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Poem by Eleanor Farjeon

Colin Clout, Come Home again!

    Through the grey and heavy air,
    Through the January rain,
    When old England nipped and bare
    Shudders with the load of pain
    Wept upon her by the eyes
    Of sunless, sun-remembering skies:
    When the soul of man is fain
    Suddenly abroad to fare,
    Questing, questing everywhere
    The soul of beauty to regain,
    Dreaming like a boy to snare
    The great free bird no lure can chain,
    Following in a dull despair
    That cannot pierce their brief disguise
    Random flights of pallid lies
    Never fledged in Paradise:--
    Comes the sound of gathering cries
    Calling down the centuries
    Urgently with might and main,
    Colin Clout, O Colin Clout!
    Colin, Colin, Colin Clout!
    England needs you, Colin Clout!
    Colin Clout, come home again!

    Colin, can you never hear?
    Colin, will you never rise
    From the narrow plot of rest
    That sang for joy of such a guest
    To fill its dust with melodies,
    And to make it year by year
    Such a place of golden cheer,
    Of flowering deed and jolly jest,
    Of pastoral prettiness and the clear
    Summons to be sailing West
    Over oceans fabulous
    Leading on to stranger shores
    And distant ports adventurous--
    That with its music in your ear,
    Drawn from your own imagined stores,
    You care to give no heed to us
    Whose laughter has been soured by doubt,
    Whose hearts are hedged with many a fear,
    Who learn to hold our lives so dear
    That all their wealth has trickled out,
    Who joy and beauty hand in hand
    Have driven homeless from the land
    And put the old ideals to rout:--
    Yet even because, returning here,
    You needs must find your England thus,
    Let not her children call in vain,
    Colin Clout, O Colin Clout!
    Colin Clout, come home again!

    Hark! I hear a shepherds pipe
    With three notes of music wipe
    Discord from this troubled star;
    I hear tumultuous gladness shake
    The marrows of the land awake,
    Wherein old slumbering visions are;
    I hear the stirrings of a day
    When all the earth will smell of may,
    When eager men will fling aside
    Their garments of enlightened pride
    Where time the moth has had his way,
    And don again the homespun dress
    Of Englands ancient simpleness--
    O piping shepherd-reed at play,
    Blown with a poets golden breath,
    How suddenly a heart as gay,
    As innocent, as full of faith
    As childrens hearts are, gins to beat
    In the worlds bosom at my feet!
    How all my sisters eyes grow strong,
    And all my brothers eyes grow sweet,
    And we who boast so loud to-day
    Above our self-created strife
    That we have lost our fear of death
    Lose suddenly our fear of life,
    And go with gladness down the way
    To meet whatever is to meet.

    Then, Colin! then about your knees
    Well lie and list such fantasies
    As keep the spirit bright and young
    And guard the edge of youth as keen
    As a new-tempered virgin sword;
    We will re-learn the magic tongue,
    And where the meadow-rings are green
    Re-seek Titania and her lord,
    For you will bring a flitting home
    Of vanished Folk to English loam;
    About our business we will go
    With holiday-hearts whose dancing beat
    Is measured to your piping sweet,
    And on your music great will grow
    In the redress of antique wrongs;
    And from the richest of your songs,
    O dreamer-lover, shepherd-knight,
    Spell out a long-forgotten name,
    Re-kindling the expiring glow
    Of Chivalrys high beacon-light,
    Till by its heaven-pointing flame
    Our generations understand
    Their England is too fair a land
    To suffer ugliness and blight
    And the dishonourable bane
    Of serfdoms bowed and broken knee,
    Too fine a trading mart to be
    Where one may cause the many pain,
    And foul self-interest men empowers
    To turn to weeds what should be flowers.

    For evil must be still to cope
    When Colin Clout comes home again,
    Because a world devoid of pain
    Would be a world made bare of hope,
    And both must act together till
    Slipt from its spiritual trance
    This globe is frozen to good and ill;
    But ere the life here bound by chance
    Flows to its last significance,
    Colin! bring home the dream we lost
    Because we grew too old for dreams,
    And bring again the golden barque
    With which in our high-hearted youth
    We sailed wild seas and perilous streams;
    And find again a road we crossed
    In olden time and failed to mark;
    And give us love of beauty back,
    And set us on the grassy track
    Of many an ancient-simple truth;
    Re-teach our voices how to sing
    Melodiously; and bring, O bring
    The rustless lance of honour in
    For men to strive again to win,
    As in the days when knightlihood
    For lifes most high expression stood,
    And man reached forth to touch that goal
    Not with his hands but with his soul.

    Ah, Colin! tis a twice-told tale
    How that the woods were heard to wail,
    How birds with silence did complain,
    And fields with faded flowers did mourn,
    And flocks from feeding did refrain,
    And rivers wept for your return.
    Singer of Englands merriest hour,
    Return! return and make her flower,
    Charming your pipe unto your peers
    As once you did in other years;
    For we who wait on you, know this,
    Whatever tune your reed shall play
    Will hearken with as gladdened ears
    As Cuddy and as Thestylis,
    As Hobbinol and Lucida
    And all the simple shepherd-train,
    What time they gathered and ran, a gay
    Rejoicing happy-hearted rout,
    Across the sweetening meadow-hay
    Each calling other:
                      Come about!
    The time of waiting is run out,
    And Colin Clout, O, Colin Clout,
    Colin Clouts come home again!

Eleanor Farjeon

Eleanor Farjeon's other poems:
  1. Sonnets. 1. Man Cannot Be a Sophist to His Heart
  2. Sonnets. 9. Love Needs not Two the Render It Complete
  3. Sonnets. 10. What is this anguish then that always stands
  4. Two Choruses from Merlin in Broceliande
  5. Wild Hyacinth

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