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    John Drinkwater

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    A Town Window

      Beyond my window in the night
      Is but a drab inglorious street,
      Yet there the frost and clean starlight
      As over Warwick woods are sweet.

      Under the grey drift of the town
      The crocus works among the mould
      As eagerly as those that crown
      The Warwick spring in flame and gold.

      And when the tramway down the hill
      Across the cobbles moans and rings,
      There is about my window-sill
      The tumult of a thousand wings.

    Of Greatham

    (To those who live there)

      For peace, than knowledge more desireable,
      Into your Sussex quietness I came,
      When summer's green and gold and azure fell
      Over the world in flame.

      And peace upon your pasture lands I found,
      Where grazing flocks drift on continually,
      As little clouds that travel with no sound
      Across a windless sky.

      Out of your oaks the birds call to their mates
      That brood among the pines, where hidden deep
      From curious eyes a world's adventure waits
      In columned choirs of sleep.

      Under the calm ascension of the night
      We heard the mellow lapsing and return
      Of night-owls purring in their groundless flight
      Through lanes of darkling fern.

      Unbroken peace when all the stars were drawn
      Back to their lairs of light, and ranked along
      From shire to shire the downs out of the dawn
      Were risen in golden song.

       .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

      I sing of peace who have known the large unrest
      Of men bewildered in their travelling,
      And I have known the bridal earth unblest
      By the brigades of spring.

      I have known that loss. And now the broken thought
      Of nations marketing in death I know,
      The very winds to threnodies are wrought
      That on your downlands blow.

      I sing of peace. Was it but yesterday
      I came among your roses and your corn?
      Then momently amid this wrath I pray
      For yesterday reborn.

    The Carver in Stone

      He was a man with wide and patient eyes,
      Grey, like the drift of twitch-fires blown in June,
      That, without fearing, searched if any wrong
      Might threaten from your heart. Grey eyes he had
      Under a brow was drawn because he knew
      So many seasons to so many pass
      Of upright service, loyal, unabased
      Before the world seducing, and so, barren
      Of good words praising and thought that mated his.
      He carved in stone. Out of his quiet life
      He watched as any faithful seaman charged
      With tidings of the myriad faring sea,
      And thoughts and premonitions through his mind
      Sailing as ships from strange and storied lands
      His hungry spirit held, till all they were
      Found living witness in the chiselled stone.
      Slowly out of the dark confusion, spread
      By life's innumerable venturings
      Over his brain, he would triumph into the light
      Of one clear mood, unblemished of the blind
      Legions of errant thought that cried about
      His rapt seclusion: as a pearl unsoiled,
      Nay, rather washed to lonelier chastity,
      In gritty mud. And then would come a bird,
      A flower, or the wind moving upon a flower,
      A beast at pasture, or a clustered fruit,
      A peasant face as were the saints of old,
      The leer of custom, or the bow of the moon
      Swung in miraculous poise -- some stray from the world
      Of things created by the eternal mind
      In joy articulate. And his perfect mood
      Would dwell about the token of God's mood,
      Until in bird or flower or moving wind
      Or flock or shepherd or the troops of heaven
      It sprang in one fierce moment of desire
      To visible form.
      Then would his chisel work among the stone,
      Persuading it of petal or of limb
      Or starry curve, till risen anew there sang
      Shape out of chaos, and again the vision
      Of one mind single from the world was pressed
      Upon the daily custom of the sky
      Or field or the body of man.

                               His people
      Had many gods for worship. The tiger-god,
      The owl, the dewlapped bull, the running pard,
      The camel, and the lizard of the slime,
      The ram with quivering fleece and fluted horn,
      The crested eagle and the doming bat
      Were sacred. And the king and his high priests
      Decreed a temple, wide on columns huge,
      Should top the cornlands to the sky's far line.
      They bade the carvers carve along the walls
      Images of their gods, each one to carve
      As he desired, his choice to name his god. . . .
      And many came; and he among them, glad
      Of three leagues' travel through the singing air
      Of dawn among the boughs yet bare of green,
      The eager flight of the spring leading his blood
      Into swift lofty channels of the air,
      Proud as an eagle riding to the sun. . . .
      An eagle, clean of pinion -- there's his choice.

      Daylong they worked under the growing roof,
      One at his leapard, one the staring ram,
      And he winning his eagle from the stone,
      Until each man had carved one image out,
      Arow beyond the portal of the house.
      They stood arow, the company of gods,
      Camel and bat, lizard and bull and ram,
      The pard and owl, dead figures on the wall,
      Figures of habit driven on the stone
      By chisels governed by no heat of the brain
      But drudges of hands that moved by easy rule.
      Proudly recorded mood was none, no thought
      Plucked from the dark battalions of the mind
      And throned in everlasting sight. But one
      God of them all was witness of belief
      And large adventure dared. His eagle spread
      Wide pinions on the cloudless ground of heaven,
      Glad with the heart's high courage of that dawn
      Moving upon the ploughlands newly sown,
      Dead stone the rest. He looked, and knew it so.

      Then came the king with prists and counsellors
      And many chosen of the people, wise
      With words weary of custom, and eyes askew
      That watched their neighbour face for any news
      Of the best way of judgment, till, each sure
      None would determine with authority,
      All spoke in prudent praise. One liked the owl
      Because an owl blinked on the beam of his barn.
      One, hoarse with crying gospels in the street,
      Priased most the ram, because the common folk
      Wore breeches made of ram's wool. One declared
      the tiger pleased him best, -- the man who carved
      The tiger-god was halt out of th womb --
      A man to praise, being so pitiful.
      And one, whose eyes dwelt in a distant void,
      With spell and omen pat upon his lips,
      And a purse for any crystal prophet ripe,
      A zealot of the mist, gazed at the bull --
      A lean ill-shapen bull of meagre lines
      That scarce the steel had graved upon the stone --
      Saying that here was very mystery
      And truth, did men but know. And one there was
      Who priased his eagle, but remembering
      The lither pinion of the swift, the curve
      That liked him better of the mirrored swan.
      And they who carved the tiger-god and ram,
      The camel and the pard, the owl and bull,
      And lizard, listened greedily, and made
      Humble denial of their worthiness,
      And when the king his royal judgement gave
      That all had fashioned well, and bade that each
      Re-shape his chosen god along the walls
      Till all the temple boasted of their skill,
      The bowed themselves in token that as this
      Never had carvers been so fortunate.

      Only the man with wide and patient eyes
      Made no denial, neither bowed his head.
      Already while they spoke his thoughts had gone
      Far from his eagle, leaving it for a sign
      Loyally wrought of one deep breath of life,
      And played about the image of a toad
      That crawled among his ivy leaves. A queer
      Puff-bellied toad, with eyes that always stared
      Sidelong at heaven and saw no heaven there,
      Weak-hammed, and with a throttle somehow twisted
      Beyond full wholesome draughts of air, and skin
      Of wrinkled lips, the only zest or will
      The little flashing tongue searching the leaves.
      The king and priest, chosen and counsellor,
      Babbling out of their thin and jealous brains,
      Seemed strangely one; a queer enormous toad
      Panting under giant leaves of dark,
      Sunk in the loins, peering into the day.

      Their judgment wry he counted not for wrong
      More than the fabled poison of the toad
      Striking at simple wits; how should their thought
      Or word in praise or blame come near the peace
      That shone in seasonable hours above
      The patience of his spirit's husbandry?
      They foolish and not seeing, how should he
      Spend anger there or fear -- great ceremonies
      Equal for none save great antagonists?
      The grave indifference of his heart before them
      Was moved by laughter innocent of hate,
      Chastising clean of spite, that moulded them
      Into the antic likeness of his toad
      Bidding for laughter underneath the leaves.

      He bowed not, nor disputed, but saw
      Those ill-created joyless gods, and loathed,
      And saw them creeping, creeping round the walls,
      Death breeding death, wile witnessing to wile,
      And sickened at the dull iniquity
      Should be rewarded, and for ever breathe
      Contagion on the folk gathered in prayer.
      His truth should not be doomed to march among
      This falsehood to the ages. He was called,
      And he must labour there; if so the king
      Would grant it, where the pillars bore the roof
      A galleried way of meditation nursed
      Secluded time, with wall of ready stone
      In panels for the carver set between
      The windows -- there his chisel should be set, --
      It was his plea. And the king spoke of him,
      Scorning, as one lack-fettle, among all these
      Eager to take the riches of renown;
      One fearful of the light of knowing nothing
      Of light's dimension, a witling who would thro
      Honour aside and priase spoken aloud
      All men of heart should covet. Let him go
      Grubbing out of the sight of those who knew
      The worth of subtance; there was his proper trade.

      A squat and curious toad indeed. . . . The eyes,
      Patient and grey, were dumb as were the lips,
      That, fixed and governed, hoarded from them all
      The larger laughter lifting in his heart.
      Straightway about his gallery he moved,
      Measured the windows and the virgin stone,
      Til all was weighed and patterned in his brain.
      Then first where most the shadows struck the wall,
      Under the sills, and centre of the base,
      From floor to sill out of the stone was wooed
      Memorial folly, as from the chisel leapt
      His chastening laughter searching priest and king --
      A huge and wrinkled toak, with legs asplay,
      And belly loaded, leering with great eyes
      Busily fixed upon the void.

                                    All days
      His chisel was the first to ring across
      The temple's quiet; and at fall of dusk
      Passing among the carvers homeward, they
      Would speak of him as mad, or weak against
      The challenge of the world, and let him go
      Lonely, as was his will, under the night
      Of stars or cloud or summer's folded sun,
      Through crop and wood and pastureland to sleep.
      None took the narrow stair as wondering
      How did his chisel prosper in the stone,
      Unvisited his labour and forgot.
      And times when he would lean out of his height
      And watch the gods growing along the walls,
      The row of carvers in their linen coats
      Took in his vision a virtue that alone
      Carving they had not nor the thing they carved.
      Knowing the health that flowed about his close
      Imagining, the daily quiet won
      From process of his clean and supple craft,
      Those carvers there, far on the floor below,
      Would haply be transfigured in his thought
      Into a gallant company of men
      Glad of the strict and loyal reckoning
      That proved in the just presence of the brain
      Each chisel-stroke. How surely would he prosper
      In pleasant talk at easy hours with men
      So fashioned if it might be -- and his eyes
      Would pass again to those dead gods that grew
      In spreading evil round the temple walls;
      And, one dead pressure made, the carvers moved
      Along the wall to mould and mould again
      The self-same god, their chisels on the stone
      Tapping in dull precision as before,
      And he would turn, back to his lonely truth.

      He carved apace. And first his people's gods,
      About the toad, out of their sterile time,
      Under his hand thrilled and were recreate.
      The bull, the pard, the camel and the ram,
      Tiger and owl and bat -- all were the signs
      Visibly made body on the stone
      Of sightless thought adventuring the host
      That is mere spirit; these the bloom achieved
      By secret labour in the flowing wood
      Of rain and air and wind and continent sun. . . .
      His tiger, lithe, immobile in the stone,
      A swift destruction for a moment leashed,
      Sprang crying from the jealous stealth of men
      Opposed in cunning watch, with engines hid
      Of torment and calamitous desire.
      His leapard, swift on lean and paltry limbs,
      Was fear in flight before accusing faith.
      His bull, with eyes that often in the dusk
      Would lift from the sweet meadow grass to watch
      Him homeward passing, bore on massy beam
      The burden of the patient of the earth.
      His camel bore the burden of the damned,
      Being gaunt, with eyes aslant along the nose.
      He had a friend, who hammered bronze and iron
      And cupped the moonstone on a silver ring,
      One constant like himself, would come at night
      Or bid him as a guest, when they would make
      Their poets touch a starrier height, or search
      Together with an unparsimonious mind
      The crowded harbours of mortality.
      And there were jests, wholesome as harvest ale,
      Of homely habit, bred of hearts that dared
      Judgment of laughter under the eternal eye:
      This frolic wisdom was his carven owl.
      His ram was lordship on the lonely hills,
      Alert and fleet, content only to know
      The wind mightily pouring on his fleece,
      With yesterday and all unrisen suns
      Poorer than disinherited ghosts. His bat
      Was ancient envy made a mockery,
      Cowering below the newer eagle carved
      Above the arches with wide pinion spread,
      His faith's dominion of that happy dawn.
      And so he wrought the gods upon the wall,
      Living and crying out of his desire,
      Out of his patient incorruptible thought,
      Wrought them in joy was wages to his faith.
      And other than the gods he made. The stalks
      Of bluebells heavy with the news of spring,
      The vine loaded with plenty of the year,
      And swallows, merely tenderness of thought
      Bidding the stone to small and fragile flight;
      Leaves, the thin relics of autumnal boughs,
      Or massed in June. . . .
      All from their native pressure bloomed and sprang
      Under his shaping hand into a proud
      And governed image of the central man, --
      And all were deftly ordered, duly set
      Between the windows, underneath the sills,
      And roofward, as a motion rightly planned,
      Till on the wall, out of the sullen stone,
      A glory blazed, his vision manifest,
      His wonder captive. And he was content.

      And when the builders and the carvers knew
      Their labours done, and high the temple stood
      Over the cornlands, king and counsellor
      And prist and chosen of the people came
      Among a ceremonial multitude
      To dedication. And, below the thrones
      Where king and archpriest ruled above the throng,
      Highest among the ranked artificers
      The carvers stood. And when, the temple vowed
      To holy use, tribute and choral praise
      Given as was ordained, the king looked down
      Upon the gathered folk, and bade them see
      The comely gods fashioned about the walls,
      And keep in honour men whose precious skill
      Could so adorn the sessions of their worship,
      Gravely the carvers bowed them to the ground.
      Only the man with wide and patient eyes
      Stood not among them; nor did any come
      To count his labour, where he watched alone
      Above the coloured throng. He heard, and looked
      Again upon his work, and knew it good,
      Smiled on his toad, passed down the stair unseen,
      And sang across the teeming meadow home.

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