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Poem by Eleanor Farjeon

A Sheaf of Nature-Songs

(Overstrand, 1905.)


They were gathered up in the moods
Which I found in the solitudes
Of the shore and the fields and the woods,
Of the dawn and the noon and the even,
Of the earth and the sea and of heaven.
And some lack rhythm and metre,
And none of the songs is sweeter,
Or as sweet (by the infinite span
Which divides the work of man
From the work of his God), as the thing
Which was the fountain and spring
Whence my heart drew its need to sing.
But because wherever I went
Much song in my heart was pent:
Because the sea and the sky
Filled my breast with such melody:
Because the woodlands and all
God's earth became musical
As they entered into my soul:
Because I captured the whole
Of Nature for my possession:
I sang just to find expression
For the joy and the love and the pride of it
Else all song in me might have died of it.


The infinite sky overhead
And on the horizon
The infinite sea.
Green billowing grass for my bed
At last I am out of my prison
And free!

An insect creeps over my page,
An infinite mite
With all life folded under its wings.
I am of no sex, of no age,
Here out of sight
Of the world, all alone with God's infinite things.

Oh, the world of small leafage
Peopling the bank where I lean,
And the one white daisy
With its wisdom of things supernal.
They live out their brief age,
Brief but eternal,
And time itself recedes and grows hazy
In this little infinite world of green.

Behind me the copse
Like a round cup dips
Filled with a pool of soft shadows,
And to me in the meadows
One shy bird-voice from the tree-top drips
And into the hollow of shadows it melts and drops.

They are all around me
And all above me,
Half-seen, half-heard,
Flower and leaf and insect and bird,
Wild, timid creatures,
Simple and friendly and shy;
And so still I lie
Where they have found me
That I think in time they may learn to love me,
For they are Nature's
And so am I.

One by one she unfolds each feature,
The Infinite Mother
To her child.
There was a new bird-call,
And there was another!
I too shall learn to grow simple and shy and wild ...
Only Nature and Nature and nothing but Nature,
And I alone in the heart of it all.


They who dwell in the southlands say,
Little green England of mine, that you
Are misty and colourless, cold and grey.
    If it be true
And they can know it who dwell afar,
You only are grey as diamonds are.

To-day in the warm soft evening light
You are a zone of delicate tints;
On the rim of the sea the sun is bright,
     And shoots and glints
Sparkles of gold through its splendid blue.
Who say you are colourless know not you.

Opal gleams on the sunset sky
Where a wave of the liquid sapphire flows;
One bright cloud on its flood drifts by
    Of pearl and rose;
The air is radiant and crystalline
As rare jewels delved from a fairy mine.

A breeze just shivers the green of the corn
And sweeps it into a silver sea;
Infinite sensitive shades new-born
    On hill and lea
Over the land's lap flit and pass
Like elusive tints in Venetian glass

Nature has painted you in pastel,
You are her palette of tender hues,
Little green England of mine, where dwell
    Change, and infuse,
The million lights of the polar-star,
And you only are grey as diamonds are.


      If I could unravel
      The music of the grass,
      Beyond those confines travel
      Which mortals cannot pass,
      I think that I should capture all
      The secret of things musical
All music ever will be, and all it ever was.

      Ear close to earth inclining
      I hear her wordless song
      Of threads past man's divining
      Woven the grass among.
      Beneath these fragrant, tangled weeds
      She sings the strain to which her seeds
March into life, push upward to heaven, and grow strong.

      Then like a voice replying
      Follows her cradle-croon
      Lulling tired things that, dying,
      Back to their Mother swoon.
      For where the worlds of grasses spring
      Both life and death their choral sing,
The spheres' eternal roundel circling an afternoon.

      The music of existence
      Moves underneath my ear
      From how remote a distance
      Comes that which sounds so near!
      Could I the human barrier pass
      By the fine measure of one grass
I then might comprehend what now I only hear.

      There's such melodious stirring
      Of hidden, secret things,
      There's such harmonious whirring
      Of faint mysterious wings;
      And underneath this leaf is curled
      The song, I think, of all the world
Up-turned, should I discover the seed from which it springs?

      If I could unravel
      The music of the grass,
      Beyond those confines travel
      Which mortals cannot pass,
      I think that I should capture all
      The secret of things musical
All music ever will be, and all it ever was.


It is afternoon,
Yet that must be a lark.
No other bird flies up so high
And shakes its sparkling spray of song
Through the grey clouds in the sky,
No other bird has just that thrilling
Note in trilling,
Or can sustain so long
Its liquid flood of mirth:
As rare a boon
To thirsty ears as God's dew is to earth.
Yet it is afternoon.
I thought the larks, all scorning
The jaded hours, sang only in the morning.
And I, whose first flushed youth is going,
Who watch the swift noon growing
Upon me, hour by hour,
Feeling that I must always stand apart
From earth's sweet singers, because I lacked the pow'r
To loose the morning song-burst from my heart
Oh, songster of the mellowing hour of day,
Shall I, too, late or soon,
Learn from your throat the way
To loose my power of song even in my afternoon?


The day was a lifeless day.
Under a tree I lay
And round me its branches bent
Touching the earth like a tent.
There was no stir of breeze;
I was shut in with trees,
Locked from the world by these;
Dead leaves were piled on the ground,
And the forest lay in a swound,
Throbbed with nor pulse nor breath,
And I thought: "It is waiting Death."
So I lay there, still and oppressed,
While the silence grew in my breast.

Presently as I lay
I heard from far away
Little pattering feet
Over the dry leaves beat;
Tripping along pell-mell,
Thicker and faster they fell
Than tongue could count or tell.
And I fancied the birds and deer
And rabbits, too awed for fear,
Were creeping my aid to plead
Impelled by our common need
Till into my sheltered place
One raindrop splashed on my face.

I lay there tented and dry
While the dews, dropped out of the sky,
Made music upon the sheaves
Of last year's stacked-up leaves
No steps of wild things that trod,
But the whispering voice of God
In grave commune with the sod,
Messenger-angels rife
With words not of Death but Life,
Bidding the old brown Earth
Prepare for her great re-birth
And look to Heaven in pride
Renewed and revivified.

Then I heard far under the soil
The seedlings stir and toil,
And blade and bulb and root
Put forth each one new shoot,
And I felt deep down and deep
A million pulses leap
Out of their term of sleep,
And I thought the acorn spoke
With the voice of the full-grown oak,
And the cone wore the crown divine
Of the red-stemmed, crested pine,
And the haw held all the blush
And bloom of the wild-rose bush.

What helped these young things to grow?
Dead leaves of a year ago,
Leaves heaped up in their crowds
And spread like funeral-shrouds;
Yet life sprang out of their death
As the blade slips out of its sheath,
Life was fostered beneath
The leaves here rotting away
And emerged from their decay.
Are all things that seem to die
Renewed to infinity,
And the bodies and souls of men
Made and re-made again?

With the scent of the rain-wet loam
In my nostrils, I turned me home.


I lay on the shore beside the sea,
And the young moon climbed the hill of the sky
And paused a space to look down on me
      Alone with my misery

Then on the fallow blue fields above
The young moon sowed its seed of stars;
Light gleamed from the mirror of her named Love
      And flashed from the shield of Mars.

The stars sprang up from the silver seed
Wherever that silver sower trod.
Through the windows of heaven watching my need
      I knew them the eyes of God.

Little blue waves with blown foam capped
Crept on the solitary shore
Which the sea's white lips still licked and lapped
      For ever and evermore.

The silver moon waxed strong and older;
I thought I saw it stop to fling
A silver sickle over its shoulder
      And commence its harvesting.

The strong moon ploughed through the fields of heaven,
Its eternal labour but half-begun.
My breast dropped its load of earthy leaven
      As the stars dropped one by one.

I had sat there hugging my trivial cross,
My infinitesimal mortal pains,
Reckoning up how my mortal loss
      Outmeasured my mortal gains.

I saw the moon reaping God's blue fields
Night after night sown thick with seeds.
I saw the crop which God's harvest yields
      Not in men's dreams, but deeds.

The old moon climbed down the hill of the sky,
The strong young day flashed up in flame.
The moon dropped into the sea, and I
      Bowed down my head in shame.

Eleanor Farjeon

Eleanor Farjeon's other poems:
  1. When You Say
  2. Sonnets. 11. A few of us who faltered as we fared
  3. Sonnets. 14. Now I have love again and life again
  4. Three Miles to Penn
  5. Revolt

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