John Freeman.

Poems New and Old online

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And your long stems in a bright wind are leaping
Over me uneasily sleeping.

O cover me, long gentle grasses,
As one day over a quiet flesh
You will shake, shake and dance and sing;
And body too still and spirit astir
Will hear you in every firm bright wind that passes
Over you, loved green grasses.


So fair, that all the morning aches
With such monotony!
So brief, that sadness breaks
The brittle spell.

Nothing so fair, nothing so brief:
The sun leaps up and falls.
The wind tosses every leaf:
Every leaf dies.

Blossom, a white cloud in the air,
Is blown like a cloud away.
Must all be brief, being fair?
Nothing remain?

Yes, night and that high regiment
Of stars that wheel and march,
Ever their bright lines bent
To a secret thought;

Moving immutable, bright and grave,
Fair beyond all things fair;
Though all else vanish, save
Imagination's dream.



Eve goes slowly
Dancing lightly
Clad with shadow up the hills;
Birds their singing
Cease at last, and silence
Falling like fine rain the valley fills.

Not a bat's cry
Stirs the stillness
Perfect as broad water sleeping,
Not a moth's wings
Flit in the gathering darkness,
Not a mouselike moonray ev'n comes creeping.

Then a light shines
From the casement,
Wreathed with jasmine boughs and stars,
Palely golden
As the late eve's primrose,
Glimmers through green leafy prison bars.


Only joy now
Come in silence,
Come before your look's forgot;
Come and hearken
While the lonely shadow
Broadens on the hill and then is not.

Now the hour is,
Here the place is,
Here am I who saw thee here.
Evening darkens
All is still and marvellous,
Now the sharp stars in the deep sky peer.

Come and fill me
As the wind fills
Leafy wide boughs of a tree;
Come and windlike
Cleanse my slumbrous branches,
Come and moonlike bathe the leaves of me.


Eve has gone and
Night follows,
Every bush is now a ghost;
Every tree looms
Lofty large and sombre;
All day's simple friendliness is lost.

See the poplars
Black in blackness,
In all their leaves there is no sigh.
'Neath that darkling
Cedar who dare wander
Now, or under the vast oak would lie!...

Till that tingling
Silence broken
Every clod renews its breath;
Birds, leaves, grasses
Heave as one, then sleep on
Full of sweeter sleep and unlike death.


Only joy now
Come like music
Falling clear from strings of light;
Come like shadow
Drinking up late sunrays,
Come like moonrays sweeping the round night.

See how night is
Opening flowerlike:
Open so thy bosom to me.
See how earth falls
Easeful into silence:
Let my moth-wing'd thought so fall on thee.

While the lamp's beam
Primrose golden
Now is like a shifting spear
Borne in battle,
Seen awhile then hidden,
Bold then beaten - now long lost, and here!


The tall slaves bow if that capricious King
But glances as he passes;
Their dark hoods drawing over abashed faces
They bow humbly, unappealingly.
The dark robes round their shuddering bodies cling,
They bow and but whisper as he passes.

They have not learned to look into his eyes,
If he insults to answer,
To stand with head erect and angry arching bosom:
They bow humbly, unappealingly,
As though he mastered earth and the violet inky skies,
And whisper piteously for only answer.

So they stand, tall slaves, ashamed of their great height,
And if he comes raving,
Shouting from the west, furious and moody,
They bow more humbly, unappealingly,
Ashamed to remember how they lived in that calm light;
They droop until he passes, tired of raving.

Only when he's gone they lift their darkened brows,
Light comes back to their eyes,
Their leaves caress the light, the light laves their branches,
They move loverlike, appealingly;
Slaves now no more the poplars lift and shake their boughs,
And there's a heaven of evening in their eyes.


In the hush of early even
The clouds came flocking over,
Till the last wind fell from heaven
And no bird cried.

Darkly the clouds were flocking,
Shadows moved and deepened,
Then paused; the poplar's rocking
Ceased; the light hung still

Like a painted thing, and deadly.
Then from the cloud's side flickered
Sharp lightning, thrusting madly
At the cowering fields.

Thrice the fierce cloud lighten'd,
Down the hill slow thunder trembled;
Day in her cave grew frightened,
Crept away, and died.


Here in the shade of the tree
The hours go by
Silent and swift,
Lightly as birds fly.
Then the deep clouds broaden and drift,
Or the cloudless darkness and the worn moon.
Waking, the dreamer knows he is old,
And the day that he dreamed was gone
Is gone.


Within the greenhouse dim and damp
The heat floats like a cloud.
Pale rose-leaves droop from the rust roof
With rust-edged roses bowed.
As I go in
Out flies the startled wren.

By the tall dark fir tree he sings
Morn after morn still,
Shy and bold he flits and sings
Tinily sweet and shrill.
As I go out
His song follows me about ...

About the orchard under trees
Beaded with cherries bright,
Past the rat-haunted Honeybourne
And up those hills of light:
As up I go
His notes more sweetly flow.

Or down those dark hills when night's there
Full of dark thoughts and deep,
A thin clear soundless music comes
Like stars in broken sleep.
When I come down
All those dark thoughts are flown.

And now that sweetness is more sweet,
Here where the aeroplanes
Labouring and groaning in the height
Lift their lifeless vans: -
Sweet, sweet to hear
The far off wren singing clear.


In these green fields, in this green spring,
In this green world of burning sweet
That drives its sour from everything
And burns the Arctic with new heat,
That seems so slow and flies so fleet
On half-seen wing;

In this green world the birds are all
With motion mad, are wild with song;
The grass leaps like a sudden wall
Flung up against a foe that long
Strode round and wrought his frosty wrong.
The bright winds call,

The bright winds answer; the clouds rise
White from the grave, shaking their head,
Strewing the grave-clothes through the skies,
In languid drifting shadow shed
Upon the fields where, slowly spread,
Each shadow dies.

In every wood is green and gold,
The unbridged river runs all green
With queenly swan-clouds floating bold
Down to the mill's swift guillotine.
Beyond the mill each murdered queen
Floats white and cold.

- If I could rise up in a cloud
And look down on the new earth in flight,
Shadow-like cast my thought's thin shroud
Back upon these fields of light;
And hear the winds of day and night
Meet, singing loud!


Over the pool of sleep
The night mists creep,
Then faint thin light and then clear day,
Noontide, and lingering afternoon;
Then that Wanderer, the Moon
Wandering her old wild way.

How many spirits follow
Her in that dark hollow!
Like a lost lamb she roams on high
Through the cold and soundless sky,
And stares down into her deep
Reflection in the pool of sleep.

How many follow
Her in that lone hollow!
She sees them not nor would she hear
Though both shape and sound were clear,
But stares, stares into the pool
Of her fear and beauty full.

Far in strange gay skies
She pales and dies,
Forgetting that bright transitory
Reflection of astonished glory,
Nor heeds the spirits that follow
Her into day's bright hollow.


There is a garden where the seeded stems of thin long grass are bowed
Beneath July's slow rains and heat and tired children's trailing feet;
And the trees' neglected branches droop and make a cloud beneath the cloud,
And in that dark the crimson dew of raspberries shines more sweet than

The flower of the tall acacia's gone, the acacia's flower is white no more,
The aspen lifts his pithless arms, the aspen leaves are close and still;
The wind that tossed the clouds along, gray clouds and white like feathers
Lets even a feather faintly fall and smoke spread hugely where it will.

But though the acacia's flower is gone and raspberries bear bright fruit
Beauty lives there, oh rich and rare, past the sum of eager June.
The lime tree's pyramid of flower and leaf and yellow flower unwasted
Rises at eve and bars the breast wild-heaving of the timid moon.

Now the tall pear-trees unrebuked lift their green fingers to the sky;
Their lower boughs are crossed like arms of templars in long stony sleep.
Their arms are crossed as though the wind, returning from wild war on high,
Had touched them with an angry breath, or whispered from his cavern deep.

A foxglove lifts her bells and bells silent above the singing grass,
Still the old marigold her light sprinkles like riches to the poor.
Snapdragon still his changeling blossom shakes with the burden of the bees,
And the strong bindweed creeps and winds and springs on high a conqueror.

* * * * *

Would now her eyes grieve to behold snapdragon, foxglove, marigold
Daily diminish in their sweet and bindweed wreathing over all -
Weed and grass and weed and grass, friendless, melancholy, cold,
Wreathing the earth like wreathing snow from bare wall to low greening

Old were her eyes that lingered on old trees and grass and flowers trim.
She smelt the ripe pears when they drooped and fell and broke upon the
Old were her thoughts of things of old; her present thoughts were few and
Her eyes saw not the things she saw; she listened, to no living breath.

Her youth and prime and autumn time bloomed in her thought all light and
No wallflower more of sweet could hold, of sunny light no marigold.
Fruit on her mind's boughs ripened full, in summer's and calm autumn's
Then fell, for there came none to pick; but winter came, and she was old.

Now if her sons come they will find - not her: her empty garden only,
The wallflower done and snapdragon still swinging with the greedy bees,
Marigold glittering in the grass, scant foxglove ringing faintly, lonely,
Close red fruit beading the long boughs and bindweed wreathing where it

A tawny lean cat _Marmalade_ slinks like a panther through the tall
Thin bending grass and watches long a scholar thrush rehearsing song;
Or children running in the sun hunt and hunt a well lost ball;
But most the garden sleeps away the day, but still, when eves are long,

When eves are long and no moon rises, and nervous, still, is all the air,
That small stiff figure moves again, silent amid the hushing grass;
In the firm-carven lime tree's shade she moves, and meets her old thoughts
Then in the deepening dark is lost, or her light steps unnoted pass.

Only that careless garden keeps secure her memory though it sleeps,
And the bright flowers and tyrant weed and tall grass shaking its loud seed
Less lovely were if wanting her who like a living thought still creeps
And sees what once she saw and music hears of her living sons and dead.


That lime tree on the distant rising ground
(If it was a lime tree) showed her yellow leaves
Above the renewed green of wet August grass -
First Autumn yellow that on first Autumn eves
Too soon was found.

Comfortless lime tree! Scarce an aspen leaf
Like a green butterfly flitted to the ground;
There was no sign of Autumn in the grass.
Even the long garden beds their beauty brief -
Their mignonette,

Nasturtium and sweet-william and red stocks,
And clover crouching in the border grass,
And blood-like fuschia, eve's primrose and white phlox
And honeysuckle - waved all their smell and hue
Morn and eve anew.

But that far lime tree yellowing by the oak,
Warning oak, elm and poplar and each fresh tree
Shaking in the south wind delightedly,
And clover in the closeness of the grass,
Warns also me.

And now when all the trees are standing still
Beneath the purple and white of the west sky,
And time is standing still - as stand it will -
That early yellowing lime with palsied fingers
Cannot be still.


Thou shaking thy dark shadows down,
Like leaves before the first leaves fall,
Pourest upon the head of night
Her loveliest loveliness of all -
Dark leaves that tremble
When soft airs unto softer call.

O, darker, softer fall her thoughts
Upon the cold fields of my mind,
Weaving a quiet music there
Like leaf-shapes trembling in least wind:
Dark thoughts that linger
When the light's gone and the night's blind.

I see her there beneath your boughs.
Dark chestnut, though you see her not;
Her white face and white hands are clear
As the moon in your stretched arms caught;
But stranger, clearer,
The living shadows of her thought.


Ah, bird singing late in the gloam
While the evening shadow thickens,
And the dizzy bat-wings roam,
And the faint starlight quickens;

And her bud eve's primrose bares
Before night's cold fingers come:
Thine are such lonely airs,
Bird singing late in the gloam!


It covered all
The cold east wall,
Its green, thin gold, purple, brown,
And flame running up and down;
Lifting its quiet bosom to every wind that crept
Up the high wall and in its darkness slept.
Then when the wind slept all the creeper turned
To undiminishing fire that burned and burned and burned.

But one black night
(For not in the light
May such treacheries be done)
Came with dishonoured weapon one
And cut the stem just where the branches thin
Their million-leaf'd wild wandering begin:
Cut the firm stem quite through, and so it bled,
And all the million leaves shivered and hung there dead.

The wall how cold,
The house how old
Became when that warm bright fire died,
And the fond wind could no more hide.
And it was strange that so much death could be
From one dark night-hour's darker felony;
And how the leaves being dead could not cast down
Their colours in bright pools of red and gold and brown.

- It did not die,
But flamed on high
Morn after morn, even when white snow
Covered all brightness, high and low;
And in the night when the snow glimmered wan
Still beautiful as a fire its brightness shone:
Its million quiet leaves quivering in my mind,
When from no earthly meadows crept the remembered wind.


They stood like men that hear immortal speech
Moving among their branches, and like trees
We stood and watched them, and in our still branches
Echoes of that immortal music stirred.
October days had touched their breasts with light,
With yellow light and red light and wan green;
And the gray cloud that grew from low to high
Made the warm light more warm, the green more wan.
We stood and watched them and in our still branches
We felt the warm light glow, though now the rain
Was loud upon the leaves.
And standing there
You cried, "O, that sweet smell, where is the fire?
Where is the fire?" For sharp upon the rain
The smell came of a wood fire and clung round
Hanging upon our branches, till we saw
No more those lighted trees nor heard the rain -
Knew only the deep echoes and the smell
Of a wood fire that breathed its smoke across
From some near hearth, or undiscovered world.


The red sun stared unwinking at the East
Then slept under a cloak of hodden gray;
The rimy fields held the last light of day,
A little tender yet. And I remember
How black against the pale and wintry west
Stood the confused great army of old trees,
Topping that lean, enormous-shouldered hill
With crossing lances shivering and then still.
I looked as one that sees
Queens passing by and lovelier than he dreamed,
With fringe of silver light following their feet,
And all those lances vail'd, and solemn Knights
Watching their Queens as with eyes grave and sweet
They left for the gray fields those airy heights.
Nothing had lovelier seemed -
Not April's noise nor the early dew of June,
Nor the calm languid cow-eyed Autumn Moon,
Nor ruffling woods the greenest I remember -
Than this pale light and dark of cold December.


On the wide fields the water gleams like snow,
And snow like water pale beneath pale sky,
When old and burdened the white clouds are stooped low.
Sudden as thought, or startled near bird's cry,
The whiteness of first light on hills of snow
New dropped from skiey hills of tumbling white
Streams from the ridge to where the long woods lie;
And tall ridge-trees lift their soft crowns of white
Above slim bodies all black or flecked with snow.
By the tossed foam of the not yet frozen brook
Black pigs go straggling over fields of snow;
The air is full of snow, and starling and rook
Are blacker amid the myriad streams of light.
Warm as old fire the Red House burns yet bright
Beneath the unmelting snows of pine and larch,
While February moves as slow, as slow
As Spring might never come, never come March.

Amid such snows, by generations haunted,
By echoes, memories and dreams enchanted,
Firm when dark winds through the night stamp and shout,
Brightest when time silvers the world all about,
That old house called _The Heart_ burns, burns, and still
Outbraves the mortal threat of the hanging hill.


The dead white on the fields' dead white
Turned the peace to misery.
Tall bony trees their wild arms thrust
Into the cold breast of the night.
Brightly the stars shone in their dust.
The hard wind's gust
Scratched like a bird the frozen snow.

Against the dead light grew the gold,
Lifting its beam to that high dust;
The lamp within the hut's small pane
Called the world to life again.
Arms of the trees atremble thrust
Defiance at the cold
Night of narrow shrouding snow.

A human beam, small spear of light,
Lifting its beauty to that high
Indifference of starry dust.
The aching trees were comforted,
And their brave arms more deeply thrust
Into the sky.
Earth's warm light fingered the dead snow.


A gray day and quiet,
With slow clouds of gray,
And in dull air a cloud that falls, falls
All day.

The naked and stiff branches
Of oak, elm, thorn,
In the cold light are like men aged and

Only a gray sky,
Grass, trees, grass again,
And all the air a cloud that drips, drips,
All day.

Lovely the lonely
Bare trees and green grass -
Lovelier now the last hours of slow winter
Slowly pass.


That you might happier be than all the rest,
Than I who have been happy loving you,
Of all the innocent even the happiest -
This I beseeched for you.

Until I thought of those unending skies -
Of stagnant cloud, or fleckless dull blue air,
Of days and nights delightless, no surprise,
No threat, no sting, no fear;

And of the stirless waters of the mind,
Waveless, unfurrowed, of no living hue,
With dead eaves dropping slowly in no wind,
And nothing flowering new.

And then no more I wished you happiness,
But that whatever fell of joy or woe
I would not dare, O Sweet, to wish it less,
Or wish you less than you.


Flesh and blood, bone and skin,
Are the house that beauty lives in.
Formed in darkness, grown in light
Are they the substance of delight.
Who could have dreamed the things he sees
In these strong lovely presences -
In cheeks of children, thews of men,
Women's bodies beloved of men?
Who could have dreamed a thing so wise
As that clear look of the child's eyes?
Who the thin texture of her hand
But with a hand's touch understand?
Shaped in eternity were these
Body's miracles, where the seas
Their continuous rhythm learned,
And the stars in their bright order burned.
From stars and seas was motion caught
When flesh, blood, bone and skin were wrought
Into swift lovely liveliness.
Oh, but beauty less and less
Than beauty grows. The cheeks fall in,
Colour dies from the smooth skin,
And muscles slack and bones are brittle;
Veins and arteries little by little
Delay the tides of the blood:
That is a ditch that was a flood.
Then all but dry bones disappears,
White bones that lie a hundred years
Cheated of resurrection....
Where is that beauty gone?
Escaped even while we watched it so,
And none guessed the way it would go?
Only it's fled, and here alone
Lie blood and skin and flesh and bone.
Where is the beauty that was here?
- Nowhere, everywhere.


Bind up, bind up your dark bright hair
And hide the smouldering sunken fire.
Let it be held no more than fair,
Nor yourself guess how rare, how rare
Its movement, colour and deep fire.

Your eyes they have their consciousness,
Your lips their grave reflective smile,
Your hands their cunning for distress:
Your hair has only beauteousness
And hid flame for its only guile.

That glowing hair on shoulders white
Is pride past sum: take care, take care!
Even to dream of wish'd delight
Too much perturbs the ebb of night -
Bind up, bind up your burning hair!


Thy hand my hand,
Thine eyes my eyes,
All of thee
Caught and confused with me:
My hand thy hand
My eyes thine eyes,
All of me
Sunken and discovered anew in thee....

No: still
A foreign mind,
A thought
By other yet uncaught;
A secret will
Strange as the wind:
The heart of thee
Bewildering with strange fire the heart in me.

Hand touches hand,
Eye to eye beckons,
But who shall guess
Another's loneliness?
Though hand grasp hand
Though the eye quickens,
Still lone as night
Remain thy spirit and mine, past touch and sight.


How could I know, how could I guess
That here was your great happiness -
In mine? And how could I know
Your love infinite must grow?

Suddenly at dawn I wake
To see the cruse of colour break
Over the East, and then the gray
Creep up with light of common day ...
No, no, no! again that bright
Flashing, flushing, flooding light
Leading on day, until I ache
With love to see the dark world wake.

O, with such second flood your love
Painted my earth and heaven above,
With such wild magnificence
As bruised my heart in every sense,
In every nerve. Was ever man
Fit this renewed love to sustain?

Now in these days when Autumn's leaf
Is red and gold, and for a brief
Day the earth flowers ere it dies,
What if Spring came with new surprise,
Came ere the aspen shivered bare
Or the beech coins glittered in cold air,
Before the rough wind the maple stripped
And this bare moon on bare boughs stepped!
Vain thought - O, yet not wholly vain:
Even to me Love has come again,
Moving from your quick breast where he
Fluttered in his wondering infancy.


Your face has lost
The clearness it once wore,
And your brow smooth and white
Its look of light;
Your eyes that were
So careless, are how deep with care!

O, what has done
This cruelty to you?
Is it only Time makes strange
Your look with change,
Or something more
Than the worst pang Time ever bore? -

Regret, regret!
So bitter that it changes
Bright youth to madness,
Poisoning mere sadness ...
O, vain glass that shows
Less than the bitterness the heart knows.


I know how fire burns,
How from the wrangling fumes
Rose and amber blooms,
And slowly dies.

Nothing's so swift as fire,
There's nothing alive so fierce.
The lifted lances pierce,
Sink, and upspring.

Like an Indian sword it leaps
Out of the smoking sheath.
Even the winged feet of death
Learn speed from fire;

And pain its cunning learns;
Languor its sweet
From the decaying heat
That never dies.

I know how fire burns
Unguessed, save for tears,
When the thousand-fanged flame spears
The body's guard;

Or when the mind, the mind
Is ever-glowing wood,
And fire runs in the blood
Lunatic, blind;

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Online LibraryJohn FreemanPoems New and Old → online text (page 5 of 11)