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The Evening Star

I saw a star shine in bare trees
That stood in their dark effigies;
With voices so clear and close it sang
That like a bird it seemed to hang
Rising and falling with the wind,
Twigs on its rosy breast outlined.

An obvious moon high on the night
And haloed by a rainbow light
Sounded as loud as silver bell
And trees in flight before it fell,
Their shadows straggling on the road
where glacier of soft moonlight flowed.

But moon nor star-untidy sky
Could catch my eye as that star’s eye;
For still I looked on that same star,
That fitful, fiery Lucifer,
Watching with mind as quiet as moss
Its light nailed to a burning cross.

***

The Rain

Fair mornings make false vows!
When to that wood I came
I stood beneath fast-dripping boughs
And watched the green leaves wink
Spilling their heavy drink;
Some flowers to sleeping buds returned,
Some, lit by rain, with clear flames burned;
‘Cuckoo’—again, again
A cuckoo called his name
Behind the waving veil of dismal rain.

The rain bit yellow root
And shone on the blue flints
And dangled like a silver fruit
From blackened twigs and boughs;
I watched those running rows
Splash on the sodden earth and wet
The empty snail shells marked “To let’,
And whitened worms that lay
Like stalks of hyacinths,
The last end of a children’s holiday.

I heard a dead man cough
Not twenty yards away—
(A wool-wet sheep, likely enough,
As I thought afterwards);
But O those shrieking birds!
And how flowers seemed to outstare
Some hidden sun in that dim air,
As sadly the rain soaked
To where the dead man lay
Whose cough a sudden fall of earth had choked.

***

An Evening Walk

I never saw a lovelier sky;
The faces of the passers-by
Shine with gold light as they step west
As though by secret joy possessed,
Some rapture that is not of earth
But in that heavenly climate has its birth.

I know it is the sunlight paints
The faces of these travelling saints,
But shall I hold in cold misprision
The calm and beauty of that vision
Upturned a moment from the sorrow
That makes today today, tomorrow tomorrow?

***

Mole-hills on the Downs

Here earth in her abundance spills
Hills on her hills,
Till every hill is overgrown
With small hills of its own;
Some old with moss and scorpion-grass,
Some new and bare and brown,
And one where I can watch the earth
Like a volcano at its birth
Still rise by falling down;
And as by these small hills I pass
And take them in my stride
I swell with pride,
Till the great hills to which I lift my eyes
Restore my size.

***

The Sunbeams

The tired road climbed the hill
Through trees with light-spots never still,
Gold mouths that drew apart and singled
And ran again and met and mingled,
Two, three or five or seven,
No other way than souls that love in heaven.

Sunny and swift and cool
They danced there like Bethesda’s pool;
Ah, if in those pale kissing suns
My halting feet could bathe but once
No slender stick would crack,
My footstep falling on its brittle back.

***

In Teesdale

No, not tonight,
Not by this fading light,
Not by those high fells where the forces
Fall from the mist like the white tails of horses.

From that dark slack
Where peat-hags gape too black
I turn to where the lighted farm
Holds out through the open door a golden arm.

No, not tonight,
Tomorrow by daylight;
Tonight I fear the fabulous horses
Whose white tails flash down the steep water-courses.

***

Wood and Hill

Nowhere is one alone
And in the closest covert least,
But to the small eye of bird or beast
He will be known;
Today it was for me
A squirrel that embraced a tree
Turning a small head round;
A hare too that ran up the hill,
To his short forelegs level ground,
And with tall ears stood still.
But it was birds I could not see
And larks that tried to stand on air
That made of wood and hill a market-square.

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