Now it is Loneliness who comes at night
Instead of Sleep, to sit beside my bed.
Like a tired child I lie and wait her tread,
I watch her softly blowing out the light.
Motionless sitting, neither left nor right
She turns, and weary, weary droops her head.
She, too, is old; she, too, has fought the fight.
So with the laurel she is garlanded.
Through the sad dark the slowly ebbing tide
Breaks on a barren shore, unsatisfied.
A strange wind flows… then silence. I am fain
To turn to Loneliness, to take her hand,
Cling to her, waiting, till the barren land
Fills with the dreadful monotone of rain.
The Sea Child
Into the world you sent her, mother,
Fashioned her body of coral and foam,
Combed a wave in her hair's warm smother,
And drove her away from home.
In the dark of the night she crept to the town
And under a doorway she laid her down,
The little blue child in the foam-fringed gown.
And never a sister and never a brother
To hear her call, to answer her cry.
Her face shone out from her hair's warm smother
Like a moonkin up in the sky.
She sold her corals; she sold her foam;
Her rainbow heart like a singing shell
Broke in her body; she crept back home.
Peace, go back to the world, my daughter,
Daughter, go back to the darkling land;
There is nothing here but sad sea water,
And a handful of sifting sand.
I will think no more of the sea!
Of the big green waves
And the hollowed shore,
Of the brown rock caves
No more, no more
Of the swell and the weed
And the bubbling foam.
Memory dwells in my far-away home,
She has nothing to do with me.
She is old and bent
With a pack
On her back.
Her tears all spent,
Her voice, just a crack.
With an old thorn stick
She hobbles along,
And a crazy song
Now slow, now quick,
Wheeks in her throat,
And every day
While there's light on the shore
She searches for something,
Her withered claw
Tumbles the seaweed;
She pokes in each shell
Groping and mumbling
Until the night
Deepens and darkens,
And covers her quite,
And bids her be silent,
And bids her be still.
The ghostly feet
Of the whispery waves
page 27 Tiptoe beside her.
They follow, follow
To the rocky caves
In the white beach hollow….
She hugs her hands,
She sobs, she shrills,
And the echoes shriek
In the rocky hills.
She moans: "It is lost!
Let it be! Let it be!
I am old. I'm too cold.
I am frightened … the sea
Is too loud … it is lost,
It is gone…." Memory
Wails in my far-away home.
The Town Between the Hills
The farther the little girl leaped and ran,
The farther she longed to be;
The white, white fields of jonquil flowers
Danced up as high as her knee
And flashed and sparkled before her eyes
Until she could hardly see.
So into the wood went she.
It was quiet in the wood,
It was solemn and grave;
A sound like a wave
Sighed in the tree-tops
And then sighed no more.
But she was brave,
And the sky showed through
A bird's-egg blue,
And she saw
A tiny path that was running away
Over the hills to—who can say?
She ran, too.
But then the path broke,
Then the path ended
And wouldn't be mended.
A little old man
Sat on the edge,
Hugging the hedge.
He had a fire
And two eggs in a pan
And a paper poke
Of pepper and salt;
So she came to a halt
To watch and admire:
Cunning and nimble was he!
"May I help, if I can, little old man?"
"Bravo!" he said,
"You may dine with me.
I've two old eggs
From two white hens
And a loaf from a kind ladie:
Some fresh nutmegs,
Some cutlet ends
In pink and white paper frills:
A little hot-pot
From the town between the hills."
page 29 He nodded his head
And made her a sign
To sit under the spray
Of a trailing vine.
But when the little girl joined her hands
And said the grace she had learned to say,
The little old man gave two dreadful squeals
And she just saw the flash of his smoking heels
As he tumbled, tumbled
With his two old eggs
From two white hens,
His loaf from a kind ladie,
The fresh nutmegs,
In the pink and white paper frills.
And away rumbled
The little hot-pot,
So much too hot,
From the town between the hills.
Voices of the Air
But when there comes that moment rare
When, for no cause that I can find,
The little voices of the air
Sound above all the sea and wind.
The sea and wind do then obey
And sighing, sighing double notes
Of double basses, content to play
A droning chord for the little throats—
The little throats that sing and rise
Up into the light with lovely ease
And a kind of magical, sweet surprise
To hear and know themselves for these—
For these little voices: the bee, the fly,
The leaf that taps, the pod that breaks,
The breeze on the grass-tops bending by,
The shrill quick sound that the insect makes.
Her little hot room looked over the bay
Through a stiff palisade of glinting palms,
And there she would lie in the heat of the day,
Her dark head resting upon her arms,
So quiet, so still, she did not seem
To think, to feel, or even to dream.
The shimmering, blinding web of the sea
Hung from the sky, and the spider sun
With busy frightening cruelty
Crawled over the sky and spun and spun.
She could see it still when she shut her eyes,
And the little boats caught in the web like flies.
Down below at this idle hour
Nobody walked in the dusty street
A scent of dying mimosa flower
Lay on the air, but sweet—too sweet.
To L. H. B.
Last night for the first time since you were dead
I walked with you, my brother, in a dream.
We were at home again beside the stream
Fringed with tall berry bushes, white and red.
"Don't touch them: they are poisonous," I said.
But your hand hovered, and I saw a beam
Of strange, bright laughter flying round your head,
And as you stopped I saw the berries gleam.
"Don't you remember? We called them Dead Man's Bread!"
I woke and heard the wind moan and the roar
Of the dark water tumbling on the shore.
Where—where is the path of my dream for my eager feet?
By the remembered stream my brother stands
Waiting for me with berries in his hands…"
These are my body. Sister, take and eat."
There is a Solemn Wind To-Night
There is a solemn wind to-night
That sings of solemn rain;
The trees that have been quiet so long
Flutter and start again.
The slender trees, the heavy trees,
The fruit trees laden and proud,
Lift up their branches to the wind
That cries to them so loud.
The little bushes and the plants
Bow to the solemn sound,
And every tiniest blade of grass
Shakes on the quiet ground.
Out in the Garden
Out in the garden,
Out in the windy, swinging dark,
Under the trees and over the flower-beds,
Over the grass and under the hedge border,
Someone is sweeping, sweeping,
Some old gardener.
Out in the windy, swinging dark,
Someone is secretly putting in order,
Someone is creeping, creeping.
Now folds the Tree of Day its perfect flowers,
And every bloom becomes a bud again,
Shut and sealed up against the golden showers
Of bees that hover in the velvet hours….
Now a strain
Wild and mournful blown from shadow towers,
Echoed from shadow ships upon the foam,
Proclaims the Queen of Night.
From their bowers
The dark Princesses fluttering, wing their flight
To their old Mother, in her huge old home.
And again the flowers are come
And the light shakes,
And no tiny voice is dumb,
And a bud breaks
On the humble bush and the proud restless tree.
Come with me!
Look, this little flower is pink,
And this one white.
Here's a pearl cup for your drink,
Here's for your delight
A yellow one, sweet with honey,
Here's fairy money
Scattered over the grass
As we pass.
Here's moss. How the smell of it lingers
On my cold fingers!
You shall have no moss. Here's a frail
Hyacinth, deathly pale.
Not for you! Not for you!
And the place where they grew
You must promise me not to discover,
My sorrowful lover!
Shall we never be happy again?
Never again play?
In vain—in vain!