Country sentiment, p.1
Country Sentiment, p.1Robert Graves
To Nancy Nicholson
Some of the poems included in this volume have appeared in
"The New Statesman", "The Owl", "Reveille", "Land and Water",
"Poetry", and other papers, English and American.
A Frosty Night
Song for Two Children
The Three Drinkers
The Boy out of Church
After the Play
One Hard Look
The Voice of Beauty Drowned
The God Called Poetry
Advice to Lovers
Give us Rain
Apples and Water
Manticor in Arabia
Baloo Loo for Jenny
Hawk and Buckle
The "Alice Jean"
Pot and Kettle
The Well-dressed Children
Thunder at Night
To E.M.--A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme
Vain and Careless
The Picture Book
The Promised Lullaby
Retrospect: The Jests of the Clock
Here They Lie
Country at War
Hate not, Fear not
A Rhyme of Friends
A First Review
A FROSTY NIGHT.
Alice, dear, what ails you,
Dazed and white and shaken?
Has the chill night numbed you?
Is it fright you have taken?
Mother, I am very well,
I felt never better,
Mother, do not hold me so,
Let me write my letter.
Sweet, my dear, what ails you?
No, but I am well;
The night was cold and frosty,
There's no more to tell.
Ay, the night was frosty,
Coldly gaped the moon,
Yet the birds seemed twittering
Through green boughs of June.
Soft and thick the snow lay,
Stars danced in the sky.
Not all the lambs of May-day
Skip so bold and high.
Your feet were dancing, Alice,
Seemed to dance on air,
You looked a ghost or angel
In the starlight there.
Your eyes were frosted starlight,
Your heart fire and snow.
Who was it said, "I love you"?
Mother, let me go!
A SONG FOR TWO CHILDREN.
"Make a song, father, a new little song,
All for Jenny and Nancy."
Balow lalow or Hey derry down,
Or else what might you fancy?
Is there any song sweet enough
For Nancy and for Jenny?
Said Simple Simon to the pieman,
"Indeed I know not any."
"I've counted the miles to Babylon,
I've flown the earth like a bird,
I've ridden cock-horse to Banbury Cross,
But no such song have I heard."
"Some speak of Alexander,
And some of Hercules,
But where are there any like Nancy and Jenny,
Where are there any like these?"
Oh, what a heavy sigh!
Dicky, are you ailing?
Even by this fireside, mother,
My heart is failing.
To-night across the down,
Whistling and jolly,
I sauntered out from town
With my stick of holly.
Bounteous and cool from sea
The wind was blowing,
Cloud shadows under the moon
Coming and going.
I sang old roaring songs,
Ran and leaped quick,
And turned home by St. Swithin's
Twirling my stick.
And there as I was passing
The churchyard gate
An old man stopped me, "Dicky,
You're walking late."
I did not know the man,
I grew afeared
At his lean lolling jaw,
His spreading beard.
His garments old and musty,
Of antique cut,
His body very lean and bony,
His eyes tight shut.
Oh, even to tell it now
My courage ebbs...
His face was clay, mother,
His beard, cobwebs.
In that long horrid pause
"Good-night," he said,
Entered and clicked the gate,
"Each to his bed."
Do not sigh or fear, Dicky,
How is it right
To grudge the dead their ghostly dark
And wan moonlight?
We have the glorious sun,
Lamp and fireside.
Grudge not the dead their moonshine
When abroad they ride.
THE THREE DRINKERS.
Blacksmith Green had three strong sons,
With bread and beef did fill 'em,
Now John and Ned are perished and dead,
But plenty remains of William.
John Green was a whiskey drinker,
The Land of Cakes supplied him,
Till at last his soul flew out by the hole
That the fierce drink burned inside him.
Ned Green was a water drinker,
And, Lord, how Ned would fuddle!
He rotted away his mortal clay
Like an old boot thrown in a puddle.
Will Green was a wise young drinker,
Shrank from whiskey or water,
But he made good cheer with headstrong beer,
And married an alderman's daughter.
THE BOY OUT OF CHURCH.
As Jesus and his followers
Upon a Sabbath morn
Were walking by a wheat field
They plucked the ears of corn.
They plucked it, they rubbed it,
They blew the husks away,
Which grieved the pious pharisees
Upon the Sabbath day.
And Jesus said, "A riddle
Answer if you can,
Was man made for the Sabbath
Or Sabbath made for man?"
I do not love the Sabbath,
The soapsuds and the starch,
The troops of solemn people
Who to Salvation march.
I take my book, I take my stick
On the Sabbath day,
In woody nooks and valleys
I hide myself away.
To ponder there in quiet
God's Universal Plan,
Resolved that church and Sabbath
Were never made for man.
AFTER THE PLAY.
Have you spent
Ay, father I have.
A fourpence on cakes, two pennies that away
To a beggar I gave.
The lake of yellow brimstone boil for you in Hell,
Such lies that you spin.
Tell the truth now, John, ere the falsehood swell,
Say, where have you been?
I'll lie no more to you, father, what is the need?
To the Play I went,
With sixpence for a near seat, money's worth indeed,
The best ever spent.
Grief to you, shame or grief, here is the story--
My splendid night!
It was colour, scents, music, a tragic glory,
Fear with delight.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, title of the tale:
He of that name,
A tall, glum fellow, velvet cloaked, with a shirt of mail,
Two eyes like flame.
All the furies of fate circled round the man,
Maddening his heart,
There was old murder done before play began,
Ay, the ghost took part.
There were grave-diggers delving, they brought up bones,
And with rage and grief
All the players shouted in full, kingly tones,
Grand, passing belief.
Oh, there were ladies there radiant like day,
And changing scenes:
Great sounding words were tossed about like hay
By kings and queens.
How the plot turned about I watched in vain,
Though for grief I cried,
As one and all they faded, poisoned or slain,
In great agony died.
Father, you'll drive me forth never to return,
Doubting me your son--
So I shall, John
--but that glory for which I burn
Shall be soon begun.
I shall wear great boots, shall strut and shout,
Keep my locks curled.
The fame of my name shall go ringing about
Over half the world.
Horror that your Prince found, John may you find,
Ever and again
Dying before the house in such torture of mind
As you need not feign.
While they clap and stamp at your nightly fate,
They shall never know
The curse that drags at you, until Hell's gate.
You have heard me. Go!
SONG: ONE HARD LOOK.
Small gnats that fly
In hot July
And lodge in sleeping ears,
Can rouse therein
A trumpet's din
With Day-of-Judgement fears.
Small mice at night
Can wake more fright
Than lions at midday.
An urchin small
Torments us all
Who tread his prickly way.
A straw will crack
The camel's back,
To die we need but sip,
So little sand
As fills the hand
Can stop a steaming ship.
One smile relieves
A heart that grieves
Though deadly sad it be,
And one hard look
Can close the book
That lovers love to see--
Johnny, sweetheart, can you be true
To all those famous vows you've made,
Will you love me as I love you
Until we both in earth are laid?
Or shall the old wives nod and say
His love was only for a day:
The mood goes by,
His fancies fly,
And Mary's left to sigh.
Mary, alas, you've hit the truth,
And I with grief can but admit
Hot-blooded haste controls my youth,
My idle fancies veer and flit
From flower to flower, from tree to tree,
And when the moment catches me,
Oh, love goes by
Away I fly
And leave my girl to sigh.
Could you but now foretell the day,
Johnny, when this sad thing must be,
When light and gay you'll turn away
And laugh and break the heart in me?
For like a nut for true love's sake
My empty heart shall crack and break,
When fancies fly
And love goes by
And Mary's left to die.
When the sun turns against the clock,
When Avon waters upward flow,
When eggs are laid by barn-door cock,
When dusty hens do strut and crow,
When up is down, when left is right,
Oh, then I'll break the troth I plight,
With careless eye
Away I'll fly
And Mary here shall die.
THE VOICE OF BEAUTY DROWNED.
Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!
The other birds woke all around,
Rising with toot and howl they stirred
Their plumage, broke the trembling sound,
They craned their necks, they fluttered wings,
"While we are silent no one sings,
And while we sing you hush your throat,
Or tune your melody to our note."
Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!
The screams and hootings rose again:
They gaped with raucous beaks, they whirred
Their noisy plumage; small but plain
The lonely hidden singer made
A well of grief within the glade.
"Whist, silly fool, be off," they shout,
"Or we'll come pluck your feathers out."
Cry from the thicket my heart's bird!
Slight and small the lovely cry
Came trickling down, but no one heard.
Parrot and cuckoo, crow, magpie
Jarred horrid notes and the jangling jay
Ripped the fine threads of song away,
For why should peeping chick aspire
To challenge their loud woodland choir?
Cried it so sweet that unseen bird?
Lovelier could no music be,
Clearer than water, soft as curd,
Fresh as the blossomed cherry tree.
How sang the others all around?
Piercing and harsh, a maddening sound,
With Pretty Poll, tuwit-tu-woo,
Peewit, caw caw, cuckoo-cuckoo.
THE GOD CALLED POETRY.
Now I begin to know at last,
These nights when I sit down to rhyme,
The form and measure of that vast
God we call Poetry, he who stoops
And leaps me through his paper hoops
A little higher every time.
Tempts me to think I'll grow a proper
Singing cricket or grass-hopper
Making prodigious jumps in air
While shaken crowds about me stare
Aghast, and I sing, growing bolder
To fly up on my master's shoulder
Rustling the thick strands of his hair.
He is older than the seas,
Older than the plains and hills,
And older than the light that spills
From the sun's hot wheel on these.
He wakes the gale that tears your trees,
He sings to you from window sills.
At you he roars, or he will coo,
He shouts and screams when hell is hot,
Riding on the shell and shot.
He smites you down, he succours you,
And where you seek him, he is not.
To-day I see he has two heads
Like Janus--calm, benignant, this;
From chin to chin" this god has power
Immeasurable at every hour:
He first taught lovers how to kiss,
He brings down sunshine after shower,
Thunder and hate are his also,
He is YES and he is NO.
The black beard spoke and said to me,
"Human frailty though you be,
Yet shout and crack your whip, be harsh!
They'll obey you in the end:
Hill and field, river and marsh
Shall obey you, hop and skip
At the terrour of your whip,
To your gales of anger bend."
The pale beard spoke and said in turn
"True: a prize goes to the stern,
But sing and laugh and easily run
Through the wide airs of my plain,
Bathe in my waters, drink my sun,
And draw my creatures with soft song;
They shall follow you along
Graciously with no doubt or pain."
Then speaking from his double head
The glorious fearful monster said
"I am YES and I am NO,
Black as pitch and white as snow,
Love me, hate me, reconcile
Hate with love, perfect with vile,
So equal justice shall be done
And life shared between moon and sun.
Nature for you shall curse or smile:
A poet you shall be, my son."
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