Last Poems (Housman)

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Last Poems  (1922) 
by Alfred Edward Housman

I publish these poems, few though they are, because it is not likely that I shall ever be impelled to write much more. I can no longer expect to be revisited by the continuous excitement under which in the early months of 1895 I wrote the greater part of my first book, nor indeed could I well sustain it if it came; and it is best that what I have written should be printed while I am here to see it through the press and control its spelling and punctuation. About a quarter of this matter belongs to the April of the present year, but most of it to dates between 1895 and 1910.

September 1922

     We'll to the weeds no more,
     The laurels are all cut,
     The bowers are bare of bay
     That once the Muses wore;
     The year draws in the day
     And soon will evening shut:
     The laurels all are cut,
     We'll to the woods no more.
     Oh we'll no more, no more
     To the leafy woods away,
     To the high wild woods of laurel
     And the bowers of bay no more.

I. THE WEST[edit]

     Beyond the moor and the mountain crest
     --Comrade, look not on the west--
     The sun is down and drinks away
     From air and land the lees of day.

     The long cloud and the single pine
     Sentinel the ending line,
     And out beyond it, clear and wan,
     Reach the gulfs of evening on.

     The son of woman turns his brow
     West from forty countries now,
     And, as the edge of heaven he eyes,
     Thinks eternal thoughts, and sighs.

     Oh wide's the world, to rest or roam,
     With change abroad and cheer at home,
     Fights and furloughs, talk and tale,
     Company and beef and ale.

     But if I front the evening sky
     Silent on the west look I,
     And my comrade, stride for stride,
     Paces silent at my side,

     Comrade, look not on the west:
     'Twill have the heart out of your breast;
     'Twill take your thoughts and sink them far,
     Leagues beyond the sunset bar.

     Oh lad, I fear that yon's the sea
     Where they fished for you and me,
     And there, from whence we both were ta'en,
     You and I shall drown again.

     Send not on your soul before
     To dive from that beguiling shore,
     And let not yet the swimmer leave
     His clothes upon the sands of eve.

     Too fast to yonder strand forlorn
     We journey, to the sunken bourn,
     To flush the fading tinges eyed
     By other lads at eventide.

     Wide is the world, to rest or roam,
     And early 'tis for turning home:
     Plant your heel on earth and stand,
     And let's forget our native land.

     When you and I are split on air
     Long we shall be strangers there;
     Friends of flesh and bone are best;
     Comrade, look not on the west.

II.[edit]

     As I gird on for fighting
         My sword upon my thigh,
     I think on old ill fortunes
         Of better men than I.

     Think I, the round world over,
         What golden lads are low
     With hurts not mine to mourn for
         And shames I shall not know.

     What evil luck soever
         For me remains in store,
     'Tis sure much finer fellows
         Have fared much worse before.

     So here are things to think on
         That ought to make me brave,
     As I strap on for fighting
         My sword that will not save.

III.[edit]

     Her strong enchantments failing,
         Her towers of fear in wreck,
     Her limbecks dried of poisons
         And the knife at her neck,

     The Queen of air and darkness
         Begins to shrill and cry,
     'O young man, O my slayer,
         To-morrow you shall die.'

     O Queen of air and darkness,
         I think 'tis truth you say,
     And I shall die to-morrow;
         But you will die to-day.

IV. ILLIC JACET[edit]

     Oh hard is the bed they have made him,
         And common the blanket and cheap;
     But there he will lie as they laid him:
         Where else could you trust him to sleep?

     To sleep when the bugle is crying
         And cravens have heard and are brave,
     When mothers and sweethearts are sighing
         And lads are in love with the grave.

     Oh dark is the chamber and lonely,
         And lights and companions depart;
     But lief will he lose them and only
         Behold the desire of his heart.

     And low is the roof, but it covers
         A sleeper content to repose;
     And far from his friends and his lovers
         He lies with the sweetheart he chose.

V. GRENADIER[edit]

     The Queen she sent to look for me,
         The sergeant he did say,
     'Young man, a soldier will you be
         For thirteen pence a day?'

     For thirteen pence a day did I
         Take off the things I wore,
     And I have marched to where I lie,
         And I shall march no more.

     My mouth is dry, my shirt is wet,
         My blood runs all away,
     So now I shall not die in debt
         For thirteen pence a day.

     To-morrow after new young men
         The sergeant he must see,
     For things will all be over then
         Between the Queen and me.

     And I shall have to bate my price,
         For in the grave, they say,
     Is neither knowledge nor device
         Nor thirteen pence a day.

VI. LANCER[edit]

     I 'listed at home for a lancer,
         Oh who would not sleep with the brave?
     I 'listed at home for a lancer
         To ride on a horse to my grave.

     And over the seas we were bidden
         A country to take and to keep;
     And far with the brave I have ridden,
         And now with the brave I shall sleep.

     For round me the men will be lying
         That learned me the way to behave.
     And showed me my business of dying:
         Oh who would not sleep with the brave?

     They ask and there is not an answer;
     Says I, I will 'list for a lancer,
         Oh who would not sleep with the brave?

     And I with the brave shall be sleeping
         At ease on my mattress of loam,
     When back from their taking and keeping
         The squadron is riding home.

     The wind with the plumes will be playing,
         The girls will stand watching them wave,
     And eyeing my comrades and saying
         Oh who would not sleep with the brave?

     They ask and there is not an answer;
     Says you, I will 'list for a lancer,
         Oh who would not sleep with the brave?

VII.[edit]

     In valleys green and still
         Where lovers wander maying
     They hear from over hill
         A music playing.

     Behind the drum and fife,
         Past hawthornwood and hollow,
     Through earth and out of life
         The soldiers follow.

     The soldier's is the trade:
         In any wind or weather
     He steals the heart of maid
         And man together.

     The lover and his lass
         Beneath the hawthorn lying
     Have heard the soldiers pass,
         And both are sighing.

     And down the distance they
         With dying note and swelling
     Walk the resounding way
         To the still dwelling.

VIII.[edit]

     Soldier from the wars returning,
         Spoiler of the taken town,
     Here is ease that asks not earning;
         Turn you in and sit you down.

     Peace is come and wars are over,
         Welcome you and welcome all,
     While the charger crops the clover
         And his bridle hangs in stall.

     Now no more of winters biting,
         Filth in trench from fall to spring,
     Summers full of sweat and fighting
         For the Kesar or the King.

     Rest you, charger, rust you, bridle;
         Kings and kesars, keep your pay;
     Soldier, sit you down and idle
         At the inn of night for aye.

IX.[edit]

     The chestnut casts his flambeaux, and the flowers
         Stream from the hawthorn on the wind away,
     The doors clap to, the pane is blind with showers.
         Pass me the can, lad; there's an end of May.

     There's one spoilt spring to scant our mortal lot,
         One season ruined of our little store.
     May will be fine next year as like as not:
         Oh ay, but then we shall be twenty-four.

     We for a certainty are not the first
         Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
     Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
         Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.

     It is in truth iniquity on high
         To cheat our sentenced souls of aught they crave,
     And mar the merriment as you and I
         Fare on our long fool's-errand to the grave.

     Iniquity it is; but pass the can.
         My lad, no pair of kings our mothers bore;
     Our only portion is the estate of man:
         We want the moon, but we shall get no more.

     If here to-day the cloud of thunder lours
         To-morrow it will hie on far behests;
     The flesh will grieve on other bones than ours
         Soon, and the soul will mourn in other breasts.

     The troubles of our proud and angry dust
         Are from eternity, and shall not fail.
     Bear them we can, and if we can we must.
         Shoulder the sky, my lad, and drink your ale.

X.[edit]

     Could man be drunk for ever
         With liquor, love, or fights,
     Lief should I rouse at morning
         And lief lie down of nights.

     But men at whiles are sober
         And think by fits and starts,
     And if they think, they fasten
         Their hands upon their hearts.

XI.[edit]

     Yonder see the morning blink:
         The sun is up, and up must I,
     To wash and dress and eat and drink
     And look at things and talk and think
         And work, and God knows why.

     Oh often have I washed and dressed
         And what's to show for all my pain?
     Let me lie abed and rest:
     Ten thousand times I've done my best
         And all's to do again.

XII.[edit]

         The laws of God, the laws of man,
     He may keep that will and can;
     Now I: let God and man decree
     Laws for themselves and not for me;
     And if my ways are not as theirs
     Let them mind their own affairs.
     Their deeds I judge and much condemn,
     Yet when did I make laws for them?
     Please yourselves, say I, and they
     Need only look the other way.
     But no, they will not; they must still
     Wrest their neighbour to their will,
     And make me dance as they desire
     With jail and gallows and hell-fire.
     And how am I to face the odds
     Of man's bedevilment and God's?
     I, a stranger and afraid
     In a world I never made.
     They will be master, right or wrong;
     Though both are foolish, both are strong,
     And since, my soul, we cannot fly
     To Saturn or Mercury,
     Keep we must, if keep we can,
     These foreign laws of God and man.

XIII. THE DESERTER[edit]

     "What sound awakened me, I wonder,
         For now 'tis dumb."
     "Wheels on the road most like, or thunder:
         Lie down; 'twas not the drum.:

     "Toil at sea and two in haven
         And trouble far:
     Fly, crow, away, and follow, raven,
         And all that croaks for war."

     "Hark, I heard the bugle crying,
         And where am I?
     My friends are up and dressed and dying,
         And I will dress and die."

     "Oh love is rare and trouble plenty
         And carrion cheap,
     And daylight dear at four-and-twenty:
         Lie down again and sleep."

     "Reach me my belt and leave your prattle:
         Your hour is gone;
     But my day is the day of battle,
         And that comes dawning on.

     "They mow the field of man in season:
         Farewell, my fair,
     And, call it truth or call it treason,
         Farewell the vows that were."

     "Ay, false heart, forsake me lightly:
         'Tis like the brave.
     They find no bed to joy in rightly
         Before they find the grave.

     "Their love is for their own undoing.
         And east and west
     They scour about the world a-wooing
         The bullet in their breast.

     "Sail away the ocean over,
         Oh sail away,
     And lie there with your leaden lover
         For ever and a day."

XIV. THE CULPRIT[edit]

     The night my father got me
         His mind was not on me;
     He did not plague his fancy
         To muse if I should be
         The son you see.

     The day my mother bore me
         She was a fool and glad,
     For all the pain I cost her,
         That she had borne the lad
         That borne she had.

     My mother and my father
         Out of the light they lie;
     The warrant would not find them,
         And here 'tis only I
         Shall hang so high.

     Oh let not man remember
         The soul that God forgot,
     But fetch the county kerchief
         And noose me in the knot,
         And I will rot.

     For so the game is ended
         That should not have begun.
     My father and my mother
         They had a likely son,
         And I have none.

XV. EIGHT O'CLOCK[edit]

     He stood, and heard the steeple
         Sprinkle the quarters on the morning town.
     One, two, three, four, to market-place and people
         It tossed them down.

     Strapped, noosed, nighing his hour,
         He stood and counted them and cursed his luck;
     And then the clock collected in the tower
         Its strength, and struck.

XVI. SPRING MORNING[edit]

     Star and coronal and bell
         April underfoot renews,
     And the hope of man as well
         Flowers among the morning dews.

     Now the old come out to look,
         Winter past and winter's pains.
     How the sky in pool and brook
         Glitters on the grassy plains.

     Easily the gentle air
         Wafts the turning season on;
     Things to comfort them are there,
         Though 'tis true the best are gone.

     Now the scorned unlucky lad
         Rousing from his pillow gnawn
     Mans his heart and deep and glad
         Drinks the valiant air of dawn.

     Half the night he longed to die,
         Now are sown on hill and plain
     Pleasures worth his while to try
         Ere he longs to die again.

     Blue the sky from east to west
         Arches, and the world is wide,
     Though the girl he loves the best
         Rouses from another's side.

XVII. ASTRONOMY[edit]

     The Wain upon the northern steep
         Descends and lifts away.
     Oh I will sit me down and weep
         For bones in Africa.

     For pay and medals, name and rank,
         Things that he has not found,
     He hove the Cross to heaven and sank
         The pole-star underground.

     And now he does not even see
         Signs of the nadir roll
     At night over the ground where he
         Is buried with the pole

XVIII.[edit]

     The rain, it streams on stone and hillock,
         The boot clings to the clay.
     Since all is done that's due and right
     Let's home; and now, my lad, good-night,
         For I must turn away.

     Good-night, my lad, for nought's eternal;
         No league of ours, for sure.
     Tomorrow I shall miss you less,
     And ache of heart and heaviness
         Are things that time should cure.

     Over the hill the highway marches
         And what's beyond is wide:
     Oh soon enough will pine to nought
     Remembrance and the faithful thought
         That sits the grave beside.

     The skies, they are not always raining
         Nor grey the twelvemonth through;
     And I shall meet good days and mirth,
     And range the lovely lands of earth
         With friends no worse than you.

     But oh, my man, the house is fallen
         That none can build again;
     My man, how full of joy and woe
     Your mother bore you years ago
         To-night to lie in the rain.

XIX.[edit]

     In midnights of November,
         When Dead Man's Fair is nigh,
     And danger in the valley,
         And anger in the sky,

     Around the huddling homesteads
         The leafless timber roars,
     And the dead call the dying
         And finger at the doors.

     Oh, yonder faltering fingers
         Are hands I used to hold;
     Their false companion drowses
         And leaves them in the cold.

     Oh, to the bed of ocean,
         To Africk and to Ind,
     I will arise and follow
         Along the rainy wind.

     The night goes out and under
         With all its train forlorn;
     Hues in the east assemble
         And cocks crow up the morn.

     The living are the living
         And dead the dead will stay,
     And I will sort with comrades
         That face the beam of day.

XX.[edit]


     The night is freezing fast,
         To-morrow comes December;
               And winterfalls of old
     Are with me from the past;
         And chiefly I remember
               How Dick would hate the cold.

     Fall, winter, fall; for he,
         Prompt hand and headpiece clever,
               Has woven a winter robe,
     And made of earth and sea
         His overcoat for ever,
               And wears the turning globe.

XXI.[edit]

     The fairies break their dances
         And leave the printed lawn,
     And up from India glances
         The silver sail of dawn.

     The candles burn their sockets,
         The blinds let through the day,
     The young man feels his pockets
         And wonders what's to pay.

XXII.[edit]

     The sloe was lost in flower,
         The April elm was dim;
     That was the lover's hour,
         The hour for lies and him.

     If thorns are all the bower,
         If north winds freeze the fir,
     Why, 'tis another's hour,
         The hour for truth and her.

XXIII.[edit]

     In the morning, in the morning,
         In the happy field of hay,
     Oh they looked at one another
         By the light of day.

     In the blue and silver morning
         On the haycock as they lay,
     Oh they looked at one another
         And they looked away.

XXIV. EPITHALAMIUM[edit]

         He is here, Urania's son,
     Hymen come from Helicon;
     God that glads the lover's heart,
     He is here to join and part.
     So the groomsman quits your side
     And the bridegroom seeks the bride:
     Friend and comrade yield you o'er
     To her that hardly loves you more.

         Now the sun his skyward beam
     Has tilted from the Ocean stream.
     Light the Indies, laggard sun:
     Happy bridegroom, day is done,
     And the star from OEta's steep
     Calls to bed but not to sleep.

         Happy bridegroom, Hesper brings
     All desired and timely things.
     All whom morning sends to roam,
     Hesper loves to lead them home.
     Home return who him behold,
     Child to mother, sheep to fold,
     Bird to nest from wandering wide:
     Happy bridegroom, seek your bride.

         Pour it out, the golden cup
     Given and guarded, brimming up,
     Safe through jostling markets borne
     And the thicket of the thorn;
     Folly spurned and danger past,
     Pour it to the god at last.

         Now, to smother noise and light,
     Is stolen abroad the wildering night,
     And the blotting shades confuse
     Path and meadow full of dews;
     And the high heavens, that all control,
     Turn in silence round the pole.
     Catch the starry beams they shed
     Prospering the marriage bed,
     And breed the land that reared your prime
     Sons to stay the rot of time.
     All is quiet, no alarms;
     Nothing fear of nightly harms.
     Safe you sleep on guarded ground,
     And in silent circle round
     The thoughts of friends keep watch and ward,
     Harnessed angels, hand on sword.

XXV. THE ORACLES[edit]

     'Tis mute, the word they went to hear on high Dodona mountain
         When winds were in the oakenshaws and all the cauldrons tolled,
     And mute's the midland navel-stone beside the singing fountain,
         And echoes list to silence now where gods told lies of old.

     I took my question to the shrine that has not ceased from speaking,
         The heart within, that tells the truth and tells it twice as plain;
     And from the cave of oracles I heard the priestess shrieking
         That she and I should surely die and never live again.

     Oh priestess, what you cry is clear, and sound good sense I think it;
         But let the screaming echoes rest, and froth your mouth no more.
     'Tis true there's better boose than brine, but he that drowns must drink it;
         And oh, my lass, the news is news that men have heard before.

     The King with half the East at heel is marched from lands of morning;
         Their fighters drink the rivers up, their shafts benight the air.
     And he that stands will die for nought, and home there's no returning.
         The Spartans on the sea-wet rock sat down and combed their hair.

XXVI.[edit]

     The half-moon westers low, my love,
         And the wind brings up the rain;
     And wide apart lie we, my love,
         And seas between the twain.

     I know not if it rains, my love,
         In the land where you do lie;
     And oh, so sound you sleep, my love,
         You know no more than I.

XXVII.[edit]

     The sigh that heaves the grasses
         Whence thou wilt never rise
     Is of the air that passes
         And knows not if it sighs.

     The diamond tears adorning
         Thy low mound on the lea,
     Those are the tears of morning,
         That weeps, but not for thee.

XXVIII.[edit]

     Now dreary dawns the eastern light,
         And fall of eve is drear,
     And cold the poor man lies at night,
         And so goes out the year.

     Little is the luck I've had,
         And oh, 'tis comfort small
     To think that many another lad
         Has had no luck at all.

XXIX.[edit]

     Wake not for the world-heard thunder
         Nor the chime that earthquakes toll.
     Star may plot in heaven with planet,
     Lightning rive the rock of granite,
     Tempest tread the oakwood under:
         Fear not you for flesh nor soul.
     Marching, fighting, victory past,
     Stretch your limbs in peace at last.

     Stir not for the soldiers drilling
         Nor the fever nothing cures:
     Throb of drum and timbal's rattle
     Call but man alive to battle,
     And the fife with death-notes filling
         Screams for blood but not for yours.
     Times enough you bled your best;
     Sleep on now, and take your rest.

     Sleep, my lad; the French are landed,
         London's burning, Windsor's down;
     Clasp your cloak of earth about you,
     We must man the ditch without you,
     March unled and fight short-handed,
         Charge to fall and swim to drown.
     Duty, friendship, bravery o'er,
     Sleep away, lad; wake no more.

XXX. SINNER'S RUE[edit]

     I walked alone and thinking,
         And faint the nightwind blew
     And stirred on mounds at crossways
         The flower of sinner's rue.

     Where the roads part they bury
         Him that his own hand slays,
     And so the weed of sorrow
         Springs at the four cross ways.

     By night I plucked it hueless,
         When morning broke 'twas blue:
     Blue at my breast I fastened
         The flower of sinner's rue.

     It seemed a herb of healing,
         A balsam and a sign,
     Flower of a heart whose trouble
         Must have been worse than mine.

     Dead clay that did me kindness,
         I can do none to you,
     But only wear for breastknot
         The flower of sinner's rue.

XXXI. HELL'S GATE[edit]

         Onward led the road again
     Through the sad uncoloured plain
     Under twilight brooding dim,
     And along the utmost rim
     Wall and rampart risen to sight
     Cast a shadow not of night,
     And beyond them seemed to glow
     Bonfires lighted long ago.
     And my dark conductor broke
     Silence at my side and spoke,
     Saying, "You conjecture well:
     Yonder is the gate of hell."

         Ill as yet the eye could see
     The eternal masonry,
     But beneath it on the dark
     To and fro there stirred a spark.
     And again the sombre guide
     Knew my question, and replied:
     "At hell gate the damned in turn
     Pace for sentinel and burn."

         Dully at the leaden sky
     Staring, and with idle eye
     Measuring the listless plain,
     I began to think again.
     Many things I thought of then,
     Battle, and the loves of men,
     Cities entered, oceans crossed,
     Knowledge gained and virtue lost,
     Cureless folly done and said,
     And the lovely way that led
     To the slimepit and the mire
     And the everlasting fire.
     And against a smoulder dun
     And a dawn without a sun
     Did the nearing bastion loom,
     And across the gate of gloom
     Still one saw the sentry go,
     Trim and burning, to and fro,
     One for women to admire
     In his finery of fire.
     Something, as I watched him pace,
     Minded me of time and place,
     Soldiers of another corps
     And a sentry known before.

         Ever darker hell on high
     Reared its strength upon the sky,
     And our footfall on the track
     Fetched the daunting echo back.
     But the soldier pacing still
     The insuperable sill,
     Nursing his tormented pride,
     Turned his head to neither side,
     Sunk into himself apart
     And the hell-fire of his heart.
     But against our entering in
     From the drawbridge Death and Sin
     Rose to render key and sword
     To their father and their lord.
     And the portress foul to see
     Lifted up her eyes on me
     Smiling, and I made reply:
     "Met again, my lass," said I.
     Then the sentry turned his head,
     Looked, and knew me, and was Ned.

         Once he looked, and halted straight,
     Set his back against the gate,
     Caught his musket to his chin,
     While the hive of hell within
     Sent abroad a seething hum
     As of towns whose king is come
     Leading conquest home from far
     And the captives of his war,
     And the car of triumph waits,
     And they open wide the gates.
     But across the entry barred
     Straddled the revolted guard,
     Weaponed and accoutred well
     From the arsenals of hell;
     And beside him, sick and white,
     Sin to left and Death to right
     Turned a countenance of fear
     On the flaming mutineer.
     Over us the darkness bowed,
     And the anger in the cloud
     Clenched the lightning for the stroke;
     But the traitor musket spoke.

         And the hollowness of hell
     Sounded as its master fell,
     And the mourning echo rolled
     Ruin through his kingdom old.
     Tyranny and terror flown
     Left a pair of friends alone,
     And beneath the nether sky
     All that stirred was he and I.

         Silent, nothing found to say,
     We began the backward way;
     And the ebbing luster died
     From the soldier at my side,
     As in all his spruce attire
     Failed the everlasting fire.
     Midmost of the homeward track
     Once we listened and looked back;
     But the city, dusk and mute,
     Slept, and there was no pursuit.

XXXII.[edit]

     When I would muse in boyhood
         The wild green woods among,
     And nurse resolves and fancies
         Because the world was young,
     It was not foes to conquer,
         Nor sweethearts to be kind,
     But it was friends to die for
         That I would seek and find.

     I sought them far and found them,
         The sure, the straight, the brave,
     The hearts I lost my own to,
         The souls I could not save.
     They braced their belts about them,
         They crossed in ships the sea,
     They sought and found six feet of ground,
         And there they died for me.

XXXIII.[edit]

     When the eye of day is shut,
         And the stars deny their beams,
     And about the forest hut
         Blows the roaring wood of dreams,

     From deep clay, from desert rock,
         From the sunk sands of the main,
     Come not at my door to knock,
         Hearts that loved me not again.

     Sleep, be still, turn to your rest
         In the lands where you are laid;
     In far lodgings east and west
         Lie down on the beds you made.

     In gross marl, in blowing dust,
         In the drowned ooze of the sea,
     Where you would not, lie you must,
         Lie you must, and not with me.

XXXIV. THE FIRST OF MAY[edit]

     The orchards half the way
         From home to Ludlow fair
     Flowered on the first of May
         In Mays when I was there;
     And seen from stile or turning
         The plume of smoke would show
     Where fires were burning
         That went out long ago.

     The plum broke forth in green,
         The pear stood high and snowed,
     My friends and I between
         Would take the Ludlow road;
     Dressed to the nines and drinking
         And light in heart and limb,
     And each chap thinking
         The fair was held for him.

     Between the trees in flower
         New friends at fairtime tread
     The way where Ludlow tower
         Stands planted on the dead.
     Our thoughts, a long while after,
         They think, our words they say;
     Theirs now's the laughter,
         The fair, the first of May.

     Ay, yonder lads are yet
         The fools that we were then;
     For oh, the sons we get
         Are still the sons of men.
     The sumless tale of sorrow
         Is all unrolled in vain:
     May comes to-morrow
         And Ludlow fair again.

XXXV.[edit]

     When first my way to fair I took
         Few pence in purse had I,
     And long I used to stand and look
         At things I could not buy.

     Now times are altered: if I care
         To buy a thing, I can;
     The pence are here and here's the fair,
         But where's the lost young man?

     --To think that two and two are four
         And neither five nor three
     The heart of man has long been sore
         And long 'tis like to be.

XXXVI. REVOLUTION[edit]

     West and away the wheels of darkness roll,
         Day's beamy banner up the east is borne,
     Spectres and fears, the nightmare and her foal,
         Drown in the golden deluge of the morn.

     But over sea and continent from sight
         Safe to the Indies has the earth conveyed
     The vast and moon-eclipsing cone of night,
         Her towering foolscap of eternal shade.

     See, in mid heaven the sun is mounted; hark,
         The belfries tingle to the noonday chime.
     'Tis silent, and the subterranean dark
         Has crossed the nadir, and begins to climb.

XXXVII. EPITAPH ON AN ARMY OF MERCENARIES[edit]

     These, in the day when heaven was falling,
         The hour when earth's foundations fled,
     Followed their mercenary calling
         And took their wages and are dead.

     Their shoulders held the sky suspended;
         They stood, and earth's foundations stay;
     What God abandoned, these defended,
         And saved the sum of things for pay.

XXXVIII.[edit]

     Oh stay at home, my lad, and plough
         The land and not the sea,
     And leave the soldiers at their drill,
     And all about the idle hill
         Shepherd your sheep with me.

     Oh stay with company and mirth
         And daylight and the air;
     Too full already is the grave
     Of fellows that were good and brave
         And died because they were.

XXXIX.[edit]

     When summer's end is nighing
         And skies at evening cloud,
     I muse on change and fortune
         And all the feats I vowed
         When I was young and proud.

     The weathercock at sunset
         Would lose the slanted ray,
     And I would climb the beacon
         That looked to Wales away
         And saw the last of day.

     From hill and cloud and heaven
         The hues of evening died;
     Night welled through lane and hollow
         And hushed the countryside,
         But I had youth and pride.

     And I with earth and nightfall
         In converse high would stand,
     Late, till the west was ashen
         And darkness hard at hand,
         And the eye lost the land.

     The year might age, and cloudy
         The lessening day might close,
     But air of other summers
         Breathed from beyond the snows,
         And I had hope of those.

     They came and were and are not
         And come no more anew;
     And all the years and seasons
         That ever can ensue
         Must now be worse and few.

     So here's an end of roaming
         On eves when autumn nighs:
     The ear too fondly listens
         For summer's parting sighs,
         And then the heart replies.

XL.[edit]

     Tell me not here, it needs not saying,
         What tune the enchantress plays
     In aftermaths of soft September
         Or under blanching mays,
     For she and I were long acquainted
         And I knew all her ways.

     On russet floors, by waters idle,
         The pine lets fall its cone;
     The cuckoo shouts all day at nothing
         In leafy dells alone;
     And traveler's joy beguiles in autumn
         Hearts that have lost their own.

     On acres of the seeded grasses
         The changing burnish heaves;
     Or marshalled under moons of harvest
         Stand still all night the sheaves;
     Or beeches strip in storms for winter
         And stain the wind with leaves.

     Possess, as I possessed a season,
         The countries I resign,
     Where over elmy plains the highway
         Would mount the hills and shine,
     And full of shade the pillared forest
         Would murmur and be mine.

     For nature, heartless, witless nature,
         Will neither care nor know
     What stranger's feet may find the meadow
         And trespass there and go,
     Nor ask amid the dews of morning
         If they are mine or no.

XLI. FANCY'S KNELL[edit]

     When lads were home from labour
         At Abdon under Clee,
     A man would call his neighbor
         And both would send for me.
     And where the light in lances
         Across the mead was laid,
     There to the dances
         I fetched my flute and played.

     Ours were idle pleasures,
         Yet oh, content we were,
     The young to wind the measures,
         The old to heed the air;
     And I to lift with playing
         From tree and tower and steep
     The light delaying,
         And flute the sun to sleep.

     The youth toward his fancy
         Would turn his brow of tan,
     And Tom would pair with Nancy
         And Dick step off with Fan;
     The girl would lift her glances
         To his, and both be mute:
     Well went the dances
         At evening to the flute.

     Wenlock Edge was umbered,
         And bright was Abdon Burf,
     And warm between them slumbered
         The smooth green miles of turf;
     Until from grass and clover
         The upshot beam would fade,
     And England over
         Advanced the lofty shade.

     The lofty shade advances,
         I fetch my flute and play:
     Come, lads, and learn the dances
         And praise the tune to-day.
     To-morrow, more's the pity,
         Away we both must hie,
     To air the ditty,
         And to earth I.