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Collected Poems

Country Pleasures

page 87

Country Pleasures

A good eye must be good to see whatsoever is to be seen, and not green things only.

Landscape with Figures

(Memories of England, 1930)

No dragon's blood breaking in crimson flowers,
no timeless jungle, obscenity of apes,
no serpents lust-entangled in hot bowers
where in the moonlight flit the tiger-shapes;

no crunch of living bones, no clouds that rise
malarial from the whining swamp where falls
death in a raindrop from the envenomed skies,
no jackal's wail beneath the desert walls—

but only meadowlarks, armorial shields,
and woods of wishing-green with buds bedight,
and vicars tripping home through daisied fields,
and mezzotints, and dairymaid's delight.

Behold the springtime and the freshening east!
Now fabulous in leaves the adder dwells
to bite the hand, sole spice to all this feast
of harmless primrose, heaven-coloured bells.

Blue blood's behind sad walls where birds are bred
and no more kings. By dim baronial scenes
along arterial roads runs common red,
and pulses down green lanes in limousines.

Fur-coated abstinence and gilt-edged stock
strew petrol mists where flit the hiker-shapes,
and charabancs go lumbering choc-a-bloc
with rougy jades and sleek unjungled apes.

page 88

No panther-lust, nor hunger for hot flesh
mars England's rectories! Here matrons coy
and dutiful divines their souls refresh
with love-in-jaegers, simple beefsteak joy.

From this cold earth Crusaders leapt in fire
to barbarous lands, and roving knights in ships
in death's despite set forth to swage desire,
with Christ a lovely flame upon their lips.

In mortgaged precincts epicene Sir Giles,
cold remnant of a fiery race, consorts
with pale fox-hunting Jews with glossy smiles,
and plays at Walton Heath, and drives a sports.

Deserted Farmyard

The barn is bare of hoof and horn,
the yard is empty of its herds;
the thatch is grey with age and torn,
and spattered with the dung of birds.

The well is full of newts, the chain
long broken, and the spindle cracked,
and deep in nettles stands the wain
three-wheeled, with rotten hay half-stacked.

Where are the farmer and his bride
who came from their honeymoon in spring
filled full with gaudy hope and pride,
and made the farm a good paying thing?

Where are the scions of their race,
Thomas, the first, who followed whores,
William who followed Christ, and Grace,
who lived a virgin, scrubbing floors?

Asprawl the path where footsteps trod
and grinding wheels fetched in the crop
a snake lies prone, as basks a god
in triumph on a mountain top.

page 89

And there are worms beneath these stones,
and toads in dank and clammy lair,
and many a stinging insect drones
upon the stagnant summer air.

And life springs fresh amid the weeds
beside an upturned cider-vat,
where in hot sun the flesh-fly breeds
upon the carcase of a rat.

On Entering a New Abode

In this dry thatch are fleas and building birds;
through the withered straw great water-drops do leak
when the cloud sails over; crooked are the walls
and cracked with age; loud do the floorboards creak.

Yet in this little house we shall not fear
the world's rough usage, storms nor tempest-shocks,
for love makes palaces of lowly huts
 and clings with eagle courage to cold rocks.

And though the pane be broken, and chill winds
infest our chamber, see what a lovely light
swims through the rent and spills a pool of gold
at morning, and what stars do dance at night.

Our arms are gates wherefrom we 'scape this world;
and if the spider dangles from the wall
'tis but a symbol of our perilous love,
which hangs by a thread from heaven, yet shall not fall.

So now for feasting days and nights of love;
let Joy be led within and decked with leaves;
let innocence and mirth crown all our days,
and never heart be sad beneath these eaves.

page 90

Winter Night

The candles gutter and burn out,
and warm and snug we take our ease,
and faintly comes the wind's great shout
as he assails the frozen trees.

The vague walls of this little room
contract and close upon the soul;
deep silence hangs amid the gloom;
no sound but the small voice of the coal.

Here in this sheltered firelit place
we know not wind nor shivering tree;
we two alone inhabit space,
locked in our small infinity.

This is our world, where love enfolds
all images of joy, all strife
resolves in peace: this moment holds
within its span the sum of life.

For Time's a ghost: these reddening coals
were forest once ere he'd begun,
and now from dark and timeless boles
we take the harvest of the sun;

and still the flower-lit solitudes
are radiant with the springs he stole
where violets in those buried woods
wake little blue flames in the coal.

Great stars may shine above this thatch;
beyond these walls perchance are men
with laws and dreams: but our thin latch
holds all such things beyond our ken.

The fire now lights our cloudy walls,
now fails beneath the singing pot,
and as the last flame leaps and falls
the far wall is and then is not.

Now lovelier than firelight is the gleam
of dying embers, and your face
shines through the pathways of my dream
like young leaves in a forest place.

page 91

Love in the Night

We are two skeletons who sleep
like lovers darkly in a grave;
along our bones the shadows creep
as rats about a burial cave.

This darkness is the womb of life
and soon with flesh our bones grow warm,
yet still we are but man and wife,
each yet endures a separate form.

Next flesh commingles with sweet fire
from heaven, and mind springs from the air,
the elements bring forth desire,
and then I know your body fair.

Into my waiting heart life pours
resistless power: a blinding arc
of light springs from my loins to yours
and tiger-like devours the dark.

In love's vast instant time's annulled,
we in that instant are made one,
and in our commerce is fulfilled
the motion of the stars and sun.

Empty House

Now you are gone and there is no longer the laughter of the children,
nor cave smells of fur and food nor crackle of fire.
Now you have ebbed like a tide and left uncovered
the wracks of many ships.

Cold and stagnant this pond with sad weeds cumbering the surface
and small thoughts like newts flitting in the gloom.
I walk through the rooms of this empty house
as a spider climbs through the dry skull of a nobody,
page 92 passing soberly (remember death) as a man come out into rain
from a room full of music,
passing from one room to another and back again:
remember death.

This house is an authentically modern house,
an epitome of our progression from the ape,
from the ape to Cromwell steady going
then upward and onward, soaring.
There is a plug for the vacuum-cleaner, not yet attained to,
and ample room for a piano and a billiard-table
to be purchased later, and much room for books,
outlines of modern knowledge, Shak., etc.
At a touch of the fingers (even a child's or an ape's)
the light snaps on, miracles (Christ!) at tuppence a time
and a cold wind without
or two shillings a month less ten per cent for cash
the windows black and the pane stained with rain.

And the floor is planks and not a floor
and the chimney is bricks and not a chimney
and this room is six planes
enclosing irrelevant chairs and a table
and mats and curtains that do not conceal the bareness.

But when you come back, dead wood shall bud,
warm and human this house shall be,
brick will be brighter, bed more soft,
there will be smells of fur and food
and the scent of the children's bodies.

I shall open the window in the morning
and the valley shall sing before us.