[handwritten: To Mother
and to Judy from the poet who
became her aunt
June 25, 1946]
Come gather up a host of little things
Before the end of year,
A fragile miscellany bound with hope,
Distilled in strength from bitterness and fear.
Imprison here the sweep of sea gulls crying
Where ageless waters flow,
The mystic summons of a church bell calling
Across some midnight village limned with snow.
Cascades of laughter from all children playing,
The pheasant’s wild surprise
At footsteps in the brake on crystal dawnings,
Patience and wisdom from an old man’s eyes.
Come gather up the swift and pregnant moments
Where memory is yet warm,
At these will open casements rich with harvest
Against the coming of another storm. [unnumbered page]
Here is a New Year for you now
Replete with hours hereafter,
Boxed bright in golden happiness
And tied with silver laughter.
But if the happiness is gall
And laughter is too fleeting,
Take thought on all the other years
In which to hope, my sweeting. [unnumbered page]
Pool of flame,
Burning a window from a world of dusk
Into a world of dreams,
For this youth
Treading a pathway where the falling snow
Is magic faery fragment:
With frozen silence
And a glimpse of hope his feet are shod,
Boy with a lantern on his road to God. [unnumbered page]
Gently now, and sweetly slumber
Child of France,
While the wraiths of fear and hunger
Round thee dance:
Here is not the time for waking
Mornings red with hate are breaking
O’er the moon.
Softly now, and guard thy teardrops
Babe of Greece,
Every one a bitter hostage
To thy peace:
Here is not the hour for weeping
Nations thou hast in thy keeping
Shall live soon. [unnumbered page]
“When all the medical officers have retired for the night, and silence and darkness have settling down upon those miles of prostrate sick, she may be observed alone, with a little lamp in her hand, making her solitary round.” The Life of Florence Nightingale.
Go then if you must.
There will be others waiting for your hand to touch
As stricken deep with memory as I:
You could not know the joy your presence brings
To one who held communion with the sky,
And now must taste the bitter bread of earth.
There was a spirit once I knew whose Golden Fleece
Was beckoning from fields of quiet stars,
But then his wings were fashioned in Icarus’ mold,
And failed him when he thought to conquer Mars
Or scale the very sun in jubilance.
The turgid upland soil is heavy to the hand
Of one who ploughed his furrows in the clouds;
The half-remembered sweetness of the earth is gone
From him whose eyes were clothed in sudden shrouds,
Whose stars lie buried on the edge of night.
If you would only speak again that I might hear
The sound of rivers running in your voice,
The gusty laughter of great mountains I have known,
How the far little hills of home rejoice
And all together clap their tree-clad hands. [unnumbered page]
Three men went forth adventuring into eve
And dipped their swords of freedom in the skies,
Trailing the flags of sundown in the dark
With laughter in their eyes.
And there were two with morning on their wings,
Whose hearts were shuttered by a thousand bars,
Their shining scabbards filled with tears and blood
They left their laughter sleeping in the stars. [unnumbered page]
These restless hands have moulded palaces
From drifting clouds,
Carving the corridors a quiet soul
Can wander to:
These limpid eyes have seen armadas sailing
In evening shrouds,
And watched in candlelight an ancient pilgrimage
Come marching through.
This yearning spirit secretly has flown
A wild bird’s wing,
And found the jade of Samarkand within
A blade of grass:
For winter hearts the hawthorne tree becomes
The bride of spring,
Weeping to see this ecstasy of sun
So swiftly pass.
How boundless is the road that leaves
A tree-filled country lane:
How strange that all the world could lie
Within a window pane. [unnumbered page]
So in the moment autumn boldly thrusts
These stark bare hills to the translucent sky,
And myriad splendours of October days
How is there now hope for the hours of bitterness and wind
Rushing in darkness, for the quiet plough
Whose silver blade no longer cleaves
This singing earth,
But leans remote against a granary wall,
Where winter sparrows twitter in the eaves.
Look! There are sumacs flagrantly arrayed
On little sunswept mountains,
Brushing their burning fingertips against the clouds,
Tossing the secret of their crimson flame
To gypsy hipsy-haws among the shrouds
Of hardwood trees;
And even after these
Smoulder chrysanthemums upon the snow,
Sparks from the blaze of breathless summer noons
That flare again to fire, the scarlet glow
Of holly in December.
O let the heart remember
The gentle upward surge of crocus flowers,
Folded beneath the frost, the burnished joy
Of wheat fields still unsown within the earth,
The hours of mirth
And valiant days of greatness yet to come. [unnumbered page]
Where the morning strides the eager earth
With glistening feet,
Treads swiftly on the red of village rooves
And mounts the snowbound hills
Of winter wheat.
Where the quietness is sudden sound
On vibrant wings,
Weeping and laughter running in the wind
Now sunrise brings the day
And common things. [unnumbered page]
Yesterday the Snow Queen passed this way,
Journeying in haste to Northlands far,
Fragments of old lace fell from her gown
Like cherry blossoms falling from a star.
The year will ripen ere she comes again,
Yet visions of blue frost upon the moon,
And fences leaning deep in drift shall haunt
The sculptured quiet of an August noon.
Now April walks with violets in the hills
Sweet briar in her steps for summer gleaning,
And far above her laughter in the clouds
The world is loud with vagrant kildeer keening.