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Complete Poetical Works of Edward Thomas

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The Delphi Poets Series offers readers the works of literature's finest poets, with superior formatting. This volume presents the complete poetical works of Edward Thomas, with beautiful illustrations, rare texts and the usual Delphi bonus material. (Version 1)

* Beautifully illustrated with images relating to Thomas’ life and works
* Concise introduction to the life of Edward Thomas
* Excellent formatting of the poems
* Special chronological and alphabetical contents tables for the poetry
* Easily locate the poems you want to read
* Even includes the poet’s autobiographical novella THE HAPPY-GO-LUCKY MORGANS
* Includes Thomas’ letters - spend hours exploring the poet's personal correspondence
* Features Thomas’ autobiographies, appearing here for the first time in digital print - discover Thomas’ literary life
* Scholarly ordering of texts into chronological order and literary genres

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The Poetry of Edward Thomas

The Poems

The Novella

The Letters

The Autobiographies

Please visitwww.delphiclassics.comto browse through our range of exciting titles
Delphi Classics
Delphi Poets Series
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The Poetry of Edward Thomas


The Poems



The Novella


The Letters



The Autobiographies



© Delphi Classics 2013

Version 1


By Delphi Classics, 2013


When reading poetry on an eReader, it is advisable to use a small font size, which will allow the lines of poetry to display correctly.

Also available:

The Complete Works of Wilfred Owen

For the first time in publishing history, readers can explore all the poems, rare fragments and Owen’s letters.


The Poetry of Edward Thomas

Edward Thomas was born on 3 March, 1878, in 10 Upper Lansdowne Road North, now 14 Lansdowne Gardens, Lambeth, London.

The plaque commemorating the poet’s birth


Edward Thomas was born of Welsh descent, in Lambeth, London in 1878. He was educated at St Paul’s College and then Lincoln College at Oxford University, where he studied history. He married while still an undergraduate and determined to embark on a literary career, beginning as a book reviewer, reviewing up to fifteen books every week. In time, Thomas was a prolific writer of prose, completing biographies on Richard Jefferies, Swinburne and Keats, as well as working as a moderately successful journalist, whose work concentrated on the image of England and its countryside.

Thomas worked as literary critic for the Daily Chronicle in London and became a close friend of Welsh tramp poet W. H. Davies, whose career he almost single-handedly launched. From 1905, Thomas lived with his wife Helen and their family at Elses Farm near Sevenoaks, Kent. He rented to Davies a tiny cottage nearby, and nurtured his writing as best he could. On one occasion, Thomas even had to arrange ; for the manufacture, by a local wheelwright, of a makeshift wooden leg for Davies.

Thomas often suffered from severe bouts of depression and recurrent psychological breakdowns, feeling creatively repressed by the endless reviews and ill-paid commissions he had to undergo to support himself and his family. Although happier with his writings on countryside that mixed observation, information, literary criticism, self-reflection and portraiture, Thomas still felt that his style was not original enough to merit recognition and so he struggled to find a form that suited him.

Even though Thomas believed that poetry was the highest form of literature and regularly reviewed it, he only became a poet himself at the end of 1914, when living at Steep, East Hampshire. Following a meeting with the American poet Robert Frost, Thomas devoted himself fully to the writing of poetry. From the beginning of his poetic writings, the First World War became a shifting presence in Thomas’ poetry, acting to concentrate his mind on a war-torn vision of England.

His poetry, so he said, acted as the ‘metaphysical counterpart’ to his decision to join the army. After ‘the natural culmination of a long series of moods and thoughts’ he enlisted in 1915 with the Artists’ Rifles as a private. Thomas was sent to Hare Hall Camp at Romford, Essex, where he worked as a map-reading instructor and was promoted to lance-corporal, then full corporal. Given his age, Thomas could have honourably remained in this post throughout the War; however, in September 1916 he began training in the Royal Garrison Artillery and when he was commissioned second lieutenant in November he volunteered for service overseas. Thomas left England for France in January 1917 and served with No. 244 siege battery. On the 9th April Thomas was killed by a shell blast in the first hour of the Battle of Arras at an observation post whilst directing fire.

Thomas wrote no poetry that we know of during his time in France, however his small pocket diary reveals him to be a changed man, an efficient officer and a prolific writer. The poet is buried in Agny military cemetery on the outskirts of Arras. He was survived by his wife Helen and three children, Bronwen, Merfyn and Myfanwy. Thomas did not live to see Poems (1917), published under his pseudonym, Edward Eastaway. Although only functioning as a poet for little over two years, Thomas had created a body of over 140 poems, which have since been recognised as some of the greatest poetic achievements of his era. Thomas’ poems are celebrated for their attention to the English countryside and his telltale colloquial style.

Thomas with his son, 1900

Thomas, 1904

Thomas in 1914, the year when he began to write poetry seriously

An illustration of Thomas enlisting

Thomas in uniform, 1916


‘I could wring the old thing’s neck that put it here!

A public-house! It may be public for birds,

Squirrels and such-like, ghosts of charcoal-burners

And highwaymen.’ The wild girl laughed. ‘But I

Hate it since I came back from Kennington. 5

I gave up a good place.’ Her Cockney accent

Made her and the house seem wilder by calling up –

Only to be subdued at once by wildness –

The idea of London, there in that forest parlour,

Low and small among the towering beeches 10

And the one bulging butt that’s like a font.

Her eyes flashed up; she shook her hair away

From eyes and mouth, as if to shriek again;

Then sighed back to her scrubbing. While I drank

I might have mused of coaches and highwaymen, 15

Charcoal-burners and life that loves the wild.

For who now used these roads except myself,

A market waggon every other Wednesday,

A solitary tramp, some very fresh one

Ignorant of these eleven houseless miles, 20

A motorist from a distance slowing down

To taste whatever luxury he can

In having North Downs clear behind, South clear before,

And being midway between two railway lines

Far out of sight or sound of them? There are 25

Some houses – down the by-lanes; and a few

Are visible – when their damsons are in bloom.

But the land is wild, and there’s a spirit of wildness

Much older, crying when the stone-curlew yodels

His sea and mountain cry, high up in Spring. 30

He nests in fields where still the gorse is free as

When all was open and common. Common ‘tis named

And calls itself, because the bracken and gorse

Still hold the hedge where plough and scythe have chased them.

Once on a time ‘tis plain that ‘The White Horse’ 35

Stood merely on the border of a waste

Where horse or cart picked its own course afresh.

On all sides then, as now, paths ran to the inn;

And now a farm-track takes you from a gate.

Two roads cross, and not a house in sight 40

Except ‘The White Horse’ in this clump of beeches.

It hides from either road, a field’s breadth back;

And it’s the trees you see, and not the house,

Both near and far, when the clump’s the highest thing

And homely, too, upon a far horizon 45

To one that knows there is an inn within.

‘‘Twould have been different’ the wild girl shrieked, ‘suppose

That widow had married another blacksmith and

Kept on the business. This parlour was the smithy.

If she had done, there might never have been an inn; 50

And I, in that case, might never have been born.

Years ago, when this was all a wood

And the smith had charcoal-burners for company,

A man from a beech-country in the shires

Came with an engine and a little boy 55

(To feed the engine) to cut up timber here.

It all happened years ago. The smith

Had died, his widow had set up an alehouse –

I could wring the old thing’s neck for thinking of it.

Well, I suppose they fell in love, the widow 60

And my great-uncle that sawed up the timber:

Leastways they married. The little boy stayed on.

He was my father.’ She thought she’d scrub again –

‘I draw the ale and he grows fat’ she muttered –

But only studied the hollows in the bricks 65

And chose among her thoughts in stirring silence.

The clock ticked, and the big saucepan lid

Heaved as the cabbage bubbled, and the girl

Questioned the fire and spoke: ‘My father, he

Took to the land. A mile of it is worth 70

A guinea; for by that time all the trees

Except these few about the house were gone:

That’s all that’s left of the forest unless you count

The bottoms of the charcoal-burners’ fires –

We plough one up at times. Did you ever see 75

Our signboard?’ No. The post and empty frame

I knew. Without them I should not have guessed

The low grey house and its one stack under trees

Was a public-house and not a hermitage.

‘But can that empty frame be any use? 80

Now I should like to see a good white horse

Swing there, a really beautiful white horse,

Galloping one side, being painted on the other.’

‘But would you like to hear it swing all night

And all day? All I ever had to thank 85

The wind for was for blowing the sign down.

Time after time it blew down and I could sleep.

At last they fixed it, and it took a thief

To move it, and we’ve never had another:

It’s lying at the bottom of the pond. 90

But no one’s moved the wood from off the hill

There at the back, although it makes a noise

When the wind blows, as if a train were running

The other side, a train that never stops

Or ends. And the linen crackles on the line 95

Like a wood fire rising.’ ‘But if you had the sign

You might draw company. What about Kennington?’

She bent down to her scrubbing with ‘Not me:

Not back to Kennington. Here I was born,

And I’ve a notion on these windy nights 100

Here I shall die. Perhaps I want to die here.

I reckon I shall stay. But I do wish

The road was nearer and the wind farther off,

Or once now and then quite still, though when I die

I’d have it blowing that I might go with it 105

Somewhere distant, where there are trees no more

And I could wake and not know where I was

Nor even wonder if they would roar again.

Look at those calves.’

Between the open door

And the trees two calves were wading in the pond, 110

Grazing the water here and there and thinking,

Sipping and thinking, both happily, neither long.

The water wrinkled, but they sipped and thought,

As careless of the wind as it of us.

‘Look at those calves. Hark at the trees again.’ 115

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


November’s days are thirty:

November’s earth is dirty,

Those thirty days, from first to last;

And the prettiest things on ground are the paths

With morning and evening hobnails dinted, 5

With foot and wing-tip overprinted

Or separately charactered,

Of little beast and little bird.

The fields are mashed by sheep, the roads

Make the worst going, the best the woods 10

Where dead leaves upward and downward scatter.

Few care for the mixture of earth and water,

Twig, leaf, flint, thorn,

Straw, feather, all that men scorn,

Pounded up and sodden by flood, 15

Condemned as mud.

But of all the months when earth is greener

Not one has clean skies that are cleaner.

Clean and clear and sweet and cold,

They shine above the earth so old, 20

While the after-tempest cloud

Sails over in silence though winds are loud,

Till the full moon in the east

Looks at the planet in the west

And earth is silent as it is black, 25

Yet not unhappy for its lack.

Up from the dirty earth men stare:

One imagines a refuge there

Above the mud, in the pure bright

Of the cloudless heavenly light: 30

Another loves earth and November more dearly

Because without them, he sees clearly,

The sky would be nothing more to his eye

Than he, in any case, is to the sky;

He loves even the mud whose dyes 35

Renounce all brightness to the skies.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Now I know that Spring will come again,

Perhaps tomorrow: however late I’ve patience

After this night following on such a day.

While still my temples ached from the cold burning

Of hail and wind, and still the primroses 5

Torn by the hail were covered up in it,

The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light

And a tenderness, almost warmth, where the hail dripped,

As if the mighty sun wept tears of joy.

But ‘twas too late for warmth. The sunset piled 10

Mountains on mountains of snow and ice in the west:

Somewhere among their folds the wind was lost,

And yet ‘twas cold, and though I knew that Spring

Would come again, I knew it had not come,

That it was lost too in those mountains chill. 15

What did the thrushes know? Rain, snow, sleet, hail,

Had kept them quiet as the primroses.

They had but an hour to sing. On boughs they sang,

On gates, on ground; they sang while they changed perches

And while they fought, if they remembered to fight: 20

So earnest were they to pack into that hour

Their unwilling hoard of song before the moon

Grew brighter than the clouds. Then ‘twas no time

For singing merely. So they could keep off silence

And night, they cared not what they sang or screamed; 25

Whether ‘twas hoarse or sweet or fierce or soft;

And to me all was sweet: they could do no wrong.

Something they knew – I also, while they sang

And after. Not till night had half its stars

And never a cloud, was I aware of silence 30

Stained with all that hour’s songs, a silence

Saying that Spring returns, perhaps tomorrow.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Old Man, or Lad’s-love, – in the name there’s nothing

To one that knows not Lad’s-love, or Old Man,

The hoar-green feathery herb, almost a tree,

Growing with rosemary and lavender.

Even to one that knows it well, the names 5

Half decorate, half perplex, the thing it is:

At least, what that is clings not to the names

In spite of time. And yet I like the names.

The herb itself I like not, but for certain

I love it, as some day the child will love it 10

Who plucks a feather from the door-side bush

Whenever she goes in or out of the house.

Often she waits there, snipping the tips and shrivelling

The shreds at last on to the path, perhaps

Thinking, perhaps of nothing, till she sniffs 15

Her fingers and runs off. The bush is still

But half as tall as she, though it is as old;

So well she clips it. Not a word she says;

And I can only wonder how much hereafter

She will remember, with that bitter scent, 20

Of garden rows, and ancient damson-trees

Topping a hedge, a bent path to a door,

A low thick bush beside the door, and me

Forbidding her to pick.

As for myself,

Where first I met the bitter scent is lost. 25

I, too, often shrivel the grey shreds,

Sniff them and think and sniff again and try

Once more to think what it is I am remembering,

Always in vain. I cannot like the scent,

Yet I would rather give up others more sweet, 30

With no meaning, than this bitter one.

I have mislaid the key. I sniff the spray

And think of nothing; I see and I hear nothing;

Yet seem, too, to be listening, lying in wait

For what I should, yet never can, remember: 35

No garden appears, no path, no hoar-green bush

Of Lad’s-love, or Old Man, no child beside,

Neither father nor mother, nor any playmate;

Only an avenue, dark, nameless, without end.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The dim sea glints chill. The white sun is shy,

And the skeleton weeds and the never-dry,

Rough, long grasses keep white with frost

At the hilltop by the finger-post;

The smoke of the traveller’s-joy is puffed 5

Over hawthorn berry and hazel tuft.

I read the sign. Which way shall I go?

A voice says: You would not have doubted so

At twenty. Another voice gentle with scorn

Says: At twenty you wished you had never been born. 10

One hazel lost a leaf of gold

From a tuft at the tip, when the first voice told

The other he wished to know what ‘twould be

To be sixty by this same post. ‘You shall see,’

He laughed – and I had to join his laughter – 15

‘You shall see; but either before or after,

Whatever happens, it must befall,

A mouthful of earth to remedy all

Regrets and wishes shall freely be given;

And if there be a flaw in that heaven 20

‘Twill be freedom to wish, and your wish may be

To be here or anywhere talking to me,

No matter what the weather, on earth,

At any age between death and birth, –

To see what day or night can be, 25

The sun and the frost, the land and the sea,

Summer, Autumn, Winter, Spring, –

With a poor man of any sort, down to a king,

Standing upright out in the air

Wondering where he shall journey, O where?’ 30

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The rain of a night and a day and a night

Stops at the light

Of this pale choked day. The peering sun

Sees what has been done.

The road under the trees has a border new 5

Of purple hue

Inside the border of bright thin grass:

For all that has

Been left by November of leaves is torn

From hazel and thorn 10

And the greater trees. Throughout the copse

No dead leaf drops

On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern,

At the wind’s return:

The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed 15

Are thinly spread

In the road, like little black fish, inlaid,

As if they played.

What hangs from the myriad branches down there

So hard and bare 20

Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see

On one crab-tree,

And on each twig of every tree in the dell


Crystals both dark and bright of the rain 25

That begins again.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Gone the wild day:

A wilder night

Coming makes way

For brief twilight.

Where the firm soaked road 5

Mounts and is lost

In the high beech-wood

It shines almost.

The beeches keep

A stormy rest, 10

Breathing deep

Of wind from the west.

The wood is black,

With a misty steam.

Above, the cloud pack 15

Breaks for one gleam.

But the woodman’s cot

By the ivied trees

Awakens not

To light or breeze. 20

It smokes aloft


It hunches soft

Under storm’s wing.

It has no care 25

For gleam or gloom:

It stays there

While I shall roam,

Die, and forget

The hill of trees, 30

The gleam, the wet,

This roaring peace.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The forest ended. Glad I was

To feel the light, and hear the hum

Of bees, and smell the drying grass

And the sweet mint, because I had come

To an end of forest, and because 5

Here was both road and inn, the sum

Of what’s not forest. But ‘twas here

They asked me if I did not pass

Yesterday this way? ‘Not you? Queer.’

‘Who then? and slept here?’ I felt fear. 10

I learnt his road and, ere they were

Sure I was I, left the dark wood

Behind, kestrel and woodpecker,

The inn in the sun, the happy mood

When first I tasted sunlight there. 15

I travelled fast, in hopes I should

Outrun that other. What to do

When caught, I planned not. I pursued

To prove the likeness, and, if true,

To watch until myself I knew. 20

I tried the inns that evening

Of a long gabled high-street grey,

Of courts and outskirts, travelling

An eager but a weary way,

In vain. He was not there. Nothing 25

Told me that ever till that day

Had one like me entered those doors,

Save once. That time I dared: ‘You may

Recall’ – but never-foamless shores

Make better friends than those dull boors. 30

Many and many a day like this

Aimed at the unseen moving goal

And nothing found but remedies

For all desire. These made not whole;

They sowed a new desire, to kiss 35

Desire’s self beyond control,

Desire of desire. And yet

Life stayed on within my soul.

One night in sheltering from the wet

I quite forgot I could forget. 40

A customer, then the landlady

Stared at me. With a kind of smile

They hesitated awkwardly:

Their silence gave me time for guile.

Had anyone called there like me, 45

I asked. It was quite plain the wile

Succeeded. For they poured out all.

And that was naught. Less than a mile

Beyond the inn, I could recall

He was like me in general. 50

He had pleased them, but I less.

I was more eager than before

To find him out and to confess,

To bore him and to let him bore.

I could not wait: children might guess 55

I had a purpose, something more

That made an answer indiscreet.

One girl’s caution made me sore,

Too indignant even to greet

That other had we chanced to meet. 60

I sought then in solitude.

The wind had fallen with the night; as still

The roads lay as the ploughland rude,

Dark and naked, on the hill.

Had there been ever any feud 65

‘Twixt earth and sky, a mighty will

Closed it: the crocketed dark trees,

A dark house, dark impossible

Cloud-towers, one star, one lamp, one peace

Held on an everlasting lease: 70

And all was earth’s, or all was sky’s;

No difference endured between

The two. A dog barked on a hidden rise;

A marshbird whistled high unseen;

The latest waking blackbird’s cries 75

Perished upon the silence keen.

The last light filled a narrow firth

Among the clouds. I stood serene,

And with a solemn quiet mirth,

An old inhabitant of earth. 80

Once the name I gave to hours

Like this was melancholy, when

It was not happiness and powers

Coming like exiles home again,

And weaknesses quitting their bowers, 85

Smiled and enjoyed, far off from men,

Moments of everlastingness.

And fortunate my search was then

While what I sought, nevertheless,

That I was seeking, I did not guess. 90

That time was brief: once more at inn

And upon road I sought my man

Till once amid a tap-room’s din

Loudly he asked for me, began

To speak, as if it had been a sin, 95

Of how I thought and dreamed and ran

After him thus, day after day:

He lived as one under a ban

For this: what had I got to say?

I said nothing. I slipped away. 100

And now I dare not follow after

Too close. I try to keep in sight,

Dreading his frown and worse his laughter.

I steal out of the wood to light;

I see the swift shoot from the rafter 105

By the inn door: ere I alight

I wait and hear the starlings wheeze

And nibble like ducks: I wait his flight.

He goes: I follow: no release

Until he ceases. Then I also shall cease. 110

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Chapel and gravestones, old and few,

Are shrouded by a mountain fold

From sound and view

Of life. The loss of the brook’s voice

Falls like a shadow. All they hear is 5

The eternal noise

Of wind whistling in grass more shrill

Than aught as human as a sword,

And saying still:

‘‘Tis but a moment since man’s birth 10

And in another moment more

Man lies in earth

For ever; but I am the same

Now, and shall be, even as I was

Before he came; 15

Till there is nothing I shall be.’

Yet there the sun shines after noon

So cheerfully

The place almost seems peopled, nor

Lacks cottage chimney, cottage hearth: 20

It is not more

In size than is a cottage, less

Than any other empty home

In homeliness.

It has a garden of wild flowers 25

And finest grass and gravestones warm

In sunshine hours

The year through. Men behind the glass

Stand once a week, singing, and drown

The whistling grass 30

Their ponies munch. And yet somewhere,

Near or far off, there’s a man could

Be happy here,

Or one of the gods perhaps, were they

Not of inhuman stature dire, 35

As poets say

Who have not seen them clearly; if

At sound of any wind of the world

In grass-blades stiff

They would not startle and shudder cold 40

Under the sun. When gods were young

This wind was old.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The summer nests uncovered by autumn wind,

Some torn, others dislodged, all dark,

Everyone sees them: low or high in tree,

Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.

Since there’s no need of eyes to see them with 5

I cannot help a little shame

That I missed most, even at eye’s level, till

The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.

‘Tis a light pang. I like to see the nests

Still in their places, now first known, 10

At home and by far roads. Boys knew them not,

Whatever jays and squirrels may have done.

And most I like the winter nest deep-hid

That leaves and berries fell into:

Once a dormouse dined there on hazel-nuts, 15

And grass and goose-grass seeds found soil and grew.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The rock-like mud unfroze a little and rills

Ran and sparkled down each side of the road

Under the catkins wagging in the hedge.

But earth would have her sleep out, spite of the sun;

Nor did I value that thin gilding beam 5

More than a pretty February thing

Till I came down to the old Manor Farm,

And church and yew-tree opposite, in age

Its equals and in size. The church and yew

And farmhouse slept in a Sunday silentness. 10

The air raised not a straw. The steep farm roof,

With tiles duskily glowing, entertained

The midday sun; and up and down the roof

White pigeons nestled. There was no sound but one.

Three cart-horses were looking over a gate 15

Drowsily through their forelocks, swishing their tails

Against a fly, a solitary fly.

The Winter’s cheek flushed as if he had drained

Spring, Summer, and Autumn at a draught

And smiled quietly. But ‘twas not Winter – 20

Rather a season of bliss unchangeable

Awakened from farm and church where it had lain

Safe under tile and thatch for ages since

This England, Old already, was called Merry.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


I was not apprenticed nor ever dwelt in famous Lincolnshire;

I’ve served one master ill and well much more than seven year;

And never took up to poaching as you shall quickly find;

But ‘tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.

I roamed where nobody had a right but keepers and squires, and there 5

I sought for nests, wild flowers, oak sticks, and moles, both far and near,

And had to run from farmers, and learnt the Lincolnshire song:

‘Oh, ‘tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.’

I took those walks years after, talking with friend or dear,

Or solitary musing; but when the moon shone clear 10

I had no joy or sorrow that could not be expressed

By ‘‘Tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.’

Since then I’ve thrown away a chance to fight a gamekeeper;

And I less often trespass, and what I see or hear

Is mostly from the road or path by day: yet still I sing: 15

‘Oh, ‘tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.’

For if I am contented, at home or anywhere,

Or if I sigh for I know not what, or my heart beats with some fear,

It is a strange kind of delight to sing or whistle just:

‘Oh, ‘tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.’ 20

And with this melody on my lips and no one by to care,

Indoors, or out on shiny nights or dark in open air,

I am for a moment made a man that sings out of his heart:

‘Oh, ‘tis my delight of a shiny night in the season of the year.’

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The sun set, the wind fell, the sea

Was like a mirror shaking:

The one small wave that clapped the land

A mile-long snake of foam was making

Where tide had smoothed and wind had dried 5

The vacant sand.

A light divided the swollen clouds

And lay most perfectly

Like a straight narrow footbridge bright

That crossed over the sea to me; 10

And no one else in the whole world

Saw that same sight.

I walked elate, my bridge always

Just one step from my feet:

A robin sang, a shade in shade: 15

And all I did was to repeat:

‘I’ll go no more a-roving

With you, fair maid.’

The sailors’ song of merry loving

With dusk and sea-gull’s mewing 20

Mixed sweet, the lewdness far outweighed

By the wild charm the chorus played:

‘I’ll go no more a-roving

With you, fair maid:

A-roving, a-roving, since roving’s been my ruin, 25

I’ll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.’

In Amsterdam there dwelt a maid –

Mark well what I do say –

In Amsterdam there dwelt a maid

And she was a mistress of her trade: 30

I’ll go no more a-roving

With you, fair maid:

A-roving, a-roving, since roving’s been my ruin,

I’ll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid.

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The Combe was ever dark, ancient and dark.

Its mouth is stopped with bramble, thorn, and briar;

And no one scrambles over the sliding chalk

By beech and yew and perishing juniper

Down the half precipices of its sides, with roots 5

And rabbit holes for steps. The sun of Winter,

The moon of Summer, and all the singing birds

Except the missel-thrush that loves juniper,

Are quite shut out. But far more ancient and dark

The Combe looks since they killed the badger there, 10

Dug him out and gave him to the hounds,

That most ancient Briton of English beasts.

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He was the one man I met up in the woods

That stormy New Year’s morning; and at first sight,

Fifty yards off, I could not tell how much

Of the strange tripod was a man. His body,

Bowed horizontal, was supported equally 5

By legs at one end, by a rake at the other:

Thus he rested, far less like a man than

His wheel-barrow in profile was like a pig.

But when I saw it was an old man bent,

At the same moment came into my mind 10

The games at which boys bend thus, High-cockolorum,

Or Fly-the-garter, and Leap-frog. At the sound

Of footsteps he began to straighten himself;

His head rolled under his cape like a tortoise’s;

He took an unlit pipe out of his mouth 15

Politely ere I wished him ‘A Happy New Year’,

And with his head cast upward sideways muttered –

So far as I could hear through the trees’ roar –

‘Happy New Year, and may it come fastish, too,’

While I strode by and he turned to raking leaves. 20

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Out in the sun the goldfinch flits

Along the thistle-tops, flits and twits

Above the hollow wood

Where birds swim like fish –

Fish that laugh and shriek – 5

To and fro, far below

In the pale hollow wood.

Lichen, ivy, and moss

Keep evergreen the trees

That stand half-flayed and dying, 10

And the dead trees on their knees

In dog’s-mercury and moss:

And the bright twit of the goldfinch drops

Down there as he flits on thistle-tops.

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All day the air triumphs with its two voices

Of wind and rain:

As loud as if in anger it rejoices,

Drowning the sound of earth

That gulps and gulps in choked endeavour vain 5

To swallow the rain.

Half the night, too, only the wild air speaks

With wind and rain,

Till forth the dumb source of the river breaks

And drowns the rain and wind, 10

Bellows like a giant bathing in mighty mirth

The triumph of earth.

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The new moon hangs like an ivory bugle

In the naked frosty blue;

And the ghylls of the forest, already blackened

By Winter, are blackened anew.

The brooks that cut up and increase the forest, 5

As if they had never known

The sun, are roaring with black hollow voices

Betwixt rage and a moan.

But still the caravan-hut by the hollies

Like a kingfisher gleams between: 10

Round the mossed old hearths of the charcoal-burners

First primroses ask to be seen.

The charcoal-burners are black, but their linen

Blows white on the line;

And white the letter the girl is reading 15

Under that crescent fine;

And her brother who hides apart in a thicket,

Slowly and surely playing

On a whistle an olden nursery melody,

Says far more than I am saying. 20

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This ploughman dead in battle slept out of doors

Many a frosty night, and merrily

Answered staid drinkers, good bedmen, and all bores:

‘At Mrs Greenland’s Hawthorn Bush,’ said he,

‘I slept.’ None knew which bush. Above the town, 5

Beyond ‘The Drover’, a hundred spot the down

In Wiltshire. And where now at last he sleeps

More sound in France – that, too, he secret keeps.

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In the gloom of whiteness,

In the great silence of snow,

A child was sighing

And bitterly saying: ‘Oh, 5

They have killed a white bird up there on her nest,

The down is fluttering from her breast.’

And still it fell through that dusky brightness

On the child crying for the bird of the snow.

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Yes. I remember Adlestrop –

The name, because one afternoon

Of heat the express-train drew up there

Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat. 5

No one left and no one came

On the bare platform. What I saw

Was Adlestrop – only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,

And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry, 10

No whit less still and lonely fair

Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang

Close by, and round him, mistier,

Farther and farther, all the birds 15

Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

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It seems I have no tears left. They should have fallen –

Their ghosts, if tears have ghosts, did fall – that day

When twenty hounds streamed by me, not yet combed out

But still all equals in their rage of gladness

Upon the scent, made one, like a great dragon 5

In Blooming Meadow that bends towards the sun

And once bore hops: and on that other day

When I stepped out from the double-shadowed Tower

Into an April morning, stirring and sweet

And warm. Strange solitude was there and silence. 10

A mightier charm than any in the Tower

Possessed the courtyard. They were changing guard,

Soldiers in line, young English countrymen,

Fair-haired and ruddy, in white tunics. Drums

And fifes were playing ‘The British Grenadiers’. 15

The men, the music piercing that solitude

And silence, told me truths I had not dreamed,

And have forgotten since their beauty passed.

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Often and often it came back again

To mind, the day I passed the horizon ridge

To a new country, the path I had to find

By half-gaps that were stiles once in the hedge,

The pack of scarlet clouds running across 5

The harvest evening that seemed endless then

And after, and the inn where all were kind,

All were strangers. I did not know my loss

Till one day twelve months later suddenly

I leaned upon my spade and saw it all, 10

Though far beyond the sky-line. It became

Almost a habit through the year for me

To lean and see it and think to do the same

Again for two days and a night. Recall

Was vain: no more could the restless brook 15

Ever turn back and climb the waterfall

To the lake that rests and stirs not in its nook,

As in the hollow of the collar-bone

Under the mountain’s head of rush and stone.

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Today I want the sky,

The tops of the high hills,

Above the last man’s house,

His hedges, and his cows,

Where, if I will, I look 5

Down even on sheep and rook,

And of all things that move

See buzzards only above: –

Past all trees, past furze

And thorn, where naught deters 10

The desire of the eye

For sky, nothing but sky.

I sicken of the woods

And all the multitudes

Of hedge-trees. They are no more 15

Than weeds upon this floor

Of the river of air

Leagues deep, leagues wide, where

I am like a fish that lives

In weeds and mud and gives 20

What’s above him no thought.

I might be a tench for aught

That I can do today

Down on the wealden clay.

Even the tench has days 25

When he floats up and plays

Among the lily leaves

And sees the sky, or grieves

Not if he nothing sees:

While I, I know that trees 30

Under that lofty sky

Are weeds, fields mud, and I

Would arise and go far

To where the lilies are.

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That’s the cuckoo, you say. I cannot hear it.

When last I heard it I cannot recall; but I know

Too well the year when first I failed to hear it –

It was drowned by my man groaning out to his sheep ‘Ho! Ho!’

Ten times with an angry voice he shouted 5

‘Ho! Ho!’ but not in anger, for that was his way.

He died that Summer, and that is how I remember

The cuckoo calling, the children listening, and me saying, ‘Nay.’

And now, as you said, ‘There it is!’ I was hearing

Not the cuckoo at all, but my man’s ‘Ho! Ho!’ instead. 10

And I think that even if I could lose my deafness

The cuckoo’s note would be drowned by the voice of my dead.

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They have taken the gable from the roof of clay

On the long swede pile. They have let in the sun

To the white and gold and purple of curled fronds

Unsunned. It is a sight more tender-gorgeous

At the wood-corner where Winter moans and drips 5

Than when, in the Valley of the Tombs of Kings,

A boy crawls down into a Pharaoh’s tomb

And, first of Christian men, beholds the mummy,

God and monkey, chariot and throne and vase,

Blue pottery, alabaster, and gold. 10

But dreamless long-dead Amen-hotep lies.

This is a dream of Winter, sweet as Spring.

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Three lovely notes he whistled, too soft to be heard

If others sang; but others never sang

In the great beech-wood all that May and June.

No one saw him: I alone could hear him

Though many listened. Was it but four years 5

Ago? or five? He never came again.

Oftenest when I heard him I was alone,

Nor could I ever make another hear.

La-la-la! he called, seeming far-off –

As if a cock crowed past the edge of the world, 10

As if the bird or I were in a dream.

Yet that he travelled through the trees and sometimes

Neared me, was plain, though somehow distant still

He sounded. All the proof is – I told men

What I had heard.

I never knew a voice, 15

Man, beast, or bird, better than this. I told

The naturalists; but neither had they heard

Anything like the notes that did so haunt me,

I had them clear by heart and have them still.

Four years, or five, have made no difference. Then 20

As now that La-la-la! was bodiless sweet:

Sad more than joyful it was, if I must say

That it was one or other, but if sad

‘Twas sad only with joy too, too far off

For me to taste it. But I cannot tell 25

If truly never anything but fair

The days were when he sang, as now they seem.

This surely I know, that I who listened then,

Happy sometimes, sometimes suffering

A heavy body and a heavy heart, 30

Now straightway, if I think of it, become

Light as that bird wandering beyond my shore.

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What does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,

No man, woman, or child alive could please

Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh

Because I sit and frame an epitaph –

‘Here lies all that no one loved of him 5

And that loved no one.’ Then in a trice that whim

Has wearied. But, though I am like a river

At fall of evening while it seems that never

Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while

Cross breezes cut the surface to a file, 10

This heart, some fraction of me, happily

Floats through the window even now to a tree

Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale,

Not like a pewit that returns to wail

For something it has lost, but like a dove 15

That slants unswerving to its home and love.

There I find my rest, and through the dusk air

Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there.

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The sun blazed while the thunder yet

Added a boom:

A wagtail flickered bright over

The mill-pond’s gloom:

Less than the cooing in the alder 5

Isles of the pool

Sounded the thunder through that plunge

Of waters cool.

Scared starlings on the aspen tip

Past the black mill 10

Outchattered the stream and the next roar

Far on the hill.

As my feet dangling teased the foam

That slid below

A girl came out. ‘Take care!’ she said – 15

Ages ago.

She startled me, standing quite close

Dressed all in white:

Ages ago I was angry till

She passed from sight. 20

Then the storm burst, and as I crouched

To shelter, how

Beautiful and kind, too, she seemed,

As she does now!

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‘‘Twill take some getting.’ ‘Sir, I think ‘twill so.’

The old man stared up at the mistletoe

That hung too high in the poplar’s crest for plunder

Of any climber, though not for kissing under:

Then he went on against the north-east wind – 5

Straight but lame, leaning on a staff new-skinned,

Carrying a brolly, flag-basket, and old coat, –

Towards Alton, ten miles off. And he had not

Done less from Chilgrove where he pulled up docks.

‘Twere best, if he had had ‘a money-box’, 10

To have waited there till the sheep cleared a field

For what a half-week’s flint-picking would yield.

His mind was running on the work he had done

Since he left Christchurch in the New Forest, one

Spring in the ‘seventies, – navvying on dock and line 15

From Southampton to Newcastle-on-Tyne, –

In ‘seventy-four a year of soldiering

With the Berkshires, – hoeing and harvesting

In half the shires where corn and couch will grow.

His sons, three sons, were fighting, but the hoe 20

And reap-hook he liked, or anything to do with trees.

He fell once from a poplar tall as these:

The Flying Man they called him in hospital.

‘If I flew now, to another world I’d fall.’

He laughed and whistled to the small brown bitch 25

With spots of blue that hunted in the ditch.

Her foxy Welsh grandfather must have paired

Beneath him. He kept sheep in Wales and scared

Strangers, I will warrant, with his pearl eye

And trick of shrinking off as he were shy, 30

Then following close in silence for – for what?

‘No rabbit, never fear, she ever got,

Yet always hunts. Today she nearly had one:

She would and she wouldn’t. ‘Twas like that. The bad one!

She’s not much use, but still she’s company, 35

Though I’m not. She goes everywhere with me.

So Alton I must reach tonight somehow:

I’ll get no shakedown with that bedfellow

From farmers. Many a man sleeps worse tonight

Than I shall.’ ‘In the trenches.’ ‘Yes, that’s right. 40

But they’ll be out of that – I hope they be –

This weather, marching after the enemy.’

‘And so I hope. Good luck.’ And there I nodded

‘Good-night. You keep straight on.’ Stiffly he plodded;

And at his heels the crisp leaves scurried fast, 45

And the leaf-coloured robin watched. They passed,

The robin till next day, the man for good,

Together in the twilight of the wood.

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A fortnight before Christmas Gypsies were everywhere:

Vans were drawn up on wastes, women trailed to the fair.

‘My gentleman,’ said one, ‘You’ve got a lucky face.’

‘And you’ve a luckier,’ I thought, ‘if such a grace

And impudence in rags are lucky.’ ‘Give a penny 5

For the poor baby’s sake.’ ‘Indeed I have not any

Unless you can give change for a sovereign, my dear.’

‘Then just half a pipeful of tobacco can you spare?’

I gave it. With that much victory she laughed content.

I should have given more, but off and away she went 10

With her baby and her pink sham flowers to rejoin

The rest before I could translate to its proper coin

Gratitude for her grace. And I paid nothing then,

As I pay nothing now with the dipping of my pen

For her brother’s music when he drummed the tambourine 15

And stamped his feet, which made the workmen passing grin,

While his mouth-organ changed to a rascally Bacchanal dance

‘Over the hills and far away’. This and his glance

Outlasted all the fair, farmer and auctioneer,

Cheap-jack, balloon-man, drover with crooked stick, and steer, 20

Pig, turkey, goose, and duck, Christmas corpses to be.

Not even the kneeling ox had eyes like the Romany.

That night he peopled for me the hollow wooded land,

More dark and wild than stormiest heavens, that I searched and scanned

Like a ghost new-arrived. The gradations of the dark 20

Were like an underworld of death, but for the spark

In the Gypsy boy’s black eyes as he played and stamped his tune,

‘Over the hills and far away’, and a crescent moon.

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Unless it was that day I never knew

Ambition. After a night of frost, before

The March sun brightened and the South-west blew,

Jackdaws began to shout and float and soar

Already, and one was racing straight and high 5

Alone, shouting like a black warrior

Challenges and menaces to the wide sky.

With loud long laughter then a woodpecker

Ridiculed the sadness of the owl’s last cry.

And through the valley where all the folk astir 10

Made only plumes of pearly smoke to tower

Over dark trees and white meadows happier

Than was Elysium in that happy hour,

A train that roared along raised after it

And carried with it a motionless white bower 15

Of purest cloud, from end to end close-knit,

So fair it touched the roar with silence. Time

Was powerless while that lasted. I could sit

And think I had made the loveliness of prime,

Breathed its life into it and were its lord, 20

And no mind lived save this ‘twixt clouds and rime.

Omnipotent I was, nor even deplored

That I did nothing. But the end fell like a bell:

The bower was scattered; far off the train roared.

But if this was ambition I cannot tell. 25

What ‘twas ambition for I know not well.

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The Past is a strange land, most strange.

Wind blows not there, nor does rain fall:

If they do, they cannot hurt at all.

Men of all kinds as equals range

The soundless fields and streets of it. 5

Pleasure and pain there have no sting,

The perished self not suffering

That lacks all blood and nerve and wit,

And is in shadow-land a shade.

Remembered joy and misery 10

Bring joy to the joyous equally;

Both sadden the sad. So memory made

Parting today a double pain:

First because it was parting; next

Because the ill it ended vexed 15

And mocked me from the Past again,

Not as what had been remedied

Had I gone on, – not that, oh no!

But as itself no longer woe;

Sighs, angry word and look and deed 20

Being faded: rather a kind of bliss,

For there spiritualised it lay

In the perpetual yesterday

That naught can stir or stain like this.

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One hour: as dim he and his house now look

As a reflection in a rippling brook,

While I remember him; but first, his house.

Empty it sounded. It was dark with forest boughs

That brushed the walls and made the mossy tiles 5

Part of the squirrels’ track. In all those miles

Of forest silence and forest murmur, only

One house – ‘Lonely!’ he said, ‘I wish it were lonely’ –

Which the trees looked upon from every side,

And that was his.

He waved good-bye to hide 10

A sigh that he converted to a laugh.

He seemed to hang rather than stand there, half

Ghost-like, half like a beggar’s rag, clean wrung

And useless on the briar where it has hung

Long years a-washing by sun and wind and rain. 15

But why I call back man and house again

Is that now on a beech-tree’s tip I see

As then I saw – I at the gate, and he

In the house darkness, – a magpie veering about,

A magpie like a weathercock in doubt. 20

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I never had noticed it until

‘Twas gone, – the narrow copse

Where now the woodman lops

The last of the willows with his bill.

It was not more than a hedge overgrown. 5

One meadow’s breadth away

I passed it day by day.

Now the soil is bare as a bone,

And black betwixt two meadows green,

Though fresh-cut faggot ends 10

Of hazel make some amends

With a gleam as if flowers they had been.

Strange it could have hidden so near!

And now I see as I look

That the small winding brook, 15

A tributary’s tributary, rises there.

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MAY 23

There never was a finer day,

And never will be while May is May, –

The third, and not the last of its kind;

But though fair and clear the two behind

Seemed pursued by tempests overpast; 5

And the morrow with fear that it could not last

Was spoiled. Today ere the stones were warm

Five minutes of thunderstorm

Dashed it with rain, as if to secure,

By one tear, its beauty the luck to endure. 10

At midday then along the lane

Old Jack Noman appeared again,

Jaunty and old, crooked and tall,

And stopped and grinned at me over the wall,

With a cowslip bunch in his button-hole 15

And one in his cap. Who could say if his roll

Came from flints in the road, the weather, or ale?

He was welcome as the nightingale.

Not an hour of the sun had been wasted on Jack.

‘I’ve got my Indian complexion back’ 20

Said he. He was tanned like a harvester,

Like his short clay pipe, like the leaf and bur

That clung to his coat from last night’s bed,

Like the ploughland crumbling red.

Fairer flowers were none on the earth 25

Than his cowslips wet with the dew of their birth,

Or fresher leaves than the cress in his basket.

‘Where did they come from, Jack?’ ‘Don’t ask it,

And you’ll be told no lies.’ ‘Very well:

Then I can’t buy.’ ‘I don’t want to sell. 30

Take them and these flowers, too, free.

Perhaps you have something to give me?

Wait till next time. The better the day…

The Lord couldn’t make a better, I say;

If he could, he never has done.’ 35

So off went Jack with his roll-walk-run,

Leaving his cresses from Oakshott rill

And his cowslips from Wheatham hill.

‘Twas the first day that the midges bit;

But though they bit me, I was glad of it: 40

Of the dust in my face, too, I was glad.

Spring could do nothing to make me sad.

Bluebells hid all the ruts in the copse,

The elm seeds lay in the road like hops,

That fine day, May the twenty-third, 45

The day Jack Noman disappeared.

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They should never have built a barn there, at all –

Drip, drip, drip! – under that elm tree,

Though then it was young. Now it is old

But good, not like the barn and me.

Tomorrow they cut it down. They will leave 5

The barn, as I shall be left, maybe.

What holds it up? ‘Twould not pay to pull down.

Well, this place has no other antiquity.

No abbey or castle looks so old

As this that Job Knight built in ‘54, 10

Built to keep corn for rats and men.

Now there’s fowls in the roof, pigs on the floor.

What thatch survives is dung for the grass,

The best grass on the farm. A pity the roof

Will not bear a mower to mow it. But 15

Only fowls have foothold enough.

Starlings used to sit there with bubbling throats

Making a spiky beard as they chattered

And whistled and kissed, with heads in air,

Till they thought of something else that mattered. 20

But now they cannot find a place,

Among all those holes, for a nest any more.

It’s the turn of lesser things, I suppose.

Once I fancied ‘twas starlings they built it for.

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Not the end: but there’s nothing more.

Sweet Summer and Winter rude

I have loved, and friendship and love,

The crowd and solitude:

But I know them: I weary not; 5

But all that they mean I know.

I would go back again home

Now. Yet how should I go?

This is my grief. That land,

My home, I have never seen; 10

No traveller tells of it,

However far he has been.

And could I discover it,

I fear my happiness there,

Or my pain, might be dreams of return 15

Here, to these things that were.

Remembering ills, though slight

Yet irremediable,

Brings a worse, an impurer pang

Than remembering what was well. 20

No: I cannot go back,

And would not if I could.

Until blindness come, I must wait

And blink at what is not good.

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Downhill I came, hungry, and yet not starved;

Cold, yet had heat within me that was proof

Against the North wind; tired, yet so that rest

Had seemed the sweetest thing under a roof.

Then at the inn I had food, fire, and rest, 5

Knowing how hungry, cold, and tired was I.

All of the night was quite barred out except

An owl’s cry, a most melancholy cry

Shaken out long and clear upon the hill,

No merry note, nor cause of merriment, 10

But one telling me plain what I escaped

And others could not, that night, as in I went.

And salted was my food, and my repose,

Salted and sobered, too, by the bird’s voice

Speaking for all who lay under the stars, 15

Soldiers and poor, unable to rejoice.

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Mother, the root of this little yellow flower

Among the stones has the taste of quinine.

Things are strange today on the cliff. The sun shines so bright,

And the grasshopper works at his sewing-machine

So hard. Here’s one on my hand, mother, look; 5

I lie so still. There’s one on your book.

But I have something to tell more strange. So leave

Your book to the grasshopper, mother dear, –

Like a green knight in a dazzling market-place, –

And listen now. Can you hear what I hear 10

Far out? Now and then the foam there curls

And stretches a white arm out like a girl’s.

Fishes and gulls ring no bells. There cannot be

A chapel or church between here and Devon,

With fishes or gulls ringing its bell, – hark! – 15

Somewhere under the sea or up in heaven.

‘It’s the bell, my son, out in the bay

On the buoy. It does sound sweet today.’

Sweeter I never heard, mother, no, not in all Wales.

I should like to be lying under that foam, 20

Dead, but able to hear the sound of the bell,

And certain that you would often come

And rest, listening happily.

I should be happy if that could be.

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I have come a long way today:

On a strange bridge alone,

Remembering friends, old friends,

I rest, without smile or moan,

As they remember me without smile or moan. 5

All are behind, the kind

And the unkind too, no more

Tonight than a dream. The stream

Runs softly yet drowns the Past,

The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past. 10

No traveller has rest more blest

Than this moment brief between

Two lives, when the Night’s first lights

And shades hide what has never been,

Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been. 15

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The skylarks are far behind that sang over the down;

I can hear no more those suburb nightingales;

Thrushes and blackbirds sing in the gardens of the town

In vain: the noise of man, beast, and machine prevails.

But the call of children in the unfamiliar streets 5

That echo with a familiar twilight echoing,

Sweet as the voice of nightingale or lark, completes

A magic of strange welcome, so that I seem a king

Among man, beast, machine, bird, child, and the ghost

That in the echo lives and with the echo dies. 10

The friendless town is friendly; homeless, I am not lost;

Though I know none of these doors, and meet but strangers’ eyes.

Never again, perhaps, after tomorrow, shall

I see these homely streets, these church windows alight,

Not a man or woman or child among them all: 15

But it is All Friends’ Night, a traveller’s good-night.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


But these things also are Spring’s –

On banks by the roadside the grass

Long-dead that is greyer now

Than all the Winter it was;

The shell of a little snail bleached 5

In the grass; chip of flint, and mite

Of chalk; and the small birds’ dung

In splashes of purest white:

All the white things a man mistakes

For earliest violets 10

Who seeks through Winter’s ruins

Something to pay Winter’s debts,

While the North blows, and starling flocks

By chattering on and on

Keep their spirits up in the mist, 15

And Spring’s here, Winter’s not gone.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Now first, as I shut the door,

I was alone

In the new house; and the wind

Began to moan.

Old at once was the house, 5

And I was old;

My ears were teased with the dread

Of what was foretold,

Nights of storm, days of mist, without end;

Sad days when the sun 10

Shone in vain: old griefs, and griefs

Not yet begun.

All was foretold me; naught

Could I foresee;

But I learnt how the wind would sound 15

After these things should be.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


It stood in the sunset sky

Like the straight-backed down,

Many a time – the barn

At the edge of the town,

So huge and dark that it seemed 5

It was the hill

Till the gable’s precipice proved

It impossible.

Then the great down in the west

Grew into sight, 10

A barn stored full to the ridge

With black of night;

And the barn fell to a barn

Or even less

Before critical eyes and its own 15

Late mightiness.

But far down and near barn and I

Since then have smiled,

Having seen my new cautiousness

By itself beguiled 20

To disdain what seemed the barn

Till a few steps changed

It past all doubt to the down;

So the barn was avenged.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


It was a perfect day

For sowing; just

As sweet and dry was the ground

As tobacco-dust.

I tasted deep the hour 5

Between the far

Owl’s chuckling first soft cry

And the first star.

A long stretched hour it was;

Nothing undone 10

Remained; the early seeds

All safely sown.

And now, hark at the rain,

Windless and light,

Half a kiss, half a tear, 15

Saying good-night.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Here again (she said) is March the third

And twelve hours singing for the bird

‘Twixt dawn and dusk, from half-past six

To half-past six, never unheard.

‘Tis Sunday, and the church-bells end 5

When the birds do. I think they blend

Now better than they will when passed

Is this unnamed, unmarked godsend.

Or do all mark, and none dares say,

How it may shift and long delay, 10

Somewhere before the first of Spring,

But never fails, this singing day?

And when it falls on Sunday, bells

Are a wild natural voice that dwells

On hillsides; but the birds’ songs have 15

The holiness gone from the bells.

This day unpromised is more dear

Than all the named days of the year

When seasonable sweets come in,

Because we know how lucky we are. 20

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List of poems in alphabetical order


Under the after-sunset sky

Two pewits sport and cry,

More white than is the moon on high

Riding the dark surge silently;

More black than earth. Their cry 5

Is the one sound under the sky.

They alone move, now low, now high,

And merrily they cry

To the mischievous Spring sky,

Plunging earthward, tossing high, 10

Over the ghost who wonders why

So merrily they cry and fly,

Nor choose ‘twixt earth and sky,

While the moon’s quarter silently

Rides, and earth rests as silently. 15

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Will you come?

Will you come?

Will you ride

So late

At my side? 5

O, will you come?

Will you come?

Will you come

If the night

Has a moon, 10

Full and bright?

O, will you come?

Would you come?

Would you come

If the noon 15

Gave light,

Not the moon?

Beautiful, would you come?

Would you have come?

Would you have come 20

Without scorning,

Had it been

Still morning?

Beloved, would you have come?

If you come, 25

Haste and come.

Owls have cried;

It grows dark

To ride.

Beloved, beautiful, come. 30

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Running along a bank, a parapet

That saves from the precipitous wood below

The level road, there is a path. It serves

Children for looking down the long smooth steep,

Between the legs of beech and yew, to where 5

A fallen tree checks the sight: while men and women

Content themselves with the road and what they see

Over the bank, and what the children tell.

The path, winding like silver, trickles on,

Bordered and even invaded by thinnest moss 10

That tries to cover roots and crumbling chalk

With gold, olive, and emerald, but in vain.

The children wear it. They have flattened the bank

On top, and silvered it between the moss

With the current of their feet, year after year. 15

But the road is houseless, and leads not to school.

To see a child is rare there, and the eye

Has but the road, the wood that overhangs

And underyawns it, and the path that looks

As if it led on to some legendary 20

Or fancied place where men have wished to go

And stay; till, sudden, it ends where the wood ends.

List of poems in chronological order

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This moonlight makes

The lovely lovelier

Than ever before lakes

And meadows were.

And yet they are not, 5

Though this their hour is, more

Lovely than things that were not

Lovely before.

Nothing on earth,

And in the heavens no star, 10

For pure brightness is worth

More than that jar,

For wasps meant, now

A star – long may it swing

From the dead apple-bough, 15

So glistening.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


There once the walls

Of the ruined cottage stood.

The periwinkle crawls

With flowers in its hair into the wood.

In flowerless hours 5

Never will the bank fail,

With everlasting flowers

On fragments of blue plates, to tell the tale.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


They met inside the gateway that gives the view,

A hollow land as vast as heaven. ‘It is

A pleasant day, sir.’ ‘A very pleasant day.’

‘And what a view here. If you like angled fields

Of grass and grain bounded by oak and thorn, 5

Here is a league. Had we with Germany

To play upon this board it could not be

More dear than April has made it with a smile.

The fields beyond that league close in together

And merge, even as our days into the past, 10

Into one wood that has a shining pane

Of water. Then the hills of the horizon –

That is how I should make hills had I to show

One who would never see them what hills were like.’

‘Yes. Sixty miles of South Downs at one glance. 15

Sometimes a man feels proud of them, as if

He had just created them with one mighty thought.’

‘That house, though modern, could not be better planned

For its position. I never liked a new

House better. Could you tell me who lives in it?’ 20

‘No one.’ ‘Ah – and I was peopling all

Those windows on the south with happy eyes,

The terrace under them with happy feet;

Girls – ‘ ‘Sir, I know. I know. I have seen that house

Through mist look lovely as a castle in Spain, 25

And airier. I have thought: “‘Twere happy there

To live.” And I have laughed at that

Because I lived there then.’ ‘Extraordinary.’

‘Yes, with my furniture and family

Still in it, I, knowing every nook of it 30

And loving none, and in fact hating it.’

‘Dear me! How could that be? But pardon me.’

‘No offence. Doubtless the house was not to blame,

But the eye watching from those windows saw,

Many a day, day after day, mist – mist 35

Like chaos surging back – and felt itself

Alone in all the world, marooned alone.

We lived in clouds, on a cliff’s edge almost

(You see), and if clouds went, the visible earth

Lay too far off beneath and like a cloud. 40

I did not know it was the earth I loved

Until I tried to live there in the clouds

And the earth turned to cloud.’ ‘You had a garden

Of flint and clay, too.’ ‘True; that was real enough.

The flint was the one crop that never failed. 45

The clay first broke my heart, and then my back;

And the back heals not. There were other things

Real, too. In that room at the gable a child

Was born while the wind chilled a summer dawn:

Never looked grey mind on a greyer one 50

Than when the child’s cry broke above the groans.’

‘I hope they were both spared.’ ‘They were. Oh yes.

But flint and clay and childbirth were too real

For this cloud castle. I had forgot the wind.

Pray do not let me get on to the wind. 55

You would not understand about the wind.

It is my subject, and compared with me

Those who have always lived on the firm ground

Are quite unreal in this matter of the wind.

There were whole days and nights when the wind and I 60

Between us shared the world, and the wind ruled

And I obeyed it and forgot the mist.

My past and the past of the world were in the wind.

Now you will say that though you understand

And feel for me, and so on, you yourself 65

Would find it different. You are all like that

If once you stand here free from wind and mist:

I might as well be talking to wind and mist.

You would believe the house-agent’s young man

Who gives no heed to anything I say. 70

Good morning. But one word. I want to admit

That I would try the house once more, if I could;

As I should like to try being young again.’

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


‘He has robbed two clubs. The judge at Salisbury

Can’t give him more than he undoubtedly

Deserves. The scoundrel! Look at his photograph!

A lady-killer! Hanging’s too good by half

For such as he.’ So said the stranger, one 5

With crimes yet undiscovered or undone.

But at the inn the Gypsy dame began:

‘Now he was what I call a gentleman.

He went along with Carrie, and when she

Had a baby he paid up so readily 10

His half a crown. Just like him. A crown’d have been

More like him. For I never knew him mean.

Oh! but he was such a nice gentleman. Oh!

Last time we met he said if me and Joe

Was anywhere near we must be sure and call. 15

He put his arms around our Amos all

As if he were his own son. I pray God

Save him from justice! Nicer man never trod.’

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


At hawthorn-time in Wiltshire travelling

In search of something chance would never bring,

An old man’s face, by life and weather cut

And coloured, – rough, brown, sweet as any nut, –

A land face, sea-blue-eyed, – hung in my mind 5

When I had left him many a mile behind.

All he said was: ‘Nobody can’t stop ‘ee. It’s

A footpath, right enough. You see those bits

Of mounds – that’s where they opened up the barrows

Sixty years since, while I was scaring sparrows. 10

They thought as there was something to find there,

But couldn’t find it, by digging, anywhere.’

To turn back then and seek him, where was the use?

There were three Manningfords, – Abbots, Bohun, and Bruce:

And whether Alton, not Manningford, it was, 15

My memory could not decide, because

There was both Alton Barnes and Alton Priors.

All had their churches, graveyards, farms, and byres,

Lurking to one side up the paths and lanes,

Seldom well seen except by aeroplanes; 20

And when bells rang, or pigs squealed, or cocks crowed,

Then only heard. Ages ago the road

Approached. The people stood and looked and turned,

Nor asked it to come nearer, nor yet learned

To move out there and dwell in all men’s dust. 25

And yet withal they shot the weathercock, just

Because ‘twas he crowed out of tune, they said:

So now the copper weathercock is dead.

If they had reaped their dandelions and sold

Them fairly, they could have afforded gold. 30

Many years passed, and I went back again

Among those villages, and looked for men

Who might have known my ancient. He himself

Had long been dead or laid upon the shelf,

I thought. One man I asked about him roared 35

At my description: ‘‘Tis old Bottlesford

He means, Bill.’ But another said: ‘Of course,

It was Jack Button up at the White Horse.

He’s dead, sir, these three years.’ This lasted till

A girl proposed Walker of Walker’s Hill, 40

‘Old Adam Walker. Adam’s Point you’ll see

Marked on the maps.’

‘That was her roguery,’

The next man said. He was a squire’s son

Who loved wild bird and beast, and dog and gun

For killing them. He had loved them from his birth, 45

One with another, as he loved the earth.

‘The man may be like Button, or Walker, or

Like Bottlesford, that you want, but far more

He sounds like one I saw when I was a child.

I could almost swear to him. The man was wild 50

And wandered. His home was where he was free.

Everybody has met one such man as he.

Does he keep clear old paths that no one uses

But once a life-time when he loves or muses?

He is English as this gate, these flowers, this mire. 55

And when at eight years old Lob-lie-by-the-fire

Came in my books, this was the man I saw.

He has been in England as long as dove and daw,

Calling the wild cherry tree the merry tree,

The rose campion Bridget-in-her-bravery; 60

And in a tender mood he, as I guess,

Christened one flower Love-in-idleness,

And while he walked from Exeter to Leeds

One April called all cuckoo-flowers Milkmaids.

From him old herbal Gerard learnt, as a boy, 65

To name wild clematis the Traveller’s-joy.

Our blackbirds sang no English till his ear

Told him they called his Jan Toy “Pretty dear”.

(She was Jan Toy the Lucky, who, having lost

A shilling, and found a penny loaf, rejoiced.) 70

For reasons of his own to him the wren

Is Jenny Pooter. Before all other men

‘Twas he first called the Hog’s Back the Hog’s Back.

That Mother Dunch’s Buttocks should not lack

Their name was his care. He too could explain 75

Totteridge and Totterdown and Juggler’s Lane:

He knows, if anyone. Why Tumbling Bay,

Inland in Kent, is called so, he might say.

‘But little he says compared with what he does.

If ever a sage troubles him he will buzz 80

Like a beehive to conclude the tedious fray:

And the sage, who knows all languages, runs away.

Yet Lob has thirteen hundred names for a fool,

And though he never could spare time for school

To unteach what the fox so well expressed, 85

On biting the cock’s head off, – Quietness is best, –

He can talk quite as well as anyone

After his thinking is forgot and done.

He first of all told someone else’s wife,

For a farthing she’d skin a flint and spoil a knife 90

Worth sixpence skinning it. She heard him speak:

“She had a face as long as a wet week”

Said he, telling the tale in after years.

With blue smock and with gold rings in his ears,

Sometimes he is a pedlar, not too poor 95

To keep his wit. This is tall Tom that bore

The logs in, and with Shakespeare in the hall

Once talked, when icicles hung by the wall.

As Herne the Hunter he has known hard times.

On sleepless nights he made up weather rhymes 100

Which others spoilt. And, Hob being then his name,

He kept the hog that thought the butcher came

To bring his breakfast. “You thought wrong,” said Hob.

When there were kings in Kent this very Lob,

Whose sheep grew fat and he himself grew merry, 105

Wedded the king’s daughter of Canterbury;

For he alone, unlike squire, lord, and king,

Watched a night by her without slumbering;

He kept both waking. When he was but a lad

He won a rich man’s heiress, deaf, dumb, and sad, 110

By rousing her to laugh at him. He carried

His donkey on his back. So they were married.

And while he was a little cobbler’s boy

He tricked the giant coming to destroy

Shrewsbury by flood. “And how far is it yet?” 115

The giant asked in passing. “I forget;

But see these shoes I’ve worn out on the road

And we’re not there yet.” He emptied out his load

Of shoes for mending. The giant let fall from his spade

The earth for damming Severn, and thus made 120

The Wrekin hill; and little Ercall hill

Rose where the giant scraped his boots. While still

So young, our Jack was chief of Gotham’s sages.

But long before he could have been wise, ages

Earlier than this, while he grew thick and strong 125

And ate his bacon, or, at times, sang a song

And merely smelt it, as Jack the giant-killer

He made a name. He too ground up the miller,

The Yorkshireman who ground men’s bones for flour.

‘Do you believe Jack dead before his hour? 130

Or that his name is Walker, or Bottlesford,

Or Button, a mere clown, or squire, or lord?

The man you saw, – Lob-lie-by-the-fire, Jack Cade,

Jack Smith, Jack Moon, poor Jack of every trade,

Young Jack, or old Jack, or Jack What-d’ye-call, 135

Jack-in-the-hedge, or Robin-run-by-the-wall,

Robin Hood, Ragged Robin, lazy Bob,

One of the lords of No Man’s Land, good Lob, –

Although he was seen dying at Waterloo,

Hastings, Agincourt, and Sedgemoor too, – 140

Lives yet. He never will admit he is dead

Till millers cease to grind men’s bones for bread,

Not till our weathercock crows once again

And I remove my house out of the lane

On to the road.’ With this he disappeared 145

In hazel and thorn tangled with old-man’s-beard.

But one glimpse of his back, as there he stood,

Choosing his way, proved him of old Jack’s blood,

Young Jack perhaps, and now a Wiltshireman

As he has oft been since his days began. 150

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


Today I think

Only with scents, – scents dead leaves yield,

And bracken, and wild carrot’s seed,

And the square mustard field;

Odours that rise 5

When the spade wounds the root of tree,

Rose, currant, raspberry, or goutweed,

Rhubarb or celery;

The smoke’s smell, too,

Flowing from where a bonfire burns 10

The dead, the waste, the dangerous,

And all to sweetness turns.

It is enough

To smell, to crumble the dark earth,

While the robin sings over again 15

Sad songs of Autumn mirth.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


The two men in the road were taken aback.

The lovers came out shading their eyes from the sun,

And never was white so white, or black so black,

As her cheeks and hair. ‘There are more things than one

A man might turn into a wood for, Jack,’ 5

Said George; Jack whispered: ‘He has not got a gun.

It’s a bit too much of a good thing, I say.

They are going the other road, look. And see her run.’ –

She ran – ‘What a thing it is, this picking may.’

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The flowers left thick at nightfall in the wood

This Eastertide call into mind the men,

Now far from home, who, with their sweethearts, should

Have gathered them and will do never again.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


The downs will lose the sun, white alyssum

Lose the bees’ hum;

But head and bottle tilted back in the cart

Will never part

Till I am cold as midnight and all my hours 5

Are beeless flowers.

He neither sees, nor hears, nor smells, nor thinks,

But only drinks,

Quiet in the yard where tree trunks do not lie

More quietly. 10

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List of poems in alphabetical order


Often I had gone this way before:

But now it seemed I never could be

And never had been anywhere else;

‘Twas home; one nationality

We had, I and the birds that sang, 5

One memory.

They welcomed me. I had come back

That eve somehow from somewhere far:

The April mist, the chill, the calm,

Meant the same thing familiar 10

And pleasant to us, and strange too,

Yet with no bar.

The thrush on the oaktop in the lane

Sang his last song, or last but one;

And as he ended, on the elm 15

Another had but just begun

His last; they knew no more than I

The day was done.

Then past his dark white cottage front

A labourer went along, his tread 20

Slow, half with weariness, half with ease;

And, through the silence, from his shed

The sound of sawing rounded all

That silence said.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


Four miles at a leap, over the dark hollow land,

To the frosted steep of the down and its junipers black,

Travels my eye with equal ease and delight:

And scarce could my body leap four yards.

This is the best and the worst of it – 5

Never to know,

Yet to imagine gloriously, pure health.

Today, had I suddenly health,

I could not satisfy the desire of my heart

Unless health abated it, 10

So beautiful is the air in its softness and clearness, while Spring

Promises all and fails in nothing as yet;

And what blue and what white is I never knew

Before I saw this sky blessing the land.

For had I health I could not ride or run or fly 15

So far or so rapidly over the land

As I desire: I should reach Wiltshire tired;

I should have changed my mind before I could be in Wales.

I could not love; I could not command love.

Beauty would still be far off 20

However many hills I climbed over;

Peace would still be farther.

Maybe I should not count it anything

To leap these four miles with the eye;

And either I should not be filled almost to bursting with desire, 25

Or with my power desire would still keep pace.

Yet I am not satisfied

Even with knowing I never could be satisfied.

With health and all the power that lies

In maiden beauty, poet and warrior, 30

In Caesar, Shakespeare, Alcibiades,

Mazeppa, Leonardo, Michelangelo,

In any maiden whose smile is lovelier

Than sunlight upon dew,

I could not be as the wagtail running up and down 35

The warm tiles of the roof slope, twittering

Happily and sweetly as if the sun itself

Extracted the song

As the hand makes sparks from the fur of a cat:

I could not be as the sun. 40

Nor should I be content to be

As little as the bird or as mighty as the sun.

For the bird knows not of the sun,

And the sun regards not the bird.

But I am almost proud to love both bird and sun, 45

Though scarce this Spring could my body leap four yards.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


He has a hump like an ape on his back;

He has of money a plentiful lack;

And but for a gay coat of double his girth

There is not a plainer thing on the earth

This fine May morning. 5

But the huxter has a bottle of beer;

He drives a cart and his wife sits near

Who does not heed his lack or his hump;

And they laugh as down the lane they bump

This fine May morning. 10

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She dotes on what the wild birds say

Or hint or mock at, night and day, –

Thrush, blackbird, all that sing in May,

And songless plover,

Hawk, heron, owl, and woodpecker. 5

They never say a word to her

About her lover.

She laughs at them for childishness,

She cries at them for carelessness

Who see her going loverless 10

Yet sing and chatter

Just as when he was not a ghost,

Nor ever ask her what she has lost

Or what is the matter.

Yet she has fancied blackbirds hide 15

A secret, and that thrushes chide

Because she thinks death can divide

Her from her lover;

And she has slept, trying to translate

The word the cuckoo cries to his mate 20

Over and over.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


At poet’s tears,

Sweeter than any smiles but hers,

She laughs; I sigh;

And yet I could not live if she should die.

And when in June 5

Once more the cuckoo spoils his tune,

She laughs at sighs;

And yet she says she loves me till she dies.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


She had a name among the children;

But no one loved though someone owned

Her, locked her out of doors at bedtime

And had her kittens duly drowned.

In Spring, nevertheless, this cat 5

Ate blackbirds, thrushes, nightingales,

And birds of bright voice and plume and flight,

As well as scraps from neighbours’ pails.

I loathed and hated her for this;

One speckle on a thrush’s breast 10

Was worth a million such; and yet

She lived long, till God gave her rest.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


The rain and wind, the rain and wind, raved endlessly.

On me the Summer storm, and fever, and melancholy

Wrought magic, so that if I feared the solitude

Far more I feared all company: too sharp, too rude,

Had been the wisest or the dearest human voice. 5

What I desired I knew not, but whate’er my choice

Vain it must be, I knew. Yet naught did my despair

But sweeten the strange sweetness, while through the wild air

All day long I heard a distant cuckoo calling

And, soft as dulcimers, sounds of near water falling, 10

And, softer, and remote as if in history,

Rumours of what had touched my friends, my foes, or me.

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Harry, you know at night

The larks in Castle Alley

Sing from the attic’s height

As if the electric light

Were the true sun above a summer valley: 5

Whistle, don’t knock, tonight.

I shall come early, Kate:

And we in Castle Alley

Will sit close out of sight

Alone, and ask no light 10

Of lamp or sun above a summer valley:

Tonight I can stay late.

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List of poems in alphabetical order


The sweetest thing, I thought

At one time, between earth and heaven

Was the first smile

When mist has been forgiven

And the sun has stolen out, 5

Peered, and resolved to shine at seven

On dabbled lengthening grasses,

Thick primroses and early leaves uneven,

When earth’s breath, warm and humid, far surpasses

The richest oven’s, and loudly rings ‘cuckoo’ 10

And sharply the nightingale’s ‘tsoo, troo, troo, troo’:

To say ‘God bless it’ was all that I could do.

But now I know one sweeter

By far since the day Emily

Turned weeping back 15

To me, still happy me,

To ask forgiveness, –

Yet smiled with half a certainty

To be forgiven, – for what

She had never done; I knew not what it might be, 20

Nor could she tell me, having now forgot,

By rapture carried with me past all care

As to an isle in April lovelier

Than April’s self. ‘God bless you’ I said to her.

List of poems in chronological order

List of poems in alphabetical order


The glory of the beauty of the morning, –

The cuckoo crying over the untouched dew;

The blackbird that has found it, and the dove

That tempts me on to something sweeter than love;

White clouds ranged even and fair as new-mown hay; 5

The heat, the stir, the sublime vacancy

Of sky and meadow and forest and my own heart: –

The glory invites me, yet it leaves me scorning

All I can ever do, all I can be,

Beside the lovely of motion, shape, and hue, 10

The happiness I fancy fit to dwell

In beauty’s presence. Shall I now this day

Begin to seek as far as heaven, as hell,

Wisdom or strength to match this beauty, start

And tread the pale dust pitted with small dark drops, 15

In hope to find whatever it is I seek,

Hearkening to short-lived happy-seeming things

That we know naught of, in the hazel copse?

Or must I be content with discontent

As larks and swallows are perhaps with wings? 20

And shall I ask at the day’s end once more

What beauty is, and what I can have meant

By happiness? And shall I let all go,

Glad, weary, or both? Or shall I perhaps know

That I was happy oft and oft before, 25

Awhile forgetting how I am fast pent,

How dreary-swift, with naught to travel to,

Is Time? I cannot bite the day to the core.

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Naught moves but clouds, and in the glassy lake

Their doubles and the shadow of my boat.

The boat itself stirs only when I break

This drowse of heat and solitude afloat

To prove if what I see be bird or mote, 5

Or learn if yet the shore woods be awake.

Long hours since dawn grew, – spread, – and passed on high

And deep below, – I have watched the cool reeds hung

Over images more cool in imaged sky:

Nothing there was worth thinking of so long; 10

All that the ring-doves say, far leaves among,

Brims my mind with content thus still to lie.

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‘Is this the road that climbs above and bends

Round what was once a chalk-pit: now it is

By accident an amphitheatre.

Some ash trees standing ankle-deep in briar

And bramble act the parts, and neither speak 5

Nor stir.’ ‘But see: they have fallen, every one,

And briar and bramble have grown over them.’

‘That is the place. As usual no one is here.

Hardly can I imagine the drop of the axe,

And the smack that is like an echo, sounding here.’ 10

‘I do not understand.’ ‘Why, what I mean is

That I have seen the place two or three times

At most, and that its emptiness and silence

And stillness haunt me, as if just before

It was not empty, silent, still, but full 15

Of life of some kind, perhaps tragical.

Has anything unusual happened here?’

‘Not that I know of. It is called the Dell.

They have not dug chalk here for a century.

That was the ash trees’ age. But I will ask.’ 20

‘No. Do not. I prefer to make a tale,

Or better leave it like the end of a play,

Actors and audience and lights all gone;

For so it looks now. In my memory

Again and again I see it, strangely dark, 25

And vacant of a life but just withdrawn.

We have not seen the woodman with the axe.

Some ghost has left it now as we two came.’

‘And yet you doubted if this were the road?’

‘Well, sometimes I have thought of it and failed 30

To place it. No. And I am not quite sure,

Even now, this is it. For another place,

Real or painted, may have combined with it.

Or I myself a long way back in time…’

‘Why, as to that, I used to meet a man – 35

I had forgotten, – searching for birds’ nests

Along the road and in the chalk-pit too.

The wren’s hole was an eye that looked at him

For recognition. Every nest he knew.

He got a stiff neck, by looking this side or that, 40

Spring after spring, he told me, with his laugh, –

A sort of laugh. He was a visitor,

A man of forty, – smoked and strolled about.

At orts and crosses Pleasure and Pain had played

On his brown features; – I think both had lost; – 45

Mild and yet wild too. You may know the kind.

And once or twice a woman shared his walks,

A girl of twenty with a brown boy’s face,

And hair brown as a thrush or as a nut,

Thick eyebrows, glinting eyes – ‘ ‘You have said enough. 50

A pair, – free thought, free love, – I know the breed:

I shall not mix my fancies up with them.’

‘You please yourself. I should prefer the truth

Or nothing. Here, in fact, is nothing at all

Except a silent place that once rang loud, 55

And trees and us – imperfect friends, we men

And trees since time began; and nevertheless

Between us still we breed a mystery.’

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There they stand, on their ends, the fifty faggots

That once were underwood of hazel and ash

In Jenny Pinks’s Copse. Now, by the hedge

Close packed, they make a thicket fancy alone

Can creep through with the mouse and wren. Next Spring 5

A blackbird or a robin will nest there,

Accustomed to them, thinking they will remain

Whatever is for ever to a bird:

This Spring it is too late; the swift has come.

‘Twas a hot day for carrying them up: 10

Better they will never warm me, though they must

Light several Winters’ fires. Before they are done

The war will have ended, many other things

Have ended, maybe, that I can no more

Foresee or more control than robin and wren. 15

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This beauty made me dream there was a time

Long past and irrecoverable, a clime

Where any brook so radiant racing clear

Through buttercup and kingcup bright as brass

But gentle, nourishing the meadow grass 5

That leans and scurries in the wind, would bear

Another beauty, divine and feminine,

Child to the sun, a nymph whose soul unstained

Could love all day, and never hate or tire,

A lover of mortal or immortal kin. 10

And yet, rid of this dream, ere I had drained

Its poison, quieted was my desire

So that I only looked into the water,

Clearer than any goddess or man’s daughter,

And hearkened while it combed the dark green hair 15

And shook the millions of the blossoms white

Of water-crowfoot, and curdled to one sheet

The flowers fallen from the chestnuts in the park

Far off. And sedge-warblers, clinging so light

To willow twigs, sang longer than the lark, 20

Quick, shrill, or grating, a song to match the heat

Of the strong sun, nor less the water’s cool,

Gushing through narrows, swirling in the pool.

Their song that lacks all words, all melody,

All sweetness almost, was dearer then to me 25

Than sweetest voice that sings in tune sweet words.

This was the best of May – the small brown birds

Wisely reiterating endlessly

What no man learnt yet, in or out of school.

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I built myself a house of glass:

It took me years to make it:

And I was proud. But now, alas,

Would God someone would break it.

But it looks too magnificent. 5

No neighbour casts a stone

From where he dwells, in tenement

Or palace of glass, alone.

The original manuscript

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Out of us all

That make rhymes,

Will you choose

Sometimes –

As the winds use 5

A crack in a wall

Or a drain,

Their joy or their pain

To whistle through –

Choose me, 10

You English words?

I know you:

You are light as dreams,

Tough as oak,

Precious as gold, 15

As poppies and corn,

Or an old cloak:

Sweet as our birds

To the ear,

As the burnet rose 20

In the heat

Of Midsummer:

Strange as the races

Of dead and unborn:

Strange and sweet 25


And familiar,

To the eye,

As the dearest faces

That a man knows, 30

And as lost homes are:

But though older far

Than oldest yew, –

As our hills are, old, –

Worn new 35

Again and again:

Young as our streams

After rain:

And as dear

As the earth which you prove 40

That we love.

Make me content

With some sweetness

From Wales

Whose nightingales 45

Have no wings, –

From Wiltshire and Kent

And Herefordshire,

And the villages there, –

From the names, and the things 50

No less.

Let me sometimes dance

With you,

Or climb

Or stand perchance 55

In ecstasy,

Fixed and free

In a rhyme,

As poets do.

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There are so many things I have forgot,

That once were much to me, or that were not,

All lost, as is a childless woman’s child

And its child’s children, in the undefiled

Abyss of what can never be again. 5

I have forgot, too, names of the mighty men

That fought and lost or won in the old wars,

Of kings and fiends and gods, and most of the stars.

Some things I have forgot that I forget.

But lesser things there are, remembered yet, 10

Than all the others. One name that I have not –

Though ‘tis an empty thingless name – forgot

Never can die because Spring after Spring

Some thrushes learn to say it as they sing.

There is always one at midday saying it clear 15

And tart – the name, only the name I hear.

While perhaps I am thinking of the elder scent

That is like food, or while I am content

With the wild rose scent that is like memory,

This name suddenly is cried out to me 20

From somewhere in the bushes by a bird

Over and over again, a pure thrush word.

The original manuscript

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When these old woods were young

The thrushes’ ancestors

As sweetly sung

In the old years.

There was no garden here, 5

Apples nor mistletoe;

No children dear

Ran to and fro.

New then was this thatched cot,

But the keeper was old, 10

And he had not

Much lead or gold.

Most silent beech and yew:

As he went round about

The woods to view 15

Seldom he shot.

But now that he is gone

Out of most memories,

Still lingers on

A stoat of his, 20

But one, shrivelled and green,

And with no scent at all,

And barely seen

On this shed wall.

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After night’s thunder far away had rolled

The fiery day had a kernel sweet of cold,

And in the perfect blue the clouds uncurled,

Like the first gods before they made the world

And misery, swimming the stormless sea 5

In beauty and in divine gaiety.

The smooth white empty road was lightly strewn

With leaves – the holly’s Autumn falls in June –

And fir cones standing stiff up in the heat.

The mill-foot water tumbled white and lit 10

With tossing crystals, happier than any crowd

Of children pouring out of school aloud.

And in the little thickets where a sleeper

For ever might lie lost, the nettle-creeper

And garden warbler sang unceasingly; 15

While over them shrill shrieked in his fierce glee

The swift with wings and tail as sharp and narrow

As if the bow had flown off with the arrow.

Only the scent of woodbine and hay new-mown

Travelled the road. In the field sloping down, 20

Park-like, to where its willows showed the brook,

Haymakers rested. The tosser lay forsook

Out in the sun; and the long waggon stood

Without its team, it seemed it never would

Move from the shadow of that single yew. 25

The team, as still, until their task was due,

Beside the labourers enjoyed the shade

That three squat oaks mid-field together made

Upon a circle of grass and weed uncut,

And on the hollow, once a chalk-pit, but 30

Now brimmed with nut and elder-flower so clean.

The men leaned on their rakes, about to begin,

But still. And all were silent. All was old,

This morning time, with a great age untold,

Older than Clare and Cobbett, Morland and Crome, 35

Than, at the field’s far edge, the farmer’s home,

A white house crouched at the foot of a great tree.

Under the heavens that know not what years be

The men, the beasts, the trees, the implements

Uttered even what they will in times far hence – 40

All of us gone out of the reach of change –

Immortal in a picture of an old grange.

The original manuscript

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Over known fields with an old friend in dream

I walked, but came sudden to a strange stream.

Its dark waters were bursting out most bright

From a great mountain’s heart into the light.

They ran a short course under the sun, then back 5

Into a pit they plunged, once more as black

As at their birth; and I stood thinking there

How white, had the day shone on them, they were,

Heaving and coiling. So by the roar and hiss

And by the mighty motion of the abyss 10

I was bemused, that I forgot my friend

And neither saw nor sought him till the end,

When I awoke from waters unto men

Saying: ‘I shall be here some day again.’

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Seated once by a brook, watching a child

Chiefly that paddled, I was thus beguiled.

Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush

Not far off in the oak and hazel brush,

Unseen. There was a scent like honeycomb 5

From mugwort dull. And down upon the dome

Of the stone the cart-horse kicks against so oft

A butterfly alighted. From aloft

He took the heat of the sun, and from below.

On the hot stone he perched contented so, 10

As if never a cart would pass again

That way; as if I were the last of men

And he the first of insects to have earth

And sun together and to know their worth.

I was divided between him and the gleam, 15

The motion, and the voices, of the stream,

The waters running frizzled over gravel,

That never vanish and for ever travel.

A grey flycatcher silent on a fence

And I sat as if we had been there since 20

The horseman and the horse lying beneath

The fir-tree-covered barrow on the heath,

The horseman and the horse with silver shoes,

Galloped the downs last. All that I could lose

I lost. And then the child’s voice raised the dead. 25

‘No one’s been here before’ was what she said

And what I felt, yet never should have found

A word for, while I gathered sight and sound.

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All day and night, save winter, every weather,

Above the inn, the smithy, and the shop,

The aspens at the cross-roads talk together

Of rain, until their last leaves fall from the top.

Out of the blacksmith’s cavern comes the ringing 5

Of hammer, shoe, and anvil; out of the inn

The clink, the hum, the roar, the random singing –

The sounds that for these fifty years have been.

The whisper of the aspens is not drowned,

And over lightless pane and footless road, 10

Empty as sky, with every other sound

Not ceasing, calls their ghosts from their abode,

A silent smithy, a silent inn, nor fails

In the bare moonlight or the thick-furred gloom,

In tempest or the night of nightingales, 15

To turn the cross-roads to a ghostly room.

And it would be the same were no house near.

Over all sorts of weather, men, and times,

Aspens must shake their leaves and men may hear

But need not listen, more than to my rhymes. 20

Whatever wind blows, while they and I have leaves

We cannot other than an aspen be

That ceaselessly, unreasonably grieves,

Or so men think who like a different tree.

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Only the sound remains

Of the old mill;

Gone is the wheel;

On the prone roof and walls the nettle reigns.

Water that toils no more 5

Dangles white locks

And, falling, mocks

The music of the mill-wheel’s busy roar.

Pretty to see, by day

Its sound is naught 10

Compared with thought

And talk and noise of labour and of play.

Night makes the difference.

In calm moonlight,

Gloom infinite, 15

The sound comes surging in upon the sense:

Solitude, company, –

When it is night, –

Grief or delight

By it must haunted or concluded be. 20

Often the silentness

Has but this one


Wherever one creeps in the other is:

Sometimes a thought is drowned 25

By it, sometimes

Out of it climbs;

All thoughts begin or end upon this sound,

Only the idle foam

Of water falling 30

Changelessly calling,

Where once men had a work-place and a home.

The original manuscript

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An acre of land between the shore and the hills,

Upon a ledge that shows my kingdoms three,

The lovely visible earth and sky and sea,

Where what the curlew needs not, the farmer tills:

A house that shall love me as I love it, 5

Well-hedged, and honoured by a few ash-trees

That linnets, greenfinches, and goldfinches

Shall often visit and make love in and flit:

A garden I need never go beyond,

Broken but neat, whose sunflowers every one 10

Are fit to be the sign of the Rising Sun:

A spring, a brook’s bend, or at least a pond:

For these I ask not, but, neither too late

Nor yet too early, for what men call content,

And also that something may be sent 15

To be contented with, I ask of fate.

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What matter makes my spade for tears or mirth,

Letting down two clay pipes into the earth?

The one I smoked, the other a soldier

Of Blenheim, Ramillies, and Malplaquet

Perhaps. The dead man’s immortality 5

Lies represented lightly with my own,

A yard or two nearer the living air

Than bones of ancients who, amazed to see

Almighty God erect the mastodon,

Once laughed, or wept, in this same light of day. 10

The original manuscript

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Between a sunny bank and the sun

The farmhouse smiles

On the riverside plat:

No other one

So pleasant to look at 5

And remember, for many miles,

So velvet-hushed and cool under the warm tiles.

Not far from the road it lies, yet caught

Far out of reach

Of the road’s dust 10

And the dusty thought

Of passers-by, though each