Country sentiment, p.1
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       Country Sentiment, p.1

           Robert Graves
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Country Sentiment

  Country Sentiment


  Robert Graves



  Robert 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.

  Robert Graves.


  North Wales.


  A Frosty Night

  Song for Two Children


  The Three Drinkers

  The Boy out of Church

  After the Play

  One Hard Look

  True Johnny

  The Voice of Beauty Drowned

  The God Called Poetry

  Rocky Acres

  Advice to Lovers

  Nebuchadnezzar's Fall

  Give us Rain


  Loving Henry

  Brittle Bones

  Apples and Water

  Manticor in Arabia


  Baloo Loo for Jenny

  Hawk and Buckle

  The "Alice Jean"

  The Cupboard

  The Beacon

  Pot and Kettle

  Ghost Raddled

  Neglectful Edward

  The Well-dressed Children

  Thunder at Night

  To E.M.--A Ballad of Nursery Rhyme


  Vain and Careless

  Nine o'Clock

  The Picture Book

  The Promised Lullaby



  Retrospect: The Jests of the Clock

  Here They Lie

  Tom Taylor

  Country at War

  Sospan Fach

  The Leveller

  Hate not, Fear not

  A Rhyme of Friends

  A First Review



  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!


  "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.


  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.


  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.



  Have you spent
the money I gave you to-day?


  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!


  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.


  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.


  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;

; That, grim and scowling: his beard spreads

  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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