10+ Best William Allingham Poems Everyone Should Read

William Allingham was an Irish poet, diarist and editor. He wrote several volumes of lyric verse, and his poem ‘The Faeries’ was much anthologised; but he is better known for his posthumously published Diary, in which he records his lively encounters with Tennyson, Carlyle and other writers and artists.

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Famous William Allingham Poems

The Little Dell

Doleful was the land,
Dull on, every side,
Neither soft n’or grand,
Barren, bleak, and wide;
Nothing look’d with love;
All was dingy brown;
The very skies above
Seem’d to sulk and frown.

Plodding sick and sad,
Weary day on day;
Searching, never glad,
Many a miry way;
Poor existence lagg’d
In this barren place;
While the seasons dragg’d
Slowly o’er its face.

Spring, to sky and ground,
Came before I guess’d;
Then one day I found
A valley, like a nest!
Guarded with a spell
Sure it must have been,
This little fairy dell
Which I had never seen.

Open to the blue,
Green banks hemm’d it round
A rillet wander’d through
With a tinkling sound;
Briars among the rocks
Tangled arbours made;
Primroses in flocks
Grew beneath their shade.

Merry birds a few,
Creatures wildly tame,
Perch’d and sung and flew;
Timid field-mice came;
Beetles in the moss
Journey’d here and there;
Butterflies across
Danced through sunlit air.

There I often read,
Sung alone, or dream’d;
Blossoms overhead,
Where the west wind stream’d;
Small horizon-line,
Smoothly lifted up,
Held this world of mine
In a grassy cup.

The barren land to-day
Hears my last adieu:
Not an hour I stay;
Earth is wide and new.
Yet, farewell, farewell!
May the sun and show’rs
Bless that Little Dell
Of safe and tranquil hours!

The Touchstone

A man there came, whence none could tell,
Bearing a Touchstone in his hand;
And tested all things in the land
By its unerring spell.

Quick birth of transmutation smote
The fair to foul, the foul to fair;
Purple nor ermine did he spare,
Nor scorn the dusty coat.

Of heirloom jewels, prized so much,
Were many changed to chips and clods,
And even statues of the Gods
Crumbled beneath its touch.

Then angrily the people cried,
‘The loss outweighs the profit far;
Our goods suffice us as they are
We will not have then tried.’

And since they could not so prevail
To check this unrelenting guest,
They seized him, saying – ‘Let him test
How real it is, our jail! ‘

But, though they slew him with the sword,
And in a fire his Touchstone burn’d,
Its doings could not be o’erturned,
Its undoings restored.

And when to stop all future harm,
They strew’d its ashes on the breeze;
They little guess’d each grain of these
Convey’d the perfect charm.

North, south, in rings and amulets,
Throughout the crowded world ’tis borne;
Which, as a fashion long outworn,
In ancient mind forgets.

Meadowsweet

Through grass, through amber’d cornfields, our slow Stream–
Fringed with its flags and reeds and rushes tall,
And Meadowsweet, the chosen of them all
By wandering children, yellow as the cream
Of those great cows–winds on as in a dream
By mill and footbridge, hamlet old and small
(Red roofs, gray tower), and sees the sunset gleam
On mullion’d windows of an ivied Hall.

There, once upon a time, the heavy King
Trod out its perfume from the Meadowsweet,
Strown like a woman’s love beneath his feet,
In stately dance or jovial banqueting,
When all was new; and in its wayfaring
Our Streamlet curved, as now, through grass and wheat.

Lovely Mary Donnelly

Oh, lovely Mary Donnelly, my joy, my only best
If fifty girls were round you, I’d hardly see the rest;
Be what it may the time o’ day, the place be where it will
Sweet looks o’ Mary Donnelly, they bloom before me still.

Her eyes like mountain water that’s flowing on a rock,
How clear they are, how dark they are! they give me many a shock.
Red rowans warm in sunshine and wetted with a shower,
Could ne’er express the charming lip that has me in its power.

Her nose is straight and handsome, her eyebrows lifted up,
Her chin is very neat and pert, and smooth like a china cup,
Her hair’s the brag of Ireland, so weighty and so fine;
It’s rolling down upon her neck, and gathered in a twine.

The dance o’ last Whit-Monday night exceeded all before,
No pretty girl from miles about was missing from the floor;
But Mary kept the belt of love, and O but she was gay!
She danced a jig, she sung a song, that took my heart away.

When she stood up for dancing, her steps were so complete,
The music nearly killed itself to her feet;
The fiddler mourned his blindness, he heard her so much praised,
But blessed his luck not to be deaf when once her voice she raised.

And evermore I’m whistling or lilting what you sung,
Your smile is always in my heart, your name beside my tongue;
But you’ve as many sweethearts as you’d count on both your hands,
And for myself there’s not a thumb or little finger stands.

Oh, you’re the flower o’ womankind in country or in town;
The higher I exalt you, the lower I’m cast down.
If some great lord should come this way, and see your beauty bright.
And you to be his lady, I’d own it was but right.

Oh, might we live together in a lofty palace hall,
Where joyful music rises, and where scarlet curtains fall!
Oh, might we live together in a cottage mean and small,
With sods or grass the only roof, and mud the only wall!

O lovely Mary Donnelly, your beauty’s my distress,
It’s far too beauteous to be mine, but I’ll never wish it less.
The proudest place would fit your face, and I am poor and low
But blessings be about you, dear, wherever you may go.

The Elf Singing

An Elf sat on a twig,
He was not very big,
He sang a little song,
He did not think it wrong;
But he was on a Wizard’s ground,
Who hated all sweet sound.

Elf, Elf,
Take care of yourself.
He’s coming behind you,
To seize you and bind you
And stifle you song.
The Wizard! The Wizard!
He changes his shape
In crawling along–
An ugly old ape,
A poisonous lizard,
A spotted spider,
A wormy glider
The Wizard! The Wizard!
He’s up on the bough
He’ll bite through your gizzard,
He’s close to you now!

The Elf went on with his song,
It grew more clear and strong;
It lifted him into air,
He floated singing away,
With rainbows in his hair;

While the Wizard-Worm from his creep
Mad a sudden leap,
Fell down into a hole,
And, are his magic word he could say,
Was eaten up by a Mole.

The Ruined Chapel

By the shore, a plot of ground
Clips a ruined chapel round,
Buttressed with a grassy mound;
Where Day and Night and Day go by
And bring no touch of human sound.

Washing of the lonely seas,
Shaking of the guardian trees,
Piping of the salted breeze;
Day and Night and Day go by
To the endless tune of these.

Or when, as winds and waters keep
A hush more dead than any sleep,
Still morns to stiller evenings creep,
And Day and Night and Day go by;
Here the silence is most deep.

The empty ruins, lapsed again
Into Nature’s wide domain,
Sow themselves with seed and grain
As Day and Night and Day go by;
And hoard June’s sun and April’s rain.

Here fresh funeral tears were shed;
Now the graves are also dead;
And suckers from the ash-tree spread,
While Day and Night and Day go by;
And stars move calmly overhead.

The Girl’s Lamentation

With grief and mourning I sit to spin;
My Love passed by, and he didn’t come in;
He passes by me, both day and night,
And carries off my poor heart’s delight.

There is a tavern in yonder town,
My Love goes there and he spends a crown;
He takes a strange girl upon his knee,
And never more gives a thought to me.

Says he, ‘We’ll wed without loss of time,
And sure our love’s but a little crime;’-
My apron-string now it’s wearing short,
And my Love he seeks other girls to court.

O with him I’d go if I had my will,
I’d follow him barefoot o’er rock and hill;
I’d never once speak of all my grief
If he’d give me a smile for my heart’s relief.

In our wee garden the rose unfolds,
With bachelor’s-buttons and marigolds;
I’ll tie no posies for dance or fair,
A willow-twig is for me to wear.

For a maid again I can never be,
Till the red rose blooms on the willow tree.
Of such a trouble I’ve heard them tell,
And now I know what it means full well.

As through the long lonesome night I lie,
I’d give the world if I might but cry;
But I mus’n’t moan there or raise my voice,
And the tears run down without any noise.

And what, O what will my mother say?
She’ll wish her daughter was in the clay.
My father will curse me to my face;
The neighbours will know of my black disgrace.

My sister’s buried three years, come Lent;
But sure we made far too much lament.
Beside her grave they still say a prayer-
I wish to God ’twas myself was there!

The Candlemas crosses hang near my bed;
To look at them puts me much in dread,
They mark the good time that’s gone and past:
It’s like this year’s one will prove the last.

The oldest cross it’s a dusty brown,
But the winter winds didn’t shake it down;
The newest cross keeps the colour bright;
When the straw was reaping my heart was light.

The reapers rose with the blink of morn,
And gaily stook’d up the yellow corn;
To call them home to the field I’d run,
Through the blowing breeze and the summer sun.

When the straw was weaving my heart was glad,
For neither sin nor shame I had,
In the barn where oat-chaff was flying round,
And the thumping flails made a pleasant sound.

Now summer or winter to me it’s one;
But oh! for a day like the time that’s gone.
I’d little care was it storm or shine,
If I had but peace in this heart of mine.

Oh! light and false is a young man’s kiss,
And a foolish girl gives her soul for this.
Oh! light and short is the young man’s blame,
And a helpless girl has the grief and shame.

To the river-bank once I thought to go,
And cast myself in the stream below;
I thought ‘twould carry us far out to sea,
Where they’d never find my poor babe and me.

Sweet Lord, forgive me that wicked mind!
You know I used to be well-inclined.
Oh, take compassion upon my state,
Because my trouble is so very great.

My head turns round with the spinning wheel,
And a heavy cloud on my eyes I feel.
But the worst of all is at my heart’s core;
For my innocent days will come back no more.

The Maids Of Elfin-Mere

When the spinning-room was here
Came Three Damsels, clothed in white,
With their spindles every night;
One and Two and three fair Maidens,
Spinning to a pulsing cadence,
Singing songs of Elfin-Mere;
Till the eleventh hour was toll’d,
Then departed through the wold.
Years ago, and years ago;
And the tall reeds sigh as the wind doth blow.

Three white Lilies, calm and clear,
And they were loved by every one;
Most of all, the Pastor’s Son,
Listening to their gentle singing,
Felt his heart go from him, clinging
Round these Maids of Elfin-Mere.
Sued each night to make them stay,
Sadden’d when they went away.
Years ago, and years ago;
And the tall reeds sigh as the wind doth blow.

Hands that shook with love and fear
Dared put back the village clock,-
Flew the spindle, turn’d the rock,
Flow’d the song with subtle rounding,
Till the false ‘eleven’ was sounding;
Then these Maids of Elfin-Mere
Swiftly, softly, left the room,
Like three doves on snowy plume.
Years ago, and years ago;
And the tall reeds sigh as the wind doth blow.

One that night who wander’d near
Heard lamentings by the shore,
Saw at dawn three stains of gore
In the waters fade and dwindle.
Never more with song and spindle
Saw we Maids of Elfin-Mere,
The Pastor’s Son did pine and die;
Because true love should never lie.
Years ago, and years ago;
And the tall reeds sigh as the wind doth blow.

Song. O Spirit Of The Summer-Time!

O spirit of the Summer-time!
Bring back the roses to the dells;
The swallow from her distant clime,
The honey-bee from drowsy cells.

Bring back the friendship of the sun;
The gilded evenings calm and late,
When weary children homeward run,
And peeping stars bid lovers wait.

Bring back the singing; and the scent
Of meadow-lands at dewy prime;
Oh, bring again my heart’s content,
Thou Spirit of the Summer-time!

The Witch-Bride

A fair witch crept to a young man’s side,
And he kiss’d her and took her for his bride.

But a Shape came in at the dead of night,
And fill’d the room with snowy light.

And he saw how in his arms there lay
A thing more frightful than mouth may say.

And he rose in haste, and follow’d the Shape
Till morning crown’d an eastern cape.

And he girded himself, and follow’d still,
When sunset sainted the western hill.

But, mocking and thwarting, clung to his side,
Weary day! – the foul Witch-Bride.

St. Margaret’s Eve

Saint Margaret’s Eve it did befall,
The waves roll so gayly O,
The tide came creeping up the wall,
Love me true!

I opened my gate; who there should stand–
The waves roll so gayly O,
But a fair lady, with a cup in her hand,
Love me true!

The cup was gold, and full of wine,
The waves roll so gayly O,
‘Drink,’ said the lady, ‘and I will be thine,’
Love me true!

‘Enter my castle, lady fair,’
The waves roll so gayly O,
‘You shall be queen of all that’s there,’
Love me true!

A gray old harper sang to me,
The waves roll so gayly O,
‘Beware of the Damsel of the Sea!’
Love me true!

In hall he harpeth many a year,
The waves roll so gayly O,
And we will sit his song to hear,
Love me true!

‘I love thee deep, I love thee true,’
The waves roll so gayly O,
‘But ah! I know not how to woo,’
Love me true!

Down dashed the cup, with a sudden shock,
The waves roll so gayly O,
The wine like blood ran over the rock,
Love me true!

She said no word, but shrieked aloud,
The waves roll so gayly O,
And vanished away from where she stood,
Love me true!

I locked and barred my castle door,
The waves roll so gayly O,
Three summer days I grieved sore,
Love me true!

For myself a day, a night,
The waves roll so gayly O,
And two to moan that lady bright,
Love me true!

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