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William Barnes.

Poems of rural life in common English online

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To muffled people passing by,

£



50



WELL TO DO

For we had flames before our feet,
And on our board, both meal and meat;
Both meal and meat upon our board,
Without a stint, could we afford.
So well were we to do.

When snow was deep, for our few sheep,
And made their whitest wool look brown,
And cold-pinched cows, below white boughs,
Had no wami ground to lay them down.
Then I'd a roof for ev'ry head.
For ev'ry hide a strawen bed,
A strawen bed for ev'ry hide.
And cribs of hay all fill'd with pride.
So well was I to do.

When clad anew, from crown to shoe,
The children walk'd with prouder pace,
And you might tell, or only spell.
Of what would suit your shape or face.



WELL TO DO SI

And you came out, and look'd so fine,
I felt quite proud to call you mine,
To call you mine I felt quite proud,
Before our friends, or in a crowd,
When we were well to do.



E 2



52



THE GROVE

'TwAS there in summer down the grove,
Where I and long-lost friends would rove,
Where then the gravelbedded brook,
O'ershaded under hanging boughs,
On-trickled round the quiet nook,
Or lay in pools for thirsty cows.

And here arc still the stones we trod,
In stepping o'er the stream, dryshod,
And here are leaves that lie all dead.
About the lofty-headed tree,
AVherc leaves then quiver'd overhead,
All playfully alive as we.



THE GROVE 53

While now, by moonlight, nightwinds keen,

May shake the ivy, ever green,

By this old wall, and hemlocks dry

May rattle by the leafless thorn,

I still can fancy people by

That T have lost, to live forlorn.



54



WHEN WE WERE YOUNG TOGETHER

JOHN AND FRIEND

J. When we, all friends, in manhood's prime,
Did meet, work free, with weather fine ;
And you had made, at evening time,
Your work-day good, as I had mine.
Then one would call, as he might come.
To fetch another out from home :

' Come out a while with me.'
' Aye, I shall soon be free.'
' How long have I to wait ? '
' Why, I am coming straight.'
Fr. Aye, aye, 'twas so, we did, I know.
When we were young together.



WHEN WE WERE YOUNG TOGETHER 55

J. While summer days might slowly run,

Through noons of shrunken shades, and heat,
And we, well-brown'd below the sun.
Might meet, and call as we might meet :
' Hallo ! wliy you but seldom come

For me.' ' Nor you for me at home.'
' Well, where's your road to night?
' Where you should go by right '
' Shall I be welcome there % '
' To one, I'd nearly swear.'
Fr. Aye, aye, like that, we used to chat.
When wc were young together.

/. Then we, with many dear old names.
Would meet within some neighbour's door,
And man antl maid, in merry games,
Would spring and scuff about the floor.
If one might speak a little tart.
Another's answer was as smart.



56 WHEN WE WERE YOUNG TOGETHER

' With whom are you to go ?
' Here face to face in row.'
' Here, now we'll dance a reel,'
' Well foot it, toe and heel.'
-Fr. Aye, there we danced.
And hopp'd and pranced,
When we were young together.

/. Then we in all our pride, would try
Wliich man could run, or leap the best,
Or lift the greatest weight, or shy
A pebble truer than the rest.
' Who'll walk along these narrow poles ? '
' Not you, my lad, with your splay soles,'
' Now, you can't hit that stone.'
' I can, liiJiee-it. Well done !
' Well, you can't clear the brook.'
' Oh, can't I then ? You look.'
Fr. And down he dash'd, as water splash'd,
When we were young together.



WHEN WE WERE YOUNG TOGETHER 57

In summer time we went to take
Our picnic, by the castle walls,
And play'd our games beside the lake,
Where swam the swans, by waterfalls ;
And there, for merry pranks did crawl.
About the trees, or broken wall.

' Here, see how high am I.'

' Well here am I, as high.'

' You can't climb down, old boy.'

' I can, I'll bet'—' Heigh ! hoy !'
Fi: And downi he fell, you need not tell,
When we were young together.



58



THE FIELD PATH

Here sounded words of dear old folk,

Of this dear ground,

Where ivy wound
About this ribbed oak.

And still their words, their words now gone,
Are dear to me that linger on.

And here, as comely forms would pass.

Their shades would slide

Below their side,
Along the flow'ry grass.

And now, their shades, their sliades now gone,
Still hallow ground they fell upon.



THE FIELD PATH 59

But could they come where then they stroU'd,

However young

Might sound their tongue,
Their shades would show them old.
So sweet are shades, the shades now shown,
The shades of trees they all have known.

These ashen poles that shine so tall,

Are still too young

To have upsprung
In days when I was small ;
But you, stout oak, you, oak so stout,
Were here when my first moon ran out.



6o



THE PARROCK

Within the parrock in a nook,

By high-shot ehn-trees all around

Its sides, where upper tree-boughs shook

In wind that hardly sank to gi^ound,

By bough, by cow.
With pail and stool, when air was cool,
^ We sat in parrock, in the nook.

And there, as evening shades might fall.
From elms along the western rank.
Or else, as moonlight, from the tall-
Stemm'd trees, might reach the eastern bank,

By ledge, by hedge.
We then would walk, or sit and talk.
Within the parrock in a nook.



THE PARROCK 6i

Where bright by day the grass may look,
Where cool the shade may fall at noon,
Where dark is yet our shady nook,
Or pale the ground below the moon,

By tump, by hump,
I still would go, with one I know,
Within the parrock, in a nook.



62



SING AGAIN TOGETHER

Since now, once more beside this mound,
We friends are here below the limes.
Come, let us try if we can sound
A song we sang in early times.

When out among the hay in mead,
Or o'er the fields, or down the lane.
Our Jenny's voice would gaily lead
The others, chiming strain by strain.

When roses' buds are all outblown,
The lilies' cups will open white.
When lilies' cups, at last, are flown,
The later pinks unfold to sight.



SING AGAIN TOGETHER 63

We learnt good songs that came out new,
But now are old among the young,
And, after we are gone, but few
Will know tlie songs that we have sung.

So let us sing another rhyme

On this old mound in summer time.



64



SEASON TOKENS

The shades may show the tmie of day,
And flowers, how summer wanes away.

Where thyme on turfy banks may grow,
Or mallows, by the laneside ledge.
About the blue-barr'd gate, may show
Their grey-blue heads, beside the hedge,
Or where the poppy's scarlet crown
May nod by clover, dusky red,
Or where the field is ruddy brown.
By brooks, with shallow-water "d bed.

The shades may show the time of day.
And llow'rs, how summer wanes away.



SEASON' TOKENS. 65

Or, where the Hght of dying day,
May softly shine against the wall,
Below the sloping thatch, brown-grey,
Or over pale-green grass, may fall.
Or where, in fields that heat bums dry.
May show the thistle's i)urple studs,
Or beds of dandelions ply
Their stems with yellow fringed buds.

There shades may show the time of day,
And flowers, how summer wanes away.



66



NOT FAR TO GO

As upland fields were sunburnt brown,
And heat-dried brooks were running small,
And sheep were gather'd, panting all,
Below the hawthorn on the down ;
The while my mare, with dipping head,
Pull'd on my cart, above the bridge ;
I saw come on, beside the ridge,
A maiden, white in skin and thread,
And walking, with an elbow load.
The way I drove, along my road.

As there, with comely steps, up hill
She rose by elm-trees, all in ranks,
From shade to shade, by flow'ry banks.
Where flew the bird with whistling bill,



NOT FAR TO GO 67

I kindly said, ' Now won't you ride,
This burning weather, up the knap?
T have a seat that fits tlie trap, —
And now is swung from side to side.'
' O no,' she cried, ' I thank you, no.
I've Httle farther now to go.'

Then, up the timber'd slope, I found
The prettiest house, a good day's ride
Would bring you by, with porch and side.
By rose and jessamine well bound.
And near at hand, a spring and pool.
With laA\Ti well sunn'd and bower cool :
And while the wicket fell behind
Her steps, I thought, if I would find
A wife, I need not blush to show,
I've little farther now to go.



F 2



68



CHANGES

And oh ! what changes we all know,
Long years can bring in one small place,
In names and shapes, from face to face.
As souls will come and souls will go :
And here, where hills have all stood fast,
While babes have come and men have pass'd,
The wind-stream softly seems to sigh,
' Man's Hfetime glides away as L'

The child may open here his eyes,
Long miles away to live a man,
The mother here may end her span
Of life, where no dear daughter lies.



CHANGES 69

As time steals on, fiom day to day,
And nothing stands at one same stay.
The wind-blast softly seems to sigh,
' Man's lifetime glides away as I.'

As clapper-sounded bells ring fast,
They tell the moments out, and clocks
That slowly sound by knocks on knocks.
May tell how daily hours have pass'd ;
In Sunday chimes a week is fled,
In Easter knells a year is dead,
And airy bell-sounds seem to say.
Like us man's lifetime glides away.



70



DEADNESS OF THE COUNTRY

O NO, 'twas lifeless here, he said,
To him the place seem'd all but dead,
Stone-dead, he said, but why so dead,
On lands with chirping birds on wing.
And rooks on high, with blackbirds nigh,
And swallows wheeling round in ring,
And fish to swim, where waters roam,
By bridge and rock to fall in foam.



71



THE BENCH BY THE GARDEN WALL

As day might cool, and in the pool,
The sliaded waves might ripple dim,
We used to walk, or sit in talk.
Below the limetree's leaning limb,
Where willows' drooping boughs might foil
Around us, near the garden wall.

Where children's heads on evening beds.
In dull-ear'd sleep were settled sound,
The moon's bright ring would slowly si)ring,
From down behind the woody mound.
With light that slanted down on all •
The willows nigh the garden wall.



72 THE BENCH BY THE GARDEN WALL

By roof-eaves spread up over head,
There clung the wren's brown nest of hay,
And wind would make the ivy shake,
And your dark locks of hair to play,
As you would tell the news of all
The day, beside the garden wall.

The while might run, the summer sun,

On high, above the green-tree'd land,

Few days would come, for jaunts from home.

And none without some work on hand,

Yet we enjoy'd at eveningfall.

Our bench beside the garden Avail.

Our flow'rs would blow, our fruit would grow,
To hang in air, or lie on ground.
Our bees would hum, or go and come
By small-door'd hives, well hackled round ;
All this we had, and over all
Our bench beside the garden wall.



73



THE STONE N STEPS

A MAN AND HIS FRIEND

M. These stonen steps that stand so true
With tread on tread, a foot-reach wide,
Have always dimb'd the sloping side
Of this steep ledge, for nie and you ;
Had people built the steps before
They turn'd the arch of our old door ?
Were these old stairs laid down by man,
Before the bridge's arched sjxm 1
Did workmen set these stones so trim
Before they built the spire so slim ?

Er. Ah ! who can tell Avhen first — aye who, —
These steps first bore a shoe.



74 THE STONEN STEPS

M. And here, beside the sloping hump,
From stone to stone with faces flat.
The httlefooted children pat,
And heavy-booted men-folk clump ;
But which the last may beat a shoe.
On these old stones, shall I or you %
Which little boy of mine shall climb
These well-worn steps, the last in time %
Which girl, childquick, or womanslow,
Shall walk the Ust these stones in row ?

Fr. Aye, who among us now can know
Who last shall come or go?

M. The road leads on, below these blocks
To yonder springhead's stony cove,
And Meldon Hall ; and elm-tree grove,
And mill, beside the foamy rocks.
And up these well-worn blocks of stone
I came when I first ran alone,



THE STONEN STEPS 75

The stonen stairs beclimb'd the mound,
Ere father put a foot to ground,
'Twas up the steps his father came,
To make his mother change her name.
Fr. Aye, who can ever tell what pairs
Of feet once trod the stairs %



76



ON THE HILL



HUSBAND AND WIFE



H. Why 'tis nice on the hill, at the time of the year
When the summer is in, and the weather is clear,
WTien the flow'rs at our feet are all blossoming gay.
And the fields down below us are grey with the hay,
Hallo ! why 'tis steep, and you pant. Will you stop ?

And look down around.

At rest on the ground,

Where thyme is outspread

In a bed, on the mound.

Over yonder, how glittering sway the treetops,
All glowing with sunliglit that shoots by the copse.



Oy THE IHLL 77

Where bluebells in white-clouded May-time bestrew
The wood-shelter'd glade in a sheet of pale blue.
You are cold in tlie shoulders, then, Put on your

shawl.
W. There Brown's folk all guide
Their new boat for a ride.
You may see their oars play
With the spray at the side.

H. Out there are the hawthorns, where blossoms now
fade,
Some here, and some there, with less shelter than

shade.
The old ones, like fathers, now ready to fall ;
The younger, like children, from greater to small ;
And some are as prim as a man in his prime.
And some with their shroud
That west winds have bow'd,
As eastward they set
Witli their wet-shedding cloud.



78 ON THE HILL

W. Well now here we are, on the uppermost ground,
"Where the thyme-bedded hillocks are swelling so round.
But what place is this with the banks lying low.
And the big mossy flintstones in straight-reaching row.
H. Why here, by the tale that poor father would tell,
A beacon did stand.
To light with a brand.
And call men to blows
If their foes were to land.

There's a cloud o'er the lowland, that floats at our

height.
With its shadow o'ersweeping the ground in its flight,
W. Now it climbs o'er the tow'r, now o'ershadows the
boughs.
Now it leaps o'er the stream, now it darkens the cows,
'Tis now on the rook'ry, and now on the ricks,
And now comes to catch
Up our own little hatch,
And shade from the sun
The red tun on our thatch.



OiV THE HILL 79

W. There's a man on a horse, oh ! he spurs him well on,
Is somebody ill then ? or where is he gone %
There's a maid by the buttercups there, — and 'tis who ?
Jane Hine I can tell by her skirt of pale blue ;
And now she is slipping along by the slope,

And now she looks round

In a fright, at the sound.

Of the bull that is blaring

And tearing the ground.



8o



THE OLD CLOCK

That old clock's face yet keeps its place,

And wheels its hands around,

His bob still swings, his bell still rings,

As when I heard his sound,

On leaving home so long ago.

And left him ticking, ticking slow.

No rust yet clogs its catching cogs,

To keep its wheels all still,

No blow e'er fell to crack his bell,

That hourly ringles shrill.

I wish my life were guided on

As true as that old clock has gone.



THE OLD CLOCK 8i

Who now may wind his chain, untwin'd

In running out his hours,

Or make a gloss to shine across

His door, with golden flow'rs,

Since he has sounded out the last

Still hours our dear good mother pass'd.



82



THE WIND UP THE STREAM

The shaded river ran below

A ledge, with elms that stood in row,

By leafy ivy-stems intwin'd,

In light that shot from rind to rind ;

And winds that play'd, now brisk, now slack.

Against the stream, were driving back

The running waves, and made them seem

To show an upward-flowing stream :

As man, while hope beguiles him, thinks

His life is rising while it sinks.



83



WORK AND WAIT

HUSBAND AND WIFE

H. The sweet'ning fruit that fall shall bring
Is now a bud within its rind ;
The nest the bird shall build in spring
Is now in moss and grass untvvin'd ;
The summer days will show us, hung
On boughs, the fruit and nest of young.
I waited on, through time and tide,
Till I could house you here, ni}- bride.

JV. If wedlock bonds in heaven are bound,
Then what's our lot will all come round.

// INIy new-built house's brick-red side
A few years since was clay unfound ;
My reeden roof, outslanting wide,
Was yet in seed, unsprung from ground.

G 2



84 WORK AND WAIT

And now no house on Woodcombe land
Is put much better out of hand
Than this, that I, through time and tide,
Was bent to build for you to guide.
W. I'll try with heart, and hand, and head,
That you shall speed as you have sped.

H. A few years since my wheels, unmade,
Were living timber, under bark,
And my new ploughshare's grey-blue blade
Was ore deep lying in the dark ;
But now I have my gear, and now
Have bought two mares to haul or plough.
I waited on, in careful rnood,
For stock to %vin our livelihood.

W. Aye 'work and wait's' the wisest way,
For ' work and wait ' will win the day.



S5



JS^O TWO DAYS ALIKE

Aye, no two days, in all the year.
May fall alike in ev'ry way ;
Alike in clouds that skies may show.
In all their glowing dyes,
Alike in winds, as low or high.
Or east or west, or wet or dry.

Alike in birds, that gripe the bark,
Or pipe on boughs, as leaved or bare,
Alike in cows, by mound or tree,
Dispers'd about the ground;
Below a moon, as thin a bow,
Or full, with stars as high or low.



86 NO TIVO DAYS ALIKE

Alike in ev'ry face, to take

Its place, with all its looks again,

And tongues to speak the same kind words,

Or call again each name.

Alike in trodden path, and flow'r

Below the feet, the selfsame hour.

If night can never fall to men

With all a foreday show'd their minds,

Then how shall merry cheer outlast

The many-nighted year ;

Or why should time no more fulfil

Our hope for change to good from ill?



87



SEE-SA IV

A HOUSEWIFE TO A NEIGHBOUR

H. So you are out of tea, then, quite,
And out of candle for the night ?

N. And must be till the flood is do^vn,
And I can go again to town.

H. Come in, then, you shall have your share
Of anything that I can spare ;
It would be hard if my good friends
Did me good turns, without amends.
At scc-saWy seesaw, I and you
Would always make the fellow two.



88 SEE -SAW

N. As we had puU'd the uppermost

Grey rail, out clear of post and post,
And on the middle bar would lay
Its even-weighted ends ; to play
At see-saw, high, with springy toes,
And see-saw, low, with springy blows.

H. And, so as you lift me, I'll try
To lift up you, if I am high ;
Some evil day, if I let you
Fall down, why, I may tumble too.



89



THE SISTER AND BROTHERS

he. Come out to see the glowAvorms, Do,
As thick as blossoms on a bough.

S. O no ; tlie grass is wet with dew,
And I have put on shppers now.
Here's Tom.

Where is it he comes fromi

Tom. The nightingale's by Woodcombe bog ;

Come down to hear it over hill.
5. No, 'tis too far, and full of fog

Out there ; I shall but catch a chill.

Here's Bill, head foremost.
What's his will?



90 THE SISTER AND BROTHERS

Bill. The Lincham bells are up full swing

And ringing peals. Come up the knoll.

S. And ringing peals ! \Vliy they can't ring
There now, they are but fit to toll.
Well done.

Here's Tom again, full run.

Tom. John Hine is by his garden wall,

And playing on his clarinet.
S. How I am teazed among you all !

I s'pose you'll have me out a bit.



91



THE REEDS ABOUT THE TOOL

We children, hot at work, here built
Our hut for childhood play, of beds
Of reeds, all wound with sticks, to screen
From wind our little glossy heads ;
And there we set, to shoot the wet,
Our roof of reeds, about the pool.

As deep and shoal might sleep below

A shell of ice, in winter tide.

We there, with tott'ring heads, would drive

Our toes along the grated slide.

With many a sprawl, in many a foil,

Within the reeds about the pool.



92 THE REEDS ABOUT THE POOL

There men would draw the water out,
As diy as all their pails could dip,
And then would dip their hands about,
Well daub'd with mud, from toe to hip,
As they might feel the slipp'ry eel,
Within the reeds about the pool.

And there the nightingale would sound
Her note, while other birds were still.
As water show'd the light the moon
Might shed on stream, and mead, and hill,
On boughs aloft, while rustled soft
The reeds that sway'd about the pool.

And still below the shady mound
That leans by timber-trees in ranks.
There runs the brook that up the dell
Outbreaks, to come by winding banks
Down here to us, to open wide
A pool, with reeds about its side.



93



SUMMER WIND GUSTS

How gaily fair the flow'ry land
In glare of summer light would look,
W'ith roaming cows to stalk by meads,
Or brows of fields, beside the brook ;
As wind would whirl and curl,
And wildly drive about our heads
White drifts of dust, in peck by peck.
Or else would spring with hay in meads.
And fling it up about our neck.

In playing round the summer ground.

As water flow'd below our feet.

And show'd our shades in line and hue,

A gust awoke in sudden flight.

And broke them up away from view.



94 SUMMER WIND AND GUSTS

In playsome whirl and curl ;
And while, with darksome shade, the sun
Once mark'd our shapes within the glade,
The wind brought by a shading cloud
On high, and hid them, shade by shade,
In streaming soft, with clouds aloft.

The winds may roll the thistledown
By knoll or mead, in summer light,
Or else may blow, in winter days.
The snow against my blinded sight,
With many a whirl and curl ;
Or under rock or smooth-wall'd tow'r
May mock my song, or sound my call.
Or sway, through hours of lonesome night.
My flow'rs in bloom, by ground or wall,
Onstreaming soft, and blowing oft.



95



A MATCH OF QUESTIONS

JOHN AND THOMAS

J. Where the stream of the river may bound,

All ill foam, over block upon block,

Of grey stone, shall we say that the sound
Is the sound of the stream or the rock ?

T. Where the black-spotted bean-bloom is out.
As we talk of the smell, do we mean
That the sweetness that wa\-ers about
Is the smell of the wind or the bean ?

/. Where the sunlight that plays oft" and on,
In the brook-pool, may dazzle your sight,
Would you say that the bow-necked swan
Is in gleams of the pool, or the light 1



96 A MATCH OF QUESTIONS

T. When your head should have met, in the night,
With the door, and be ready to split,
Would you say, if you wished to be right,
'Twas the head or the door that was hit %

J. When the heart may leap high at the sight
Of the dwelling of some belov'd face.
Shall we take it, that all our delight
Is a charm of the face, or the place %

T. When a pretty girl's father, one night.
Set the dog at a youth, that would scan
Her abode, should we think the poor wight
Put to flight, by the dog or the man?

/. Ah ! you only can turn it to fun.
T. And he only could leam how to run.



97



THE STRING TOKEN

'If I am gone on, you will find a small string' —
Were her words — 'on this twig of the oak by the

spring.'
Oh! gay are the new-leaved trees, in the spring,
Down under the height, where the skylark may sing ;
And welcome in summer are tree-leaves that meet
On wide-spreading limbs, for a screen from the heat ;
And fair in the fall-tide may flutter the few
Yellow leaves of the trees tliat the sky may shine

through.
But welcomer far than the leaves, is the string
On the twig of the oak by the si)ring.



H



98



SHEEP IN THE SHADE

In summer time, I took my road
From stile to stile, from ground to ground,
The while the cloudless sunshine glowed.
On down and mead, by sun-heat browned.
Where slowly round a wide-bent bow
The stream wound on, with water low :
In hopeful hours that glided on,
Witli me in happiness now gone.

And there, below the elm-tree shroud,
Where shaded air might cooler swim,
There lay a quickly-panting crowd
Of sheep, within the shadow's rim,



SHEEP IN THE SHADE

That glided slowly, on and on,
Till there they lay, with shadow gone.
And oh ! that happy hours should glide
Away so soon, with time and tide.



99



II 2



lOO



CLOUDS

Onriding slow, at lofty height,
Were clouds in drift along the sky,
Of purple blue, and ])ink, and white,
In pack and pile, upreaching high,
For ever changing, as they flew,
Their shapes from new again to new.

And some like rocks, and towers of stone.
Or hills, or woods, outreaching wide ;
And some like roads, with dust upblown
In glittering whiteness off their side,
Outshining white, again to f.ide,
In figures made to be unmade.



CLOUDS loi

So things may meet, but never stand,
In life; they may be smiles or tears:
A joy in hope, and one in hand ;
Some grounds of grief, and some of fears ;
They may be good, or may be ill,
But never long abiding still.



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