Selected Poems

Selected Poems


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780571104017
Publisher: Faber and Faber
Publication date: 04/01/2001
Series: Faber Paper-Covered Editions Series
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 4.99(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One




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?


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
      Is I.'


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 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 lightnings—there
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,
    Dark, forlorn.

Lightning along its margin ran;
    A rumour of the sea
Rose in profundity and sank
    Into infinity.

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.


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 I—how 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 clouds—how oft have I
Watched their bright towers of silence steal
    Into infinity!

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

IPoems (1906)
The Happy Encounter17
The Birthnight: To F.18
Even in the Grave20
They Told Me20
Keep Innocency22
To My Mother24
IIThe Listeners (1912)
The Three Cherry Trees26
The Scarecrow27
Be Angry Now No More30
The Listeners32
All That's Past33
An Epitaph34
Music Unheard34
Noon and Night Flower35
The Stranger37
Winter Dusk38
A Prayer39
Not Only41
IIIMotley (1918)
The Sunken Garden42
The Scribe43
The Linnet44
The Vacant Day44
The Exile46
The Revenant47
Vain Questioning48
Dust to Dust49
To E.T.; 191749
The Ghost50
For All the Grief51
'Sotto Voce': to Edward Thomas52
Fare Well54
IVThe Veil (1921)
Before Dawn58
The Imagination's Pride60
The Veil61
The Voice63
The Folower64
An Epitaph65
The Quiet Enemy65
The Last Coachload: to Colin66
VThe Fleeting (1933)
I Sit Alone69
The Railway Junction70
'How Sleep the Brave'71
A Young Girl72
The Encounter72
The Strange Spirit74
The Snowdrop76
The Fleeting77
The Round78
To K.M.80
The Visionary82
The Spark83
A Ballad of Christmas84
Thus her Tale87
The Owl91
VIMemory (1938)
A Dream112
A Rose in Water113
A Child Asleep113
The Looking-Glass114
A Pot of Musk115
Thomas Hardy115
In a Library116
A Portrait117
At Ease118
The Reawakening123
VIIThe Burning Glass (1945)
The Spectacle124
Like Sisters125
A Recluse126
Cupid Kept in127
In the Local Museum127
The Scarecrow128
The Burning Glass129
Son of Man130
The Unrent Pattern131
The Unutterable132
A Portrait134
The Gnomon136
VIIIInward Companion (1950)
Izaak Walton137
Henry Vaughan137
Jonathan Swift138
Slim Cunning Hands138
Seen and Heard139
A Sign140
'It was the Last Time He Was Seen Alive'141
False Gods141
The Ruinous Abbey142
Frescoes in an Old Church143
The Dunce144
The Chart147
A Hare148
Here I Sit148
The 'Satire'149
The Dreamer150
The Old Author150
IXThe Traveller (1945)151
XO Lovely England (1953)
O Lovely England172
'... All Gone ...'173
We Who Have 'Watched'174
The Bourne174
De Profundis175
When Love Flies in176
XIRhymes and Verses
Nicholas Nye177
'I Dream of a Place'179
The Holly180
Bunches of Grapes181
King David183
Not I184
Under the Rose184
The Double185
The Song of the Mad Prince186
The Song of Shadows187
I Met at Eve188
Precious Stones189
The Mother Bird190
The Old Sailor190
John Mouldy193
The Silver Penny194
Marching Song195
The Water Midden's Song196
All But Blind197
Off the Ground197
The Englishman201

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