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Poem by Thomas Aird


Those shouts proclaim the village school is out.
This way and that, the children break in groups;
Some by the sunny stile, and meadow path,
Slow sauntering homeward; others to the burn
Bounding, beneath the stones, and roots, and banks,
With stealthy hand to catch the spotted trout,
Or stab the eel, or slip their noose of hair
Over the bearded loach, and jerk him out.
Here on his donkey, slow as any snail
At morn from the far farm, but, homeward now,
Willing and fast, an urchin blithe and bold
Comes scampering on: his face is to the tail
In fun grotesque; stooping, with both his hands
He holds the hairy rump; his kicking feet
Go walloping; his empty flask of tin,
Which bore his noon of milk, quiver of life,
And not of death, high-bounding on his back,
Rattles the while. With many a whoop behind,
Scouring the dusty road with their bare feet,
In wicked glee, a squad of fellow-imps
Come on with thistles and with nettle-wands,
Pursuingly, intent to goad and vex
The long-eared cuddy: He, the cuddy, lays
His long ears back upon his neck, his head
Lowered the while, and out behind him flings
High his indignant heels, at once to keep
That hurly-burly of tormentors off,
And rid his back of that insulting rider.

Unconscious boyhood! Oh the peril near
Of luring Pleasures! In the evening shade,
Drowsy reclining, in my dream I saw
A comely youth, with wanton flowing curls,
Chase down the sunlit vale a glittering flight
Of wingèd creatures, some like birds, and some
Like butterflies, and moths of marvellous size
And beauty, purple-ruffed, and spotted rich
With velvet tippets, and their wings like flame.
Onward they drew him to a coming cloud,
With skirts of vapoury gold, but steaming dense
And dark behind, close gathering from the ground;
And on and in he went, in heedless chase.
Straightway those skirts curled inward, and became
Part of the gloom: Compacted, solid, black,
It has him in, and it will keep him there.
The clouds stood still a space, as if to give
Time for the acting of some doom within,
Ominous, silent, grim. It moved again,
Tumultuous stirred, and broke in seams and flaws,
And gave me glimpses of its inner womb:
Outdarting forkèd tongues, and brazen fins,
Blue web-winged vampire-bats, and harpy taces,
And dragon crests, and vulture heads obscene,
I there beheld: Fierce were their levelled looks,
As if inflicted on some victim. Who
That victim was I saw not. But are these
The painted Pleasures which that youth pursued
Adown the vale? How cruel changed! But what
And where is he? Is he their victim there?
Heavy the cloud went passing by. From out
Its further end I saw that young man come,
Worn and dejected; specks and spots of dirt
Were on his face, and round his sunken eyes;
Hollow his cheeks, lean were his bony brows;
And lank and clammy were the locks that once
Played curling round his neck: The Passions there
Have done their work on him. With trembling limbs,
And stumbling as he went, he sate him down,
With folded arms, upon a sombre hill,
Apart from men, and from his father's house,
That wept for him; and, sitting there, he looked
With heavy-laden eyes down on the ground.
But the night fell, and hid him from my view.

Desolate he who with his means abridged,
Yet proud as poor, dwells in a narrow flank
Of his ancestral house, gloomily vast
Beyond his need! The chambers of disuse
Seem haunted all: mysterious laden airs
Move the dim tapestries drearily; and Shapes
Spectral at hollow midnight beckoning glide
Down the far corridors, and faint away.
Such yonder mansion in the darksome wood;
And such its masteruseless to his kind,
Souring out life on his unsocial bile.

Here dwells a Sage of Song. Far went he down
On the great waters; lands whose dust is fire,
The hills of leopards, and the caves of wrong,
He feared them not: he saw the ways of men:
Wide grew his heart. Serenely here he dwells.
For him all Power puts on its rarest power,
All Grace its inner grace. The gleaming north,
Where Winter forges in his cloudy shop
His bolts of ice and casts his monster bergs,
Hangs in his chambered eye; how glad for him,
Spring fills with dewy light her lily cup!

Beyond its uses vast, the swelling sea
With liquid lustre rounds the shining globe:
For him does Beauty thus consummate Use.
Night's hoary shapes for him, and baleful blots;
Doom; and the Skeleton Death, at whose lean back
Lie the decayed nations of the grave;
Sweet pity tremulous through love's glistening tear,
Promise, and dayspring, and immortal youth!
The coral worms how small; yet, each to each,
How mighty they to lay the founded moles
And stretching ribs of goodly isles to be,
The seats of man! I too am but a worm;
Yet if I turn my own peculiar heart
To one harmonious truth, helping therewith
That vast formation up to Heaven whereon
Virtue shall keep her everlasting seat,
Not all in vain has been my measured life.
Thus holds the Sage communion with his soul.

In yonder sheltered nook of nibbled sward,
Beside the wood, a gipsy band are camped;
And there they'll sleep the summer night away.
By stealthy holes, their ragged tawny brood
Creep through the hedges, in their pilfering quest
Of sticks and pales, to make their evening fire.
Untutored things, scarce brought beneath the laws
And meek provisions of this ancient State!
Yet, is it wise, with wealth and power like hers,
To let so many of her sons grow up
In untaught darkness and consecutive vice?
True, we are jealous free, and hate constraint,
And every cognisance o'er private life;
Yet, not to name a higher principle,
'Twere but an institute of wise police,

That every child, neglected of its own,
State-claimed should be, State-seized, and taught, and trained
To social duty and to Christian life.
Our liberties have limits manifold;
So let the National Will, which makes restraint
Part of its freedom, oft the soundest part,
Power-arm the State to do the large design.
This work achieved at home, with what a right
To hope the blessing should we then go forth,
Pushing into the dark of Heathen worlds
The crystal frontiers of the invading Light,
The Gospel Light! The glad submitting Earth
Would cry, Behold, their own land is a land
Of perfect living lighthow beautiful
Upon the mountains are their blessed feet!

Through yonder meadow comes the milkmaid's song,
Clear, but not blithe, a melancholy chaunt,
With dying falls monotonous; for youth
Affects the dark and sad: her ditty tells
Of captive lorn, or broken-hearted maid,
Left of her lover, but in dream thrice dreamt
Warned of his fate, when, with his fellow-crew
Of ghastly sailors on benighted seas,
He clings to some black, wet, and slippery rock,
Soon to be washed away; what time their ship,
Driven on the whirlpool-wheel, is sucked below,
And ground upon the millstones of the sea.
The song has ceased. Up the dim elmy lane
The damsel comes. But at its leafy mouth
The one dear lad has watched her entering in,
And with her now comes softly side by side.
But oft he plucks a leaf from off the hedge,
For lack of words, in bashful love sincere;
Till, in his innocent freedom bolder grown,
He crops a dewy gowan from the path,
And greatly daring flings it at her cheek.
Close o'er the pair, along the green arcade,
Now hid, now seen against the evening sky,
The wavering, circling, sudden-wheeling bat
Plays little Cupid, blind enough for this,
And fitly fickle in his flights to be
The very Boy-god's self. Where'er may lie
The power of arrows with the golden tips,
That silent lad is smit, nor less that girl
Is cleft of heart: be this the token true:
Next Sabbath morn, when o'er the pasture hills
Barefoot she comes to Church, with Bible wrapped
In clean white napkin, and the sprig of mint
And southernwood laid duly in the leaves,
And down she sits beside the burn to wash
Her feet, and don her stockings and her shoes,
Before she come unto the House of Prayer,
With all her reverence of the Day, she'll cast
(Forgive the simple thing!) her eye askance
Into the mirror of the glassy pool,
And give her ringlets the last taking touch,
For him who flung the gowan at her cheek
In that soft twilight of the elmy lane.

Pensive the setting day, whether, as now,
Cloudless it fades away, or far is seen,
In long and level parallels of light,
Purple and liquid yellow, barred with clouds,
Far in the twilight West, seen through some deep
Embrownèd grove of venerable trees,
Whose pillared stems, apart, but regular,
Stand off against the sky: in such a grove,
At such an hour, permitted eyes might see
Angels, majestic Shapes, walking the earth,
Holding mild converse for the good of man.

Day melts into the West, another flake
Of sweet blue Time into the Eternal Past. 

Thomas Aird

Poem Theme: Evening

Thomas Aird's other poems:
  1. The Lyre
  2. Song the Second
  3. Song the Fourth
  4. Noon
  5. The Devil's Dream on Mount Aksbeck

Poems of the other poets with the same name:

  • Percy Shelley Evening ("The sun is set; the swallows are asleep")
  • John Clare Evening ("Tis evening; the black snail has got on his track")
  • Charlotte Smith Evening ("OH! soothing hour, when glowing day")
  • Charles Mackay Evening ("Tis sweet at morn among the corn")
  • John Keble Evening ("Tis gone, that bright and orbèd blaze")
  • Joanna Baillie Evening ("HOW lovely, Evening, is thy parting smile!")
  • Robert Anderson Evening ("How sweet 'tis to rove at the close of the day")
  • Oliver Holmes Evening ("DAY hath put on his jacket, and around")
  • Marjorie Pickthall Evening ("WHEN the white iris folds the drowsing bee")
  • Menella Smedley Evening ("It is the hour of evening")

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