Dora Owen.

The book of fairy poetry online

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In riddling triplets of old time, and said :

" ' Rain, rain, and sun ! a rainbow in the sky !
A young man will be wiser by and by ;
An old man's wit may wander ere he die.

Rain, rain, and sun ! a rainbow on the lea !
And truth is this to me, and that to thee ;
And truth or clothed or naked let it be.

Rain, sun, and rain ! and the free blossom blows ;
Sun, rain, and sun ! and where is he who knows ?
From the great deep to the great deep he goes.' '



A Fairy Revel, before the coming of

He said

That as he rode, an hour or maybe twain
After the sunset, down the coast, he heard
Strange music, and he paused, and turning there
All down the lonely coast of Lyonnesse,
Each with a beacon-star upon his head,
And with a wild sea-light about his feet,
We saw them headland after headland flame
Far on into the rich heart of the west :
And in the light the white mermaiden swam
And strong man-breasted things stood from the sea
And sent a deep sea-voice thro' all the land
To which the little sloes of chasm and cleft
Made answer, sounding like a distant horn.
So said my father yea, and furthermore,
Next morning, while he past the dimlit woods
Himself beheld three spirits mad with joy
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower
That shook beneath them, as the thistle shakes
When three gray linnets wrangle for the seed :
And still at evenings on before his horse
The flickering fairy-circle wheeled and broke
Flying, for all the land was full of life.
And when at last he came to Camelot,
A wreath of airy dancers hand in hand
Swung round the lighted lantern of the hall ;
And in the hall itself was such a feast
As never man had dreamed ; for every knight
Had whatsoever meat he longed for served
By hands unseen : and even as he said
Down in the cellars merry bloated things
Shoulder'd the spigot, straddling on the butts
While the wine ran ; so glad were spirits and men
Before the coming of the sinful Queen.


' Three spirits mad with joy
Come dashing down on a tall wayside flower."


From " The Passing of Arthur "

THEN saw they how there hove a dusky barge

Dark as a funeral scarf from stem to stern,

Beneath them ; and descending they were ware

That all the decks were dense with stately forms,

Black-stoled, black-hooded, like a dream by these

Three Queens with crowns of gold : and from them rose

A cry that shiver'd to the tingling stars

And, as it were one voice, an agony

Of lamentation, like a wind that shrills

All night in a waste land, where no one comes,

Or hath come, since the making of the world.

Then murmur'd Arthur, " Place me in the barge " ;

So to the barge they came. There those three Queens

Put forth their hands, and took the King, and wept.

But she, that rose the tallest of them all

And fairest, laid his head upon her lap,

And loosed the shatter'd casque, and chafed his hands,

And called him by his name, complaining loud,

And dropping bitter tears against his brow

Striped with dark blood : for all his face was white

And colourless, and like the wither'd moon

Smote by the fresh beam of the springing east ;

And all his greaves and cuisses dash'd with drops

Of onset ; and the light and lustrous curls

That made his forehead like a rising sun

High from the dais-throne were parch'd with dust ;

Or, clotted into points and hanging loose,

Mix'd with the knightly growth that fringed his lips.

So like a shatter'd column lay the King ;

Not like that Arthur who, with lance in rest,

From spur to plume a star of tournament,

Shot thro' the lists at Camelot, and charged

Before the eyes of ladies, and of kings.


Then loudly cried the bold Sir Bedivere :
" Ah ! my Lord Arthur, whither shall I go ?
Where shall I hide my forehead and my eyes ?
For now I see the true old times are dead,
When every morning brought a noble chance,
And every chance brought out a noble knight.
Such times have not since been the light that led
The holy Elders with the gift of myrrh.
But now the whole Round Table is dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world ;
And I, the last, go forth companionless,
And the days darken round me, and the years,
Among new men, strange faces, other minds."

And slowly answered Arthur from the barge :

" The old order changeth, yielding place to new,

And God fulfils himself in many ways,

Lest one good custom should corrupt the world.

Comfort thyself : what comfort is in me ?

I have lived my life, and that which I have done

May He within himself make pure ! but thou,

If thou shouldst never see my face again,

Pray for my soul. More things are wrought by prayer

Than this world dreams of. Wherefore, let thy voice

Rise like a fountain for me night and day.

For what are men better than sheep or goats

That nourish a blind life within the brain,

If, knowing God, they lift not hands of prayer _

Both for themselves and those who call them friend ?

For so the whole round earth is every way

Bound by gold chains about the feet of God.

But now farewell. I am going a long way

With these thou seest if indeed I go

(For all my mind is clouded with a doubt)

To the island-valley of Avilion ;

Where falls not hail, or rain, or any snow,

Nor ever winds blow loudly ; but it lies

Deep-meadow'd, happy, fair with orchard-lawns

And bowery hollows crown'd with summer sea,

Where I will heal me of my grievous wound."


So said he, and the barge with oar and sail
Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan
That, fluting a wild carol ere her death,
Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood
With swarthy webs. Long stood Sir Bedivere
Revolving many memories, till the hull
Look'd one black dot against the verge of dawn,
And on the mere the wailing died away.


Merlin and the Fay Vivian

WHAT tale did Iseult to the children say,
Under the hollies, that bright winter's day ?

She told them of the fairy-haunted land

Away the other side of Brittany,

Beyond the heaths, edged by the lonely sea ;

Of the deep forest-glades of Broceliande,

Through whose green boughs the golden sunshine creeps,

Where Merlin by the enchanted thorn-tree sleeps.

For here he came with the fay Vivian,

One April, when the warm days first began.

He was on foot, and that false fay, his friend,

On her white palfrey ; here he met his end,

In these lone sylvan glades, that April-day.

This tale of Merlin and the lovely fay

Was the one Iseult chose, and she brought clear

Before the children's fancy him and her.

Blowing between the stems, the forest-air

Had loosen'd the brown locks of Vivian's hair,

Which play'd on her flush'd cheek, and her blue eyes

Sparkled with mocking glee and exercise.

Her palfrey's flanks were mired and bathed in sweat,

For they had travell'd far and not stopp'd yet.

A briar in that tangled wilderness

Had scored her white right hand, which she allows


To rest ungloved on her green riding-dress ;
The other warded off the drooping boughs.
But still she chatted on, with her blue eyes
Fix'd full on Merlin's face, her stately prize.
Her 'haviour had the morning's fresh clear grace,
The spirit of the woods was in her face ;
She looked so witching fair, that learned wight
Forgot his craft, and his best wits took flight,
And he grew fond, and eager to obey
His mistress, use her empire as she may.

They came to where the brushwood ceased, and day

Peer'd 'twixt the stems ; and the ground broke away,

In a sloped sward down to a brawling brook.

And up as high as where they stood to look

On the brook's farther side was clear ; but then

The underwood and trees began again.

This open glen was studded thick with thorns

Then white with blossom ; and you saw the horns,

Through last year's fern, of the shy fallow-deer

Who come at noon down to the water here.

You saw the bright-eyed squirrels dart along

Under the thorns on the green sward ; and strong

The blackbird whistled from the dingles near,

And the weird chippping of the woodpecker

Rang lonelily and sharp ; the sky was fair,

And a fresh breath of spring stirr'd everywhere.

Merlin and Vivian stopp'd on the slope's brow,

To gaze on the light sea of leaf and bough

Which glistering plays all round them, lone and mild,

As if to itself the quiet forest smiled.

Upon the brow-top grew a thorn, and here

The grass was dry and moss'd, and_you saw clear

Across the hollow ; white anemonies

Starr'd the cool turf, and clumps of primroses

Ran out from the dark underwood behind.

No fairer resting-place a man could find.

" Here let us halt," said Merlin then ; and she

Nodded, and tied her palfrey to a tree.


They sate them down together, and a sleep

Fell upon Merlin, more like death, so deep.

Her finger on her lips, then Vivian rose,

And from her brown-lock'd head the wimple throws,

And takes it in her hand, and waves it over

The blossom'd thorn-tree and her sleeping lover.

Nine times she waved the fluttering wimple round,

And made a little plot of magic ground ;

And in that daisied circle, as men say,

Is Merlin prisoner till the judgment-day ;

But she herself whither she will can rove

For she was passing weary of his love.




Simon. There's what the vo'k do call a veairy ring

Out there, lo'k zee. Why, 'tis an oddish thing.

Samel. Ah ! zoo do seem. I wunder how do come !
What is it that do meake it, I do wonder ?

Simon. Be hang'd if I can tell, I'm sure ! But zome

Do zay do come by lightnen when do thunder ;
An' zome do say sich rings as thik ring there is,
Do grow in dancen-tracks o' little veairies,
That in the nights o' zummer or o' spring
Do come by moonlight, when noo other veet
Do tread the dewy grass, but theirs, an' meet
An' dance away together in a ring.

Samel. An' who d'ye think do work the fiddlestick ?
A little veairy too, or else wold Nick ?

Simon. Why, they do zay, that at the veairies' ball,
There's nar a fiddle that's a-hear'd at all ;
But they do play upon a little pipe
A-meade o' kexes or o' straws, dead ripe,
A-stuck in row (zome short an' longer zome)
Wi' slime o' snails, or bits o' plum-tree gum,



An' meake sich music that to hear it sound,
You'd stick so still's a pollard o the ground.

Samel. What do em dance ? 'Tis plain by thease green wheels,
They don't frisk in an' out in dree-hand reels ;
Vor else, instead o' thease here girt round O,
They'd cut us out a figure aight, d'ye know.

Simon. Oh ! they ha' jigs to fit their little veet,

They woulden dance, you know, at their fine ball
The dree an' vow'r han' reels that we do sprawl
An' kick about in, when we men do meet.

Samel. An' zoo have zome vo'k, in their midnight rambles,
A-catch'd the veairies, then, in theasen gambols.

Simon. Why, yes ; but they be off lik' any shot,
So soon's a man's a-comen near the spot.

Samel. But in the day-time where do veairies hide ?

Where be their hwomes, then ? where do veairies bide ?

Simon. Oh ! they do get away down under ground,

In hollow pleazen where they can't be vound.
But still my gramfer, many years agoo,
(He liv'd at Grenley-farm, and milk' a deairy),
If what the wolder vo'k do tell is true,
Woone mornen early vound a veairy.

Samel. An' did he stop, then, wi' the good wold bwoy ?
Or did he soon contrive to slip awoy ?

Simon. Why, when the vo'k were all asleep, a-bed,
The veairies us'd to come, as 'tis a-zaid,
Avore the vire wer cwold, an' dance an hour
Or two at dead o' night upon the vloor ;
Var they, by only utteren a word
Or charm, can come down chimney lik' a bird ;
Or draw their bodies out so long an' narrow,
That they can vlee drough keyholes lik' an arrow.
An' zoo woone midnight, when the moon did drow
His light drough window, roun' the vloor below,
An' crickets roun' the bricken he'th did zing,
They come an' danced about the hall in ring ;
An' tapp'd, drough little holes noo eyes could spy
A kag o' poor aunt's mead a-stannen by.
An' woone o'm drink'd so much, he coulden mind
The word he wer to zay to meake en small ;

" Oh I they do get away down under ground,
In hollow pleazen where they can't be vound."


He got a-dather'd zoo, that after all

Out t'others went an' left en back behind.

An' after he'd a-beat about his head

Agean the keyhole till he were half dead,

He laid down all along upon the vloor

Till gramfer, comen down, unlocked the door :

An' then he zeed en ('twer enough to frighten en)

Bolt out o' door, an' down the road lik' lightenen.


What the Toys do at Night

LOOKING from the window in the middle of the night,
Looking at the garden in the moon's delicious light,
Looking at the little lawn that must itself surprise,
Shining like a silver thing beneath the silver skies,

Looking at the pretty buds that are so fast asleep,
Each is shut so very tight I'm sure it cannot peep ;
Each coquettish rosebud, each little lily-cup,
Nid, nid, noddin', just as if it never could wake up.

Nid, nid, noddin', fast asleep so slips the night away ;
Nid, nid, noddin', cunning things ! I think it's only play ;
As the clocks are striking twelve oh, how extremely sly !
All the blossoms open wide, and out the Fairies fly !

Out the little fairies fly upon their scented wings,
Float about and shake themselves delicious little things !
All the blossoms shut again ; and now I think, perhaps,
Lily-cup and blushing rose may really take their naps.

Out the little fairies fly and flutter in the air :
Oh, how lovely is the world, with moonlight everywhere !
Moonlight, moonlight everywhere ! and in its tender gleam
Pretty fairies poised about, like fairies in a dream.

Oh, what are they waiting for ? See how they look about,
Beck'ning at the windows, as if something should come out ;



Stamping their impatient feet, they gather into bands,
Beck'ning at the windows with their little eager hands.

Then a window opens : yes a window in the house ;

Not a living creature up I have not heard a mouse.

In all the world, can any one either guess or plan

What came from the window then ? No, no one ever can !

Wooden horses, waxen dollies, soldiers, wood and tin ;
Noah's Ark of birds and beasties ; tops that hum and spin ;
Little china tea-things and delightful dinner sets ;
Trumpets, drums and baby-houses, balls in coloured nets !

Through the window open wide, they make their solemn march,
All along the gravel-walk, beneath the trellised arch ;
All along the gravel-walk the stately columns pass,
And the toys and fairies meet upon the silver grass !


Did you know it ? could you tell it ? had you ever guessed
How your daylight treasures are by fairies' touch caressed ?
How your daylight treasures are the fairies' moonlight joys ?
'Twas a lovely meeting 'twixt the fairies and the toys !

'Twas a lovely meeting, and the moon enjoyed the sight ;
All the fairies kissed the toys in innocent delight ;
Then they played so happily, until the break of day,
When the toys marched home again the fairies flew away !


Pixy Work

" MAIDENS, maidens," piped the pixies,
" We are peeping at your sweeping,
Leave your toil and take your leisure ;
We will work for you with pleasure.
Leave your churning and your spinning,
Hear the violins beginning,
See the Maypole-strings a-flutter.
Leave your cheeses ; leave your butter ;
Out, and hie you to the green ;
We will work for you this e'en."

Merry Meg set off a-running,
Milly after, gay with laughter.
Marion, with braided curls,
Flew to join the other girls.
Only Molly, fair and kind,
Stayed a little while behind,
Setting in the ingle seat
Violets and honey sweet,
Cream and syrup, mixed with care,
For the pixies' dainty fare.

When she vanished through the orchard,
Fairies, airy, shy, and wary,
Peeped like mice at set of sun :
Stealthy, creeping one by one


Out of cupboard, down from rafter,
Through the chimney, with soft laughter.
Tapping panels, creaking doors,
Dropping daisies through elf-bores,
Setting silver bells a-jingle,
Leaping lightly to the ingle.

One, with black hair flower-knotted,
Sits a-spinning, while the dinning
Wheel majces music to her song.
Others to the dairy throng,
Skimming, with light wings a-flutter,
Richest cream for sweetest butter.
One mounts bareback on a broom,
Rides it up and down the room,
Sweeping, sweeping merrily,
As the west wind sweeps the sea.

Then they circle round the fire,
Dreaming by the embers gleaming ;
So they sit with clasped knees,
Rocking, rocking at their ease,
Till one brings, with dainty care,
Molly's bowl of creamy fare.
Dipping flowers in her cup,
So the merry fairies sup ;
Sip and laugh, and laugh and tip
Loving cups from lip to lip.

Then they see the maidens coming
Through the clover, revels over.
Miily, Meg and Marion
Laugh to find their labours done,
Doff their garlands, jest and joke,
And forget the fairy folk
Hiding in the dark above ;
Only Molly, quick to love,
Prays for pixies, with kind eyes
Pixies, barred from Paradise.




THERE was an old woman

Went blackberry picking
Along the hedges

From Weep to Wicking.
Half a pottle-
No more she had got,
When out steps a Fairy

From her green grot ;
And says, " Well, Jill,

Would 'ee pick 'ee mo ? "
And Jill, she curtseys,

And looks just so.
" Be off," says the Fairy,

" As quick as you can,
Over the meadows

To the little green lane,
That dips to the hayfields

Of Farmer Grimes :
I've berried those hedges

A score of times ;
Bushel on bushel

I'll promise 'ee, Jill,
This side of supper

If 'ee pick with a will."
She glints very bright,
And speaks her fair ;
Then lo, and behold !
She had faded in air.

Be sure Old Goodie
She trots betimes

Over the meadows
To Farmer Grimes.

And never was queen
With jewellery rich


As those same hedges

From twig to ditch ;
Like Dutchmen's coffers,

Fruit, thorn, and flower
They shone like William

And Mary's bower.
And be sure Old Goodie

Went back to Weep,
So tired with her basket

She scarce could creep.
When she comes in the dusk

To her cottage door,
There's Towser wagging

As never before,
To see his Missus

So glad to be
Come from her fruit-picking

Back to he.
As soon as next morning

Dawn was grey,
The pot on the hob

Was simmering away ;
And all in a stew

And a hugger-mugger
Towser and Jill

A-boiling of sugar,
And the dark clear fruit

That from Faerie came,
For syrup and jelly
And blackberry jam.

Twelve jolly gallipots

Jill put by ;
And one little teeny one,

One inch high ;
And that she's hidden

A good thumb deep,
Half way over

From Wicking to Weep.



Peak and Puke

FROM his cradle in the glamourie
They have stolen my wee brother,
Housed a changeling in his swaddlings
For to fret mine own poor mother.
Pules it in the candle-light
Wi' a cheek so lean and white,
Chinkling up its eyne so wee
Wailing shrill at her an' me.
It we'll neither rock nor tend
Till the Silent Silent send,
Lapping in their waesome arms
Him they stole with spells and charms,
Till they take this changeling creature
Back to its own fairy nature
Cry ! Cry! as long as may be,
Ye shall ne'er be woman's baby !


The Honey-Robbers

THERE were two Fairies, Gimmul and Mel,
Loved Earth Man's honey passing well ;
Oft at the hives of his tame bees
They would their sugary thirst appease.

When even began to darken to night.
They would hie along in the fading light,
With elf-locked hair and scarlet lips,
And small stone knives to slit the skeps,
So softly not a bee inside
Should hear the woven straw divide.
And then with sly and greedy thumbs
Would rifle the sweet honeycombs.
And drowsily drone to drone would say,
" A cold, cold wind blows in this way ; "


And the great Queen would turn her head

From face to face, astonished,

And, though her maids with comb and brush

Would comb and soothe and whisper, " Hush ! "

About the hive would shrilly go

A keening keening, to and fro ;

At which those robbers 'neath the trees

Would taunt and mock the honey-bees,

And through their sticky teeth would buzz

Just as an angry hornet does.

And when this Gimmul and this Mel,

Had munched and sucked and swilled their fill,

Or ever Man's first cock could crow

Back to their Faerie Mounds they'd go,

Edging across the twilight air,

Thieves of a guise remotely fair.


The Three Beggars

'TwAS autumn daybreak gold and wild,

While past St Ann's grey tower they shuffled,

Three beggars spied a fairy-child
In crimson mantle muffled.

The daybreak lighted up her face

All pink, and sharp, and emerald-eyed ;
She looked on them a little space,
And shrill as hautboy cried :

" O three tall footsore men of rags
Which walking this gold morn I see,

What will ye give me from your bags
For fairy kisses three ? "

The first, that was a reddish man,

Out of his bundle takes a crust :
" La, by the tombstones of St Ann,

There's fee, if fee ye must ! "

nsteaa 01 crust a peacock pie.


The second, that was a chestnut man,

Out of his bundle draws a bone :
" La, by the belfry of St Ann,

And all my breakfast gone ! "

The third, that was a yellow man,

Out of his bundle picks a groat,
" La, by the Angel of St Ann,

And I must go without."

That changeling, lean and icy-lipped,

Touched crust, and bone, and groat, and lo !

Beneath her ringer taper-tipped
The magic all ran through.

Instead of crust a peacock pie,

Instead of bone sweet venison,
Instead of groat a white lilie

With seven blooms thereon.

And each fair cup was deep with wine :

Such was the changeling's charity,
The sweet feast was enough for nine,

But not too much for three.

O toothsome meat in jelly froze !

O tender haunch of elfin stag !
O rich the odour that arose !

O plump with scraps each bag !

There, in the daybreak gold and wild,

Each merry-hearted beggar man
Drank deep unto the fairy child,

And blessed the good St Ann.



The Love-Talker

I KNOW not what way he came, no shadow fell behind,
But all the sighing rushes swayed beneath a fairy wind :
The thrush ceased its singing, a mist crept about,
We two clung together with the world shut out.

Beyond the ghostly mist I could hear my cattle low,
The little cow from Ballina, clean as driven snow,
The dun cow from Kerry, the roan from Inisheer,
Oh, pitiful their calling and his whispers in my ear !

His eyes were a fire ; his words were a snare ;
I cried my mother's name, but no help was there ;
I made the blessed Sign : then he gave a dreary moan,
A wisp of cloud went floating by, and I stood alone.


The Hills of Ruel

" OVER the hills and far away "

That is the tune I heard one day,

When heather-drowsy I lay and listened

And watched where the stealthy sea-tide glistened.

Beside me there on the Hills of Ruel
An old man stooped and gathered fuel
And I asked him this : if his son were dead,
As the folk in Glendaruel all said,
How could he still believe that never
Duncan had crossed the shadowy river ?
Forth from his breast the old man drew
A lute that once on a rowan tree grew ;


And, speaking no words, began to play
" Over the hills and far away."

" But how do you know," I said, thereafter,

" That Duncan has heard the fairy-laughter ?

How do you know he has followed the cruel

Honey-sweet folk of the Hills of Ruel ? "

" How do I know ? " the old man said,

" Sure I knew well my boy's not dead,

For late on the morrow they hid him, there

Where the black earth moistens his yellow hair,

I saw him alow on the moor close by,

I watched him low on the hillside lie,

An' I heard him laughin' wild up there,

An' talk, talk, talkin' beneath his hair

For down his face his long hair lay

But I saw it was cold and ashen-gray,

Ay, laughin' and talkin' wild he was,

An' that to a Shadow out on the grass,

A Shadow that made my blood go chill,

For, never its like have I seen on the hill.

An' the moon came up, and the stars grew white,

An' the hills grew black in the bloom o' the night.

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