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Poem by Lewis Morris


Still Waters


A CRUEL little stream I know,
Which slowly, slowly crawls between
The ooze banks, fringed with sedges green,
That serve to bind its feeble flow.

So sheltered that no passing breath
Of west-wind stirs it ; nay, the blast
Which strips the tall elms and is past,
Scarce wakes to life its race of death.

On its black surface year by year
The marsh flowers, grown untimely old,
Shed their soft petals like a tear,
And hopeless drown their faded gold.

Deep in its darkling depths the pike
Darts with his cruel jaws ; by night
The black eels, sinuous, serpent-like,
Twist like fell ghosts that fear the light.

Spring shuns it, summer loves it not ;
The low fat fields are lit with bloom,
But here the watery sedges rot,
And all the months are clothed with gloom.

Autumn's first footstep sears to brown
Its coarse green fringe ; the first cold breath,
Ere yet the oak-leaf flutters down,
Binds its dull life in icy death.

I hate, I hate you, crawling stream !
Dumb, creeping, murderous wretch, I long
To see the sunlit ripples gleam,
To hear the torrent's jubilant song.

But you, dull monster, all the years
Lie rolling on your sullen flood,
And take your fill of mortal tears ;
Yet, like the Churchmen, spill not blood.

The dark gap in the ice, the boat
Keel upward, or the drifting oar ;
Or, like of old, the little coat,
The white clothes heaped upon the shcre;

And some young life is over and gone,
And some fond heart is broken in twain ;
And you flow smoothly, smoothly on,
Taking no heed for death or pain.

They come and grapple with hooks until
They reach the slimy deep, where lies
The white thing, very cold and still,
With death's gaze in its stony eyes.

And you just make a ripple, and then
Flow smoothly onward : you who slew
Young innocent lives of painted men,
Long ere the crowded city grew ;

And shall in far years yet to be,
Pierce unborn mothers with that sharp pain,
Which only a mother feels when he
Who was her first-born comes again,

A clay-cold heap. I would that I
Had but the archangel's flaming brand ;
So would I burn thy dull springs dry,
And choke thy flow with hills of sand.

Yet why ? Whatever soft souls prate,
Babbling of universal good,
Love is the sister-child of hate,
And all good things are bought with blood.

Virtue were not if vice were not,
Nor darkness if there were not light.
Creep on ; fulfil thy murderous lot ;
For Wrong has equal life with Right. 



                      Lewis Morris


Lewis Morris's other poems:
  1. A Cynic's Day-Dream
  2. The Reply
  3. A Yorkshire River
  4. The Living Past
  5. To a Child of Fancy


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