Alfred Noyes CBE was an English poet, short-story writer and playwright.
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Famous Alfred Noyes Poems
Not with a flash that rends the blue
Shall fall the avenging sword.
Gently as the evening dew
Descends the mighty Lord.
His dreadful balances are made
To move with moon and tide;
Yet shall not mercy be afraid
Nor justice be denied.
The dreams that seemed to waste away,
The kindliness forgot,
Were singing in your heart today
Although you knew them not.
The sun shall not forget his road,
Nor the high stars their rhyme,
The traveller with the heavier load
Has one less hill to climb.
And, though a darker shadow fall
On every struggling age,
How shall it be if, after all,
He share our pilgrimage?
The end we mourn is not the end.
The dust has nimble wings.
But truth and beauty have a friend
At the deep heart of things.
He will not speak? What friend belies
His love with idle breath?
We read it in each others’ eyes,
And ask no more in death.
The Trumpet Call
Trumpeter, sound for the last Crusade!
Sound for the fire of the red-cross kings,
Sound for the passion, the splendour, the pity
That swept the world for a dead Man’s sake,
Sound, till the answering trumpet rings
Clear from the heights of the holy City,
Sound till the lions of England awake,
Sound for the tomb that our lives have betrayed;
O’er broken shrine and abandoned wall,
Trumpeter, sound the great recall,
Trumpeter, rally us, rally us, rally us;
Sound for the last Crusade!
Trumpeter, sound for the splendour of God!
Sound the music whose name is law,
Whose service is perfect freedom still,
The order august that rules the stars.
Bid the anarchs of night withdraw,
Too long the destroyers have worked their will,
Sound for the last, the last of the wars.
Sound for the heights that our fathers trod,
When truth was truth and love was love,
With a hell beneath, but a heaven above,
Trumpeter, rally us, up to the heights of it!
Sound for the City of God.
Peace In A Palace
You were weeping in the night,’ said the Emperor,
‘Weeping in your sleep, I am told.’
‘It was nothing but a dream,’ said the Empress;
But her face grew gray and old.
‘You thought you saw our German God defeated?’
‘Oh, no!’ she said. ‘I saw no lightnings fall.
I dreamed of a whirlpool of green water,
Where something had gone down. That was all.
‘All but the whimper of the sea gulls flying, Endlessly round and round, Waiting for the faces, the faces from the darkness, The dreadful rising faces of the drowned.
‘It was nothing but a dream,’ said the Empress.
‘I thought I was walking on the sea;
And the foam rushed up in a wild smother,
And a crowd of little faces looked at me.
They were drowning! They were drowning,’ said the Empress,
‘And they stretched their feeble arms to the sky;
But the worst was–they mistook me for their mother,
And cried as my children used to cry.
‘Nothing but a whimper of the sea-gulls flying, Endlessly round and round, With the cruel yellow beaks that were waiting for the faces, The little floating faces of the drowned.’
‘It was nothing but a dream,’ said the Emperor,
‘So why should you weep, dear, eh?’–
‘Oh, I saw the red letters on a life belt
That the green sea washed my way!’–
‘What were they?’ said the Emperor. ‘What were they?’–
‘Some of them were hidden,’ said the Empress,
‘But I plainly saw the L and the U!’
‘In God’s name, stop!’ said the Emperor.
‘You told me that it was not true!
‘Told me that you dreamed of the sea gulls flying, Endlessly round and round, Waiting for the faces, and the eyes in the faces, The eyes of the children that we drowned.
‘Kiss me and forget it,’ said the Emperor,
‘Dry your tears on the tassel of my sword.
I am going to offer peace to my people,
And abdicate, perhaps, as overlord.
I shall now take up My Cross as Count of Prussia–
Which is not a heavy burden, you’ll agree.
Why, before the twenty million dead are rotten
There’ll be yachting days again for you and me.
It would mean a rope for anyone but Me.’
‘Oh, take care!’ said the Empress. ‘They are flying, Endlessly round and round. They have finished with the faces, the dreadful little faces, The little eyeless faces of the drowned.’
The War Widow
Black-veiled, black-gowned, she rides in bus and train,
With eyes that fill too listlessly for tears.
Her waxen hands clasp and unclasp again.
Good News, they cry. She neither sees nor hears.
Good News, perhaps, may crown some far-off king.
Good News may peal the glory of the state–
Good News may cause the courts of heaven to ring.
She sees a hand waved at a garden gate.
For her dull ears are tuned to other themes;
And her dim eyes can never see aright.
She glides–a ghost–through all her April dreams,
To meet his eyes at dawn, his lips at night.
Wraiths of a truth that others never knew;
And yet–for her–the only truth that’s true.
Good News! Good News! There is no way but this.
Out of the night a star begins to rise.
I know not where my soul’s deep Master is;
Nor can I hear those angels in the skies;
Nor follow him, as childhood used of old,
By radiant seas, in those time-hallowed tales.
Only, at times, implacable and cold,
From this blind gloom, stand out the iron nails.
Yet, at this world’s heart stands the Eternal Cross,
The ultimate frame of moon and star and sun,
Where Love with out-stretched arms, in utter loss,
Points East and West and makes the whole world one.
Good News! Good News! There is no hope, no way,
No truth, no life, but leads through Christmas Day.
The Reward Of Song
Why do we make our music?
Oh, blind dark strings reply:
Because we dwell in a strange land
And remember a lost sky.
We ask no leaf of the laurel,
We know what fame is worth;
But our songs break out of our winter
As the flowers break out on the earth.
And we dream of the unknown comrade,
In the days when we lie dead,
Who shall open our book in the sunlight,
And read, as ourselves have read,
On a lonely hill, by a firwood,
With whispering seas below,
And murmur a song we made him
Ages and ages ago.
If making his may-time sweeter
With dews of our own dead may,
One pulse of our own dead heart-strings
Awake in his heart that day,
We would pray for no richer guerdon,
No praise from the careless throng;
For song is the cry of a lover
In quest of an answering song.
As a child might run to his elders
With news of an opening flower
We should walk with our young companion
And talk to his heart for an hour,
As once by my own green firwood,
And once by a Western sea,
Thank God, my own good comrades
Have walked and talked with me.
Too mighty to make men sorrow,
Too weak to heal their pain
(Though they that remember the hawthorn
May find their heaven again),
We are moved by a deeper hunger;
We are bound by a stronger cord;
For love is the heart of our music,
And love is its one reward.
The Double Fortress
Time, wouldst thou hurt us? Never shall we grow old.
Break as thou wilt these bodies of blind clay,
Thou canst not touch us here, in our stronghold,
Where two, made one, laugh all thy powers away.
Though ramparts crumble and rusty gates grow thin,
And our brave fortress dwine to a hollow shell,
Thou shalt hear heavenly laughter, far within,
Where, young as Love, two hidden lovers dwell.
We shall go clambering up our twisted stairs
To watch the moon through rifts in our grey towers.
Thou shalt hear whispers, kisses, and sweet prayers
Creeping through all our creviced walls like flowers.
Wouldst wreck us, Time? When thy dull leaguer brings
The last wall down, look heavenward. We have wings.
Before those golden altar-lights we stood,
Each one of us remembering his own dead.
A more than earthly beauty seemed to brood
On that hushed throng, and bless each bending head.
Beautiful on that gold, the deep-sea blue
Of those young seamen, ranked on either side,
Blent with the khaki, while the silence grew
Deep, as for wings–Oh, deep as England’s pride.
Beautiful on that gold, two banners rose–
Two flags that told how Freedom’s realm was made,
One fair with stars of hope, and one that shows
The glorious cross of England’s long crusade;
Two flags, now joined, till that high will be done
Which sent them forth to make the whole world one.
There were no signs of joy that eyes could see.
Our hearts were all three thousand miles away.
There were no trumpets blown for victory.
A million dead were calling us that day.
And eyes grew blind, at times; but grief was deep,
Deeper than any foes or friends have known;
For Oh, my country’s lips are locked to keep
Her bitterest loss her own, and all her own.
Only the music told what else was dumb,
The funeral march to which our pulses beat;
For all our dead went by, to a muffled drum
We heard the tread of all those phantom feet.
Yes. There was victory! Deep in every soul.
We heard them marching to their unseen goal.
There, once again, we saw the Cross go by,
The Cross that fell with all those glorious towers,
Burnt black in France or mocked on Calvary,
Till–in one night–the crosses rose like flowers,
Legions of small white crosses, mile on mile,
Pencilled with names that had outfought all pain,
Where every shell-torn acre seems to smile–
Who shall destroy the cross that rose again?
Out of the world’s Walpurgis, where hope perished,
Where all the forms of faith in ruin fell,
Where every sign of heaven that earth had cherished
Shrivelled among the lava-floods of hell,
The eternal Cross that conquers might with right
Rose like a star to lead us through the night.
How shall the world remember? Men forget:
Our dead are all too many even for Fame!
Man’s justice kneels to kings, and pays no debt
To those who never courted her acclaim.
Cheat not your heart with promises to pay
For gifts beyond all price so freely given.
Where is the heart so rich that it can say
To those who mourn, ‘I will restore your heaven’?
But these, with their own hands, laid up their treasure
Where never an emperor can break in and steal,
Treasure for those that loved them past all measure
In those high griefs that earth can never heal,
Proud griefs, that walk on earth, yet gaze above,
Knowing that sorrow is but remembered love.
Love that still holds us with immortal power,
Yet cannot lift us to His realm of light;
Love that still shows us heaven for one brief hour
Only to daunt the heart with that sheer height;
Love that is made of loveliness entire
In form and thought and act; and still must shame us
Because we ever acknowledge and aspire,
And yet let slip the shining hands that claim us.
O, if this Love might cloak with rags His glory,
Laugh, eat and drink, and dwell with suffering men,
Sit with us at our hearth, and hear our story,
This world–we thought–might be transfigured then.
‘But Oh,’ Love answered, with swift human tears,
‘All these things have I done, these many years.’
‘This day,’ Love said, ‘if ye will hear my voice;
I mount and sing with birds in all your skies.
I am the soul that calls you to rejoice.
And every wayside flower is my disguise.
‘Look closely. Are the wings too wide for pity?
Look closely. Do these tender hues betray?
How often have I sought my Holy City?
How often have ye turned your hearts away?
‘Is there not healing in the beauty I bring you?
Am I not whispering in green leaves and rain,
Singing in all that woods and seas can sing you?
Look, once, on Love, and earth is heaven again.
‘O, did your Spring but once a century waken,
The heaven of heavens for this would be forsaken.’
There’s but one gift that all our dead desire,
One gift that men can give, and that’s a dream,
Unless we, too, can burn with that same fire
Of sacrifice; die to the things that seem;
Die to the little hatreds; die to greed;
Die to the old ignoble selves we knew;
Die to the base contempts of sect and creed,
And rise again, like these, with souls as true.
Nay (since these died before their task was finished)
Attempt new heights, bring even their dreams to birth:–
Build us that better world, Oh, not diminished
By one true splendor that they planned on earth.
And that’s not done by sword, or tongue, or pen,
There’s but one way. God make us better men.
The Big Black Trawler
THE very best ship that ever I knew
-Ah-way O, to me O-
Was a big black trawler with a deep-sea crew-
Sing, my bullies, let the bullgine run.
There was one old devil with a broken nose
-Ah-way O, to me O-
He was four score years, as I suppose-
But sing, my bullies, let the bullgine run.
We was wrecked last March, in a Polar storm
-Ah-way O, to me O-
And we asked the old cripple if his feet was warm-
Sing, my bullies, let the bullgine run.
And the old, old devil (he was ninety at the most)
-Ah-way O, to me O-
Roars, ‘ Ay, warm as a lickle piece of toast ‘-
So sing, my bullies, let the bullgine run.
‘ For I soaked my sea-boots and my dungarees
-Ah-way O, to me O-
In the good salt water that the Lord don’t freeze ‘-
Oh sing, my bullies, let the bullgine run.
You that have gathered together the sons of all races,
And welded them into one,
Lifting the torch of your Freedom on hungering faces
That sailed to the setting sun;
You that have made of mankind in your own proud regions
The music of man to be,
How should the old earth sing of you, now, as your legions
Rise to set all men free?
How should the singer that knew the proud vision and loved it,
In the days when not all men knew,
Gaze through his tears, on the light, now the world has approved it;
Or dream, when the dream comes true?
How should he sing when the Spirit of Freedom in thunder
Speaks, and the wine-press is red;
And the sea-winds are loud with the chains that are broken asunder
And nations that rise from the dead?
Flag of the sky, proud flag of that wide communion,
Too mighty for thought to scan;
Flag of the many in one, and that last world-union
That kingdom of God in man;
Ours was a dream, in the night, of that last federation,
But yours is the glory unfurled–
The marshalled nations and stars that shall make one nation
One singing star of the world.
The Ballad Of Dick Turpin
The daylight moon looked quietly down
Through the gathering dusk on London town
A smock-frocked yokel hobbled along
By Newgate, humming a country song.
Chewing a straw, he stood to stare
At the proclamation posted there:
“Three hundred guineas on Turpins head,
Trap him alive or shoot him dead;
And a hundred more for his mate, Tom King.”
He crouched like a tiger about to spring.
Then he looked up, and he looked down;
And chuckling low, like a country clown,
Dick Turpin painfully hobbled away
In quest of his inn – “The Load of Hay”…
Alone in her stall, his mare, Black Bess,
Lifted her head in mute distress;
For five strange men had entered the yard
And looked at her long, and looked at her hard.
They went out, muttering under their breath;
And then – the dusk grew still as death.
But the velvet ears of the listening mare
Lifted and twitched. They were there – still there;
Hidden and waiting; for whom? And why?
The clock struck four, a set drew nigh.
It was King! Dick Turpins’ mate.
The black mare whinnied. Too late! Too late!
They rose like shadows out of the ground
And grappled him there, without a sound.
“Throttle him – quietly – choke him dead!
Or we lose this hawk for a jay, they said.”
They wrestled and heaved, five men to one;
And a yokel entered the yard, alone;
A smock-frocked yokel, hobbling slow;
But a fight is physic as all men know.
His age dropped off, he stood upright.
He leapt like a tiger into the fight.
Hand to hand, they fought in the dark;
For none could fire at a twisting mark.
Where he that shot at a foe might send
His pistol ball through the skull of a friend.
But “Shoot Dick, Shoot” gasped out Tom King
“Shoot! Or damn it we both shall swing!
Shoot and chance it!” Dick leapt back.
He drew. He fired. At the pistols crack
The wrestlers whirled. They scattered apart
And the bullet drilled through Tom Kings heart…
Dick Turpin dropped his smoking gun.
They had trapped him five men to one.
A gun in the hand of the crouching five.
They could take Dick Turpin now alive;
Take him and bind him and tell their tale
As a pot house boast, when they drank their ale.
He whistled, soft as a bird might call
And a head rope snapped in his birds dark stall.
He whistled, soft as a nightingale
He heard the swish of her swinging tail.
There was no way out that the five could see
To heaven or hell, but the Tyburn tree;
No door but death; and yet once more
He whistled, as though at a sweethearts door.
The five men laughed at him, trapped alive;
And – the door crashed open behind the five!
Out of the stable, a wave of thunder,
Swept Black Bess, and the five went under.
He leapt to the saddle, a hoof turned stone,
Flashed blue fire, and their prize was gone…..
He rode for one impossible thing; that in the
The towers of York might waken him-
from London and last night.
He rode to prove himself another,
and leave himself behind.
And the hunted self was like a cloud;
but the hunter like the wind.
Neck and neck they rode together;
that, in the day’s first gleam,
each might prove that the other self
was but a mocking dream.
And the little sleeping villages, and the
breathless country side
Woke to the drum of the ghostly hooves,
but missed that ghostly ride.
The did not see, they did not hear as the ghostly
hooves drew nigh,
The dark magnificent thief in the night
that rode so subtly by.
They woke, they rushed to the way-side door,
They saw what the midnight showed,-
A mare that came like a crested wave,
Along the Great North Road.
A flying spark in the formless dark,
a flash from the hoof-spurned stone,
And the lifted face of a man –
that took the starlight and was gone.
The heard the sound of a pounding chase
three hundred yards away
There were fourteen men in a stream of sweat
and a plaster of Midland clay.
The starlight struck their pistol-butts as they
passed in the clattering crowd
But the hunting wraith was away like the wind
at the heels of the hunted cloud.
He rode by the walls of Nottingham,
and over him as he went
Like ghosts across the Great North Road,
the boughs of Sherwood bent.
By Bawtry, all the chase but one has dropped
a league behind,
Yet, one rider haunted him, invisibly, as the wind.
And northward, like a blacker night, he saw the moors up-loom
And Don and Derwent sang to him, like memory in the gloom.
And northward, northward as he rode, and sweeter than a prayer
The voices of those hidden streams,
the Trent, the Ouse and the Aire;
Streams that could never slake his thirst.
He heard them as he flowed
But one dumb shadow haunted him along the
Great North Road.
Till now, at dawn, the towers of York rose on
the reddening sky.
And Bess went down between his knees,
like a breaking wave to die.
He lay beside her in the ditch, he kissed her lovely head,
And a shadow passed him like the wind and left him with his dead.
He saw, but not that one as wakes, the city that he sought,
He had escaped from London town, but not from his own thought.
He strode up to the Mickle-gate, with none to say him nay.
And there he met his Other Self in the stranger light of day.
He strode up to the dreadful thing that in the gateway stood
And it stretched out a ghostly hand that the dawn had stained with blood.
It stood as in the gates of hell, with none to hear or see,
“Welcome,” it said, “Thou’st ridden well, and outstript all but me”.
The Young Friar
When leaves broke out on the wild briar,
And bells for matins rung,
Sorrow came to the old friar
– Hundreds of years ago it was! –
And May came to the young.
The old was ripening for the sky,
The young was twenty-four.
The Franklin’s daughter passed him by,
Reading a painted missal-book,
Beside the chapel door.
With brown cassock and sandalled feet,
And red Spring wine for blood;
The very next noon he chanced to meet
The Franklin’s daughter, in a green May twilight,
Walking through the wood.
Pax vobiscum – to a maid
The crosiered ferns among!
But hers was only the Saxon,
And his the Norman tongue;
And the Latin taught by the old friar
Made music for the young.
And never a better deed was done
By Mother Church below
Than when she made old England one,
– Hundreds of years ago it was! –
Hundreds of years ago.
Rich was the painted page they read
Before that sunset died;
Nut-brown hood by golden head,
Murmuring Rosa Mystica,
While nesting thrushes cried.
A Saxon maid with flaxen hair,
And eyes of Sussex grey;
A young monk out of Normandy: –
‘May is our Lady’s month,’ he said,
‘And O, my love, my May!’
Then over the fallen missal-book
The missel-thrushes sung
Till – Domus Aurea – rose the moon
And bells for vespers rung.
It was gold and blue for the old friar,
But hawthorn for the young.
For gown of green and brown hood,
Before that curfew tolled,
Had flown for ever through the wood
– Hundreds of years ago it was! –
But twenty summers old.
And empty stood his chapel stall,
Empty his thin grey cell,
Empty her seat in the Franklin’s hall;
And there were swords that searched for them
Before the matin bell.
And, crowders tell, a sword that night
Wrought them an evil turn,
And that the may was not more white
Than those white bones the robin found
Among the roots of fern.
But others tell of stranger things
Half-heard on Whitsun eves,
Of sweet and ghostly whisperings –
Though hundreds of years ago it was –
Among the ghostly leaves: –
Sero te amavi –
Grey eyes of sun-lit dew! –
Tam antiqua, tam nova –
Augustine heard it, too.
Late have I loved that May, Lady,
So ancient, and so new!
And no man knows where they were flown,
For the wind takes the may:
But white and fresh the may was blown
– Though hundreds of years ago it was –
As this that blooms to-day.
And the leaves break out on the wild briar,
And bells must still be rung;
But sorrow comes to the old friar,
For he remembers a May, a May,
When his old heart was young.
When the last charge sounds
And the battle thunders o’er the plain,
Thunders o’er the trenches where the red streams flow,
Will it not be well with us,
If, beneath your torn old flag, we burst upon the foe?
When the last post sounds
And the night is on the battle-field,
Night and rest at last from all the tumult of our wars,
Will it not be well with us,
If, with duty done like yours, we lie beneath the stars?
When the great réveillé sounds
For the terrible last Sabbath,
All the legions of the dead shall hear the trumpet ring!
Will it not be well with us,
If, beneath your torn old flag, we rise to meet our King?
Touchstone On A Bus
Last night I rode with Touchstone on a bus
From Ludgate Hill to World’s End. It was he!
Despite the broadcloth and the bowler hat,
I knew him, Touchstone, the wild flower of folly,
The whetstone of his age, the scourge of kings,
The madcap morning star of elfin-land,
Who used to wrap his legs around his neck
For warmth on winter nights. He had slipped back,
To see what men were doing in a world
That should be wiser. He had watched a play,
Read several books, heard men discourse of art
And life; and he sat bubbling like a spring
In Arden. Never did blackbird, drenched with may,
Chuckle as Touchstone chuckled on that ride.
Lord, what a world! Lord, what a mad, mad world!
Then, to the jolt and jingle of the engine,
He burst into this bunch of madcap rhymes:–
How should we praise those lads of the old
Who looked Death straight in the eyes,
Till his gaze fell,
In those red gates of hell?
England, in her proud history, proudly enrolls them,
And the deep night in her remembering skies
With purer glory
Shall blazon their grim story.
There were no throngs to applaud that hushed adventure.
They were one to a thousand on that fierce emprise.
The shores they sought
Were armoured, past all thought.
O, they knew fear, be assured, as the brave must know it,
With youth and its happiness bidding their last good-byes;
Till thoughts, more dear
Than life, cast out all fear.
For if, as we think, they remembered the brown-roofed homesteads,
And the scent of the hawthorn hedges when daylight dies,
Old happy places,
Young eyes and fading faces;
One dream was dearer that night than the best of their boyhood,
One hope more radiant than any their hearts could prize.
The touch of your hand,
The light of your face, England!
So, age to age shall tell how they sailed through the darkness
Where, under those high, austere, implacable stars,
Not one in ten
Might look for a dawn again.
They saw the ferry-boats,
Darkly as clouds to the shimmering mine-strewn bars,
Flash into light!
Then thunder reddened the night.
The wild white swords of the search-lights blinded and stabbed them,
The sharp black shadows fought in fantastic wars.
Black waves leapt whitening,
Red decks were washed with lightning.
But, under the twelve-inch guns of the black land-batteries
The hacked bright hulk, in a glory of crackling spars,
Moved to her goal
Like an immortal soul;
That, while the raw rent flesh in a furnace is tortured,
Reigns by a law no agony ever can shake,
And shines in power
Above all shocks of the hour.
O, there, while the decks ran blood, and the star-shells lightened
The old broken ship that the enemy never could break,
Swept through the fire
And grappled her heart’s desire.
There, on a wreck that blazed with the soul of England,
The lads that died in the dark for England’s sake
Knew, as they died,
Nelson was at their side;
Nelson, and all the ghostly fleets of his island,
Fighting beside them there, and the soul of Drake!-
Dreams, as we knew,
Till these lads made them true.
How should we praise you, lads of the old Vindictive, Who looked death straight in the eyes, Till his gaze fell In those red gates of hell?
Wonder in happy eyes
Fades, fades away:
And the angel-coloured skies
Loveliness over the strings of the heart may stray
In fugitive melodies;
But Oh, the hand of the Master must not stay,
Even for a breath;
For to prolong one joy, or even to dwell
On one rich chord of pain,
Beyond the pulse of the song, would untune heaven
And drown the stars in death.
So youth with its love-note dies;
And beauty fades in the air,
To make the master-symphony immortal,
And find new life and deeper wonder there.
Heart of my heart, the world is young;
Love lies hidden in every rose!
Every song that the skylark sung
Once, we thought, must come to a close:
Now we know the spirit of song,
Song that is merged in the chant of the whole,
Hand in hand as we wander along,
What should we doubt of the years that roll?
Heart of my heart, we cannot die!
Love triumphant in flower and tree,
Every life that laughs at the sky
Tells us nothing can cease to be:
One, we are one with the song to-day,
One with the clover that scents the world,
One with the Unknown, far away,
One with the stars, when earth grows old.
Heart of my heart, we are one with the wind,
One with the clouds that are whirled o’er the lea,
One in many, O broken and blind,
One as the waves are at one with the sea!
Ay! When life seems scattered apart,
Darkens, ends as a tale that is told,
One, we are one, O heart of my heart,
One, still one, while the world grows old.
Elf-blooded creature, little did he reck
Of this blind world’s delights,
Content to wreathe his legs around his neck
For warmth on winter nights;
Content to ramble away
Through his deep woods in May;
Content, alone with Pan, to observe his forest rites.
Or, cutting a dark cross of beauty there
All out of a hawthorn-tree,
He’d set it up, and whistle to praise and prayer,
Field-mouse and finch and bee;
And, as the woods grew dim
Brown squirrels knelt with him,
Paws to blunt nose, and prayed as well as he.
For, all his wits being lost, he was more wise
Than aught on earthly ground.
Like haunted woodland pools his great dark eyes
Where the lost stars were drowned,
Saw things afar and near.
‘Twas said that he could hear
The music of the spheres which had no sound.
And so, through many an age and many a clime,
He strayed on unseen wings;
For he was fey, and knew not space or time,
Kingdoms or earthly kings.
Clear as a crystal ball
One dew-drop showed him all, –
Earth and its tribes, and strange translunar things.
But to the world’s one May, he made in chief
His lonely woodland vow,
Praying – as none could pray but Shadow-of-a-Leaf,
Under that fresh-cut bough
Which with two branches grew,
Dark, dark, in sun and dew, –
“The world goes maying. Be this my maypole now!
“Make me a garland, Lady, in thy green aisles
For this wild rood of may,
And I will make thee another of tears and smiles
To match thine own, this day.
For every rose thereof
A rose of my heart’s love,
A blood-red rose that shall not waste away.
“For every violet here, a gentle thought
To worship at thine eyes;
But, most of all, for wildings few have sought,
And careless looks despise,
For ragged-robins’ birth
Here, in a ditch of earth,
A tangle of sweet prayers to thy pure skies.”
Bird, squirrel, bee, and the thing that was like no other
Played in the woods that day,
Talked in the heart of the woods, as brother to brother,
And prayed as children pray, –
Make me a garland, Lady, a garland, Mother,
For this wild rood of may.