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Poem by Eleanor Farjeon
A Sheaf of Nature-Songs
(Overstrand, 1905.) I 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. II 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. III 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. IV 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. V Hark! 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? VI 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. VII 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's other poems:
English Poetry. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org