widow-maker?

For a season there must be pain--
For a little, little space
I shall lose the sight of her face,
Take back the old life again
While She is at rest in her place.

For a season this pain must endure,
For a little, little while
I shall sigh more often than smile
Till time shall work me a cure,
And the pitiful days beguile.

For that season we must be apart,
For a little length of years,
Till my life's last hour nears,
And, above the beat of my heart,
I hear Her voice in my ears.

But I shall not understand--
Being set on some later love,
Shall not know her for whom I strove,
Till she reach me forth her hand,
Saying, "Who but I have the right?"
And out of a troubled night
Shall draw me safe to the land.

The Ballad Of Jakko Hill

One moment bid the horses wait,
Since tiffin is not laid till three,
Below the upward path and straight
You climbed a year ago with me.
Love came upon us suddenly
And loosed - an idle hour to kill -
A headless, armless armory
That smote us both on Jakko Hill.

Ah Heaven! we would wait and wait
Through Time and to Eternity!
Ah Heaven! we could conquer Fate
With more than Godlike constancy
I cut the date upon a tree -
Here stand the clumsy figures still:
'10-7-85, A.D.'
Damp with the mist of Jakko Hill.

What came of high resolve and great,
And until Death fidelity!
Whose horse is waiting at your gate?
Whose 'rickshaw-wheels ride over me?
No Saint's, I swear; and - let me see
To-night what names your programme fill -
We drift asunder merrily,
As drifts the mist on Jakko Hill.

L'ENVOI.
Princess, behold our ancient state
Has clean departed; and we see
'Twas Idleness we took for Fate
That bound light bonds on you and me.
Amen! Here ends the comedy
Where it began in all good will;
Since Love and Leave together flee
As driven mist on Jakko Hill!

R. W. Emerson


Time and Space decreed his lot,
But little Man was quick to note:
When Time and Space said Man might not,
Bravely he answered, "Nay! I mote."

I looked on old New England.
Time and Space stood fast.
Men built altars to Distance
At every mile they passed.

Yet sleek with oil, a Force was hid
Making mock of all they did,
Ready at the appointed hour
To yield up to Prometheus
The secular and well-drilled Power
The Gods secreted thus.

And over high Wantastiquer
Emulous my lightnings ran,
Unregarded but after,
To fall in with my plan.

I beheld two ministries,
One of air and one of earth--
At a thought I married these,
And my New Age came to birth!

For rarely my purpose errs
Though oft it seems to pause,
And rods and cylinders
Obey my planets' laws.

Oil I drew from the well,
And Franklin's spark from its blue;
Time and Distance fell,
And Man went forth anew.

On the prairie and in the street
So long as my chariots roll
I bind wings to Adam's feet,
And, presently, to his soul!

A Ballade Of Jakko Hill

One moment bid the horses wait,
Since tiffin is not laid till three,
Below the upward path and straight
You climbed a year ago with me.
Love came upon us suddenly
And loosed -- an idle hour to kill --
A headless, armless armory
That smote us both on Jakko Hill.

Ah Heaven! we would wait and wait
Through Time and to Eternity!
Ah Heaven! we could conquer Fate
With more than Godlike constancy
I cut the date upon a tree --
Here stand the clumsy figures still:
"10-7-85, A.D."
Damp with the mist of Jakko Hill.

What came of high resolve and great,
And until Death fidelity!
Whose horse is waiting at your gate?
Whose 'rickshaw-wheels ride over me?
No Saint's, I swear; and -- let me see
To-night what names your programme fill --
We drift asunder merrily,
As drifts the mist on Jakko Hill.

L'ENVOI.
Princess, behold our ancient state
Has clean departed; and we see
'Twas Idleness we took for Fate
That bound light bonds on you and me.
Amen! Here ends the comedy
Where it began in all good will;
Since Love and Leave together flee
As driven mist on Jakko Hill!

Until thy feet have trod the Road
Advise not wayside folk,
Nor till thy back has borne the Load
Break in upon the broke.

Chase not with undesired largesse
Of sympathy the heart
Which, knowing her own bitterness,
Presumes to dwell apart.

Employ not that glad hand to raise
The God-forgotten head
To Heaven and all the neighbours' gaze--
Cover thy mouth instead.

The quivering chin, the bitten lip,
The cold and sweating brow,
Later may yearn for fellowship--
Not now, you ass, not now!

Time, not thy ne'er so timely speech,
Life, not thy views thereon,
Shall furnish or deny to each
His consolation.

Or, if impelled to interfere
Exhort, uplift, advise,
Lend not a base, betraying ear
To all the victim's cries.

Only the Lord can understand
When those first pangs begin,
How much is reflex action and
How much is really sin.

E'en from good words thyself refrain,
And tremblingly admit
There is no anodyne for pain
Except the shock of it.

So, when thine own dark hour shall fall,
Unchallenged canst thou say:
"I never worried you at all,
For God's sake go away!"

The Children's Song

Land of our Birth, we pledge to thee
Our love and toil in the years to be;
When we are grown and take our place
As men and women with our race.

Father in Heaven who lovest all,
Oh, help Thy children when they call;
That they may build from age to age
An undefiled heritage.

Teach us to bear the yoke in youth,
With steadfastness and careful truth;
That, in our time, Thy Grace may give
The Truth whereby the Nations live.

Teach us to rule ourselves alway,
Controlled and cleanly night and day;
That we may bring, if need arise,
No maimed or worthless sacrifice.

Teach us to look in all our ends
On Thee for judge, and not our friends;
That we, with Thee, may walk uncowed
By fear or favour of the crowd.

Teach us the Strength that cannot seek,
By deed or thought, to hurt the weak;
That, under Thee, we may possess
Man's strength to comfort man's distress.

Teach us Delight in simple things,
And Mirth that has no bitter springs;
Forgiveness free of evil done,
And Love to all men 'neath the sun!

Land of our Birth, our faith, our pride,
For whose dear sake our fathers died;
Oh, Motherland, we pledge to thee
Head, heart and hand through the years to be!

1917


They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted whom we gave:
But the men who left them thriftily to die in their own dung,
Shall they come with years and honour to the grave?

They shall not return to us; the strong men coldly slain
In sight of help denied from day to day:
But the men who edged their agonies and chid them in their pain,
Are they too strong and wise to put away?

Our dead shall not return to us while Day and Night divide--
Never while the bars of sunset hold.
But the idle-minded overlings who quibbled while they died,
Shall they thrust for high employments as of old?

Shall we only threaten and be angry for an hour:
When the storm is ended shall we find
How softly but how swiftly they have sidled back to power
By the favour and contrivance of their kind?

Even while they soothe us, while they promise large amends,
Even while they make a show of fear,
Do they call upon their debtors, and take counsel with their
friends,
To conform and re-establish each career?

Their lives cannot repay us--their death could not undo--
The shame that they have laid upon our race.
But the slothfulness that wasted and the arrogance that slew,
Shell we leave it unabated in its place?

A Rector's Memory

St. Andrews, 1923


The, Gods that are wiser than Learning
But kinder than Life have made sure
No mortal may boast in the morning
That even will find him secure.
With naught for fresh faith or new trial,
With little unsoiled or unsold,
Can the shadow go back on the dial,
Or a new world be given for the old?
But he knows not that time shall awaken,
As he knows not what tide shall lay bare,
The heart of a man to be taken --
Taken and changed unaware.

He shall see as he tenders his vows
The far, guarded City arise --
The power of the North 'twixt Her brows --
The steel of the North in Her eyes;
The sheer hosts of Heaven above --
The grey warlock Ocean beside;
And shall feel the full centuries move
To Her purpose and pride.

Though a stranger shall he understand,
As though it were old in his blood,
The lives that caught fire 'neath Her hand --
The fires that were tamed to Her mood.
And the roar of the wind shall refashion,
And the wind-driven torches recall,
The passing of Time and the passion
Of Youth over all!
And, by virtue of magic unspoken
(What need She should utter Her power?)
The frost at his heart shall be broken
And his spirit be changed in that hour --
Changed and renewed in that hour!

June

No hope, no change! The clouds have shut us in,
And through the cloud the sullen Sun strikes down
Full on the bosom of the tortured Town,
Till Night falls heavy as remembered sin
That will not suffer sleep or thought of ease,
And, hour on hour, the dry-eyed Moon in spite
Glares through the haze and mocks with watery light
The torment of the uncomplaining trees.
Far off, the Thunder bellows her despair
To echoing Earth, thrice parched. The lightnings fly
In vain. No help the heaped-up clouds afford,
But wearier weight of burdened, burning air.
What truce with Dawn? Look, from the aching sky,
Day stalks, a tyrant with a flaming sword!


September

At dawn there was a murmur in the trees,
A ripple on the tank, and in the air
Presage of coming coolness -- everywhere
A voice of prophecy upon the breeze.
Up leapt the Sun and smote the dust to gold,
And strove to parch anew the heedless land,
All impotently, as a King grown old
Wars for the Empire crumbling 'neath his hand.
One after one the lotos-petals fell,
Beneath the onslaught of the rebel year,
In mutiny against a furious sky;
And far-off Winter whispered: -- "It is well!
"Hot Summer dies. Behold your help is near,
"For when men's need is sorest, then come I."

Men make them fires on the hearth
Each under his roof-tree,
And the Four Winds that rule the earth
They blow the smoke to me.

Across the high hills and the sea
And all the changeful skies,
The Four Winds blow the smoke to me
Till the tears are in my eyes.

Until the tears are in my eyes.
And my heart is wellnigh broke
For thinking on old memories
That gather in the smoke.

With every shift of every wind
The homesick memories come,
From every quarter of mankind
Where I have made me a home.

Four times a fire against the cold
And a roof against the rain --
Sorrow fourfold and joy fourfold
The Four Winds bring again!

How can I answer which is best
Of all the fires that burn?
I have been too often host or guest
At every fire in turn.

How can I turn from any fire,
On any man's hearthstone?
I know the wonder and desire
That went to build my own!

How can I doubt man's joy or woe
Where'er his house-fires shine.
Since all that man must undergo
Will visit me at mine?

Oh, you Four Winds that blow so strong
And know that his is true,
Stoop for a little and carry my song
To all the men I knew!

Where there are fires against the cold,
Or roofs against the rain --
With love fourfold and joy fourfold,
Take them my songs again!

I was very well pleased with what I knowed,
I reckoned myself no fool --
Till I met with a maid on the Brookland Road,
That turned me back to school.

Low down-low down!
Where the liddle green lanterns shine --
O maids, I've done with 'ee all but one,
And she can never be mine!

'Twas right in the middest of a hot June night,
With thunder duntin' round,
And I see her face by the fairy-light
That beats from off the ground.

She only smiled and she never spoke,
She smiled and went away;
But when she'd gone my heart was broke
And my wits was clean astray.

O, stop your ringing and let me be --
Let be, O Brookland bells!
You'll ring Old Goodman out of the sea,
Before I wed one else!

Old Goodman's Farm is rank sea-sand,
And was this thousand year;
But it shall turn to rich plough-land
Before I change my dear.

O, Fairfield Church is water-bound
From autumn to the spring;
But it shall turn to high hill-ground
Before my bells do ring.

O, leave me walk on Brookland Road,
In the thunder and warm rain --
O, leave me look where my love goed,
And p'raps I'll see her again!

Low down -- low down!
Where the liddle green lanterns shine --
O maids, I've done with 'ee all but one,
And she can never be mine!

Our Fathers in a wondrous age,
Ere yet the Earth was small,
Ensured to us a heritage,
And doubted not at all
That we the children of their heart,
Which then did beat so high,
In later rime should play like part
For our posterity.

A thousand years they steadfast built,
To 'vantage us and ours,
The Walls that were a world's despair,
The sea-constraining Towers:
Yet in their midmost pride they knew,
And unto Kings made known,
Not all from these their strength they drew,
Their faith from brass or stone.

Youth's passion, manhood's fierce intent,
With age's judgment wise,
They spent, and counted not they spent,
At daily sacrifice.
Not lambs alone nor purchased doves .
Or tithe of trader's gold--
Their lives most dear, their dearer loves,
They offered up of old.

Refraining e'en from lawful things,
They bowed the neck to bear
The unadorned yoke that brings
Stark toil and sternest care.
Wherefore through them is Freedom sure;
Wherefore through them we stand,
From all but sloth and pride secure,
In a delightsome land.

Then, fretful, murmur not they gave
So great a charge to keep,
Nor dream that awestruck Time shall save
Their labour while we sleep.
Dear-bought and clear, a thousand year,
Our fathers' title runs.
Make we likewise their sacrifice,
Defrauding not our sons.

1914-18


When all the world would keep a matter hid,
Since Truth is seldom Friend to any crowd,
Men write in Fable, as old AEsop did,
Jesting at that which none will name aloud.
And this they needs must do, or it will fall
Unless they please they are not heard at all.

When desperate Folly daily laboureth
To work confusion upon all we have,
When diligent Sloth demandeth Freedom's death,
And banded Fear commandeth Honour's grave--
Even in that certain hour before the fall,
Unless men please they are not heard at all.

Needs must all please, yet some not all for need,
Needs must all toil, yet some not all for gain,
But that men taking pleasure may take heed
Whom present toil shall snatch from later pain.
Thus some have toiled, but their reward was small
Since, though they pleased, they were not heard at all.

This was the lock that lay upon our lips,
This was the yoke that we have undergone,
Denying us all pleasant fellowships
As in our time and generation.
Our pleasures unpursued age past recall,
And for our pains--we are not heard at all.

What man hears aught except the groaning guns?
What man heeds aught save what each instant brings?
When each man's life all imaged life outruns,
What man shall pleasure in imaginings?
So it hath fallen, as it was bound to fall,
We are not, nor we were not, heard at all.

Sir Richard's Song

(A. D. 1066)


I followed my Duke ere I was a lover,
To take from England fief and fee;
But now this game is the other way over--
But now England hath taken me!

I had my horse, my shield and banner,
And a boy's heart, so whole and free;
But now I sing in another manner--
But now England hath taken me!

As for my Father in his tower,
Asking news of my ship at sea,
He will remember his own hour--
Tell him England hath taken me!

As for my Mother in her bower,
That rules my Father so cunningly,
She will remember a maiden's power--
Tell her England hath taken me!

As for my Brother in Rouen City,
A nimble and naughty' page is he,
But he will come to suffer and pity--
Tell him England hath taken me!

As for my little Sister waiting
In the pleasant orchards of Normandie,
Tell her youth is the time for mating--
Tell her England hath taken me!

As for my comrades in camp and highway
That lift their eyebrows scornfully,
Tell them their way is not my way--
Tell them England hath taken me!

Kings and Princes and Barons famed,
Knights and Captains in your degree;
Hear me a little before I am blamed--
Seeing England hath taken me!

Howso great man's strength be reckoned,
There are two things he cannot flee.
Love is the first, and Death is the second-
And Love in England hath taken me!

With Drake In The Tropics

South and far south below the Line,
Our Admiral leads us on,
Above, undreamed-of planets shine--
The stars we know are gone.
Around, our clustered seamen mark
The silent deep ablaze
With fires, through which the far-down shark
Shoots glimmering on his ways.

The sultry tropic breezes fail
That plagued us all day through;
Like molten silver hangs our sail,
Our decks are dark with dew.
Now the rank moon commands the sky.
Ho! Bid the watch beware
And rouse all sleeping men that lie
Unsheltered in her glare.

How long the time 'twixt bell and bell!
How still our lanthorns burn!
How strange our whispered words that tell
Of England and return!
Old towns, old streets, old friends, old loves,
We name them each to each,
While the lit face of Heaven removes
Them farther from our reach.

Now is the utmost ebb of night
When mind and body sink,
And loneliness and gathering fright
O'erwhelm us, if we think--
Yet, look, where in his room apart,
All windows opened wide,
Our Admiral thrusts away the chart
And comes to walk outside.

Kindly, from man to man he goes,
With comfort, praise, or jest,
Quick to suspect our childish woes,
Our terror and unrest.
It is as though the sun should shine--
Our midnight fears are gone!
South and far south below the Line,
Our Admiral leads us on!

The Soldier may forget his Sword,
The Sailorman the Sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his Litany:
The Maid may forget both jewel and gem,
And the Bride her wedding-dress--
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press!

Who once hath stood through the loaded hour
Ere, roaring like the gale,
The Harrild and the Hoe devour
Their league-long paper-bale,
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm
That follows the midnight stress--
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art
We call the daily Press.

Who once hath dealt in the widest game
That all of a man can play,
No later love, no larger fame
Will lure him long away.
As the war-horse snuffeth the battle afar,
The entered Soul, no less,
He saith: "Ha! Ha!" where the trumpets are
And the thunders of the Press!

Canst thou number the days that we fulfill,
Or the Times that we bring forth?
Canst thou send the lightnings to do thy will,
And cause them reign on earth?
Hast thou given a peacock goodly wings,
To please his foolishness?
Sit down at the heart of men and things,
Companion of the Press!

The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press--the Press--the Press!

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