The Green Woodpecker
Whether that popinjay
Screamed now at me or at his mate
I could not rightly say,
Not knowing was it love or was it hate.
I hoped it was not love
But hate that roused that gaudy bird;
For earth I love enough
To crave of her at least an angry word.
Slioch and Sgurr Mor
Hang in the air in a white chastity
Of cloud and February snow
That less to earth they seem to owe
Than to the pale blue cloud-drift or
The deep blue sky.
Though high and far they stand,
Their shadows over leagues of forest come,
Here, to a purer beauty thinned
In this true mirror, now the wind,
That held it with a shaking hand,
Droops still and dumb.
As I push from the shore
And drift (beneath that buzzard) I climb now
These silver hills for miles and miles,
Breaking hard rock to gentle smiles
With the slow motion of my prow
And dripping oar.
I watch the dung-cart stumble by
Leading the harvest to the fields,
That from cow-byre and stall and sty
The farmstead in the winter yields.
Like shocks in a reaped field of rye
The small black heaps of lively dung
Sprinkled in the grass-meadow lie
Licking the air with smoky tongue.
This is Earth’s food that man piles up
And with his fork will thrust on her,
And Earth will lie and slowly sup
With her moist mouth through half the year.
A single white dewdrop
That hung free on the air sang, Stop!
From twig to twig a speckled spider,
Legged like a hermit-crab, had tied her
Invisible web with WELCOME
For sign, and HOME SWEET HOME.
That spider would not stir,
Villain of her Greek theatre,
Till as I heedlessly brushed past her
She fled fast from her web’s disaster
And from a twig-fork watched it swing,
Wind tangling string with string.
Now she weaves in the dark
With no light lent by a star’s spark
From busy belly more than head
Geometric pattern of thin thread,
A web for wingy midge and fly,
With deadly symmetry.
We sat where boughs waved on the Ground
But made no sound;
‘They cannot shake me off,’
Shrieked the black dwarf,
That was the shadow of myself.
I said to him, “We must go now’;
But from his bough
He laughed, securely perched,
‘Then you rise first’;
It seemed to me
He spoke in wicked courtesy.
We rose and ‘Take my hand,’ he whined,
Though like the wind
Each waving bough he leapt;
And as we stept
Down the steep track
He seemed to grow more hunched and black.