Spring Death

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Spring Death
by Henry Head
In Memory of J.W who died in Active Service, 1901


I will bear forth my sorrow to the sun,

For dumb and cold I sit at home with grief.

Eddies of spring-tide through the dark limbs run

Of this foul city, over park and square

Ripple in golden leaf.

Each solitary tree, once dank and bare,

Poised in a fluttering skirt of gauzy green,

Whirls to the rhythm of awakening earth;

Through murky lane and highway throbs a clean

Bass note of birth.


The chestnut spreads her fingers to the breeze,

Adorned with perfumed candles for the feast.

Once more the little murmurs haunt the trees,

And all that buds has cast the pall of sleep.

From grimy bonds released,

Over the churchyard paling, lilacs peep,

Each golden leaflet quick with gentle rain.

And all the world that once was tired and old,

Decked out with new desires, grows young again,

Lilac and gold.


But death has stripped me bare of all desire:

An outcast from earth’s generous festival,

I go to warm me by the altar fire,

Where we worshipped. Happy little shrine-

Soft garlands on the wall,

The music and the laughter and the wine,

Talk, like a fountain pulsing to the blue,

To fall in rainbow droplets on the grass,

Warm human joys- they shall my heart renew,

They cannot pass.


What shadow haunts that dear familiar room

And, like a night bird poised on silent wing,

Hovers upon the violet-scented gloom?

Our instruments of joy lie untouched there

And, scarcely whispering,

We say not what we would but all we dare,

Quelling the tumult of forbidden tears;

No more to wander the roving throng,

Bowed by resentment for remembered years-

Our years of song.


Together through the blue transparent nights,

Together through the hum of London streets,

Our path was like a garden gay with lights,

Tall lilies among tulips gold and red;

Where with insistent beats

Love called, and all the world a-trysting sped.

Beneath the whispering plane-trees passion burned,

Glowed like illuminated green in every breast,

Then piping happy songs we homeward turned,

Turned home to rest.


Over the housetop climbs a cowslip moon,

To join the expectant company of stars,

New-risen- And I little care how soon

My feet turn homeward by familiar ways.

No fellowship unbars

That narrow dwelling, where the measured days

Pass, and lever naught to show that they are fled.

I am grown weary, and to me alone

Love pipes a foolish tune, for thou art dead,

And youth is gone.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1940, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.