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Poem by William Watson


A Child's Hair


A letter from abroad. I tear
Its sheathing open, unaware
What treasure gleams within; and there
    Like bird from cage
Flutters a curl of golden hair
    Out of the page.

From such a frolic head 'twas shorn!
('Tis but five years since he was born.)
Not sunlight scampering over corn
    Were merrier thing.
A child? A fragment of the morn,
    A piece of Spring!

Surely an ampler, fuller day
Than drapes our English skies with grey
A deeper light, a richer ray
    Than here we know
To this bright tress have given away
    Their living glow.

For Willie dwells where gentian flowers
Make mimic sky in mountain bowers;
And vineyards steeped in ardent hours
    Slope to the wave
Where storied Chillon's tragic towers
    Their bases lave;

And over piny tracts of Vaud
The rose of eve steals up the snow;
And on the waters far below
    Strange sails like wings
Half-bodilessly come and go,
    Fantastic things;

And tender night falls like a sigh
On châlet low and château high;
And the far cataract's voice comes nigh,
    Where no man hears;
And spectral peaks impale the sky
    On silver spears.

Ah, Willie, whose dissevered tress
Lies in my hand!may you possess
At least one sovereign happiness,
    Ev'n to your grave;
One boon than which I ask naught less,
    Naught greater crave:

May cloud and mountain, lake and vale,
Never to you be trite or stale
As unto souls whose wellsprings fail
    Or flow defiled,
Till Nature's happiest fairy-tale
    Charms not her child!

For when the spirit waxes numb,
Alien and strange these shows become,
And stricken with life's tedium
    The streams run dry,
The choric spheres themselves are dumb,
    And dead the sky,

Dead as to captives grown supine,
Chained to their task in sightless mine:
Above, the bland day smiles benign,
    Birds carol free,
In thunderous throes of life divine
    Leaps the glad sea;

But theytheir day and night are one.
What is't to them, that rivulets run,
Or what concern of theirs the sun?
    It seems as though
Their business with these things was done
    Ages ago:

Only, at times, each dulled heart feels
That somewhere, sealed with hopeless seals,
The unmeaning heaven about him reels,
    And he lies hurled
Beyond the roar of all the wheels
    Of all the world.

* * * * *

On what strange track one's fancies fare!
To eyeless night in sunless lair
'Tis a far cry from Willie's hair;
    And here it lies
Human, yet something which can ne'er
    Grow sad and wise:

Which, when the head where late it lay
In life's grey dusk itself is grey,
And when the curfew of life's day
    By death is tolled,
Shall forfeit not the auroral ray
    And eastern gold.



William Watson


William Watson's other poems:
  1. On Exaggerated Deference to Foreign Literary Opinion
  2. On Landor's Hellenics
  3. Mensis Lacrimarum
  4. Sketch of a Political Character
  5. To

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