"I was not He"


   I was not he - the man
Who used to pilgrim to your gate,
At whose smart step you grew elate,
   And rosed, as maidens can,
      For a brief span.

   It was not I who sang
Beside the keys you touched so true
With note-bent eyes, as if with you
   It counted not whence sprang
      The voice that rang . . .

   Yet though my destiny
It was to miss your early sweet,
You still, when turned to you my feet,
   Had sweet enough to be

      A prize for me!


[Image : Anne Lee]

Past the hills that peep
Where the leaze is smiling,
On and on beguiling
Crisply-cropping sheep;
Under boughs of brushwood
Linking tree and tree
In a shade of lushwood,
   There caressed we!

Hemmed by city walls
That outshut the sunlight,
In a foggy dun light,
Where the footstep falls
With a pit-pat wearisome
In its cadency
On the flagstones drearisome
   There pressed we!

Where in wild-winged crowds
Blown birds show their whiteness
Up against the lightness
Of the clammy clouds;
By the random river
Pushing to the sea,
Under bents that quiver

   There rest we.

A Week

On Monday night I closed my door,
And thought you were not as heretofore,
And little cared if we met no more.

I seemed on Tuesday night to trace
Something beyond mere commonplace
In your ideas, and heart, and face.

On Wednesday I did not opine
Your life would ever be one with mine,
Though if it were we should well combine.

On Thursday noon I liked you well,
And fondly felt that we must dwell
Not far apart, whatever befell.

On Friday it was with a thrill
In gazing towards your distant vill
I owned you were my dear one still.

I saw you wholly to my mind
On Saturday--even one who shrined
All that was best of womankind.

As wing-clipt sea-gull for the sea
On Sunday night I longed for thee,
Without whom life were waste to me!

The Minute before Meeting

The grey gaunt days dividing us in twain
Seemed hopeless hills my strength must faint to climb,
But they are gone; and now I would detain
The few clock-beats that part us; rein back Time,

And live in close expectance never closed
In change for far expectance closed at last,
So harshly has expectance been imposed
On my long need while these slow blank months passed.

And knowing that what is now about to be
Will all HAVE BEEN in O, so short a space!
I read beyond it my despondency
When more dividing months shall take its place,
Thereby denying to this hour of grace
A full-up measure of felicity.


More Love Lyrics - 1967

In five-score summers!  All new eyes,
New minds, new modes, new fools, new wise;
New woes to weep, new joys to prize;

With nothing left of me and you
In that live century's vivid view
Beyond a pinch of dust or two;

A century which, if not sublime,
Will show, I doubt not, at its prime,
A scope above this blinkered time.

- Yet what to me how far above?
For I would only ask thereof
That thy worm should be my worm, Love!


(Photo: 1967 King's Road, Chelsea)

The Workbox

"See, here's the workbox, little wife,
   That I made of polished oak."
He was a joiner, of village life;
   She came of borough folk.

He holds the present up to her
As with a smile she nears
And answers to the profferer,
"'Twill last all my sewing years!"

"I warrant it will.  And longer too.
'Tis a scantling that I got
Off poor John Wayward's coffin, who
Died of they knew not what.

"The shingled pattern that seems to cease
Against your box's rim
Continues right on in the piece
That's underground with him.

"And while I worked it made me think
Of timber's varied doom;
One inch where people eat and drink,
The next inch in a tomb.

"But why do you look so white, my dear,
And turn aside your face?
You knew not that good lad, I fear,
Though he came from your native place?"

"How could I know that good young man,
Though he came from my native town,
When he must have left there earlier than
I was a woman grown?"

"Ah no.  I should have understood!
It shocked you that I gave
To you one end of a piece of wood
Whose other is in a grave?"

"Don't, dear, despise my intellect,
Mere accidental things
Of that sort never have effect
On my imaginings."

Yet still her lips were limp and wan,
Her face still held aside,
As if she had known not only John,
But known of what he died.

A Backward Spring

The trees are afraid to put forth buds,
And there is timidity in the grass;
The plots lie gray where gouged by spuds,
   And whether next week will pass
Free of sly sour winds is the fret of each bush
   Of barberry waiting to bloom.

Yet the snowdrop's face betrays no gloom,
And the primrose pants in its heedless push,
Though the myrtle asks if it's worth the fight
   This year with frost and rime
   To venture one more time
On delicate leaves and buttons of white
From the selfsame bough as at last year's prime,
And never to ruminate on or remember
What happened to it in mid-December.

April 1917.

Why be at Pains

(Wooer's Song) 

Why be at pains that I should know
   You sought not me?
Do breezes, then, make features glow
   So rosily?
Come, the lit port is at our back,
   And the tumbling sea;
Elsewhere the lampless uphill track
   To uncertainty!

O should not we two waifs join hands?
   I am alone,
You would enrich me more than lands
   By being my own.
Yet, though this facile moment flies,
   Close is your tone,
And ere to-morrow's dewfall dries
   I plough the unknown.

The West-of-Wessex Girl

A very West-of-Wessex girl,
   As blithe as blithe could be,
   Was once well-known to me,
And she would laud her native town,
   And hope and hope that we
Might sometime study up and down
   Its charms in company.

But never I squired my Wessex girl
   In jaunts to Hoe or street
   When hearts were high in beat,
Nor saw her in the marbled ways
   Where market-people meet
That in her bounding early days
   Were friendly with her feet.

Yet now my West-of-Wessex girl,
   When midnight hammers slow
   From Andrew's, blow by blow,
As phantom draws me by the hand
   To the place--Plymouth Hoe--
Where side by side in life, as planned,
   We never were to go!

Begun in Plymouth, March 1913.

A House with a History

There is a house in a city street
   Some past ones made their own;
Its floors were criss-crossed by their feet,
      And their babblings beat
   From ceiling to white hearth-stone.

And who are peopling its parlours now?
   Who talk across its floor?
Mere freshlings are they, blank of brow,
      Who read not how
   Its prime had passed before

Their raw equipments, scenes, and says
   Afflicted its memoried face,
That had seen every larger phase
      Of human ways
   Before these filled the place.

To them that house's tale is theirs,
   No former voices call
Aloud therein.  Its aspect bears
      Their joys and cares
   Alone, from wall to wall.

Just the Same

I sat.  It all was past;
Hope never would hail again;
Fair days had ceased at a blast,
The world was a darkened den.

The beauty and dream were gone,
And the halo in which I had hied
So gaily gallantly on
Had suffered blot and died!

I went forth, heedless whither,
In a cloud too black for name:
- People frisked hither and thither;
The world was just the same.

Growth in May

I enter a daisy-and-buttercup land,
   And thence thread a jungle of grass:
Hurdles and stiles scarce visible stand
   Above the lush stems as I pass.

Hedges peer over, and try to be seen,
   And seem to reveal a dim sense
That amid such ambitious and elbow-high green
   They make a mean show as a fence.

Elsewhere the mead is possessed of the neats,
   That range not greatly above
The rich rank thicket which brushes their teats,
   And HER gown, as she waits for her Love.


If it's ever Spring again (Song)

If it's ever spring again,
   Spring again,
I shall go where went I when
Down the moor-cock splashed, and hen,
Seeing me not, amid their flounder,
Standing with my arm around her;
If it's ever spring again,
   Spring again,
I shall go where went I then.

If it's ever summer-time,
With the hay crop at the prime,
And the cuckoos--two--in rhyme,
As they used to be, or seemed to,
We shall do as long we've dreamed to,
If it's ever summer-time,
With the hay, and bees achime.

She hears the storm

There was a time in former years -
   While my roof-tree was his -
When I should have been distressed by fears
   At such a night as this!

I should have murmured anxiously,
   "The pricking rain strikes cold;
His road is bare of hedge or tree,
   And he is getting old."

But now the fitful chimney-roar,
   The drone of Thorncombe trees,
The Froom in flood upon the moor,
   The mud of Mellstock Leaze,

The candle slanting sooty wick'd,
   The thuds upon the thatch,
The eaves-drops on the window flicked,
   The clacking garden-hatch,

And what they mean to wayfarers,
   I scarcely heed or mind;
He has won that storm-tight roof of hers
   Which Earth grants all her kind.

The Roman Road

The Roman Road runs straight and bare
As the pale parting-line in hair
Across the heath.  And thoughtful men
Contrast its days of Now and Then,
And delve, and measure, and compare;

Visioning on the vacant air
Helmed legionaries, who proudly rear
The Eagle, as they pace again
   The Roman Road.

But no tall brass-helmed legionnaire
Haunts it for me.  Uprises there
A mother's form upon my ken,
Guiding my infant steps, as when
We walked that ancient thoroughfare,
   The Roman Road.

A January Night (1879)

The rain smites more and more,
The east wind snarls and sneezes;
Through the joints of the quivering door
   The water wheezes.

The tip of each ivy-shoot
Writhes on its neighbour's face;
There is some hid dread afoot
   That we cannot trace.

Is it the spirit astray
Of the man at the house below
Whose coffin they took in to-day?
   We do not know.

The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
   "Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock
   By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
   They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
   To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
   In these years!  Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
   "Come; see the oxen kneel

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
   Our childhood used to know,"
I should go with him in the gloom,
   Hoping it might be so.

I knew a Lady (Club Song)

I knew a lady when the days
   Grew long, and evenings goldened;
   But I was not emboldened
By her prompt eyes and winning ways.

And when old Winter nipt the haws,
   "Another's wife I'll be,
   And then you'll care for me,"
She said, "and think how sweet I was!"

And soon she shone as another's wife:
   As such I often met her,
   And sighed, "How I regret her!
My folly cuts me like a knife!"

And then, to-day, her husband came,
   And moaned, "Why did you flout her?
   Well could I do without her!
For both our burdens you are to blame!"

The Sergeant's Song (1803)

When Lawyers strive to heal a breach,
And Parsons practise what they preach;
Then Little Boney he'll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
   Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lorum,
   Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay!

When Justices hold equal scales,
And Rogues are only found in jails;
Then Little Boney he'll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
   Rollicum-rorum, &c.

When Rich Men find their wealth a curse,
And fill therewith the Poor Man's purse;
Then Little Boney he'll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
   Rollicum-rorum, &c.

When Husbands with their Wives agree,
And Maids won't wed from modesty;
Then Little Boney he'll pounce down,
And march his men on London town!
   Rollicum-rorum, tol-tol-lorum,
   Rollicum-rorum, tol-lol-lay!


Published in "The Trumpet-Major," 1880.

A Two-Years' Idyll

     [Image: Picnicking on Plymouth Breakwater in the early 1900s]

Yes; such it was;
   Just those two seasons unsought,
Sweeping like summertide wind on our ways;
      Moving, as straws,
   Hearts quick as ours in those days;
Going like wind, too, and rated as nought
   Save as the prelude to plays
   Soon to come--larger, life-fraught:
      Yes; such it was.

      "Nought" it was called,
   Even by ourselves--that which springs
Out of the years for all flesh, first or last,
      Commonplace, scrawled
   Dully on days that go past.
Yet, all the while, it upbore us like wings
   Even in hours overcast:
   Aye, though this best thing of things,
      "Nought" it was called!

      What seems it now?
   Lost:  such beginning was all;
Nothing came after:  romance straight forsook
      Quickly somehow
   Life when we sped from our nook,
Primed for new scenes with designs smart and tall . . .
  --A preface without any book,
   A trumpet uplipped, but no call;
      That seems it now.