In the bedchamber window, near the glass, Stood the little flower in the little vase, Unnoticed quite For a whole fortnight, And withered for lack of watering To a skeleton mere — a mummied thing.
But it was not much, mid a world of teen, That a flower should waste in a nook unseen!
One needed no thought to ascertain How it happened; that when she went in the rain To return here not, She was mindless what She had left here to perish. — Ah, well: for an hour I wished I had not found the flower!
Yet it was not much. And she never had known Of the flower’s fate; nor it of her own.
The sparrow dips in his wheel-rut bath, The sun grows passionate-eyed, And boils the dew to smoke by the paddock-path; As strenuously we stride,— Five of us; dark He, fair He, dark She, fair She, I, All beating by.
The air is shaken, the high-road hot, Shadowless swoons the day, The greens are sobered and cattle at rest; but not We on our urgent way,— Four of us; fair She, dark She, fair He, I, are there, But one—elsewhere.
Autumn moulds the hard fruit mellow, And forward still we press Through moors, briar-meshed plantations, clay-pits yellow, As in the spring hours—yes, Three of us; fair He, fair She, I, as heretofore, But—fallen one more.
The leaf drops: earthworms draw it in At night-time noiselessly, The fingers of birch and beech are skeleton-thin, And yet on the beat are we,— Two of us; fair She, I. But no more left to go The track we know.
Icicles tag the church-aisle leads, The flag-rope gibbers hoarse, The home-bound foot-folk wrap their snow-flaked heads, Yet I still stalk the course— One of us. . . . Dark and fair He, dark and fair She, gone: The rest—anon.
When the Present has latched its postern behind my tremulous stay, And the May month flaps its glad green leaves like wings, Delicate-filmed as new-spun silk, will the neighbours say, “He was a man who used to notice such things?”
If it be in the dusk when, like an eyelid’s soundless blink, The dewfall-hawk comes crossing the shades to alight Upon the wind-warped upland thorn, a gazer may think, “To him this must have been a familiar sight.”
If I pass during some nocturnal blackness, mothy and warm, When the hedgehog travels furtively over the lawn, One may say, “He strove that such innocent creatures should come to no harm, But he could do little for them; and now he is gone.”
If, when hearing that I have been stilled at last, they stand at the door, Watching the full-starred heavens that winter sees Will this thought rise on those who will meet my face no more, “He was one who had an eye for such mysteries?”
And will any say when my bell of quittance is heard in the gloom And a crossing breeze cuts a pause in its outrollings, Till they rise again, as they were a new bell’s boom, “He hears it not now, but used to notice such things?”
The day arrives of the autumn fair, And torrents fall, Though sheep in throngs are gathered there, Ten thousand all, Sodden, with hurdles round them reared: And, lot by lot, the pens are cleared, And the auctioneer wrings out his beard, And wipes his book, bedrenched and smeared, And rakes the rain from his face with the edge of his hand, As torrents fall.
The wool of the ewes is like a sponge With the daylong rain: Jammed tight, to turn, or lie, or lunge, They strive in vain. Their horns are soft as finger-nails, Their shepherds reek against the rails, The tied dogs soak with tucked-in tails, The buyers’ hat-brims fill like pails, Which spill small cascades when they shift their stand In the daylong rain.
Time has trailed lengthily since met At Pummery Fair Those panting thousands in their wet And woolly wear: And every flock long since has bled, And all the dripping buyers have sped, And the hoarse auctioneer is dead, Who ‘Going – going I’ so often said, As he consigned to doom each meek, mewed band At Pummery Fair.
There are some heights in Wessex, shaped as if by a kindly hand For thinking, dreaming, dying on, and at crises when I stand, Say, on Ingpen Beacon eastward, or on Wylls-Neck westwardly, I seem where I was before my birth, and after death may be.
In the lowlands I have no comrade, not even the lone man’s friend — Her who suffereth long and is kind; accepts what he is too weak to mend: Down there they are dubious and askance; there nobody thinks as I, But mind-chains do not clank where one’s next neighbour is the sky.
In the towns I am tracked by phantoms having weird detective ways — Shadows of beings who fellowed with myself of earlier days: They hang about at places, and they say harsh heavy things — Men with a wintry sneer, and women with tart disparagings.
Down there I seem to be false to myself, my simple self that was, And is not now, and I see him watching, wondering what crass cause Can have merged him into such a strange continuator as this, Who yet has something in common with himself, my chrysalis.
I cannot go to the great grey Plain; there’s a figure against the moon, Nobody sees it but I, and it makes my breast beat out of tune; I cannot go to the tall-spired town, being barred by the forms now passed For everybody but me, in whose long vision they stand there fast.
There’s a ghost at Yell’ham Bottom chiding loud at the fall of the night, There’s a ghost in Froom-side Vale, thin-lipped and vague, in a shroud of white, There is one in the railway train whenever I do not want it near, I see its profile against the pane, saying what I would not hear.
As for one rare fair woman, I am now but a thought of hers, I enter her mind and another thought succeeds me that she prefers; Yet my love for her in its fulness she herself even did not know; Well, time cures hearts of tenderness, and now I can let her go.
So I am found on Ingpen Beacon, or on Wylls-Neck to the west, Or else on homely Bulbarrow, or little Pilsdon Crest, Where men have never cared to haunt, nor women have walked with me, And ghosts then keep their distance; and I know some liberty.