Jean Ingelow.

Poems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I online

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You never have!

_M_. What could she think of me
If I forgot myself so far? or what
Could she reply?

_J_. You ask not as men ask
Who care for an opinion, else perhaps,
Although I am not sure - although, perhaps,
I have no right to give one - I should say
She would reply, "I will"

* * * * *


Man dwells apart, though not alone,
He walks among his peers unread;
The best of thoughts which he hath known.
For lack of listeners are not said.

Yet dreaming on earth's clustered isles,
He saith "They dwell not lone like men,
Forgetful that their sunflecked smiles
Flash far beyond each other's ken."

He looks on God's eternal suns
That sprinkle the celestial blue,
And saith, "Ah! happy shining ones,
I would that men were grouped like you!"

Yet this is sure, the loveliest star
That clustered with its peers we see,
Only because from us so far
Doth near its fellows seem to be.



There's no dew left on the daisies and clover,
There's no rain left in heaven:
I've said my "seven times" over and over,
Seven times one are seven.

I am old, so old, I can write a letter;
My birthday lessons are done;
The lambs play always, they know no better;
They are only one times one.

O moon! in the night I have seen you sailing
And shining so round and low;
You were bright! ah bright! but your light is failing -
You are nothing now but a bow.

You moon, have you done something wrong in heaven
That God has hidden your face?
I hope if you have you will soon be forgiven,
And shine again in your place.

O velvet bee, you're a dusty fellow,
You've powdered your legs with gold!
O brave marsh marybuds, rich and yellow,
Give me your money to hold!

O columbine, open your folded wrapper,
Where two twin turtle-doves dwell!
O cuckoo pint, toll me the purple clapper
That hangs in your clear green bell!

And show me your nest with the young ones in it;
I will not steal them away;
I am old! you may trust me, linnet, linnet -
I am seven times one to-day.


You bells in the steeple, ring, ring out your changes,
How many soever they be,
And let the brown meadow-lark's note as he ranges
Come over, come over to me.

Yet bird's clearest carol by fall or by swelling
No magical sense conveys,
And bells have forgotten their old art of telling
The fortune of future days.

"Turn again, turn again," once they rang cheerily,
While a boy listened alone;
Made his heart yearn again, musing so wearily
All by himself on a stone.

Poor bells! I forgive you; your good days are over,
And mine, they are yet to be;
No listening, no longing shall aught, aught discover:
You leave the story to me.

The foxglove shoots out of the green matted heather,
And hangeth her hoods of snow;
She was idle, and slept till the sunshiny weather:
O, children take long to grow.

I wish, and I wish that the spring would go faster,
Nor long summer bide so late;
And I could grow on like the foxglove and aster,
For some things are ill to wait.

I wait for the day when dear hearts shall discover,
While dear hands are laid on my head;
"The child is a woman, the book may close over,
For all the lessons are said."

I wait for my story - the birds cannot sing it,
Not one, as he sits on the tree;
The bells cannot ring it, but long years, O bring it!
Such as I wish it to be.


I leaned out of window, I smelt the white clover,
Dark, dark was the garden, I saw not the gate;
"Now, if there be footsteps, he comes, my one lover -
Hush, nightingale, hush! O, sweet nightingale, wait
Till I listen and hear
If a step draweth near,
For my love he is late!

"The skies in the darkness stoop nearer and nearer,
A cluster of stars hangs like fruit in the tree,
The fall of the water comes sweeter, comes clearer:
To what art thou listening, and what dost thou see?
Let the star-clusters glow,
Let the sweet waters flow,
And cross quickly to me.

"You night-moths that hover where honey brims over
From sycamore blossoms, or settle or sleep;
You glowworms, shine out, and the pathway discover
To him that comes darkling along the rough steep.
Ah, my sailor, make haste,
For the time runs to waste,
And my love lieth deep -

"Too deep for swift telling: and yet my one lover
I've conned thee an answer, it waits thee to-night."

By the sycamore passed he, and through the white clover,
Then all the sweet speech I had fashioned took flight:
But I'll love him more, more
Than e'er wife loved before,
Be the days dark or bright.


Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups,
Fair yellow daffodils, stately and tall!
When the wind wakes how they rock in the grasses,
And dance with the cuckoo-buds slender and small!
Here's two bonny boys, and here's mother's own lasses,
Eager to gather them all.

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups!
Mother shall thread them a daisy chain;
Sing them a song of the pretty hedge-sparrow,
That loved her brown little ones, loved them full fain;
Sing, "Heart, thou art wide though the house be but narrow" -
Sing once, and sing it again.

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups,
Sweet wagging cowslips, they bend and they bow;
A ship sails afar over warm ocean waters,
And haply one musing doth stand at her prow.
O bonny brown sons, and O sweet little daughters,
Maybe he thinks on you now!

Heigh ho! daisies and buttercups,
Fair yellow daffodils, stately and tall -
A sunshiny world full of laughter and leisure,
And fresh hearts unconscious of sorrow and thrall!
Send down on their pleasure smiles passing its measure,
God that is over us all!


I sleep and rest, my heart makes moan
Before I am well awake;
"Let me bleed! O let me alone,
Since I must not break!"

For children wake, though fathers sleep
With a stone at foot and at head:
O sleepless God, forever keep,
Keep both living and dead!

I lift mine eyes, and what to see
But a world happy and fair!
I have not wished it to mourn with me -
Comfort is not there.

O what anear but golden brooms,
And a waste of reedy rills!
O what afar but the fine glooms
On the rare blue hills!

I shall not die, but live forlore -
How bitter it is to part!
O to meet thee, my love, once more!
O my heart, my heart!

No more to hear, no more to see!
O that an echo might wake
And waft one note of thy psalm to me
Ere my heart-strings break!

I should know it how faint soe'er,
And with angel voices blent;
O once to feel thy spirit anear,
I could be content!

Or once between the gates of gold,
While an angel entering trod,
But once - thee sitting to behold
On the hills of God!


To bear, to nurse, to rear,
To watch, and then to lose:
To see my bright ones disappear,
Drawn up like morning dews -
To bear, to nurse, to rear,
To watch, and then to lose:
This have I done when God drew near
Among his own to choose.

To hear, to heed, to wed,
And with thy lord depart
In tears that he, as soon as shed,
Will let no longer smart. -
To hear, to heed, to wed,
This while thou didst I smiled,
For now it was not God who said,
"Mother, give ME thy child."

O fond, O fool, and blind,
To God I gave with tears;
But when a man like grace would find,
My soul put by her fears -
O fond, O fool, and blind,
God guards in happier spheres;
That man will guard where he did bind
Is hope for unknown years.

To hear, to heed, to wed,
Fair lot that maidens choose,
Thy mother's tenderest words are said,
Thy face no more she views;
Thy mother's lot, my dear,
She doth in nought accuse;
Her lot to bear, to nurse, to rear,
To love - and then to lose.



A song of a boat: -
There was once a boat on a billow:
Lightly she rocked to her port remote,
And the foam was white in her wake like snow,
And her frail mast bowed when the breeze would blow
And bent like a wand of willow.


I shaded mine eyes one day when a boat
Went curtseying over the billow,
I marked her course till a dancing mote
She faded out on the moonlit foam,
And I stayed behind in the dear loved home;
And my thoughts all day were about the boat,
And my dreams upon the pillow.


I pray you hear my song of a boat,
For it is but short: -
My boat, you shall find none fairer afloat,
In river or port.
Long I looked out for the lad she bore,
On the open desolate sea,
And I think he sailed to the heavenly shore,
For he came not back to me -
Ah me!


A song of a nest: -
There was once a nest in a hollow:
Down in the mosses and knot-grass pressed,
Soft and warm, and full to the brim -
Vetches leaned over it purple and dim,
With buttercup buds to follow.


I pray you hear my song of a nest,
For it is not long: -
You shall never light, in a summer quest
The bushes among -
Shall never light on a prouder sitter,
A fairer nestful, nor ever know
A softer sound than their tender twitter
That wind-like did come and go.


I had a nestful once of my own,
Ah happy, happy I!
Right dearly I loved them: but when they were grown
They spread out their wings to fly -
O, one after one they flew away
Far up to the heavenly blue,
To the better country, the upper day,
And - I wish I was going too.


I pray you, what is the nest to me,
My empty nest?
And what is the shore where I stood to see
My boat sail down to the west?
Can I call that home where I anchor yet,
Though my good man has sailed?
Can I call that home where my nest was set,
Now all its hope hath failed?
Nay, but the port where my sailor went,
And the land where my nestlings be:
There is the home where my thoughts are sent,
The only home for me -
Ah me!


We reached the place by night,
And heard the waves breaking:
They came to meet us with candles alight
To show the path we were taking.
A myrtle, trained on the gate, was white
With tufted flowers down shaking.

With head beneath her wing,
A little wren was sleeping -
So near, I had found it an easy thing
To steal her for my keeping
From the myrtle-bough that with easy swing
Across the path was sweeping.

Down rocky steps rough-hewed,
Where cup-mosses flowered,
And under the trees, all twisted and rude,
Wherewith the dell was dowered,
They led us, where deep in its solitude
Lay the cottage, leaf-embowered.

The thatch was all bespread
With climbing passion-flowers;
They were wet, and glistened with raindrops, shed
That day in genial showers.
"Was never a sweeter nest," we said,
"Than this little nest of ours."

We laid us down to sleep:
But as for me - waking,
I marked the plunge of the muffled deep
On its sandy reaches breaking;
For heart-joyance doth sometimes keep
From slumber, like heart-aching.

And I was glad that night,
With no reason ready,
To give my own heart for its deep delight,
That flowed like some tidal eddy,
Or shone like a star that was rising bright
With comforting radiance steady.

But on a sudden - hark!
Music struck asunder
Those meshes of bliss, and I wept in the dark,
So sweet was the unseen wonder;
So swiftly it touched, as if struck at a mark,
The trouble that joy kept under.

I rose - the moon outshone:
I saw the sea heaving,
And a little vessel sailing alone,
The small crisp wavelet cleaving;
'Twas she as she sailed to her port unknown -
Was that track of sweetness leaving.

We know they music made
In heaven, ere man's creation;
But when God threw it down to us that strayed
It dropt with lamentation,
And ever since doth its sweetness shade
With sighs for its first station.

Its joy suggests regret -
Its most for more is yearning;
And it brings to the soul that its voice hath met,
No rest that cadence learning,
But a conscious part in the sighs that fret
Its nature for returning.

O Eve, sweet Eve! methought
When sometimes comfort winning,
As she watched the first children's tender sport,
Sole joy born since her sinning,
If a bird anear them sang, it brought
The pang as at beginning.

While swam the unshed tear,
Her prattlers little heeding,
Would murmur, "This bird, with its carol clear.
When the red clay was kneaden,
And God made Adam our father dear,
Sang to him thus in Eden."

The moon went in - the sky
And earth and sea hiding,
I laid me down, with the yearning sigh
Of that strain in my heart abiding;
I slept, and the barque that had sailed so nigh
In my dream was ever gliding.

I slept, but waked amazed,
With sudden noise frighted,
And voices without, and a flash that dazed
My eyes from candles lighted.
"Ah! surely," methought, "by these shouts upraised
Some travellers are benighted."

A voice was at my side -
"Waken, madam, waken!
The long prayed-for ship at her anchor doth ride.
Let the child from its rest be taken,
For the captain doth weary for babe and for bride -
Waken, madam, waken!

"The home you left but late,
He speeds to it light-hearted;
By the wires he sent this news, and straight
To you with it they started."
O joy for a yearning heart too great,
O union for the parted!

We rose up in the night,
The morning star was shining;
We carried the child in its slumber light
Out by the myrtles twining:
Orion over the sea hung bright,
And glorious in declining.

Mother, to meet her son,
Smiled first, then wept the rather;
And wife, to bind up those links undone,
And cherished words to gather,
And to show the face of her little one,
That had never seen its father.

That cottage in a chine
We were not to behold it;
But there may the purest of sunbeams shine,
May freshest flowers enfold it,
For sake of the news which our hearts must twine
With the bower where we were told it!

Now oft, left lone again,
Sit mother and sit daughter,
And bless the good ship that sailed over the main,
And the favoring winds that brought her;
While still some new beauty they fable and feign
For the cottage by the water.


(Written for THE PORTFOLIO SOCIETY, January, 1862.

Subject given - "Light and Shade.")

She stepped upon Sicilian grass,
Demeter's daughter fresh and fair,
A child of light, a radiant lass,
And gamesome as the morning air.
The daffodils were fair to see,
They nodded lightly on the lea,
Persephone - Persephone!

Lo! one she marked of rarer growth
Than orchis or anemone;
For it the maiden left them both,
And parted from her company.
Drawn nigh she deemed it fairer still,
And stooped to gather by the rill
The daffodil, the daffodil.

What ailed the meadow that it shook?
What ailed the air of Sicily?
She wondered by the brattling brook,
And trembled with the trembling lea.
"The coal-black horses rise - they rise:
O mother, mother!" low she cries -
Persephone - Persephone!

"O light, light, light!" she cries, "farewell;
The coal-black horses wait for me.
O shade of shades, where I must dwell,
Demeter, mother, far from thee!
Ah, fated doom that I fulfil!
Ah, fateful flower beside the rill!
The daffodil, the daffodil!"

What ails her that she comes not home?
Demeter seeks her far and wide,
And gloomy-browed doth ceaseless roam
From many a morn till eventide.
"My life, immortal though it be,
Is nought," she cries, "for want of thee,
Persephone - Persephone!

"Meadows of Enna, let the rain
No longer drop to feed your rills,
Nor dew refresh the fields again,
With all their nodding daffodils!
Fade, fade and droop, O lilied lea,
Where thou, dear heart, wert reft from me -
Persephone - Persephone!"

She reigns upon her dusky throne,
Mid shades of heroes dread to see;
Among the dead she breathes alone,
Persephone - Persephone!
Or seated on the Elysian hill
She dreams of earthly daylight still,
And murmurs of the daffodil.

A voice in Hades soundeth clear,
The shadows mourn and fill below;
It cries - "Thou Lord of Hades, hear,
And let Demeter's daughter go.
The tender corn upon the lea
Droops in her goddess gloom when she
Cries for her lost Persephone.

"From land to land she raging flies,
The green fruit falleth in her wake,
And harvest fields beneath her eyes
To earth the grain unripened shake.
Arise, and set the maiden free;
Why should the world such sorrow dree
By reason of Persephone?"

He takes the cleft pomegranate seeds:
"Love, eat with me this parting day;"
Then bids them fetch the coal-black steeds -
"Demeter's daughter, wouldst away?"
The gates of Hades set her free:
"She will return full soon," saith he -
"My wife, my wife Persephone."

Low laughs the dark king on his throne -
"I gave her of pomegranate seeds."
Demeter's daughter stands alone
Upon the fair Eleusian meads.
Her mother meets her. "Hail!" saith she;
"And doth our daylight dazzle thee,
My love, my child Persephone?

"What moved thee, daughter, to forsake
Thy fellow-maids that fatal morn,
And give thy dark lord power to take
Thee living to his realm forlorn?"
Her lips reply without her will,
As one addressed who slumbereth still -
"The daffodil, the daffodil!"

Her eyelids droop with light oppressed,
And sunny wafts that round her stir,
Her cheek upon her mother's breast -
Demeter's kisses comfort her.
Calm Queen of Hades, art thou she
Who stepped so lightly on the lea -
Persephone, Persephone?

When, in her destined course, the moon
Meets the deep shadow of this world,
And laboring on doth seem to swoon
Through awful wastes of dimness whirled -
Emerged at length, no trace hath she
Of that dark hour of destiny,
Still silvery sweet - Persephone.

The greater world may near the less,
And draw it through her weltering shade,
But not one biding trace impress
Of all the darkness that she made;
The greater soul that draweth thee
Hath left his shadow plain to see
On thy fair face, Persephone!

Demeter sighs, but sure 'tis well
The wife should love her destiny:
They part, and yet, as legends tell,
She mourns her lost Persephone;
While chant the maids of Enna still -
"O fateful flower beside the rill -
The daffodil, the daffodil!"


Old Albion sat on a crag of late.
And sang out - "Ahoy! ahoy!
Long, life to the captain, good luck to the mate.
And this to my sailor boy!
Come over, come home,
Through the salt sea foam,
My sailor, my sailor boy.

"Here's a crown to be given away, I ween,
A crown for my sailor's head,
And all for the worth of a widowed queen,
And the love of the noble dead;
And the fear and fame
Of the island's name
Where my boy was born and bred.

"Content thee, content thee, let it alone,
Thou marked for a choice so rare;
Though treaties be treaties, never a throne
Was proffered for cause as fair.
Yet come to me home,
Through the salt sea foam,
For the Greek must ask elsewhere.

"'Tis a pity, my sailor, but who can tell?
Many lands they look to me;
One of these might be wanting a Prince as well,
But that's as hereafter may be."
She raised her white head
And laughed; and she said
"That's as hereafter may be."


It was a village built in a green rent,
Between two cliffs that skirt the dangerous bay
A reef of level rock runs out to sea,
And you may lie on it and look sheer down,
Just where the "Grace of Sunderland" was lost,
And see the elastic banners of the dulse
Rock softly, and the orange star-fish creep
Across the laver, and the mackerel shoot
Over and under it, like silver boats
Turning at will and plying under water.

There on that reef we lay upon our breasts,
My brother and I, and half the village lads,
For an old fisherman had called to us
With "Sirs, the syle be come." "And what are they?"
My brother said. "Good lack!" the old man cried,
And shook his head; "To think you gentlefolk
Should ask what syle be! Look you; I can't say
What syle be called in your fine dictionaries,
Nor what name God Almighty calls them by
When their food's ready and He sends them south:
But our folk call them syle, and nought but syle,
And when they're grown, why then we call them herring.
I tell you, Sir, the water is as full
Of them as pastures be of blades of grass;
You'll draw a score out in a landing net,
And none of them be longer than a pin.

"Syle! ay, indeed, we should be badly off,
I reckon, and so would God Almighty's gulls,"
He grumbled on in his quaint piety,
"And all His other birds, if He should say
I will not drive my syle into the south;
The fisher folk may do without my syle,
And do without the shoals of fish it draws
To follow and feed on it."
This said, we made
Our peace with him by means of two small coins,
And down we ran and lay upon the reef,
And saw the swimming infants, emerald green,
In separate shoals, the scarcely turning ebb
Bringing them in; while sleek, and not intent
On chase, but taking that which came to hand,
The full-fed mackerel and the gurnet swam
Between; and settling on the polished sea,
A thousand snow-white gulls sat lovingly
In social rings, and twittered while they fed.
The village dogs and ours, elate and brave,
Lay looking over, barking at the fish;
Fast, fast the silver creatures took the bait,
And when they heaved and floundered on the rock,
In beauteous misery, a sudden pat
Some shaggy pup would deal, then back away,
At distance eye them with sagacious doubt,
And shrink half frighted from the slippery things.

And so we lay from ebb-tide, till the flow
Rose high enough to drive us from the reef;
The fisher lads went home across the sand;
We climbed the cliff, and sat an hour or more,
Talking and looking down. It was not talk
Of much significance, except for this -
That we had more in common than of old,
For both were tired, I with overwork.
He with inaction; I was glad at heart
To rest, and he was glad to have an ear
That he could grumble to, and half in jest
Rail at entails, deplore the fate of heirs,
And the misfortune of a good estate -
Misfortune that was sure to pull him down,
Make him a dreamy, selfish, useless man:
Indeed he felt himself deteriorate
Already. Thereupon he sent down showers
Of clattering stones, to emphasize his words,
And leap the cliffs and tumble noisily
Into the seething wave. And as for me,
I railed at him and at ingratitude,
While rifling of the basket he had slung
Across his shoulders; then with right good will
We fell to work, and feasted like the gods,
Like laborers, or like eager workhouse folk
At Yuletide dinner; or, to say the whole
At once, like tired, hungry, healthy youth,
Until the meal being o'er, the tilted flask
Drained of its latest drop, the meat and bread
And ruddy cherries eaten, and the dogs
Mumbling the bones, this elder brother of mine -
This man, that never felt an ache or pain
In his broad, well-knit frame, and never knew
The trouble of an unforgiven grudge,
The sting of a regretted meanness, nor
The desperate struggle of the unendowed
For place and for possession - he began
To sing a rhyme that he himself had wrought;
Sending it out with cogitative pause,
As if the scene where he had shaped it first
Had rolled it back on him, and meeting it
Thus unaware, he was of doubtful mind
Whether his dignity it well beseemed
To sing of pretty maiden:

Goldilocks sat on the grass,
Tying up of posies rare;
Hardly could a sunbeam pass
Through the cloud that was her hair.
Purple orchis lasteth long,
Primrose flowers are pale and clear;
O the maiden sang a song
It would do you good to hear!

Sad before her leaned the boy,
"Goldilocks that I love well,
Happy creature, fair and coy,
Think o' me, sweet Amabel."
Goldilocks she shook apart,
Looked with doubtful, doubtful eyes;
Like a blossom in her heart,
Opened out her first surprise.

As a gloriole sign o' grace,
Goldilocks, ah fall and flow,
On the blooming, childlike face,
Dimple, dimple, come and go.
Give her time; on grass and sky
Let her gaze if she be fain:
As they looked ere he drew nigh,
They will never look again.

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Online LibraryJean IngelowPoems by Jean Ingelow, In Two Volumes, Volume I → online text (page 7 of 18)