They should never have built a barn there, at all –
Drip, drip, drip! – under that elm tree,
Though when it was young. Now it is old
But good, not like the barn and me.
To-morrow they cut it down. They will leave
The barn, as I shall be left, maybe.
What holds it up? ‘Twould not pay to pull down.
Well, this place has no other antiquity.
No abbey or castle looks so old
As this that Job Knight built in ’54,
Built to keep corn for rats and men.
Now there’s fowls in the roof, pigs on the floor.
What thatch survives is dung for the grass,
The best grass on the farm. A pity the roof
Will not bear a mower to mow it. But
Only fowls have foothold enough.
Starlings used to sit there with bubbling throats
Making a spiky beard as they chattered
And whistled and kissed, with heads in air,
Till they thought of something else that mattered.
But now they cannot find a place,
Among all those holes, for a nest any more.
It’s the turn of lesser things, I suppose.
Once I fancied ’twas starlings they built it for.
It stood in the sunset sky
Like the straight-backed down,
Many a time – the barn
At the edge of town,
So huge and dark that it seemed
It was the hill
Till the gable’s precipice proved
Then the great down in the west
Grew into sight,
A barn stored full to the ridge
With black of night;
And the barn fell to a barn
Or even less
Before critical eyes and its own
But far down and near barn and I
Since then have smiled,
Having seen my new cautiousness
By itself beguiled
To disdain what seemed the barn
Till a few steps changed
It past all doubt to the down;
So the barn was avenged.
What does it mean? Tired, angry, and ill at ease,
No man, woman, or child alive could please
Me now. And yet I almost dare to laugh
Because I sit and frame an epitaph –
‘Here lies all that no one loved of him
And that loved no one,’ Then in a trice that whim
Has wearied. But, though I am like a river
At fall of evening while it seems that never
Has the sun lighted it or warmed it, while
Cross breezes cut the surface to a file,
This heart, some fraction of me, happily
Floats through the window even now to a tree
Down in the misting, dim-lit, quiet vale,
Not like a pewit that returns to wail
For something it has lost, but like a dove
That slants unswerving to its home and love.
There I find my rest, and through the dusk air
Flies what yet lives in me. Beauty is there.
The summer nests uncovered by autumn wind,
Some torn, others dislodged, all dark,
Everyone sees them: low or high in tree,
Or hedge, or single bush, they hang like a mark.
Since there’s no need of eyes to see them with
I cannot help a little shame
That I missed most, even at eye’s level, till
The leaves blew off and made the seeing no game.
‘Tis a light pang. I like to see the nests
Still in their places, now first known,
At home and by far roads. Boys knew them not,
Whatever jays and squirrels may have done.
And most I like the winter nests deep-hid
That leaves and berries fell into:
Once a dormouse dined there on hazel-nuts,
And grass and goose-grass seeds found soil and grew.
I have come a long way to-day:
On a strange bridge alone,
Remembering friends, old friends,
I rest, without smile or moan,
As they remember me without smile or moan.
All are behind, the kind
And the unkind too, no more
To-night than a dream. The stream
Runs softly yet drowns the Past,
The dark-lit stream has drowned the Future and the Past.
No traveller has rest more blest
Than this moment brief between
Two lives, when the Night’s first lights
And shades hide what has never been,
Things goodlier, lovelier, dearer, than will be or have been.
Bright clouds of may
Shade half the pond.
All but one bay
Like criss-cross bayonets
Where a bird once called,
Lies bright as the sun.
No one heeds.
The light wind frets
And drifts the scum
Till the moorhen calls
Naught’s to be done
By birds or men.
Still the may falls.
Seated once by a brook, watching a child
Chiefly that paddled, I was thus beguiled.
Mellow the blackbird sang and sharp the thrush
Not far off in oak and hazel brush,
Unseen. There was a scent like honeycomb
From mugwort dull. And down upon the dome
Of the stone the cart-horse kicks against so oft
A butterfly alighted. From aloft
He took the heat of the sun, and from below.
On the hot stone he perched contented so,
As if never a cart would pass again
That way; as if I were the last of men
And he the first of insects to have earth
And sun together and to know their worth.
I was divided between him and the gleam,
The motion, and the voices, of the stream,
The waters running frizzled over gravel,
That never vanish and for ever travel.
A grey flycatcher silent on a fence
And I sat as if we had been there since
The horseman and the horse lying beneath
The fir-tree-covered barrow on the heath,
The horseman and the horse with silver shoes,
Galloped the downs last. All that I could lose
I lost. And then the child’s voice raised the dead.
‘No one’s been here before’ was what she said
And what I felt, yet never should have found
A word for, while I gathered sight and sound.
But these things also are Spring’s –
On banks by the roadside the grass
Long-dead that is greyer now
Than all the Winter it was;
The shell of a little snail bleached
In the grass; chip of flint, and mite
Of chalk; and the small birds’ dung
In splashes of purest white:
All the white things a man mistakes
For earliest violets
Who seeks through Winter’s ruins
Something to pay Winter’s debts,
While the North blows, and starling flocks
By chattering on and on
Keep their spirits up in the mist,
And Spring’s here, Winter’s not gone.
To the best of our knowledge, Edward Thomas’s poetry is ex-copyright in the United Kingdom. In so far as any rights can be established in this on-line collection, they are reserved by The Richmond Review.
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