Everywhere, a sudden ferment.
Winter hurries off, disrobes;
Old year drops her faded garment,
Earth puts on her finest robes.
All is new, proud, debonair.
Round us, youth’s awakenings;
Sparkles, preens in limpid springs.
Trees start flirting. Flowers choose
Which of them is loveliest:
All display their gaudy hues,
Even the very homeliest.
Tufts are spurting from the rock;
Light leaves by the air are kissed.
June adores these tiny folk
Of the heath, in Sunday best.
It’s a proper festival;
Coarse-grained thistle’s mood is festal.
In the summer’s banquet-hall
Stars light up the tiers of crystal.
Now, it’s hay-time: next, the grain.
In the copse, the reaper sleeps.
Scented breezes all retain
Perfume of the grass he reaps.
Nightingale is singing there;
All the chrysalids have gone.
Earthworm climbs to take the air,
Flings to the nettles his old gown.
Water-boatmen tour the pond;
Blue skies frame the trellis-shade;
Breezes stir the reedy frond;
Tiny insects serenade.
Wasp and hungry bee take wing,
Hornet’s at his look-out post.
Wayside pub is opening;
Quaff the perfumes: spring’s mine host!
Bumble-bee who loves excess
Smoothes his shirt, adjusts his tie:
Bud of the pink’s his brimming glass;
Lily, his white napery.
Crimson draughts, and gold, the fly
Sips from flowers that shyly close;
Bar-fly is the butterfly,
Toper’s tavern is the rose.
Ecstasy and joy imbibed!
Drunkenness is deliverance!
Not one flower is inscribed
‘Solemn League of Temperance’.
Nature in her pomp and bloom
Gushes, bursts a thousand-fold:
Heaven is a priceless tome
That the dawn has edged with gold.
My children, in your shining eyes
To me the empyrean appears;
The spring lives in your gaieties,
And the dawn rises in your tears.
I went to catch the evening train,
Not due till after nightfall.
You plan ahead, if you’ve a brain:
You make your stroll delightful.
The spring was warm, the day was mild:
I walked with youth’s elation.
At times a lovely woman smiled,
In my imagination.
Might I still see her on the road?
Was she awake? I wondered.
My heart was full, it overflowed:
I stood awhile, and pondered.
A little hare came speeding past.
Relax, I said, be calm:
A kindly man, whom love has blessed,
Will do no creature harm.
Across the fields I heard a choir
That croaked a froggy tune.
Above the trees, and rising higher,
I saw the golden moon.
Ahoy, my trusty friend! I said:
My style’s the same as yours.
You swing along with measured tread
On your predestined course.
All this to business turned my mind.
I thought about my profit,
Whether it mounted, or declined.
Meanwhile, my tempo suffered.
Oh listen, there’s the nightingale!
Its fluting tones amaze me.
I softly flute some barcarolle,
Which, for a while, delays me.
I reached the station, fluting on:
It’s what I tend to do.
Oh no! I heard another tone!
The train was fluting too.
It hurtled off. I stood stock still,
And checked the time of day,
As all latecomers always will,
For that is Nature’s way.
The village? Better not go back
to that subverted heart’s desire
silenced and smashed by rattling fire.
The worthy ash and alder trees,
once nobly domed, now amputees,
must hear the keening of the tower
riddled by winds of civil war.
And rifles have carved into the plaster
of every wall
of the village of disaster
black and ill-omened maps,
and the prodigal son returning
to his home on an evil night
may read there by the light
of an oily lampwick’s burning
his hopes’ and dreams’ undoing.
When the rusty key with a clumsy creak
turns in the lock of the antique
main front door to the hall,
the modest pair of plaster bosses,
with sleepy-lidded glances at
one another, will say, “what’s that?”
And I as one who intrudes
shall step inside to the delphic court
where the well-stone broods
with its leather pail, engrossed
in dripping its categorical drops
like the plaintive dirge of a ghost.
If the relentless, glad, reviving sun
heats up the young and studious streams
that bathed my old recurring dreams;
if ants are on the move,
or if the throaty clamour of the dove
humming among the cobwebs, sounds above
the rooftops and subsides, a languid hum,
my thirst for loving shall be as a ring
embedded in the capstone of a tomb.
The new swallows, renewing,
with their beaks new to the art of the clay,
their nests in the season of spring;
under the opal blazoning
of a monkish close of day,
the calves new-calved who bellow
for the udder, forbidden to flow,
of the ruminant pharaonic cow
that frightens the little fellow;
the bell-tower’s new-fangled peal above
the altars made young and new;
the couples, two by two,
lovers in love;
the girls fresh and modest,
humble as cabbages,
planning their marriages,
reaching round back doors in the oddest
pools of dramatic lantern-light;
some girl at some piano trilling
some old tune, more or less;
the sergeant’s whistle shrilling …
…the innermost reaction is distress.
Partridge-breasted gypsy woman,
witch who at the midnight hour
utters to the starry heavens
words of power:
speaking, you grow vast, unearthly;
worlds are overwhelmed, bow down:
all the stars confer a wondrous
Clasp your valiant arms around me,
masculine, the belt of Mars:
clasp, and know me for love’s wizard,
witch of stars.
Teach me how to scan the pages,
men’s and nations’ destinies,
secrets of the circling ages
and the skies:
how to work the magic mirrors,
how to resurrect at last
all the world’s most lovely women,
and the past;
how to tame the hosts of demons,
airy phantoms fluttering,
bind them in a talismanic
even as I bind together
word and ghost and demon, all
in the golden finger-circlet