William Barnes.

Poems of rural life in common English online

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No forked roads, to left and right,
Will sunder us, for night or light ;
But all my woe 's for you to feel,
iVnd all my weal 's for you to know.

Come hood your head. You can't see out ?
I'll lead you right, you need not doubt.



(The speaker, who Hves by the knoll, talks to an old friend)

O HOME, people tell us, is home

be it never so homely,

And Meldon 's the home where my fathers
all sleep by the knoll.

And there they have left me a living,

in land, where, in summer,

My hay, wither'd grey, awaits hauling
in heap, by the knoll.

And there, among bright-shining grass-blades,
and bent-grass, in autumn,

My cows may all lie near the waters
that creep by the knoll,


And up on the slope of the hillocks,
by white -rinded ash-trees,

Are ledges of grass and of thyme-beds,
with sheep, by the knoll.

And down on the west of my house

is a rookery, rocking
In trees that will ward off the winds

that may sweep by the knoll.

And there I have windows outlooking
to blushing-skied sunset,

And others that face the fresh morning's
first peep, by the knoll.

And though there is no place but heaven

without any sorrow.
And T, like my fellows in trial,

may weep by the knoll.


Still, while I fulfil, like a hireling,
the day of my labour,

I wish, if my wish is not sinful,

to keep by the knoll.

So, if you can find a day empty

of work, with fine weather,

And feel yourself willing to climb

up the steep by the knoll,

Come up, and we'll make ourselves merry
once more, all together ;

You'll find that your bed and your board
shall be cheap by the knoll.



My longing wtshes, wand'ring wild

Beyond the good I had,
Would hang on other gifts, that pride

Might turn from good to bad ;
And in my dream, I still would hope
For this green slope, where now the stream
Or gives, or takes, with rambling flight,
My jutting land, on left or right,

By dipping downs, at dawn of day.

Or de\vy dells, when daylight dies.

And I have lofty trees to sway.

Where western wind may roar
Against their bowing heads, to play

The softer round my door,


As on they pass, and chase the flight
Of running hght, on shaded grass,
And sweep along the shaken sedge,
And rustle by the dead-leav'd hedge,
By morning meads, or mid-day mound.
Or mellow midnight's mounted moon.

And there two cows with wide-horn'd head

Now stalk, onstepping slow.
And one is dun, and one is red

With face as white as snow ;
And there, full wide of back, 's my mare.
For some long pair of legs to stride,
A cunning jade, that now would find
Out all my roads if I were blind,

I3y winding ways, on-wand'ring wide,

Or wilder waste, or wind-blown wood.


And when my work has brought me all

Its earnings, day by day,
And I have paid each man his call

On me for lawful pay,
I still can spare enough to grant
My \\ife a jaunt, with weather fair.
Or buy my boy a taking toy.
Or make a doll my daughter's joy,

With limber limbs all lopping loose

Or leaning low in little laps.



The waters roll, quick-bubbling by the shoal,
Or leap the rock, outfoaming in a bow.

The wind blows free in gushes round the tree,
Along the grove of oaks in double row,

Where lovers seek the maidens' evening floor,

With stip-step light, and tip-tap slight,
Against the door.

With iron bound, the wheel-rims roll around,
And cnmch the crackling flint below their load.

The gravel, trod by horses ironshod.

All crackles shrill along the beaten road,


Where lovers come to seek, in our old place,
With stip-step liglit, and tip-tap slight,
The maiden's face.

And oh ! how sweet's the time the lover's feet
May come before the door to seek a bride,

As he may stand and knock witli shaking hand,
And lean to hear the sweetest voice inside ;

While there a heart will leap, to hear once more

The stip-step light, and tip-tap slight,
Against the door.

How sweet's the time when we are in our prime,
With children, now our care and aye our joy,

And child by child may scamper, skipping wild,
Back home from school or play-games, girl or boy.

And there upon the door-stone leap once more,

With stip-step liglit, and tip-tap slight.
Against the door.


Be my abode, beside some uphill road,
Where people pass along, if not abide,

And not a place where day may bring no face
With kindly smiles, as lonesome hours may glide;

But let me hear some friend, well-known before.

With stip-step light, and tip-tap slight,
Against the door.



At John's, up on Sandhills, 'tis healthy and dry,
Though I may not like it, it may be — not I.
Where fir-trees are spindling, with tapering tops,
From leafy-leav'd fern in the cold stunted copse,
And under keen gorsebrakes, all yellow in bloom,
The skylark's brown nest is deep-hidden in gloom ;
And high on the cliff, where no foot ever wore
A path to the threshold, 's the sandmartin's door.
On waterless heights, while the winds lowly sigh.
On tree-climbing ivy, before the blue sky.

I think I could hardly like his place as well
As my own shelter'd home in the timbery dell,


Where rooks come to build in the high-swaying boughs,
And broadheaded oaks yield a shade for the cows ;
Where grey-headed withy-trees lean o'er the brook
Of grey-lighted waters that whirl by the nook,
And only the girls and the swans are in white,
Like snow on grey moss in the midwinter's light.
And wind softly drives, with a low rustling sound,
By waves on the water and grass on the ground.




Daniel (D). Jane (J). Jane's mother (M).

Daniel comes over to Jane's, and while talking, pumps the water over
the trough upon the pavement.

D. Here ! if I had your trap and beast,
I'd drive you all to Meldon feast.

J. Oh ! very well : but did he find
The pump a plaything to his mind %
There's Daniel plying all his bones,
In pumping wet about the stones:
And who's to trample, just for sport
To you, about this wat'ry court?
No, I should only like to shed
The water on your empty head.



D. And (lid the frog, as people say,
Catch cold of wetted feet, one day %

J. See how his two long armbones sway,
And how his peaked elbows play.

D. The pattens. How about a chap
And pattens, out at Oakrow knap %

J. See how he chuckles. Come, tell out
What you can find to grin about.

D. We left our pattens, in a stroll
We lately took, at Oakrow knoll.

J. O ! did we ? AVell, that must be fun,
With pattens out, and home with none.

D. We call'd to take them, after dark.
Where William Henstone, with a spark


Of manhood in his soul, must come
Down Oakrow roael, to see us home.

J. Now you be off. I'll souse a bowl

Of buttermilk about your poll.

No, I should have no call for traps,

To catch the very best of chaps.

Not lopping, lolling, long-ear'd louts

Like you,
D. O no, but Tovwiy Touts.

J. {slapping his head at every strong sound.)
Nor drawling, dragging, drowsy drones.
D. I5ut Tom., ha ! hah ! Tom Shaklebones.

M. Why lauk ! whatever is this row ?
Why Jane, whatever is it now ?

J. Why, Dan is at his sauce again.
D. 'Tis only fun, once now and then.

.M 2



J. He's here to know if we would ride
To ]\Ieldon feast, this Whitsuntide.

D. Ay, ]\Ieldon feast, if you can spare
Your httle waggon, with the mare.

M. O no, you bring us Httle gains

■\Vlien your hand shakes our old mare's reins ;

Last month you beat her steaming hide,

Till we all thought she must have died,

Before a load of people, full

Enough for three such mares to pull ;

A squeezing load of girls and chaps,

With some almost in others' laps.

And simpering faces up as tliick

As ever face by face could stick.

And work'd tlie mare along as though

She had but bags of down in tow.

As you did whip, and whop, and whack

Her panting sides and steaming back.


D. But now the load woukl be but small,
Wo have no Browns at home to haul,
And Jane could go with what's his name —

/. Why Dan, you silly chap, for sliame !

D. There I would only take a few

Of your choice, you can tell me who.

M. O, well, then, nobody at all.
/. Hee, heeh ! D. Hah, hah ! J. Now you sing

D. I'll drive the Wellbums, they'll be glad
To have me when I can be had.



With the sun glowing warm at its height,
And the people at work in white sleeves,
And the gold-banded bee in its flight,
^^'ith the quick-flitting birds among leaves :
There my two little children would run,
And would reach and would roll in their fun,
And would clasp in their hands.

Stick or stone for their play, —
In their hands that but little had grown.
For their play, with a stick or a stone.

HOME 167

As the sun from his high summer bow,
To the west of the orchard would fall,
He would leave the brown beehives in row,
In the shade of the houses' grey wail.
And the flowers, outshining in bloom,
Some in light, and some others in gloom.
To the cool of the air,

And the damp of the dew, —
The air from the apple-tree shades.
And the dew on the grasses' green blades.

And there was my orchard well-tined,

With a hedge, and a steep-sided bank ;

Where ivy had twin'd on the rind

Of the wood-stems, and trees in high rank,

To keep out the wide lipped cow.

And the stiff-snouted swine that would plough

Up the soft-bladed grass.

By the young apple-trees —
The grass that had grown a good height,
And the trees that in blossom were white.

1 68 HOME

O when is a father's good time,
That will yield to his toil the best joy?
Is it when he is spending his prime
For his children, the girl and the boy ?
Or when they have grown to their height.
And are gone from his hearing and sight,
And their mother's one voice

Is left home at the door —
A voice that no longer may sing,
At the door that more seldom may swing ?



Well here, another year, at least,
We go along with blinking sight,
By smoky dust arising white.
Up off our road, to Lincham feast.
With trudging steps of tramping feet.
We souls on foot, with foot-folk meet :
For we that cannot hope to ride
For ease or pride, have fellowsliip.

And so, good fother tried to show
To folk -with hands on right or left,
Down-pulIM by some great bundle's heft,
And trudging weary, to or fro :


That rich men are but one to ten
When reckon'd off with working men,
And so have less, the while the poor
Have ten times more of fellowship.

He thought, good man, whatever part
We have to play, we all shall find
That fellowship of kind with kind
IMust keep us better up in heart.
And why should working folk be shy
Of work, Avith mostly work-folk by,
While kings must live in lonesome states
With none for mates in fellowship % *

* Xenophon, in his Ilicro, chap, vii., ma]<o.s tlie king say to
Simonides : — 'I wish to show you tliosc pleasures which I en-
joyed while I was a common man ; and now, since I have been
a king, I feel I have lost. I was then among my fellows, and
liapjiy with them as they were happy with me.'


Tall cliiniiicys up with high-flown larks,

And houses, roods in length, with sights

Of windows glaring off in lights.

That shoot up slopes of wood-bound parks,

Are fiir and wide, and not so thick

As poor men's litde homes of brick,

By ones or twos, or else in row

So small and low, in fellowship.

But we, wherever we may come,
Have fellowship in hands and loads,
And fellowship of feet on roads.
And lowliness of house and home ;
And fellowship in homely fare.
And homely garb for daily wear.
And so may Heaven bless the more
The working poor in fellowship.



Ah ! look and see how widely free

O'er all the land the wind will spread ;
If here a tree-top sways, a tree

On yonder hillock waves its head.
How wide the light outshows to sight
'Die place and living face of man %
How far the river runs for lip
To di'ink, or hand to sink and dip.

But one may sink with sudden woe
That may not pass, in wider flight,

To other souls, declining slow.

And hush'd, lik'e birds at fall of night.


And some are sad, while some are glad ;
In turn wo all may mourn our lot:
And days that come in joy may go
In evenings sad with heavy woe.

The morning sun may cast abroad

His light on dew about our feet,
And down below his noontide road

The streams may glare below his heat ;
The evening light may sparkle bright
Across the quiv'ring gossamer ;
But I, though fair he still may glow,
Must miss a face he cannot show.



I TOOK the road of dusty stone
To walk alone, by Meldon hill,
Along the knap, with woody crown.
That slopes far down, by Meldon Hill ;
While sunlight overshot the copse
Of underwood, with brown-twigg'd tops.
By sky-belighted stream and pool.
With eddies cool, by Meldon Hill.

And down below were many sights
Of yellow lights, by Meldon Hill ;
The trees above tlie brindled cows,
With budding boughs, by Meldon Hill;


And bridged roads and waterfalls,
And liousc by house with sunny walls,
And one, where somebody may come
To guide my home, from Meldon Hill.

Whenever I may climb the stiles
Of these two miles, to Meldon Hill,
By elms above the Avreathing smoke.
Or lonesome oak, to Meldon Hill,
How much I have to talk about ;
But that is what must now come out,
That I've a house, that some sweet bride
Must come to guide, from Meldon Hill.



Ah ! then as we might meet, all young,
And trip with nimble feet, abroad,
Or else in knots might come, full gay,
Along the grove up home.

Sis, sis, the whispers, here and there.
Would hiss, from man and maid in pair.

Or when the wind, upspringing keen
From eastern slopes, would fling about
The snow, or overlay the tree
And ground with hoar-frost grey.

Sis, sis, our nimble steps would sound
As we would trip o'er frosty ground.


At times, when leaves were dead, and fell

Down-scatter'd, browny-red ; or spun

In windy rings around our feet.

On timber-shaded ground :

Sis, sis, our shoes would rustle light
On leaves and bentgrass, wither'd white.

And when, again, we pass'd along

The half-dried hay all cast abroad.

In air that smelt full sweet, about

Our nimbly-stepping feet :

Sis, sis, our footsteps on the hay
Did sound along our summer way.

And still may joy betide us all,
Though scatter'd far and wide awa}- ;
And may we find, by grace, that now,
Wherever be our place,

Tee/t, hce shall be our merry sound

Along the road or grassy ground.




Though black the winter clouds might rise

To back the rick's brown tip,
Though dark might reach the leafless hedge,

And bark of trees might drip,
With health and work and livelihood,
I never pin'd for others' good.

And down along the timber'd grove,
All brown with leaves long slied,

Wiere round the ivy-hooded thorn
The ground was dry to tread,

I then would walk in home, with pride,

On foot, and heedless who might ride.


And come from evening's chilly shades,

In home, I took, at night.
My place within the settle's back,

With face in fire-light.
Where one would spread my evening board
With soul-beguiling smile and word.

Then high above the chimney top,

Might cry the wind, and low
Might sound, beside my window panes,

And round my porch's bow.
Its sounds that now so sadly moan
Where one sweet voice no more is known.

How sweetly seem'd the running waves

To meet the mossy rock.
As quickly-flapping flames might play

By tickings of the clock ;
But now their sounds are sad to hear,
Since one sweet tongue no more is near.

N 2




The daylight gains upon the night,
And birds are out in later flight ;
'Tis cold enough to sjjread our hands,
Once now and then, to glowing brands.
So now we two are here alone
To make a quiet hour our own.
We'll take, with foce to face, once more
Our places on the warm hearth floor,
Where you shall have the window view
Outside, and I can look on you.


When first I brought you home, my bride,
In yellow glow of summer tide,
I wanted you to take a chair
On that side of the fire — out there —
And liave the ground and sky in sight,
With face against the window light ;
While I, back here, should have my brow
In shade, and sit where I am now ;
That you might see the land outside.
And I might look on you, my bride.

And there the gliding waters spread,
By waving elm-trees over head,
Below the hill that slopes above
The path, along the high-treed grove.
Where sighing winds once whisper'd down
Our whisper'd words ; and there's the crown
Of Diindiffe hill, where widening shades
Of timber fall on sloping glades :
So you enjoy the green and blue
Without, and I will look on you.


And there we pull'd, within the copse,
With nutting-crooks the hazel tops,
That now arise, unleaved and black.
Too thin to keep the wind-blast back ;
And there's the churcli, and spreading lime,
AVhere we did meet at evening time,
In clusters, on the beaten green.
In glee, to see and to be seen ;
All old sights, welcomer than new.
And look'd on, as I look'd on you.




Well, to day, then, I shall roll off on the road

Round by Woodcombe, out to Shellbrook, to the mill ;

With my brand-new litde spring-cart, with a load.

To come loadless round by Chalk-hill, at my will :

As the whole day will be dry,

]3y the tokens of the sky,

Come to meet me, with the children, on the road.

For the sunshine, from the blue sky's hollow height,
Now is glitt'ring on the stream-wave, and the sedge ;
And the orchard is a broad sheet of the white
Of new blossom, over blossom on the hedge :


So when clock-bells ring out four,

Let them send you out of door,

Come to meet me, with the children, on the road.

You can saunter, if I'm lated by the clock,

To some blue-bells, for the children, on the ridge;

Or can loiter by the tree-shades, on the rock

Where the water tumbles headlong by the bridge :

While the boy's line and his hook

May catch minnows in the brook.

Out to meet me, with his sister, on the road.

You may dawdle, for a furlong on a-head.

And be welcome at the Weldons, on the knap,

Where the cowslips arc so close grown in a bed,

Tliat our Poll's hands will have soon fill'd up her lap.

For a toss-ball, up as big

As her small head's curly wig,

Out to meet me, with her brother, on the road.


At the time, then, I have told you, you may hear

My two uhecl-rims and four horse-shoes on the road.

And the spring-cart witli the scat up, near and near,

To spin you home, with the children, for its load.

So come out, then, to the sun,

Willi the children, for a run :

Come and meet me, with the children, on the road.



When from the child that still is led
By hand, a father's hand is gone —
Or when a few-year'd mother, dead,
Has left her children, growing on —
When men have left their children staid,
And they again have boy and maid—
Oh ! can they know, as years may roll,
Their children's children, soul by soul.
If this, with souls in Heav'n, can be.
Do my fore-elders know of me %

]\Iy elders' elders, and wife.
Were borne full early to the tomb,
With children, still in childhood life,
To play with butterfly or bloom.


And did they see the seasons mould
Their faces on, from young to old ;
As years might bring them, turn by turn,
A time to laugli or time to mourn.
If this with souls in Heav'n can be,
Do my fore-elders know of me?

How fain I now would walk the floor
Within their mossy porch's bow.
Or linger by their church's door,
Or road that bore them to and fro.
Or nook where once they built their mow,
Or gateway open to their plough —
Though now, indeed, no gate is swung,
That their live hands had ever hung —
If I could know that they would see
Their child's late child, and know of me.


On summer nights, as day did gleam,
With waning hght, from red to wan,
And we did play above the stream,
That near our house-lawn rambled on,
Our little sister lightly flew
And skipp'd about, in all her pride
Of snow-white frock and sash of blue,
A shape that night was slow to hide —
Beside the brook, that trickled tliiu
Among the pebbles, out and in.

When wind may blow, at evening-tide,
Now here, now there, by mound and nook.
It may be on the leafy lime,
Or grey-bough'd withy by the brook.


Or on the apple-trees may fall,
Or on the elms, beside the grove,
Or on the lofty tower's wall,
On places where we used to rove —
Then ev'ry sound, in ev'ry place,
Will call to mind her pretty face.

Where periwinkle's buds of blue,
By lilies' hollow cups may wind,
What, then, can their two colours do,
But call our sister back to mind ?
She wore no black — she wore her white,
She wore no black — she wore her blue.
She never mourn'd another's flight,
For she has been the first that flew.
From where our nimble feet did tread.
From stone to stone, the water's bed.



By the wall of the garden that glimmer' d, chalk white,

In the light of the moon, back in May,

There were you all in black, at my side, coming round

On the ground where the cypress did sway :

Oh I the white and the black. Which was fairest to

view %
Why the black, become fairest on you.

By the water downfalling in many a bow,

White as snow, on the rock's peaky steep ;

There your own petted cow show'd the ridge of her back,

Of deep black, as she lay for her sleep :

Oh ' tlie white and the black. Which was fairest to

view %
Why the black, become fairest on you.


When you stroU'd down the village at evening, bedight

All in white, in the warm summer-tide,

The while Totvsy, your loving old dog, with his back

Sleeky black, trotted on at your side :

Ah ! the black and the white. \\"hich was fairest to
view 1

Why the white, become fairest on you.

At the end of the barton the granary stood,

Of black wood, with Avhite geese at its side;

And the white-winged swans, on the quick-running wave.

By the cave of black darkness did glide :

Oh ! the black and the white. Which was fairest to

view ?
Why the white, become fairest on }ou.



The sun may in glory go by,

Though by cloudiness hidden from sight;
And the moon may be bright in the sky,

Though an air-mist may smother its light.
There is joy in the world among some,

And among them may joy ever be ;
And oh ! is there health-joy to come,

Come any more unto me %

The stream may be running its way,
Under ice that lies dead as the stone,

And below the dark water may play

The quick fishes in swimmings unshown,


There is sprightliness shown among some,
Aye, and sprightly may Uiey ever be,

And oh! is there limb-strength to come,
Come any more unto me ?



(Grounded on a Neapolitan ballad, ' Fenesta che lucive
e mo non luce.')


B. Here come I back, and find her window fast
And faceless. Sister, can she be unwell ?

S. O brother, 'tis a heavy truth to tell.

Your Jessie has been ill. Her days arc past.
Forego your hope to take her to your side,
She could not linger here to be your bride.

B. Oh ! Sister dear, whatever are j'our words !
Dear sister, oh ! whatever do you say !

S. If you believe me not, behold tlie day.

How downcast are its clouds, how still its birds:

O no, I tell you only what is true,

The house can show no Jessie Dean to you.


B. O Jessie Dean, and thou art dead, art gone.
Thy eyes now closed, shall look no more on me,
But thou to mine art ever fair to see ;
As I have loved thee, I shall love thee on,
And oh ! how willingly could I have died,
And gone at once to slumber l)y thy side.

Farewell, dear window. Now be shut all day,
Since Jessie sits no more behind thy glass :
And I, below thee, now no more will pass,
But henceforth go along the churchyard way,
Till I myself be called at last to share
The angel life of Jessie, angel fair.



O NOW, my true and dearest bride,

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