Edmund Blunden |
I came to the churchyard where pretty Joy lies
On a morning in April, a rare sunny day;
Such bloom rose around, and so many birds' cries
That I sang for delight as I followed the way.
I sang for delight in the ripening of spring,
For dandelions even were suns come to earth;
Not a moment went by but a new lark took wing
To wait on the season with melody's mirth.
Love-making birds were my mates all the road,
And who would wish surer delight for the eye
Than to see pairing goldfinches gleaming abroad
Or yellowhammers sunning on paling and sty?
And stocks in the almswomen's garden were blown,
With rich Easter roses each side of the door;
The lazy white owls in the glade cool and lone
Paid calls on their cousins in the elm's chambered core.
This peace, then, and happiness thronged me around.
Nor could I go burdened with grief, but made merry
Till I came to the gate of that overgrown ground
Where scarce once a year sees the priest come to bury.
Over the mounds stood the nettles in pride,
And, where no fine flowers, there kind weeds dared to wave;
It seemed but as yesterday she lay by my side,
And now my dog ate of the grass on her grave.
He licked my hand wondering to see me muse so,
And wished I would lead on the journey or home,
As though not a moment of spring were to go
In brooding; but I stood, if her spirit might come
And tell me her life, since we left her that day
In the white lilied coffin, and rained down our tears;
But the grave held no answer, though long I should stay;
How strange that this clay should mingle with hers!
So I called my good dog, and went on my way;
Joy's spirit shone then in each flower I went by,
And clear as the noon, in coppice and ley,
Her sweet dawning smile and her violet eye!
Edmund Blunden |
Already fallen plum-bloom stars the green
And apple-boughs as knarred as old toads' backs
Wear their small roses ere a rose is seen;
The building thrush watches old Job who stacks
The bright-peeled osiers on the sunny fence,
The pent sow grunts to hear him stumping by,
And tries to push the bolt and scamper thence,
But her ringed snout still keeps her to the sty.
Then out he lets her run; away she snorts
In bundling gallop for the cottage door,
With hungry hubbub begging crusts and orts,
Then like the whirlwind bumping round once more;
Nuzzling the dog, making the pullets run,
And sulky as a child when her play's done.
Edmund Blunden |
At Quincey's moat the squandering village ends,
And there in the almshouse dwell the dearest friends
Of all the village, two old dames that cling
As close as any trueloves in the spring.
Long, long ago they passed threescore-and-ten,
And in this doll's house lived together then;
All things they have in common, being so poor,
And their one fear, Death's shadow at the door.
Each sundown makes them mournful, each sunrise
Brings back the brightness in their failing eyes.
How happy go the rich fair-weather days
When on the roadside folk stare in amaze
At such a honeycomb of fruit and flowers
As mellows round their threshold; what long hours
They gloat upon their steepling hollyhocks,
Bee's balsams, feathery southernwood, and stocks,
Fiery dragon's-mouths, great mallow leaves
For salves, and lemon-plants in bushy sheaves,
Shagged Esau's-hands with five green finger-tips.
Such old sweet names are ever on their lips.
As pleased as little children where these grow
In cobbled pattens and worn gowns they go,
Proud of their wisdom when on gooseberry shoots
They stuck eggshells to fright from coming fruits
The brisk-billed rascals; pausing still to see
Their neighbour owls saunter from tree to tree,
Or in the hushing half-light mouse the lane
Long-winged and lordly.
But when those hours wane,
Indoors they ponder, scared by the harsh storm
Whose pelting saracens on the window swarm,
And listen for the mail to clatter past
And church clock's deep bay withering on the blast;
They feed the fire that flings a freakish light
On pictured kings and queens grotesquely bright,
Platters and pitchers, faded calendars
And graceful hour-glass trim with lavenders.
Many a time they kiss and cry, and pray
That both be summoned in the self-same day,
And wiseman linnet tinkling in his cage
End too with them the friendship of old age,
And all together leave their treasured room
Some bell-like evening when the may's in bloom.
Edmund Blunden |
From what sad star I know not, but I found
Myself new-born below the coppice rail,
No bigger than the dewdrops and as round,
In a soft sward, no cattle might assail.
And so I gathered mightiness and grew
With this one dream kindling in me, that I
Should never cease from conquering light and dew
Till my white splendour touched the trembling sky.
A century of blue and stilly light
Bowed down before me, the dew came again,
The moon my sibyl worshipped through the night,
The sun returned and long abode; but then
Hoarse drooping darkness hung me with a shroud
And switched at me with shrivelled leaves in scorn.
Red morning stole beneath a grinning cloud,
And suddenly clambering over dike and thorn
A half-moon host of churls with flags and sticks
Hallooed and hurtled up the partridge brood,
And Death clapped hands from all the echoing thicks,
And trampling envy spied me where I stood;
Who haled me tired and quaking, hid me by,
And came again after an age of cold,
And hung me in the prison-house adry
From the great crossbeam.
Here defiled and old
I perish through unnumbered hours, I swoon,
Hacked with harsh knives to staunch a child's torn hand;
And all my hopes must with my body soon
Be but as crouching dust and wind-blown sand.
Edmund Blunden |
On the far hill the cloud of thunder grew
And sunlight blurred below; but sultry blue
Burned yet on the valley water where it hoards
Behind the miller's elmen floodgate boards,
And there the wasps, that lodge them ill-concealed
In the vole's empty house, still drove afield
To plunder touchwood from old crippled trees
And build their young ones their hutched nurseries;
Still creaked the grasshoppers' rasping unison
Nor had the whisper through the tansies run
Nor weather-wisest bird gone home.
Should wry eels in the pebbled shallows ken
Lightning coming? troubled up they stole
To the deep-shadowed sullen water-hole,
Among whose warty snags the quaint perch lair.
As cunning stole the boy to angle there,
Muffling least tread, with no noise balancing through
The hangdog alder-boughs his bright bamboo.
Down plumbed the shuttled ledger, and the quill
On the quicksilver water lay dead still.
A sharp snatch, swirling to-fro of the line,
He's lost, he's won, with splash and scuffling shine
Past the low-lapping brandy-flowers drawn in,
The ogling hunchback perch with needled fin.
And there beside him one as large as he,
Following his hooked mate, careless who shall see
Or what befall him, close and closer yet —
The startled boy might take him in his net
That folds the other.
Slow, while on the clay,
The other flounces, slow he sinks away.
What agony usurps that watery brain
For comradeship of twenty summers slain,
For such delights below the flashing weir
And up the sluice-cut, playing buccaneer
Among the minnows; lolling in hot sun
When bathing vagabonds had drest and done;
Rootling in salty flannel-weed for meal
And river shrimps, when hushed the trundling wheel;
Snapping the dapping moth, and with new wonder
Prowling through old drowned barges falling asunder.
And O a thousand things the whole year through
They did together, never more to do.
Edmund Blunden |
Friend whom I never saw, yet dearest friend,
Be with me travelling on the byeway now
In April's month and mood: our steps shall bend
By the shut smithy with its penthouse brow
Armed round with many a felly and crackt plough:
And we will mark in his white smock the mill
Standing aloof, long numbed to any wind,
That in his crannies mourns, and craves him still;
But now there is not any grain to grind,
And even the master lies too deep for winds to find.
Grieve not at these: for there are mills amain
With lusty sails that leap and drop away
On further knolls, and lads to fetch the grain.
The ash-spit wickets on the green betray
New games begun and old ones put away.
Let us fare on, dead friend, O deathless friend,
Where under his old hat as green as moss
The hedger chops and finds new gaps to mend,
And on his bonfires burns the thorns and dross,
And hums a hymn, the best, thinks he, that ever was.
There the grey guinea-fowl stands in the way,
The young black heifer and the raw-ribbed mare,
And scorn to move for tumbril or for dray,
And feel themselves as good as farmers there.
From the young corn the prick-eared leverets stare
At strangers come to spy the land — small sirs,
We bring less danger than the very breeze
Who in great zig-zag blows the bee, and whirs
In bluebell shadow down the bright green leas;
From whom in frolic fit the chopt straw darts and flees.
The cornel steepling up in white shall know
The two friends passing by, and poplar smile
All gold within; the church-top fowl shall glow
To lure us on, and we shall rest awhile
Where the wild apple blooms above the stile;
The yellow frog beneath blinks up half bold,
Then scares himself into the deeper green.
And thus spring was for you in days of old,
And thus will be when I too walk unseen
By one that thinks me friend, the best that there has been.
All our lone journey laughs for joy, the hours
Like honey-bees go home in new-found light
Past the cow pond amazed with twinkling flowers
And antique chalk-pit newly delved to white,
Or idle snow-plough nearly hid from sight.
The blackbird sings us home, on a sudden peers
The round tower hung with ivy's blackened chains,
Then past the little green the byeway veers,
The mill-sweeps torn, the forge with cobwebbed panes
That have so many years looked out across the plains.
But the old forge and mill are shut and done,
The tower is crumbling down, stone by stone falls;
An ague doubt comes creeping in the sun,
The sun himself shudders, the day appals,
The concourse of a thousand tempests sprawls
Over the blue-lipped lakes and maddening groves,
Like agonies of gods the clouds are whirled,
The stormwind like the demon huntsman roves —
Still stands my friend, though all's to chaos hurled,
The unseen friend, the one last friend in all the world.