Ralph Hodgson

  1. The Gipsy Girl
  2. A Song
  3. Time, You Old Gipsy Man
  4. Ghoul Care
  5. Eve
  6. The Song of Honour
  7. The Mystery
  8. Stupidity Street
  9. The Bells of Heaven
  10. The Journeyman
  11. The Bull
  12. Playmates
  13. The House Across the Way
  14. The Beggar
  15. Babylon
  16. The Moor
  17. February
  18. The Late, Last Rook
  19. The Birdcatcher
  20. The Royal Mails
  21. The Swallow
  22. A Wood Song
  23. Reason Has Moons
  24. The Bride
  25. After

Poets' Corner Scripting
© 2009 Bob Blair, S.L. Spanoudis and
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Ralph Hodgson

by Ralph Hodgson


for My Mother

Edited for the Web by Bob Blair

.The Gipsy Girl

    "COME, try your skill, kind gentlemen,
    A penny for three tries!"
    Some threw and lost, some threw and won
    A ten-a-penny prize.

    She was a tawny gipsy girl,
    A girl of twenty years,
    I liked her for the lumps of gold
    That jingled from her ears;

    I liked the flaring yellow scarf
    Bound loose about her thoat,
    I liked her showy purple gown
    And flashy velvet coat.

    A man came up, too loose of tongue,
    And said no good to her;
    She did not blush as Saxons do,
    Or turn upon the cur;

    She fawned and whined, "Sweet gentleman,
    A penny for three tries!"
    -- But oh, the den of wild things in
    The darkness of her eyes!

    Ralph Hodgson

.A Song

    WITH Love among the haycocks
    We played at hide and seek;

       He shut his eyes and counted --
          We hid among the hay --
       Then he a haycock mounted,
          And spied us where we lay;

    And O! the merry laughter
    Across the hayfield after!

    Ralph Hodgson

.Time, You Old Gypsy Man

    TIME, you old gipsy man,
       Will you not stay,
    Put up your caravan
       Just for one day?

    All things I'll give you
    Will you be my guest,
    Bells for your jennet
    Of silver the best,
    Goldsmiths shall beat you
    A great golden ring,
    Peacocks shall bow to you,
    Little boys sing.
    Oh, and sweet girls will
    Festoon you with may,
    Time, you old gipsy,
    Why hasten away?

    Last week in Babylon,
    Last night in Rome,
    Morning, and in the crush
    Under Paul's dome;
    Under Pauls' dial
    You tighten your rein --
    Only a moment,
    And off once again;
    Off to some city
    Now blind in the womb,
    Off to another
    Ere that's in the tomb.

    Time, you old gipsy man,
       Will you not stay,
    Put up your caravan
       Just for one day?

    Ralph Hodgson

.Ghoul Care

    SOUR fiend, go home and tell the Pit
    For once you met your master, --
    A man who carried in his soul
    Three charms against disaster,
    The Devil and disaster.

    Away, away, and tell the tale
    And start your whelps a-whining,
    Say "In the greenwood of his soul
    A lizard's eye was shining,
    A little eye kept shining."

    Away, away, and salve your sores,
    And set your hags a-groaning,
    Say "In the greenwood of his soul
    A drowsy bee was droning,
    A dreamy bee was droning."

    Prodigious Bat! Go start the walls
    Of Hell with horror ringing.
    Say "In the greenwood of his soul
    There was a goldfinch singing,
    A pretty goldfinch singing."

    And then come back, come, if you please,
    A fiercer ghoul and ghaster,
    With all the glooms and smuts of Hell
    Behind you, I'm you master!
    You know I'm still your master.

    Ralph Hodgson


    EVE, with her basket, was
    Deep in the bells and grass,
    Wading in bells and grass
    Up to her knees,
    Picking a dish of sweet
    Berries and plums to eat,
    Down in the bell and grass
    Under the trees.

    Mute as a mouse in a
    Corner the cobra lay,
    Circled round a bough of the
    Cinnamon tall. . . .
    Now to get even and
    Humble proud heaven and
    Now was the moment or
    Never at all.

    "Eva!" Each syllable
    Light as a flower fell,
    "Eva!" he whispered the
    Wondering maid,
    Soft as a bubble sung
    Out of a linnet's lung,
    Soft and most silverly
    "Eva!" he said.

    Picture that orchard sprite,
    Eve, with her body white,
    Supple and smooth to her
    Slim finger tips.
    Wondering, listening,
    Listening, wondering,
    Eve with a berry
    Half-way to her lips.

    Oh had our simple Eve
    Seen through the make-believe!
    Had she but known the
    Pretender he was!
    Out of the boughs he came,
    Whispering still her name,
    Tumbling in twenty rings
    Into the grass.

    Here was the strangest pair
    In the world anywhere,
    Eve in the bells and grass
    Kneeling, and he
    Telling the story low. . . .
    Singing birds saw them go
    Down the dark path to
    The Blasphemous Tree.

    O what a clatter when
    Titmouse and Jenny Wren
    Saw him successful and
    Taking his leave!
    How the birds rated him,
    How they all hated him!
    How they all pitied
    Poor motherless Eve!

    Picture her crying
    Outside in the lane,
    Eve, with no dish of sweet
    Berries and plums to eat,
    Haunting the gate of the
    Orchard in vain. . . .
    Picture the lewd delight
    Under the hill to-night --
    "Eva!" the toast goes round,
    "Eva!" again.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Song of Honour

    I CLIMBED a hill as light fell short,
    And rooks came home in scramble sort,
    And filled the trees and flapped and fought
    And sang themselves to sleep;
    An owl from nowhere with no sound
    Swung by and soon was nowhere found,
    I heard him calling half-way round,
    Holloing loud and deep;
    A pair of stars, faint pins of light,
    Then many a star, sailed into sight,
    And all the stars, the flower of night,
    Were round me at a leap;
    To tell how still the valleys lay
    I heard a watchdog miles away,
    And bells of distant sheep.

    I heard no sound of bird or bell,
    The mastiff in a slumber fell,
    I stared into the sky,
    As wondering men have always done
    Since beauty and the stars were one
    Though none so hard as I.

    It seemed, so still the valleys were,
    As if the whole world knelt at prayer,
    Save me and me alone;
    So pure and wide that silence was
    I feared to bend a blade of grass,
    And there I stood like stone.

    There, sharp and sudden, there I heard --
       Ah! some wild lovesick singing bird
       Woke singing in the trees?
       The nightingale and babble-wren
       Were in the English greenwood then,
       And you heard one of these?

    The babble-wren and nightingale
    Sang in the Abyssinian vale
    That season of the year!
    Yet, true enough, I heard them plain,
    I heard them both again, again,
    As sharp and sweet and clear
    As if the Abyssinian tree
    Had thrust a bough across the sea,
    Had thrust a bough across to me
    With music for my ear!

    I heard them both, and oh! I heard
    The song of every singing bird
    That sings beneath the sky,
    And with the song of lark and wren
    The song of mountains, moths and men
    And seas and rainbows vie!

    I heard the universal choir,
    The Sons of Light exalt their Sire
    With universal song,
    Earth's lowliest and loudest notes,
    Her million times ten million throats
    Exalt Him loud and long,
    And lips and lungs and tongues of Grace
    From every part and every place
    Within the shining of His face,
    The universal throng.

    I heard the hymn of being sound
    From every well of honour found
    In human sense and soul:
    The song of poets when they write
    The testament of Beauty sprite
    Upon a flying scroll,
    The song of painters when they take
    A burning brush for Beauty's sake
    And limn her features whole --

    The song of men divinely wise
    Who look and see in starry skies
    Not stars so much as robins' eyes,
    And when these pale away
    Hear flocks of shiny pleiades
    Among the plums and apple trees
    Sing in the summer day --

    The song of all both high and low
    To some blest vision true,
    The song of beggars when they throw
    The crust of pity all men owe
    To hungry sparrows in the snow,
    Old beggars hungry too --
    The song of kings of kingdoms when
    They rise about their fortune Men,
    And crown themselves anew --

    The song of courage, heart and will
    And gladness in a fight,
    Of men who face a hopeless hill
    With sparking and delight,
    The bells and bells of song that ring
    Round banners of a cause or king
    From armies bleeding white --

    The song of sailors every one
    When monstrous tide and tempest run
    At ships like bulls at red,
    When stately ships are twirled and spun
    Like whipping tops and help there's none
    And mighty ships ten thousand ton
    Go down like lumps of lead --

    And song of fighters stern as they
    At odds with fortune night and day,
    Crammed up in cities grim and grey
    As thick as bees in hives,
    Hosannas of a lowly throng
    Who sing unconscious of their song,
    Whose lips are in their lives --

    And song of some at holy war
    With spells and ghouls more dread by far
    Than deadly seas and cities are
    Or hordes of quarrelling kings --
    The song of fighters great and small,
    The song of pretty fighters all
    And high heroic things --

    The song of lovers -- who knows how
    Twitched up from place and time
    Upon a sigh, a blush, a vow,
    A curve or hue of cheek or brow,
    Borne up and off from here and now
    Into the void sublime!

    And crying loves and passions still
    In every key from soft to shrill
    And numbers never done,
    Dog-loyalties to faith and friend,
    And loves like Ruth's of old no end,
    And intermission none --

    And burst on burst for beauty and
    For numbers not behind,
    From men whose love of motherland
    Is like a dog's for one dear hand,
    Sole, selfless, boundless, blind --
    And song of some with hearts beside
    For men and sorrows far and wide,
    Who watch the world with pity and pride
    And warm to all mankind --

    And endless joyous music rise
    From children at their play,
    And endless soaring lullabies
    From happy, happy mothers' eyes,
    And answering crows and baby-cries,
    How many who shall say!
    And many a song as wondrous well
    With pangs and sweets intolerable
    From lonely hearths too grey to tell,
    God knows how utter grey!
    And song from many a house of care
    When pain has forced a footing there
    And there's a Darkness on the stair
    Will not be turned away --

    And song -- that song whose singers come
    With old kind tales of pity from
    The Great Compassion's lips,
    That makes the bells of Heaven to peal
    Round pillows frosty with the feel
    Of Death's cold finger tips --

    The song of men all sorts and kinds,
    As many tempers, moods and minds
    As leaves are on a tree,
    As many faiths and castes and creeds,
    As many human bloods and breeds
    As in the world may be;

    The song of each and all who gaze
    On Beauty in her naked blaze,
    Or see her dimly in a haze,
    Or get her light in fitful rays
    And tiniest needles even,
    The song of all not wholly dark,
    Not wholly sink in stupor stark
    Too deep for groping Heaven --

    And alleluias sweet and clear
    And wild with beauty men mishear,
    From choirs of song as near and dear
    To Paradise as they,
    The everlasting pipe and flute
    Of wind and sea and bird and brute,
    And lips deaf men imagine mute
    In woods and stone and clay,
    The music of a lion strong
    That shakes a hill a whole night long,
    A hill as loud as he,
    The twitter of a mouse among
    Melodious greenery,
    The ruby's and the rainbow's song,
    The nightingale's -- all three,
    The song of life that wells and flows
    From every leopard, lark and rose
    And everything that gleams or goes
    Lack-lustre in the sea.

    I heard it all, each, every note
    Of every lung and tongue and throat,
    Ay, every rhythm and rhyme
    Of everything that lives and loves
    And upward, ever upward moves
    From lowly to sublime!
    Earth's multitudinous Sons of Light
    I heard them lift their lyric might
    With each and every chanting sprite
    That lit the sky that wondrous night
    As far as eye could climb!

    I heard it all, I heard the whole
    Harmonious hymn of being roll
    Up through the chapel of my soul
    And at the altar die,
    And in the awful quiet then
    Myself I heard, Amen, Amen,
    Amen I heard me cry!
    I heard it all and then although
    I caught my flying senses, Oh,
    A dizzy man was I!
    I stood and stared; the sky was lit,
    The sky was stars all over it,
    I stood, I knew not why,
    Without a wish, without a will,
    I stood upon that silent hill
    And stared into the sky until
    My eyes were blind with stars and still
    I stared into the sky.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Mystery

HE came and took me by the hand
   Up to a red rose tree,
He kept His meaning to Himself
   But gave a rose to me.

I did not pray Him to lay bare
   The mystery to me,
Enough the rose was Heaven to smell,
   And His own face to see.

Ralph Hodgson

.Stupidity Street

    I SAW with open eyes
    Singing birds sweet
    Sold in the shops
    For people to eat,
    Sold in the shops of
    Stupidity Street.

    I saw in vision
    The worm in the wheat,
    And in the shops nothing
    For people to eat;
    Nothing for sale in
    Stupidity Street.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Bells of Heaven

    'TWOULD ring the bells of Heaven
    The wildest peal for years,
    If Parson lost his senses
    And people came to theirs,
    And he and they together
    Knelt down with angry prayers
    For tamed and shabby tigers
    And dancing dogs and bears,
    And wretched, blind pit ponies,
    And little hunted hares.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Journeyman

    NOT baser than his own homekeeping kind
    Whose journeyman he is --
    Blind sons and breastless daughters of the blind
    Whose darkness pardons his, --
    About the world, while all the world approves,
    The pimp of Fashion steals,
    With all the angels mourning their dead loves
    Behind his bloody heels.

    It my be late when Nature cries Enough!
    As one day cry she will,
    And man may have the wit to put her off
    With shifts a season still;
    But man may find the pinch importunate
    And fall to blaming men --
    Blind sires and breastless mothers of his fate,
    It may be late and may be very late,
    Too late for blaming then.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Bull

    See an old unhappy bull,
    Sick in soul and body both,
    Slouching in the undergrowth
    Of the forest beautiful,
    Banished from the herd he led,
    Bulls and cows a thousand head.

    Cranes and gaudy parrots go
    Up and down the burning sky;
    Tree-top cats purr drowsily
    In the dim-day green below;
    And troops of monkeys, nutting, some,
    All disputing, go and come;

    And things abominable sit
    Picking offal buck or swine,
    On the mess and over it
    Burnished flies and beetles shine,
    And spiders big as bladders lie
    Under hemlocks ten foot high;

    And a dotted serpent curled
    Round and round and round a tree,
    Yellowing its greenery,
    Keeps a watch on all the world,
    ALl the world and this old bull
    In the forest beautiful.

    Bravely by his fall he came:
    One he led, a bull of blood
    Newly come to lustihood,
    Fought and put his prince to shame,
    Snuffed and pawed the prostrate head
    Tameless even while it bled.

    There they left him, every one,
    Left him there without a lick,
    Left him for the birds to pick,
    Left him there for carrion,
    Vilely from their bosom cast
    Wisdom, worth and love at last.

    When the lion left his lair
    And roared his beauty through the hills,
    And the vultures pecked their quills
    And flew into the middle air,
    Then this prince no more to reign
    Came to life and lived again.

    He snuffed the herd in far retreat,
    He saw the blood upon the ground,
    And snuffed the burning airs around
    Still with beevish odours sweet,
    While the blood ran down his head
    And his mouth ran slaver red.

    Pity him, this fallen chief,
    All his spendour, all his strength,
    All his body's breadth and length
    Dwindled down with shame and grief,
    Half the bull he was before,
    Bones and leather, nothing more.

    See him standing dewlap-deep
    In the rushes at the lake,
    Surly, stupid, half asleep,
    Waiting for his heart to break
    And the birds to join the flies
    Feasting at his bloodshot eyes, --

    Standing with his head hung down
    In a stupor dreaming things:
    Green savannas, jungles brown,
    Battlefields and bellowings,
    Bulls undone and lions dead
    And vultures flapping overhead.

    Dreaming things: of days he spent
    With his mother gaunt and lean
    In the valley warm and green,
    Full of baby wonderment,
    Blinking out of silly eyes
    At a hundred mysteries;

    Dreaming over once again
    How he wandered with a throng
    Of bulls and cows a thousand strong,
    Wandered on from plain to plain,
    Up the hill and down the dale,
    Always at his mother's tail;

    How he lagged behind the herd,
    Lagged and tottered, weak of limb,
    And she turned and ran to him
    Blaring at the loathly bird
    Stationed always in the skies,
    Waiting for the flesh that dies.

    Dreaming maybe of a day
    When her drained and drying paps
    Turned him to the sweets and saps,
    Richer fountains by the way,
    And she left the bull she bore
    And he looked on her no more;

    And his little frame grew stout,
    And his little legs grew strong,
    And the way was not so long;
    And his little horns came out,
    And he played at butting trees
    And boulder-stones and tortoises,

    Joined a game of knobby skulls
    With the youngsters of his year,
    All the other little bulls,
    Learning both to bruise and bear,
    Learning how to stand a shock
    Like a little bull of rock.

    Dreaming of a day less dim,
    Dreaming of a time less far,
    When the faint but certain star
    Of destiny burned clear for him,
    And a fierce and wild unrest
    Broke the quiet of his breast,

    And the gristles of his youth
    Hardened in his comely pow,
    And he came to fighting growth,
    Beat his bull and won his cow,
    And flew his tail and trampled off
    Past the tallest, vain enough,

    And curved about in spendour full
    And curved again and snuffed the airs
    As who should say Come out who dares!
    And all beheld a bull, a Bull,
    And knew that here was surely one
    That backed for no bull, fearing none.

    And the leader of the herd
    Looked and saw, and beat the ground,
    And shook the forest with his sound,
    Bellowed at the loathly bird
    Stationed always in the skies,
    Wating for the flesh that dies.

    Dreaming, this old bull forlorn,
    Surely dreaming of the hour
    When he came to sultan power,
    And they owned him master-horn,
    Chiefest bull of all among
    Bulls and cows a thousand strong.

    And in all the tramping herd
    Not a bull that barred his way,
    Not a cow that said him nay,
    Not a bull or cow that erred
    In the furnace of his look
    Dared a second, worse rebuke;

    Not in all the forest wide,
    Jungle, thicket, pasture, fen,
    Not another dared him then,
    Dared him and again defied;
    Not a sovereign buck or boar
    Came a second time for more.

    Not a serpent that survived
    Once the terrors of his hoof
    Risked a second time reproof,
    Came a second time and lived,
    Not serpent in its skin
    Came again for discipline;

    Not a leopard brght as flame,
    Flashing fingerhooks of steel,
    That a wooden tree might feel,
    Met his fury once and came
    For second reprimand,
    Not a leopard in the land.

    Not a lion of them all,
    Not a lion of the hills,
    Hero of a thousand kills,
    Dared a second fight and fall,
    Dared that ram terrific twice,
    Paid a second time the price. . . .

    Pity him, this dupe of dream,
    Leader of the heard again
    Only in his daft old brain,
    Once again the bull supreme
    And bull enough to bear the part
    Only in his tameless heart.

    Pity him that he must wake;
    Even now the swarm of flies
    Blackening his bloodshot eyes
    Bursts and blusters round the lake,
    Scattered from the feast half-fed,
    By great shadows overhead.

    And the dreamer turns away
    From his visionary herds
    And his splendid yesterday,
    Turns to meet the loathly birds
    Flocking round him from the skies,
    Waiting for the flesh that dies.

    Ralph Hodgson


    IT'S sixty years ago, the people say:
    Two village children, neighbours born and bred,
    One morning played beneath a rotten tree
    That came down crash and caught them as they fled;
    And one was killed and one was left unhurt
    Except for certain fancies in his head.

    And though it's all so very long ago
    He's never left the wood a single day;
    I've often met him peeping through the leaves
    And chuckling to himself, an old man grey;
    And once he started in his cracked old voice:
    "We're playing I'm a merchant lost his way,
    She's robbers in the wood behind yon tree,
    The minute we grow up too big to play" --

    Ralph Hodgson

.The House Across the Way

    THE leaves looked in at the window
    Of the house across the way,
    At a man that had sinned like you and me
    And all poor human clay.

    He muttered: "In a gambol
    I took my soul astray,
    But to-morrow I'll drag it back from danger,
    In the morning, come what may;
    For no man knows what season
    He shall go his ghostly way."
    And his face fell down upon the table,
    And where it fell it lay.

    And the wind blew under the carpet
    And it said, or it seemed to say:
    "Truly, all men must go a-ghosting
    And no man knows his day."
    And the leaves stared in at the window
    Like the people at a play.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Beggar

    HE begged and shuffled on;
    Sometimes he stopped to throw
    A bit and benison
    To sparrows in the snow,
    And clap a frozen ear
    And curse the bitter cold.
    God send the good man cheer
    And quittal hundredfold.

    Ralph Hodgson


    IF you could bring her glories back!
    You gentle sirs who sift the dust
    And burrow in the mould and must
    Of Babylon for bric-a-brac;
    Who catalogue and pigeon-hole
    The faded splendours of her soul
    And put her greatness under glass --
    If you could bring her past to pass!

    If you could bring her dead to life!
    The soldier lad; the market wife;
    Madam buying fowls from her;
    Tip, the butcher's bandy cur;
    Workmen carting bricks and clay;
    Babel passing to and fro
    On the business of a day
    Gone three thousand years ago --
    That you cannot; then be done,
    Put the goblet down again,
    Let the broken arch remain,
    Leave the dead men's dust alone --

    Is it nothing how she lies,
    This old mother of you all,
    You great cities proud and tall
    Towering to a hundred skies
    Round a world she never knew,
    Is it nothing, this, to you?
    Must the ghoulish work go on
    Till her very floors are gone?
    While there's still a brick to save
    Drive these people from her grave!

    The Jewish seer when he cried
    Woe to Babel's lust and pride
    Saw the foxes at her gates;
    Once again the wild thing waits.
    Then leave her in her last decay
    A house of owls, a foxes' den;
    The desert that till yesterday
    Hid her from the eyes of men
    In its proper time and way
    Will take her to itself again.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Moor

    THE world's gone forward to its latest fair
    And dropt an old man done with by the way,
    To sit alone among the bats and stare
    At miles and miles and miles of moorland bare
    Lit only with last shreds of dying day.

    Not all the world, not all the world's gone by:
    Old man, you're like to meet one traveller still,
    A journeyman well kenned for courtesy
    To all that walk at odds with life and limb;
    If this be he now riding up the hill
    Maybe he'll stop and take you up with him . . .

    "But thou art Death?" "Of Heavenly Seraphim
    None else to seek thee out and bid thee come."
    "I only care that thou art come from Him,
    Unbody me -- I'm tired -- and get me home."

    Ralph Hodgson


    A FEW tossed thrushes save
    That carolled less than cried
    Against the dying rave
    And moan that never died,
    No bird sang then; no thorn,
    No tree was green beside
    Them only never shorn --
    The few by all the winds
    And chill mutations born
    Of Winter's many minds
    Abused and whipt in vain --
    Swarth yew and ivy kinds
    And iron breeds germane.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Late, Last Rook

    THE old gilt vane and spire receive
    The last beam eastward striking;
    The first shy bat to peep at eve
    Has found her to his liking.
    The western heaven is dull and grey,
    The last red glow has followed day.

    The late, last rook is housed and will
    With cronies lie till morrow;
    If there's a rook loquacious still
    In dream he hunts a furrow,
    And flaps behind a spectre team,
    Or ghostly scarecrows walk his dream.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Birdcather

    WHEN flighting time is on I go
    With clap-net and decoy,
    A-fowling after goldfinches
    And other birds of joy;

    I lurk among the thickets of
    The Heart where they are bred,
    And catch the twittering beauties as
    They fly into my Head.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Royal Mails

    FOR all its flowers and trailing bowers,
    Its singing birds and streams,
    This valley's not the blissful spot,
    The paradise, it seems.

    I don't forget a man I met
    Beneath this very tree, --
    The cooing of that cushat dove
    Brings back his face to me, --
    The merest lad, a sullen, sad,
    Unhappy soul with eyes half mad,
    Most sorrowful to see.

    I asked him who he was, and what;
    'Twas his affair, he answered, that,
    And had no more to say:
    'Twas all I'd feared, the tale I heard,
    When he at last gave way.
    I've not forgot the look he shot
    Me through and through with then;
    "What loathly land is this!" he cried,
    And cursed it for a countryside
    Where devils masque as men.

    I thought at first his brain was burst,
    So senselessly he cried and cursed
    And spat with rage and hate;
    He writhed to hear the glossy dove
    In song among the boughs above
    Beside its gentle mate.

    His fury passed away at last,
    And when his reason came
    He told me he was city bred,
    A page about the Court, he said,
    And coloured up with shame;
    It made him wince to own a Prince
    Of very famous fame.

    "He looked for one with speed and strength
    And youth, and picked on me at length
    And ordered me to stand
    Prepared to leave at break of day,
    With letters naught must long delay,
    For certain cities far away
    Across this lonely land.

    "He told me all the roads to take
    And cautioned me to go
    With ears and eyes and wits awake,
    Alert from top to toe,
    For spies and thieves wore out most shoes
    Upon the roads that I must use,
    As he had cause to know.

    "I took my cloak as morning broke
    And started down the hill,
    With Castle-bells and Fare-ye-wells
    And bugles sweet and shrill --
    Sir Woodsman, though it's months ago,
    I hear that music still.

    "What matters now or ever how
    I made the journey here!
    I fed on berries from the bough,
    Abundant everywhere,
    Or if it failed, that luscious meat,
    I dug up roots that wild hogs eat
    And flourished on the fare;
    At night I made a grassy bed
    And went to sleep without a dread
    And woke without a care --

    "No matter how I managed now,
    It all went well enough,
    Until I saw this spot, I vow,
    No man was better off.

    "Last night as I came down this vale
    In wind and rain full blast,
    I turned about to hear a shout
    Ho, master, whither so fast!

    "A minute more and half a score
    Of men were at my side,
    Plain merchants all, they said they were,
    And camping in a thicket near,
    `Remain with us!' they cried.

    " `Remain with us, our board is spread
    With cheer the best, Ah, stay,' they said,
    `Why go so proudly by!'
    And there and then my legs were lead,
    A weary man was I!

    "They stared with wonder that I walked
    These tangled hills and dales, and talked
    Of better roads at hand,
    Smooth roads without a hill to climb
    A man could walk in half the time,
    The finest in the land,
    With more, -- but most of it I lost
    Or did not understand.

    " `So, come,' they cried, `our tents are tight,
    Our fires are burning warm and bright!
    How shall we let you go to-night
    Without offending heaven!
    Come, leave you shall with morning light,
    Strong with the strength of seven!'

    "True men they seemed, for me I dreamed
    No whit of their design,
    Their mildness would have clapped a hood
    On sharper eyes than mine;
    Ay, me they pressed awhile to rest,
    Persuaded me to be their guest,
    And stole the letters from my breast
    When I fell down with wine!

    "It all came crowding on my mind
    With morning when I woke to find
    How blind and blind and utter blind
    And blind again I'd been;
    Both tents and men had vanished then,
    Were nowhere to be seen."

    'Twas word for word a tale I'd heard
    Not once or twice before,
    Since first I made an axe ring out
    Upon the timber hereabout,
    But twenty times and more.

    For many a year we've harboured here
    A nest of thieves and worse,
    Who watch for these young Castlemen
    At night among the gorse,
    It's hard to say if one in ten
    Gets by with life and purse.

    I wonder since 'twould serve the Prince
    To square accounts with these, --
    And many a score of footpads more
    All like as pins or peas,
    Who ply their trades at other glades
    And plunder whom they please --
    He does not rout the vermin out
    And hang them to the trees.

    But this poor lad -- for me I knew
    Scarce what to think or say,
    I pitied him, I pitied, too,
    Those cities far away.

    I asked him would he stay and be
    A woodman in these woods with me,
    Perhaps he did not hear,
    Perhaps the dove in song above
    Beside it mistress dear,
    Was Castle-bells and Fare-ye-wells
    And hornets in his ear;
    An old grey man in all but years,
    He pulled his cloak about his ears,
    And went I know not where.

    Ralph Hodgson

.The Swallow

    THE morning that my baby came
    They found a baby swallow dead,
    And saw a something, hard to name,
    Flit moth-like over baby's bed.

    My joy, my flower, my baby dear
    Sleeps on my bosom well, but Oh!
    If in the Autumn of the year
    When swallows gather round and go --

    Ralph Hodgson

.A Wood Song

    NOW one and all, you Roses,
       Wake up, you lie too long!
    This very morning closes
       The Nightingale his song;

    Each from its olive chamber
       His babies every one
    This very morning clamber
       Into the shining sun.

    You Slug-a-beds and Simples,
       Why will you so delay!
    Dears, doff your olive wimples,
       And listen while you may.

    Ralph Hodgson

.Reason Has Moons

REASON has moons, but moons not hers,
   Lie mirror'd on the sea,
Confounding her astronomers,
   But O! delighting me.
.    .    .    .    .

BABYLON -- where I go dreaming
When I weary of to-day,
Weary of a world grown grey.

.    .    .    .    .

GOD loves an idle rainbow,
No less than labouring seas.

Ralph Hodgson

.The Bride

    THE book was dull, its pictures
    As leaden as its lore,
    But one glad, happy picture
    Made up for all and more:
    'Twas that of you, sweet peasant,
    Beside your grannie's door --
    I never stopped so startled
    Inside a book before.

    Just so had I sat spell-bound,
    Quite still with staring eyes,
    If some great shiny hoopoe
    Or moth of song-bird size
    Had drifted to my window
    And trailed its fineries --
    Just so had I been startled,
    Spelled with the same surprise.

    It pictured you when springtime
    In part had given place
    But not surrendered wholly
    To summer in your face;
    When still your slender body
    Was all a childish grace
    Though woman's richest glories
    Were building there apace.

    'Twas blissful so to see you,
    Yet not without a sigh
    I dwelt upon the people
    Who saw you not as I,
    But in your living sweetness,
    Beneath your native sky;
    Ah, bliss to be the people
    When you went tripping by!

    I sat there, thinking, wondering,
    Abut your life and home,
    The happy days behind you,
    The happy days to come,
    Your grannie in her corner,
    Upstairs the little room
    Where you wake up each morning
    To dream all day -- of Whom?

    That ring upon your finger,
    Who gave you that to wear?
    What blushing smith or farm lad
    Came stammering at your ear
    A million-time-told story
    No maid but burns to hear,
    And went about his labours
    Delighting in his dear!

    I thought of you sweet lovers,
    The things you say and do,
    The pouts and tears and partings
    And swearings to be true,
    The kissings in the barley --
    You brazens, both of you!
    I nearly burst out crying
    With thinking of you two.

    It put me in a frenzy
    Of pleasure nearly pain,
    A host of blurry faces
    'Gan shaping in my brain,
    I shut my eyes to see them
    Come forward clear and plain,
    I saw them come full flower,
    And blur and fade again.

    One moment so I saw them,
    One sovereign moment so,
    A host of girlish faces
    All happy and aglow
    With Life and Love it dealt them
    Before it laid them low
    A hundred years, a thousand,
    Ten thousand years ago.

    One moment so I saw them
    Come back with time full tide,
    The host of girls, your grannies,
    Who lived and loved and died
    To give your mouth its beauty,
    Your soul its gentle pride,
    Who wrestled with the ages
    To give the world a bride.

    Ralph Hodgson


    "HOW fared you when you mortal were?
       What did you see on my peopled star?"
    "Oh well enough," I answered her,
       "It went for me where mortals are!

    "I saw blue flowers and the merlin's flight
       And the rime on the wintry tree,
    Blue doves I saw and summer light
       On the wings of the cinnamon bee."

    Ralph Hodgson

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