This representative selection of de la Mare's poetry, made by R. N. Green-Armytage with the poet's approval, draws on the full range of his published works from Poems (1906) to O Lovely England (1953). It includes his long poem The Traveller and a certain number of the poems for children.
Read an Excerpt
THE HAPPY ENCOUNTER.
I saw sweet Poetry turn troubled eyes
On shaggy Science nosing in the grass,
For by that way poor Poetry must pass
On her long pilgrimage to Paradise.
He snuffled, grunted, squealed; perplexed by flies,
Parched, weatherworn, and near of sight, alas,
From peering close where very little was
In dens secluded from the open skies.
But Poetry in bravery went down,
And called his name, soft, clear, and fearlessly;
Stooped low, and stroked his muzzle overgrown;
Refreshed his drought with dew; wiped pure and free
His eyes: and lo! laughed loud for joy to see
In those grey deeps the azure of her own.
Even the beauty of the rose doth cast,
When its bright, fervid noon is past,
A still and lengthening shadow in the dust
Till darkness come
And take its strange dream home.
The transient bubbles of the water paint
'Neath their frail arch a shadow faint;
The golden nimbus of the windowed saint,
Till shine the stars,
Casts pale and trembling bars.
The loveliest thing earth hath, a shadow hath,
A dark and livelong hint ofdeath,
Haunting it ever till its last faint breath ...
Who, then, may tell
The beauty of heaven's shadowless asphodel?
THE BIRTHNIGHT: TO F.
Dearest, it was a night
That in its darkness rocked Orion's stars;
A sighing wind ran faintly white
Along the willows, and the cedar boughs
Laid their wide hands in stealthy peace across
The starry silence of their antique moss:
No sound save rushing air
Cold, yet all sweet with Spring,
And in thy mother's arms, couched weeping there,
Thou, lovely thing.
My heart faints in me for the distant sea.
The roar of London is the roar of ire'
The lion utters in his old desire
For Libya out of dim captivity.
The long bright silver of Cheapside I see,
Her gilded weathercocks on roof and spire
Exulting eastward in the western fire;
All things recall one heart-sick memory:
Ever the rustle of the advancing foam,
The surges' desolate thunder, and the cry
As of some lone babe in the whispering sky;
Ever I peer into the restless gloom
To where a ship clad dim and loftily
Looms steadfast in the wonder of her home.
'What is the world, O soldiers?
It is I:
I, this incessant snow,
This northern sky;
Soldiers, this soltitude
Through which we go
EVEN IN THE GRAVE
I laid my inventory at the hand
Of Death, who in his gloomy arbour sate;
And while he conned it, sweet and desolate
I heard Love singing in that quiet land.
He read the record even to the end
The heedless, livelong injuries of Fate,
The burden of foe, the burden of love and hate;
The wounds of foe, the bitter wounds of friend:
All, all, he read, ay, even the indifference,
The vain talk, vainer silence, hope and dream.
He questioned me: 'What seek'st thou then instead'?
I bowed my face in the pale evening gleam.
Then gazed he on me with strange innocence:
'Even in the grave thou wilt have thyself,' he said.
THEY TOLD ME
They told me Pan was dead, but I
Oft marvelled who it was that sang
Down the green valleys languidly
Where the grey elder-thickets hang.
Sometimes I thought it was a bird
My soul had charged with sorcery;
Sometimes it seemed my own heart heard
Inland the sorrow of the sea.
But even where the primrose sets
The seal of her pale loveliness,
I found amid the violets
Tears of an antique bitterness.
Along an avenue of almond-trees
Came three girls chattering of their sweethearts three
And lo! Mercutio, with Byronic ease,
Out of his philosophic eye cast all
A mere flowered twig of thought, whereat
Three hearts fell still as when an air dies out
And Venus falters lonely o'er the sea.
But when within the furthest mist of bloom
His step and form were hid, the smooth child Ann
Said, 'La, and what eyes he had!' and Lucy said,
'How sad a gentleman!' and Katherine,
'I wonder, now, what mischief he was at.'
And these three also April hid away,
Leaving the Spring faint with Mercutio.
There is wind where the rose was;
Cold rain where sweet grass was;
And clouds like sheep
Stream o'er the steep
Grey skies where the lark was.
Nought gold where your hair was;
Nought warm where your hand was;
But phantom, forlorn,
Beneath the thorn,
Your ghost where your face was.
Sad winds where your voice was;
Tears, tears where my heart was;
And ever with me,
Child, ever with me,
Silence where hope was.
Like an old battle, youth is wild
With bugle and spear, and counter cry,
Fanfare and drummery, yet a child
Dreaming of that sweet chivalry,
The piercing terror cannot see.
He, with a mild and serious eye,
Along the azure of the years,
Sees the sweet pomp sweep hurtling by;
But he sees not death's blood and tears,
Sees not the plunging of the spears.
And all the strident horror of
Horse and rider, in red defeat,
Is only music fine enough
To lull him into slumber sweet
In fields where ewe and lambkin bleat.
O, if with such simplicity
Himself take arms and suffer war;
With beams his targe shall gilded be,
Though in the thickening gloom be far
The steadfast light of any star!
Though hoarse War's eagle on him perch,
Quickened with guilty lightningsthere
It shall in vain for terror search,
Where a child's eyes 'neath bloody hair
Gaze purely through the dingy air.
And when the wheeling rout is spent,
Though in the heaps of slain he lie,
Or lonely in his last content;
Quenchless shall burn in secrecy
The flame Death knows his victors by.
The sky was like a waterdrop
In shadow of a thorn,
Clear, tranquil, beautiful,
Lightning along its margin ran;
A rumour of the sea
Rose in profundity and sank
Lofty and few the elms, the stars
In the vast boughs most bright;
I stood a dreamer in a dream
In the unstirring night.
Not wonder, worship, not even peace
Seemed in my heart to be:
Only the memory of one,
Of all most dead to me.
TO MY MOTHER
Thine is my all, how little when 'tis told
Beside thy gold!
Thine the first peace, and mine the livelong strife;
Thine the clear dawn, and mine the night of life;
Thine the unstained belief,
Darkened in grief.
Scarce even a flower but thine its beauty and name,
Dimmed, yet the same;
Never in twilight comes the moon to me,
Stealing thro' those far woods, but tells of thee,
Falls, dear, on my wild heart,
And takes thy part.
Thou art the child, and Ihow steeped in age!
A blotted page
From that clear, little book life's taken away:
How could I read it, dear, so dark the day?
Be it all memory
'Twixt thee and me!
No lovelier hills than thine have laid
My tired thoughts to rest:
No peace of lovelier valleys made
Like peace within my breast.
Thine are the woods whereto my soul,
Out of the noontide beam,
Flees for a refuge green and cool
And tranquil as a dream.
Thy breaking seas like trumpets peal;
Thy cloudshow oft have I
Watched their bright towers of silence steal
My heart within me faints to roam
In thought even far from thee:
Thine be the grave whereto I come,
And thine my darkness be.
Table of Contents
|The Happy Encounter||17|
|The Birthnight: To F.||18|
|Even in the Grave||20|
|They Told Me||20|
|To My Mother||24|
|II||The Listeners (1912)|
|The Three Cherry Trees||26|
|Be Angry Now No More||30|
|All That's Past||33|
|Noon and Night Flower||35|
|The Sunken Garden||42|
|The Vacant Day||44|
|Dust to Dust||49|
|To E.T.; 1917||49|
|For All the Grief||51|
|'Sotto Voce': to Edward Thomas||52|
|IV||The Veil (1921)|
|The Imagination's Pride||60|
|The Quiet Enemy||65|
|The Last Coachload: to Colin||66|
|V||The Fleeting (1933)|
|I Sit Alone||69|
|The Railway Junction||70|
|'How Sleep the Brave'||71|
|A Young Girl||72|
|The Strange Spirit||74|
|A Ballad of Christmas||84|
|Thus her Tale||87|
|A Rose in Water||113|
|A Child Asleep||113|
|A Pot of Musk||115|
|In a Library||116|
|VII||The Burning Glass (1945)|
|Cupid Kept in||127|
|In the Local Museum||127|
|The Burning Glass||129|
|Son of Man||130|
|The Unrent Pattern||131|
|VIII||Inward Companion (1950)|
|Slim Cunning Hands||138|
|Seen and Heard||139|
|'It was the Last Time He Was Seen Alive'||141|
|The Ruinous Abbey||142|
|Frescoes in an Old Church||143|
|Here I Sit||148|
|The Old Author||150|
|IX||The Traveller (1945)||151|
|X||O Lovely England (1953)|
|O Lovely England||172|
|'... All Gone ...'||173|
|We Who Have 'Watched'||174|
|When Love Flies in||176|
|XI||Rhymes and Verses|
|'I Dream of a Place'||179|
|Bunches of Grapes||181|
|Under the Rose||184|
|The Song of the Mad Prince||186|
|The Song of Shadows||187|
|I Met at Eve||188|
|The Mother Bird||190|
|The Old Sailor||190|
|The Silver Penny||194|
|The Water Midden's Song||196|
|All But Blind||197|
|Off the Ground||197|