Edward Lewis Davison.

Cambridge poets 1914-1920 online

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Then someone says, " Another drink ? "

And turns my living heart to stone.



155



Siegfried Sassoon



VILLON



THEY threw me from the gates : my matted hair
Was dank with dungeon wetness ; my spent frame
O'erlaid with marish agues : everywhere
Tortured by leaping pangs of frost and flame,
I was so hideous that even Lazarus there
In noisome rags arrayed and leprous shame,
Beside me set had seemed full sweet and fair,
And looked on me with loathing. But one came
Who wrapped me in his cloak and bore me in
Tenderly to an hostel quiet and clean,
Used me with healing hands for all my needs.
The foul estate of my unshriven sin,
My long disgrace, and loveless, lecherous deeds,
He has put by as though they had not been.



BEFORE THE BATTLE

MUSIC of whispering trees
Hushed by the broad-winged breeze
Where shaken water gleams ;
And evening radiance falling
With reedy bird-notes calling.
O bear me safe through dark, you low-voiced streams.

156



Siegfried Sassoon



I have no need to pray

That fear may pass away ;

I scorn the growl and rumble of the fight

That summons me from cool

Silence of marsh and pool,

And yellow lilies islanded in light.

O river of stars and shadows, lead me through the night.



HOW TO DIE

DARK clouds are smouldering into red
While down the crater morning burns.
The dying soldier shifts his head

To watch the glory that returns :
He lifts his fingers toward the skies

Where holy brightness breaks in flame ;
Radiance reflected in his eyes,
And on his lips a whispered name.

You'd think, to hear some people talk,

That lads go West with sobs and curses,
And sullen faces white as chalk,

Hankering for wreaths and tombs and hearses.
But they've been taught the way to do it

Like Christian soldiers ; not with haste
And shuddering groans ; but passing through it

With due regard for decent taste.



157



Siegfried Sassoon



DEATH'S BROTHERHOOD

T Y 7"HEN I'm asleep, dreaming and lulled and warm
V V They come, the homeless ones, the noiseless dead.
While the dim charging breakers of the storm
Bellow and drone and rumble overhead,
Out of the gloom they gather about my bed.
They whisper to my heart ; their thoughts are mine.
" Why are you here with all your watches ended ?
From Ypres to Frise we sought you in the Line."
In bitter safety I awake, unfriended ;
And while the dawn begins with slashing rain
I think of the Battalion in the mud.
" When are you going out to them again ?
Are they not still your brothers through our blood ? "



158



EDWARD SHANKS



THE SWIMMERS

THE cove's a shining plate of blue and green,
With darker belts between
The trough and crest of the slow-rising swell,
And the great rocks throw purple shadows down,
Where transient sun-sparks wink and burst and drown
And glimmering pebbles lie too deep to tell,
Hidden or shining as the shadow wavers.
And everywhere the restless sun-steeped air
Trembles and quavers,
As though it were
More saturate with light than it could bear.

Now come the swimmers from slow-dripping caves,

Where the shy fern creeps under the veined roof,

And wading out meet with glad breast the waves.

One holds aloof,

Climbing alone the reef with shrinking feet,

That scarce endure the jagged stones' dull beat,

Till on the edge he poises

And flies to cleave the water, vanishing

In wreaths of white, with echoing liquid noises,

And swims beneath, a vague, distorted thing.

Now all the other swimmers leave behind

The crystal shallow and the foam-wet shore

And sliding into deeper water find



159



Edward Shanks



A living coolness in the lifting flood,

And through their bodies leaps the sparkling blood,

So that they feel the faint earth's drought no more.

There now they float, heads raised above the green,

White bodies cloudily seen,

Farther and farther from the brazen rock,

On which the hot air shakes, on which the tide

Fruitlessly throws with gentle, soundless shock

The cool and lagging wave. Out, out they go,

And now upon a mirrored cloud they ride

Or turning over, with soft strokes and slow,

Slide on like shadows in a tranquil sky.

Behind them, on the tall, parched cliff, the dry

And dusty grasses grow

In shallow ledges of the arid stone,

Starving for coolness and the touch of rain.

But, though to earth they must return again,

Here come the soft sea airs to meet them, blown

Over the surface of the outer deep,

Scarce moving, staying, falling, straying, gone,

Light and delightful as the touch of sleep. . . .



One wakes and splashes round,

And, as by magic, all the others wake

From that sea-dream, and now with rippling sound

Their rapid arms the enchanted silence break.



160



Edward Shanks



And now again the crystal shallows take
The gleaming bodies, whose cool hour is done ;
They pause upon the beach, they pause and sigh,
Then vanish in the caverns one by one.

Soon the wet foot-marks on the stones are dry :
The cove sleeps on beneath the unwavering sun.

THE SHADOW

DEATH, would I feared not thee,
But ever can I see
Thy mutable shadow thrown
Upon the walls of Life's warm, cheerful room.

Companioned or alone,
I feel the presence of that following gloom.

Like one who vaguely knows
Behind his back the shade his body throws
'Tis not thy shadow only, 'tis my own !

I face towards the light

That rises fair and bright

Over wide fields asleep,
But still I know that stealthy darkness there

Close at my heels doth creep,
Ghostly companion, my still haunting care ;

And if the light be strong

Before my eyes, through pleasant hours and long,
Then, then, the shadow is most black and deep.

161



Edward Shanks



A HOLLOW ELM

WHAT hast thou not withstood,
Tempest-despising tree,
Whose bloat and riven wood

Gapes now so hollowly,

What rains have beaten thee through many years,
What snows from off thy branches dripped like tears ?

Calmly thou standest now
Upon thy sunny mound ;
The first spring breezes flow

Past with sweet dizzy sound ;
Yet on thy pollard top the branches few
Stand stiffly out, disdain to murmur too.

The children at thy foot
Open new-lighted eyes,
Where, on gnarled bark and root,
The soft warm sunshine lies
Dost thou, upon thine ancient sides, resent
The touch of youth, quick and impermanent ?

These at the beck of spring
Live in the moment still ;
Thy boughs unquivering,

Remembering winter's chill,
And many other winters past and gone,
Are mocked, not cheated, by the transient sun.

162



Edward Shanks



Hast thou so much withstood,

Tempest-despising tree,
That now thy hollow wood

Stiffens disdainfully

Against the soft spring airs and soft spring rain,
Knowing too well that winter comes again ?



T



THE ROCK POOL
(To Miss Alice Warrender)

HIS is the sea. In these uneven walls
A wave lies prisoned. Far and far away,

Outward to ocean as the slow tide falls,
Her sisters, through the capes that hold the bay,
Dancing in lovely liberty recede.

Yet lovely in captivity she lies,
Filled with soft colours, where the waving weed

Moves gently and discloses to our eyes
Blurred shining veins of rock and lucent shells

Under the light-shot water ; and here repose
Small quiet fish and the dimly glowing bells

Of sleeping sea-anemones that close
Their tender fronds and will not now awake
Till on these rocks the waves returning break.



163



FREDEGOND SHOVE



SPIRIT IS IMMORTAL

WHEN the soul ages, let the rivers be
All one with the proud sea ;
When spirit lichens let the stars go quite

Out of the body of the light ;
When aught can sicken, sere, or can decay
That quick and living seed of beauty's womb

Prepare love's tomb,

And with love's form shut up the thousand springs
Of human joy, those things
By whose transcendent force alone we strive

To nobly live.
Do this when spirit ages. While it breathes

And with its beauty wreathes
Perishing towers, laughing at death's hand

Let heaven stand
Gold on the meadows, and let rivers feed

With pearl the mortal seed.
So said I, looking in the glass to greet
My ageing face, and meet
Death's shadow which made mouths at me behind

The quickness of my mind ;

But while age mocked and death still beckoned, I
Knew that my soul is younger than the leaves,

In April are ;



164



Fredegond Shove



Since every moment it is born again,

And comes from far
From worlds where time has never been begun

And innocence alone
Causes eternal youth to wash the air
With loveliness despair
Has never soiled ; thence spirit has its birth,

Thence flies to earth
And thither goes again, when it has passed

Corruption's ugly, outstretched arms at last.



MERCY AND JUSTICE



MERCY hides him in a hole,
Justice moves in haughty places ;
Mercy travels like the mole
In the solitary soul,
Justice walks with heavy paces
Through the city's solemn arches
In the parks he prinks, and marches
Covered with an ermine stole.



M



165



Fredegond Shove



Mercy knows him for a thief,
If he knew where Mercy cowered
He would try him without brief,
Nail him to the tree of Grief,
Which for centuries has towered
In the court of Justice, yearly
Hung with human lives and rarely
Breaking into bitter leaf.



SONG

SPRING lights her candles everywhere,
But death still hangs upon the air
The celandine through dusk is lit,
The redbreasts from the holly flit,
At night the violets spring to birth
Out of the mute, encrusted earth.

The wind has cast his winding sheet
(Which is the sky) and he goes fleet
Over the country in the rain,
Singing how all the world is vain
And how, of all things vainest, he
Journeys above both land and sea.



166



Fredegond Shove



A WOOD CUTTER'S SONG



A CHILD has eyes like dewberries ; a child has
cheeks like flame ;
A child feels sudden love and hate, and sudden fear and

shame.

I was a child when to the woods out of the womb I came.
The woods have aged, and so have I : I am as old as care ;
My spirit is as dry as crust, my heart is cold and bare :
Yet have I still a child's light laugh and still a child's
strange stare.



A BIRCH TREE



PLANT a birch tree on my grave
When you bury me ;
In all the wild, wet spring woods

There is not sweeter tree ;
She is so delicae, so rare, her body is so white,
And she cries like a gentle ghost,
All the long night.



167



Fredegond Shove



I love her ; she shall be my lute

When I am dead ;
She shall carry all the earth's tunes

Into my small bed ;
She will not break the stir of wings

That are as fine as glass ;
Neither will let the rain away

On to the wild grass.

When stars come out above the earth

She will shake them down ;
All in a shower through her hair

They shall be blown ;
She knows the stars, and they know her,-

O what a lovely thing
Is a young birch tree growing up

In the green spring.



168



J. C. SQUIRE

A FAR PLACE
(To K. W. departing)

SHELTERED, when the rain blew over the hills it
was,

Sunny all day when the days of summer were long,
Beyond all rumour of labouring towns it was,
And at dawn and evening its trees were noisy with song.



There were four elms on the southward lawn standing,
Their great trunks evenly set in a square
Of shadowed grass in spring pierced with crocuses,
And their tops met high in the empty air.



Where the morning rose the grey church was below us,
If we stood by the porch we saw on either hand
The ground falling, the trees falling, and meadows,
A river, hamlets and spires : a chequered land,



A wide country where cloud shadows went chasing
Mile after mile, diminishing fast, until
They met the far blue downs ; but round the corner
The western garden lay lonely under the hill.



169



J. C. Squire



And closed in the western garden, under the hillside,
Where silence was and the rest of the world was gone,
We saw and took the curving year's munificence :
Changing from flower to flower the garden shone.

Early its walks were fringed with little rock-plants,
Sprays and tufts of blossom, white, yellow, and blue,
And all about were sprinkled stars of narcissus,
And swathes of tulips all over the garden grew.

White groups and pink, red, crimson and lemon-yellow,
And the yellow-and-red-streaked tulips once loved by

a boy;

Red and yellow their stiff and varnished petals,
And the scent of them stings me still with a youthful joy.

And in the season of perfect and frailest beauty,
Pear-blossom broke and the lilacs' waxen cones,
And a tranced laburnum trailing its veils of yellow
Tenderly drooped over the ivied stones.

The lilacs browned, a breath dried the laburnum,
The swollen peonies scattered the earth with blood,
And the rhododendrons shed their sumptuous mantles,
And the marshalled irises unsceptred stood.



170



/. C. Squire



And the borders filled with daisies and pied sweet-
williams,

And busy pansies ; and there as we gazed and dreamed,

And breathed the swooning smell of the packed carna-
tions,

The present was always the crown of all : it seemed



Each month more beautiful sprang from a robe dis-
carded,

The year all effortless dropt the best away
And struck the heart with loveliness new, more lavish ;
When the clambering rose had blown and died, by day



The broad-leaved tapering many-shielded hollyhock 1 ?
Stood like pillars and shone to the August sun,
The glimmering cups of waking evening primroses
Filled the dusk now the scent of the rose was done.



A wall there was and a door to the rose-garden,
And out of that a gate to the orchard led,
And there was the last hedge, and the turf sloped upward
Till the sky was cut by the hill's line overhead.



J. C. Squire



And thither at times we climbed, and far below us
That world that had made the world remote was seen,
Small, a huddle of russet roofs and chimneys,
And its guard of elms like bushes against the green :



One spot in the country, little and mild and homely,
The nearest house of a wide populous plain. . . .
But down at evening under the stars and the branches
In the whispering garden we lost the world again.



Whispering, faint, the garden under the hillside. . . .
Under the stars. ... Is it true that we lived there long ?
Was it certainly so ? Did ever we know that dwelling,
Breathe that night, and hear in the night that song?



A HOUSE

NOW very quietly, and rather mournfully,
In clouds of hyacinth the sun retires,
And all the stubble-fields that were so warm to him
Keep but in memory their borrowed fires.



172



/. C. Squire



And I, the traveller, break, still unsatisfied,
From that faint exquisite celestial strand,

And turn and see again the only dwelling-place
In this wide wilderness of darkening land.

The house, that house, O now what change has come to
it?

Its crude red-brick facade, its roof of slate ;
What imperceptible swift hand has given it

A new, a wonderful, a queenly state ?

No hand has altered it, that parallelogram,

So inharmonious, so ill-arranged ;
That hard blue roof in shape and colour's what it was ;

No, it is not that any line has changed.

Only that loneliness is now accentuate
And, as the dusk unveils the heaven's deep cave,

This small world's feebleness fills me with awe again,
And all man's energies seem very brave.

And this mean edifice, which some dull architect
Built for an ignorant earth-turning hind,

Takes on the quality of that magnificent
Unshakable dauntlessness of human kind.



173



J. C. Squire



Darkness and stars will come, and long the night will be,
Yet imperturbable that house will rest,

Avoiding gallantly the stars' chill scrutiny,
Ignoring secrets in the midnight's breast.



Thunders may shudder it, and winds demoniac
May howl their menaces, and hail descend ;

Yet it will bear with them, serenely, steadfastly,
Not even scornfully, and wait the end.

And all a universe of nameless messengers
From unknown distances may whisper fear,

And it will imitate immortal permanence,
And stare and stare ahead and scarcely hear.

It stood there yesterday ; it will to-morrow, too,
When there is none to watch, no alien eyes

To watch its ugliness assume a majesty
From this great solitude of evening skies.



So lone, so very small, with worlds and worlds around,
While life remains to it prepared to outface

Whatever awful unconjectured mysteries
May hide and wait for it in time and space.



174



/. C. Squire



THE STRONGHOLD



OUIETER than any twilight
Shed over earth's last deserts,
Quiet and vast and shadowless
Is that unfounded keep,

Higher than the roof of the night's high chamber
Deep as the shaft of sleep.

And solitude will not cry there,
Melancholy will not brood there,
Hatred, with its sharp corroding pain,
And fear will not come there at all :
Never will a tear or a heart-ache enter
Over that enchanted wall.

But, O, if you find that castle,

Draw back your foot from the gateway,

Let not its peace invite you,

Let not its offerings tempt you.
For faded and decayed like a garment,
Love to a dust will have fallen,
And song and laughter will have gone with sorrow,
And hope will have gone with pain ;
And of all the throbbing heart's high courage
Nothing will remain.



175



/. C. Squire



I



AUGUST MOON*

(To F. S.)

N the smooth grey heaven is poised the pale half moon,
And sheds on the wide grey river a broken reflection.
Out from the low church-tower the boats are moored
After the heat of the day, and await the dark.

i
And here, where the side of the road shelves into the

river

At the gap where barges load and horses drink,
There are no horses. And the river is full
And the water stands by the shore and does not lap.

And a barge lies up for the night this side of the island,
The bargeman sits in the bows and smokes his pipe
And his wife by the cabin stirs. Behind me voices pass.

Calm sky, calm river : and a few calm things reflected.
And all as yet keep their colours ; the island osiers,
The ash-white spots of umbelliferous flowers,
And the yellow clay of its bank, the barge's brown sails
That are furled up the mast and then make a lean triangle
To the end of the hoisted boom, and the high dark slips
Where they used to build vessels, and now build them
no more.

* Hearing Flanders guns from Chiswick in 1917.
176



/. C. Squire



All in the river reflected in quiet colours.

Beyond the river sweeps round in a bend, and is vast,

A wide grey level under the motionless sky

And the waxing moon, clean cut in the mole-grey sky.

Silence. Time is suspended ; that the light fails
One would not know were it not for the moon in the sky,
And the broken moon in the water, whose fractures tell
Of slow broad ripples that otherwise do not show,
Maturing imperceptibly from a pale to a deeper gold,
A golden half moon in the sky, and broken gold in the
water

In the water, tranquilly severing, joining, gold :
Three or four little plates of gold on the river :
A little motion of gold between the dark images
Of two tall posts that stand in the grey water.

There are voices passing, a murmur of quiet voices,
A woman's laugh, and children going home.
A whispering couple, leaning over the railings,
And, somewhere, a little splash as a dog goes in.

I have always known all this, it has always been,
There is no change anywhere, nothing will ever change.

I heard a story, a crazy and tiresome myth.

177



/. C. Squire



Listen ! behind the twilight a deep low sound
Like the constant shutting of very distant doors,

Doors that are letting people over there

Out to some other place beyond the end of the sky.



178



F. W. STOKOE



EPITAPHIC



I TO whom now the world has grown too strange,
, May turn my meditation, well-content,
Upon the last unmarred competest change
Once feared, held now the surest muniment.



And so forboding speechless long repose
That shall receive my spirit after strife,

I hold the gates a moment ere they close
Pondering how I may say farewell to life.



Shape what conclusion with my latest breath
And wisdom's ripeness to this end deferred ?
By what confession win my shrift from death ?
Sum up my love and hatred in what word ?



" Here, Life, thy lover thou hast foully slain,"
But should I tell if I have loved thee right ?

" Here's one who sought the live-long day in vain,
He knew not what ; him overtook the night."



179



F. W. Stokoe



Or this : " I found the things I did not seek,
And could not love them, for the things I sought."

So mustering conclusions vain and weak
To hold the strength and depths of my last thought

I'll grant the leave my day worn heart awaits
And turn in silence from the falling gates.



THE SORROWS OF WERTHER

IN old, dim days nay, passionate, poignant true
Love drunken Werther raved, despaired and died.
The other day I read it all anew
And, ere I shut the covers, stepped inside
And found good Albert making from the room,
A little puzzled, busy, narrow, trim ;
And Werther crouching in ecstatic gloom
While Lotte played that magic air for him.
Young, modest, generous and fair were they.
And when that little melody was played
He kissed her hand and wept how cool it lay
In his, impassioned, hers, all unafraid !
Their twilight falls. Our insolent day shows,
(Bright feathers in the cold deserted nest),
Her pretty ribbons and her furbelows,
His curious long blue coat and yellow vest.

180



F. W. Stokoe



DECEMBER

THE land enfolded with the skies
As images in pensive eyes,
As tears in laughter, dreams in sleep
Is caught in quiet trances deep.

This is December, when the ground,
Rain-flooded hi the nights profound,
His pools to snare the flying day
In every field and broken way.



181



C. B. TRACEY

WIND-WATCHES

(I)
THE NIGHT WATCH

DECEMBER Nights !
There is no respite from their wind-tongued rage ;
There is no expiation to assuage
The hunger of such wrath. Their vengeance cries
Woe through the country where their blast alights.
They are desirous of a sacrifice
That would not satisfy though like a flood
Outbroken were the sluices of man's blood.
And from their tumult legionary fears
Storm on my soul like battle-charges poured,
When like the terror of the crime of years,
And like the sibilant menace of the sword,
And like the jealous anger of the Lord
Speak the December Nights.

(II)
THE MIDDLE WATCH

December Nights !

And watch on watch the impetuous gusts are loud
About the naked roofs and through the crowd
Of bleak tree-spectres querulously wail



C. B. Tracey



Their penitence like haggard eremites,

Who kneeling at an icy chancel rail

Lift up gaunt eyes against the sightless dark

And pray their hearts out where none seems to hark.

All night I hear their wildly-contrite dirges

Repeated, and their shrill pain is never thinned,

Until the wailing of this lost heart merges

Into their passion knowing I have sinned ;

And I am fierce and futile as the wind

Is on December Nights.

(Ill)
THE MORNING WATCH

December Nights !

Their sound is as the sea ; and as the surge

Washes continuously as if to purge

A stained pollution from the land, even so

The foam-loud sweeping of the tempest fights

Around my spirit till its breakers flow

Into the stagnant pool my heart and lave

Its fetor out upon the snowy wave.

O cleanse me through and through ! O make me pure

As the clear fountains of the Ocean are.

Thrill me with vibrant musics that endure.

Move me to harmonies I may not mar.

O can You hear me crying from afar,

God, in December Nights ?

183



C. B. Tracey



THE BATTLEFIELD



SOFTLY over the sheen of the meadows,
Where the unmemoried bowmen lie,
Vagrant breaths through the evening shadows
Whisper and sigh.

Low they lie in the centuried quiet ;

Over them annual flower-bells break ;
Petals blow and the red leaves riot.

They never wake.



FAILURE

HERE where the Isles of Knowledge lie
Set strangely in a fluctuant strait,
Clear-cut and sheer against the sky
The heights of Wisdom meditate.

And in a proud and certain hope
The dateless feet of men have trod

Laboriously its flinted slope
To find thereon the throne of God.



184



C. B. Tracey



Sublime upon its ultimate crest

They gaze, then bow on bleeding knees,
Whom still the vacant heavens invest

And the vague circle of the seas.



TUMULT

THROUGH the storm and the desolate night there
was far away heard
The cry of a plover that wailed like a soul without

sight ;

And a horror of darkness enveloped the land and be-
stirred
Through the storm and the desolate night.

As the wind hi the trees goeth wistfully forth to the dark,
Like a querulous voice ineffectually pleading for ease


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