Dora Owen.

The book of fairy poetry online

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Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
" Come buy, come buy."
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother ;
Signalling each other,
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate ;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves and rough nuts brown
(Men sell not such in any town) ;


One heaved the golden weight

Of dish and fruit to offer her :

" Come buy, come buy," was still their cry.

Laura stared but did not stir,

Longed but had no money :

The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste

In tones as smooth as honey,

The cat-faced purr'd,

The rat-paced spoke a word

Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard ;

One parrot-voiced and jolly

Cried " Pretty Goblin " still for " Pretty Polly " ;

One whistled like a bird.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste :
" Good folk, I have no coin ;
To take were to purloin :
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather."
" You have much gold upon your head,"
They answered all together :
" Buy from us with a golden curl."
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red :
Sweeter than honey from the rock,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
Clearer than water flowed that juice ;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use ?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore ;
She sucked until her lips were sore ;
Then flung the emptied rinds away
But gathered up one kernel-stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone.


Buy from us with a golden curl.'


Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings :
" Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens ;
Should not loiter in the glen
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours ?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away ;
Sought them by night and day,
Found them no more but dwindled and grew gray ;
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low :
I planted daisies there a year ago
That never blow.
You should not loiter so."
" Nay, hush," said Laura :
" Nay, hush, my sister :
I ate and ate my fill,
Yet my mouth waters still ;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more " : and kissed her :
" Have done with sorrow ;
I'll bring you plums to-morrow
Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting ;
You cannot think what fig-
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed :
Odorous indeed must be the mead


Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap."

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest
Folded in each other's wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed :
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fall'n snow,
Like two wands of ivory
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro
Round their rest :

Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.


Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning,
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie :
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat,
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed ;
Talked as modest maidens should :
Lizzie with an open heart,
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part ;
One warbling for the mere bright day's delight,
One longing for the night.

At length slow evening came :
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook ;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.


They drew the gurgling water from its deep ;

Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flags,

Then turning homewards said : " The sunset flushes

Those furthest loftiest crags ;

Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,

No wilful squirrel wags,

The beasts and birds are fast asleep."

But Laura loitered still among the rushes

And said the bank was steep.

And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fall'n, the wind not chill :
Listening ever, but not catching
The customary cry,
" Come buy, come buy,"
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words :
Not for all her watching
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling ;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single,
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

Till Lizzie urged, " O Laura, come ;
I hear the fruit-call but I dare not look :
You should not loiter longer at this brook :
Come with me home.
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glowworm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark :
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather,
Put out the lights and drench us through ;
Then if we lost our way what should we do ? "

Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry,
" Come buy our fruits, come buy."


Must she then buy no more such dainty fruits ?

Must she no more that succous pasture find,

Gone deaf and blind ?

Her tree of life drooped from the root :

She said not one word in her heart's sore ache ;

But peering through the dimness, naught discerning,

Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way ;

So crept to bed, and lay

Silent till Lizzie slept ;

Then sat up in a passionate yearning,

And gnashed her teeth for baulked desire, and wept

As if her heart would break.

Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry :
" Come buy, come buy " ;
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen :
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray ;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay and burn
Her fire away.

One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south ;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none ;
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run :
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.


She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat,
Brought water from the brook :
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.

Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister's cankerous care
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins' cry :
" Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy " :
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear ;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her,
But feared to pay too dear.
She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride :
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died
In her gay prime,
In earliest Winter time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp Winter time.

Till Laura dwindling
Seemed knocking at Death's door :
Then Lizzie weighed no more
Better and worse ;
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze
At twilight, halted by the brook :
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.


Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping :
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling,
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
Cat-like and rat-like,
Ratel- and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter skelter, hurry skurry,
Chattering like magpies,
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,
Hugged her and kissed her,
Squeezed and caressed her :
Stretched up their dishes,
Panniers and plates :
" Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches,
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs ;
Pluck them and suck them.
Pomegranates, figs."-

" Good folk," said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie :
" Give me much and many " :
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.


" Nay, take a seat with us,

Honour and eat with us,"

They answered grinning :

" Our feast is but beginning.

Night yet is early,

Warm and dew-pearly,

Wakeful and starry :

Such fruits as these

No man can carry ;

Half their bloom would fly,

Half their dew would dry,

Half their flavour would pass by.

Sit down and feast with us,

Be welcome guest with us,

Cheer you and rest with us."-

" Thank you," said Lizzie : " But one waits

At home alone for me :

So without further parleying,

If you will not sell me any

Of your fruits though much and many,

Give me back my silver penny

I tossed you for a fee."

They began to scratch their pates,

No longer wagging, purring,

But visibly demurring,

Grunting and snarling.

One called her proud,

Cross-grained, uncivil ;

Their tones waxed loud,

Their looks were evil.

Lashing their tails

They trod and hustled her,

Elbowed and jostled her.

Clawed with their nails,

Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,

Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,

Twitched her hair out by the roots,

Stamped upon her tender feet,

Held her hands and squeezed their fruits

Against her mouth to make her eat.


White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,
Like a rock of blue-veined stone
Lashed by tides obstreperously,
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet
Mad to tug her standard down.

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her,
Bullied and besought her,
Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word ;
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in :
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin,
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people
Worn out by her resistance
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took,
Not leaving root or stone or shoot ;
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple,

Some scudded on the gale without a sound,
Some vanished in the distance.


In a smart, ache, tingle,

Lizzie went her way ;

Knew not was it night or day ;

Sprang up the bank, tore thro' the furze,

Threaded copse and dingle,

And heard her penny jingle

Bouncing in her purse,

Its bounce was music to her ear.

She ran and ran

As if she feared some goblin man

Dogged her with gibe or curse

Or something worse :

But not one goblin skurried after,

Nor was she pricked by fear ;

The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

^ She cried " Laura," up the garden,

'' Did you miss me ?

Come and kiss me.

Never mind my bruises,

Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices

Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,

Goblin pulp and goblin dew.

Eat me, drink me, love me ;

Laura, make much of me :

For your sake I have braved the glen

And had to do with goblin merchant men."

^ Laura started from her chair,
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair :

'' Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted

For my sake the fruit forbidden ?

Must your light like mine be hidden,

Your young life like mine be wasted,

Undone in mine undoing

And ruined in my ruin,

Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden ? "


She clung about her sister,

Kissed and kissed and kissed her :

Tears once again

Refreshed her shrunken eyes,

Dropping like rain

After long sultry drouth ;

Shaking with aguish fear, and pain,

She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast :

Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed,
Or like a flying flag when armies run.

Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame ;
She gorged on bitterness without a name :
Ah ! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care !
Sense failed in the mortal strife :
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down,
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,

Like a foam-topped waterspout
Cast down headlong in the sea,
She fell at last ;


Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life ?

Life out of death.

That night long Lizzie watched by her,
Counted her pulse's flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,

Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves :
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves,
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass

Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice ;
Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray
Her breath was sweet as May
And light danced in her eyes.

Days, weeks, months, years,
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own ;
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives ;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone
Of not-returning time :
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaint fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat
But poison in the blood ;
(Men sell not such in any town :)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote :


Then joining hands to little hands
Would bid them cling together,
" For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather ;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands."


La Belle Dame Sans Merci

O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,

Alone and palely loitering !
The sedge has wither'd from the lake,

And no birds sing.

what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
So haggard and so woe-begone ?

The squirrel's granary is full,
And the harvest's done.

1 see a lily on thy brow

With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,

Full beautiful a faery's child,

Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head,
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone ;

She look'd at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.


I set her on my pacing steed,

And nothing else saw all day long,

For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery's song.


She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,

And sure in language strange she said
" I love thee true."

She took me to her elfin grot,

And there she wept, and sigh'd full sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes

With kisses four.


And there she lulled me asleep,

And there I dream'd Ah ! woe betide

The latest dream I ever dream'd
On the cold hill's side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,

Pale warriors, death-pale were they all ;

They cried " La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall ! "

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,

And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here,

Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,

And no birds sing.


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 ;
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
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 ;


Children's voices, wild with pain

Surely she wili come again !

Call her once and come away ;

This way, this way !

" Mother dear, we cannot stay !

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,

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

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,
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 ;
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 ?
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 vou and me,


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 tended it well.

When down swung the sound of a far-off bell.

She sigh'd, she look'd up through the clear green sea ;

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 ;

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 ;

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,

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 climbed on the graves, on the stones worn with rains,

And we gazed up the aisle through the small leaded panes.

She sate by the pillar ; we saw her clear ;

" 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,

For her eyes were seal'd to the holy book !

Loud prays the priest ; shut stands the door.

Come away, children, call no more !

Come away, come down, call no more !

Down, down, down !

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 !

For the priest, and the bell, and the holy well ;

For the wheel where I spun,

And the blessed light of the sun ! "

And so she sings her fill.

Singing most joyfully,

Till the spindle drops 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 ;

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 ;

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 ;
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.
We shall see, while above us
The waves roar and whirl,
A ceiling of amber,
A pavement of pearl.
Singing : " Here came a mortal,
But faithless was she !
And alone dwell for ever
The kings of the sea."

But, children, at midnight,
When soft the winds blow,


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

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.

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,

But cruel is she !

She left lonely for ever

The kings of the sea."


From " The Coming of Arthur "

" BUT let me tell thee now another tale :
For Bleys, our Merlin's master, as they say,
Died but of late, and sent his cry to me,
To hear him speak before he left his life.
Shrunk like a fairy changeling lay the mage,
And when I enter'd told me that himself
And Merlin ever served about the king,
Uther, before he died, and on the night
When Uther in Tintagil past away
Moaning and wailing for an heir, the two
Left the still king, and paassing forth to breathe,
Then from the castle gateway by the chasm
Descending thro' the dismal night a night
In which the bounds of heaven and earth were lost-
Beheld, so high upon the dreary deeps
It seem'd in heaven, a ship, the shape thereof


A dragon wing'd, and all from stem to stern
Bright with a shining people on the decks,
And gone as soon as seen. And then the two
Dropt to the cove, and watch'd the great sea fall,
Wave after wave, each mightier than the last,
Till last, a ninth one, gathering half the deep
And full of voices, slowly rose and plunged
Roaring, and all the wave was in a flame :
And down the wave and in the flame was borne
A naked babe, and rode to Merlin's feet,
Who stoopt and caught the babe, and cried

' The King !

Here is an heir for Uther ! ' And the fringe
Of that great breaker, sweeping up the strand,
Lash'd at the wizard as he spake the word,
And all at once all round him rose in fire,
So that the child and he were clothed in fire.
And presently thereafter follow'd calm,
Free sky and stars : ' And this same child,' he said,
' Is he who reigns ; nor could I part in peace
Till this were told.' And saying this the seer
Went thro' the strait and dreadful pass of death,
Not ever to be question'd any more
Save on the further side ; but when I met
Merlin, and ask'd him if these things were truth
The shining dragon and the naked child
Descending in the glory of the seas
He laugh'd as is his wont, and answer'd me

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