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Eleanor Farjeon (Элинор Фарджон)

The Last Week in September


I saw a man, an old, old man,
  The oldest man I ever did see--
Well! I am very nearly five,
  And he was twice as old as me.

His eyes were much too old for sight,
  His ears were much too old to hear,
His beard it was all tangled and white,
  His old hands shook with a sort of fear.

He had a kind of twiggy broom
  As though he had a room to mind,
Yet he was not in any room
  But all among the blowy wind.

I saw him stoop to gather things--
  He had not very far to stoop--
Leaves that had scattered like the wings
  Of dead moths flying in a troop,

And little broken sticks beside
  Where flowers and berries used to hang--
I wonder where the music died
  Of all the birds that in them sang?--

There were some feathers on the ground,
  And silky dried-up curls of flow'rs,
And he went stooping round and round
  And gathering these things for hours.

I stood and watched and asked him why,
  But still he groped about the mold
And never made the least reply
  Because his ears were much too old.

He got his broom and swept and swept
  A pile as round as any cup--
If I'd been littler I'd have wept
  To see him sweeping summer up.

But I just stood and watched him there,
  And presently he didn't sweep,
When there was nothing anywhere
  But summer lying in a heap.

And then the old man found a light
  And stooped above the darling mound,
And little dancing flames grew bright ...
  He burned up summer on the ground!

But oh! there was the sweetest smell--
  And yet the smell was sorry too--
Much sweeter than I ever could tell,
  Of all the things I ever knew.

You could smell every kind of tree
  And every kind of flower there is,
And wet weeds rather like the sea--
  And something else as well as this.

It was--I don't know what it was!--
  The sweetest, sorriest smell of all.
It crept in smoke-rings over the grass,
  And hung, and would not rise or fall.

I think the old man must have known
  What smell it was, but would not say.
He shuffled slowly off alone
  When summer all was burned away.

One day when I'm a very old man
  Perhaps I'll be as wise as he ...
But I am not quite five, you know,
  And he was twice as old as me.


It was the longest August
And the weariest September
That ever I remember,
That ever I remember!

All the tedious summer
I toiled among the city
Where nothing fresh and sweet was
Or cool or kind or pretty.

Empty all the streets were,
Every house was lonely,
Nothing human moved there
Saving me, me only.

I saw little white things,
Things with dreadful faces--
No, they were not children
In the empty places.

Haggard, haggard tired things
Crossed my gaze and froze it--
Men and women never
Looked so, and God knows it.

Somewhere, men and women--
All the children, somewhere!
If I asked the heavens
The heavens only dumb were.

Oh, the city pave-stones,
Common, hard and dusty,
Like ignoble grave-stones
Of high hopes gone rusty.

Oh, the arid, breathless
Days devoid of rumour.
Oh, the tedious, deathless,
Hateful, humdrum summer ...

I walked out with a leaden brain
And a heart half-wild--
And suddenly I saw
A Child.

She had brown hands and brown bare knees
And a glorious golden skin
And eyes overlaid with sun on the sea
And laughter's heart within.

She stamped along the pavement
With hard and happy feet,
I was not done with gazing
Till she out-raced the street.

A Child! One Child! But next day,
Oh, next day there were two!
And half-a-score to follow,
And so the legion grew.

Children! Children! Children!
Come straight from where God is,
All the ocean's rhythm
Rocking in their bodies,

All the sea-scent, field-scent
Blowing from their tresses,
In their glad free glances
All that Earth expresses,

Sun-kissed, wind-kissed,
Rain-kissed bands,
Sand-yellow, sturdy legs,
Flower-dabbled hands,

Eyes so shining, such loud voices,
Such hard, happy feet!
Holiday-homing children
Flowing through the street.

Laughter's heart beat in
The last week of September--
The sweetest I remember!
The sweetest I remember!

Eleanor Farjeon's other poems:
  1. Three Miles to Penn
  2. Sonnets. 12. I hear love answer: Since within the mesh
  3. Two Choruses from “Merlin in Broceliande”
  4. Sonnets. 14. Now I have love again and life again
  5. Sonnets. 18. Shall we not laugh together, you and I

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