Sunday Poem: James Hogg – A Boy’s Song

James Hogg. 1770–1835
  
A Boy’s Song
  
WHERE the pools are bright and deep,  
Where the grey trout lies asleep,  
Up the river and over the lea,  
That ‘s the way for Billy and me.  
 
Where the blackbird sings the latest,          5
Where the hawthorn blooms the sweetest,  
Where the nestlings chirp and flee,  
That ‘s the way for Billy and me.  
 
Where the mowers mow the cleanest,  
Where the hay lies thick and greenest,   10
There to track the homeward bee,  
That ‘s the way for Billy and me.  
 
Where the hazel bank is steepest,  
Where the shadow falls the deepest,  
Where the clustering nuts fall free,   15
That ‘s the way for Billy and me.  
 
Why the boys should drive away  
Little sweet maidens from the play,  
Or love to banter and fight so well,  
That ‘s the thing I never could tell.   20
 
But this I know, I love to play  
Through the meadow, among the hay;  
Up the water and over the lea,  
That ‘s the way for Billy and me.
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Sunday Poem: Matthew Arnold – The Forsaken Merman

Matthew Arnold. 1822–1888
  
The Forsaken Merman
  
  COME, dear children, let us away;  
      Down and away below.  
  Now my brothers call from the bay;  
  Now the great winds shoreward blow;  
  Now the salt tides seaward flow;          5
  Now the wild white horses play,  
  Champ and chafe and toss in the spray.  
    Children dear, let us away.  
      This way, this way!  
 
  Call her once before you go.   10
      Call once yet.  
  In a voice that she will know:  
    ‘Margaret! Margaret!’  
  Children’s voices should be dear  
  (Call once more) to a mother’s ear;   15
  Children’s voices, wild with pain.  
  Surely she will come again.  
  Call her once and come away.  
      This way, this way!  
  ‘Mother dear, we cannot stay.’   20
  The wild white horses foam and fret.  
    Margaret! Margaret!  
 
  Come, dear children, come away down.  
      Call no more.  
  One last look at the white-wall’d town,   25
And the little grey church on the windy shore.  
      Then come down.  
  She will not come though you call all day.  
    Come away, come away.  
  Children dear, was it yesterday   30
  We heard the sweet bells over the bay?  
  In the caverns where we lay,  
  Through the surf and through the swell,  
  The far-off sound of a silver bell?  
  Sand-strewn caverns, cool and deep,   35
  Where the winds are all asleep;  
  Where the spent lights quiver and gleam;  
  Where the salt weed sways in the stream;  
  Where the sea-beasts, ranged all round,  
  Feed in the ooze of their pasture-ground;   40
  Where the sea-snakes coil and twine,  
  Dry their mail, and bask in the brine;  
  Where great whales come sailing by,  
  Sail and sail, with unshut eye,  
  Round the world for ever and aye?   45
  When did music come this way?  
  Children dear, was it yesterday?  
 
  Children dear, was it yesterday  
  (Call yet once) that she went away?  
  Once she sate with you and me,   50
On a red gold throne in the heart of the sea,  
  And the youngest sate on her knee.  
She comb’d its bright hair, and she tended it well,  
When down swung the sound of the far-off bell.  
She sigh’d, she look’d up through the clear green sea.   55
She said, ‘I must go, for my kinsfolk pray  
In the little grey church on the shore to-day.  
‘Twill be Easter-time in the world—ah me!  
And I lose my poor soul, Merman, here with thee.’  
I said, ‘Go up, dear heart, through the waves.   60
Say thy prayer, and come back to the kind sea-caves.’  
She smiled, she went up through the surf in the bay.  
  Children dear, was it yesterday?  
 
  Children dear, were we long alone?  
‘The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.   65
Long prayers,’ I said, ‘in the world they say.  
Come,’ I said, and we rose through the surf in the bay.  
We went up the beach, by the sandy down  
Where the sea-stocks bloom, to the white-wall’d town.  
Through the narrow paved streets, where all was still,   70
To the little grey church on the windy hill.  
From the church came a murmur of folk at their prayers,  
But we stood without in the cold-blowing airs.  
We climb’d on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,  
And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes.   75
  She sate by the pillar; we saw her dear:  
  ‘Margaret, hist! come quick, we are here.  
  Dear heart,’ I said, ‘we are long alone.  
  The sea grows stormy, the little ones moan.’  
But, ah! she gave me never a look,   80
For her eyes were seal’d to the holy book.  
Loud prays the priest; shut stands the door.  
  Came away, children, call no more.  
  Come away, come down, call no more.  
 
    Down, down, down;   85
  Down to the depths of the sea.  
She sits at her wheel in the humming town,  
  Singing most joyfully.  
Hark what she sings: ‘O joy, O joy,  
For the humming street, and the child with its toy.   90
For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well.  
  For the wheel where I spun,  
  And the blessèd light of the sun.’  
  And so she sings her fill,  
  Singing most joyfully,   95
  Till the shuttle falls from her hand,  
  And the whizzing wheel stands still.  
She steals to the window, and looks at the sand;  
  And over the sand at the sea;  
  And her eyes are set in a stare;  100
  And anon there breaks a sigh,  
  And anon there drops a tear,  
  From a sorrow-clouded eye,  
  And a heart sorrow-laden,  
    A long, long sigh  105
For the cold strange eyes of a little Mermaiden,  
  And the gleam of her golden hair.  
 
  Come away, away, children.  
  Come children, come down.  
  The hoarse wind blows colder;  110
  Lights shine in the town.  
  She will start from her slumber  
  When gusts shake the door;  
  She will hear the winds howling,  
  Will hear the waves roar.  115
  We shall see, while above us  
  The waves roar and whirl,  
  A ceiling of amber,  
  A pavement of pearl.  
  Singing, ‘Here came a mortal,  120
  But faithless was she:  
  And alone dwell for ever  
  The kings of the sea.’  
 
  But, children, at midnight,  
  When soft the winds blow;  125
  When clear falls the moonlight;  
  When spring-tides are low:  
  When sweet airs come seaward  
  From heaths starr’d with broom;  
  And high rocks throw mildly  130
  On the blanch’d sands a gloom:  
  Up the still, glistening beaches,  
  Up the creeks we will hie;  
  Over banks of bright seaweed  
  The ebb-tide leaves dry.  135
  We will gaze, from the sand-hills,  
  At the white, sleeping town;  
  At the church on the hill-side—  
    And then come back down.  
  Singing, ‘There dwells a loved one,  140
    But cruel is she.  
  She left lonely for ever  
    The kings of the sea.’

Sunday Poem: Sir Richard Fanshawe – A Rose

Sir Richard Fanshawe. 1608–1666
  
A Rose
  
BLOWN in the morning, thou shalt fade ere noon.  
What boots a life which in such haste forsakes thee?  
Thou’rt wondrous frolic, being to die so soon,  
And passing proud a little colour makes thee.  
If thee thy brittle beauty so deceives,          5
Know then the thing that swells thee is thy bane;  
For the same beauty doth, in bloody leaves,  
The sentence of thy early death contain.  
Some clown’s coarse lungs will poison thy sweet flower,  
If by the careless plough thou shalt be torn;   10
And many Herods lie in wait each hour  
To murder thee as soon as thou art born—  
  Nay, force thy bud to blow—their tyrant breath  
  Anticipating life, to hasten death!

Sunday Poem: Coventry Patmore – The Married Lover

Coventry Patmore. 1823–1896
  
The Married Lover
  
WHY, having won her, do I woo?  
  Because her spirit’s vestal grace  
Provokes me always to pursue,  
  But, spirit-like, eludes embrace;  
Because her womanhood is such          5
  That, as on court-days subjects kiss  
The Queen’s hand, yet so near a touch  
  Affirms no mean familiarness;  
Nay, rather marks more fair the height  
  Which can with safety so neglect   10
To dread, as lower ladies might,  
  That grace could meet with disrespect;  
Thus she with happy favour feeds  
  Allegiance from a love so high  
That thence no false conceit proceeds   15
  Of difference bridged, or state put by;  
Because although in act and word  
  As lowly as a wife can be,  
Her manners, when they call me lord,  
  Remind me ’tis by courtesy;   20
Not with her least consent of will,  
  Which would my proud affection hurt,  
But by the noble style that still  
  Imputes an unattain’d desert;  
Because her gay and lofty brows,   25
  When all is won which hope can ask,  
Reflect a light of hopeless snows  
  That bright in virgin ether bask;  
Because, though free of the outer court  
  I am, this Temple keeps its shrine   30
Sacred to Heaven; because, in short,  
  She ‘s not and never can be mine.

Sunday Poem: William Allingham – The Fairies

William Allingham. 1824–1889
  
The Fairies
  
UP the airy mountain,  
  Down the rushy glen,  
We daren’t go a-hunting  
  For fear of little men;  
Wee folk, good folk,          5
  Trooping all together;  
Green jacket, red cap,  
  And white owl’s feather!  
 
Down along the rocky shore  
  Some make their home,   10
They live on crispy pancakes  
  Of yellow tide-foam;  
Some in the reeds  
  Of the black mountain lake,  
With frogs for their watch-dogs,   15
  All night awake.  
 
High on the hill-top  
  The old King sits;  
He is now so old and gray  
  He ‘s nigh lost his wits.   20
With a bridge of white mist  
  Columbkill he crosses,  
On his stately journeys  
  From Slieveleague to Rosses;  
Or going up with music   25
  On cold starry nights  
To sup with the Queen  
  Of the gay Northern Lights.  
 
They stole little Bridget  
  For seven years long;   30
When she came down again  
  Her friends were all gone.  
They took her lightly back,  
  Between the night and morrow,  
They thought that she was fast asleep,   35
  But she was dead with sorrow.  
They have kept her ever since  
  Deep within the lake,  
On a bed of flag-leaves,  
  Watching till she wake.   40
 
By the craggy hill-side,  
  Through the mosses bare,  
They have planted thorn-trees  
  For pleasure here and there.  
If any man so daring   45
  As dig them up in spite,  
He shall find their sharpest thorns  
  In his bed at night.  
 
Up the airy mountain,  
  Down the rushy glen,   50
We daren’t go a-hunting  
  For fear of little men;  
Wee folk, good folk,  
  Trooping all together;  
Green jacket, red cap,   55
  And white owl’s feather!

Sunday Poem: Dora Sigerson – Ireland

Dora Sigerson. d. 1918
  
Ireland
  
‘TWAS the dream of a God,  
  And the mould of His hand,  
That you shook ‘neath His stroke,  
That you trembled and broke  
  To this beautiful land.          5
 
Here He loosed from His hold  
  A brown tumult of wings,  
Till the wind on the sea  
Bore the strange melody  
  Of an island that sings.   10
 
He made you all fair,  
  You in purple and gold,  
You in silver and green,  
Till no eye that has seen  
  Without love can behold.   15
 
I have left you behind  
  In the path of the past,  
With the white breath of flowers,  
With the best of God’s hours,  
  I have left you at last.   20

Sunday Poem: Sir Samuel Ferguson – The Fair Hills of Ireland

Sir Samuel Ferguson. 1810–1886
  
The Fair Hills of Ireland
FROM THE IRISH
  
PLENTEOUS place is Ireland for hospitable cheer,  
                Uileacan dubh O!  
Where the wholesome fruit is bursting from the yellow barley ear;  
                Uileacan dubh O!  
There is honey in the trees where her misty vales expand,          5
And her forest paths in summer are by falling waters fann’d,  
There is dew at high noontide there, and springs i’ the yellow sand,  
        On the fair hills of holy Ireland.  
 
Curl’d he is and ringleted, and plaited to the knee—  
                Uileacan dubh O!   10
Each captain who comes sailing across the Irish Sea;  
                Uileacan dubh O!  
And I will make my journey, if life and health but stand,  
Unto that pleasant country, that fresh and fragrant strand,  
And leave your boasted braveries, your wealth and high command,   15
        For the fair hills of holy Ireland.  
 
Large and profitable are the stacks upon the ground,  
                Uileacan dubh O!  
The butter and the cream do wondrously abound;  
                Uileacan dubh O!   20
The cresses on the water and the sorrels are at hand,  
And the cuckoo ‘s calling daily his note of music bland,  
And the bold thrush sings so bravely his song i’ the forests grand,  
        On the fair hills of holy Ireland.

Sunday Poem: Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton – A Night in Italy

Edward Robert Bulwer Lytton, Earl of Lytton. 1831–1892
  
A Night in Italy
  
SWEET are the rosy memories of the lips  
  That first kiss’d ours, albeit they kiss no more:  
Sweet is the sight of sunset-sailing ships,  
  Altho’ they leave us on a lonely shore:  
Sweet are familiar songs, tho’ Music dips          5
  Her hollow shell in Thought’s forlornest wells:  
  And sweet, tho’ sad, the sound of midnight bells  
When the oped casement with the night-rain drips.  
 
There is a pleasure which is born of pain:  
  The grave of all things hath its violet.   10
Else why, thro’ days which never come again,  
  Roams Hope with that strange longing, like Regret?  
Why put the posy in the cold dead hand?  
  Why plant the rose above the lonely grave?  
  Why bring the corpse across the salt sea-wave?   15
Why deem the dead more near in native land?  
 
Thy name hath been a silence in my life  
  So long, it falters upon language now,  
O more to me than sister or than wife  
  Once … and now—nothing! It is hard to know   20
That such things have been, and are not; and yet  
  Life loiters, keeps a pulse at even measure,  
  And goes upon its business and its pleasure,  
And knows not all the depths of its regret….  
 
Ah, could the memory cast her spots, as do   25
  The snake’s brood theirs in spring! and be once more  
Wholly renew’d, to dwell i’ the time that ‘s new,  
  With no reiterance of those pangs of yore.  
Peace, peace! My wild song will go wandering  
  Too wantonly, down paths a private pain   30
  Hath trodden bare. What was it jarr’d the strain?  
Some crush’d illusion, left with crumpled wing  
 
Tangled in Music’s web of twinèd strings—  
  That started that false note, and crack’d the tune  
In its beginning. Ah, forgotten things   35
  Stumble back strangely! and the ghost of June  
Stands by December’s fire, cold, cold! and puts  
  The last spark out.—How could I sing aright  
  With those old airs haunting me all the night  
And those old steps that sound when daylight shuts?   40
 
For back she comes, and moves reproachfully,  
  The mistress of my moods, and looks bereft  
(Cruel to the last!) as tho’ ’twere I, not she,  
  That did the wrong, and broke the spell, and left  
Memory comfortless.—Away! away!   45
  Phantoms, about whose brows the bindweed clings,  
  Hopeless regret! In thinking of these things  
Some men have lost their minds, and others may.  
 
Yet, O for one deep draught in this dull hour!  
  One deep, deep draught of the departed time!   50
O for one brief strong pulse of ancient power,  
  To beat and breathe thro’ all the valves of rhyme!  
Thou, Memory, with thy downward eyes, that art  
  The cup-bearer of gods, pour deep and long,  
  Brim all the vacant chalices of song   55
With health! Droop down thine urn. I hold my heart  
 
One draught of what I shall not taste again  
  Save when my brain with thy dark wine is brimm’d,—  
One draught! and then straight onward, spite of pain,  
  And spite of all things changed, with gaze undimm’d,   60
Love’s footsteps thro’ the waning Past to explore  
  Undaunted; and to carve in the wan light  
  Of Hope’s last outposts, on Song’s utmost height,  
The sad resemblance of an hour or more.  
 
Midnight, and love, and youth, and Italy!   65
  Love in the land where love most lovely seems!  
Land of my love, tho’ I be far from thee,  
  Lend, for love’s sake, the light of thy moonbeams,  
The spirit of thy cypress-groves and all  
  Thy dark-eyed beauty for a little while   70
  To my desire. Yet once more let her smile  
Fall o’er me: o’er me let her long hair fall….  
 
Under the blessèd darkness unreproved  
  We were alone, in that best hour of time  
Which first reveal’d to us how much we loved,   75
  ‘Neath the thick starlight. The young night sublime  
Hung trembling o’er us. At her feet I knelt,  
  And gazed up from her feet into her eyes.  
  Her face was bow’d: we breathed each other’s sighs:  
We did not speak: not move: we look’d: we felt.   80
 
The night said not a word. The breeze was dead.  
  The leaf lay without whispering on the tree,  
As I lay at her feet. Droop’d was her head:  
  One hand in mine: and one still pensively  
Went wandering through my hair. We were together.   85
  How? Where? What matter? Somewhere in a dream,  
  Drifting, slow drifting down a wizard stream:  
Whither? Together: then what matter whither?  
 
It was enough for me to clasp her hand:  
  To blend with her love-looks my own: no more.   90
Enough (with thoughts like ships that cannot land,  
  Blown by faint winds about a magic shore)  
To realize, in each mysterious feeling,  
  The droop of the warm cheek so near my own:  
  The cool white arm about my shoulder thrown:   95
Those exquisite fair feet where I was kneeling.  
 
How little know they life’s divinest bliss,  
  That know not to possess and yet refrain!  
Let the young Psyche roam, a fleeting kiss:  
  Grasp it—a few poor grains of dust remain.  100
See how those floating flowers, the butterflies,  
  Hover the garden thro’, and take no root!  
  Desire for ever hath a flying foot:  
Free pleasure comes and goes beneath the skies.  
 
Close not thy hand upon the innocent joy  105
  That trusts itself within thy reach. It may,  
Or may not, linger. Thou canst but destroy  
  The wingèd wanderer. Let it go or stay.  
Love thou the rose, yet leave it on its stem.  
  Think! Midas starved by turning all to gold.  110
  Blessèd are those that spare, and that withhold;  
Because the whole world shall be trusted them.  
 
The foolish Faun pursues the unwilling Nymph  
  That culls her flowers beside the precipice  
Or dips her shining ankles in the lymph:  115
  But, just when she must perish or be his,  
Heaven puts an arm out. She is safe. The shore  
  Gains some new fountain; or the lilied lawn  
  A rarer sort of rose: but ah, poor Faun!  
To thee she shall be changed for evermore.  120
 
Chase not too close the fading rapture. Leave  
  To Love his long auroras, slowly seen.  
Be ready to release as to receive.  
  Deem those the nearest, soul to soul, between  
Whose lips yet lingers reverence on a sigh.  125
  Judge what thy sense can reach not, most thine own,  
  If once thy soul hath seized it. The unknown  
Is life to love, religion, poetry.  
 
The moon had set. There was not any light,  
  Save of the lonely legion’d watch-stars pale  130
In outer air, and what by fits made bright  
  Hot oleanders in a rosy vale  
Search’d by the lamping fly, whose little spark  
  Went in and out, like passion’s bashful hope.  
  Meanwhile the sleepy globe began to slope  135
A ponderous shoulder sunward thro’ the dark.  
 
And the night pass’d in beauty like a dream.  
  Aloof in those dark heavens paused Destiny,  
With her last star descending in the gleam  
  Of the cold morrow, from the emptied sky.  140
The hour, the distance from her old self, all  
  The novelty and loneness of the place  
  Had left a lovely awe on that fair face,  
And all the land grew strange and magical.  
 
As droops some billowy cloud to the crouch’d hill,  145
  Heavy with all heaven’s tears, for all earth’s care,  
She droop’d unto me, without force or will,  
  And sank upon my bosom, murmuring there  
A woman’s inarticulate passionate words.  
  O moment of all moments upon earth!  150
  O life’s supreme! How worth, how wildly worth,  
Whole worlds of flame, to know this world affords.  
 
What even Eternity can not restore!  
  When all the ends of life take hands and meet  
Round centres of sweet fire. Ah, never more,  155
  Ah never, shall the bitter with the sweet  
Be mingled so in the pale after-years!  
  One hour of life immortal spirits possess.  
  This drains the world, and leaves but weariness,  
And parching passion, and perplexing tears.  160
 
Sad is it, that we cannot even keep  
  That hour to sweeten life’s last toil: but Youth  
Grasps all, and leaves us: and when we would weep,  
  We dare not let our tears fall, lest, in truth,  
They fall upon our work which must be done.  165
  And so we bind up our torn hearts from breaking:  
  Our eyes from weeping, and our brows from aching:  
And follow the long pathway all alone.

Sunday Poem: William Morris – Love is enough

William Morris. 1834–1896
  
Love is enough
  
LOVE is enough: though the World be a-waning,  
And the woods have no voice but the voice of complaining,  
  Though the sky be too dark for dim eyes to discover  
The gold-cups and daisies fair blooming thereunder,  
Though the hills be held shadows, and the sea a dark wonder,          5
  And this day draw a veil over all deeds pass’d over,  
Yet their hands shall not tremble, their feet shall not falter;  
The void shall not weary, the fear shall not alter  
  These lips and these eyes of the loved and the lover.