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Must I always stand
Lonely, a stranger from an unknown land?

There is a riddle here. Though I'm more wise
Than you, I cannot read your simple eyes.
I find the meaning of their gentle look
More difficult than any learned book.
I pass: perhaps a moment you may chaff
My walk, and so dismiss me with a laugh.
I come: you all, most grave and most polite,
Stand silent first, then wish me calm Good-Night.
When I go back to town some one will say:
'I think that stranger must have gone away.'
And 'Surely!' some one else will then reply.
Meanwhile, within the dark of London, I
Shall, with my forehead resting on my hand,
Not cease remembering your distant land;
Endeavouring to reconstruct aright
How some treed hill has looked in evening light;
Or be imagining the blue of skies
Now as in heaven, now as in your eyes;
Or in my mind confusing looks or words
Of yours with dawnlight, or the song of birds:
Not able to resist, not even keep
Myself from hovering near you in my sleep:
You still as callous to my thought and me
As flowers to the purpose of the bee.

* * * * *



How beautiful it is to wake at night,
When over all there reigns the ultimate spell
Of complete silence, darkness absolute,
To feel the world, tilted on axle-tree,
In slow gyration, with no sensible sound,
Unless to ears of unimagined beings,
Resident incorporeal or stretched
In vigilance of ecstasy among
Ethereal paths and the celestial maze.
The rumour of our onward course now brings
A steady rustle, as of some strange ship
Darkling with soundless sail all set and amply filled
By volume of an ever-constant air,
At fullest night, through seas for ever calm,
Swept lovely and unknown for ever on.

How beautiful it is to wake at night,
Embalmed in darkness watchful, sweet, and still,
As is the brain's mood flattered by the swim
Of currents circumvolvent in the void,
To lie quite still and to become aware
Of the dim light cast by nocturnal skies
On a dim earth beyond the window-ledge,
So, isolate from the friendly company
Of the huge universe which turns without,
To brood apart in calm and joy awhile
Until the spirit sinks and scarcely knows
Whether self is, or if self only is,
For ever....

How beautiful to wake at night,
Within the room grown strange, and still, and sweet,
And live a century while in the dark
The dripping wheel of silence slowly turns;
To watch the window open on the night,
A dewy silent deep where nothing stirs,
And, lying thus, to feel dilate within
The press, the conflict, and the heavy pulse
Of incommunicable sad ecstasy,
Growing until the body seems outstretched
In perfect crucifixion on the arms
Of a cross pointing from last void to void,
While the heart dies to a mere midway spark.

All happiness thou holdest, happy night,
For such as lie awake and feel dissolved
The peaceful spice of darkness and the cool
Breath hither blown from the ethereal flowers
That mist thy fields! O happy, happy wounds,
Conditioned by existence in humanity,
That have such powers to heal them! slow sweet sighs
Torn from the bosom, silent wails, the birth
Of such long-treasured tears as pain his eyes,
Who, waking, hears the divine solicitudes
Of midnight with ineffable purport charged.

How beautiful it is to wake at night,
Another night, in darkness yet more still,
Save when the myriad leaves on full-fledged boughs,
Filled rather by the perfume's wandering flood
Than by dispansion of the still sweet air,
Shall from the furthest utter silences
In glimmering secrecy have gathered up
An host of whisperings and scattered sighs,
To loose at last a sound as of the plunge
And lapsing seethe of some Pacific wave,
Which, risen from the star-thronged outer troughs,
Rolls in to wreathe with circling foam away
The flutter of the golden moths that haunt
The star's one glimmer daggered on wet sands.

So beautiful it is to wake at night!
Imagination, loudening with the surf
Of the midsummer wind among the boughs,
Gathers my spirit from the haunts remote
Of faintest silence and the shades of sleep,
To bear me on the summit of her wave
Beyond known shores, beyond the mortal edge
Of thought terrestrial, to hold me poised
Above the frontiers of infinity,
To which in the full reflux of the wave
Come soon I must, bubble of solving foam,
Borne to those other shores--now never mine
Save for a hovering instant, short as this
Which now sustains me ere I be drawn back--
To learn again, and wholly learn, I trust,
How beautiful it is to wake at night.


As I walk the misty hill
All is languid, fogged, and still;
Not a note of any bird
Nor any motion's hint is heard,
Save from soaking thickets round
Trickle or water's rushing sound,
And from ghostly trees the drip
Of runnel dews or whispering slip
Of leaves, which in a body launch
Listlessly from the stagnant branch
To strew the marl, already strown,
With litter sodden as its own,

A rheum, like blight, hangs on the briars,
And from the clammy ground suspires
A sweet frail sick autumnal scent
Of stale frost furring weeds long spent;
And wafted on, like one who sleeps,
A feeble vapour hangs or creeps,
Exhaling on the fungus mould
A breath of age, fatigue, and cold.

Oozed from the bracken's desolate track,
By dark rains havocked and drenched black.
A fog about the coppice drifts,
Or slowly thickens up and lifts
Into the moist, despondent air.

Mist, grief, and stillness everywhere....

And in me, too, there is no sound
Save welling as of tears profound,
Where in me cloud, grief, stillness reign,
And an intolerable pain
Rolled on as in a flood there come
Memories of childhood, boyhood, home,
And that which, sudden, pangs me most,
Thought of the first-belov'd, long lost,
Too easy lost! My cold lips frame
Tremulously the familiar name,
Unheard of her upon my breath:
'Elizabeth. Elizabeth.'

No voice answers on the hill,
All is shrouded, sad, and still ...
Stillness, fogged brakes, and fog on high.
Only in me the waters cry
Who mourn the hours now slipped for ever,
Hours of boding, joy, and fever,
When we loved, by chance beguiled,
I a boy and you a child--
Child! but with an angel's air,
Astonished, eager, unaware,
Or elfin's, wandering with a grace
Foreign to any fireside race,
And with a gaiety unknown
In the light feet and hair backblown,
And with a sadness yet more strange,
In meagre cheeks which knew to change
Or faint or fired more swift than sight,
And forlorn hands and lips pressed white,
And fragile voice, and head downcast,
Hiding tears, lifted at the last
To speed with one pale smile the wise
Glance of the grey immortal eyes.

How strange it was that we should dare
Compound a miracle so rare
As, 'twixt this pace and Time's next pace,
Each to discern th' elected's face!
Yet stranger that the high sweet fire,
In hearts nigh foreign to desire,
Could burn, sigh, weep, and burn again
As oh, it never has since then!
Most strange of all that we so young
Dared learn but would not speak love's tongue,
Love pledged but in the reveries
Of our sad and dreaming eyes....

Now upon such journey bound me,
Grief, disquiet, and stillness round me,
As bids me where I cannot tell,
Turn I and sigh, unseen, farewell.
Breathe the name as soft as mist,
Lips, which nor kissed her nor were kissed!
And again--a sigh, a death--
'Elizabeth. Elizabeth.'

No voice answers; but the mist
Glows for a moment amethyst
Ere the hid sun dissolves away,
And dimness, growing dimmer grey,
Hides all ... till nothing can I see
But the blind walls enclosing me,
And no sound and no motion hear
But the vague water throbbing near,
Sole voice upon the darkening hill
Where all is blank and dead and still.

* * * * *



London Bridge is broken down;
Green is the grass on Ludgate Hill;
I know a farmer in Camden Town
Killed a brock by Pentonville.

I have heard my grandam tell
How some thousand years ago
Houses stretched from Camberwell
Right to Highbury and Bow.

Down by Shadwell's golden meads
Tall ships' masts would stand as thick
As the pretty tufted reeds
That the Wapping children pick.

All the kings from end to end
Of all the world paid tribute then,
And meekly on their knees would bend
To the King of the Englishmen.

Thinks I while I dig my plot,
What if your grandam's tales be true?
Thinks I, be they true or not,
What's the odds to a fool like you?

Thinks I, while I smoke my pipe
Here beside the tumbling Fleet,
Apples drop when they are ripe,
And when they drop are they most sweet.


Quiet he lived, and quietly died;
Nor, like the unwilling tide,
Did once complain or strive
To stay one brief hour more alive.
But as a summer wave
Serenely for a while
Will lift a crest to the sun,
Then sink again, so he
Back to the bright heavens gave
An answering smile;
Then quietly, having run
His course, bowed down his head,
And sank unmurmuringly,
Sank back into the sea,
The silent, the unfathomable sea
Of all the happy dead.


They say that I shall find him if I go
Along the dusty highways, or the green
Tracks of the downland shepherds, or between
The swaying corn, or where cool waters flow;
And others say, that speak as if they know,
That daily in the cities, in the mean
Dark streets, amid the crowd he may be seen,
With thieves and harlots wandering to and fro.

But I am blind. How shall a blind man dare
Venture along the roaring crowded street,
Or branching roads where I may never hit
The way he has gone? But someday if I sit
Quietly at this corner listening, there
May come this way the slow sound of his feet.


When all is said
And all is done
Beneath the Sun,
And Man lies dead;

When all the earth
Is a cold grave,
And no more brave
Bright things have birth;

When cooling sun
And stone-cold world,
Together hurled,
Flame up as one--

O Sons of Men,
When all is flame,
What of your fame
And splendour then?

When all is fire
And flaming air,
What of your rare
And high desire

To turn the clod
To a thing divine,
The earth a shrine,
And Man the God?

* * * * *



Dear mother, from the sure sun and warm seas
Of Italy, I, sick, remember now
What sometimes is forgot in times of ease,
Our love, the always felt but unspoken vow.
So send I beckoning hands from here to there,
And kiss your black once, now white thin-grown hair
And your stooped small shoulder and pinched brow.

Here, mother, there is sunshine every day;
It warms the bones and breathes upon the heart;
But you I see out-plod a little way,
Bitten with cold; your cheeks and fingers smart.
Would you were here, we might in temples lie,
And look from azure into azure sky,
And paradise achieve, slipping death's part.

But now 'tis time for sleep: I think no speech
There needs to pass between us what we mean,
For we soul-venturing mingle each with each.
So, mother, pass across the world unseen
And share in me some wished-for dream in you;
For so brings destiny her pledges true,
The mother withered, in the son grown green.


Met ye my love?
Ye might in France have met him;
He has a wooing smile,
Who sees cannot forget him!
Met ye my Love?
--We shared full many a mile.

Saw ye my Love?
In lands far-off he has been,
With his yellow-tinted hair--
In Egypt such ye have seen;
Ye knew my love?
--I was his brother there.

Heard ye my love?
My love ye must have heard,
For his voice when he will
Tinkles like cry of a bird;
Heard ye my love?
--We sang on a Grecian hill.

Behold your love,
And how shall I forget him,
His smile, his hair, his song?
Alas, no maid shall get him
For all her love,
Where he sleeps a million strong.


Comrade, why do you weep?
Is it sorrow for a friend
Who fell, rifle in hand,
His last stand at an end?

The thunder-lipped grey guns
Lament him, fierce and slow,
Where he found his dreamless bed,
Head to head with a foe.

The sweet lark beats on high
For the peace of those who sleep
In the quiet embrace of earth:
Comrade, why do you weep?


The blue sky arches wide
From hill to hill;
The little grasses stand
Upright and still.

Only these stones to tell
The deadly strife,
The all-important schemes,
The greed for life.

For they are gone, who fought;
But still the skies
Stretch blue, aloof, unchanged,
From rise to rise.


They come fluttering helpless to the ground
Like wreaths of wind-caught snow,
Uttering a plaintive, chirping sound,
And rise and fall, and know not where they go.

So small they are, with feathers ruffled blown,
Adrift between earth desolate and leaden sky;
Nor have they ever known
Any but frozen earth, and scudding clouds on high.

What hand doth guide these hapless creatures small
To sweet seeds that the withered grasses hold?--
The little children of men go hungry all,
And stiffen and cry with numbing cold.

In a sudden gust the flock are whirled away
Uttering a frightened, chirping cry,
And are lost like a wraith of departing day,
Adrift between earth desolate and leaden sky.


Morning and evening are mine,
And the bright noon-day;
But night to no man doth belong
When the sad ghosts play.

From Kelso town I took the road
By the full-flood Tweed;
The black clouds swept across the moon
With devouring greed.

Seek ye no peace who tread the night;
I felt above my head
Blowing the cloud's edge, faces wry
In pale fury spread.

Twelve surly elves were digging graves
Beside black Eden brook;
Eleven dug and stared at me,
But one read in a book.

In Birgham trees and hedges rocked,
The moon was drowned in black;
At Hirsel woods I shrieked to find
A fiend astride my back.

His legs he closed about my breast,
His hands upon my head,
Till Coldstream lights beamed in the trees
And he wailed and fled.

Morning and evening are mine,
And the bright noon-heat,
But at night the sad thin ghosts
For their revels meet.


As I went down the Baldon lane,
Alone I went, as oft I went,
Weighing if it were loss or gain
To give a maidenhead.
I met, just as the day was spent,
A fancy man, a gentleman,
Who smiled on me, and then began,
'Come sit with me, my maid.'

With him had I no mind to sit
In Baldon lane for loss or gain,
Said I to him with feeble wit,
And close beside him crept;
The branches might have heard my pain,
The sudden cry, the maiden cry,--
My fancy man departed sly,
And woman-like, I wept.

I kept the roads until my bed,
A nine months' time, a weary time,
And then to Baldon woods I fled
In Spring-time weather mild;
The kindly trees, they fear no crime,
So back I came, to Baldon came,
Received their welcome without blame,
And moaned and dropped my child.

The poor brat gasped an hour or so,
A goodly child, a thoughtful child;
Perceiving nought for us but woe
It stretched and sudden died;
But I, when Spring breaks fresh and mild,
To Baldon lane return again,
For there's my home, and women vain
Must hold their homes in pride.


Come girl, and embrace
And ask no more I wed thee;
Know then you are sweet of face,
Soft-limbed and fashioned lovingly;--
Must you go marketing your charms
In cunning woman-like,
And filled with old wives' tales' alarms?

I tell you, girl, come embrace;
What reck we of churchling and priest
With hands on paunch, and chubby face?
Behold, we are life's pitiful least,
And we perish at the first smell
Of death, whither heaves earth
To spurn us cringing into hell.

Come girl, and embrace;
Nay, cry not, poor wretch, nor plead,
But haste, for life strikes a swift pace,
And I burn with envious greed:
Know you not, fool, we are the mock
Of gods, time, clothes, and priests?
But come, there is no time for talk.

* * * * *



So she became a bird, and bird-like danced
On a long sloe-bough, treading the silver blossom
With a bird's lovely feet;
And shaken blossoms fell into the hands
Of Sunlight.

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Keywords: filled, breath, stretched, beyond, wandering, quietly, evening, cannot, london, within
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